I've been saying for several months now that it seems that the much-dreaded "Terrible Twos" has reared its ugly head well ahead of PK's second birthday. I was obviously mistaken. The Terrible Twos officially arrived about a month or so ago. How do I know? Simple: crying fits turn into blood-curdling, deafening shrieks. This stuff puts previous "meltdowns" to shame. Seriously. And it's only getting worse. PK goes from my sweet, giggly little girl to...BABYZILLA. Beware to those who cross her path of destruction!
In an attempt to control these tantrums and to better bond with my little PK (she still seems to prefer Daddy over me for way too many things), I took my sister's advice and decided to buy a book on this stuff. I chose The Happiest Toddler on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp. I chose this book because I happen to own another book of his, The Happiest Baby on the Block. I had a few friends who owned the baby book, and they swore by it, which is why I bought it. Admittedly, I started reading this book after PK was born, but dropped it because I had neither the time nor the energy to spend my free time reading baby stuff. I spent all of my time around the baby. I didn't need more baby stuff.
This time, however, I'm taking the toddler book seriously. Mostly because I really need to. I want to raise a well-behaved, well-adjusted, happy kid who will flourish as an adult. Who doesn't, right?
One of the things that the book talks about are the different toddler personalities. They fall into one of 3 categories. Of course, there's no perfect fit, and you might find that your kiddie exhibits traits from all three categories. The three categories are: Easy, Shy, and Free-Spirited. Easy babies are pretty chillaxed. They have tantrums, but they get over it. Shy babies are sensitive, and don't really take to strangers. Free-Spirited babies are the adventurous and emotional ones. They have high highs, and low lows. While PK does exhibit some of the Shy traits, she does fall more into the Free-Spirited category. As a side-note, Free-Spirited is a VERY kind term to use, because when PK turns into Babyzilla, STAY AWAY!
I have to admit that it was comforting to read about the various toddler personality traits, because it made me realize that I'm not the only one going through this and that PK's seeming irritability, high highs, low lows, and everything in-between are just "normal" toddler behavior. Whew! So now that I know what I'm dealing with, I can finally take appropriate action.
Here are some of the interesting things that the book has pointed out:
1. When toddlers get emotional, all logic flies out the window. Long-winded sentences are lost upon them. Instead, use simple sentences.
2. When toddlers start getting emotional, ACKNOWLEDGE their feelings, and make sure that your intonation reflects your toddler's mood (but don't match it completely in intensity).
3. Once your toddler has calmed down, it's YOUR turn. So say Junior is mad because you didn't want to give him a cookie. So you say, "Junior is mad mad mad. Junior wants cookie. Now!" Keep repeating that, until Junior chillaxes. Then calmly explain that Junior can't have the cookie now because of A and B.
4. Make your toddler feel special by giving him/her little wins throughout the day. It will make your kiddie a lot more co-operative if they feel like they can win a few once in a while.
I haven't gone through the entire book yet, but these are the little nuggets of information that I've collected so far. I have to admit that they make a whole lot of sense. If I were a whiny toddler and my parents were just trying to distract me rather than acknowledge my feelings, I'd be PISSED. I'd be thinking, "Hey, I'm TRYING to tell you something, and you're friggin' ignoring me. WHAT THE HELL???"
I've tried using these calming-down techniques since reading about them. Even the hubby is on-board. And I do feel that they work, but only when PK is mildly upset. When she's REALLY upset, I find that trying to acknowledge her feelings makes her more upset; it's almost as if she thinks I'm trying to mock her.
I've also been using the various encouragement and confidence-boosting techniques. One of them is "gossiping". Basically the idea behind that is that you loudly whisper to a stuffed animal or to a friend our spouse, complimenting your kid. You can say stuff like, "Gee, Bear-Pig, PK is really good at putting her toys away, isn't she?" The idea is that if they hear you complimenting them to someone (or something else), they think, "Hey, if she's telling someone else, then I MUST be doing something right!" Another encouragement technique is to act like a klutzy goof around your kid. The one I tried the other day was when I went to put PK's barrette on, it "accidentally" flew out of my hand. It totally made her crack up.
The above techniques do seem to work for us somewhat, but the thing we weren't counting on was the fact that PK is at an age where she LOVES to imitate everything that we do. So when I started whispering things to Bear-Pig, she went over to where I was, grabbed Bear-Pig, and started whispering to him too. And when I was goofing off with the barrette, she kept taking it from my hand and flinging onto the floor.
As I've said before, the techniques do seem to somewhat work. And I say somewhat because of some of the backfirings that I've mentioned above. Either I'm doing something wrong or the techniques just aren't fool-proof. Or maybe I just need to realize that these techniques are guides, but that every child is different. I guess it's a little of everything. I suspect that there isn't a cure-all for the Terrible Twos, but I must say that I am glad to be reading this book. At the very least, it is giving me some good insight into the mind of the little person who occupies that once-empty room in our house. And if I am aware of the things that make her tick, I can hopefully raise an emotionally-healthy individual with whom I can share a special life bond. Doesn't that alone make it worthwhile?