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22nd May 2022

Musings: We need to stop scolding toddlers for having emotions

Melissa Carton

We’ve all heard of the terrible twos but do they actually exist?

I’m constantly being told by my family that I was a terror when I was little because I was always crying. One time in particular always gets brought up, but no one ever looks at it from my point of view.

That point of view was that I was miserable. I was really small so I had to watch all my cousins go on the rides without me as I didn’t make the height restrictions. I had sunburn, was bitten by bugs and so, in pain most of the time. I was also made to sit in Blackpool Tower and watch endless ballroom dancing (every toddler’s dream).

It was something I always tried to keep in mind when my then two-year-old was having a tantrum or as I call them ‘having an emotion’.

I don’t think she should be punished or yell at because she feels frustrated or becomes overwhelmed with a situation.

Recently I read a poem online that perfectly sums up how I feel on the whole ‘terrible twos’ subject and it’s pretty powerful.

The poem written by Dejah Roman reads;

“Today I woke up and wanted to get dressed by myself but was told, “No, we don’t have time, let me do it.”

This made me sad.

I wanted to feed myself for breakfast but was told,
“No, you’re too messy, let me do it for you.”

This made me feel frustrated.

I wanted to walk to the car and get in on my own but was told, “No, we need to get going, we don’t have time. Let me do it.”

This made me cry.

I wanted to get out of the car on my own but was told: “No, we don’t have time, let me do it.”

This made me want to run away.

I am 2. No one will let me dress, no one will let me move my own body where it needs to go, no one will let me attend to my own needs.

I am 2. I am not terrible…I am frustrated. I am nervous, stressed out, overwhelmed, and confused. I need a hug.” (abridged)

I think that we need to step away from thinking that toddlers are monsters or bold for trying to explain how they feel, even when that temper tantrums equal explanations.

A lot of the time when small children cry, it’s because they need help understanding the world around them. They want us to be kind to them when they feel powerless in the same way that we need other adults to be kind to us when things go wrong.

Our children are future adults and we can help them become compassionate human beings by demonstrating our compassion towards them – letting them know it’s okay to feel emotional.