The key word for this age is “Again!” He may want to follow exactly the same routine day in and day out or wear the same clothes every day or eat the same foods. As irritating as this can be to live with, the repetition is providing your little one with a sense of stability and control. He is trying to make sense of his world. Once he figures out how something is supposed to work, he wants to do it over and over to make sure it happens that way every time. When he sees the same result, he is reassured and gains confidence. Rituals provide comfort.
Endless repetition in play is actually building strong pathways in the brain. This is why telling him not to climb on the sofa to look out the window seems to fall on deaf ears. He is just reassuring himself that he can look out and that things are as he expected them. So when he only wants to play with his blocks and only wants to stack them just so, don’t fret. When he has secured that bit of information in his brain and strengthened the muscles to do the job correctly, he’ll go on to other types of play.
Living with this kind of rigidity and constant repetition can be trying, however. When it really doesn’t matter if you do it his way or another way, indulge him. He will eventually decide to do something different himself. When it involves a behavior that is unreasonable or inappropriate, you must refuse calmly, but firmly. Refusing may cause a tantrum, but he must learn you are boss and what you say goes.
Read it again
No matter how many picture books you have in your home or how many trips you make to the library, your two-year old wants you to read the same books again and again. Even so, keep a wide variety of books available for your child. Read new titles and give him a sneak preview of new books often. Maybe tomorrow he’ll want you to read a new book.
There are lots of good reasons to re-read his books to him as many times as he wants them read. First of all, his favorite part of the day is probably when he is snuggled up with you to read a book. He is calmed by being with you, doing something he loves.
Each time you read a familiar book, more of the words make sense to him. He begins to connect the words he hears with the pictures he sees. Hearing the sentences many times helps him decode the grammar too. These are necessary pre-reading skills.
Seeing characters he’s familiar with is like visiting his old friends. He is comforted to see them again and hear the same story about them. His confidence grows when he sees what he expected to see when the page is turned. He experiences a sense of power in knowing what is on a printed page. Since he cannot read for himself, the next best thing is to memorize the story. The only way he has to memorize it is to have you read it as many times as he wants.
“No, no, no!”
Why does your son say “no” so much? Because he can! It sounds like an old joke, but it is no joke when you have to live with it. He is realizing he has a will and he can exercise it. Soon, he’ll go on to other answers as his vocabulary grows.
Here are some strategies for coping with the frequent “nos.”
- Offer limited choices. Two choices is all he needs at this point.
- Counting may help an indecisive child. “When I get to 10 you choose or I will choose for you.”
- Offer the appearance of two choices. With either choice he does what you want him to do. “Do you want to put on your shoes or your coat first?”
- Teach other possible responses. “Maybe,” “Soon,” “No, thank you.”
As with behaviors that are inappropriate or unreasonable, you may have to require him to do what he is saying “no” to. Choose your battles carefully. Focus on the big issues and ignore the small ones or the ones you can’t win. Win the battles you choose. You can say something like, “I know you don’t like it, but this is the way is has to be.” If he doesn’t learn as a very young child that there are some things that he has no choice about, it is a very difficult or impossible lesson to teach in late childhood or early teen years.
Speech and Pacifiers
At about this time, your child is probably beginning to experiment with volume. He knows he can speak in three basic volumes; loud, normal, and whisper. But he may not yet be able to control when he shouts or whispers. Practice the different volumes with him and label them so he can begin to control his speech when you need to have him tone down.
If your child is still using a pacifier, this is the time to get rid of it. Sucking on a pacifier locks your child’s mouth in an unnatural position. His facial muscles cannot develop and strengthen normally. Also, if he has a pacifier in his mouth, he is not practicing his speech as much as he should. You may have a few days of crying and tantrums over the loss of the pacifier, but he will adjust soon enough and forget that he ever wanted it.
By now, your son has probably identified himself as a boy. He probably prefers playing or spending time with his dad, big brother, granddad, and uncles. He still comes to mom for his day to day needs, when he’s hurt, or when he is tired. He doesn’t love mom less, he is just making the necessary identification with his sex.
He will grow in height and weight at a slow, but steady rate the same as girls his age. His large muscle skills; running, jumping, and balancing, will tend to develop slightly faster than girls his age. Boys also tend to be more physically aggressive and impulsive than girls. Boys tend to be later talkers and have more difficulty expressing emotions with words. These are generalities, remember each child is an individual and develops at his or her own pace.
Whether you have a boy or girl, your child will begin to identify with other children of the same sex. You will begin to see them play in ways that are more characteristic of their sex.
Readiness Signs for Toilet Training
- Can walk and run steadily.
- Urinates a fair amount at one time.
- Has regular, well-formed bowel movements at relatively predictable times.
- Has “dry” periods of at least three or four hours, which shows that his bladder muscles are developed enough to hold urine.
- Can sit down quietly in one position for two to five minutes.
- Can pull his pants up and down.
- Dislikes the feeling of wearing a wet or dirty diaper.
- Shows interest in others’ bathroom habits (wants to watch you go to the bathroom or wear underwear).
- Gives a physical or verbal sign when he’s having a bowel movement such as grunting, squatting, or telling you.
- Demonstrates a desire for independence.
- Takes pride in his accomplishments.
- Isn’t resistant to learning to use the toilet.
- Is in a generally cooperative stage, not a negative or contrary one.
- Can follow simple instructions, such as “go get the toy.”
- Understands the value of putting things where they belong.
- Has words for urine and stool.
- Understands the physical signals that mean he has to go and can tell you before it happens or even hold it until he has time to get to the potty.
Toilet Training for Boys
Boys tend to toilet train later than girls. Whether Dad is involved in toilet training or not, boys seem to need more time than girls to understand what is going on.
Be careful when buying or using a potty seat for a boy. Many come with a shield to help keep urine in the potty. It is best to get one where the shield is removable or is soft with smooth edges. Hard plastic or rough edges can scratch or hurt your son’s penis. If he gets hurt sitting on the potty seat, he will associate potty training with pain.
Training boys is a two-part process. Since poop and pee usually come out at the same time, it is better to teach your son to sit for both to begin with. He learns that both belong in the potty. After he is well-trained, his dad or other male relative can model and help him learn the standing position for urinating. Flushable, floating objects can be used for target practice. It may take a while for him to master this additional skill.
Sharing is a social skill that is learned. It does not come naturally. Most twoyear olds are fiercely possessive of their toys. There are ways you can help your child be more generous and less aggressively possessive.
- Model sharing. You can say, “This is my cookie, but I will share it with you.”
- Point out other children who are sharing.
- Remove the object of the fight and direct the children to some other activity.
- When your child grabs a toy from another child, teach him to “trade” something else for the other to play with.
- Hide your child’s favorite toys when other kids come to play.
- Encourage activities children can play together. (Blocks, clay, coloring, or rolling, kicking or throwing a soft ball.)
- Praise your child whenever he shares.
You may be starting to think about a preschool for your son to attend. There are many considerations in choosing the best fit for your child. The most important goal in preschool is for your child to gain a love of learning. Whether you choose a school that strives for “school readiness” or one that is more “learning through play,” you want your child to enjoy going and learning. There really should be a good balance of structured learning including assignments and plenty of hands-on learning with developmentally appropriate play.
School readiness comes through having books, words, letters, and writing materials available throughout the day. Math and science are taught with objects, blocks, dominos, puzzles, and patterns. Music and art should be part of the teaching too. Play teaches the abilities to cooperate, negotiate, compromise, deal with disappointments, express needs verbally, and stir curiosity.
Ask friends to find the most reputable preschools. Consider the location, close to home or work. Visit the schools on your short list. Ask about schedules, fees, philosophy of childrearing, discipline, nutrition, and teacher/student ratio. Observe the class. Are the children happy, is the teacher friendly, encouraging, consistent? Ask for references and make calls to confirm what you observed.
For more detailed information on choosing a preschool, see: Great Schools