Boisterous is a word I use frequently to describe Boddler. From my perspective, it’s no coincidence that the word sounds like a hybrid of “boy” and “monstrous”. Boisterous actually means cheerful, noisy, energetic, like “a boisterous group of lads”. That’s a particularly apropriate example in this context. Lads.
The terrible twos are hitting hard over here in BlablaLand. We’ve gone from cute, monkey-like mischief to full-on kicking, thumping, “go-away”ing madness. Madness because it is actually making me mad. As in, I almost can’t control my temper. It’s one thing to shout “Go away, wee wee!” into the toilet, whilst we frantically wave the little piddle away, but quite another to scream “GO AWAY!” at me when I’m trying to get the little man into bed, accompanied by the odd slap on the face, or worse, to shout it at some poor relative who is trying to say “goodbye” nicely. Testing boundaries. That is what is happening, it’s normal. But it is hard. I don’t appreciate attitude, especially when it is coming from someone who is a third of my size and 1/17th of my age. I’ve had to engage in some deep breathing, counting to 3 – for myself – and I can confirm that “Jaymie daddy” has been receiving some of my most deathly glares in the past weeks as we navigate co-parenting this little character.
The thing with toddlers is they are hard to control. There. I said it. I like to be in control and I can’t control my two year old. In fact he is already outsmarting me. That doesn’t say much for my smartness levels, but this really is sinking to a new low.
“Do you want to go straight to bed with no dinner?!”
Hmmmm. Plan foiled.
“What did you do at nursery today?”
“I hitting <insert victime name>!”
“Oh no! That makes mummy feel very sad! That must have made <victim> unhappy.”
“Did you say sorry?”
“I say sorry. I kicking football and played rugby BAM and…I kicking <victim number 2>.”
“I want a ice cream.”
“What is the magic word?”
“Peeeeeeezzzzz I want a ice cream. MUMMY! I want a ice cream! MUMMY!!!!!”
“Ok, there you go.”
“I want more! Mummy, MUMMY!!! MORE!! Mummy, what is that?”
<mummy is discretely trying to eat her much more exciting chocolate covered ice cream…> darnit. I can’t even get my sugar hit!
Unfortunately with Boddler, he knows the right things to say. He says his sorry and duly gives his apologetic cuddle, once his crime has been committed. But what then? He just keeps repeating the same behaviour. It’s impossible to tell if it is improving as when he stops one mechantise he launches into another.
We have spent some trying to justify his actions as resulting from him being (a) confused – he wants to rugby tackle, or hit a tennis ball, how does he know that you shouldn’t tackle a small baby, and that you only hit tennis balls outside with a racket, and ideally balls that are actually tennis balls and not wooden fruits … (b) disturbed by the arrival of his younger sister… except she just sits there grinning at him… (c) hangry / overtired… well that’s everyone in this house right now (d) a boy… the most likely problem.
Toddlers have a lot to learn at this age, they are absorbing everything like sponges, and the main things they need, as I understand it, are patience, love and support. And possibly a naughty step.
A major problem I have when I’m entertaining both kids is how to look after them both, protect and teach them, at the same time. Sounds obvious but it’s much harder than it sounds when they are little. A kindly health visitor suggested that when Boddler is playing up, or looking for attention, I should “take him out of the situation” and let him calm down. Sadly I don’t have hundreds of different places that can accommodate a kicking, flailing, aggrieved child, and I don’t have a back up care-giver to keep an eye on him when he’s “out of the situation” and on the naughty step/ in his room. In fact, I have to abandon a sobbing Bebette (who has likely been man-handled by her brother after giving him a big, toothy grin), take her brother away from her, but put him somewhere safe and secure (?! limited options) and then rapidly return to sobbing sister to give her excessive and loud moral support (that Boddler can hear from wherever he is) “OH POOR YOU SISTER, OUCH THAT MUST HAVE HURT!” – in theory I’m trying to show him if he is doing things to get attention, well he won’t get any attention. The person subject to the wrongful conduct (Bebette in this case) will get it all, and some. Except in practice, I just have two screaming children, a beeping washing machine, and nowhere to hide…
What should one do when the terrible twos are getting the better of them?
- first, stay calm. Most of the time, the issue is that they are two. That’s it. The less you react, the quicker they lose interest in their naughty ways. You can’t do anything except take a deep breath, be consistent in your approach and persevere. So I am told. *deep breathing*
- second, purchase numerous books about child rearing entitled “how to talk to a two year old”. Because you clearly can’t do it so you need a dummy’s guide on how to get there. Generally snort into the book and ignore most of the confusing guidance (“do not punish your child, do not say “no”, do not say “naughty”, do not shout, do not reward your child, do not congratulate your child, do not say anything after the event as they won’t remember…do not actually speak to or look at your child for your own well-being.” Ok, these ones are quite good: how to talk so little kids will listen (for parents) and the “< body parts > are not for” series which we read on a daily basis, and they also use at nursery. Any other recommendations welcome!
- third, consult with all the older wiser more experienced people you know, who will not miss an opportunity to remind you that, actually, it’ll only get worse and the kids will eventually hate you anyway. So, enjoy it! Yikes….
- fourth, hang out with other parents and children and try to mentally note all the things they are doing that seem to work. Your notes might end up looking like this:
- Offer choices, but not too many choices: your toddler wants some control but has the attention span of a gnat. Would you like vanilla or strawberry yoghurt? Oui. C’est bon. Would you like a yoghurt with fruit, or a french set, or perhaps a fromage frais with a little sprinkle of… zut, you’ve lost them.
- Do praise your child. Do it quite often. But not all the time. Not too much praise. Cancel the praise, limit praise to exceptional circumstances. Praise for sitting on bottom. Praise for eating carrot. Do not praise for eating toilet roll. Praise for tidying up toilet roll.
- Have a reward chart. Offer stickers for good behaviour. Try to keep stickers on the chart and avoid getting them stuck awkwardly to your bottom.
- Distract your child. When they start to display signs of terrible twoism, rapidly locate an alternative activity / food type / person to play with.
- Consistent consequences – actions have consequences and your toddler needs to know this. Bad behaviour means you have to say sorry, you make people sad, and you lose a privilege or you have to tidy up your mess. Think about consequences that are realistic and practical (no more dinner ever again, for example, is not going to fly.)
- Try to explain your feelings. Tell child you feel happy, or sad. Demonstrate to child using dramatic facial expressions. Explain to child you are trying to show your feelings and not actually crying. Comfort child that thinks they have made you cry. Everyone is crying. *Help*.
Ok, well that’s some food for thought. For me, writing this has helped me to see I need to really stay calm, try not to be triggered myself, and appreciate that Boddler is just being a two year old and probablement isn’t destined for even more terrible things. However, minor shiver down the spine thinking of the threenagers that lie ahead…
Usually I send love and strength to you all at this point, but this time I’m asking for a little bit of strength and love back! Merci bien ❤