I know everybody seems to claim that toddlers who hit the age of two suddenly become a close replica to Satan himself. You know, they are demanding, they throw temper tantrums, they grab everything they see, and they seem to have fallen in love with saying the word, “NO!". Although some of these behaviors do happen during this stage of development, it doesn't mean that these years have to become an unbearable nightmare that leads every parent into psychological therapy. Raising children of any age is challenging. Although children are a tremendous gift, they can also be a test of our patience. It's just part of being a parent. If children were born with the innate ability to handle life, where would the fun be? Most parents love to hold their children and love on them as much as possible. Is there any greater word in the English language than “daddy" or “mommy"? Yet, just as parents enjoy the sweet dependence of their children, they must also endure the immature emotions of those same kids. A writer could easily write an entire book about how to effectively parent a two-year old child. Unfortunately, space does not allow for such depth. However, here are some important tips for parents who find themselves parenting a “terrible two":
1. Consistency: Toddlers desperately need to know the boundaries of their household. They will certainly fight against these boundaries and do their very best to cross these boundaries but it is ESSENTIAL that a parent be consistent with the household rules. Many times, a toddler will test the boundaries simply to see if that parent can be trusted to keep them. I know this sounds so advanced and even devious but it's not. It's just a toddler's way of seeing if mom and dad are worthy of their respect. Parents cannot give in to the tantrums, tears, and pleadings of their toddlers. If a parent sets a healthy boundary then they must keep it consistently. This will do wonders for the toddler's feeling of security in the home and with his/her parents.
2. Stability: Structure is also something that can really help toddlers to be secure. Having a daily schedule cuts down on anxiety and insecurities that can invade the psyche of a toddler. Meal times, nap times, play times, tv time (limited), bath times, and bed times all allow the toddler to feel secure that they are being cared for every day. This doesn't mean that a parent cannot deviate from this schedule occasionally. However, having a set schedule for the majority of the time can really help a two-year-old to relax and know their place is secure.
3. Patience: It's true that toddlers are not always easy to handle. They really do grab whatever they can and make messes as much as possible. It's just the way it is. Parents need to educate themselves on what is normal behavior for the stage their child is in and then set their expectations based on that stage. Don't expect a two year old to be as responsible as a ten year old.
4. Modeling: Toddlers usually follow the saying, “monkey see/monkey do". They really learn a lot from watching the behaviors and attitudes of those around them; especially parents. Therefore, parents must do their best to model the behaviors and attitudes they want their children to repeat. One area of special concern is the parents ability to calm themselves down under pressure. The way parents handle life-stress will also be the way their children learn to handle stress. If a parents panics or loses control under pressure, how can they expect their toddler to control their emotions?
5. Love: Of course, as challenging as toddlers are, they need LOTS of love from both mom and dad. This includes hugs, kisses, appropriate touch, tickling, playing, giving baths, and stories at bedtime. Parents should do their best to spend at least 20-30 minutes every day with their toddler, doing things the toddler wants to do. Getting on the floor and playing with your toddler will go a long way to helping that child to feel loved and appreciated. Normally, this investment will also increase the parent's ability to discipline that child later.
Hey, enjoy the toddler years. Reall, it can be done. I promise. Drink in all the great moments of these years. Hold your toddler whenever you can. Kiss them often. Spend quality time with them. Remember, these years won't last forever, thank heaven.
About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people to grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has more than twenty years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for people to put the pieces of life back together. To find out more about Aaron and the services he can offer, please visit http://www.legacycounselingservices.org or call 407-761-4514