Nothing in life worth having comes easy, right? This statement rings particularly true when you are the mother of a two-nager. Urban dictionary defines two-nager as “a person, two years old, possessing the attitude and demeanor of a teenager.” This behavior includes, but is not limited to, the following scenarios:
- When the two-nager is tired, but the two-nager refuses to acknowledge said tiredness resulting in manic behavior i.e., laughing uncontrollably, falling down, and tormenting others in the household.
- When the two-nager asks for chicken nuggets but refuses to eat them because she wants mac and cheese.
- When mom cannot find the correct “Blippi playground” episode, and the two-nager has a full-fledged meltdown.
Do you remember when they said the infant stage was the hardest? Ha– buckle up, mama because it is about to get crazy. Now that we have identified what a two-nager is, let us talk about how to manage one.
Tip 1: Don’t Try to Figure Out the Tantrum
I will say it again for the people in the back—you cannot rationalize a toddler tantrum. Allow me to illustrate with an example: Scarlett, my resident two-nager, recently developed an aversion to diapers. She takes them off (without warning), flops to the ground, and screams “no diaper” over and over and over again. Fast forward to the next day and she happily wears a diaper. There is no logic or reason to it. You can feed your kid organic everything and read Shakespeare five times a week—that will not ward off tantrums. One day you will find yourself at home (or gasp—in public), and your kid will ugly cry while kicking and screaming on the ground. It’s okay, mama. Tantrums happen. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, 85 percent of 2 and 3-year-olds have tantrums. They occur when children are between 12 and 15 months old, peak between 18 to 36 months, and continue until age 4. It does not mean you are a bad mom so shut that mom guilt down right now.
Tip 2: Put a Name to the Emotions
Toddlers have big emotions—happy, sad, anger, frustration, and disappointment to name a few. Research suggests that in their earliest days, well before they can use words to express themselves, babies feel these emotions. Talk to your two-nagers about emotions –discuss what happy looks like (Youtube and Pinterest have some great ideas for this), how being sad feels, and how it is okay to feel it all. The more your child understands his or her feelings, the better equipped to manage them they will be.
I recommend the following books:
- In My Heart by Jo Witek. In the book, a young girl explores what different emotions feel like, such as happiness which makes her want to twirl, or sadness which feels as heavy as an elephant.
- Today I Feel Madalena Moniz. The book follows a child through a whole range of emotions, from adored to curious to strong. Not all of the emotions are positive and not all of them are simple, but they are all honest and worthy of discussion with a young child.
- The Way I Feel by Janan Cain. The book uses strong, colorful, and expressive images that go along with simple verses to help children connect the word and the emotion
Tip 3: Routine, Routine, Routine
A daily routine can provide certainty, security, and comfort to your little one. Does this mean every minute of your two-nager’s morning/evening should be scheduled? No way, but do your best to create some normalcy for your little one. Here’s a rough draft of the one my family uses in the evening: dinner, playtime, bath, TV time (1-2 10 minute youtube clips), jammies, brush teeth, 1-2 stories, and bedtime. It’s not a perfect science, but it keeps us on track.
Tip 4: Take Care of Yourself
You cannot pour from an empty cup. Let me say this in non-metaphor terms so it really sinks in– being a parent is REALLY hard. It is impossible to meet our child’s emotional needs while ignoring our own. Go for a run. Journal. Meditate. Drink your morning coffee in silence. Binge-watch Netflix. Take a break from social media. Whatever your thing is; do it. Taking time for yourself allows you to give your children the best of you instead of what is left of you.