Being a parent is one of the most wonderful and rewarding experiences a human being can have – no question about it. But no matter how much parents love their children, there are times when the little darlings can drive us Mums and Dads right up the wall.
Each age for the child brings its own special rewards and challenges. But one of the most challenging times has to be when the child reaches the “terrible twos”.
On the plus side, children between the ages of two and three can communicate pretty well and can move about without too much assistance. On the negative side, they can talk back and get into all those places they’re not supposed to be.
In fact, this age is full of behaviours guaranteed to have parents pulling their hair out. Rest assured, it’s entirely normal and they will grow out of it. In about eighteen more years.
So let’s commiserate over the 10 worst things two-year-olds do that drive their long-suffering parents absolutely crazy. And if reading this list doesn’t provide any comfort, there’s always that bottle of wine in the fridge.
10. Refusing To Go Potty
Children this age are already in the midst of being potty trained. They know perfectly well what happens if they don’t “listen to their bodies”.
But parents would be forgiven for thinking that their children forget all about how to go to the toilet with the dawn of each new day. Their response to the question every 30 minutes of “Do you need to go potty?” is invariably greeted with dumb incomprehension. “The very idea is ridiculous,” the child seems to say. “I did that already this morning/day/week/month. Why would I need to do it again?”
This indifference to the idea often transforms into a flat-out refusal to go potty after the parent asks a few dozen times. And the more the child actually does need to go, the more strenuous and resolute the refusal.
Just pray the floor is made from something easy to clean.
One solution is to use bribery (“If you go, you’ll get an M & M!”). Bribery does work, but whatever happens, don’t leave the child unattended whilst sat on the throne – unless the aim actually was for the child to unwind every last sheet of toilet paper from the roll.
9. Climbing Out Of Bed At The Crack Of Dawn
Parents of children this age are just beginning to enjoy sleeping through the night again. Well, every now and then, anyway.
However, the two-year-old child has one last sleep-destroying surprise in store. Whether the kid is still in a crib or has graduated to a toddler bed, he or she will undoubtedly engage in this irritating (and potentially dangerous) activity: climbing out of bed in the middle of the night.
Don’t be surprised to hear a loud thud from the child’s bedroom at 2.30 in the morning – that’s the little sweetheart scaling the sheer sides of her bedtime prison and falling face first onto the wooden floorboards.
Just remember to close the child’s bedroom door after putting him or her to bed. The toddler may be able to escape a crib but turning the door handle is, thankfully, usually too complex a task.
In the morning, the child will be peacefully asleep on the floor. Just remember not to fling the nursery door wide open and bonk the bundle of joy right in the head.
8. They Must Do Everything Themselves… Especially When They Don’t Know How
Another fun activity for two year olds is to insist on doing everything for themselves. And then to get hugely upset when they can’t actually accomplish those impossible tasks.
For example, fathers trying to get coats on their children regularly hear sentiments similar to: “Go away, Daddy! Me do it!” After a few soul-destroying minutes of watching the child unsuccessfully zip up the jacket, that stern declaration of purpose – on a good day – becomes, “I need you, Daddy!”
Of course, the child will only admit defeat long after the father is already running late for the appointment he was trying to get to in the first place.
Not that it’s any comfort, but this behaviour is entirely normal. And one day, the child will learn to do up that zipper – and then the parent will never need to do it again.
Except for on those days when the child wants to pretend he or she has mysteriously forgotten how to do it. (Sometimes they just want to be babied.)
7. Getting A Massive Case Of The “No’s” Just When You’re In A Hurry
For the typical two year old, the words “No! I don’t wanna do that!” are never far from their mouths. And the absolute best time to suddenly, inexplicably scream these words? Precisely when the parent is in a huge rush, of course.
A favourite moment for the child to scream with rage and thrash about like a mad thing is when being strapped into the car seat. Because that really quite good impersonation of being possessed by the Devil helps so much with doing up the straps.
For bonus points, the child will choose to pull this stunt just when the parent is completely exhausted. If there are any other children in the car, they too will take the opportunity to scream at the tops of their lungs, presumably out of some sense of solidarity with the frothing-at-the-mouth two year old.
Naturally, children do this because they feel like they aren’t being given choices. That’s right, they don’t have any say in what’s going on – but life is often like that for adults too.
As far as solutions go, the parent may have to be resigned to not going anywhere for a good long while and let the child work the annoyance and frustration out of his or her own system.
6. Refusing To Make Choices When You Do Give Them Options
Small children get angry when they think they don’t have any say in doing something. However, when they are given control over something, they immediately turn into utter dictators, demanding complete obedience. The shoe is firmly on the other foot.
Of course, the parent puts the kid in charge of the trivial decision so the child gets some practise at choosing. But when these choices are offered, very often all of the options are rejected out of hand. For the child, arguing over the pettiest of things is a fun and enjoyable sport.
For example, the decision of which sippy cup to use can become an hour-long process, with each of the perfectly fine cups available to the child being scorned in turn. The only acceptable cup? – The one still being washed up, naturally.
One solution to this insufferable refusal to make a choice is to simply call the child’s bluff. “You don’t like these cups? Fine, don’t have any, then.”
Once the child realises the parent isn’t joking, watch how fast he or she picks the very first cup that was offered.
5. Refusing To Eat
A favourite way for two year olds to torture their parents is to refuse to eat. This particular behaviour is so maddening because it strikes at the very core of what it is to be a parent.
Mums and Dads spend a big chunk of each and every day trying to keep their offspring not only safe but happy and healthy too. When the child decides that eating is an optional activity, that whole “healthy” part goes out of the window.
Once the little darlings get in this mood, they won’t even touch their favourite foods let alone vegetables. Anything in the general category of “sustenance” is dead to them because food is something that’s optional, and that yawning, empty feeling in the stomach must be caused by pixies or the weather rather than, say, not eating.
And God help the parent who, tired of unsuccessfully trying to shoehorn in a spoonful of broccoli, clears away the unwanted gourmet cuisine. Because even though the mere thought of the food is abhorrent to the child, throwing it in the bin will cause the kid to freak out. It’s not that the child needs the spurned food (because, clearly, they don’t), but the continued presence of the plateful of congealed, dried out dinner is sort of reassuring.
Don’t worry about two year olds not eating; at a certain point, they will cave and stuff their faces. Probably with chocolate.
4. Creating Messes Larger Than You Thought Humanly Possible
Another specialty of kids in this age range is to spread toys about all over the place. Nothing makes a two year old happier than to take a container full of toys and distribute the contents throughout as many rooms in the house as possible.
In fact, two year olds don’t stop at toys – pots, pans, Tupperware, and anything else stored in cupboards within their reaches are equally fair game.
Also, bookcases are not objects used to store books; for these enterprisingly chaotic youngsters, they are opportunities for creating a seamless layer of reading materials clear across the floor for as far as the eye can see.
Naturally, this annoying behaviour doesn’t stop once the messes are created – having unleashed anarchy upon the previously ordered and neat environments of their homes, the two year olds promptly get upset because they can’t find their favourite toys anymore.
The good news is that the children can be trained to help with the clearing up. The bad news is that they get distracted after tidying up one small piece, leaving the parents to spend the following three hours putting away the rest of the detritus.
The single most embarrassing moment for any mother or father has to be when the daycare employee says in a hushed whisper, “I’m afraid there was a biting incident today, and it was your child that did it.”
Two year olds bite, of course, because they lack the vocabulary and skills required to express their hatred in a less toothy manner. Like, say, verbally crucifying a playmate with nothing more than withering repartee.
The biting isn’t limited to friends; it can strike siblings, parents, grandparents – basically, anyone in range of those razor-sharp fangs.
Fortunately, the child can be persuaded to stop biting people. For at least a day at a time. And he or she will grow out of it.
Now, if only all the other kids at the daycare could be persuaded to stop biting too.
2. Throwing Huge, Olympic-Class Tantrums
The terrible twos is the age at which a child doesn’t know whether to take a nap or cry about being tired. The end result is a ticking time-bomb of inchoate rage that could detonate over precisely nothing at any moment.
Sooner or later, the child will have a meltdown in public – probably in the middle of the supermarket. Expect much writhing on the floor with added sobbing and melodramatic, mostly incomprehensible claims that “It just isn’t fair”.
There are plenty of books and videos claiming to have the solutions to tantrums and all of these sources make the incorrect assumption that parents have the time to read or listen to these pearls of wisdom. When the apple of Mummy’s eye is shrieking like a demented banshee, flipping to the appropriate page of a parenting handbook and referring to just the right piece of advise is not exactly practical.
Why does these excruciatingly awful tantrums happen? The child might be hungry or, well, “Somebody needs a nap”.
Most likely, it’s the parent after having to deal with that.
1. Daring To Have Opinions Different From Your Own
At a certain point, all parents find themselves wondering, “Where did my kid hear that?”
For nearly three years, the parents have not only done everything for the child but have also been pretty much the sole source of all the thoughts and ideas the little wonder has. And suddenly, out of the blue, he or she gets an original opinion – and it’s different from the parents’.
Once the initial shock subsides, try to remember that this revolting development is only going to get worse as time goes on. The end result of all this careful parenting is to produce an adult that will inevitably disagree with every last thing Mum and Dad say and think. Have fun with that.
If all these ghastly habits of two year olds make it seem like parenting isn’t worth the hassle – bear in mind that for every tantrum and mess there is a moment of pure happiness when the little one laughs joyfully or gives their parent a big hug.
And remember, most of these behaviours will eventually go away with nothing more than the simple passing of time. After only a few months, the horrors of surviving a two year old fade from the memory and the parents might well find themselves considering adding another pair of tiny feet to the family.
In the meantime, there are a number of handy remedies at hand for the terrible twos: wine, beer, vodka, to name just a few.
Little Johnny has tipped out all his building blocks again? And there’s one in the toilet bowl? Just pass the wine bottle already.
Thanks for reading.