{a repost} parenting my 2 year old

Seeing as I'm away in Cape Cod this week, enjoying a much anticipated vacation with my family, I thought I would make it easier for myself by scheduling a few posts. I'll hopefully still pop in, but this way I can be assured of content, regardless of whether I find myself on my father-in-law's laptop or not! 

Today's post is a reposting of a guest post I wrote for The Path Less Taken on May 31st. I was pretty happy with this post, and so wanted it here for posterity! Jen's a fun read too, so after you read this post, head to her blog to check out some of her writing.


Parenting is an ever evolving process. No one would claim that parenting your newborn is the same as parenting you infant is the same as parenting your toddler and beyond. Every parenting style changes, but I think if you consider yourself an AP parent, then you are especially in-tuned to your need to evolve.

My personal parenting style has definitely had to change a lot since Gwen turned 2 years old, and the biggest change has had to be to my expectations. I always knew 2 would be rough, I've worked with kids before, I've heard the horror stories, but it is so very different when its your own and I didn't expect it to be so tough for me. I consider myself a pretty patient individual, and its not that I thought I would be immune to the ups and downs of toddlerhood, but its always a bit of a surprise watching your basically sweet baby have her first [of many] toddler meltdown.

Gwen has so much she wants to say, so much she wants to do (on her own of course, "I DO IT!"), and heaven help the person who gets in her way. I haven't gotten to pick out her clothes in AGES, but now sometimes she gives me such a hard time about even the little tweaks to make her outfits weather-appropriate. Foods she loves she sometimes decides she hates. She'll have a complete breakdown if you tell her there are no more of [whatever snack is the magic snack that she decides she must have today]. She wants to open/close every door, and put on her own diaper, and pee on the toilet but only if she feels like it and not if she doesn't and sometimes for 20 more minutes even though she did the actual peeing as soon as she sat down and...

The ages of 2 - 3 (and 12, 17, 20) are "straddling" ages. My little girl is caught between the toddlerhood she is shedding, and the childhood that lays beyond. From what I've heard, the dawning of that childhood (4 - 5) is pretty magical and wonderful. But this coming of age part... well, i know its as hard for her as it is for me. She wants to be able to tell me everything, but sometimes she just can't find the words... or I can't understand them. She wants to be able to do everything, but she's not quite big enough to reach, or strong enough to carry, or...

And Mama has her good days and bad days too. Some days I can read her, feel the frustration building, and head it off at the pass. I can weather any anger and yelling with a calm determination, "I see you are angry, you take a minute and let me know when you are ready to try again. We can do it together." Other days she catches me off guard with every outburst and and I'm left wondering what happened. Some days its all I can do to grit through my teeth, "Enough. We Don't Hit." Some days I want to push the fast forward button up to 16x.

BUT she is also bright, and happy, and loving... grabbing your face to kiss both cheeks and your forehead. I don't want to fast forward that part, and I hope she doesn't grow out of it!

Here's what I'm working on to have more of the calm days and less of the frustrated ones.

1) Age realistic expectations. At two, she is only emotionally able to handle so much. She's still learning what appropriate reactions are and how her actions cause reactions. And you learn by trial and error.

2) Expectations that match with what I want for Gwen in the future. A friend once told me about a very trying morning with her spirited, energetic, intelligent daughter. She delivered her to daycare and asked the teacher, "How do I raise a daughter who is strong, determined, independent, comfortable with her feelings and voices her opinions, but who also listens and always does what I ask her to?!" The answer, of course, is that you don't! But a few tiffs now, as we figure all this out together, is well worth it to foster the independence and determination that will serve her so well in the future.

3) Name the emotion, for both of our sakes! When Gwen is frustrated or sad, I say as much... "I see you are frustrated/mad/upset because of xyz..." I do it to help her figure out her emotions, but I do it to remind myself of them as well. Do I love crying because she wants something she can't have? Nope. But I do know what its like to be overly tired after a long day and have something be extremely frustrating and almost too much to bare. Naming her emotion helps me put myself in her shoes.

4) Evaluate if I really need to distract/dissuade/say no. Gentle/AP parenting is not (contrary to what some media might have you believe) permissive parenting in the negative sense. But at the suggestion of a smart mama, I started looking at the why I didn't want Gwen to do certain things. Is it because of a safety reason? Then stay the course! Is it because it will be a little messy and I don't want to clean up? Hmm, there are times this is valid, but many when its not a great reason.

5) Teach respect by modeling respect. Gwen is an equal member of this family. Yes, her dad and I have the life experience, and as her parents we will ask her to defer to our judgement many a time. However she deserves our respect as fully as we deserve hers. So we listen when she talks, we say excuse me and thank you and please, and we try to give our reasons/explain our actions when we do need her to defer to us. "Because I said so," or "because I'm the mom," are not explanations.

Here's the thing, and I'm sure this will shock no one... I'm not perfect. Not by a long shot. I do get overly frustrated, slip up and yell sometimes. That can be a learning time for us both though too, because when I catch myself, I excuse myself to calm down, then come back and apologize. No one is perfect, including this Mama, and I want my girl to know that. People make mistakes, and the fact that we can apologize, hug, and still love each other afterwards, just as much as we did before, well... I think that's one of the best lessons I can give us all. Hopefully it is the one that will keep her coming to me when she makes her own mistakes.

When all is said and done, that's what I want. A daughter who respects and loves me as much as I respect and love her (and treats others with respect as an extension), who talks to me and tells me the bad as readily as the good, who is kind-hearted and strong willed.

Two is tough, but the lifetime ahead of us is promising.


What are your suggestions for parents of two/three year olds?

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