I woke up this morning to my 2.5 year old daughter running up to within a few centimetres of my asleep face, stark naked, brightly shouting 'It morning Mummy!' within about five seconds of her Gro clock turning to a 'sun'. I'm really not a morning person but I must admit as starts to the day go this was pretty positive. After all it seemed like:
a) she'd actually waited till her clock told her it was morning (hurray!),
b) she was (so far) in a good mood, and
c) it didn't look like I was going to have trouble today getting her undressed (the jury was so far still out on getting dressed but it was a promising start).
However, you can never be too smug - the day was still young.
The thing with a two year old is you just don't know which child you're going to get from one minute to the next. By the time I've finally dropped her and her brother at the childminder and started my journey to work (as ever running late) I'm typically thoroughly exhausted.
On most days there is something - after the good start this morning breakfast descended into a stand off when I failed to chop up her weetabix to her satisfaction and the day before there was simply not a spoon she was willing to eat with in the house apart from one of those 5ml medicine spoons! Her sudden conviction that she must dress herself (and choose her own clothes) is an exercise in patience too (I'm sure it'll be great once she's learnt but right now...)
I know they are testing the boundaries and asserting their independence at this age but my request to all the two year olds out there would be to please avoid breakfast and the morning rush - no? Oh well!
Being lucky enough to work with child psychologists and parenting experts is a real bonus in these circumstances - not only do they not mind if you turn up with toothpaste smearing down you front they actually provide useful tips. I asked Dr. Amanda Gummer (our CEO and fellow Director at Fundamentally Children) for her words of wisdom on surviving the terrible twos and these are the words that particularly stuck with me:
"Toddlers are just learning language and they attend to nouns the most so when giving toddlers instructions think about how you phrase things. Saying 'Don't put your fingers in the plug' will result in them focussing on 'fingers' and 'plug' and they'll start exploring, doing exactly what you're asking them not to. If you say instead, 'Put your hands on your knees' children will focus on hands and knees and forget about the plug! Focus on simple positive instructions, with lots of smiles and acknowledgement when they do what you ask and everyone will find it much less frustrating."
Dr. Amanda Gummer, Parenting expert and founder of Fundamentally Children
I can't say I've perfected this yet but here are the top tips I shall be trying to live by in my morning routine from now on:
Pick your battles: if they want to eat with a medicine spoon or wear a pink dress over the top of an orange top and purple leggings let them go for it, save putting your foot down to when you really need to!
Set clear boundaries: there's little chance they'll stick within the lines if they don't know where they are! Remember Amanda's tip above: make sure your choice of language helps them focus on the right things.
Stick to the boundaries: when they cross the line do put your foot down and stick with it, painful as that is, otherwise next time they really won't believe you mean it!
Distraction is your friend: seeing a stand off coming your way? Change the subject, do something to make them laugh.
Make it funny: if there is a regular sticking point in your morning routine try turning it into a game - Mummy putting the trousers on her arm gets a laugh every time!
Keep calm: easier said than done but remaining emotionally unaffected by their tantrum will work better than shouting back.
Good luck with tomorrow morning everyone!
See Fundamentally Children's advice on Developmental milestones for 2 year olds