Yesterday, in my child development class, one of the students was curious about why people use the term, “terrible twos.” Instead of the automatic response I could have given, I decided maybe this was a good opportunity to clear the air about the second twelve months of a little child’s life.
It seems that age group gets a bad rap at every turn. Sure, we hear some negative comments about senior citizens (“old codgers,” “senile,” blue hairs”). And, for sure, millennials receive a good deal of criticism, too (“snowflakes, “trophy kids,” “entitled”). But usually, those attributes are individually earned and not always the immediate reaction upon hearing the general designation.
The title of Twos, on the other hand, receives an on-the-spot heavy sigh, some snide remarks, and expressions of sympathy for the parents and caregivers. Not fair, I say. Because… although Twos are definitely a different animal, they are not really all that terrible.
I see Twos as being both a baby and a little child… with the benefits of both, including lots of cuddles, still being under a degree of parental control, having independence, and the ability to communicate. Plus, you don’t have many of the unfavorable aspects of either of these stages… the continual arguing over why we can’t wear a flimsy Halloween costume when it’s only 12 degrees outside or the constant needs of an infant.
If we believe the terrible twos stereotype, then we will be anticipating it. Sure, there are going to be outbursts, angry moments, and meltdowns. But because of our pre-determined mindset, we may approach these with less understanding and care. Our negative expectations drive a self-fulfilling prophecy… and THAT can make things ugly.
Truth be told, two year-olds can be difficult sometimes because of how complicated and constantly new and exciting their life is. All of a sudden, they have an honest to goodness personality, with their own preferences and tastes. Their minds and bodies are growing and they are highly motivated to try new things and challenge themselves.
During their second year, children experience a language explosion and they will learn that words have power. With all these new things to experience and learn, it can be overwhelming.
I told my students to think back to a time when they had to learn a totally new and different skill. I asked if they got it right the first or second time they tried. And, how they felt when they just weren’t getting it at all… frustrated, right? Did they ever curse or cry or even scream? Well, of course. Learning something entirely new is difficult. Now, think about how hard it is for Twos, when their whole life is something new.
How about a new mindset, then. Instead of labeling them as terrible, let’s see them as beginners, hard workers, and simply incredible little humans who deserve our patience, care, love, and respect.