Why the half-years are so hard, 2 1/2 year-old version

I got an anguished plea for some kind of help, or maybe just a free pass, from a friend the other day. She's been working a lot lately (on a project that will end but can't be put off now), and her son has been very verbal about not wanting her to be gone. But when she's there he pays no attention to her. And when he does he tells her she's doing it wrong (whatever the job of the moment is) and no matter what she does she can't seem to win with him. It's hurting her heart and making her feel like a failure.

"Well, he IS 2 1/2, right?" I asked, in an attempt to point out that it had nothing to do with her.

"Wait, that's an actual thing? It's not just me???" she replied.

She'd been thinking she was a horrible parent because of the way he was responding to her.

No, no, no, no, no.

The half years (for most kids--yours may be on a different cycle) are times of disequilibrium. (We learned this from the fantastic series of books by Louise Bates Ames and Frances Ilg of the Gesell Institute of Child Development. They're a little dated on parental roles, but the info about what kids do at any given age is rock solid and so redemptive.) Full years tend to be times of equilibrium. So that's why often 2-year-olds are happy, chirpy little talkers who can run and jump and twirl, but then by the time they get to 2 1/2 they're defiant, snarling, tantruming, unhappy kids who trip and stutter. It's all the forward-then-back of the spiral of development.

And it will pass. Even if you feel like you can't take anymore of this jerky person who took over your little sweetheart's body (seemingly overnight), this developmental phase will pass and your child will go into equilibrium again.

My suggestions to deal are:

1. Keep reminding yourself that it's not you, it's your kid. And that it's appropriate and normal for your kid, but still hurtful for you.

2. If you like to read about things, read the Ames and Ilg book on two-year-olds as a description of what's happening, and then get Sharon Silver's excellent book with strategies about how to parent 2- and 3-year-olds.

3. Breathe in. Breathe out.


Who's got a story about a 2 1/2-year-old who made you feel horrible then but is delightful now?