Like many parents of toddlers, I’m at my wit’s end.
My twins turn 3 in just a few weeks. We are delighted with their growing relational skills, desire to play with others, and increasing awareness of life around them. But I’d be lying if I said there hasn’t also been some…turbulence.
Welcome to 3
Mr. Jayce has never taken kindly to redirection. Even as a baby, he hated having his hands guided to learn a new maneuver. As a toddler, he insists on trying everything himself and will short circuit if you try to intervene before he requests it. Jayce is an explorer who relishes autonomy above all else.
Autonomy is great. But sometimes, I just him to get in the car seat. Or the high chair. Or submit to a diaper change. If he’s not in the mood for this and decides to turn it into a battle…oh boy.
Tantrums–the full body kind with thrashing feet, shrieks, and thrashing around on the carpet–have been an increasingly common occurrence around here. And while Justine is not as prone to acts of defiance or temper tantrums, she can add to the stress by intentionally dragging her feet, antagonizing her brother, and maintaining a constant list of (very specific) demands.
3 promises to be a challenging year…and we haven’t even reached day one yet!
Jayce started wielding his defiance more regularly this fall. It’s fair to say Josiah and I have been reacting to his behavior rather than responding intentionally. It takes time to adjust to new patterns of behavior. I think we were overwhelmed. We let that turn into frustration, which we definitely took out on him.
I want to get my act together. We’ve got a whole year left in the toddler stage, after all! By happy circumstance, one of the parenting podcasts I enjoy started a series on the five stages of a boy’s development. Huzzah!
I listened to the first episode and nearly burst into tears. I felt so seen! Laurie Christine described a lot of what we see from Jayce. Much of what she said, I already knew. But sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else to connect the dots!
Here’s some of the things I heard validated about our current life:
More Play, Less Relation
As a two-going-on-three little boy, Jayce is less relational than Justine. He’s more interested in toys and objects than in relating to us. And that’s…normal!
Don’t get me wrong: Jayce loves to run around and give on-the-go hugs to all the adults. But he’s far more interested spinning an object across the kitchen floor than sitting down with me to play talking toys.
No Impulse Control
This is a huge one for me. Whether it’s chucking a toy at his sister or throwing his fork off the highchair, I get so exasperated by his inability to just handle objects appropriately!!!
But Laurie reminded me: For a two/three year old boy, there is no such thing as handling appropriately.
Meltdown via Anger
Both of my kids get angry. Justine tends to show it with tears and demands. Jayce prefers the “thrash and scream like a demon child” method.
Maybe it’s my own female bias that makes me believe the former is more rational. Whatever the reason, I’m often angry at Jayce for being angry.
Things got so much better once Josiah and I gave Jayce permission to finish his Hulk Rage before trying to get through to him. I don’t have to understand his tantrums. I just have to work with them.
Instead of trying to have a teaching moment when he is unreachable, we put him in a separate room and tell him to let us know when he’s ready to calm down. This is a change from our previous timeout method. Now, he’s responsible for recognizing when he is calm again.
And it works! Sometimes the tantrums last seconds, others last multiple minutes. At the end of each one, he runs to us for a quick hug and then carries on, happy as can be. And the parents are less stressed out because we didn’t have to sit through a tantrum, waiting to give a speech.
Compulsion to Fiddle
Flipping light switches. Knocking over someone’s toys. Spinning random objects on the floor.
My little dude can be a destructive force of curiosity when the mood strikes him. I was reminded that this too is normal. I still feel like I have to correct him every time he chucks something across the room, but now I’m trying to do it from a goal of guiding future behavior, not eradicating a developmental instinct.
Thanks for Saving My Sanity
So thank you, Laurie Christine, for making this mom of toddler twins feel seen and a little less crazy. The truth is, I do not always understand this little man God put in my house, but I always want to do my best to guide him in the ways God wants.
Adapting to the realities of living with 3 year olds has taken us a few weeks, but I’m hopeful now we’re better prepared to help Jayce reach the next step in time…rather than dwelling on behavior he can’t control yet.
If God has put boys in your home and you feel a little crazy sometimes, I think you’d get a lot of encouragement from Laurie. Next time you’re at your wits end, retreat to a closet with some chocolate and check her out.