Q&A: handling the “terrible twos”

A Choice Mom with a two-year-old son posted a few days ago on one of the discussion boards about the struggles she is having with the ‘terrible twos,’ and within two days there have been more than 20 responses. Here’s some of what we’re saying.

First, as a Choice Mom who wanted her child so much, the woman was coping with the bubble burst that conflict-free parenting was not possible. “I wonder if it’s harder for me because I’m a single mother and so my primary relationship is with my son instead of a spouse. I take it so personally when he lashes out at me in anger. I spent so much time planning and trying to become a Mom that it’s heartbreaking to have so much turmoil in my relationship with him right now. I know it’s a phase, but it’s so hard. Does anyone else feel like they had a harder time than other Moms in dealing with this stage? It feels like everything is a battle right now: bath time, meal time, changing diapers, getting dressed, getting undressed etc.”

Responded Janine: “My son is 2.5 and i feel like everything is a fight. From eating to cleanup to diapers and bedtime. I think it is harder because we are the only ones to deal with it 24/7. We don’t always get breaks. Hugs!”

Said another: “My son is 2 years and 9 months with a very strong personality and definite likes and dislikes (just like me!). I started going to a counselor recently because I’m not being the type of mom I thought I would. Like you, there is the added pressure of ‘I really wanted this so why is it so hard sometimes?’ The counseling has helped. So has talking with other mom friends who are married but still facing these same struggles with kids the same age. My counselor and friends are very helpful to reassure me that I am a ‘good enough’ mom… meaning I’m not perfect but I am doing the best I can for him.”

Women admitted:

  • I lose my patience and temper more than I think I should.
  • I don’t enjoy every moment and then feel guilty and sad because he is growing up so fast and I can never recapture the baby moments.
  • I need more ME time and I get resentful that he is constantly needing my attention and affection. Yet at the same time I adore him and love that he is so attached to me.
  • On the worst days with my daughter, I was convinced I was a terrible parent and that I had somehow created an unhappy, not “normal” child. I can see now that I was wrong on both counts!
  • Just wanted to say THANK YOU for this series of posts! My little one is 2.5 and has changed from a snuggly, cuddly, loving little guy to a hollering, demanding, crying hysterically person who seems completely unfamiliar. Glad to know it’s not just me feeling overwhelmed with this shift and feeling like being a single mama is soooo hard sometimes.

One child development graduate wrote: “My personal and professional view is that kids who go through this transition time are having a hard time expressing their desires because their language skills aren’t advanced yet. They get frustrated that no one can understand them, so it’s just easier to have a fit or meltdown, but obviously that’s not how you want to condition a person to deal with their communication issues.” She added that this is also when sleeping is harder for a child to do out of the house, and external stimulation can make them over-tired.

Said Kristina: “He always mirrored my emotions. If I got angry, he got angrier, if I remained calm he calmed much quicker than other times. Empathy while extremely hard at times was essential. I constantly reminded myself that it was my job to love him, not the other way around… I constantly said ‘I don’t understand, can you help mommy understand?’ I let him know that I was trying to help solve the problem. Or, if it was because he didn’t want to do something that I needed/wanted I gave him choices. The theory being that he was more cooperative if he had a choice…Do your best to not take it personally, their job at this stage is to test the limits. Your job is to enforce them. You are bound to have some conflicts. Now if I could just muster up empathy for the ‘I am afraid of monsters’ stage we are currently in.”

Added Fiona: “The thing that shifted it for me was to realize that I am learning alongside my child. She is trying to work through some very big emotions that make her ‘mis-behave’ and I’m trying to work through a lot of fear: I’ve done something wrong, my child will be badly behaved in school, no one will like my child. Every crisis felt like an emergency because I projected the behaviour into the future, rather than realizing that it was normal behaviour for the age. So my first step (and I don’t always succeed in even getting to the first step when I’m in the midst of it all!) is to recognize that THIS IS NOT AN EMERGENCY. I don’t need to react like it is.”

Added another: “I would not so much get down to her level, but actually raise her up to mine, meaning I would sit her somewhere where she can be right at my eye level,where we can really be equal and look eye-to-eye. that alone helped a lot. Who likes to be talked down to from a person three times their height?”

One honest post from a blogger, who married after an accidental pregnancy, wrote: “I felt guilty because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.”

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