Tuesday, 27 September 2016

So the "terrible twos" are the result of

"poor parenting"?
There is a teacher turned therapist spouting this in the paper this morning. I wonder how that will make parents feel.
Apparently it is all to do with "expectations" and "taking children into inappropriate situations" - like taking them to the pub. (Well actually I agree with not taking them to the pub. I don't like going to  such places myself - but then, like them, I don't drink alcohol.)
But is it really just poor parenting that causes the temper tantrums of a two year old?
I can remember being two. I can remember being two very clearly indeed. I also know that most people have only very hazy memories of being two. Why should I remember and others not remember? The answer to that is both simple and complex. 
The simple answer is that I had a lot of language at my disposal by then. I'd been through that sort of temper tantrum stage long before that - when I didn't have the language to express what I wanted to say.  I still had temper tantrums - tantrums of sheer frustration at not being able to do things I saw other two year old children doing apparently without any trouble at all.
But I remember being able to talk to adults - and adults talking to me. I can remember asking questions, wanting to know why and how - and a good deal more. Where was I going to take my train today? What was there? How long would it take? 
I do not remember being bored. I do remember my mother saying, "Be quiet Cat!" Being a reasonably obedient kitten I would lapse into silence - for a few minutes.
If you can ask questions about your world - and get people to answer them - and if you can make sense of your world and what is in it then you know more about where you fit into it. You know what others expect of you and how you are expected to respond. It's possible to explore your world.
So yes, if a two year old is having a temper tantrum in the pub or the supermarket or somewhere else where largely adult activities are going on it is possible that "poor parenting" is to blame. Even telling a child to "hold this for me please" or asking "which one will we get?" might help - and parents in a rush might not ask that. 
I think there is something else though - and it is that language issue. It is about not being able to ask, not being able to make sense of your surroundings. It's about wanting something because you are, quite simply, bored at being expected to sit still in the child seat of the trolley.
There is a local boy I know. I have watched  him grow up. From the very start his mother provided something for him to do every time  I saw them. He started with soft toys and age appropriate things in his carry cot and graduated through to serious picture books by the age of two. He would "read" these to himself while his mother went rapidly through the shopping list. Once in a while we coincided at the checkout area and he would tell me about his toy or his book or the fact that they had just been to the library.
He went off to school this year, already able to read - and yes, his two older siblings were the same. His mother said to me, more than once, "It's so much easier when they can talk to you and you know what they want."
I think she's right. And yes, that is partly about good parenting. It is about learning how to communicate, listening, speaking, reading, gesture, emotion and more. It is about words and books and nonsense rhymes. It takes time to learn all that, the child's time and the time of the adults around the child.
Are the "terrible twos" then about something more than "poor parenting"? Are they about "time-poor parenting" and the sheer volume of knowledge, especially linguistic knowledge, a child needs to access in order to begin to make sense of the world?


jeanfromcornwall said...

Working in a bookshop/stationers which also had a resident Post Office queue, I have seen an awful lot of bad behaviour and a lot of good too. The difference is in how the parents talk to the chidren. The ones that just say "behave yourself" are losing - the child has no idea what that means. The ones that keep up a continuous meaningful stream of talk with the child produce far less of the obnoxious stuff. Also makes for a happier child. They all have to have a few episodes of frustrated meltdown - the best a Mum can hope is that it is not in the full glare of the public eye!

catdownunder said...


Anonymous said...

I wonder if the person who said that has had to look after a two year old 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for twelve months. Good parenting will help a lot, but very few children grow up without a tantrum or two.

catdownunder said...

I doubt they have cared for a two year for very long at all!