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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!

Imagine you are watching your favourite TV show, you are half way through an episode and your partner walks in and tells you to go and put your shoes on. Or you are talking to a friend on the phone, deep in conversation and your partner shouts at you from the other room to get into the car. Or you are writing a letter to someone, and mid-sentence your partner announces that you have to eat dinner. Said partner would be walking on thin ice wouldn’t they? Who would want to stick around for this sort of treatment? The disregard for your life as you’re living it. The lack of social niceties ahead of making these demands. No explanation. Just orders!

Might you shout back? Might your level of shout match your level of indignation at how unreasonable they are being?

Two-year-olds are famous for shouting “No!”, with small puffed out chests and hearty indignation. In those “no” answers they are saying “What I am doing is important” “What I want for my life counts”, “I am in charge of me, not you”. And when you are the person who loves that two-year-old, that sort of sense of self worth is not something you want to crush. But….you do need them to put their shoes on, to eat their dinner, to get in the car. So how can we achieve that without triggering their need to self protect?
Those of you who have read articles 3 and 4 will be thinking “But you said I could only use a couple of words, how can I explain and reason if they’re not able to process?” Those of you who have read article 2 might be thinking Align-Attune-Invite. And I stand by all of those things; in this article I’m adding in another layer.

This layer is to add the building blocks to reason in behind our instructions and invitations. Whilst getting alongside and aligning, attuning and inviting works well for shifting a two-year-old from one activity to the next, our choice of next activity can still seem fairly arbitrary. And whilst they cannot take in reason in a sentence with lots of key words in it (see the previous article for an explanation of this), they can begin to appreciate that the actions of adults are generally rational not random! In my last article, I talked about processing time and how it can take a while for things to settle into a small person’s brain, so what we are aiming to do with this tip is pop all the information relevant to the rationale for our action into their brain with enough time for them to settle in before we need them to be used. This will all make much more sense with an example:

It is breakfast time - a very popular activity for my two-year-old! Breakfast ends and he is lifted out of his highchair to the floor. “Let’s get dressed” I say. “No!” comes the reply. He needs that no to be firm, because he knows what adults are like with their sudden demands to do dull things, he has plans, he is a busy soul, he is off to terrorise the dog, to ‘gently’ scratch the cat under the chin, to build train tracks with his big brother. Clothes? Don’t be ridiculous Mummy, now is not the time for clothes!

The alternative

It is breakfast time, as my two-year-old chows down with great enthusiasm on his own breakfast, my breakfast, Daddy’s toast and any bits of his brother’s breakfast he can beg, I start to talk about his day. “You’re going to see Grandma today”. “Grandma” he replies. “You will need clothes on to see Grandma.” (No reply, just eating). I put the washing up away, and say: “At Grandma’s house we wear clothes”, I muse to the forks. “In a bit we will put clothes on to go to Grandmas” I remind myself out loud as I sort out his bag for the day. You get the idea. By the time he has finished breakfast he has heard the Grandma-clothes combination a thousand times. It is there in his mind. I lift him down from his highchair. “Shall we get dressed to go and see Grandma?” “Yes!” comes the reply and he races off towards his clothes.

At a glance this can be misunderstood for me giving him the reason in the sentence. So let’s be clear, if in the first example I had offered “If you put clothes on you can go and see Grandma”, it wouldn’t have worked because he cannot process that reasoning in the time it takes to utter a sentence. But with a good run up, and time for the information to sink in, he can make the link and is more than happy to oblige. With any luck, if he is quick, Grandma and Grandpa will still be eating breakfast when we get there, and he can have a fourth meal of the morning!

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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