Two and a half is an interesting age; there are ages of “disequilibrium” that occur before this, yet in our society we often hear about “the terrible two’s” as if this is the only stage of disequilibrium on the path to the teenaged years. I have had many parents tell me they felt two- and- a -half was more challenging, but I have also heard many attached parents say they felt like two was not that bad and that three –and- a- half or four was much more challenging! (That’s not much comfort if you are feeling out of sorts with your precious two-year-old, though, is it?)
So, how does one live peacefully with a two-year-old?
I think the first thing one must do is to become very clear with one’s view of the small child and of what gentle discipline means to you and to your family. I have many, many posts about that on this blog. Here is an oldie but goodie to start you off:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/12/where-do-i-start-with-gentle-discipline/
As always, it really does begin with you. You must get as absolutely centered as possible yourself because if you feel like you are going to lose it every time your two-year-old does, it is going to be a long year indeed, unfortunately. A two-year-old has a complete excess of emotion and impulses; they can’t regulate it at all. Think of yourself as a sponge that sponges up all that excess emotion; yes, it is exhausting and draining but it is part of parenting. So some kind of inner work for yourself where you build up your own life forces, for lack of a better term (in Waldorf we would call this building up the etheric) is a priority; artistic work is especially good. Can you make it a priority to paint, draw, sculpt, craft for several times a week for half an hour? It really does help!
Also, get your support in a row. Do you have other like-minded parents around you? Not ones that will say, “Oh my, that two-year-old is manipulating you!” but ones that understand what a two-year-old is really about; ones that can help you brainstorm ideas from a loving and warm perspective!
As far as guidance, two-year-olds cannot read non-verbal gestures well in terms of “I am frowning at you and crossing my arms because I am getting angry with your behavior!” In fact, a two year old is imitative at best and may just frown back at you or do whatever it is that you are doing at the moment because they are imitating you and really have no idea that you are angry. Some mothers have told me their two-year-old laughs when they are angry. This is NOT a defiant, I-am-so-glad-to-see-you-angry- laugh, this is because they understand something about your emotions are different, but again, they don’t really know what to do or how to fix it. Think of this as their way of showing insecurity in the situation if that helps you re-frame it!
So, looking at how you view anger is very important. What will you do in the heat of the moment? What is your plan? And what tools are you going to use to help guide your small child instead of yelling or scowling or what have you?
Here is another old favorite to help you get going with that: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/12/more-about-time-in-for-tinies/ There are also many posts under anger; check them out under the Gentle Discipline page here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/gentle-discipline/
So, in brief, here are your allies and your tools for peaceful living outside of your own work on gentle discipline and anger:
- CONNECTION – enjoying being together; nursing, co-sleeping, holding on your lap, still carrying in a sling, playing games, sharing warm meals. If four is a good age for sitting on laps, it is important to recognize how really tiny two is! Connect first!
- Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm – meal times and rest times are most important (and part of being able to go to bed and rest is having a consistent time for waking up every day)
- Singing and verses more than direct commands; do not ask questions that will be answered NO! Hum, sing, promote silence, but please stop with the endless barrage of questions. You can show warmth and love through smiles, pats on the back, hugs, laughter – not just words!
- Talking pictorially and working through a child’s body in an imaginative way: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/10/14/working-through-the-body-day-number-17-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/
- You taking a few breaths and getting some SPACE before you react!
- Distraction and re-direction
- You cannot be afraid to pick up a screaming, tantruming child. The two-year-old may very well need your gentle hands to come back into himself – see the “Time-in For Tinies” post I mentioned above as to more tips for handling temper tantrums.
- Lots of outside time – get that energy out; pushing, pulling, squatting,
- Sensory play – water, sand, mud
- No choices, or very few. It is really hard for a two-year-old to make a choice, even a small one and then inevitably the choice is made and then they want the other thing….meltdown. Please don’t put them in that position!
- Please try to run errands by yourself if you can. This in itself alleviates so many problems.
- Avoid expecting that it will be “a good day” if your two-year-old does not melt down; re-frame your expectations for your day in how well you de-escalated things! And please do forgive yourself! We are on a path and a journey and striving! I spoke a lot about this in my talk regarding the first seven years on The Waldorf Channel. www.thewaldorfchannel.org
- Do not expect a two-year-old to share well or to patiently wait or to be quiet whilst a younger sibling sleeps for two hours!
- Guide your child as to what your family needs as a whole;
- Do not feel hurt if you are not preferred parent of the week! It is not personal!
- Try to enjoy this age! It really is tiny and precious!
Love to hear things that have worked well for you with this age – leave a comment in the box!