Two year olds just don’t/can’t cover up their feelings! You and I may actually feel the same way, at times, but we have learned to cover up our feelings and behave properly. We know that others have feelings too and that, in the long run, we will have a much better life if we are polite, care about the feelings of others, and generally fit-in. But then some of us have been covering up our emotions so well for so long that we don’t really know ourselves what we are feeling! When two year olds don’t “act” properly it is because they don’t ‘act” – they aren’t little actors.
A two year old isn’t able to pretend he is calm when he is frustrated. A two can’t pretend to be happy when sad. The reason that two year olds won’t fake being okay with ending their fun activity is that their feelings just show. It’s all they know how to do with feelings – express them. How often have you wondered what someone was REALLY feeling? With a two year old you don’t have to wonder – they show you! I guess that I kind of like that.
My husband, for example, is someone who “wears his heart on his sleeve.” There just is no hidden agenda. If he is upset, it shows. If he is happy, that shows too. I guess that’s something that I really love about him J . I really don’t “read” people very well, so I’m much more relaxed when I can count on someone being honest about their feelings. Of course, this works best if they truly like me and are happy with what I’m doing - ha ha. Otherwise, just being polite is not such a bad thing!
So, what do we do?? Do we just have to put up with bad two-year-old behavior?? Are we doomed to spend a year listening to whining and complaining interspersed with full blown temper tantrums??!! NO (. . . well, sometimes). We can help them to be less frustrated, more happy, and enjoyable to be around! The key is to help the child to WANT TO do what you want them to. For example, if you want them to eat dinner then don’t train their taste buds to want just sweet things, and be sure to plan their snacks so that they will be hungry at dinner time. If you want them to stop an activity, give them a five minute warning, to get used to the idea, and a different activity to move on to. My book, Two Year Olds – Not So Terrible Once You Get to Know Them is full of ways to help twos want to be “good” as we train them to cover their angry or frustrated feelings, with polite behavior.
Just remember, the goal is not just to teach them to hide ‘negative’ emotions, but (mainly) for the child to learn to enjoy sharing, being kind, just looking at things they shouldn’t touch, eating dinner, only coloring on paper, and doing all those things that help us to be enjoyable to be with. And keep in mind, this will be a slow process (be consistent and they’ll start to figure it out about the time they turn three).
But for now they will be themselves, so enjoy them for who they are.
I love two year olds!