The “Terrible Twos” can be a testing time for any parent. Even the most able of parents hope for this torrid time to pass as quickly as possible. As a parent myself, I know that tantrums and screaming can start at a moment’s notice and for no identifiable reason. It does not take much at all and can leave parents scratching their heads as to what to do for the best. No parent is perfect and we are all influenced by the way our parents brought us up, rightly or wrongly. However, are we as parents affecting the way our children see the world in this vital developmental stage so much that we might induce narcissism or codependency through our methods of parenting?
The Roots of Narcissism and Codependency
Even though, I accept that the roots are narcissism and codependency are more complex than this, my work tells me that this crucial time for a child`s growth is often badly handled. For example, the causes of NPD are not totally known but mismatches in parent-child relationships with either excessive pampering or excessive criticism are often cited. Take codependency, it is thought that the roots of codependency are laid down in traumatic childhood experience. As a toddler, the young child learns that protesting against anything leads to the parent becoming either angry or abusive and therefore gives up his/her protestations and learns not to assert him/herself. Typically, too, the child learns as s/he gets older that answering back or arguing are especially severely punished. Thus, his/her belief that standing up for him/herself merely compounds his/her problems is yet further reinforced. In my opinion, this can be magnified in the “Terrible Twos” where parental patience is at a minimum.
Let’s first look at what is happening to children in this phase. At around 24 months, a child is starting to develop motor and language skills to the extent that he/she wants to start exploring the world around it. This new-found freedom is restricted by the limitations of the child’s forming body. They have not yet learnt to regulate emotions or to communicate effectively. Their thinking is not yet logical and they have limited reasoning and cause and effect skills. It is an important developmental stage and one that is crucial for growth. The parental response is essential. How many times have we all seen parents, yelling and screaming at, smacking children of this age or not providing loving consequences and boundaries? Here is the crux of my argument in that we as parents, could be producing the next generation of narcissists and codependents by trying to handle this difficult phase of our child`s life.
Richard Tremblay, a Dublin based psychologist believes that children will come out of this phase in time if effective parenting is applied. On the other hand, his research states that those who don`t will have mental health issues and 5% of these children will go on to be hardened, violent criminals. He firmly believes that the root of these issues can be seen in toddlers as young as 2 or 3 and that good parenting or the lack of is one of the most critical elements. MORE HERE
Parents can make a huge difference to the way a child copes with the Terrible Twos. Parents are often frustrated and this causes a response that is either too hard or brings no response at all. Some parents even try to reason with their child. Some rush to the doctor and many children of this age are medicated to try to stop what is, in effect normal developmental behavior. It is important to have a strategy for these difficult times based on consistency and understanding.
- Try to understand and find out as much as you can about how children behave in this phase. Try to understand the difference between what is normal and not normal behavior. Forewarned is forearmed. Be consistent around such things as biting, whining and aggression.
- Plan your day around your child…don`t expect them to fit into yours. Don`t plan a trip close to sleep times or expect young children to cope with long days. In this case, crankiness means they are not coping well. Behavioral issues will escalate under these circumstances.
- As a parent, it is essential to understand a child`s developmental phases and the new challenges and abilities each brings. Activities and boundaries have to be geared to this.
- Have a strategy for tantrums. That means:
- Understanding that tantrums often come from frustration not bad behavior.
- It helps to see things from the child`s perspective. Is the child hungry, tired, expected to do things that are beyond its capabilities?
- When tantrums happen, understanding that physical connection in a calm, protective way helps. In times of increased emotion, do not smack, shout or walk away but stand calmly close by and on the same level.
- Focus on child, not environment. In these moments, what other people think is not important.
- Keep calm, compassionate and understanding. Avoid frustration.
When To Seek Medical Advice
If you are doing all of the above effectively and it still doesn`t work, then medical and behavioral help may be needed. For example, many children who suffer from Disruptive Behavioral Disorder go without help. This is epitomized by long, frequent outbursts and the inability to do age appropriate tasks. There is a raised level of frustration and outbursts are stronger and much harder to cope with. Children with DBD often get “stuck” in an emotion and cannot calm down for over 20 minutes. In this case, medication might be required and behavioral and parental help needed. However, the ability to recognize such disorders will only come from an understanding of what is and is not normal behavior.