Feed and lead our children with love and nurturing discipline to limit and to avoid prolonged tantrum years. Photo – Michelle Meiklejohn

Imagine yourself as an infant, you’ve been crying as your natural form of communication. You cried for milk, cried to have your diaper changed, cried when you bumped your head, and cried when you wanted to be carried. Now you’re two years old and you want something … so you cry. Wow, you haven’t changed but your parents did because they say you’re having a tantrum. How can this be – I’m still the same child!  Sound familiar?  These tantrums can be very annoying and frustrating for both parent and child.

In this phase of a child’s life, parents are going through what has been popularly referred to as the “Terrible Twos”.  Instead I’d like to call it the Planting Twos.  It’s our choice as parents, and how we handle this phase of our child’s development,  whether it is the “Terrible Twos” or Planting Twos.

Your child is transitioning  from an infant to a young child and it’s important for us as parents to lead this change in a consistent and loving manner.  The goal here is to guide and develop a child’s familiar method of communication, transitioning it from one of just crying, into one of speaking, vocabulary, and yes, acceptable obedient behavior.   This is done by speaking to the child and using simple terms to explain the “whys or why nots” of the situation at hand.  The key here is patience and consistency: make a decision and stick to it no matter how loud, frequent or impassioned the child cries or acts out.

How many times have you experienced or witnessed parents dealing with a child’s public tantrum display?  This is especially trying for the parent, but again the key here is to remain calm and communicate in a firm, loving manner instead of giving in to the child’s tantrums or stubbornness.  It will take time and often fortitude, but parents who consistently practice this method will find that the child eventually learns the more acceptable forms of behavior and communication such as speaking and/or accepting the parent’s decision (at least for the moment).

What a reward this is for both parent and child in achieving successful transitioning in this important phase of childhood development.   This is also the time when parents can begin to “plant the seeds” of patience in a child, teaching early the value of delayed – rather than instant gratification.

When parents – either out of guilt or frustration or embarrassment – consistently give in to a child’s tantrums, they reinforce this behavior and encourage tantrums.  The transition period from tantrums to effective communication and behavior is delayed in the child.

I recall my childhood years when I behaved as a spoiled child.  I remember throwing tantrums at Tots and Teens, a popular children’s store in old downtown Hilo; I was able to get my mom to buy me model airplanes, cars and battleships.  I knew that all I had to do was keep crying and my mom would buy me the toy.  Was I being strong-willed or was my mother enabling me to be this way and thus encouraging my tantrums?  Most likely both.  It would have been better for her to have said “no”.   She would have had to endure more tantrums, but  I’d soon realized that my tantrums were futile, and that I’d have to try another method of communication, or accept and obey her decision.

Tantrums are a normal part of childhood development as a child explores methods to express his or her needs and wants.  Although popularly referred to as “The Terrible Twos”, this can be a very rewarding “Planting Twos” instead!  There is nothing “terrible” about a child’s desire to explore the world and communicate more effectively, especially with parents who lovingly transition him or her in this vital phase of life.   This is the time for parents to begin “planting the seeds” of love, obedience, and life’s lessons that will carry that child through to a successful childhood and beyond.  Parents have only to be patient and consistent.    Let your “no” be “no” and your “yes” be “yes”, be consistent and above all, be loving.   It will often be difficult to do so, but this phase will not last forever and the rewards will be great for both you and your child by establishing a firm foundation for successful transitioning and growth in future phases of childhood development.

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