Even if you don’t have kids or ever thought of having kids, you have still heard of the “terrible twos” which has now expanded into the “threenager” and the “F- you fours”. I love all of these descriptions because it really helps parents navigate these ages and it says, “You are not alone.” “These ages are tough!”
But after spending some time outside of the good ol’ USA, I started to wonder if the “terrible twos” were an American fabrication.
Basically the terrible twos are children exploring independence. It’s not a bad thing as I explain in this post about independence. But we have interpreted the constant “no’s” as terrible rather than as an opportunity for learning and responsibility.
So what happens in other countries that doesn’t happen in the states? Or vice versa; what doesn’t happen there that does happen here?
I think the answer is two-fold:
Parents don’t put up with s#*$t in other countries
In the USA, we want to take such good care of our children, that we let them run the show. Parents want to support their children, they want to nourish their children and they don’t want to squelch their children. This desire for their children to bloom can co-exist with setting limits and letting children know what is allowed and what isn’t. But unfortunately (often due to social media, but also other cultural factors) it manifests itself into never wanting the child to cry or be distressed, so sometimes we as parents backtrack until everyone is happy again. But this just creates more strife and more terrible behavior.
Parents allow their children independence in other countries
We all grew up with stranger danger and it is so strong that even though it has been proven that most child abductions and child abuse come from people that children already know, we are still scared of the world. It is OK to give our children some independence. Even if it takes twice the amount of time, we need to let them put their shoes on. And they can wear shoes that don’t even match and are on the wrong feet. We can let them help us cut vegetables without worrying about ending up in the emergency room. They can climb trees, they can dig holes for our garden, they can choose a cereal box off the grocery shelf. This is a gift that only you can give them. They deserve the chance to be more independent and you deserve the respite that it brings when they fuss less.
How can we learn from other countries?
Get your little ones a passport and book a flight to learn all the different ways to raise a child. Then start setting some limits on what behavior is allowed in your family and what behavior isn’t allowed. Then open the door to your children. Let them explore the world.