Why I Love the Terrible Twos

by | Dec 15, 2013 | Parenting, Parenting With Authority, Things I Think | 34 comments

Guys? I need everyone to promise not to tell Grace about this post. She pretty much explicitly forbade its writing. But I wrote it anyway. INTJ and all that.

Here’s the thing: I really DO think twos are better than ones, and better than threes as well. I have written about how we wrangle one year olds. It CAN be done, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of stubbornness. I am personally not averse to either of those. But . . . it’s a lot of work.

So, for me, it’s kind of a relief when they hit two. My two year olds have historically been pretty verbal, so it’s much easier to communicate with them at two than it was at one. And since we’ve been working on the concept of discipline with them since the wretched ones, the twos really aren’t so terrible around here.

Case in point: I was blog friends with Micaela of California to Korea before she moved back to California and joined my homeschool group. After spending a couple of parkdays with Frankie, she remarked that he wasn’t nearly so bad as she had been led by my blog to expect. And I realized . . . she was right. All of a sudden, he’s pretty darn pleasant to be around.

He does not bang on things in church anymore, or get me kicked out of Masses. In fact I can’t think of the last time we had to take him out of Mass for bad behavior. He eats pretty much everything we eat now. There are whole segments of the day wherein he couldn’t rightly be called Cranky Frankie at all.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a toddler. It being Advent around here has meant a lot of new temptations for him. We have a hall table full of Lego advent calendars just begging to be fiddled with, and so far Frankie has been unable to resist the temptation to whack Gus on the head with the Little People Wise Man tents. I have no idea why. He just keeps doing it.

But, when he does, I can calmly send him to sit in the corner, which he does. Then I’ll go talk to him about how the Wise Men’s tents are not for whacking brothers and he’ll go give Gus a hug and we’re done with it. Easy peasy.

We can have Advent wreaths with fire in them, we can have Advent calendars with little pieces, because I am more stubborn than a two year old. And because he believes that I always mean what I say. Dealing with two year olds is all about setting boundaries and being consistent. Both of those things are right in my wheelhouse.

But THEN comes three. Three is dramatic. Three is emotional. Three is the end of the world if there aren’t any more rice krispies, or you can’t find your other sandal so you have to wear your crocs, or you thought it was Tuesday but it’s actually Wednesday.

Perhaps another mother would be moved to pity by these outbursts. Me? They drive me nuts. 

If I tell you to put it down and you don’t? Great. Punishment. If I tell you it’s naptime and you burst into tears? No problem. It’s still naptime, but now you don’t get a story. But if you burst into tears because the shirt you wanted to wear is in the dryer, or because you just realized you forgot to brush your teeth, or because that color is called green but you’d rather it be called yellow. What then? I just cannot seem to muster much sympathy, but it doesn’t seem particularly reasonable to punish for it either.

So, what we do is a lot of being sent to one’s room to “compose oneself.” I don’t present it as a punishment. But I don’t allow them to be around the family until they can get their emotions back under control. They can decide how much time they need, and come out once they can be reasonable.

Anita would spend a LOT of time in her room composing herself. She would line up all her dolls and stuffed animals and share her misery with them. But she’s four now, so it doesn’t happen much anymore.

Frankie has only just turned two, so we have quite a few months until the histrionic threes. Maybe his ones were so bad we’ll get off easy? Hmmm . . . probably not.

But in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy his terrible twos. We’ve earned it.


And, since it’s Sunday . . . here’s what I wore:

Dress: the one I picked from eShakti, when I was still pregnant so I couldn’t wear it! Would it be wrong for me to start smoking so I could hold a cigarette holder when I wear this dress?

Pearls: from my mom

Shoes: Naughty Monkey from Zappos

And since I’m sure you’d rather see Lulu than me, but she was sleeping (and we follow that rule about never waking a sleeping baby!) so she didn’t make the photo shoot this morning. But here she is, at almost three weeks:

Thanks to the Ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for hosting.
Happy Gaudete Sunday everyone!


  1. Christy from fountains of home

    Thank you! I am firmly of the camp that 2 is awesome. Max is two weeks away from turning two and I couldn't be happier, even though Max is far from being verbal. For some reason two is a dramatic leap from totally irrational to wanting to listen even a little more and it makes a massive difference to daily life. And three is super hard, for my boys I worried I couldn't live with my own children. But they came around a little after 3 and a half. Bah!

    Haha, I do the same thing with emotional freak outs. Especially when they come from my daughter who can't find the right "ballerina pants".

    So this dress makes you look even taller and more elegant than usual. Which shouldn't be possible. Honestly, you had a baby three weeks ago! I can't deal.

  2. Amanda

    Okay, this might be your most controversial post yet 😉 Terrible two's good?? You are c-r-a-z-y! If only my son hadn't just turned 3 I could totally fix that crazy for you and without a trip to the psych ward even, just by letting you borrow him for a week. My Peter could totally give Frankie a run for his money, the kid came out screaming and just keeps on doing it. I love the little gremlin but there are many days I wonder where on earth he came from. He seriously does not get consequences. Since he was born his reaction to everything is to scream.

    Walk outside at 10 months and it's 40 degrees…..scream
    Be woken up at 15 months and have to wait for cereal to be poured…..scream
    Be put on time out at 16 months for screaming….scream
    Be buckled in the car at 2 years old….scream
    Be told climbing on the playhouse roof at 2 years old isn't okay….scream
    and so on. "cryin babies go to bed" has helped a tiny bit, mostly because then he screams in his room instead of in the living room where we can all hear him 🙂

    On the bright side I'm gettin closer to heaven every day I parent him. He's my sanctifying child, forcing me to be patient and consistent in ways none of my other kids do.

  3. Anonymous

    Beautiful dress. I'm guessing you can't really nurse in it though…can you?

    My first child was very difficult at age 2,but she was a bit delayed and was super easy at age 1, so I figure when she was 2, in many ways, developmentally she was only 1. My 2nd child was hard at age 1, easy at age 2 and hard from age 3-5. She's now and an extremely delightful and easy-going 9-year old child (although still the most emotional of all of them). My 3rd child (and only boy) was very hard at age 1, but fairly easy from age 2 on. And my 4th is difficult at age 1, but she's actually been getting better lately. She's easier now at 15 months than she was at 12 months..so I'm really hoping this trend of gradually getting better continues.

    • Kendra

      I can nurse in it! With a scarf or a drape anyway. It buttons all the way up!

    • Anonymous

      Oh..buttons that makes sense. For some reason I missed that it had buttons and just assumed it had a zipper in the back or something.

  4. Erin

    Thanks for posting this! I just had a particularly difficult time with my very emotional 2 1/2 year old, and it's encouraging to hear that it does end (we use the "compose oneself" method a lot around here). I'm curious what if any consequence you use when your potty training toddler refuses to try to go to the bathroom before nap time or leaving the house?

    • Kendra

      Hmmm . . . that's a tough one, it's especially hard to come up with an effective consequence as you're trying to get out of the house. I don't typically use any spanking in potty training. If you usually do stories or songs or stuffed animals at nap time, I would make those contingent on PLEASANTLY using the potty before nap. We've never had this problem, we use m&ms for potty training so my kids always really want to try. But I know not everyone likes that route.

    • Anonymous

      I think if my toddler refused to use the potty before nap time or an outing I would just make them wear a diaper (assuming they don't WANT to wear a diaper). That just seems the most logical thing…if you won't use the potty you need to wear a diaper to prevent accidents. I don't know that my kids ever really did that though…they might have once or twice and I probably just put a diaper on them just for that outing/naptime until they used the potty (we use cloth diapers so we always have clean diapers around and I wasn't worried about "wasting" a diaper).

    • Erin

      Thank you ladies! I have her in a pull-up for naps and errands for now, so it's not the end of the world if she doesn't cooperate – just wish she would be more obedient. sigh Today I've been working more on positive reinforcement with a sticker chart and screen time tonight if she earns it. Overall, it's been a much more enjoyable day.

    • Dixie

      It definitely is an obedience issue in some way but of course you also don't want to turn it into a big issue when it revolves around something so developmentally-oriented. I have found that giving my daughter potty choices helps (potty or toilet? sit backwards or forwards?) when she is resistant and it's really important to me that she go. It doesn't always work, but it actually does work most times, I think because going through the choices gets her out of her own bind ("I've said no but now Mama is trying to make me, so what do I do?") and she is able to choose one. Or even sometimes having her stuffed animal "go" first, or singing a song is helpful…any quick thing to break the tension and allow her to go along rather than digging her heels in reflexively.

  5. Renee

    I'm also dying to know if the dress is nursing-friendly. And if it's still available!! I can't seem to find it on the eShakti website.

    • Kendra

      Argh, I can't find it on the website either. Which is a total bummer, because I can nurse in it, and its a really nice thick, non-wrinkly material.

  6. Janine Doyle

    beautiful pearls! Nothing like a little black dress, looks beautiful on you!

  7. Kelly Halverson

    I agree with this. We are in the middle of the terrible three's with our third daughter. She was a super sweet two year old. Fairly agreeable, easy to discipline. Now she is completely crazy and irrational and yes, emotional and drama about everything. I like the idea of sending to the room to compose oneself. I need a post all about three year olds though. She makes me so crazy most days.

  8. Maia

    Someday, you and the LMLD crew ought to run a summer boot camp for moms like me who fly a little by the seat of our pants all the time. I think I get a little wisdom every time I read your blog.

  9. Jennifer S.

    Oh my gosh! This was just the post I needed tonight. My 3 year old son has just been completely out of control tonight– one irrational, emotional outburst after another. It is nice to know that it's not just my kid and encouraging to read that you use many of the same parenting techniques we do, so maybe we're doing ok. This is my first time around with the 3 year old phase and man is it a dousy.

  10. JenniferM

    Mine won't be three for a few more weeks, but she reached the "three" phase you've described some time ago. I ask her, "are you done crying or do you need to go to your room?" She usually picks "done".

    You have my Graco pattern. I thought I'd had that long enough to not see it elsewhere anymore. : )

  11. Tamara

    These are really cute pics of not-so-cranky Frankie 🙂 And I think hardest age for me is 12-18 months. Its the nonverbal toddler that kills me.

  12. MarianneF

    YES! 2 (or maybe 2.5) is my most favourite age for chillens! Still snuggly, still carry able, still cute as a button – but verbal, walking around and don't need to be carried in arms EVERYWHERE, and can play with siblings and have fun without Mama staring them down watching for choking hazards and stair falls.

    And when treated with basic compassion and understanding of their immaturity, and without harsh discipline yet (for they don't need it and can't handle it) they are usually quite pleasant to be around. My 2yo's have been fairly eager to please unless they haven't had their needs met.

    And 2yo's are far easier to travel with than 1yo's. You can't explain to a 1 yo who has been buckled into a car seat for an hour that it will only be a little longer and then we'll see Grandma and have birthday cake. A 2yo can comprehend that and be cheered up.

  13. Colleen Duggan

    Totally concur with 3 years old being much harder than 2 years olds. And though I find it obnoxious when bloggers post their (unrequested) posts but I'm breaking my rule because your post reminds me of the (multiple) stories I've told of my own trying times with 3 years. Terrible two's? Nope, nope, nope. 3's take the cake. Sorry, Grace.


    Hmmm, this one looks like it is about two years…but she was close to 3 and I think it counts…


    • Kendra

      Wow Colleen, that is a hilarious story about your daughter and the dress, I've never heard one like that!

  14. Deltaflute

    Maybe its just my kids but its the opposite. 2 was all emotional meltdown. 3 was more reasonable.

  15. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    Ok, while I love this post, the vanity in my is left with this thought: you just had a baby and you look fab!

  16. Kris

    I'm so glad that someone else thinks that three is worse than two! That's been my experience also, with all 5 of mine. We also had the "calm yourself" place – also referred to as the "tantrum room". My mantra was "you can scream all you want, but not where the rest of us have to listen". I had one that would stop on the way up the stairs to his room, once he realized I was actually taking him there. At that point, I knew he could totally control it! It was never a punishment either – just come out when you're finished.

  17. Nanacamille

    Frankie spent 3 days at Nana and Grandad's house along with sister Betty. Frankie was a delight and absolutely as cute as he could be. I think the tows are so cute and just love them with their funny talking and unconditional loving. I would take him alone any time now as he is the sweetest little boy which I couldn't say during his ones. He is a bit rough with his brothers but heck he's #4 and is going to be beat up a lot in the years ahead. I'll take him any time again and keep making that mac and cheese for him.

  18. Christine

    I've been finding age 3 a lot better so far. But it's probably because this is my first – my "guinea pig" child. We didn't figure out the discipline thing until he was about 2.5, which is when we got serious about, basically "obedience training", and meaning-what-you-say and such. So the first half of his twos was a lot of bad behavior, and the second half was a lot of fighting against us and learning to obey. Now, at 3, he's practically walking himself into the corner for misbehavior before we even have to say so. And his verbal skills make it so much easier to communicate.

  19. Anonymous

    We've been working on this with my 2.5 year old (who I thought was regressing after baby was born but maybe this is typical 3 behavior!), and I am curious – how do you get a child to *stay* in the corner? We have a "time-out" playpen, but he's really reaching the limit on using it – he's a big kid – and I think he should be able to understand that he has to stay in a place. Plus rooms everywhere have corners. 😉

    • Kendra

      The reason I recommend using the playpen at first is because mostly they WON'T stay in the corner, not until they already believe that you mean what you say. But once you establish that in other areas of life, in my experience they just stay there because you told them to and you always mean what you say.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, he definitely does not understand that I mean what I say…yet. We are starting to see some signs of improvement (on my end and his, haha!)

  20. Stephanie @ Blessed to Be

    I'm an INTJ too! How fun! Knowing we have the same personality type just made you even cooler in my book. 🙂

    Also, you look AMAZING! Especially for 3 weeks post-partum.

  21. Anna Yager

    How cool that you and Micaela are near enough to one another to be in the same homeschool group. Are you in Monrovia too? I'm guessing that you can't find candy cigarettes anymore but they would be perfect for a cigarette holder. And BTW, that dress definitely makes you look like Lauren Bacall.

    • Kendra

      I'm in Northridge (THE Valley, as in Valley girls and all that), but close enough to Pasadena to do the drive once a week!

      And thanks.

      I'm told that when I was little my grandfather told me that I had eyes like Lauren Bacall, but I was very offended because I thought he said "elderly cow." Hah!

  22. Son Mom

    I feel exactly the same way about the twos! Mine always start sleeping so nicely then, too. I have a 20 month old currently, and while I of course don't want to hurry her growing up, there is definitely part of me counting down the months to her second birthday.

    How neat that you see Micaela in real life — I enjoyed reading her blog, especially as my husband is Korean-American and we enjoyed visiting Korea so much a few years ago. It was very interesting to read about her expat life there.

    P.S. What a lovely dress!


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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