La Tela di Carlotta
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Terrible twos

Nov 22, 2020

I reply every day to parents asking for "help" with their 2-year-old children and although I talk a lot about it in my online courses (only in Italian at the moment), I decided to write something here too, because I hope I can create more empathy and understanding towards these highly misunderstood little humans.

Two years is a very intense transitional age. Children are in the middle of the self-affirmation phase in which they are realising that they are people of their own, that they're separated from mom and dad, and they can make their own decisions: in fact, this phase usually begins when the child says the first NO and "ends" when they recognize themselves as individuals – they start talking about themselves as "I" or they recognize themselves in the mirror. To be more empathetic, I often like to imagine that a two-year-old's level of mental confusion is "similar" to that of a boy entering puberty, but with much less ability to rationalize and understand what is happening. It's an explosive mix.

It's not surprising that they're called terrible twos, because there's lots of crises and they're often unpredictable and inconsolable. We often call these crises "tantrums", but in reality screaming, crying and using hands are the only tools the child has to show what they feel.

How can we help them?

Here's some ideas:

  1. Understand and empathize them, even more than before.
  2. Don't lose it, your calm is their calm. It's hard, especially if you, like me, have little patience, but if I were able to change, so can you.
  3. Maintain physical and mental order. In this phase, children have a very strong sense of order (I'd go as far as to say order is the quintessence of their being) and they have a crisis when their order is altered, even if minimally (they expect pasta with cheese and it comes with tomato, dad puts their shoes on even though mom usually does it, one day you decided to put on pajamas before brushing teeth). This doesn't mean that now we should maintain a strict routine and never change anything in our days (I like flexible routines and getting out of our comfort zone), but simply be more attentive to what we change and more understanding when a change causes a crisis: for us it might be just a book on the wrong shelf, but for our children it is an inner hurricane.
  4. Offer even more understanding and empathy during changes: the arrival of a baby brother/sister, moving houses, the beginning of kindergarten, saying bye bye to diapers, change of season that keeps you home instead of going to the park, a virus that threatens the world. These are all important and sometimes painful changes, and they can be difficult for a young child to understand: we don't have to take the pain away, we should just be more present and offer more quality time.
  5. Take better care of ourselves: this age is extremely complicated and it is easy for us parents to feel frustrated, guilty, angry, overwhelmed, thus making the situation worse. It's normal. We must do everything we can to take care of ourselves (exercising, even a few minutes a day, always helps) and dedicating quality time to ourselves (even just one hour a week and/or 10-15 minutes a day).

This is a wonderful age, I think it's the most beautiful in the life of a young child. If we could understand our children and go beyond their crises (however frequent they are), we could truly experience also the magic of the "terrible" twos.

Ideas:

  • Download the "7 minutes" app: 7 minutes of exercise a day is something that everyone, everyone, can do.
  • 1 hour a week for a hobby. A book, a dance lesson, a bike ride, gym, embroidery, a dinner with friends… it's important that each parent finds a way to give this time to the other, without resentment and without guilt.
  • 15 minutes a day: if you spend the afternoon at home with your children, when the other parent arrives, take 10-15 minutes for yourself. Parenting is made of two people and should be 50-50, but you only you parents can make the change.

Tell me what you think

Did you like it? Do you agree or disagree? I'd love to hear from you.

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The blog

I write mainly about Montessori, parenthood, and multilingualism. Here are some recent posts.

Montessori
One day a few years ago my husband came home and said, "Why don't we put a mattress on the floor in the baby room? It'd be much more natural". "Never" was my reply. That's how our Montessori journey started. Since then we've been living, breathing and applying the philosophy at home day in and day out, starting from ourselves. Because educating children starts from the parents.
An example of how I practice empathy with my kids
How I show empathy to my children
Happy 4th birthday, Emily
Montessori New Year's tradition
Montessori Peace table
Audiobooks of real-life stories for kids
10k on Instagram!
Terrible twos
The organs of the body: workshop for kids
Kids understand if you give them honesty
Living sustainably
Living sustainably for me doesn’t only mean to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It means to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet, the people on it, but also for our life, our lifestyle, and our happiness. It means to take any daily chance to evolve and be happier, healthier, kinder, more responsible and more caring human beings—the only sustainable way for a meaningful future.
Face yoga is an act of self love
Why you should wear the same outfit twice on Instagram
The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)
Responsible eating is the diet of the future (Would you like to teach it to your kids?)
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Infographic: 8 steps to switch to cloth nappies (a guide for reluctant parents)
A personal note on happiness
A personal note on social media
A change of life always widens your horizons
New to La Tela?
I’ve prepared collections on various topics that I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you’ll find one that interests you.

Travel

We sold everything to travel the world for two years. We're currently in New Zealand.

Books

In 2020 I wrote 4 books for the Italian collection “Gioca and Impara con il metodo Montessori” curated by Grazia Honegger Fresco. The collection is a project by Il Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

We also implemented the workshops of the last 15 volumes of the collection with Oliver and Emily.

Podcast

On my podcast, “Educare con calma”, I talk about various topics, from Montessori to sustainability. Only in Italian!

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Why La Tela di Carlotta?
I dreamed of the name La Tela di Carlotta. One morning I woke up and in my dreams I had created a blog named just like the American novel (Charlotte's Web). Many years and endless ups and downs later, this web of thoughts and stories is my work. It took me a long time to understand what kind of online presence I wanted and today I know: I'm transparent, I show real life, I don't advertise, I only recommend sustainable brands (and not only because they pay me) and I believe in the value of my blog and my courses—because if we don't believe in the value of our work, no one will believe in it for us.
Carlotta
Carlotta dreaming of La Tela
I know! I don't want it to be over yet either.