The terrible twos

Dear JJ,

You just turned two. You’re also in the thick of…

The Terrible Twos.

If you don’t know what that is, it’s a phrase (and a phase) that strikes fear even in the most courageous of parents.

We have stopped asking you anything, because to you right now, everything is a “NO” or “DO-WANT.”

Even if you really mean yes.

You’re like a walking time-bomb. One moment, you can be happily prancing around, the next, tear-and-scream-fest.

Everything can be disagreeable to you, even the way we pack your toys, place your towel on the bathroom rack, down to who’s able to wear your shoes or read you a bedtime story.

What makes it slightly more challenging is that you love to pick a fight and ruffle your sister’s feathers.

AND we’ve also discovered that your tantrums can get quite physical (though thankfully most of your punches and kicks land in mid-air and not on my face).

Sigh, you’re all but wearing mummy and daddy out.

But there is a silver lining…This IS just another phase. And as with all phases, this too shall pass. (Or so we console ourselves.) If you’re anything like your sis, we think we should see the light by the end of the year.

I know there is a reason behind all this. That you are breaking away from us, learning independence, and forging your own identity as a unique little person through this process.

You’ve now discovered the beauty of your own mind. Your own will. Your own voice.

I know we need to support you in this, that we need to be patient, keep our cool, negotiate with you so you attain a measured level of decision-making, compromise, etc etc. But you need to realise that sometimes your desires are downright silly. (Such as wanting to run down a slope that leads to a road full of cars zooming by. Or wanting to swallow playdoh.)

While shaping your identity is important, protecting your life is more so. And that’s what we will do, even if it results in a meltdown.

All these said and done, you’re still our cheeky, adorable little boy. And when you’re happy, you shine like the stars in our universe.

We are counting the days till you turn three.

Till then, we just have to hang onto our seats, and do deep breathing exercises.

Love, mummee

The end of tyrannosaurus twos

Vera is nearing the end of the tyrannosaurus twos, a.k.a. terrible twos.

There might be two questions running through your mind right now.

Why the T-rex? Well, Vera’s behavior over the past year or so resembled this prehistoric creature’s. The tantrums, the mood swings, and the permanent PMS. Like the T-rex, she was trouble on two legs.

So, why ‘the end’? Well, she’s been an absolute darling for the past month or so. She’s been helpful – ever eager to fetch her little brother’s diaper and clothes. She’s been generous – sharing her sweets and snacks with others like a little santa. She’s …*gasp* growing up!

I’m not saying zero tantrums or zilch difficult behavior – but it’s a far cry from whence we came. From the days of shrieking and yelling and banging and wailing. From the days when two letters ‘N’ and ‘O’ would lead to a meltdown. From the days when we needed our daily cane (a spatula).

Today, she is …

Little Miss Helpful

vera laundry

Little Miss Cheeky

Little Miss Drama Queen

Yes that is a crown made out of a Barney float. Long live Queen Barney.

vera barney hat

Little Miss Teacher

Maybe this is why she adores her baby brother. He’s the only one who will hang around long enough to listen to her telling stories.

reading to j

It could be that she’s learnt to negotiate for what she wants, and learnt to accept our reasoning as to why she can’t have everything she asks for. It could be that she’s better at delaying gratification at this age and stage. It could be that we have also been more obliging and more giving to her (rubbed off by her pleasantness).

Or it could just be God shining his face upon our little family. 🙂

No matter what brought about the demise of the T-rex, I’m one thankful mummy. (And I must say there’s no better feeling than seeing her so protective and loving towards her brother, and witnessing their sibling love take root.)

Baby…you’ve come a long way.

Linking up with Kiddothings!

Learning to tame the strong-willed child

My toddler has graduated from saying ‘NO!’ to more sophisticated forms of expression, mainly: ‘I want THIS!’ or ‘I don’t want this!’. (Note: ‘This’ can be replaced by the name of the object of affection/rejection, if known to her.)

I’m not sure if I’m particularly excited about this development. It sure makes for highly unpredictable days – we could go from ‘very good day’ to ‘very bad day’ in a matter of minutes. Although in all honesty, I think if we as parents were better prepared in handling the want-this-don’t-want-that-toddler, the swing would not be as great.

Some days, broccoli would be her worst enemy, other days, it would be carrot, or pumpkin, or some pea hidden in her rice somewhere. Some days, she would adore (and go nuts if she can’t find) her pink blanket, other days, she would crave her yellow one (oh, not the one with the baby motif). She used to love cold milk, now she turns whiny if it’s not served hot.

As one can tell, this dynamic toddler makes feeding and other everyday life matters as nerve-wrecking as navigating a minefield. It’s a battle of wits, and the parents are calling out for more strategic ammunition.

We’ve tried caning, which usually serves as a deterrent once the object is mentioned or sighted. But just yesterday, the two-and-a-quarter year old demanded for a tissue (to play with, not to use), and I said if you want to waste the tissue, you have to get one whack of the cane. She put my words to the test, and received one whack on the palm. After a few seconds, she asked for another whack. I granted her her wish, this time making sure the pain was felt. She kept silent.

This rather strange, one-off episode tells me she’s gearing up for a stronger challenge, as if she’s declaring: ‘I’m not afraid.’

She’s open to reasoning if she’s in an agreeable mood. It also helps if the bait or the promise is attractive, such as being able to do some painting, or have a tasty treat.

All in all, we’ve been trying to make her fussiness and tantrums as much as a non-event as possible, unless she really is in the mood for trouble. I remember some good advice I read awhile ago: Pick your battles.

I’ve started to read Dr. James Dobson’s The New Strong-willed Child afresh, hoping to gain some new insights and tips. (I’ve also just ordered his book The New Dare to Discipline by the way.)

Effective discipline requires a balance of love and control (or love with boundaries)

Effective discipline requires a balance of love and control (or love with boundaries)

Dobson advocates the establishing of parental authority from an early age, and drawing consistent boundaries of right/wrong, with appropriate levels of punishment meted out for each undesirable behaviour, the worst of which are outright acts of defiance.

I think it’s time to try out some of his suggested strategies and tactics for this age group, such as time-out. (Have tried a variation of this a couple of times, esp. at mealtimes when she fusses over her food and refuses to eat. I would just pick her up silently and set her on the sofa, and ignore her for awhile. Usually she would come round to asking for food by herself.)

Lest I’ve made my toddler out to be some kind of monster, I must add that on good days, she’s usually a cheerful, playful, fun-loving sweetheart. We love her to the max.

But because we do, we can’t let her wreak havoc with her wilful ways. As the good book says:”...the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13)

Patience is key to mama-hood

As Vera nears two, I’ve been looking out for signs of the terrible twos manifesting in her little ways. Thus far, it seems as if her having been initiated into childcare has helped to curb Neanderthal instincts somewhat. Except for the fact that she wants her favourite food/milk always NOW, she appears to accept reasoning and negotiation alot better than before. I’m sure it also helps that she’s able to express herself a whole lot better.

Still, of late, she’s been more prone to sudden outbursts and tantrums, particularly when she knows she’s made one of us angry. I don’t know for sure, but I think she is more sensitive to our feelings of anger these days.

Also, she’s been slightly less cooperative than before, wanting to play longer in her bathtub, longer at the playground, etc. Essentially, she’s only happy to comply only when the outcome is yummy or fun.

OR…when mummy starts to hyperventilate.

Sigh, which brings me back to the title of this post. Patience is key to parenthood, and keeping your sanity. I used to fight often with my feisty toddler, thinking that I had to win all the battles in order for her to learn to respect authority.

But recently, I’ve mellowed. I’ve come to see that sometimes avoiding head-on confrontation is better than reacting to the situation. Well, it does save a lot of tears and energy at the very least.

In the long run, I think Vera learns obedience better via a combination of soft love and hard knocks. And the basis of our teaching and discipline must always be love.

Kids need motivation to be good. A bit like adults, I suppose.

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