Puberty starts in the cradle
...too bad I didn’t realize that earlier

An open letter to mamas of littles. The one I wish I had read
before my little one was born.

The burning question tormenting mamas of toddlers: When do the “terrible twos” end?

The toddler is now a preschooler. Shockingly, she never acts up at school. It’s just at home that the terrible twos seem to be stretching into the terrible threes. “Children always act worst for their mothers.” Um, yes, that’s exactly what every mom wants to hear. :)

“This is an important developmental stage.”
“The child responds to this kind of situation with a meltdown because it lacks the ability to tolerate psychological tension.”
“In some children it lasts until three years of age, but usually parents notice improvement at that age.”

(Expert commentary on the “terrible twos.” You’ve probably read or heard this somewhere before.)

Conscientious mama gives a sigh… time flies, her baby is almost six years old! She’s still a little rebel, but that’s not likely to change at this point, is it? Her mom does the best she can. Tries to talk to her, reason with her. Set boundaries and try not to go crazy when they aren’t respected. Rein the child in somehow. You know, “take it easy” (haha).

Mother and daughter do love each other, no doubt about that...

But somehow they keep repeating these tense situations where things always seem to go wrong. Yelling at each other like crazy and feeling miserable about it afterwards. Sometimes mama has just had it up to here. This morning she thumped her daughter with the comb because she didn’t want to have her hair brushed. They were in a hurry, and the girl was being difficult. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times...,” said mama. She was so angry she could cry. And cry out of remorse for thumping her daughter, too. She never wants to do that again. And the girl? “You mean, mean mommy!”

Keep piling on straws and eventually that camel’s back will break...

But a child is not actually a camel (even the best proverbs can be wrong sometimes)

Do you ever do that? Repeat things “a hundred times”? Doesn’t really work, does it? And do you tear into them when they really tick you off, and then feel bad about it later? Yep, that stinks, been there. Our conscientious mama feels terrible that she can’t break the cycle. She always lets herself get worked up.

So, what do you suggest instead? It just strikes me as pointless to pat each other on the back constantly, reassuring each other that this sort of thing happens. This is the time to do something about it. Oh, do you still remember what you would have needed back when you were a little girl yourself? Maybe you wrote it down somewhere?

What to do when you feel like you’re at a dead end...: Just say it – that’s a start

So if you know now what you would have needed as a little girl when your mom got angry with you, this is your chance. Go to your child and give it to them. Just do it. Because your child probably needs the same thing. And if you don’t know, try this: Think of what you said to your friend over the phone (or what you said to yourself). I’m sorry, I didn’t deal with that well, I had a rough day today, it’s not your fault, next time I’ll try to do better.

You don’t need to make any fancy speeches, just keep it simple. No accusations, no waxing philosophical. You don’t even need to justify yourself. Just say it.

Don’t give me that face. For real, this is your how-to. So go and say it. I know it takes courage. It’s new and uncomfortable. And you don’t know how they’ll respond, so you might be a bit nervous. Or you don’t believe they’ll understand you when they’re so little... That’s okay. If you are serious about this and want to make a start with understanding your little one, this is your first giant step. I’ve already taken it, so I’ll just wish you luck.

This one simple thing makes a lot of things happen. It’s real magic. And you’ll teach your child a lot of important things, too. Back to those later. Or we can go our separate ways now. Thanks for coming along for at least part of the ride. You already know one magic trick, so you have no interest in learning another one, right?

We’re not done yet, mama: Stone cold honesty

Go on to part 4