Tell anyone you’re the parent of a two-year-old, and you’re bound to hear a response like this:
“The Terrrrrible Twos…” (cue spooky haunted house music here).
It’s true that most of us share a less-than-flattering view of what the “terrible twos” are all about. Close your eyes, and we’re pretty sure you’ll imagine a rambunctious little rascal spilling things, destroying things, falling off of things, squirming, sulking, screaming and generally acting like a noisy, noncompliant no-goodnik. Two-year-olds have a serious reputation for being The Worst.
But are they really any worse than kids of other ages?
To examine this question, we looked to research on what is probably a two-year-old’s most complained-about offense…tantrums!
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin contacted parents of children ages one to four to investigate how often they throw tantrums. The findings indicated that on average, there’s no significant difference in the number or duration of tantrums at any of these ages. Here’s how many tantrums they found that kids typically threw:
- one-year-olds—8 per week
- two-year-olds—8 per week
- three-year-olds—6 per week
- four-year-olds—5 per week
And here’s how long they found each tantrum lasted:
- one-year-olds—2 minutes
- two-year-olds—4 minutes
- three-year-olds—4 minutes
- four-year-olds—5 minutes
Notice that even though older kids might throw fewer tantrums on average, those tantrums tend to last longer—so they can be real doozies when they arrive!
This research clearly demonstrates that while two-year-olds may have a few more fits than average, their tantrums are still pretty much in line with those of other young children. Sure, eight tantrums a week can be annoying, frustrating, and more than any parent wants to deal with—but is it really terrible?
Our answer is a resounding “Naaahhh.”
We think it’s time to stop smack-talking our two-year-olds and start celebrating them instead! After all, there are many reasons being two can be just as wonderful as it is terrible. Here are a few of our faves:
Lots of Language Learning
No matter where your child’s language abilities are on his second birthday—from having a relatively small repertoire of isolated words to speaking in full sentences—his language use will grow by leaps and bounds over the coming year. So talk with him. Frequent conversations will not only be great for his language development—they’ll also give you a chance to sit back and enjoy his budding conversation skills.
One of the most notable differences to emerge at age two is a new ability to play in more sophisticated ways. Kids this age will suddenly figure out how to pretend, opening up new possibilities for fantastical games, make-believe stories and imaginative dress up and role-play fun. And you can join in too! Your sophisticated perspective can help your child learn how to build more elaborate pretend stories and imagine in more complex ways, reaping all kinds of benefits for her social development.
At two years old, your child’s unique personality and interests are really coming out. It was when our son was two that we learned how much he loves monsters, zombies, disembodied eyeballs and pretty much anything macabre. It’s weird and wacky, but it’s him. Observing what your child is into and tailoring your talking and teaching topics to that can help keep your kid’s interest, and show him that you are truly interested in him.
By the time your child turns two years old, she can identify her reflection in the mirror, and she’s starting to think of herself as an independent little person. Encourage her growing autonomy by giving her small choices throughout the day, like which shirt to wear and which book to read. Not only will she love getting to choose, but also it may lead to more cooperation and fewer tantrums in the long run.
Our personal favorite thing about kids turning two? They finally master jumping. After months and months of adorable attempts to launch both feet off of the ground at the same time, they finally figure out how to get airborne. And it is glorious for everyone! (Except maybe pets. Watch those tails, everybody!)
The truth is, there are unique challenges at all ages. Infants rob you of sleep and pillage your cupboards. Five-year-olds test out big-kid defiance and experience school-adjustment problems. Teenagers break all sorts of boundaries—and maybe your car too.
But there’s plenty of good stuff happening during all those years as well. So no matter what your kid’s age, remember to be present and enjoy it. Researchers at Harvard developed an app that collects data about how people spend their time—whether they’re living in the moment or letting their minds wander—along with their corresponding level of happiness. They found that a wandering mind is an unhappy one. So make sure to let yourself fully experience all these fleeting parenting moments. You, and the whole family, will be happier for it!
We’d love to hear what you love about the twos (or threes, ones, tens or fifties)—share your take in the comments!