Can the Terrible Twos Really be Terrific? (A Book Review)

mkaing terrible twos terrific.jpgI just finished John Rosemond’s Making the Terrible Twos Terrific! Abel’s in the throws of the terrible twos and some days it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


…but I finished the book totally disillusioned. The sad truth remains: toddlers simply MUST go through a phase of behavior that is really quite terrible, and there just isn’t anything terrific about it.

That’s not to say there weren’t good parts of the book. There was a lot I liked. But there was nothing new. I guess that’s Rosemond’s whole platform (“Nothing new under the sun”)… I suppose I just expected more.

My favorite chapter by far was the first one – The Big Picture. In that chapter Rosemond explains why the terrible twos occur. For the first 2 years of a child’s life, they are the center of attention. Their every need is catered to – as it should be. The mother is, for the most part, at the baby’s beck and call. This all changes in the 3rd year of life (or at least it should). The third year – when the toddler is two – is when the child can and should become far more independent. With an increased ability to do things themselves comes an opportunity for the parents to reestablish themselves and their marriage as the center of the family. The toddler, naturally, doesn’t like that. They have grown to believe that the world revolves around them. Coming to terms with the fact that it actually does not revolve around them produces what we affectionately call THE TERRIBLE TWOS.

The next chapter, Promoting Healthy Development, also had some great aspects, namely this advice:

  • Read to your child as much as possible
  • Don’t buy a ton of toys
  • Invest in toys that encourage creativity – like blocks, crayons, and playdoh
  • Minimize TV watching

But then there were other parts of the chapter that sounded a little off to me. For example, minimize the use of play pens to no more than a few minutes at a time, lest the children become “bored, frustrated, and even depressed” (35). This is diametrically opposed to the Babywise theory behind Independent Playtime. Babywise argues that teaching a child to play for long periods of time with a small number of toys in a contained space actually encourages creativity and promotes mental focus, attention span, and independence. Rosemond also advocates childproofing your entire house (which I disagree with and already posted about here). And perhaps most curious – even ludicrous – was the section on child spacing, where it’s suggested that 3.5 years is the ideal space between children. HA!

The part I was most interested in – the area in which I need the most help – was the chapter on discipline. I appreciated that Rosemond clarified that CONSISTENCY in discipline has more to do with persistently addressing the problem than addressing the problem the same way every time. I tend to get flustered when I cannot handle disobedience the exact same way out of the house as I would if we were home. I am comforted by his reassurance that it ultimately doesn’t matter WHAT I do so long as I do SOMETHING.

The other big “ah-ha” for me in this chapter was removing the word “don’t” from my vocabulary. Apparently the concept of “don’t” is difficult for 2 year old’s to understand – they hear “don’t” and then the command “put your shoes on the table” and it’s confusing to them. Do we want their shoes on the table or not? The better wording is “put your shoes in the basket.” Instead of “don’t run in the house”, I should be saying “walk in the house.” I have started to pay more attention to my wording since reading his advice – trying to be more direct and concise. We will see if it makes a positive difference in terms of obedience.

From there Rosemond covers three central areas of complaint from parents of 2 year olds:

POTTY TRAINING: Rosemond believes all children can and should be potty trained before age 2. I used his method in Toilet Training Without Tantrums to potty train Vera and Abel and while I agree that toddlers can definitely be trained before 2, neither time did I find it to be quite as straight forward as he made it out to be.

BEDTIME: The overarching point here is that bedtime is not a sleep issue, it’s a separation issue. You simply cannot make a child sleep, so all you’re really working toward is them successfully separating from you at night. Rosemond proposed numerous creative ideas for kids who protest bedtime, but they all seemed a little unnecessary to me. If your child is repeatedly coming out of their bedroom at bedtime, put a lock on the door. Problem solved. I do love his idea of cutting the door in half to create a make-shift dutch door.

AGGRESSION: At this age, Rosemond believes discipline should be containment based (like a time-out or removal from the situation) as opposed to consequence based. I don’t fully understand the distinction. Isn’t time-out a consequence? This chapter was unenlightening.

The last chapter of the book most certainly will get under the skin of many, many mothers. Rosemond argues that research shows that children are better off when one parent stays home with them for the first 3 years of life, as opposed to being put in any sort of day care or home care situation. I generally agree with this statement (although I have no research to back it up), but I could see a working mother reading this chapter and becoming very incensed.

Ultimately it’s like Rosemond says – if you’re reading this book, you’re probably a good parent. You’re clearly invested in your child’s life, you offer them the love and support they need, and in all likelihood your kid is going to be JUST FINE.

I gave Making the Terrible Twos Terrific! 3 stars because it just wasn’t really that helpful to me. I feel no more capable of making this year TERRIFIC than I did before I read the book. I felt that at times Rosemond departed from his typical “no nonsense” attitude and there were multiple statements or suggestions that seemed to me in contradiction of each other. Still, I enjoyed the book and it did give me time to reflect on and revamp my strategies for dealing with my two year old.

My advice: for someone who is already on board with traditional parenting, the book is unhelpful. Don’t waste your time. For someone completely lost and entirely overwhelmed by the two year old overrunning their life, this book could definitely help get you going in the right direction.


Book Review: Parent Babble

Book Review: On Becoming Toddlerwise



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