Maintaining Perspective

As a parent, you no doubt know that two-year-olds can be whiny, annoying, and — well — babyish. It's not always easy to be the only grown-up in the room, especially when the other person is two. Even though you're striving to have fun, to be lighthearted and not squash your child's spirit, there are inevitably moments when you're simply proud you haven't stormed out of the house in frustration. It is during these times that you must remember a few realities about two-year-olds, specifically:

  • They don't know how to share

  • They have trouble understanding time

  • They will say no

Two-year-olds might share a toy — momentarily. Then they will want it right back. On the whole, two-year-olds can't share. They might share at times, but they won't do it intentionally. They might offer someone a toy, but that doesn't mean they'll be happy when the other child takes it.

Understanding that two-year-olds in general can't share will help you approach any situation — play dates, sibling interaction, visits with family — with the proper parameters in mind. Bring some of your child's toys, but don't be surprised when he can't share, and when he cries, whines, or argues about sharing a toy (or having to compete for your attention), instead find a way either to distract him or to change his focus. This is far more effective than urging, “C'mon, let's share.”

Your two-year-old will share in time, but expecting sharing behavior this year is not completely realistic. You might as well be speaking Urdu to your child. Two-year-olds don't know what a minute is and haven't yet familiarized themselves with the common phrases of our culture. They only understand one unit of time: now.

This doesn't mean your two-year-old isn't going to learn how to wait. He will. It's just that he doesn't know how to wait right now, so once again: distract and refocus him. When you need a moment to yourself, keep him busily occupied.

Two-year-olds hear No! and Don't! all the time, so they say it all the time. If you can, find a million ways to say No without saying so directly. Say: “I'm glad you're drawing, but let's use the crayons on the paper, not on the floor. The floor isn't for drawing.” Or, “I know you don't want to share the blocks, but we can't throw them at our friends. That hurts.”

It is important to note that yes, this is tiring. Sometimes you may feel silly explaining why throwing things, for example, is not good behavior. But such a strategy is more effective than constantly saying No. In the end will save you the aggravation of being told No! in turn by a two-year-old.

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  4. Maintaining Perspective
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