Toddlers in general, and two years old specifically, have a bad reputation for being “terrible” – as in “The Terrible Twos”. When people use that expression to describe young children it doesn’t leave much room for experiencing ALL that a two year old is; it focuses only on the perceived negative aspects while leaving out mention of all the wonderfulness the twos can bring.

Adjust Your Lens and Change Your Perspective

To change your focus from “the terrible twos” to “the terrific twos”, adjust the lens with which you view your child: start focusing on all the positive qualities of your two year old instead of only on the difficult moments. Our two year old is lovely most of the day, but there are definitely moments that are very challenging.

I have a choice: I can either focus on the 3% of the day that’s hard, and then declare the twos ‘terrible’ – or I can focus on the 97% of the day that’s lovely, and declare the twos ‘terrific’. It’s up to me.

How to do this:

  1. NOTICE THE GOOD. When in the middle of the wonderfulness of the twos, notice it. Enjoy it. Say it. Feel it. Experience it. Learn from them. Make a list of all the great things your two year old says and does.
  2. REFRAME THE NOT-SO-GOOD. When faced with the normal challenging moments that accompany two year olds, repeat this mantra to help change your perspective on the situation:

My child is not giving me a hard time, my child is having a hard time.

That can help re-frame the situation from one of being attacked (they are doing this to me) to one of compassion (how can I help them).

[My next article will talk in more detail about how to help a child with their big feelings, sometimes know as “tantrums”.]

Eight Great Things About Two Year Olds

Two year olds can be a source of amusement, amazement, fun, awe, and inspiration. I love the twos! Their personalities are blossoming and I laugh daily as I watch our two year old grow, learn, talk, and share her thoughts on the world. To help you start adjusting your lens and changing your perspective on how you think about the twos, here are eight great things about two year olds:

1. Two Year Olds Can Show Empathy

Empathy is the ability to see and feel something from another’s point of view. If you’ve been emotion coaching your child from a young age, there is a good chance your two year old can already show empathy.

One example from my life: One day our family was eating dinner together. Our six year old son was upset about us restricting his computer time so he left the table and stood with his head down on the countertop, crying and pouting. Our 26 month old daughter immediately said, “Griffin sad. Griffin crying.” It was obvious she was concerned and she was definitely picking up on his feelings. Then she got down from her chair, went over to him, hugged him, and rubbed his back (and announced to us ‘I’m petting him’). Then she gave him a BIG hug and said, “I love you Griffin”. Fantastic display of genuine caring and concern.

Positive Focus Challenge: Notice the moments when your two year old is considering others’ feelings. Does she look concerned when you are sad? Does she offer hugs, toys, or another means of comfort to another child? You can start teaching empathy by modeling empathy towards your child and others. Humans are meant to care about others.

2. Two Year Olds Are Smart

The twos are a period of rapid physical and brain development. Without comparing them to adults or older children, two year olds are smart. Have you ever stopped to notice what they remember? Or how fast they learn something new? Or their thirst for knowledge of how the world works?

My daughter received a simple orange drinking cup with a lid and a straw from a preschool friend in October. Just a few weeks ago (early January) she brought me the cup and said “It’s my cup – from Maxwell”. I was shocked that she remembered which friend gave it to her – several months ago!

My daughter also knows many songs that she loves to sing (from nursery rhymes to Foo Fighters’ songs, which she can call out once she hears the first few notes from the song), she knows the alphabet, and some letters in her name, and can “read” several books (memorized them and can flip the pages).

Here is a short video of our son “reading” Panda Bear Panda Bear, What Do You See? at the age of 26 months.

(If you can’t see the video, click here.)

Positive Focus Challenge: Take the time to be with your two year old and notice what they know and remember. Maybe jot down different things you find them remembering. Notice their thirst for knowledge about their world. How has your two year old amazed you?

3. Two Year Olds Have a Great Sense of Humor

Being silly

Being silly

Toddlers (and even babies) have a great sense of humor, even if they don’t have the ability to express it verbally. They can be silly and know how to make their own kind of jokes.

As I was jotting down notes for this very article, my two year old noticed me and asked, “What you doing?”. “I’m making a list of all the great things about two year olds,” was my response to her. Without missing a beat she turned around, pulled down her pants and diaper just a little, and mooned me.


My two year old daughter actually mooned me!  I can’t make this stuff up. The timing – pure comedic genius!

As I mentioned before, she loves to sing nursery rhyme songs and knows all the words. But when she feels like being funny, she starts singing the songs like this:

Twinkle twinkle little butts,

How I wonder where you butts.

Up above the world so butts,

Like a diamond in the butts.

Well, you get the picture. That’s her humor. (You may also have deduced that she has an older brother, so she has a head start on the potty humor.)

When my son was two, he would grab a Matchbox car, hide it behind his back, and say “Where’d black truck go?” and just giggle and laugh as we tried to “guess”. When he was ready he would show us the car in his hand and GIGGLE  – and then grab another car and repeat. He loved being the joker!

Positive Focus Challenge: Notice all the times your child is making jokes. If their verbal skills aren’t as advanced, they can still make jokes in their own way. Watch and notice them. Appreciate their humor – and join in when you can. It’s fun to be silly with them!

4. Two Year Olds Love to Help

Helping Make Muffins

Helping Make Muffins

With their increasing need for independence comes an increasing desire to help with the tasks they see you doing. Our daughter wants to pick out her diaper, grab the wipes, and wipe herself during a diaper change. She also likes to Swiffer the kitchen floor, help carry in groceries, start laundry, put towels away, etc. It is always a pleasure to see her genuine wish to help out.

Of course her desire to help around the house ironically doesn’t seem to apply to her picking up her own toys and messes at the end of the day.

New Focus Challenge: Notice the ways your child wants to help with your tasks, and gather the patience to let them help when they can.

5. Two Year Olds are Affectionate

With their growing vocabulary comes more ways to express how they feel, including love and affection. What they have always felt before, and may have shown with hugs, they can now start to verbalize.

When playing with my daughter one day she just came up to me, gave me a big hug, and said, “I love you so much”. There have been other times when she gives random hugs and kisses, like today when she said “Let’s hug!”. It’s so great to hear these words!

Positive Focus Challenge: Notice when your child is giving you love and attention, in whatever form that takes. Close your eyes, soak up the good feelings, and give the love right back.

6. Two Year Olds Can Be Polite

With their thirst for knowledge of their world around them, this is a great time to start teaching manners. And by teaching I mean modeling manners. In the name of showing gratitude, we are constantly thanking everyone for what they do, day after day after day. And guess what, it works!

We always say “Thank you Daddy for making breakfast” and “Thank you Mama for making lunch” and “Thank you Daddy for washing the dishes”, etc. They understand how gratitude and manners work because it’s how we live. It has already become ingrained in our two year old. When I pour her milk, she automatically says “thank you”. When I thank her for doing something, she automatically says “You’re welcome”. She also knows the right time to say “I’m sorry”, “Excuse me”, “Bless you”, and “Please”.

Positive Focus Challenge: Notice when your child is using great manners and comment on it, “Those are great manners”. Or start making gratitude and manners part of every day – all day long – the same things every day. They will get it!

7.  Two Year Olds Can Be Courageous

If you think fear, frustration, uncertainty, determination, pride, courage, and sense of accomplishment are feelings and characteristics of adults only – think again. I recently observed my two year old go through all these feelings and stages during one trip to preschool open gym at our local gymnastics center – and it blew me away.

She wanted to climb up and slide down a big inflatable slide, but once she got halfway up the stairs she got scared and wanted me to go with her. I went up and slid down with her one time. She wanted me to do it again with her but I told her that she could do it by herself now that she had experienced it with me. (I knew she was capable of it.) She fussed and tried her best to get me to go with her but I refused. She then said she was done and wanted to go home.

Courage in Action, 2 years old

Courage in Action, 2 years old

We had gotten our shoes and jackets on and were almost out the door when she said she wanted to do the slide again. So we took our shoes and jackets back off and went back to the slide. She climbed right up it and slid right down – all by herself! (I did stand at the bottom to catch her.) She was thrilled! She did this maybe 3-4 more times and then announced that now she was ready to go home.

She wasn’t satisfied until she had completed what she wanted to do; such an incredible display of self determination and courage!

Positive Focus Challenge: Notice the ways your child keeps trying a task until they complete it. Notice the stages they go through, support their effort, and be inspired by their courage and determination.

8. Two Year Olds Can Share 

Sharing is a voluntary action and as such, two year olds can and do share things. Sometimes (often?) it’s things we may not want, but our two year old shares things just the same. (We don’t force our kids to share, which by definition is impossible since sharing is voluntary. But that’s another article for another day.)

I often notice our two year old sharing things, whether it’s food from her plate, or a handful of popcorn, or a cracker from her bowl, or even a toy. Yes, it’s when she feels like doing so – but then again, that’s the definition of sharing. (We aren’t talking about the forced redistribution of property from one person to another.)

Positive Focus Challenge: Notice when your child shares something (anything) with another person.

Positive Parenting Principle

When you change your lens to focus on the positive qualities of your children, your new perspective will create positive ripples that affect many areas of your life including your relationship with your child.

More Reading

For a great book that mentions changing your focus with your child to one of seeing their needs that are driving their behavior, please read Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict into Cooperation, by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson. It’s one of my absolute favorite parenting books for a kind, peaceful approach to parenting.


For a great parenting book that focuses on helping the parents change how they react to situations, please read Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, by Dr. Laura Markham. The book focuses on regulating yourself, fostering connection, and coaching not controlling as a means to have a happy household and a wonderful relationship and with your children.


Articles on Terrific Twos:

Articles on Helping with Tantrums:

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