This is a phrase we are hearing quite a lot at the moment. It translates to “No, mummy, I want to do it MYSELF!”. E turned two a week ago, and I swear someone gave her a copy of the parenting manual that mentioned the Terrible Twos, and she has been going at it with full gusto! We get a number of different scenarios:
1. The contrary game. It goes something like this:
Me, holding up much-loved Peppa Pig top: “let’s get your t shirt on”.
E: “Nooo! No no no!” *screeches as though burned*
Me: “Okay, would you like your top the the birdie on?”
I start putting the birdie t-shirt on. Cue more screeching.
E: “Peppa Pig! Peppa Pig!”
Me: “E, would you like the Peppa Pig one or the birdie one?”
E ponders: “Peppa Pig”.
I start putting it on. E starts screaming and flailing once more. This pattern continues a variable length of time, until we eventually settle on the first option that was presented. Only then we have scenario two…
2. “Lella self”
E: “Lella self!”
Me: “do you want to try and put it on yourself?”
E, sweetness: “Self, please”
E attempts to put the clothes on. Usually putting a foot through the arm hole, or getting stuck. I know she cannot yet get herself dressed, but if I try or even offer to intervene there is much screeching once more. Instead I wait for her to get frustrated and ask for help. Thankfully she is getting better at learning her limitations and accepting help mute readily. Sometimes.
3. The frustration
Other times, E seems to go straight from calm and content to full on tantrum, with me having no idea what the problem is. Sometimes the problem is quite a real one (hair bobbles causing discomfort in the car seat). Other times it’s something more abstract or trivial, but of no less importance to a two year old (biscuit fallen in half, mummy saying “bark” rather than “woof” for the dog in Old McDonald’s Farm). I try to work out what is upsetting her, really I do. I know she is not ‘pushing my buttons’ with this behavior, but struggling to make sense of the huge world she inhabits and figuring out boundaries and limitations. Sometimes, though, it can take 10 minutes to figure out the problem. Sometimes I do not have 10 minutes. So we muddle through as best we can. It’s just… hard work.
4. Testing the limits
It’s natural at this age to start testing the limits. Figuring out, for example, that you can play away from mummy and daddy, come back 15 minutes later and find them still in the same place, opens up a world of opportunities! But some things you want to try result in different reactions from parents. 6 months ago when I hit the cat, mummy said “shush, gentle hands”, showed me how to stroke nicely, and then distracted me with some other toy while the cat hid. Now when I hit the cat, the toy does not distract me because I know the cat is more fun, plus I get a good reaction from mummy! So I deliberately seek out hitting the cat. Mummy and daddy have to figure out a new method of (gentle) discipline.
We also get a lot of: Hit sister, get told off, get removed from situation, be asked to say sorry and give cuddle, hit sister again. The game has become ‘hit, cuddle, hit, cuddle”.
So we have to figure out what discipline is going to help here. I like ‘time in’; that is, remove child from situation, but stay with them and talk about it. Obviously E’s ability to discuss her feelings and reasons behind hitting her big sister are fairly limited, but we can at least say to her that hitting hurts, and we don’t hit, and we are gentle with our friends and our toys.
It’s difficult, though. M never really went through terrible twos, so this is new territory for us. E likes laying face down on the floor to complain about the unfairness of not being allowed a chocolate button for a snack, or to draw in the ever-so-tempting visitors’ book at nursery. She likes escalating volume and flailing levels to 11 with amazing speed. She has learned to grab at her mouth when she cries because she remembers teething pain getting her sympathy. But she does, thankfully, calm down quickly again. And she’s still distracted with relative ease by flowers, tractors, dogs, or a verse of Old McDonald (or “Donaaaaallllld!” as she mournful wails).
And of course the one thing that almost always works to stop the strop and reset the toddler back to factory settings of calm and cheerful: breastfeeding. Yes, parents, this magic wand is still working! She might only be feeding twice a day now, but it’s still liquid magic.
Life in unfair because my sister is in the spinny chair and I am not, even though 5 minutes ago my mum offered to put me in the chair and I said no. Also my fringe is wonky. Waaaah!