I thought I’d survived the Terrible Twos.
It actually hadn’t been that much of a rough patch with my son and I foolishly thought that he was just immune to any really negative behaviors. That is, until he turned 7.
After my son turned 7, this formerly sweet, considerate, easygoing and helpful child morphed into a back-talking, smarty-pants kid with moods that changed by the second with enough sass to last for days. He was constantly pushing the limits, almost as if trying to get into trouble. My frustration as a mother was combined with feelings of inadequacies. Was I doing something terribly wrong? Was it my fault my son had turned to the dark side?
As I was lamenting my woes to an experienced teacher friend, she nodded with an understanding smile that only experience can bring and said, “Oh, he’s going through the Terrible Twos … again!” She explained to me that, as a second-grade teacher, she was all too familiar with her students being uncharacteristically difficult, and would frequently hear from frustrated, fed-up parents about their children’s sudden change in behavior. Apparently, the Terrible Twos hits for the second time around second grade.
Her insight was eye-opening and made a lot of sense. It also gave me hope that maybe my son would come through this phase as a decent human being and maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t the worst mom in the world.
Here are some of the factors that could be contributing to the second round of the Terrible Twos.
They’re learning the line.
By second grade, students are encountering adult banter on the radio, on TV and in real life. It’s not all over their heads anymore. They hear sarcasm and see a humorous response but don’t completely understand how to use it themselves (nor may it be appropriate coming from a 7-year-old). This does not stop them from trying, however. They repeat a phrase that got a laugh on a sitcom and are accused of being “sassy” or “disrespectful.”
They have more responsibility—and they don’t like it.
They’re reacting to more responsibility.
Something happens between the ages of, say, 5 and 7, when kids become exponentially more capable. They’re used to getting off the hook with merely putting their blocks back in the bin and now they're required to do things like empty the dishwasher, make their beds and clean their entire rooms. They have more responsibility—and they don’t like it.
They have more pressure from school.
Up until now, school has been a mostly fun experience that involved a lot of playing, coloring and socializing. Second grade is when the hammer comes down and students are expected to know how to “do school.” If they don’t, they might be getting reprimanded in the classroom—which never feels good. The academic expectations are also increasing which can cause kids stress. They know who's struggling in reading or doesn’t know their math facts. This social pressure can cause a defensive sort of self-preservation which can come out in the form of negative behaviors.
They want more of you.
By early elementary, kids are expected to be more independent at home. For instance, they can read on their own, so it’s likely that the family read-aloud time has diminished, if not ended completely. They may spend a lot of time on a tablet or electronic device. While these kiddos are able to do things on their own, it's still vital that they have quality time with you. They may not ask for it, but they crave it and could be acting out negatively just to get a bit of your attention.
All that to say, we’re still knee deep in this second round of Terrible Twos over here, but it helps to see this change in behavior as a mere phase that's common—a phase from which I pray we will emerge stronger, better and closer.