We have a full blown 2 and a 1/2 year old around here. A limit-testing, boundary-pushing, bedtime-delaying toddler. Interesting how much a toddler’s behavior tells you about human nature.
- The desire to be in control, in charge.
- The desire to be right.
- The desire to get what you want. RIGHT NOW.
- The desire to be the sole focus of everyone’s attention.
People like to call this the “terrible twos.”
I don’t. In fact I have a pretty strong preference you don’t call my two year old terrible.
I mean, really, don’t we see all that toddler behavior in ourselves as adults too?
Funny, I didn’t have to teach my toddler to yell “No!” or grab something out of her sister’s hands.
I didn’t have to teach my toddler to say “that’s mine” in a snobby voice or how to throw herself on the floor and scream when she doesn’t get something she wants.
She just knew how to do all that. It’s not “learned.” It’s their nature.
My job in dealing with toddler behavior
I do have the responsibility of teaching her how to respect authority, wait patiently, take turns, be kind.
Full disclosure: I’ve caught myself saying “because I said so” and “just because” and “I don’t know, just do it” and all those things your mom said that you swore you’d never say.
Although, it’s okay. Sometimes that’s just the answer.
But, we picked up a couple phrases from my Dad, actually, that are really helping at our house.
Allegedly, he used to say them to my brother and I when we were toddlers.
And recently, he pulled them out on our resident 2 year old and they “worked.” So I thought I’d share the love + wisdom from a Grandpa with my other readers who have a 2-ish year old running
the show around in their lives 😉
1. You are not in charge.
update: we’ve raised 3 kids through the toddler phase since this post was originally written and this stands as the NUMBER ONE MOST USEFUL THING IN OUR HOME WITH A TODDLER. If you want to correct terrible toddler behavior, get used to saying this in a firm-but-kind parent voice.
I love my toddler and I love her spunk, her go-getter spirit. But it’s good that she knows she’s not in charge. Not only is it good. It frees her. Kids push push push and test test test, but deep down they want to know where you draw the line.
Some kids will push and test more relative to other kids, but how much they push is not really the issue for this phrase.
It’s just a simple reminder, stated calmly and frequently. You are not in charge.
Mom: Time to get ready for bed. Please go get your jammies.
2 year old: I don’t want to go to bed.
Mom: I understand, but you’re not in charge. Go get your jammies.
At this point, anything delayed or defiant is disobedient and should be dealt with however you deal with explicit disobedience in your home.
2. You don’t get everything you want. (And neither do I.)
This is a great rebuttal in place of “it’s not fair…” I actually like this better than “life isn’t fair.” And it’s more toddler appropriate. Most 2 or 3 year olds aren’t talking about ‘fair’ unless they’ve heard an older sibling discussing the subject anyway 🙂
Dad: Give your sister a turn with that toy
2 year old: No I want to play with it
Dad: Well, you don’t get everything you want.
2 year old: Why that happen? (her way of asking ‘why’ – ha!)
Dad: because that’s how life works. No one gets everything they want.
Our toddler made the connection from there – mommy doesn’t get everything she wants. Sister doesn’t get everything she wants. Daddy doesn’t get everything he wants. It’s a part of life.
Quite frankly, I need a reminder about this too. It was almost refreshing the first time she said, “and you don’t get everything you want, momma?”
No, no I don’t. And that’s okay.
That’s what I want my toddler to know too. We don’t get everything we want in life, and that’s okay.
3. It’s okay to be sad, but you can be done now.
I have a pretty low tolerance for whining and tantrums and tears over things I deem ‘silly’ (towers getting knocked over, spilt milk, ya know.. toddler stuff).
However, I recognize my tendency to push aside my kids’ feelings and especially as my 2 year old transitions out of toddler tantrums and into little girl age… I want her to know, it’s okay to cry.
Sometimes your feelings get hurt, or you feel embarrassed. Or someone doesn’t want to play with you. Or you work really hard on something, only to have it knocked over, figuratively or literally. And sometimes, you cry about it.
But, at some point, you have to be done crying over it and move on. (Or other times, explosive tears are just not appropriate…)
So, sometimes, I let her have her moment – bursting into tears over a “no more goldfish” – and then I say, “okay, you can be done now.” And often, that is enough, and she turns it off. Haha it’s actually pretty funny to witness. (And it’s not 100%.)
But if she really was only melting down about goldfish, “you can be done now,” is usually all it takes. I actually just read this really great article on dealing with whining. It definitely goes hand in hand with this idea.
Do you have any go-to phrases that help your toddlers with all their toddler behaviors and feelings!? Haha
I’ll be curious to hear if anyone tries these on your kids and gets the same positive results we’re getting…
and by “positive results,” I don’t mean perfectly behaved two year old. I mean – seemingly increased understanding (at least at a 2 year old level) about authority, respect, life, managing emotions, ya know… things of that nature. Perfect behavior isn’t the goal anyway.
More on that another time.
Check out my brand new 4-day email course: the Practical Parent-Led Home.
It walks through tons of tips and ideas for how to make the idea of a parent-led home practical in your real day to day mom life.