Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"I do it myself!"

The youngest one at TheZoo has turned two.
I realized this morning that she is my seventh two year old.
I have been through the 'terrible two's' six times already, so I'm guessing I have learned a thing or two about two year olds.

First, foremost, and most fervently, they are not really the 'terrible two's'.
They can be, if parents choose that route. There are things that two year olds begin to try and practice that are truly terrible.
When parents choose to allow toddler to pursue behaviors that are awful because it is just so cute when such a tiny child is saying or doing it, you can bet those practices will continue as the years go on.
Is it really so cute when your two yo. stomps her foot and says 'No!' that you want to let it go on and on? That very first time, it might be hard to hide a smile at the idea that she has begun forming connections in her mind. That she understands the verbalization of rebellion in addition to body language (I.e. squirming and wriggling when being put in a car seat, climbing out of bed, etc.) is amazing, but the behavior exhibited needs to stop.
Two years old is a great time to teach your little one about respect. Will she stomp her foot and say no over and over and over again? Of course! She's got to find out the parameters of  your rules. If it counts at home, does it count at the grocery store? At Grandma's house? At the park? In front of your friends? She needs to find out of your rules are constant or circumstantial.

Secondly, independence is important to a two year old. Yes, it's important at all ages, but it's especially important at two, when little ones are discovering that they CAN do things independently.
It's the grown-ups job to guide them in responsible independence.
When it's time to get dressed, and your little man wants to "Do it myself!" you can let him.  Sometimes that means that getting dressed for the day begins much earlier than it has in the past, to allow time for fumbling with buttons, learning how to pull on a sock, and shoving feet in shoes.
Did you know that allowing your 2 yo to practice independence with personal care will be helpful when they are old enough to have chores assigned.  You will have already fostered trust in your child to work independently. (Please be sure to teach the child how to do the chore from beginning to end. Be clear in what you expect, don't set them to the chore assuming that they have seen you do it several times and should know how to do it. It's terribly frustrating for a child to be disciplined over something that they were never informed of in the first place.)

Third, language blossoms at the age of two. If you say to your child "Oh, isn't dat wittle bitty wabbit just so cutey wooty?" Then your child will very likely speak like that. If you say "Oh $#%*! What the #$%& happened in here?" Then your child will very likely speak like that.  If you speak respectfully, then your child will very likely speak like that.

Did you know that if you spell your child's name out loud when you write it down, and encourage him to, he will repeat the letters? He won't understand that he is practicing symbols that make up words for reading, but you are engaging in reading readiness. You don't have to go out and buy workbooks and sign up them up for the most prestigious preschool to prepare them for life. You can start with simple things. Communication is important at every stage in life. It makes sense to teach effective communication early.

The second year is hard on parents. Children have so much energy, and now they can run! They talk to you all the time, they test their skills in opening and dumping out containers all over the house. They practice defiance, and they know how to get out of bed and take off their diaper.

We have the privilege of teaching them how to behave respectfully, and what it's like to be respected.
I promise that the second year will wear you out as much as those first six months did, but just as it was in the beginning, it is worth every tired, exasperating moment.

I'm looking forward to sharing seven kids' worth of threes!

Happy Parenting!

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