Moms of toddlers often chalk their kiddo's tantrums or other eyebrow-raising, frustrating behaviors up to their age. After all, even before you give birth, you'll hear all about how "the terrible twos" are inevitable. But as one Redditor pointed out in a post on the Parenting subreddit on Wednesday, August 21, a 2-year-old's "terrible" behavior might actually be rooted in their innate curiosity. The stay-at-home mom explained that by reframing it that way, she was able to greatly reduce the hair-pulling moments she was encountering with her L.O.
Titling her post "Life-changing revelation about my 2-year-old," the Redditor, whose handle is Nannygirl10, wrote, "I have a son who will be 2 in a few weeks. He has been VERY active ever since he started walking (11 months). Climbing, running, jumping, pulling up on anything and everything he can find. He has also been having tantrums since about the same time—like BIG tantrums. I’m a SAHM, and I was starting to feel so resentful that I got such a 'difficult' child and all my friends got 'easy' ones. (I know that’s not true whatsoever, but being with a toddler 24/7 can make you think crazy things. lol)"
She went on to share, "You guys. I recently had a realization that literally all he wants to do is... HELP ME. It used to be SUCH a struggle to get him to do ANYTHING (get out of the fridge, stop going in the bathroom and turning on the sink, etc.), the past few weeks I have been letting him help do things like, 'OK, you shut the fridge,' 'OK, you turn the sink off,' instead of just telling him no and physically removing him."
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The original poster (OP) admitted that she "knows this sounds so common sense, and I don’t know how I didn’t realize it sooner, but it has helped SO much." In fact, Nannygirl10 wrote that the strategy switch-up "decreased his tantrums by like 75%, if not more."
The ultimate result: "We are both so much happier!!! Literally can’t believe it took me so long to figure out that he wasn’t just being defiant. All he wanted was to be involved in things instead of being told what to do. I feel like a shit mom for that, but at least I finally realized it. Hopefully this can help some of you who are struggling with the 'terrible twos!"
Other parents in the community applauded the OP's realization.
One writing under the handle WillfulWizard wrote, "There's a simple but very helpful fact that I have trouble remembering: What is meaningful to us is not the same as what is meaningful to kids. I couldn't care less about whether I carry part of the groceries or if my wife carries them all. Same in reverse obviously, it's just a chore and you try to split them up. But to our daughter who is 15 months, getting to carry one of her food items when I carry groceries is a Big Deal. It doesn't matter whether she REALLY helped or not, she was included. I forget all the time, but just letting her do something, anything, whether or not it was really a help can make her so happy! So she gets groceries, laundry, her dishes, or just letting her close and open doors. She always has a huge smile! And I'm sure I'll look up one day and realize she's actually helping and I missed when it went from including to contributing!"
Another named Justcurious12345 shared, "My preschooler loves to help too. We just have to come up with things she can actually do. Scrub the toilet? No, but she can spray some Windex on the mirror. Peel potatoes? Probably not safe, but if I peel them and halve them, she can cut them up for mashed potatoes with a lettuce knife! She's actually legitimately helpful if I can give her doable parts of our tasks."
Poltyy could definitely relate to the OP, writing, "I have noticed in general that when my child is acting like a TOTAL ASS****, it usually means he is ready to move up to the next level. Whether that’s chores or learning life skills like dressing himself or making his own lunch or whatever. Right now he’s extremely ready for kindergarten, and I’m ready to kill myself he's being so extra."
DaisyPushers couldn't have agreed more, noting, "This is so true. I was putting off potty training for a while, because my 2-year-old was being a holy terror, and I was like, OK, there is NO WAY she’s going to cooperate enough right now to potty train. But I had a tentative lightbulb moment like: Hey, she hasn’t learned any major new skill in awhile and maybe she’s just really f-ing BORED in life right now. We started potty training, and she took to it immediately, it was crazy."
These parent's epiphanies are no doubt game-changers for their own stress levels and their kids' development. Though we tend to think of temper tantrums as being triggered by a child's frustration to tackle a task independently, or because they are still developing the language skills required to adequately express their feelings, it's clear that there are other reasons a 2-year-old might seem "terrible"—and smart, simple ways to both recognize those reasons and deal with them.