My life these days is filled with what I call “drama and defiance”. Apparently with a four-year old and an almost two-year old — both girls — it is a way of life. And for moms like me, a daily dose of drama and defiance is a deadly combination!
Everyone in the world talks about the terrible two’s. More than any other age in fact. It’s a well-known phrase: The Terrible Two’s. There’s always some form of dread or fear when you know you’re moving out of the “adorable one’s” (that’s just my own coined term), into… The Terrible Two’s (cue horror music).
My theory is that most people find the said age “terrible” because it comes right after such a fun one. After the highly dependent infant stage when you’re so busy deciphering what their cries mean (It’s simple enough if you’ve gotten enough sleep… but is there any mother out there that ever does?!) comes the fun 12-18 months stage. Exciting stuff happens; they begin to walk, communicate and interact a whole lot more. It’s all new and fun. They’re still toothless (for the most part), and absolutely adorable. So jumping from that stage to the next when suddenly, they know they have a voice and they use it. We parents also can’t help ourselves — we instinctively react the most to the things that are off-limits (like a shrieking parent who sees their child sticking her fingers in an electrical socket). You don’t know what to expect yet. I guess all I’m saying is that I understand it can be “terrible”.
With Sam though, I don’t remember it being that difficult, or that painful to go through. It could have a lot to do with her personality, and I am lucky enough if it is, but probably also because I spent most of my waking hours with her and could anticipate what she wanted or needed before we hit tantrum-ville. I knew that Sam responded well to transition time, where if she had a fair amount of warning, there would hardly be a struggle.
I am still figuring out the best tactic with Jamie. She’s not even two but she does act like one (seeing as how she learns from her sister). She is my highly temperamental daughter (a temper I think she inherited from her Dad). She shrieks and screams and rolls on the floor when she does not like what she hears, such as getting out of the bath or having to share a toy. She’s very adamant when she says “No!” and it takes a whole lot of coaxing, reasoning and creative thinking for me to get her to concede, if I am at all successful. Sometimes, I just pick her up and let her shriek and twist and turn, and eventually she stops when the distraction is right. We do what we gotta do, right?
That said, I also know Jamie recognizes her own limits. She will say what she feels or needs when she feels or needs them – a change of diaper, food, sleep and the like. So for me, the drama and defiance hit when she chooses to fight the fatigue and hunger, which isn’t often (fingers crossed). And with that in mind — I still think maybe the two’s aren’t so terrible after all.
At least, not if you compare them to the four’s.
Now I will start by saying that the wonderful thing about Sam is that she is absolutely intelligent. She is a strong person and she has a mind of her own. My husband and I agree that this will serve her well as an adult! As her mother however, who has to deal with the roller coaster emotional ups and downs, the negotiations, the endless reasoning and just the all-out plain defiance (with a sulk or a march away to boot!)… it is A LOT! She outsmarts me at every turn, hands down.
Rarely does she comply without some form of protest. “But Mom…!” or, “No after I finish this first...” or, “No this is better, I know it.” Sometimes, it’s just the mental gymnastics with the endless, “But WHY mom..?” I’m very conscious about limiting the times I use “Just because” or “Because I said so”. As Coach Pia advised, the child should understand the reason behind the rule and not simply associate it with the parent. I really make an effort to explain things to her and give her valid honest-to-goodness reasons. I have to stay one step ahead of her because she always has a counter-reason that makes more sense in her mind (I am proud though of her reasoning and deductive skills! I just wish she’d use it more on other people than on me).
When there is conflict or when she doesn’t like an outcome (let’s say, sharing the iPad with Jamie who wants to play another game), there’s this whole drama where she frowns or starts to weep and hangs her head down. Then she runs to her room or walks away to a corner and sulks. Sulks! Sam even has lines like, “I don’t want to live with you anymore mom.” ( She’s never said she doesn’t love me though! Haha!)Other times, it’s just an all out wail, particularly when she’s trying to be heard above Jamie’s own wails. And yet other times, she looks at me to show she’s heard what I’ve had to say, but she still does what she wants regardless.
I used to try to address every little bit, the small and the big, but I am running low on mental gymnastics capabilities (the mush brain doesn’t help either) and unique creative solutions. I figure that at some point, they’ll have to just learn to navigate through the roller coaster ride and get past it. Lately, I’ve been trying to involve Sam in finding a solution that works for her. I ask her what she wants me to do about it. She is after all trying to assert more of her independence by doing things herself, and I encourage that. It is a longer process but I like it that somehow it teaches her how to handle her own frustrations and temperament.
I’ve been told that all of this is normal 4-year old behavior. No one talks about it like they do with the terrible two’s though, and that makes me wonder. My friends and I used to say that at the two’s we rise to the challenge and the three’s wear us down. By the time we hit the four’s we’re spent. That could be true! I’ve also been told that I have a lot of this in my life because I have girls. Boys would just shake it off and run it out (now is that true?). Girls like to play up the emotions, build some form of drama and drag it through to infinity and beyond
And because they are girls, I don’t think the drama and defiance will ever really go away soon (my poor husband, he has the THREE of us to contend with!). So I do have more years ahead of me and I should think of this as merely just the prep stages! I’ll let you know in a couple of years if I come out of them alive. 😉
What are the challenges you face with your kids and how do you handle it?