“Two’s tough.” It’s what my sister tells my nephew when his younger sister is throwing a tantrum that his 4-year-old brain doesn’t understand (we hear ya buddy, we don’t get it either). My niece is only 3 months older than my son, so the saying quickly found its way to our house as well.
It’s the only explanation I can think of for a meltdown when he wants an orange crayon but he’s holding a red one instead, or for getting hysterical when he runs out of crackers – only because he just ate them. It’s like a mantra I remind myself each morning when I hear him calling for us, “two’s tough,” preparing myself for whatever lies behind his door. Will he be sweet and cuddly and start giving out kisses like most days? Or did we hit the record for consecutive normality and today’s the day we cry because we called in Daddy but Mommy came to get him instead? Don’t get me wrong, we have a great kid, but I think anyone whose had a toddler knows that something happens around 2/2.5 years old that turns them into a monster at least 10% of the time (a loving one of course :)).
Mornings used to be a favorite part of my day. I could get up early with no problem, get the house picked up a little while I got breakfast, showered, and got out the door in plenty of time. But then work kept me up late, a baby threw off my sleep, and somehow, I’ve never recovered. Now, mornings are like a mad dash to beat a previous day’s record of trying to get out the door. And then there is the snooze button math… I thought I had mastered it in college, but boy, being a mom really gives you perspective on how much more “efficient” you can be (read: you just care less some days because at least you’re surviving, and hey, dry shampoo).
We’ve all heard the “choose your battles” approach to parenting, aka how to survive the twos, but how far do we take it? If we give in too often, our kid runs the house. If we put our foot down every time, we’ll wear ourselves out before 10am. It’s a delicate balance that I have by no means mastered, but my husband and I put a few rules down early that help with consistency, and consistency is key with tiny loving monsters.
Setting the tone for your day
My advice: start the day on the right note. I hate that feeling of being frazzled and frustrated before my day even gets going. It’s a feeling that lingers far longer than welcome and taints everything that follows. But those mornings when there’s no mad dash out the door, energize me for my day. That’s how I want to start every day – or at least as many as possible.
For us, this means we give in to toddler whims more frequently in the morning. We always eat dinner as a family at the table and we do our best to limit screen time. The mornings however, are free game. We eat cereal on the couch (the one that hides spills and can easily be washed). We also keep the lights off because it’s “too bright.” And, of course, we allow free reign of the iPad – I use this term loosely – we do limit his use to ‘parent approved’ videos. This let’s our son wake up slowly, on his terms, and ease into the day. Some days after just a couple minutes he jumps down, turns on the light and wants to play (win!).
Either way he wakes up, this approach has significantly helped our morning routine, limited the need for a timeout or the outburst of a tantrum, and sets us up for a happy departure from the house. Believe me, there is nothing fun about having to give a timeout when neither of you has been awake more than 20 minutes.
Avoiding a tantrum
Of course, you could likely apply this concept to any of the “worst” times of day. Maybe it’s lunch time or nap time. Do you struggle to make dinner without something boiling over or your kids dumping your pantry contents on the floor? Maybe you have a daily 20 minutes coloring session or 20 minutes of screen time. Whatever helps occupy your child (safely), keeps the peace, and allows you to get dinner on the table. As the saying goes, you can’t boil the ocean, so start one pot at a time. Pick the time of day that is most stressful and make some new rules or routines to get through it. Stick with it until it works, adjust as needed, and see how much better you’ll feel once the craziest part of your day is suddenly manageable!
What do you do to start your day off right or keep the peace during stressful times of day?