2 year old toddler time “A tumultuous time”: Some refer to this period as the “terrible twos”. It’s not really a terrible time, though; it’s a terrific time, although few call it the “terrific twos”. It’s a time when your child is beginning to come into her own and learn what it’s like to be an independent person. It’s a time when her language skills and imagination are increasing at a breathtaking pace. But it’s also a time when her understanding of the world is still so limited that many things can be scary.
2 year old toddler live in contradictions
They are independent and dependent, loving and hateful, generous and selfish, mature and infantile. They stand with one foot in the warm, cozy, dependent past and the other in an exciting future full of autonomy and discovery. With so much excitement going on, it’s no wonder that two is a challenging age for parents and children alike. But terrible, it isn’t. It’s really pretty amazing.
2 year old toddler learn by imitation
In a doctor’s office, a 2 year old toddler girl solemnly places the stethoscope bell on different spots on her chest. Then she pokes the otoscope in her ear and looks puzzled because she can’t see anything. At home she follows her parents around, sweeping with a broom when they sweep, dusting with a cloth when they dust, brushing her teeth when they do. It’s all done with great seriousness. She is making giant strides forward in skill and understanding by constant imitation.
Young children also imitate their parents’ behavior patterns. For example, when you treat others politely, your 2 year old learns to be polite. It’s okay to tell a 2-year-old to say please and thank you, but it’s much more effective to let him hear you use those words in appropriate circumstances. (Don’t expect to see politeness right away, but 4 or 5, your early investment in politeness is bound to begin to pay off). In the same way, young children who see parents using hurtful language or threats often develop similar troublesome behaviors. That doesn’t mean that parents can’t ever argue or disagree. But a steady diet of angry conflict is harmful to children, even if they are just bystanders.
Communication and imagination: At two, one child speaks in 3 and 4-word sentences while another is just beginning to link two words together. A 2 year old who only says a few isolated words probably should have a hearing test and developmental evaluation, even though the chances are good that the child will simply be a late talker.
Imagination and language grow together
It’s wonderful to watch a young child’s imagination unfold over the year from 24 to 36 months. What starts out as a simple imitation and experimentation becomes rich make-believe play. As a spur to imagination, let your child experience blocks, dolls, musical instruments, old shoes, cookie dough, water for splashing and pouring, and as many other interesting objects you can think of. Expose your child to nature, even if just he neighborhood park. Look at picture books together, and let your child use paper and crayons. Scribbling is the first step on the path to writing.
One thing I strongly recommend against is television. Even high-quality children’s television can limit a child’s imagination, simply because it does all the work, demanding so little effort from the child. Even at two, television teaches children to become passive consumers of entertainment, rather than learning how to amuse themselves.
Parallel play and sharing
2 year old don’t play cooperatively with each other very much. Although they may love to watch each other’s occupations, they mostly enjoy playing alongside each other in what is called parallel play. There is no point in trying to teach a 2 year old to share; he simply isn’t ready. To share, a child has to understand that something belongs to him—that he can give it away and expect to get it back. That a 2 year old won’t share has nothing to do with how generous a person he well become when he is older.
But this doesn’t mean you have to accept bad manners, even if he hasn’t a clue why you consider his grabbing a toy away from a companion to be bad form. You can firmly but cheerfully take the toy away from him, return it to its rightful owner, and quickly try to distract him with another object of interest. Long harangues about why he should share things are wasted breath. He will start to share when he understands the concept of sharing (usually around 3 to 4) and not before.
WORRIES AROUND TWO
By age two, some children have gotten over their toddler clinginess, others haven’t. A 2 year old seems to realize clearly who it is that gives her a sense of security, and she shows it in different ways. A mother complains, “My 2 year old seems to be turning into a mama’s girl. She hangs on to my skirts when we’re out of the house. When someone speaks to us, she hides behind me.” Two is great age for whining, which can be a kind of clinging. She may be timid about being left anywhere by her parents. She’s apt to be upset if a parent or other member of the household goes away for a number of days or if the family moves to a new house. It’s wise to take her sensitivity into account when changes in the household are being considered.
Here’s what can happen when a sensitive, dependent child of 2 year old, particularly an only child, is abruptly separated from the parent who has spent the most time with him. Perhaps it is the mother, and she has to go out of town unexpectedly for a couple of weeks. Or she decides that she has to go to work and arranges for a stranger to come in and take care of the child. Usually the child makes no fuss while the mother is away, but when she returns, he hangs on to her like Velcro and refuses to let the other person come near. He panics whenever he thinks his mother may be leaving again.
Bedtime separations of 2 year old
Separation anxiety is worst at bedtime. The terrified child fights against being put to bed. If his mother tears herself away, he may cry in fear for hours. If she sits by his crib, he remains lying for only as long as she sits still. Her slightest move toward the door brings him instantly to his feet. If your 2 year old has become terrified about going to bed, the surest advice, though the hardest to carry out, is to sit by her crib in a relaxed way until she goes to sleep.
Don’t sneak away before she is asleep. That will alarm her again and makes her more wakeful. This campaign may take weeks but should work in end. Making the child more tired by keeping her up later or omitting her nap may help a little but usually won’t do the whole job. Even if she’s exhausted, a panicky child can keep herself awake for hours. You have to take away her worry, too.
If your child was frightened because one of you left town, try to avoid going away again for many weeks. If you have taken a job for the first time since you child was born, say good-bye each day affectionately, cheerfully, and confidently. If you have an anguished, unsure-whether-you’re-doing-the-right-thing expression, it will add to your child’s uneasiness.
Concern about wetting the bed
Sometimes when a 2 year old has bedtime anxieties, there is also worry about urinating. The child keeps saying “Wee-wee” or whatever word he uses. His mother takes him to bathroom, and he does a few drops, then cries “Wee-wee” again as soon as he is back in bed. You might say that he is just using this as an excuse to keep her there. This is true, but there is more to it. Children like 2 year old are really worried that they may wet the bed.
They sometimes wake every two hours during the night thinking about it. This is the age when the parents are apt to show disapproval when there is an accident. May be the 2 year old figures that if he wets, his parents won’t love him so much and will therefore be more likely to go away. If so, he has two reasons to fear going to sleep. If your child is worried about wetting, keep reassuring her that it doesn’t matter if she does wee-wee in bed—that you’ll love her just the same.
A 2 year old who is frightened by separation—or anything else—is very sensitive to whether her parents feel the same way about it. If they act hesitant or guilty every time they leave her side, if they hurry into her room at night, their anxiety reinforces her fear that there really is great danger in being apart from them.
This may sound contradictory after having said that a parent must reassure a frightened 2 year old by sitting by her bed as she goes to sleep and by not going away on any more trips for a number of weeks. It means that parents must give her this special care the way they give special consideration to a sick child. However, they should strive to be confident, unafraid and cheerful. They should keep an eye on the indications of the child’s readiness to give up his dependence, encourage him, step by step and compliment him. This behavior is the most important factor in getting rid of their fear. That and the maturational forces which, with time and maturity, will allow the 2 year old to better understand and master her fears.
Children may use separation anxiety to control
A child clings to his mother because he has developed a genuine fear of being separated from her. Then if he finds that she is so concerned about his fear that she will always do anything he wants for reassurance, he may begin to use this as coercion. There are 3-year-olds, for instance, who are anxious about being left at preschool whose parents to reassure them not only stay at school for days but stay close to the children and do what they ask.
After a while, you begin to see that such children are exaggerating their uneasiness because they have learned to use it to boss their parents around. A parent should say, “I think you are grown up now and aren’t afraid to be in school. You just like to make me do what you want. Tomorrow I won’t need to say here anymore.”
How to help a fearful 2 year old
When it comes to management of children’s fear, a lot depends on how important it is from a practical point of view for them to get over it in a hurry. There’s no great necessity for anxious children to be hurried into making friends with dogs or going into deep water in the lake. They’ll want to do these things as soon as they dare.
One the other hand, children should not be allowed to come into the parents’ bed every single night (unless you’ve decided that cosleeping is for you). They should be comforted and soothed in their own beds so that sleeping with the parents doesn’t become a pleasant habit for which there is no motivation for the child to stop.
Once children have started preschool, it’s better for them to go regularly unless they’re deeply terrified. A skillful teacher can help a 2 year old become engaged in play so that the separation becomes easier. A child with school-refusal problem must go back to school sooner or later; the longer it is put off, the harder it is. Parents are wise to consider whether overprotectiveness is playing a part in these various separation fears. This is a tough task, and parents are certainly entitled to help from a doctor or other professional.
Some causes of overprotectiveness: Overprotective feelings occur mostly in devoted parents who are inclined to feel guilty when there is no need to.
Hidden cause is often anger
The parent and child who are afraid to recognize that there are naturally moments when they resent each other, when each wishes that something bad would happen to the other, have to imagine instead that all the dangers in the world come from somewhere else and grossly exaggerate them. The 2 year old who denies the resentment in her parents and herself places it in monsters or robbers or dogs or lightning, depending on her age and experience.
She clings tightly to her parents for protection and to reassure herself that nothing is really happening to them. A mother, for instance, may suppress her occasional resentful thoughts and exaggerate the dangers of kidnappers or home accidents or inadequate diet. She has to stay close to the 2 year old to make sure the dangers don’t strike, and her anxious expression convinces the child that her own fears are well founded.
Of course, the answer is not for parents to take out all their angriest feelings on the child or to let her be abusive toward them. But it is certainly helpful for parents to recognize the inevitability of their occasional feelings of resentment toward their child and to admit them to each other. It helps to clear the air if parents occasionally admit to a 2 year old how angry they felt—especially if the anger was not quite fair. And it’s good to say to a child once in a while, “I know how angry you feel toward me when I have to make rules like this for you.”
In the period between age two and age three, children are apt to show signs of negativism and other inner tensions. Your baby probably began to be balky and negativistic way back when she was fifteen months old, so this is nothing new. But it reaches new heights and takes new forms after two. One-year-old Petunia contradicts her parents. 2 year old Petunia even contradicts herself! She has a hard time making up her mind, then wants to change it. She acts like a person who feels she is being bossed too much, even when no one is bothering her or when she tries to boss others. She insists on doing things just so, doing them her own way, doing them exactly as she has always done them. It makes her furious to have anyone interfere in one of her jobs or rearrange her possessions.
The child’s nature between two and three seems to be urging her to decide thing for herself and to resist pressure from other people. Trying to fight these two battles without much worldly experience seems to make her tight inside. For that reason, it’s often hard to get along with a child between two and three.
The parents’ job is to keep from interfering too much, and, when possible, let their children work at their own pace. Let your 2 year old child help to dress and undress himself when he has the urge. Start his bath early enough so that he has time to dawdle and scrub the tub. At meals, let him feed himself without urging. When he is stalled in his eating, let him leave the table. When it’s time for bed, going outdoors, or coming in, steer him while conversing about pleasant things. Get things done without raising issues. Your goal is keep him from being a little tyrant but not to sweat the small stuff.
2 year old behave best when parents set firm, consistent, and reasonable limits. The key is to choose those limits carefully. If you find yourself saying no a lot more than yes, you’re probably setting too many arbitrary limits. A battle of wills with a 2-year-old is exhausting, so save it for issues that are truly important. Safety issues, such as sitting in the car seat, are clearly important. Wearing mittens on a cold day may not be so very important. (After all, you can always surf the mittens in your coat pocket and whip them out when your 2-year-old’s hands become cold.)
Nearly every 2 year old has a tantrum from time to time; some healthy children have lots of them. Tantrums usually start around age one and peak around age 2 or 3. These are due to many reasons like fear, frustration, fatigue and hunger. Those kids who are more inclined towards change tend to have these factors. The best way for the parent to deal with such tantrums is by distracting the mind by providing unscheduled snack or changing the play. Sometimes there is sudden burst of tantrum. In such cases, just quietly wait till the kid calms down.
Do not react angrily to your child’s tantrums as most of the time the child stops throwing them if he finds that you are supportive.
Whining. Young mammals of many species whine for attention and nurturance (think of puppies.) so whining is natural and universal, but it’s still annoying. Early on you have no choice but to try to figure out what your child needs. Once your 2 year old can use words, however, it’s reasonable to insist that she do that. A firm, unemotional, “Use your words, I don’t listen to whining,” is all it usually takes, although you may have to repeat this message over many months before it fully sinks in. Be aware that if you sometimes give in to whining—the temptation to do so is strong—it may become much harder to put a stop to it.
Favoritism toward one parent
Sometimes a child around 30 to 36 months can get along with either parent alone, but when the other one comes on the scene she flies into a rage. It may be partly jealousy, but at an age when she’s sensitive about being bossed around and trying to do a little bossing herself, she may just feel outnumbered when she has to take on two important people at once.
It’s more often the father who is particularly unpopular at this period; he sometimes has the feeling he’s pure poison. He shouldn’t take the child’s reaction too seriously or feel hurt and turn away from her. It will help if he regularly cares for her by himself, doing things that are fun, as well as everyday chores, such as feeding and bathing. That way she gets to know him as an enjoyable, loving, and important person, not just an intruder. If a 2 year old child objects at first when her father takes over, he should cheerfully but firmly carry on, and the mother should have the same firm and cheerful attitude as she leaves.
Taking turns this way will give each parent one-on-one time with their child and also time alone. But there is also value in time spent all together, even if the 2 year old acts cranky. It’s good for a child (particularly a first ch 2 year oldild) to learn that her parents love each other, want to be with each other, and will not be bullied by her.
DIET AND NUTRITION
Changes in the diet
A 2 year old can eat pretty much what the family does. You still need to be aware of choking hazards – small or hard foods such as peanuts, grapes, carrots, and hard candies—and keep these out of your child’s diet. If you’ve been giving your toddler whole milk, you can switch to 1 percent or skim. Brain growth slows down after age two, so a high-fat diet isn’t needed. Also, getting used to a lower-fat diet early in childhood probably lowers the risk of heart disease years later.
Young children usually can’t wait five to six hours between meals. Three meals and three snacks is a reasonable schedule. Snacks should be healthy and substantial, not junk food.
Most 2 year old handle cups and spoons with ease but may still need help with forks and knives. Since many 2-year-olds resent getting help, even if they need it, you may want to focus on foods that can be eaten with a spoon or fingers.
Young children need practice making food choices. Peas or squash? Burger on the bun or off? One or two small choices is enough; more and bigger choices are likely to be overwhelming and may lead to tantrums. Wise parents offer a small selection of attractive foods at each meal, so that whatever the child chooses is healthy.
Food choices start with what you bring home from the store. Choose fresh vegetables instead of chips ad other high-fat snacks, fruits instead of cookies and cakes, and juice or water instead of soda. If you want your child to eat healthy, the best strategy is to keep the house stocked with healthy foods and keep the junk food out.
Food fads and fights
One 2 year old wants only grilles cheese every meal; another demands noodle soup. Usually such fads last only a few days, then fade away only to be replaced by other food obsessions. In the interest of peace and harmony, you may want to five in to some extent. Five days in a row of peanut butter and jelly for lunch isn’t harmful, and if there’s milk, fruit, or some green vegetable at other meals, chances are your 2 year old child is getting a reasonably balanced diet. If you think about what your child eats not in just one day but over the course of a week or so, you may see that the diet is pretty well balanced after all.
Many 2 year old get locked into power struggles with their parents about food. On the child’s side, worrisome behaviors include food refusal, extreme pickiness, demands for special foods, gagging, or tantrums; on the parent’s side, nagging, cajoling, threatening, or outright force-feeding.
One step toward independence
By 24 to 36 months, when most children have learned how to use the toilet, most parents can’t wait to see their last dirty diaper. But in their hurry to have the process over with, many parents push, prod, or pester, with the result that training takes longer and is more stressful than it needs to be.
Toilet training is part of a learning process that begins in the first year and ends several years later with a child who handles toileting, including wiping and hand-washing, who feels comfortable about bodily processes, and has adopted her parents’ views on privacy and modesty. If you take this long view, you may feel more comfortable allowing toilet training, including specific suggestions on how and when to start and what to do.