The Terrible Two’s Times Two

We’ve all heard the phrase “The Terrible Two’s.” After wrapping up the 2nd birthday party shenanigans we all know that it’s just around the corner. But for those of us who are first time parents, we have no idea what it means. And boy are we in for a treat.

Every day our toddlers (who I swear were just babies yesterday) are learning new emotions and new ways to express themselves, and along with those new skills come temper tantrums. Tantrums that range from yelling to biting and even throwing themselves on the floor.

As parents we try to remain calm and figure out the best approach, but each tantrum is different and needs to be treated as such…but that’s something that you won’t know until you’re knee deep in it.

Oh and did I mention that I’m handling it times two?! So when one approach works for one daughter, it fails miserably for the other. One will act up more one week and then the next week they’ll switch, it definitely keeps me on my toes.

They bite each other one minute and then kiss each other the next. They know when they’re behaving badly and sometimes they care and apologize to their sister, or me, or whoever they’ve lashed out against. Other times, they just keep at it; screaming and hitting and I’m scrambling to figure out the right thing to say or do.

Depending on the twin and the tantrum some things that work (or fail miserably) are: ignoring it (to a degree), telling them to go to their ‘quiet corner’ (an area we made that consists of pillows and stuffed animals in the corner of our living room), and sometimes they just want to go up to their big girl beds and cuddle their teddy bears until they calm down.

There is the odd occasion that they’ll try to explain their feelings right there on the spot and we just rationally tell them why (for example) we don’t hit, we don’t bite, etc. But sometimes they just need that extra time to calm down first and once they do, we always get them to talk to us about what happened and apologize if/when necessary.

Something we’ve discovered through trial and error is that time-outs DO NOT WORK in our household for tantrums. They work when it’s an isolated incident; those times when one gets mad at the other for taking something of theirs which results in lashing out, but it’s not what I would consider a tantrum…those are a whole different ball game.

Sometimes you can see the tantrum bubbling up inside of them, but most times they blindside you. They can be caused by the slightest trigger (like realizing they don’t want to sit in their usual seat at the table). I’m getting better at reading their signs and diffusing the situation, but as aforementioned, there’s times I don’t even see it coming.

Everyday there’s a tantrum, sometimes just one, sometimes a dozen between the two of them and by the end of the day I’m just counting down to bedtime…and I hate that feeling.

I read an article recently that was written by a mom whose child is no longer a toddler. She recapped having the same emotions and how bedtime would often consist of her lashing out at her then-toddler threatening with things like “Mommy’s not going to read to you if you don’t get into bed” or other idle threats like it. It struck a chord with me because I had recently caught myself uttering the very same words, as I’m sure many parents have.

The threats aren’t harmful but a way to get our toddlers to behave the way we want them to. But at what cost?

The article pointed out the things that our toddlers might take from it: Mommy’s mad at me. Why won’t mommy read to me tonight when she does every other night? Doesn’t mommy love me anymore?

Yes, my terrible-two-twins will continue to push my buttons and procrastinate, especially right before bedtime, but there’s got to be a better way to handle it. I never want either of my girls to wonder if I don’t love them as much today as yesterday because I didn’t read their book or sing their bedtime songs to them.

So lately I’ve tried a new approach. No threats, just reasoning with them. I’ve started reading to one if the other is still acting up and within minutes she’s also on my lap beside her sister because she doesn’t want to miss out on the story. I get them to hug the dog goodnight so that they stop jumping on their beds and sit quietly waiting in the chair for them to put their heads on their pillows. I don’t threaten with “mommy’s not going to sing to you tonight” but instead phrase it “would you like mommy to sing your songs? Then please put your heads on your pillows and close your eyes.”

Once our story/song routine is done I give them even more kisses than usual and whisper goodnight and I love you to each of them, to which I receive “love you mommy” and my heart melts.

This approach won’t be for everyone, but I’m in a much happier place and I believe my girls are too.

So we’re half way through the terrible two’s, but I’ve heard that three is worse. Here’s hoping it will be out of their systems by then… but only time will tell.

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