Parenting Vivian | 02 Jan 2011 03:52 am

Exploding the Myth of the Terrible Twos

Nothing currently known about babies’ and toddlers’ development substantiates the currently widespread misconception of “terrible twos”. I know that flies in the face of most all parenting “education” in this country. You may want to stop reading right here if you are committed to subscribing to this misguided theory. That something suddenly “happens” at this age that precipitates tantrums and unacceptable behavior is just plain false.

Unless you’re ready to look at yourself and your parenting objectively, you probably won’t like what you’re about to read. It is, in fact, your responses to and conditioning of your baby and toddler that lead her to exhibit certain behaviors at age 2. Developmentally for the child, there is individuation and the move toward some independence at this age. Of course, the need for connection and reassurance is also present, as strong as ever. Parents who expect a 2 year old to behave the same as she was behaving at 18 months, or the same as some other child (including sibs), are in for a rude awakening. However, labelling it “terrible twos” and buying into all the generalized misinformation that comes with those terms are sad substitutes for good parenting.

Creating an effective and evolving way to parent the 2 year old would be infinitely more beneficial to the child and parent. This need does not start at age 2, but it can be significantly improved upon at this age. Instead of attaching a worn-out and disempowering label, parents could look for new ways to connect with the emerging independence in their toddler. Creating simple, highly reassuring ways for the sometimes fiercely independent toddler to return to nurturing and supported babyhood would allow the 2 year old to go back and forth between dependence and independence. This, in fact, is what needs to happen in order for individuation to occur.

It’s amazing how many different ways this simple method can be employed in parenting. If you focus your energy on giving your child exactly what she needs in the present moment (by which I mean attention, not physical objects), you often expedite developmental stages. If you do not attach a dysfunctional label to the reaction you get from your child when you are not offering appropriate attention and care, you may end up getting a lot less challenging behaviors. It was infinitely more pleasant for all involved parenting my 3 now adult kids, who grew up as individuals with different temperaments, styles, and needs.

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