This is our sixth round of
pullingourhairout drinking bribing guiding a child through through the terrible twos. You would think that at this stage of the discipline game that we would be on cruise control. Not so my friends, not so.
Behold the beloved:
I'm coming for you!
The only thing I know for sure about surviving this unpleasant stage of a toddler's life is:
1. I can always blame my addiction to chocolate on their naughtiness, and
2. It won't last forever - the terrible twos, not the chocolate addiction (that's permanent, I'm afraid).
Cheeseburger grin of innocence.
Living with a two year old is kind of like watching that one TV show that's frustrating and awesome at the same time (Downton Abbey). The one where you throw things at the screen because the plot is not going the direction that you think it should go (Matthew dies), but then something awesome happens (cue Dowager Countess every time), and suddenly it's your favorite thing ever again.
Spotty, yet accurate, iphone evidence or our typical testosterone filled breakfast.
Joseph is a 24/7 plot twister. He lures his parents in with those enchanting blue eyes, sweet kisses and sugary giggles. We are crazy in love with his (non-tantrum) vocals, because they are seriously adorable! At any given time he's serenading us with his with his curly little voice, calling out the names of his brothers, Cluh! (Charlie), Doh! (Andrew), Honey! (Henry) and, totally charmed, we are certain the tyranny is over.
Not a second later he is clobbering us over the head with that shrilling scream that is something like a meat mallet on our nerves.
Just last week, as I was strapping Blaise to myself in the baby sling and throwing back the last shot of caffeinated hope for the morning, I heard a loud thunk. Strolling over to the window, sure to find the infractor facing the wrong direction in the yard with a baseball bat, I was surprised to see this instead:
#6 flesh of my flesh, bone of my bones. Holding a tomato from my garden. Winding up his chubby little pale-flesh limb for another chuck.
He wasn't throwing my tomatoes at anything or anyone specific, he was just randomly shot-putting them into the wind. Because those 5 bazillion dollars I've spent on every size and kind of ball for our offspring over the years is apparently not working for him? Maters are where it's at.
Now, if he was chucking cucumbers at the house, I'd be so chilled. Because, seriously, I cannot. eat. another. cucumber. But tomatoes, I've been waiting all summer long for those babies!
From the top of the deck I stared down with my high-blood pressure face ablaze and gave the little Mr. the what for. Oh, I'm sure you can probably guess what he gave me.
That's right. He gave me the meat mallet.
Right there. Right then. Pumpkin angel told me, no.
What did I do? I went back inside, poured another cup of coffee, threw in some Baileys, said three Hail Mary's, and called daddy for some moral support.
If you've been where I've been then you know just how challenging it is to be patient during this stage of your tots life. On top of the natural pressure we place upon ourselves to handle each and every circumstance the right way, there's also so much advice out there to wade through, what to do, what not to do, what's normal, what's not normal. Seven kids later, goodness knows I've heard or read more than my fair share of it all.
If this is your first time wading into the terrible twos waters with your tot, or if that stage is just on the horizon, here's a short list of parenting points to ponder that Steve and I have collected over the years. Most of them have stemmed from the trusted advice of great mentors and great authors*, and others have been fine-tuned through trial and error. Collectively, they are tips that have proven to be the most helpful and fruitful for us when we stick to them with love and consistency.
1. Be Consistent
Whatever method of discipline you choose to use, whether it's time out, early bed time, taking away privileges, etc. just be consistent and follow through. I can't stress this enough. We have failed at this so many times and paid the consequences. Discipline may be difficult in the moment, but in the long run it's easier on you and on your child.
2. Chill Out
I know this is obvious, yet challenging at the same time, but you have to be calm. Children are so perceptive. They know instantly when a parent's fire is lit, and if your child is even slightly strong willed, parental anger just ignites in them the will to compete or defy. Discipline is not a competition. You are in charge, so just stay calm, stay the course, and expect the child to dislike and rebel against the boundaries you have set - that's normal! You're not bending a will, your shaping an attitude, and that can take time.
3. Love 'Em Up
Sometimes our kids' bad behavior is really just a cry for love. I've really noticed this with Joey. Some mornings I put him in time-out a dozen times before we've even finished breakfast. Sigh. Why? Really I just need to stop what I'm doing for a moment, hold him on my lap, hug him, laugh with him or read him a story. When I take this approach, his mood and behavior instantly improves. Love and affection is magical! Give 'em some one-on-one time and see what happens.
4. Watch Your Language
Try using specific language, or "trigger words" with them. A couple of our favorites are This is not acceptable behavior, and You re in charge! Or, You get to choose! When a child is being argumentative or defiant we give them two win-win options and explain that they get to be in charge of the decision they make.
For example, I might say, Joseph, you may either sit down and eat your lunch or go to nap-time early. I will let you decide. You get to be in charge! You have two minutes to choose, or I will choose for you. I set the timer and wait for his response. Either one is a win-win for me!
5. Praise 'Em
Words of affirmation are really important during this stage. If my kids are tuning me out, it's usually because I'm using more disciplinary words (in a frustrated tone) and not enough affirmative ones. Be intentional about catching your kids making good choices, and then affirm them specifically. I like the way you shared your toys today! Or, Thank you for saying please and thank you at supper! You're such a big boy!
6. Be Strategic
Don't attempt big outings when your kids are hungry or tired. It's a sure recipe for a fiery melt-down. Man, have I made this mistake too many times! Little ones simply cannot understand the mental flowchart that we moms have strategically drawn up for the day. No matter how creatively we try to explain our plans to them or reason through specifics with them it's like spaghetti in their little heads. So, we must be realistic about our expectations and smart about scheduling if we want to avoid unnecessary conflict.
7. Show Mercy
Be affectionate after punishment. After we put Joseph in time out (which he hates, because he has to be in a room by himself), we try to remember to pause, kneel down, hug him and remind him why he was punished, and then express that we love him and that he gets a chance to try again.
8. Quit Counting
I hope I'm not offending anyone here, but the countdown method is not a good idea. Telling a child they have five seconds to do anything means that they will max out that five seconds and risk being disciplined. Again, we know this to be true through trial and error. I'm not sure where I read this but offering the child a single warning and explaining the consequence they will receive if they refuse to stop their behavior seems to be much more effective. If you find yourself saying, "Stop!" over and over again, that is the same as counting. You have to give the warning and discipline immediately if they do not adhere to your warning.
The only exception to this suggestion is if a child is hurting another child, then there's not warnings, discipline is immediate.
9. Brag Don't Bemoan
Don't speak negatively about your child to others in front of your child. If they constantly hear you telling others that he/she is going through the terrible twos, is so naughty, is exasperating you, they will more than likely fulfill their role as the "naughty one." But, if they hear you say positive things about them to others, especially if you praise them in front of your spouse, they will absolutely light up and they will know that you love them and believe in them - this will (hopefully) motivate them toward obedience. Again, so guilty of this here, because sometimes we moms just need to vent, am I right? We just have to be prudent about the time and place we choose to vent.
Be encouraging and show a little mercy to others and to yourself. A couple of weeks ago, I was in a bookstore purchasing some materials that I needed for our homeschool year. Joseph was in a serious funk. I had asked an older brother to help watch Joey while I shopped, but I could still hear Joseph's pipes vocalizing his discontent with life. I finally had to seek out the manager and apologize for my son's behavior. To my surprise, the manager was so kind and gentle with me. With his understanding, I instantly felt the parent perfect weight on my shoulders lighten up. We need to extend that kind of grace and understanding to others, and to ourselves as well.
Sometimes children are down right awful because their parents have failed to love and nurture them with proper discipline. But, most of the time, kids are just being kids. They're trying to figure out life in this big world and how they fit in to all of it. It's a big job to love and lead our little ones in the right direction, and I know for a fact that it's easier when we set our critical eye aside and show some mercy and support to one another instead.
Gotta run - Joey is blowing his nose. In the curtains.
Have a great week!
*A few of our favorite trusted resources: