Here I am, a young mother of one little boy, wondering how in the world my own mother raised eleven children. Not only because eleven is a terrifying amount of children to be responsible for but mainly because every one of those eleven children had to pass through the Two-Year Old Stage. I imagine the toddler stage is a lot like the teenage stage, only I know if my son doesn’t listen to me when he’s a teenager, at least he will know how to cross the street on his own. Whereas my toddler will run giddily away from me and towards the street, feeling completely invincible, as my heart nearly gives out until I catch up with him. So here I am, halfway past the 2 year mark, wondering how I will ever survive to see his third birthday.
The name of this game is patience, endurance, and lots of unconditional love. Unconditional love because after a long day of running errands and keeping up with a household it’s not first nature to lovingly hold the child who is calling you names and trying to kick you. Endurance because a time-out can turn into a test of willpower where winner takes all. Patience to explain that screaming and kicking will not get you that last snack before bed, reasoning with a child who is acting unreasonable. Using these three tools in the correct proportions can mean the difference between a happy mommy and child, or a miserable day of nagging, yelling, crying, and generally wasting a lot of time.
As in any situation, caring for a toddler is a very individual task – no one toddler is exactly like another, and yet they are very similar in the changes that they are dealing with as they grow and adapt to their newly acquired skills. You can almost see the wheels turning in their little brains as they absorb new information constantly and try, successfully or not, to put their new knowledge to use. My son is thrilled with his knowledge of where to find the milk (the fridge), and quite pleased that he has the capacity to open the fridge, get the milk out and open it. Me, well, although I can appreciate his strength and ability, I’m not so thrilled due to the fact that it usually means a clean-up job. This brings me to another tool at our disposal – compromise. “You can open the fridge if mommy is there, but pouring the milk is a ‘mommy job'”. He gets it. I explain that it’s messy, and since he doesn’t like anything to be messy, it works out well. And that is where dealing with an individual comes into play. Toddlers are just like us, with likes and dislikes, wants and needs, so by appealing to my son’s dislike of messiness we get to avoid a clash over who pours the milk.
I have read expert opinions on time-outs and many seem to feel that they are only effective from 2 Ã?Â½ years and up since the child cannot comprehend the notion of what the punishment is for. In my experience with my own son, time-outs have worked wonderfully since he was about 1 year old. For many children, another form of teaching may be more effective, but for my son’s personality a time-out helps him to understand that he’s done something wrong and since he doesn’t like to have to sit out an activity he avoids it at all costs.
There is no book or article that can fully encapsulate my child or your child, only those of us who are with our children day in and day out know what is best for these little individuals who are growing and learning by our example. When I get tempted to lose my temper I just have to remember how perfectly my son can imitate me and it gives me pause. I want this little individual to be like me, only better. As parents, teachers and caretakers, it is our hope to pass on any knowledge to the little minds in our care, but to push ourselves to be better people so that they in turn can become thoughtful, independent, caring and conscientious adults. This may mean more patience, endurance and unconditional love.