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A POST ABOUT PARENTING: I’m Going Through the Terrible Twos

It happened overnight. Or it seemed to happen that way. Last Thursday, my two-year-old Elias decided he no longer enjoyed brushing his teeth in the morning. Rather than cooperating with me like he did on Wednesday morning, he screamed “NOOOOOOO!” at me like he had a choice.

“Elias,” I said, “We have to go brush your teeth. Let’s go, Bubbs.” (I sometimes call him Bubbs.)



So I proceed to pick him up. Well, I tried to pick him up. It was hard because he’d contorted his body into a upside down “U” and was grabbing onto his chair for dear life. My hands were tucked under his waist, trying to pull him up into my arms.

“No Daddy! No Daddy! No Daddy!”

What has happened to my son? I thought. He was so reasonable yesterday. Today, he’s possessed.

Frustration started stirring in the back of my neck–you know that feeling, something between a headache and turning into the Incredible Hulk. I breathed. The human inside me wanted to let go of him just to see what would happen, to pay him back for being such a little snot. But the Daddy in me held on.


I managed to pry his fingers loose from his chair and pulled him into my arms (he was sort of “P”-shaped now, and “P”-shaped is easier). I carried him into the bathroom.

I then attempted to set him down on the toilet (the lid was down, of course), but as soon as I prepared to this, he went transformed back into his “U” shape, except this time it was a sideways “U,” a stiffer, angrier “U.”

“Elias,” I said, “Do you want a timeout?”


“Then sit your bottom down on that seat.”


I considered letting go again. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The “Daddy” in me kept saying, “Be a parent. Be a parent.”


I finally was able to get some toothpaste in his mouth. I’m not sure you can call what I did actually “brushing,” but his breath smelled like bubblegum, so I was satisfied.

Four minutes later, Elias was laughing, smiling, blowing kisses, etc as he and Jessica left for school/work.

Maybe he was just having a difficult morning. I thought. Tomorrow will be different.

But no. Every morning since last Thursday, brushing his teeth (and a couple times, getting his shoes and socks on) has led to screeching “U”-shaped chaos.

Yesterday morning, he had two time-outs. And he slapped me during one of them. I grabbed his little hand and bit it. I’M KIDDING! I just wanted to do that. (Isn’t it insane the “monster” that kids can bring out in you?) But I did grab his hands and gently held them and said, “Elias, we don’t hit. Hands are for touching and hugging and picking up things…. blah blah blah… Mommy and Daddy don’t hit Elias and we get very sad when you hit us.”


I let go of his hand. And do you know what he did? He looked right at me and gently slapped my arm.

Sigh. But he did apologize. :)

So my little boy is going through a stage–the terrible twos. At least, that’s what we read in books and friends tell us. And so, I’m going through the “terrible twos” too. Because that’s what Daddies (and Mommies) do. We go through stages with our kids–many of them–some crazier than others. The difference is, we must go through these stages not just as the “adult” in the situation–being the adult isn’t enough–we go through them as the parent…

A guide…

A teacher…

A forgiver…

A “let’s make a good decision together” Daddy…

And we pray.

A lot.

Comments read comments(38)
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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:21 am

You’re telling my story dude. My son turned two in July and it gets exponentially more challenging every day.

Only we have an added bonus — a teething 8-month old as well.

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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:24 am

Did this start shortly after he saw the Katy Perry/Elmo video? Just checkin’…

Seriously, hold tight. The ride’s gonna be rough for a bit…

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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

Wow. That was us, and our four-year-old son, two years ago. As much as I’d like to say it’s gotten better, I don’t want to lie to you. :o)

My mom, once told me that the “terrible twos” really apply to the two years, after the child turns two. If that’s true, then I should be cruising on easy street, soon.

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shellie (baylormum)

posted October 6, 2010 at 10:35 am

I always hated the “monster” that sometimes reared it’s ugly head when my daughter did that contorted U shape. I’m bigger and badder, right? I’ll show you! I’m the parent, gol dang it. Thankfully, I was patient, most of the time. To this day, she hates conflict! Don’t know that if that good or bad. A reflection of how she was reared (raised?).

And it all started with an episode of potty training…..

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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:37 am

my daughter waited until she was 3 to invoke her demon. the worst moment? she had been a beast all day. the final straw was taking a pair of scissors to her brand new school pants. i was shaking with rage and knew if i put my hands on her, CPS would take my kids. i was staring at her, totally speechless, and this is what she says:

“spankings don’t work and time outs don’t work, so what are you going to do now, mom?”

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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:37 am

ME TOO! The past two nights we have been fighting over that stupid toothbrush. It has taken two full-grown adults to get my son to brush his teeth. The sad thing is…he is not even two yet.

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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:46 am

BTDT. My kids are now 13 and 10. My 13yo never went through the Terrible Twos but is now a moody, silent teen. The 10yo was THE. WORST. TODDLER! Biting, hitting, screaming, throwing, slamming, destroying. Even the school suggested I send her to a psychologist. We did. Three times. I fought the urge to bite her just as you did. Her terrible twos lasted up through age 5, but then guess what? She turned into the most delightful kid…polite, kind, funny and empathetic. Who knows what will happen when she hits puberty, but I’m telling you this to know that it is a stage. And God used it to teach me patience and to teach her how to react when someone is pushing her buttons. I’m not perfect, but it does pay off. You’re doing a good job. Breathe and smile and hang in there until it gets easier.

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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:50 am

If you get a good open mouth scream then get that tooth brush in there for a quick brushing.

Hang in there. 3 is even harder. 4’s not much better. 5’s not so bad. Every age has it’s challenges. If it makes you feel better, my 6 yr old son now gets on his pk’s and brushes his teeth by himself with no screaming. (not true for my 4 yr old daughter). That doesn’t help you now though

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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:52 am

Pj’s I mean. Stupid iPhone auto”correct”

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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:54 am

oh, all you youngsters! Just wait until they are 17! I just kept repeating to them during those years, “My job is to make your life a living hell.” They had to laugh.

However, it is true that they reason God gives us children is to remove any doubt in our minds whatsoever that we are “good Christians.” Amazing the depths they take us to.

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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:58 am

I feel your pain, bro. My little girl is 3 years old and is a feisty firecracker on occasion.

Glad to know I’m not the only dad who’s entertained the idea of “dropping the U-shaped child”.

Have you heard of Love & Logic? Having been raised in a very disciplinarian environment as a kid I was very resistant to the seemingly “soft” approach, but we’ve had great success w/ our toddler and my wife and I feel less stressed during “episodes”.

God be with you, my fellow dad.

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    Jessica Turner

    posted October 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Yes, we have it! I was thinking I need to crack the cover. :)

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    posted October 6, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    My parents switched to parenting by, well, what is considered the normal way to parenting with Love and Logic when I was about 12 (both my parents are teachers, so they were learning how to use it in the classroom and at home). Both they and I will tell you – I was pissed at the change. Suddenly all my old weapons of screaming, yelling and throwing fits wouldn’t work! No matter what I did, they remained calm. Apparently at one point I yelled at them to stop using love and logic because “I can’t fight you anymore!”

    Looking back on it (I’m 24 now), I realize how good of a change it was. I hated it then, but now, my parents are my best friend, and I have a lot more empathy for other people because that’s what love and logic does – it forces you to consider the effects of your actions, and runs on forcing the kid to empathize rather than just simply avoid punishment.

    Definitely, definitely recommend it, as a child who grew up (at least part of the way) with it. We turn out alright!

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      Matthew Paul Turner

      posted October 6, 2010 at 8:19 pm

      Amazing comment Dianna… thank you for sharing.

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        posted October 7, 2010 at 6:06 am

        Thanks Matt. Being, I believe, one of the younger readers of your blog, I figured I could give my spin on it. Definitely crack open those love and logic books. If I ever have kids (don’t plan to, but you never know!), I will do my darnedest to use L&L on them. :)

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Chris Taylor

posted October 6, 2010 at 11:06 am

I’ve found that using the “daddy voice” tends to work quite well. Mix with the raised eyebrows, like the “you don’t really want to do that, right?” look.

A few good bellows, not screaming, but a deep throated “SIT. DOWN. NOW.” seems to work on even small children. 😀

Though, my daughter tends to think I’m fussing (she’s 11) when my voice gets a little louder than normal which may be related to the “daddy voice” from when she was young :)

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Adam Shields

posted October 6, 2010 at 11:12 am

I am going through potty training. Been at it for 3 weeks now. Yesterday there was only one accident. Today there were 5 before noon.

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Morgan Harper

posted October 6, 2010 at 11:23 am

I’m not a parent, but I think parents need to be mindful that every child is different, and this where I believe the Love and Logic come in. My sister and I, raised in the same house with the same parents, were never disciplined the same way all the time. Why? Because we were very different children that needed to be corrected in different ways at times. I think it’s important for parents to not just react based on upon how their parents disciplined them (whether it be negative or positive).

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posted October 6, 2010 at 11:25 am

wait until 3! we went through the terrible 3’s too! fun fun…

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posted October 6, 2010 at 11:25 am

Hard to argue against the doctrine of Total Depravity when they are at that age.

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posted October 6, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Thank you for this. I have 3 under 4 and often need the reminder that I’m not just the adult…I’m the parent. And that means I can’t throw fits too. 😛

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posted October 6, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Loved this. And I have one of those terrible two-er’s myself. Plus a 7 year old and 5 year old…all boys. Whew, makes for long, rewarding days!

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posted October 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm

the illusion of choice always worked w/me as a kid:

“You can brush your teeth or you can be grounded in your room with no tv for two weeks, which will it be?”


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Sugar Jones

posted October 6, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Hang tough. You can do it!!

And remember… this is merely a glimpse of the teen years. 😉

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posted October 6, 2010 at 3:08 pm

My dad calls this the first “tunnel” of the rollercoaster called “raising kids.” From birth to somewhere around two years old, they are beautiful creatures that have nothing but adoration for mom & dad. Then, from their second to fifth year (fourth, for the lucky parents)…they’re in a tunnel of unreasonableness. When they come out..they are actually fun to hang out with again. For a few years…til they enter the “my parents are morons” tunnel.

All five of my kids are in the second tunnel–pre-teen to almost 20. It’s been a bumpy..but often fun..ride.

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    posted October 6, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    my mom has a magnet on her frig that says “teenagers, leave home now while you still know everything.”

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posted October 6, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Ok…Let’s show him who’s the boss…when you dress him go right to the bathroom before breakfast…before his VIDEO comes on…that is a better routine…because the problem is you are interrupting “his show time” he just doesn’t want to…kinda like when you are asked to do something during your show….they are just mini you’s…..its more about the routine’s and it will make your lives easier…..

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posted October 6, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Hey MPT. In one of M. Scott Peck’s books he gives a great description of what’s really going on here. Peck says that your child acts out because he’s just been demoted from an omnipotent, god-like being to a normal two-year-old who suddenly has to obey. If you think about it, it really makes sense. From the time your boy was born all his needs were immediately met. If he had a need he cried and immediately he got what he wanted – or at least got someone to work until they found something that pleased him. When he was displeased he cried and got the same result. Living for a few years like that is enough to give anyone a complex. (Just look at Tom Cruise!)

The sad truth is that there is no cure for this. The good part is that you’re doing the right thing. By suffering through this with him you’re showing him a kind of love an patience that he will absorb from you subconsciously. Another thing Peck says is that kids really do notice when you’re willing to suffer for them (with them) and because of that they begin to believe that they really are valuable.

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posted October 6, 2010 at 11:28 pm

I feel you man. Both of my girls were just fine until they hit 3 (2 was a breeze with them), but even that was doable it seems (and perhaps my wife would tell you differently). We had our times, but we survived.

My boy on the other hand? Well he started his “terrible twos” at 18 months. He’s nearly 3 now, so hopefully after a year and a half he will have worked most of it out…or my wife and I will have figured something out.

I do find myself doing a lot of counting with him though.

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Charlie Chang

posted October 7, 2010 at 5:35 am

Man, your house sounds like mine. My 3 year old daughter has been doing this except it’s at night when she needs to go to bed.

Thanks for the reminder of being more than just an adult in these situations. Course I can see why God was so pissed off at the Hebrews.

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posted October 7, 2010 at 8:44 am

First – yay for the name Elias! That is my little boy’s name (he’s 18 months).
Second – I completely understand where you’re coming from. My 3 year old was (and still usually is) an angel, but she chooses some of the weirdest things to fight about.
Our big hang up is bedtime, and there have been many nights when I say “Evelynn, I need a time out, so I’m going to go get daddy, and you are going to bed.” I get too frustrated to deal rationally with her (and hearing your 3 year old say “don’t yell, mama” just makes it worse).
So remember that – Parents can take a time out too!
My worst night blogged here:

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posted October 7, 2010 at 11:27 am

I got spanked when I did stuff like that. My dad didn’t believe in “time-outs” :). It was do what’s right, get spanked, or get grounded. Also write a scripture 100 times. :)

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posted October 7, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I was there once, helping my then fiancee with her 2 sons, I remember the hardships and hassles and the word NO to everything we instructed the older one to do.

But she ended our relationship, she slammed the door on us, our little family…

I am over it,
I’m waiting on God for the time where I can do it all over again because I want to be a dad.

I can’t wait to have another family to call my own, you’re blessed to be having Elias going through the terrible two’s, they’re terrible but you’ve got him :)

Be blessed in your hardship,

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Becca M

posted October 8, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I will be bookmarking this and re-reading it as needed once we (hopefully) get custody of my sis in laws 2 children, one of whom is in her terrible twos. Oh the things I have to look forward to…

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Chris Loach

posted October 8, 2010 at 8:45 pm

matthew, you may enjoy my friends new blog…

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