Chapter Eleven

Transitional Twos: The Age of Willpower

It is important to understand that human beings of this age are developing willpower, which, if properly
developed, will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

                    Willpower has many important functions:

  • It is the power behind wanting, wishing and desiring
  • It is the power of determination, of commitment
  • It is the power that motivates you to action
  • It is the power to persevere, to carry through

Two year olds are constantly practicing, doing their best to create well-developed willpower which is then
put at the service of their intelligence. Their intelligence, if not thwarted by adults, is at the service of their
inner guidance. Then the will is used to want what best serves the developing human being, and to
persevere on the chosen path.

A two year old can be very easy to live with when treated with respect. They need to make as
many of their own decisions as they can. Whenever possible, follow their lead. If you want them to make a
different choice, encourage them by pointing out what they might find interesting and challenging about
your choice. If you don’t want a major struggle, offer the alternative before they have become determined
to pursue their choice.

Only a two year old who is frequently thwarted and prevented from making their own decisions might
consistently, obstinately hold on to a choice no matter what other options are offered. If a two year old is
very insistent that they must do something, then it is good, if at all possible, that they fulfill their needs.

               What are the noble qualities of two year olds?

  • They are eager for life, for experiences
  • They forgive easily
  • They love easily
  • They are honest
  • They are determined to follow their inner guidance
  • They can experience joy
  • They can experience wonder
  • By their actions they can help guide you on the path of the heart

                     Respectfully Living With A Two Year Old

Interest is the key.
Encourage your child to do the tasks that attract them as soon as they show
interest. Their work may not be up to your expectations of perfection, but they can improve with practice.
You can offer them jobs that are simple and specific, with clear, physical evidence of proper completion.
For example:

  • All their clean clothes put in their drawer
  • All their toys picked up off the floor and put in their places on the shelf
  • The hammer put back in the toolbox
  • A small bag of groceries carried from the car to the kitchen

This enables them to judge for themselves whether they have completed the task satisfactorily.

Although an adult does activities for an outer purpose, a two year old child does them for an inner
purpose, to coordinate their intelligence, their will and their movements in accordance with their inner
motivation. This integrates them as human beings.

An adult wipes a table because the adult decides that the table needs wiping. The child wipes the table
because they need to wipe the table. They may wipe it for half an hour until they are inwardly satisfied
and they no longer need to wipe it.

Do your best not to interrupt your child’s activity cycles. If you must, you can prepare them by telling them
your needs, and, if possible, giving them enough time to complete their cycle of activity. Only they can
decide when they are done, but they happily accommodate your needs if you are in the habit of
accommodating theirs.

When you notice that your child is making a mistake that is not a harmful one, if possible, don’t correct
them right then. Wait until they are finished doing that activity and offer to show them how to do it in a
“different way”. It is also important to use this process when they pronounce a word incorrectly. Tell them
the proper word later, without referring to their past mistake. For example, “I’d like to show you a way to
fold those so that they all fit in the box” or “This is a pineapple. Would you like to eat some pineapple?”

Often two year olds use quality names incorrectly, such as colors and numbers. They are showing that
they are aware of color words and number words and how to use them, not that they know the correct
name. Handle these “mistakes” using the procedure described above.

Notice what interests them, what they are eager to do. Provide opportunities for them to have as many of
the desired experiences as possible. These may indicate talents to be developed or skills to be acquired
for the optimum development of their potential.

Do your best not to interfere when a child is doing a loved activity or any activity that seems to involve
them in deep concentration (when they are so intent on what they are doing that they are not really aware
of what else is going on). These times of concentration, times of focus, when the whole person is
engaged, are essential in the development of an integrated personality.

Do not do for your child what they wish to do for themselves, however difficult or beyond their abilities the
task seems to be. It is these challenges that bring about concentration and help the child integrate their
personality, helping them become a person who knows what they need, how to manifest it and has the
perseverance to carry through.

If you can avoid it, do not talk in front of your child as if they were not there. If you must discuss
something about them, include them in the discussion, as you would if it were an adult friend.

When a two year old gets hurt, it helps them when you acknowledge that they are hurt. For example, “Oh,
you hurt your finger. I’m very sorry you got hurt.” They just need to know that you understand what they
are feeling. They don’t necessarily need you to make a big deal over it, but they can’t relate when
someone tells them that they are not hurt, when they know that they are. That can turn a little hurt into a
big one just to get the point across. If it is a minor hurt, your acknowledgement is often enough for them
to let it go and carry on.

                                           Making Choices

Two year olds are very busy creating the components of strong and well-functioning will power:  
  • The ability to want
  • The ability to be determined
  • The ability to persevere
  • Putting all these abilities at the service of their intelligence
It is almost impossible for them to do anything that is contrary to this
However, knowing this makes it easier to work with them.
You can help change the direction of a two year old’s will if you catch it early enough
Give them opportunities to cooperate with you
Tell them how much you appreciate their help
Two year olds like to work and to be helpful, useful, needed
Be alert
Quickly offer them an alternative on which to practice ‘willing’ when what they first choose does not agree
with you
Once they become fixed on something, then the other practices come into play, ‘being determined’ and
At this point your suggestion has to be really attractive to them for them to change
Otherwise, it’s easier and more peaceful, if it’s possible for you to do this, to go along with them, looking
for the first opportunity to change their direction
Remember, this period is very important in human development
It doesn’t last very long if they get to do it properly
Though I know that it can seem eternal when you’re right in the middle of it
Karen Ryce Presents...
Good Parent Good Kids
by Karen Ryce