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My second son recently turned two. Friends have commented that my first son skipped the terrible twos. They presume my professional skill set will get us through them again. I don’t fancy my chances. This series of articles presents ten tips for negotiating this time with small ones. Know that with every strike of the keys, I remind myself that advice is easy to give and hard to follow. I will be attempting to practice what I preach this coming year: wish me luck!

My eight-year-old is delighted by a new trick he has learned, “Mummy” he will say with a glint in his eye over dinner, or as we are driving in the car “don’t think about an elephant”. And then with glee he asks whether you thought about an elephant, and laughs when you tell him that indeed you did “but I said don’t think about one Mummy”. I join in for comic effect: “I wasn’t thinking about one until you said not to think about one!” And then I tell him not to think about “Giraffes wearing pyjamas” and he descends into giggles whilst I ask him why in the world he would be thinking about giraffes wearing pyjamas and that it ought to be the easiest thing on earth not to think about. I pretend to tell him off. “Stop it, I’ve told you, don’t think about giraffes in pyjamas! Don’t even think about giraffes that are feeling a bit sleepy, or giraffes that put their slippers on when they come home!”

When you are eight, this game is hilarious, when you are two, this game can be a problem for you.

In our household, we have a problem with peas. Specifically pea flinging. It stems from a dinner time when, in serving the peas, I spilt a few on the floor, and my ‘smart-arsed’ husband smiled and said “Oh dear you’ve peed on the floor”. The eight-year-old thought this hilarious, his socially astute two-year-old brother learned that peas on the floor are hilarious so picked up peas from his own plate and threw them on the floor.

Many subsequent events have served to exacerbate the problem, one significant one being what a good shot the two-year-old is. I think we may need to train him up for darts or cricket or something target based, because he can now hit any dinner guest more or less on the nose with flung peas.

It stayed funny for a good while. The eight-year-old was put under enormous pressure not to laugh. “He is doing it because you think it is funny, we can’t have him flinging peas at everyone, don’t laugh!” “But Mummy he peed on the floor” Me – eye roll at husband – look what you’ve done. Husband, still basically finding it all funny. And this, indeed is our main problem: It is funny. But still, valiantly I battle onwards, trying to tame the wild one. He shall not grow up thinking it acceptable to fling peas at dinner!

My husband, feeling a modicum of guilt, or at least feeling as if he needed to act as if he were feeling guilty, began – in firm tones: “Egg (for as you know by now this is the nickname our son has acquired). Don’t throw your peas”.

And so it goes on. We serve peas. He throws peas. He gets told not to throw peas. (We even went through a phase of withholding peas from him, in the hope that he would forget. He does not forget). I have begun to give up. I explain to guests that peas will be flung. I make light of the little green jewels that decorate the carpet after meals. He will grow out of it, he is only two.

But then, as I sat there one evening, swiftly eating my peas (for once he has run out of ammunition on his own plate he will source it from others), ducking the hail of peas and listening to the petitions of my son and husband to “Stop throwing your peas” I realised: we are all playing the ‘don’t think about elephants’ game.

Everything about peas is about throwing them. So the next time I served dinner I gave the small boy wonder an adult’s fork, “Can you stab the peas?” I asked him, and showed him how to spike some. “Daddy can.” I said and looked towards my husband who obligingly and triumphantly stabbed a load of his own peas and transported them to his mouth. “I can” chipped in the eight-year-old who I can always be relied upon to back me up. He chased peas around his own plate stabbing them. The start of that mealtime was peaceful. We ate our peas. The end of it was in the usual format – peas rained down from the plate of the small one, now bored with stabbing them.

It’s not perfect, but it is progress.

When directing children direct them in the positive. Instead of: “Don’t kick” say “Put your feet on the floor”. Instead of: “Don’t shove” say “Hands by your sides” and instead of “Don’t throw your peas” say “Stab your peas!” It won’t always work, but it does prevent the elephant problem. If they are considering what to do, and all you have put in their head is what you do not want them to do, then they and you are working from a disadvantage from the outset. Direct in the positive and there will at least be breaks in the pea showers!

About the author:

Joanna Grace is an international Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, trainer, author, TEDx speaker and founder of The Sensory Projects. Joanna draws on her own personal experiences to inform her writing surround neurodivergence, SEN, and inclusion in early years.

About the author:

Joanna Grace is an international Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, trainer, author, TEDx speaker and founder of The Sensory Projects. Joanna draws on her own personal experiences to inform her writing surround neurodivergence, SEN, and inclusion in early years.

About the author:

Joanna Grace is an international Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, trainer, author, TEDx speaker and founder of The Sensory Projects. Joanna draws on her own personal experiences to inform her writing surround neurodivergence, SEN, and inclusion in early years.

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