We have likely all heard the terminology before – “The Terrible Twos”.
For my daughter who is now 2 1/2, this phase actually started early – at around 18 months, to be precise! Anna went from a mild-mannered, calm, easy-going baby to an independent, willful, very vocal toddler seemingly overnight. And while toddlerhood can indeed prove challenging and having a two-year-old can at times feel a bit terrible, I have come to realize that it doesn’t have to feel as terrible as the culture would have us believe.
I have found that I carry a lot of influence over my child’s attitude and actions through my own.
Though I am not ultimately responsible for how my two-year-old chooses to act, the way I am as a mom can nevertheless greatly impact just how terrible this phase may or may not be.
And, you know what else I have learned? Even the phase of the “terrible twos” can be embraced! Even this season can be incredibly beautiful and sweet and precious.
The question is – will we take the time to help make it so?
What follows is a list of five different practices which are aiding me in my desire to fully embrace and enjoy this time with my daughter.
When I get exasperated at my toddler’s temper tantrum and respond in anger and frustration, it only makes matters worse.
When I instead take a moment to remember that her fit is likely resulting from her feeling unable to fully communicate her feelings and desires and thus stemming from frustration on her part, I am much better able to respond out of a calm place. When I do, everything goes so much better, and she calms down a lot quicker.
If I have trouble embracing this phase that can be ridden with tantrums at times, it is oftentimes due to a failure on my part to place myself in my daughter’s shoes.
I am viewing these situations from my perspective as an adult rather than her perspective as a little child.
I am forgetting that, for my daughter, this season can be incredibly overwhelming in its newness.
The toddler season is a lot like the newborn season – our little ones are experiencing a whole new world, with a lot of new feelings, discoveries, changes in their abilities, and more that can make it an overwhelming time for them. Everything feels new again as they begin to process more, feel a little more independent, and exercise new skills.
If we practice a bit of empathy, then, it’ll go a long way towards our being able to more fully embrace this season, because our frustration and the frustration of our child will be greatly diminished.
This is so crucial (and something I have to remind myself on a daily basis)!
It is also the natural outworking of our practice of empathizing with our toddlers – when I understand where my child is coming from and how she is feeling, I can extend grace so much easier.
It also helps to remember that I act like a toddler myself sometimes! In my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I can all-too-often throw the kind of temper tantrums my two
In my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I can all-too-often throw the kind of temper tantrums my two-year-old occasionally throws with her father and me. Being humble and remembering that I am oftentimes the equivalent of a toddler myself goes so far in helping me to extend grace, show love, and exercise patience in my interactions with my little one.
I also want to point out that, as Christian moms, this practice of extending grace is absolutely crucial.
We are a picture to our little ones of what Christ is like. If we present our children with as accurate of a representation of Him as we can in our finiteness, extending grace, mercy, and love, our children will be more open to listening to us when we share God’s truth with them as the years go by.
If, however, we are harsh, critical, and ungracious as parents, this will adversely color how they view the Lord. And that could have dire consequences!
I don’t know about you, sweet mama, but I know I can oftentimes get so distracted by my phone, my to-do list, and just my own thoughts.
When I do, anytime my daughter then “interrupts”, I easily get frustrated and view her to be just that – an interruption.
When I instead take a moment to look into her eyes, however, to stop and really see my child, what I then see is not a nuisance of interruption, but an absolute joy and delight.
When I’m present in the moment with her, whether it’s when we are making cookies and she ends up with flour on her nose or when I take my focus off my phone long enough to see the dimple in her cheek and the sparkle in her eyes, I can’t help but embrace this season and delight in her being this adorable age of two.
Just as it is unfortunate when we place unrealistic expectations of reason and maturity on our two-year-olds, it is likewise an unfortunate mistake when we, on the flip side, underestimate the extent to which our two-year-olds can learn and process, even at this age.
The way we want our children to be when they are 5, 15, 25 is precisely what we need to be working towards even now.
Training up our children in the way that they should go (see Proverbs 22:6) doesn’t start when they are five and seemingly capable of understanding more. It starts right now. As we go about intentionally training our toddlers today, we will find ourselves embracing this season so much more.
As we go about intentionally training our toddlers today, we will find ourselves embracing this season so much more.
Look to the Future
We need to be looking to the future.
Not in the sense that we are wishing away this season – that would be a failure to embrace it! But in a way wherein we look at our child and see his or her future self. Ponder the unique personality traits you are watching emerge in your little one even now, and think about who it is God has made him or her to be.
In our efforts to get our toddlers to obey, we want to be careful that we are not disciplining out of a harsh, unloving place, inadvertently squashing their God-given personality.
I am not saying we don’t discipline, correct, and uphold standards. What I am saying is that we do so in a loving, gracious, calm manner so as to foster closeness in our relationship.
We need to be careful to not come down so hard on a particular behavior (such as bossiness) that we beat out the personality traits that may be masquerading as disobedience right now, but which will serve a God-given purpose later (such as leadership).
Our goal is to reach the hearts of our children, not merely put a band-aid on their outward behavior. Remembering that our responsibility to prepare our children for the roles God will call them to later lends itself rather well to our pursuit of embracing the season we are in now!
Ponder the unique personality traits you are watching emerge in your little one even now, and think about who it is God has made him or her to be.
In our efforts to get our toddlers to obey, we want to be careful that we are not disciplining out of a harsh, unloving place, inadvertently squashing their God-given personality. I am not saying we don’t discipline, correct, and uphold standards.
Don’t Squander the Time
It’s sad to me when I think on just how cute my little two-year-old is right now and know that I will never get this season back.
This perspective is hard to find in those moments of temper tantrums, of course, but it is still there more often than not. What I have to remind my sentimental self in those moments is that all I can do is wholeheartedly embrace this season, making the most of it while I’m in it.
My hope is that these ideas I’ve shared today will serve to help you do just that with your own two-year-old.
God bless you, Mama!
Rebekah Hargraves is a wife, mama of two littles, home business owner, podcaster, and blogger residing in TN. Her passion is to bless fellow Christian women through her writings on her website, Hargraves Home and Hearth, which exists to “edify, equip, and encourage women in their journey of Biblical womanhood”. Rebekah’s first book, “Lies Moms Believe (And How the Gospel Refutes Them)”, releases in November.