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Dr George Simon, PhD

Terrible Twos and Toddler Tantrums — Tough Even On Grandpa

Most of the time, he’s an absolute joy to be with. His energy lights up the room and is infectious to all around him. But every so often, without warning, and for seemingly no obvious reason, this adorable child turns into the living incarnation of Satan.

Photo by Simple Insomnia - //flic.kr/p/rkyAC
Photo by Simple Insomnia - http://flic.kr/p/rkyAC

Okay, right from the start I’ll admit this article is at least in part for “cathartic” purposes (a way for me to achieve some degree of emotional release). But perhaps it will also have some value for any of those in the blogosphere struggling with toddler issues. I can’t help but treat the subject a bit humorously. But I’ll also try and make some serious points.

Just in case I haven’t mentioned it more that a couple of dozen times, I’m a grandfather twice over. My oldest grandchild is a boy two and a half years old. There was little that was “terrible” about the first half of his second year. But recently, he has been actively reminding his grandpa and grandma of the reason why the common phrase “terrible twos” was invented.

Most of the time, Noah simply loves to play, engages pleasantly with others, and explores the world. And most of the time, he’s an absolute joy to be with. His energy lights up the room and is infectious to all around him. But every so often, without warning, and for seemingly no obvious reason, this adorable child turns into the living incarnation of Satan. You can see it in his eyes and in that particularly wicked smile. And he knows what he’s doing. He’s on a mission of sorts. A mission to prove that he can test every limit, cross every line, shock you into a state of total incredulity, and defy any attempt you might make to corral him. And, to make matters oh so much worse, he really seems to enjoy frustrating the heck out of you!

Children seem to learn quite early the secret of real power. There’s perhaps no more effective power tactic than the “You can’t make me” routine. Children use it because it’s the safest way for them to feel powerful. Facing their fears is so much harder. Functioning truly independently is even harder yet. The surest, simplest, and safest way to test your power is to challenge the very people you have good reason to believe won’t abandon you even as you push every button they have. Kids, especially toddlers, know this well.

Biting, temper tantrums, fusses about eating…two-year-olds do it all!

And calmly modeling the correct behavior, giving them the right instructions, and enforcing the proper discipline without becoming angry or harboring malice is a real challenge. Parents (and grandparents) have their job to do. And as a novice in the process of independence-training, the toddlers have their job to do as well. I just wish sometimes they wouldn’t do it so well!

Fortunately, most children (and their parents and grandparents) get through this ordeal with only a few minor wounds to lick and a lot of growth to show for it. Unfortunately, I’ve known a few folks who, well into their adolescence, young adulthood, and even later adulthood, never really got out of this stage. Still struggling with overcoming their fears, and largely unable to function in a truly autonomous or independent fashion, such individuals can be really difficult to deal with (as well as to help professionally). Some even become passive-aggressive personalities, frustrating all around them with their contrariness, negativism, and controlling obstinacy. But for most of us, the “terrible twos” is a time-limited ordeal that serves its purpose, teaches its lessons, and is mercifully over in time.

Well, Grandpa will simply have to suck it up and get through the terrible twos one more time. He’ll also have to reckon with the fact that had he not done such a determined job of spoiling his sometimes demon-grandchild, perhaps the ordeal would not be as painful as it seems — for either of us! Payback is hell, isn’t it?

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