Striving for independence can look pretty ugly, but it doesn’t have to feel that way.

Two-year olds. They are so sweet and still cuddly with that hint of babiness still hanging around their edges. But my goodness, that can all change in an instant. And suddenly, you are painfully aware of why the phrase “terrible two’s” exists.

It’s easy to ignore the tantrums (okay, not so easy, but do-able) and to establish a “time out” system, but truly understanding why two turns your sweet, sweet baby into a terror means stepping back and delving into child development.

Two is when children begin to realize that they are separate from us. This is when they strive for indepence. It’s a huge year for growth, learning and becoming uniquely “them.” But all that growth doesn’t come easily. And since you are the one they are separating from, you get the bulk of the ugly. You also get the bulk of the backlash clinginess that comes from this natural separation.

When I was four months old my Mom left me to go to Hawaii on vacation with my Dad. Ever since then I whimpered, whined and cried, frazzling my otherwise patient mother. Finally, at the age of two, she hauled me in to the pediatrician because surely something was hurt, broken or just plain wrong. All the way there I softly whimpered from my car seat, yet the doctor assured her nothing was medically wrong.

My mom needed an answer – today – so she called wise Auntie Nona, who raised nine of her 11 siblings after her parents died, as well as her own four children, for any idea that might help. Auntie Nona knows her stuff!  Born in rural Wisconsin in the 1930’s, she solved problems by listening to her intuition and reading books on natural medicine.  No vaccinations, Tylenol or convenience foods in her world! This tough Finnlander doled out prescriptions for rest, cool wash clothes, homemade meals and foot rubs.

Our “city” remedies of over-the-counter meds, Sprite in case of tummy ache or special visits to the doctor couldn’t touch what was “wrong” with me. But Auntie Nona knew.

“Next time Sammy comes around crying just reach down and give her a hug.”

“A hug?  She’s always hanging on my leg.  How’s a hug going to help?”

“Try it, you’ll see.”

They said their good-byes and I love you’s and both hung up to get supper ready. And almost immediately here I come, crying to Mom. She looked down at me – exasperated for all that I am – took a deep breath, bent down and gave me an extra special hug.

And I?… stop whining. My body relaxed and my round little two-year-old face brightened up as if nothing was ever wrong. Off I toddled to play.

Mom learned something that day. She learned that growth is hard for kids and sometimes what we need in order to become independent is a firm foundation from which to do it. A simple hug, gave me all I needed to go off on my own, content in knowing that I was loved.

Giving your two-year-old the spring board they need to launch themselves into independence may not seem as easy as a well-timed hug, but chances are that the answer lies in their most frustrating behavior. So take some time to watch. Look at their behavior as a plea for independence and a symptom of growing pains, instead of something to “fix.” And you’ll soon discover what they need.  Attend our Move workshop to strengthen your detective skills and discover what is at the root of challenging behaviors.  This will save you time, energy and frustration by turning you into an expert of “hidden” sensory needs.

Before you know it, the “terribles” will be extinguished, and you’ll be enjoying the delights of two. There are so many.

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