Family

How we are surviving the ‘terrible twos’ – Part 1

MiMay is the month of Mothers’ Day and International Children’s Day, so for this month, I prepared some parenting-related content. Raising a child is hard work. It gets even harder when your child enters the ‘terrible twos’. I’m planning to write two posts about this topic and this one, the first one, is going to be about the basics. What techniques are we using to survive this period? You will learn it from this post.

I think one of the pillars of parenting is consistency. The other one is predictability. My husband and I believe in preventing the problems if possible instead of trying to figure out a solution when we are in already in trouble.

Before Janka was born, we already had an idea of what kind of a child we would like to raise and we were trying to find the tools for it before our daughter was born. When Janka was born and we came home from the hospital, we started to accustom her to certain things.

The first one was that my husband and I never argue in front of the child. Over the two and a half years since we have had Janka, we had maybe two loud arguments. If we don’t agree with each other, we don’t usually show it in front of her and discuss the issue when she is not around, for example, in the evening once she has fallen asleep or we discuss it in front of her but in a civilized way. By doing so, we don’t only create a secure atmosphere for her, but we also teach her that yelling at each other isn’t the way conflicts should be dealt with.

Janka sleeps in her own room. We thought that if we accustomed her to it right at the beginning, she would like to sleep in her own place later on and we wouldn’t have to struggle with accustoming her to sleeping in her room once she gets older. We started to sleep train her when she was 5 weeks old and she has been sleeping through the night since she was 7 weeks old (I have to note here that she was exclusively breastfed). I made the nighttime separation easier for her by carrying her a lot in a sling wrap and holding her a lot. As I made sure she got a lot of physical contact during the day, she separated from me for the night without problems. Through physical contact, I also taught her that she could always count on me. The same is true for her father.

In the beginning, it meant having a scenario or choreography – if you like – for every situation. We changed her diapers and clothes the same way and feedings happened according to the same scenario. The choreography is the same whether she is with me or her father. By doing so, we better ensured predictability. As a result, Janka has had a fixed daily routine since she was 4 months old, she has been cooperative when we dress her (and now she can even put on several items of clothing all by herself). She knows what will happen and when. Of course, she can’t tell the time, but she has some kind of sense of time. The daily routine she had at home was a huge help when she started nursery school. As she was already used to a certain kind of routine, it wasn’t consistency that she had to get used to: she only had to learn the routine at the nursery school. Furthermore, a part of our routine at home is that I involve her in the housework. By doing so, first, I can keep her occupied and she won’t start to feel bored and I also know where she is and what she is doing so I can be pretty sure that I don’t have to worry about the suspicious silence well-known by mothers. In addition, she can learn in a playful way how much work it takes to keep a house clean.

My husband and I find it important to set an example. We don’t usually ask her to do something that we ourselves don’t do. For instance, we all have to get ready to leave home in the morning, we have to have breakfast, clean the house, get ready to have a bath. My husband and I read rather than watch TV, we don’t go to the house with our shoes on, etc. As she sees us do all these things, she does them more easily when she is asked to. So an example is better than empty preaching.

And now comes the most important part. Janka entered a milder tantrum period shortly after her first birthday. It was nothing major, she was just pushing her boundaries. During the first three temper tantrums, I tried to talk her around, but unfortunately, this technique just doesn’t work in Janka’s case. The more I try to calm her down, the more agitated she gets. This is how she is. So she threw a fit for the fourth time. At that point, I started to feel that I was heading in the wrong direction. She screamed and threw herself on the floor. I bent down and asked her what the problem was and if she needed anything. Of course, she screamed even more loudly, so I took her hands, pulled her out of the way and left her alone. Two minutes later, she came to me. This is how it works even today. If she throws a fit, I ask her once what the problem is, but if she continues (and she usually does), I leave her alone. If I have to pull her out of the way because she has thrown herself on the floor in a wrong place, I make sure to avoid eye contact with her while doing it. So the point is no audience, no tantrums.

 A few months ago, she started to discover her environment more and her vocabulary has started to improve rapidly. If I tell her what to do, the answer is usually “no”. So far, if she doesn’t do what I ask her to do, the technique was to warn her three times before any punishment (e.g.: I confiscate the toy she is playing with, I turn off the TV, etc.). In situations like this, there are two things that I find important. One is to be usually calm and put together, we have a lot of fun, so this is the default mode for me. When Janka does something bad, there comes the next important thing: the build-up system for disciplining. This means that I say the three warnings more and more angrily. Making a mess is a common problem, so let it be the example. Warning 1 (I say it nicely but firmly): ‘Put the things back to the drawer, please’. At this point, she usually sends me a naughty smile, so here comes warning 2, in a harsher tone of voice, not kindly at all and I turn the volume up as well: ‘Put the things back to the drawer’. We don’t usually get to warning 3. We have reached it two or three times so far, but in that case, the sentence is the same, but I shout it, which is shocking for her because I don’t usually shout at her. Of course, it’s a huge help when my husband is present because he also joins “the party” and usually says the same things as I do with the same tone of voice. As we are on the same page, Janka has no chance to get away with it and usually does what she has been told to. Several people have told me that I shouldn’t discipline her at all because she is only two years old. However, my husband and I find it important because Janka tends to take advantage of even the most subtle sign of leniency or inconsistency and she turns it against us.

However, a few weeks ago, there was a fly in our ointment. You can read about the new situation and the attempts to solve it in an upcoming post.

 

(Source of the image: freepik.com)

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