Photo by Brooke Schwab
People had warned me. The ‘terrible twos’ they called it. They would smile and say things like “just you wait” or “if you think she’s acting up now”. Dealing with the terrible twos, they said, would ruin me. I would laugh. Shrug it off. But then it happened. Two hit us like a weapon of mass destruction. And nothing was left untouched. Bedtime became a twisted game of cat and mouse. Bribery and corruption became the only way to get teeth brushed. Storybooks were used like currency – ‘two stories if you go straight to sleep, three if you stay in your own bed all night’. Dinner time turned into a mind game as she refused to eat what was put in front of her and sneakily tried to put it in the bin when I wasn’t looking. Tantrums were the order of the day. Every day. And a refusal to get dressed most mornings made days spent out harder to arrange than the G8 summit.
My naïve disregard for all the warnings made it harder to swallow. Two was a tough age. I started to speak to my other friends. The ones with older kids. I tried to find out if this was normal. Or if I had genuinely managed to breed the love child of Annie Wilkes and Freddie Krueger. She’s three now. And still going strong. I’m no expert – but I have picked up some tips along the way….
- I often find the ‘ignore’ tactic being the most successful. The more you try and argue or reason with a 2 year old the more attractive that old bottle of gin in the cupboard starts to look. So don’t. If they won’t eat their lunch or they are having an almighty meltdown over the missing purple crayon then I say let them get on with it. Nine times out of ten you will find they will get bored of themselves. No one likes playing to an empty audience.
- Keep some routine, especially when it comes to bedtime. Bath, PJ’s, milk, story, bed, etc. And don’t spoil them. I have a mother who lives abroad. When she comes home twice a year for two weeks Ava gets spoilt rotten. Sweets every day. Sugary drinks. Toys bought at the click of a finger and way too many late nights. The following two weeks that ensue after my Mum goes home are a nightmare. Ava behaves extremely naughtily and her brattiness is usually on the ‘buy me an oompa loompa daddy’ type scale. My advice is – as much fun as spoiling these kids is at the time – the aftermath is just not worth it. Try and always keep some boundaries.
- Start some kind of rewards system. Stick a chart on the wall. Stock up on star stickers. Whether they are toilet training or just refusing to sleep in their own bed at night, praise them for good behaviour, ignore the bad. Eventually they will work it out themselves.
- Stay calm. No matter how much they are making you want to tear your hair out. No matter how much you want to menacingly whisper threats in their ear or bribe them with a new Barbie in the middle of the supermarket aisle. Stay focused. Don’t raise your voice. Don’t lose your cool. Don’t dissolve into tears and start desperately begging them to give you a break. Keep your tone even. Keep your words fair. When you react to a tantrum with rage it can unsettle children. And it usually causes them to repeat their difficult behaviour. Let them know that said behaviour is unacceptable but don’t allow them to think they’ve rattled you.
And if all else fails, tell your other half they need to come home early from work.
Then pour yourself a glass of wine and relax in a bubble bath.