For the parents of those hilarious and exuberant terrific two year olds

My job is fun. I get to spend time with babies, toddlers, school age kids and teenagers. In fifteen to 20 minute sessions, I spend my day traveling from the blissful state of the first few months of life to the conflict driven years of adolescence with multiple stops on the terrific twos.

The second year of life, called by many the terrible twos, is a wondrous time in the life of the child. And that is why I decided to call it the terrific twos. Many words can describe this period. Let me try a few and see if you can identify your toddler in them: rebellious, hilarious, exuberant, adventurous, frustrated, daring, frightened, annoying and delightful at the same time.

Yes, the second year of life is a dichotomy between love for life and fear of failing. Your young one cannot wait to do things by herself and refuses all supervision but at the same time internally fears that she will not get your approval. Growing up is hard work. It is not just gaining weight or stretching in inches but also mastering emotions, understanding the world around you, and conquering the fear of becoming separate from your parents. That is why the second year of life is filled with tantrums, tears and whining.

The second year is not only challenging for your child, it is also a period of growth for you as a parent. It pushes all your buttons. It triggers all your unresolved issues as a person and it challenges you as a parent. This is the parenting stage where you must explore your own upbringing to decide what is it that you value more: freedom of expression or respect for norms and conventions.

I can hear in my mind the collective answer: freedom of expression, right? So here is where I plant the seed for a future generation of loving, peaceful and generous adults. My mother always said that my freedom ended where my neighbor’s freedom began and that to keep a peaceful existence we had to respect each other. At 84 this very wise woman has many, many friends that love her very much.

That is what we hope for our children, that they grow up to be loving people and loved by many. The terrific twos is a challenging period in the life of the family. It is filled with wonder and sometimes frustration. The work of growing is arduous but rewarding.

Here are a few tips for parenting a toddler (or your own inner toddler because we all have one):

  • Know your boundaries ahead of time: there will be behaviors that you will never accept: kicking, biting, and hitting you or others.
  • Choose your battles: never argue with a toddler (she will always win) over superficial matters such as clothes or food preferences.
  • Strive for consistency and daily routines. Meal time and sleep time should be almost sacred.
  • Share your love and attention and praise her when she shares with others.

Parenting is all about creating boundaries and not about allowing the unlimited exercise of your child’s personality. The secret is to do it with love and a sincere desire to raise an adult with a generous heart.