When Zach turned 2, I wondered what terrible Twos were about. A week later, the Terrible Twos disease struck. It happened on New Year Day 2012 when I had some friends with children over. He was territorial, he was screaming, he was pissed. I was shocked, so shocked that I couldn’t apologize enough to my friends because he seemed to have hit the younger kids.
I spent a long time searching for information (google, ask friends & family, books) and eventually ended up with this book called “The Happiest Toddler on the block”. In gist, it explained that toddlers would undergo an extensive brain development (imagine brain cells multiplying away rapidly) and they were overwhelmed by the sudden understanding of the world.
We had to see them as little cavemen who wanted to embrace the nature (be out and running in the wild as opposed to being cooped up in the apartment) and had difficulties expressing themselves (but had tons of opinions). They had no concept of fairness because they couldn’t analyze. To them, being fair meant winning 95% of the time as opposed to 50% in our context. That made a lot of sense as to why they would be frustrated and throw tantrums.
The book recommended the ‘fastfood rule’ and to a large extent, it worked with communicating with Z. Fast food rule meant to repeat their requests like how fast food order takers would repeat us when we placed an order. Instead of abruptly telling us $5, they would repeat our order for verification before telling us that it would be $5. This way of communication could placate the child and let him/her feel like we knew what he wanted.
It also helped that I could usually anticipate what was coming, calmed him down and verbalized his intentions. How about times when they demanded our immediate attention? While we should not spoil them and drop everything that we were doing, it was recommended that we give them the required attention immediately and explained along the line of “Yes, I can spend some time with you now but I am actually doing XXX. Can I resume what I was doing after 5min?” You know these simple words changed our lives literally. This was because we prevented the tantrum from escalating. 2-year old Z took to this very well and yes, he stopped sitting and rolling on the floor.
It was also important to note that we had to speak to them in simple sentences for them to understand us, else anything too long and complex would sound as gibberish to them. One tip given was to speak like cavemen. I tried that for a month and it was really hard to keep to it.
However, thankfully for us, Z realized we understood him & picked up our grammar instead (so I could stop the cavemen lingo!). Thereafter, we saw less unreasonable tantrums too. We did breeze through the last 2 years.
Though we had blissfully avoided much of the problems most parents have, as Z approached his 4th year old birthday, we had a new set of problems. How to get him to stop talking all the time? Well, we were still trying different means and ways to tackle that. If we ever found a solution, I would share.
Lastly, learning about their mental development had helped to explain their random mood swings were not because they were simply naughty or because of terrible twos. That term was a misconception and a rather big disservice to the toddlers – treat them with respect and they would show you theirs too.
So yes, that was one of the most enlightening book ever.