Time to rename the terrible twos?

There are many phrasings which make me wince.  Some of them are obviously pedantry – I inherited a dislike of the phrase “septic screen” from Peter Daish, preferring the more correct “sepsis screen”.  Folks who have worked with me could probably list another dozen easy ways to press my buttons.

A more recent phrase which niggles is “terrible twos”.  I’ve spent enough time with two year olds to know that they can behave pretty poorly, can be challenging and are generally extremely tiring to be around.  (Come to think of it, I suspect there are few who might describe me the same way.)  But have we paused to think of the effect we have when we spend a third of a child’s life – or half of their life given that we begin talking about it at 18 months – or the whole of their life, if you consider it in terms of what they remember – as being terrible?  Or referring to the fact that they are terrible?

I’m not a particularly sensitive soul.  However, if I heard that my team referred to my last service week as “terrible” I’d be pretty disturbed.  What must it feel like to be two years old and have the whole of your behaviour explained away as you being terrible?

The phrase might make us feel a bit better; the thought that this is a normal stage of development and not a consequence of poor parenting is helpful, supportive and probably true.  But should we use the word “Terrible” about our children?

Is it time to rename the terrible twos?  Any suggestions?

– Ian Wacogne


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