How to Live a Happy Life and Overcome the Terrible Twos – Lessons Learned by Observing a Toddler
Whoever came up with the phrase “Terrible Twos” is seriously mistaken. There is nothing terrible about two-year-olds. Two-year-olds are AMAZING and can teach you a lot about life if you care to listen. Toddlers are some of the most joyful, curious, loving, spontaneous people around. If you’re wise, you’ll want to take a hint from the toddlers in your life and live like one of those terrible twos you’ve been warned about.
I worked as a teacher in a young toddler room at a childcare center/ preschool for 6 years, 6 wonderful years surrounded by amazing teachers and fun, energetic (sometimes challenging) one and two-year olds. Let me tell you, I was right where I wanted to be. I learned so much from this period of time in my life and I want to share some of that with you so that you can live a happier life too.
Trust me, toddlers know what’s up!
Ten Life Lessons to Become Happier People
- “Forget dance like no one is watching. Dance like a toddler, they don’t even care if there’s music.” Who needs music?! Don’t let life get you down. Don’t compare yourself to others, instead recognize the good things that surround you! You’ve likely been blessed with food in your belly and a roof over your head and running water. Do a dance when you eat your lunch or turn on the faucet. Not everyone has lunch to eat or clean water to drink. Squeal when you see your best friend. Dance when you put on your favorite shirt. Dance, dance, dance and don’t even notice if there’s music!
- Express your feelings. I know, I know, No one likes big explosive tantrums. But, sometimes we just have big feelings and we need to express them. Try to sit in your feelings for a moment and truly feel how you’re feeling. Then, let it out and let it go. Expressing our feelings, and fighting the urge to bottle them up, is an important step in healing and moving on in our lives. So be like the terrible twos and express yourself without fear!
- Let go of grudges quickly. Holding onto anger is terrible for your health, your mindset and your overall level of happiness. Holding onto a grudge hurts you more than it hurts whoever you’re angry with, so do yourself a favor, and release yourself from the grudges you’ve been holding onto. Let that burden float away. Have you ever noticed how a kid who has been bitten or hurt by another child 10 times will still play with them? The terrible two crowd forgives and forgets with such ease, that I am constantly astounded. I wish I had that sort of super power!
- Be suspicious of loud noises. Not everything is good! It’s ok to show a little suspicion and get the lay of the land before you jump right in to being excited.
- Live in the present. As adults, we get caught up in planning for the future and dwelling on the past. Toddlers are all about the present. “I want my needs met NOW! I want to play NOW!” So, let’s make like the terrible twos and see what’s right before us and take things moment by moment, never fearing tomorrow but appreciating what’s here and now. Trust that what needs to get done will get done in time. Live right where you are, in the present moment before you.
- Learn something new every day. One of my favorite things about toddlers is that everything seems new! They don’t remember their days as infants, so, to them, everything is new! It’s the first snow! It’s the first time they’ve tasted berries! It’s the first time they’ve played with playdough! It’s the first time they’ve heard a song! What a blessing to experience new things and grow as we try new things for ourselves!
- Find joy in the little things. Now, toddlers express joy similarly to how they express frustration and sadness, in a BIG way. I love to see the pure joy reaction toddlers have- their eyes twinkle with excitement when they discover something new. For whatever reason, I don’t express things in quite as big a way as those adorable terrible twos, but rather in a more inward way. A smile, a laugh, a happy song, a sigh – these things are how I show I’m in a joyful mood. Life’s simple pleasures can boost our moods and lead to a happy life if we take the time to pause and sit in them. For me, it is the smiles of my children, a cup of coffee, climbing into a bed with clean sheets, catching up with a good friend and tending my garden. What are your little joys? Where can you pause, breathe, and contentedly smile to yourself? Find joy in the little things that happen every day.
- Be curious. At some point in our lives, it seems our curiosity fades. We’re more concerned with fitting into society’s norms, paying our bills, and keeping up with the Jones’ rather than nurturing our own interests and growing ourselves creatively. Research something that intrigues you. Find a new blog to follow or go to your local library to learn more about an interesting topic. It’s satisfying to learn and grow.
- Sympathy cry – Have you ever witnessed a toddler burst into tears when nothing is seemingly wrong with them? Only to realize that it isn’t that they are physically hurt but that their friend is hurt and crying? This is called sympathy crying if you’ve never heard the term. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could sympathy cry with people who we don’t know but who are struggling? If we could see someone’s pain and be so overcome that we want to help and change our world for the better? Sympathy cry. Let yourself be moved to action to help the people around you. You can make a difference.
- Hug like you mean it – the person you’re hugging might just need it even more than you. The hug of a toddler is a magical thing. They seem so unbridled and loving as they collapse into you, throwing their arms around your neck. Hug your spouse like that, falling into them, finding comfort and acceptance and love there. Hug your children like that, letting them know they are loved no matter what. Hug like you mean it and you will live a much happier life!
How to Overcome the Terrible Twos
Take time to be in the present. Let your child try to put on their shoes for ten minutes. It might feel inconvenient at first, but it is in these moments that real learning is happening. In your hurry to get on to the task of getting outside, you might miss what is going on in the present. Build in this precious time for your child to try to do tasks on their own. Let them gain that independence as you gain patience with the process.
Play with your child. Get down on their level and see what they see, laugh with them, engage with them. Feel with them. Narrate the world with them. Learn from them and your life will be infinitely happier.
Recognize that your child’s feelings are their own and they have a right to feel them. Let your child be angry, upset, frustrated. Label their feelings for them. Let your child know that what they feel is valid. Try not to get swept into their anger but stay separate from it and empathetic to it. Remember when your child is throwing a tantrum, no one likes to be in pain and your child is hurting. Support your child as they work through their big feelings rather than trying to squash them or being upset by them.
Give choices. How would you feel if someone else decided what you ate, when you slept, what you wore, where you went and basically everything else about your life? Not great, right? I’d throw back a bit of resistance to someone trying to control my every move too! Let go of some control and let your child have choices throughout their days.
It’s important to note that the choices you give should be equally desirable and acceptable to you as a parent. Don’t give a choice where there isn’t really one. If your child needs to get a diaper change or use the restroom, then give them a choice on HOW the task gets done, not IF the task gets done. Which toilet do you want to use? Where do you want your diaper changed? Do you want to slither like a snake or jump like a bunny to get to the toilet?
Set routines. Like you and me, toddlers like to know what’s coming next and that their basic needs for food, love and rest will be met. Developing routines for sleep, will help your child’s brain to calm more easily as they settle into what they can expect from you in going to bed. Knowing that they will be fed lets them not worry as soon as they experience a pang of hunger.
Let go of perfection. If you’re going to live through the season of toddlerhood with your child and be happy you MUST let go of a need for perfection. Perfection is an illusion. Perfection does not exist. Toddlerhood is messy. It’s supposed to be messy! Embrace the mess and clean up when you can, but seriously, embrace the mess.
Take it from a recovering perfectionist. It’s worth letting go. I’m working on it myself! You can do it too.
Use your village! Have you ever heard the phase “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well, it’s true. You can’t do this parenting thing on your own. We all need help. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Surround yourself with a village of supportive people who you can rely on to take your kids for an afternoon, listen when you’re having a meltdown, laugh with you, cry with you, encourage you when you’re feeling down or inspire you to keep moving forward on the path you’ve chosen for yourself. Whatever your goals, surround yourself with people that will help you achieve them.
In these modern times, your village might look different than in past decades. Often, our village can be virtual or distant from us. Family might live farther away and it’s hard to feel their constant support. Joining groups of like-minded parents online can help support your mental health and help you feel less lonely. Also, find a close group of friends that live nearby with kids. Friends who just get it. You can take turns watching each other’s kids to help each other out. We all really do need support. And we really all do need breaks.
We can’t go it alone. Kids’ needs are too great for one person to fill.
Take time out for yourself to fill your own need to recharge. You’ll be a better wife, mother, and person if you take time to take care of yourself regularly. You will be happier and you will be better able to handle the not-so-terrible twos. Rely on your village! Together, we’ve got this!
You can learn how to live a happier life just by taking these tips from your toddler
AND overcome the terrible twos which, turns out, aren’t so terrible!
For ideas on taking care of your mental health, check out my post “Top 10 (Budget Friendly) Self Care Ideas for Parents”
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