The Terrible Twos From This Grandma’s perspective and SEVEN TIPS THAT WORK for the Sanity of Grandma and the Safety of Our Precious “TWOISH” Grandchildren

I ne drowned the last visit with our youngest grandchild, nearly overwhelmed as our precious youngest grandson, 21 months old, began to exhibit “the terrible twos.” I just learned it is supposed to be called the wonderful twos, as our toddlers are learning to be people.  No, our grandson is fully immersed in the terrible twos. I was able to rescue him from himself most of the time and, surprisingly, myself most of the time.

He is the sixth grandchild, fifth boy. And I find that it does make a difference, no matter what anyone tells me otherwise, that he is a boy. I find that boys are more active. Combine that with intelligence which all of our grandchildren have, and we watched our grandson use the stack of six drawer door handles as a ladder to get to the kitchen counter where sits the hot toaster oven. You go from pride as to the ingenuity to horror in a blink. You can apply the word “horror” to much of what occurred in our three day visit, but, as Grandma, the upside of the pure joy of just being with him, makes you forget it. Just like childbirth.

What did not work when I removed him from the top of the kitchen counter, and in his frustration and anger he threw a tantrum, was to hold on to him and say, “use your words!”  I completely forgot that he was incapable of doing so.  In that realization of the ridiculousness of my telling him that, I starting laughing so hard, I threw myself on the floor next to him and shook my hands and feet.  He was so confused his tantrum stopped.  Confusion works.  Here is what else works.


Another form of the use of confusion to a tantrum is to respond calmly and with the biggest smile on your face with how cute the grandchild is with his or her face scrunched up and how loud a voice he or she has.  Ask him or her to shout louder and louder.  Ask him or her to stomp his or her feet.  Do so yourself as an example.  We grandparents can give tantrum directions that are great.  What that does is totally confuse the grandchild.  In reality, even when our baby or toddler or terrible two grandchild throws a tantrum, they are so cute.  We know it is short lived and part of a stage. It is not their parents’ reaction at all.  But, then the parents take the toddler and two year old grandchild to stores.  That is a mistake we grandparents do not make.  Toddlers and two year olds and restaurants and stores do not mix, or at least, we know better than to mix them.  We grandparents have the luxury to avoid the trigger locations, which parents do not.  I hope the parents learn quickly that if one needs to take a toddler or grandchild to a store, they must be after a nap and spoiled with a toy or cookie, or many cookies.  Then, when they are sugared up, we return them to their parents, of course.  Avoidance of tantrums is a skill that it takes getting past parenting and into grand parenting to master.  After all, we never say no unless safety is involved.


This past visit, every time I took my eyes off this grandchild, it seemed he was in what I considered danger. I think it is because my youngest child, his mother, when she was two, tripped at the pool and ended up with lots (it seemed like lots) of stitches in her chin. There was blood everywhere and I do not do blood or vomit well. As a grandmother, the PTSD of that experience makes me hyper vigilant with toddler and terrible twos grandchildren.  I am less so with the sixth, but still there. You cannot take your primary attention elsewhere with this stage of childhood, whether there are other people in the general vicinity, even his parents.

It means Grandma drinking enough coffee to be on alert, and being rested for the running after the toddler or two year old.  Yes, I try to nap when he naps. Many potential injuries and dangers are averted when Grandma hovers. I hate to think I would hear the crying of a toddler or two year old grandchild who hurt himself or got very scared.  I would rather hover.  He actually thinks it is funny that Grandma follows him around so much.


What is still wonderful about a two year old is that Grandma can still distract him from danger, as we can do with babies and toddlers.  As our grandson was about to climb up a window ledge over an antique rolled top trunk (yes rolled top and uneven), I grabbed him and said, “Look at that bird outside the window.”  He forgot about the precipitous climb as we tweeted with the bird.  Yes, he is a climber, like his aunt was at his age, so I have experience with climbers. Climbers are very difficult to keep safe.

Distraction is the best tool in the grandparent tool box.  It only requires one to be creative.  What works in a pinch is to scoop the baby, toddler or two year old up and get to the light switch.  Lights on and lights off can work for longer than Grandma wants.  Telling Alexa to play Baby Shark is a great distraction.  Starting to sing and dance to anything else too is another distraction.  Turning on the television to Sesame Street is another. Think anything that the grandchild likes to do and get to it quickly enough to distract from the activity you do not want.


Let’s read a book is another distraction that works.  Toddlers and twos love reading the same books over and over again.  This is where grandparents have the distinct advantage over parents.  Parents do not have the patience to read the same book fifteen times or play with the same toy over and over again.  We grandparents do.  I find I can last longer than the grandchild in how many times I will read the same book in a row.  You may call it repetition or accommodation to cause and effect that the toddler or two year old is learning, or allowing him or her to control the narrative.  What it does is prevent a tantrum and exhausts them before they exhaust you.


Speaking of the toddler or two year old loving to experience cause and effect, when the grandchild is heading for trouble, yell, “Grandma is hiding, come find me.”  You do not need to go far, and you do not have to be secretive, just get behind the nearest door.  Remember, they are just learning that you will still be there, so do not disappear completely.  Keep repeating the saying until they find you, and then say “boo.”  You will love the giggles.  Again, do not expect to do this just once, but do not hide very far or make it difficult for this young grandchild to find you.  As a matter of fact, you can use the same hiding places again and again and keep talking with hints to find you.  Expect when you suggest to the grandchild to hide, that he or she will hide in the exact hiding place in which you hide.  Act surprised, of course.  Yes, this is another form of distraction and great fun, even after the requisite fifteen times of “more.”  Our grandchildren are just so cute.


Grab the nearest electronics.  If the parents of your grandchild Face Time with you often, tell the grandchild you are turning on Face Time to call the parent, another grandparent, or a sibling.  Notice that the grandchild can see himself or herself on the Face Time screen.  You might not even really have to make a call.  The grandchild will start making faces at the screen and playing.  He or she will start pressing buttons.  You have successfully distracted him or her once more.  However, the downside is trying to get your phone or I Pad back.


This is another thing that grandparents do beautifully that parents do not.  When we are parents, we think we must be examples of proper behavior.  When we become grandparents, we are free to be silly and feel being silly is the perfect example of proper toddler and two year old behavior.  Silly comes easy, and when the grandchild becomes hard, just get very silly. Role model this behavior to avert toddler and two year old disasters.  I start going into yoga positions such as dog and cat, and soon thereafter the toddler is on the floor with me, under me, on top of me.  Better than on top of the stove.

I don’t envy the parents with the wonderful twos. I hope they do not get the emergency and then PTSD.

Each child and grandchild is unique and fortunately the terrible twos go away, and grandma serenity, and especially all joy and no responsibility, the beauty of grand parenting return.

Oops, until you get to the “threenager.” Since this term was coined around 2015, we grandparents do not have to feel that we have forgotten something from childrearing.  Take a look at what is to come after learning more about the terrible twos in the great article which discusses threenagers titled “We call them ‘terrible twos’ (and worse), but toddlers are just learning how to be people,” by Caitlin Gibson, The Washington Post, December 10, 2019.






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