Taking Control of Your Inner Two-Year-Old

“The fact is, if you’re dealing with a toddler, you have to plan. You have to think ahead about eating, sleeping, proper winter clothes, necessary equipment, a limit on sweet, etc. Because with a toddler, the consequences can be very unpleasant. In the same way, to be good-humored and well-behaved, I need to make sure I have my coffee, my cell-phone charger, my constant snacks, and my eight hours of sleep…

It’s easy to expect that you ‘should’ be able to deal with a particular situation, and of course, to a point, it’s admirable to be flexible, to be low-maintenance. But I realize I’m much happier — and more fun to be around–if I recognize my limits.”

~Gretchen Rubin “Treat Yourself Like a Toddler” from The Happiness Project

I’m trying very hard to live intentionally and deliberately lately: setting up better habits for myself, restructuring my priorities, revising my default responses to the world. But the best of intentions and strategies are worth nothing if I haven’t had my morning cup of coffee.

There is no way around this fact. Cordelia without her coffee is not inclined toward greatness. She’s barely inclined to leave the house.

I wish I were above being influenced by things like caffeine withdrawal and low blood sugar. But I’m not. For all my noble goals to be a bigger, better person, there are certain weaknesses that consistently bring me down. Fighting with them and ignoring them only results in badness.

Surprisingly, the best option when it comes to these bits of personal Kryptonite is just to work with them rather than against them.


What Happens When I Neglect Certain Things (Like Eating When I’m Hungry)

I get tired. I get short-tempered. Tiny inconveniences irritate me way more than should. I start to think everything and everyone around me is stupid. I get frustrated over being so frustrated.

Basically, I turn into a grumpypants.

And if — heaven forbid — low blood sugar or a caffeine headache strikes when I’m doing something that already tests my patience (like grocery shopping on a Saturday when Target is the busiest), woe to my poor husband and anyone else who might be near me. It will not be pretty.

I’m not proud of this. I’ve tried to power through these tantrums, rise above them, reason myself out of them — but they bring me down every time. There are just certain Achilles’ heels I can’t seem to escape from.

So when I read Gretchen Rubin’s excellent “treat yourself like a toddler” philosophy above, I felt that instant rush of relief you get when you realize you’re not the only person who operates the way you do. Maybe my problem wasn’t that certain things turn me into a grumpypants; maybe the problem was that I wasn’t handling these things the right way.

I was giving myself too much credit. I needed to start treating myself like a two-year-old.


Looks Like Someone Needs a Nap…

Two-year-olds don’t always understand what’s best for them.

They don’t care if eating a ton of candy will make them hyper; they just want candy now. They don’t care if they’ll be cranky if they skip their nap; they just want to keep playing. That’s why two-year-olds aren’t allowed to make their own decisions. They’re not exactly able to look out for their own best interests.

Similarly, I believe there’s a headstrong, unreasonable little toddler in all of us.

Our inner two-year-old doesn’t operate according to logic. He’s overly susceptible to physical discomfort. He digs in his heels when things change abruptly or he doesn’t get his way. He doesn’t react in proportion to the situation. And he certainly doesn’t know or care what’s best for him.

Reasoning with him, coaxing him or trying to bargain with him will get you nowhere. He’s a two-year-old. He needs you to be the bigger person. (Tweet, tweet!)

Everyone’s inner two-year-old causes them different problems. Here’s how mine usually brings me down:


The Basic Whims of My Inner-Two-Year-Old

  • Cordelia gets grumpy when she’s hungry.
  • Cordelia gets grumpy when she hasn’t had enough caffeine.
  • Cordelia gets grumpy when she consumes too much junk food.
  • Cordelia doesn’t like large crowds.
  • Cordelia is not good on diminished sleep. She may want to stay up late to get some more writing done, but she will regret it in the morning and the whole rest of the next day. She needs to go to bed at bedtime.
  • Cordelia might prefer to stay at home in her PJs, especially if she’s feeling kind of down in the dumps. But every time she pushes herself to go out and be social, she always feels much better afterwards.
  • Cordelia gets panicky and flustered when she’s running late, so she needs to leave herself more than enough time to get things done or get to where she needs to go.


How to Deal with Your Inner Two-Year-Old

Trying to push through your limitations and weaknesses is one thing. But trying to operate against the whims of your inner two-year old is futile. Some things just throw us into a funk, and the best way to deal with them is to imagine you’re dealing with a petulant toddler:

Prevent, lessen, damage-control.

Recognize the things that send you into a tantrum and take the necessary steps to curb the meltdown. Plan ahead. Take care of yourself. Keep yourself away from situations that launch you into grumpiness — or, if they can’t be avoided, learn some tricks to make them easier.

Carry granola bars in your purse. Offer yourself a sticker if you make it through o.k. Do whatever needs to be done to get the two-year-old through it. And realize that sometimes the best way to deal with your irrational side is to treat it very, very simply.

What about you? What things make your inner two-year-old grumpy, and what could you do to handle him better?

Image: Flickr

Never miss a post! Sign up here and get a free copy of Your Guide to Calling It Quits.

  • Kristine

    This is such great advice. I never thought of it this way before but making sure to do all of these basic things, like you would for a two year old child, ensures at least a decent foundation for success. It is so easy to skip lunch without thinking, or forget to put on warmer clothes before going outside. Hungry and cold, I am a very miserable person indeed.

    • Cordelia

      I love to watch It’s Me or the Dog, and Victoria Stilwell sometimes talks about “setting your dogs up for success” when training them to behave better. I.e., if you give a hyper dog more exercise on a daily basis, you’re setting him up for better behavior because he won’t have all that pent-up energy. Or if your dog is always tempted to go after the trash, you can set him up for success by getting a trash can with a less accessible lid. Take care of the basics you know always trip you up, and you’re better off right at the start.

      It’s all about knowing the things you need to ensure that you start off on the right foot–a “foundation for success” as you said. I find it much, much easier to be a better person if I’ve taken care of the basics I need to keep my mood in shape.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Taking Control of Your Inner Two-Year-Old « Cordelia Calls It Quits -- Topsy.com()

  • “Cordelia gets grumpy when she hasn’t had enough caffeine.”

    Cordelia could do one of the following:
    1. Commit to a lifelong coffee habit.
    2. Wean herself from caffeine.

    To take the toddler analogy further, the caffeine could be a pacifier or a blankie. What role is caffeine playing in your life? Is it a pleasure or a crutch?

    Just an observation. It’s your life to live as you choose, obviously.

    • Cordelia

      Good questions. I would have to say I’ve definitely opted for #1 – Commit myself to a lifetime of caffeine. 😛

      It’s mainly a pleasure for me. A cup of coffee is way for me to ease into the day, treat myself to something, catch up with friends. But when I’ve missed my usual dosage, then it does become a bit of a crutch. I think it’s just a crutch I’ve willingly allowed into my life. I *could* always wean myself off so that I don’t have to worry about it anymore, but personally I think the benefits outweigh the occasional inconveniences for me.

  • Hunger, too, is my Achilles heel. When I get famished, I start to feel faint. And I turn into the raving bitch from hell. I try…but I can’t help it, and BF knows it’s to his detriment if dinner isn’t done when I get home from work on weekends.

    Also, having to be around other people too long. Even my very best friends. We hung out from about 2pm til midnight, and by about 9 I was itching to just take a shower and unwind before going to bed.

    • Cordelia

      I am the same way about dinner. At least being aware of it enables me to say “I’m sorry, I’m grumpy because I haven’t eaten” rather than being a raving jerk myself with no explanation. I’ve known people, especially in college, who’ve actually forgotten to eat a meal because they’re so busy or they got caught up in what they were doing. I could never do that–my body would remind me I’d missed it, and quick.

      And I completely understand the socializing for too long thing. Just like I have to prod myself to get out and be social sometimes, I definitely have my cut-off point.

  • Is it bad that I KNOW it’s inching past the time I should be getting to bed…and I stayed on the computer to read this post anyway? But I swear I won’t even look at the other new posts in my reader, really! Which I might have done otherwise…

    I don’t handle hunger well either–I get headaches, so my body has me well-trained with negative reinforcement to make sure I keep it fed. And staying up too late is a bad idea too, which is why I better cut this comment short! 🙂

    • Cordelia

      Too funny! Sorry to have contributed to your bedtime infraction. Get to sleep already! 😀

  • Great post. Love your blog.

    I learned a long time ago that I need a LOT of sleep to replenish the energy I put out all day long, like 8-12+ hours as necessary. If that means I am in bed and asleep by 9:00 pm (rare, but it happens), fine with me — I see it as necessary as putting gas in the car tank so it will run. I also take naps, an hour or so, on any day that is really draining me; I work at home, so have that luxury.

    I have learned that I need a lot of fresh air and light; to be with good friends across a table or face to face once a week; to look at great art and photos to inspire me.

    People expect to run themselves at industrial speed and duration because others do, or their boss wants it. It’s deeply unhealthy.

    • Cordelia

      Good point about needing art and inspiration. I was focused a lot on the things I should avoid (getting hungry, missing too much sleep, etc.), but I should also consider the positive things I need to include more of. I’d say reading good books, having “down time,” and writing something every day would be my requirements.

      “People expect to run themselves at industrial speed and duration because others do, or their boss wants it. It’s deeply unhealthy.” I could not possibly agree more.

  • I’m pretty sure my inner two year old wants to go to the park, instead of work today.

    • Cordelia

      Mine could go for that too. And it’s about 10 degrees where I am, but the park *still* sounds like more fun. 😛

  • I love this post.

    Right now I’m working on being selfish – in a good way. That is, I’m trying to do what I need to make me happy and a functioning member of society, not so much how to make everyone else happy.

    Treating myself like a 2 year old will certainly help. I mean, 2 year olds are rarely concerned with what their friends and other think and say…


    • Cordelia

      Good point–two-year-olds are very in tune with what they want and what they need. They don’t stop and think whether they should want something or how to ask for it, they just ask for it (demand it, really).

      Good for you, girl!

      p.s. You’ll be better able to make everyone else happy once you’re happy yourself, anyway.

      • Very true, C!
        “Put on your own oxygen mask first” eh?

  • JF

    I don’t eat a big breakfast, but when I’m hungry in the morning and I haven’t eaten, the National Weather Service and the FBI are usually notified. You might say the same goes for my wife, if she hasn’t had her caffeine… 🙂

    • Cordelia

      Isn’t it funny how strongly little things like that can affect us? You can’t argue with the inner two-year-old. You’ve just gotta humor him. 🙂

  • facebook

    i love it

    • Cordelia

      Thank you!

  • Wonderful post, Cordelia!
    My Inner-Two-Year-Old doesn’t like to be hungry, or thirsty, or skip that one cup of cafe’ in the morning, (or have *too much* = jittery and un-focusable), or “feel poor” (not exactly the same as “have no money”!).

    What I’m doing to handle her better? Recognizing all those^^^ things, and like you, planning ways of avoiding them.
    Bright New Year’s 2015 to you, Cordelia!

  • Lifetoasted Vik

    Rereading this post, I can totally relate, I get grumpy if I haven’t had my morning coffee, if I don’t have regular meals, if I fall asleep and then get woken up. I make sure I have a regular meal especially on the weekend as my husband can go without breakfast but I can’t.