Thursday, 6 March 2008

Does not play well with others

They warn you about the Terrible Twos, but it still doesn't mean you're ready for them when they come.

As two-year-olds go, Berry's not very terrible at all. In fact, she's generally quite mild. But when Pauline and little Sophiene came to visit from South Carolina, Berry revealed a combative side that caught us off-guard.

Although she plays well with other kids at school and at her friends' houses, at home it's a different matter entirely. When another toddler tries to play with her toys, in her territory, she becomes – well – territorial. Sophiene is the first child ever to stay with us, and we were horrified by Berry's outbursts – the grabbing, the pushing, the flailing, the hitting, the shouting: "My Dora! No my paints! My Rody! No Fofie, my chair! My Elmo! Mine! My Mama!"

Sophie is one year old, still in the lovely, easy-going, live-and-let-live stage of toddlerhood. The fuss was all very baffling to her. When Berry was at that stage – facing the shoves and bellows of older kids with an "oh well" attitude – I was concerned that she might not be assertive enough, that she might end up being a doormat.

I needn't have worried.

From the photos here, you wouldn't know there'd been any conflict, any embarrassing outbursts. That's because when the fights were on, all the grown-ups were desperately refereeing – and when peace reigned, we all said "Quick! Get the camera!"

I know (intellectually) that sharing – especially on her own turf – can't really be expected of Berry yet. As psychologist John Gottman, PhD, writes:

"...Attempts at cooperative play and sharing are often problematic, given the "toddler rules of ownership," which are: (1) If I see it, it's mine; (2) If it's yours and I want it, it's mine; and (3) If it's mine, it's mine forever. Parents should realize that such attitudes are not based on meanness; they are simply an expression of the toddler's developing sense of self.... the concept of sharing is meaningless to them."

But I still can't help feeling alarmed, apologetic, and a teensy bit of a failure when these one-sided fights break out. I told my friends at coffee (all of whom have more and/or older kids) how embarrassing I'm finding the whole two-year-old tyrant thing, and the universal response was "Oh honey, get used to it. There's no way around it, only through it."

Which is not what I wanted to hear... but at least I'm not alone.


  1. Wait until she turns 3.

    "This too shall pass" is my mantra.

  2. I'm smiling about this because we have passed up this stage at our house. And now my three-year-old is equipped with the language necessary to argue, lecture, and threaten me.
    But the good moments make it worth it.

  3. i'm glad you wrote this post as I, too, am mortified when my 2 year old pushes and shoves and snatches...even though I know it is "normal" for this age lol

  4. i found your blog through "etsy sellers who blog" ring, and i love it! as the mama of (soon to be) 4 children, i've been there, through those terrible twos with my older children, but your description struck me with such honesty. the thing that always amuses me is that i somehow seem to "forget" (i think it's that blissful 1 year old toddler stage you so accurately described) that the terrible twos, or threes, are coming, and how hard they hit. thank you for sharing your experiences!

  5. Each age brings it's own joys and uh ... challenges. :) As uncomfortable as it is when you have friends visiting, Berry is acting like most 2 year olds. That doesn't mean you totally tolerate it, but it's all part of her learning process.

    Good luck Mom!