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Infant - Month #29

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The Terrible Teachable Twos

By Mary Perrin, edHelperBaby

  Developmental Milestones
           Your child is attempting to gain a deeper understanding of the world around her.  She is making connections, drawing conclusions, and will soon begin making predictions that will take her from asking questions towards being able to answer them herself.  Modeling will be an important role for you at her "why" stage of development.  There are ways to turn the years characterized as being the terrible twos into the teachable twos by simply reexamining your approach to certain situations and by allowing a multitude of opportunities for your child to explore cause and effect relationships.

       What is your level of expectation?  Do you have high or low expectations?  You will get back what you invest.  Children want to please, so set your expectations high but within reach, and your child will rise to the occasion.  The most vital piece in setting a high expectation for learning and behavior is to provide an element of choice.  Your child wants to feel in control of her environment.  Construct a comfortable and threat-free environment to enable her to learn in a relaxed setting that is free of hesitation, embarrassment, and/or a sense of self-consciousness.  Providing reasonable choices to help eliminate power struggles will assist in getting you the results you desire both developmentally and behaviorally.  Remember to praise your child for her efforts no matter how big or small they may seem.

       Most all children hit a stage when their common response to any situation will consist of the same three letter word, "why."  No matter what reason you give to answer your child's question, she will probably retort with another "why" and then yet another.  This domino effect might leave you feeling exhausted from the redundancy.  You might even begin to answer with the notorious "because I said so" phrase.  This phrase could be followed with a slight twitch or cringe as you quickly realize you are beginning to sound like your own parents.  Rest assured.  There is a rhyme and reason to why your child might seem to drive you crazy, just as you probably did to your own parents years ago.


  Cause and Effect Activities
           The following collection of simple activities using various common objects all show your child that one action will cause another occur.

       Ball Play:
  • Kick/roll a ball back and forth.
  • Kick a ball up against a wall to see what happened.
  • Throw the ball into the air.
  • Lie across a large bouncy ball on the tummy and roll around, and then try to balance.

       Water Play:
  • Pour water from a taller skinny cup into a large-bottomed container.
  • Poke holes into a plastic container and pour water (or sand) into the container.
  • Splash around in the bathtub or pool.  What happens to the water?
  • Blow bubbles in a container of clean water using a straw.

       Other Fun Investigations:
  • Turn light switch on and off.
  • Investigate the concept of floating and sinking.
  • Ring a doorbell.
  • Involve your child in cooking or baking.
  • Play with a jack-in-the-box.
  • Make silly faces into a mirror.
  • Create a rain stick using a paper towel tube.  Twist newspaper and insert it into the holder.  Put two cups of small beans/rice/cheerios or other small safe items into the holder and close both ends securely with heavy duty tape.  Have your child investigate what happens when she shakes it and turns it upside down.
  • Play with musical instruments.


  From a Parent's Perspective
           Many of the listed cause and effect activities only took a few seconds to do with my child.  She wanted to spend more time in the bathtub as we introduced more water play activities.  My child even came up with a few more things to investigate like dipping the washcloth into the water and holding it up high to watch how the water dripped from the soaked towel.  I was able to then help her understand that if we were to wring it out a little before holding it high, not as much water will drip.  She now wants to be in charge of washing her own hair because she understands the process for dumping the water from a bucket onto her head to get her hair wet, moving shampoo around on her head to form bubbles, and spraying her hair with water to rinse the bubbles out.  In just a week's time, she has a newfound sense of independence because of her ability to make connections.

       My child also loves to help in the kitchen.  Baking seems to be her forte as she loves to perch on a stool in front of the stove, watch her masterpiece rise in the oven, and yell with excitement when the timer sounds.

       She is still having difficulty kicking a ball.  Balance is not her strongest suit.  As she gains more coordination and stability while doing very different tasks with both feet at the same time, I believe she will master the art of kicking.  She does, however, understand the concept of what the ball is supposed to do and how it is intended to move to the new location.  Having the desire to play with her older brother seems to provide her with some motivation to keeping practicing.

       Understanding cause and effect relationships will allow her to become more in tune with how things work together in a concrete way, then, hopefully, she will be able to synthesize more abstractly, make predictions, and draw her own conclusions.  This means that eventually she will be able to answer her own "why" questions with more ease.


  How Your Life is Changing
           The terrible twos might be the beginning of an occasional meltdown, a series of misunderstandings, and confusion for both you and your child.  Maybe your child's behavior at two has been outstanding, and you feel that you were able to slip by that notorious terrible stage.  If so, congratulations; however, beware because it can sneak out at three, too!  This so called terrible stage is often characterized by less than desirable behavior exhibited by a child.  Your approach will make or break this phase of development.  Your child's disobedience can be curbed.  You will wonder what happened to that baby stage as new emotions arise and the battle for control begins.  As the parent, you will feel that "I am the parent; therefore, my child shall obey me."  Your child will be learning enough about the world around her to want control over her environment.  Strive to eliminate the onset of battles.  Pick your battles wisely and consider the following suggestions to head off the anticipated meltdown or inevitable confrontation.
  1. Before entering an establishment, state your expectations clearly.  As you talk to your child about going into the grocery store, you might say:  "You will need to ride in the cart today even though I know you like to walk. I need to walk very quickly and I don't want your legs to get too tired."  Smile and continue nicely.  "We will not be buying anything extra for you or for me today.  We will get back into the car, drive home, and play outside once I get the groceries put away.  Doesn't playing outside sound fun?"  Prefacing your plans will help your child focus on playing outside rather than the fact that she hates to ride in the cart and prefers to walk.  Also, you have mentioned that she will not be allowed to ask for extra items during your store visit.
  2. State the obvious...out loud.  Think aloud so your child can see how you use reasoning skills, pull from prior knowledge, and ask pondering questions to become a better problem solver.  Think alouds also provide children with stronger vocabulary.  It is important to talk with your child in an adult voice, not baby talk.  For example, if you burn something while cooking, you might state that you forgot to set the timer, had the heat on too high, etc.
  3. Answer a question with a question.  As a parent, you do not need to give answers all the time.  Your child will become more insightful if you return the why with a question, give her time to think it through on her own, then help her arrive at the correct answer.  Don't be so quick to answer the why with a response, but don't dismiss it entirely either.  There must be a balance between the two.
  4. Coin a phrase. A phrase like "That is a great question" will do two things.  It will promote immediate action if followed by a command.  For example, when you ask your toddler to brush her teeth and she says "why?" you can respond with "That is a great question.  Remind me to answer that right after you brush your teeth."  Your toddler will be more willing to follow your initial request if she can anticipate your reaction.  Also, given that the word "why" might become a habitual response to every request you have, this will help weed out the unnecessary ones.  If she can still remember to ask you after brushing her teeth, then it must have been a truly important one.  If "why" is not common for your child but an outright "I don't want to" is, then consider a phrase like "Then how might you feel later...?"  For instance, "I don't want to get dressed."  "Then how might you feel later when you arrive at preschool without your school clothes on?"  Your child might be more willing to foresee how the decisions she makes in the moment will impact future outcomes.


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