We can do this

They don't call it the terrible twos for nothing....

X was our first child and our trial on everything, and at least looking back with rose colored glasses, I don't think we felt like two was that bad.  He has always been a calm and easy kid or at least fairly easy to reason with. He might have been a threenager or a ferocious four, but all in all, we survived.

We did try a few behavior reward systems with him when needed. One that worked well, which we adapted from family members, consisted of filling a jar with a cotton ball each time he followed directions or was caught doing good and when it was full, he got to choose a reward.
We thought we were prepared for parenting another child being a different personality. However, we didn't realize that starting at age two with no preparation, especially a toddler that has been through trauma, wouldn't be anywhere close to parenting our first.  She missed all the cuddles, snuggles, and love, as well as knowing and learning how mom and dad react.  She had to learn to love and trust us at the same time as we were learning about her. We all are learning about each other and having to backtrack and fill in gaps we weren't expecting.

For the most part, we haven't seen most of the behaviors we were warned might happen. However, when it happens, boy does chaos occur.

We always reflect to try to get down to the root of what is going on. Is it typical two-year-old behavior? Is it the drama of being a girl? The loss of control during potty training? Not understanding the rules? Missing the negative attention? Testing the limits and wondering if this really is forever?

We have talked to family and friends, read books and online articles, and reached deep to figure out what might work that would save us all and help us survive this stage.  I desperately believe in parenting my children with love, albeit I'm far from perfect.  B and I were both children of the 80s and have yelling and spankings ingrained in our fabric.

Finally I dug deep enough into my teacher brain and found an option. We (mom and dad) created a set of family rules (things we believe in and behaviors we want to encourage) and confirmed with X that these are things we have always done.

I also created a behavior chart with the top areas we (parents and A) are struggling with.  Since A doesn't read, I knew we needed something she could relate to.  I found images that somehow would relate to each behavior. I also created a emoticon feelings chart with happy, confused/I don't know, and mad/sad/angry so we can all recognize where we are and where we should be. 

Once everything was put together, we took time as a family to created a poster to hang on the wall near the time out stair.  A helped draw and decorate the poster and we all signed it.  As an extra way to encourage X's participation and reinforce his growing set of skills, he got to sign mom, dad, and baby's name!
I read the rules aloud to everyone and we explained what each meant.  We even added one rule that came up right before we starting creating our poster.
I also hung copies of the rules and emotions in areas where A would frequently see them (both bathrooms and above her bed) so she could be reminded over and over throughout the day.
To foster and create even more buy-in, A got to pick her own reward, which we have decided she will receive after completing a row (7 stickers per task). I wasn't at all shocked that she chose "happy" (candy). In fairness, we asked X if he wanted a behavior chart but he declined. We also reminded him that he would still have to follow the rules and be held accountable, even if he didn't want to earn a reward. 
We are just a few days in and so it is too early to say whether this will be THE ANSWER.  However it has helped to change the conversation for the positive.  Rather than yelling, fighting, or responding in anger, we now have a common language.  The adults (and even the kids) can say "Remember we use kind gestures and we don't hit". "Remember we are patient and kind". "Remember we speak in a soft, calm, loving voice".

The first thing A does when she is asked to sit at time out is look at the poster. She can identify and name her feelings.  She points to the heart and says I am kind.  The cover of her favorite book is by bedtime and so she can retell the story and calm herself down.

This may not work forever, but we are trying and will continue to try... Because as we remind X and each other when we don't want to help or we want to give up, WE are a team and we need everyone to make this work.... and that is the most important part.


  1. Replies
    1. Good thing I mentioned this is a work in progress. Some days are great. Others are chaotic shitstorm... ;)

  2. Great ideas! C is different than J so we have had to adjust a lot to his personality. J was an awesome 2 year old and C is too but definitely more challenging.

    1. Thanks. It is definitely hit or miss with A. But we are working on it. All of us have a steep learning curve.


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