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

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