Recently my 2-year-old looked me deep in the eyes, said “scratch,” and then scratched the sh– out of my arm. Before I was done googling “Am I raising a sociopath?” my child kissed my arm, apologized, and told me “no scratching.” How did I feel at this moment? Very unsure of what to do.
So I started writing this post, which started with a very different title. It was called: Four Years Old is a Magical Age. The writing flowed, it was easy, mirroring my experience of parenting a 4-year-old.
With my older daughter, about six months past her 3rd birthday, many challenges of toddlerhood had disappeared. I’m not saying that we didn’t continue to have struggles, but the daily chaos had been replaced with a noticeable increase in independence, reasoning, and predictability. However, if I’m being really honest about it, as much as my youngest drives me to the edge, she always brings me back just as quick.
Two years old is a magical age. It’s certainly not easy, but as a parent I’m constantly learning from my 2-year-old. Here are a few of my favorite lessons, and some treasured resources for the hardest days.
They Live Their Truth
2-year-olds embrace their truest selves. They know what they like and what they don’t like, and will fight for the cause. They could certainly learn to compromise, but in the meantime I consider their unwavering preferences to be a strength.
How to help? Toddlers want to be in control. Provide acceptable choices for clothing, food, and activities. Give them agency and let them pick from your short list. Check out Feeding Littles for some great food-related tips in this area, as well as tips for learning to give yourself some grace in the process.
They Share What’s On Their Mind
2-year-olds understand a lot of what’s going on around them, and have a lot to share. It’s not always easy for a 2-year-old to tell us exactly what they want to say, but they always find a way to tell us. Sometimes they communicate with a combination of words and gestures that only their closest confidants can understand. Other times they use the approach of crying, kicking, and yelling.
How to help? Ask questions and seek to understand what your child wants to share. When you can’t figure it out try saying, “Can you show me in another way?” For ideas on setting your kid up for success in tricky situations or navigating a response to tantrums, Janet Lansbury’s podcast Unruffled is a great resource.
They Work Extremely Hard
2-year-olds are learning and developing at an extremely fast rate. They are observing, taking it all in, and practicing, practicing, practicing. 2-year-olds are engaged, and will find something to keep themselves busy in just about every situation.
How to help? Children learn a great deal from everyday, in-the-moment interactions. Our kids are attuned to how we respond to them and others, and replicate these responses in new situations. To learn practical interaction strategies based on neuroscience research check out the book The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.
As I reflect on my older daughter’s “2s” something else magical happens: Selective Memory. When I think of my older daughter’s 2-year-old year I think of her new friendships, her emerging interests, and her whole-hearted silliness. I don’t remember the tantrums, the fussing, or the defiance nearly as well. I mean, I know they happened, but like the hardest parts of pregnancy and childbirth, they’re more like a distant dream.
How to help? Write it all down, the good and the bad. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the wins. Share your stories and toughest questions with other toddler parents. And remember, as soon as you finally have it figured out, your child will move on to a new phase.