“Is he teething?” she asked.
We were in the elevator heading up to our apartment after running two quick errands. My son was crying – again. Every day after we get home, he does this thing where he wants to pretend to drive the car. And then he wants to run around the parking lot like a wild horse in an open field.
I wrangled him, walked inside, and got on the elevator.
And he was crying his eyes out in a full-on meltdown. The woman with us in the elevator repeated, “Is he teething? You must be getting some teeth there, huh?”
I can’t keep track of how many times I get this question. When it happens, I think, Here we go again. But instead, I say, “No, he’s just two.”
“Oh, the terrible twos! I remember those days,” she said.
The conversation feels like the movie Groundhog Day. It’s the same thing every day, just with a different stranger each time.
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It Was Starting to Get to Me
Is my son out of the ordinary for a 2-year-old? Why is a little tantrum all that terrible of a thing? And seriously, please stop asking if he’s teething. He’s had a full set of teeth for more than a year now. I’m sure at some point he’ll get his 2-year molars, but odds are if a 2-year-old is crying, it’s not because of teething.
A friend once shared a quote from parenting author Peggy O’Mara† with me:
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”Peggy O’Mara
That quote stuck with me over the past year. Is labeling my toddler as “terrible” helping me in the long run? And is this the parenting mindset I want embrace throughout the next year?
I don’t have the answers.
I’m a first-time mom, and I often find myself falling down and making mistakes each and every day. I’m learning to be a mom in the same way my son is learning to be a little boy. But this quote got me thinking: What if we labeled mothers as “terrible” for all their misgivings and lessons learned along this tumultuous journey of motherhood?
Then I Read This Book
A friend hooked me up with a copy of The Danish Way. I love parenting books, so of course I was game. After reading it a bit, I got to a part about how the Danes approach the toddler years.
Apparently, the Danes don’t use a phrase like “the terrible twos” in their parenting of toddlers.
Doesn’t exist in their language.
Instead, they call it The Boundary Stage.
It isn’t teething, and it isn’t terrible. This is simply a phase of life when children incessantly test boundaries to learn about the world.
Free Cheat Sheet: 5 Things to Do During a Tantrum – and 5 Things Not to Do
What Every Parent Should Know About the Terrible Twos
Turns out, there isn’t anything terrible about a 2-year-old. During this stage, young children learn what they can and cannot do. Testing boundaries, tantrums, crying, whining – all of the above – are normal toddler behavior and signs of a healthy developing child.
As parents, we sometimes feel guilty about our children crying. We feel this need to fix it or stop the crying because that’s what mothers do: We make the tears go away. But many times, we’re doing an amazing job as parents by allowing the tears to flow.
- You set a boundary.
- Your child learns the boundary exists.
- You create consistent limits.
- Over time, your child learns consistent limits and that boundaries are firm.
- You set a strong foundation for behavior.
- As your child matures with a strong foundation beneath them, things get easier.
Crying in the Elevator Again
So much of my life right now is the repetition of setting a boundary. The protesting is often less as time goes on, but today my son is especially interested in testing the limits. I can only imagine he wants to know for sure – again – that he cannot run around the grocery store parking lot like a wild horse in an open field.
And today, I’m letting him know that for sure he cannot. I’m taking a deep breath to stay calm and letting him know that the boundary is firm.
And today, he’s crying about it. He’s gone from wild horse to flailing fish on the floor of the elevator in 2.4 seconds flat.
And today, another stranger in the elevator asks, “Is he teething?”
And today, I smile and say something different. “Nope, he’s in the boundary stage.”
I’m not sure she even knows what I’m talking about because she cocks her head to one side. The elevator dings, and we walk off together. To be more exact, I walk off carrying my crying toddler like a giant sausage under my arm. But I’m still smiling – just barely, but I am – because I know he’s not a terrible kid, and I’m not a terrible mom.
This is a normal stage of a child’s development. He’s just testing boundaries.
And I’m here to enforce them.
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- Get this free cheat sheet: 5 Things to Do During a Tantrum – and 5 Things Not to Do. You’ll get the printable, plus join my weekly newsletter! Just click here to get it and subscribe.
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Hang your cheat sheet somewhere handy like on the fridge.
Here’s a sneak peek of your printable cheat sheet:
Pinterest photo of smiling girl on swing by Donnie Ray Jones.
Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear
How do you cope with the terrible twos – er, The Boundary Stage? Share in a comment below!