Scott Hanselman

My one year old has the Terrible Twos

January 16, 2007 Comment on this post [25] Posted in Parenting | Z
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It's official, Z has completely discovered, grasped, and is now fully exploiting the word "no." My wife Mo saw this coming, and had been warning me for weeks now. I've been in denial, saying "Nonsense, he's clearly saying 'neh.'" At this, my wife sadly shook her head at her husband.

This morning I tried to take a pen away from Z and was greeted with "No!" as clear as a bell, following by what I can only describe as a scampering away.

My one year old is getting into his Terrible Twos. He wants everything. He's also exploded with regard to sign language. Now he not only wants, but he knows what he wants and tells us constantly.

Given my extraordinarily vast parenting experience - goodness, nearly a year of it - I've planned onĀ The Principle of Benign Deprivation. I figure I'll give Z everything he needs, and maybe 10% of what he wants. I know folks who can't go into a Target or Wallmart for milk without also coming out with the latest GIJoe action figure or My Little Pony. I figure that Quaker Oats containers and cardboard boxes were good enough for me, they'll be good enough for Z.

Folks are currently taking bets on how long this attitude of mine is going to last. I believe the latest Vegas odds are 4:1 against, within the next six months.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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January 17, 2007 0:25
It'll last for a while. Child development books I've read said it can take anywhere from 2-6 months :S. My son Hayden LOVES the word "no" right now, and it's really kicked it since our newborn (Ryan) came into the house. But he hasn't been a "terror" just yet, and we're trying to stand our ground with him either.

Oh, and the thing about coming out of Target w/o a toy? There's a very easy way to do that - don't go by the toy department. Simple :)
January 17, 2007 0:30
Depends on the child. We have three year old twin boys, and if one wants something and you tell him, "No", he's not always happy about it, but he'll eventually accept it. The other will keep repeating over and over again, what it is that he wants. Until he either gets it, or we remove him from the environment that made him want it in the first place. The third year has been a LOT more challenging than the second was.
January 17, 2007 1:01
Keep up the good fight Scott. Z will thank you for it later. We humans are very smart and learn quickly. Continue to be consistent and fair and he'll eventually get it. The key word is eventually..that depends on the kid. I have 4 and each one "got it" at different times but when they do; they just know that's they "way it is".

Keep it up!
January 17, 2007 1:08
My 11-month old daughter hasn't discovered "No" yet. She understands it (when she tries to grab my glasses) but the duration of it's affect seems to be getting shorter and shorter!

As far as toys - she has SO many at home (and we live in a pretty small apartment) - she certainly doesn't need any more! (My wife is an only child, and there aren't a lot of little ones on her side of the family - so they give us TONS!)
January 17, 2007 1:15
If Oatmeal canisters and cardboard boxes are in your plan, pick up a copy of Steven Caney's "Ultimate Building Book" ( It's perfect for getting the most out of ordinary things and fostering "building" without breaking the bank (on legos, k'nex, magnetix, etc.)
January 17, 2007 1:24
As a soon to be father, I think about these things a lot. Stick to your guns! I plan on providing only needs and very few(if any) wants. When wants are given they will have to be earned. I think childhood should be as much like real life as possible. Wants are something you must work for. Of course, in real life, NEEDS are something must work for too. :)
January 17, 2007 1:27
Yeah, I know how it feels...Mine 18 months old no only says no but she will also the sign for it...

I am pretty good about holding my grounds but she has this face that just melts me and sometimes I give in...

I am learning to look away....
January 17, 2007 1:31
"Benign Deprivation" really isn't that hard. the trick, as with most of parenting, is consistency.

When my kids (2 & 4) say they want something that I don't want them to have, my answer is a quick, decisive "nope!" -- usually with a brief reason why. You can do whatever you like from that point on (distraction, misdirection, the usual methods), as long as it doesn't end up with you caving in. Your "no"s have to have the sound of inevitability.
January 17, 2007 3:16
They have a lot of willpower around the "No" or "I want" - you just have to beat them at their own game. Sometimes it takes standing in the carebear isle at target for an hour while your kid has a full on screaming tantrum about wanting a certain bear. People will walk around and stare at you like you are horrible for making your kid cry like that or for disturbing their shopping experience. But, if you wait long enough they will give in and give up and chances are the next time you are in the store your "no, you can't have that" will be greeted with "ok" rather than hades full fury.
January 17, 2007 5:20
Didn't realize that kids ages are 0-based, did you? ;)

January 17, 2007 5:50
You think know is bad, wait until the tantrum's start... My kids started saying no to me around the onw year mark (it's seems directly proportional to the number of times they hear it)...
January 17, 2007 6:40
Dude, you think the two's are bad, just wait until they turn three.
January 17, 2007 9:39
GI Joes are popular again? I thought they had gone the way of my childhood into the past.
January 17, 2007 13:58
My kids are twisn of 9 years old and a daughter of 6. I like the analytical mind saying 'Ill give hime 100% of what he needs and 10% of what he wants'.

Keep it up Scott. I wish more people realised that getting everything you want is the worst education you can give to a child.
January 17, 2007 16:55

Here's a tip that might work for you: try redirection. When he wants something you don't want to give him, distract him and redirect him to something else. Kids are highly suggestive at this stage. It's actually kind of fun -- makes you feel like a jedi -- "These aren't the droids you're looking for."

And yes, I agree with Matt. Wait til the tantrums!
January 17, 2007 19:44
Bravo for you Scott!

I figure you approach will work until Z starts "hanging out" with other kids who have tons of G.I. Joe's etc.

With all the stimulation that you and your wife provide, by that time Z will be able to FULLY communicate what he wants, and where you will be able to pick it up for him.

Don't show him Amazon or eBay anytime soon or you'll have UPS delivering all sorts of stuff to the house!

January 17, 2007 20:35
Stick in there and be the kind of parent you want to be. Odds be damned! If I were to bet, I'm sure I'd win, you're not going to cave in!

It's tough for parents with kids this age. I've been there, but now with mine in his teens and after raising him in a similar way, he has a much better appreciation for the things he is given that he wants. And there is so much more respect for things and people.

One thing that will happen: feelings of guilt. You love them soooo much and you start to feel those pangs of guilt because you aren't giving him what he wants all of the time. I bet if you asked your parents about these feelings I'm sure they will tell you they have felt those guilt feelings somewhere in your upbringing.

Good luck and hang in there! It's a long, wonderful road this thing called raising children.
January 17, 2007 20:35
Wait until he gets to be 3 and tries to rationalize/deal with you as he says "no". ;) When that fails with my 3 year old he usually resorts to the kicking and screaming thing and it gets tougher to control now that he's over 3 ft tall and close to 40lbs. Good luck!!!
January 18, 2007 4:16
"no," "1..2..3.. timeout" and "save your allowance" are probably the most important phrases I've used as a parent in making my children pleasant members of society. One example: more than a few years ago, my eldest (about 3 at the time) and I were cruising a convenience store to pick something up quick (chap stick for my wife? I don't remember...). He was eying the candy, but asked before taking any (with those large, hopeful eyes). I said, "no, you don't need any candy today." He frowned, sighed and backed away without protest. The guy behind the counter was completely amazed. Apparently, the few times he's seen a parent actually tell their child "no," it was only temporary and quickly revoked when the child when into a tantrum. I was a proud parent that day.
January 18, 2007 12:43
It's probably my 2 year old rubbing off on Z from his exposure at Nerd Dinner... it may have only been about 30 seconds, but my toddler has a potent case of the Terrible Twos.
January 19, 2007 4:10
I bet you won't apply that rule once he's old enough to want gadgets!
January 19, 2007 21:01
Ooooh, "need" vs "want".

I'll let you know what age mine adjust. It's not before 7 and 5, that's for sure. Come to think of it, my wife's 44 and she still says the "n" word when she means the "w" one...
January 22, 2007 13:54
Stick with it scott, you and Z will reap the rewards as he gets older, becides I used to enjoy the look of supprise when I said yes to my kids, they always seamed to enjoy the thing more, even when it was something as simple as sweets or a burget when we were out.

Enjoy the time it passes so quickly, before long they are off to school!

January 22, 2007 21:11
The "terrible twos" can start, for many children, around 15 months or so. It is around this time that they start to assert some independence and don't have the ability to articulate what it is that they want or understand why they can't continue (fill in blank) behavior.

- Marko 'The Pollo'
February 16, 2007 13:31
&heartsI completely understand. My daughter is only one and I swear she's going through the terrible two's. She say too many words. But NO is one of the one's she can say. She throws her temper by tossing a toy at me or tipping over her toy box. I simply take them all away, tell her NO and wait. She eventually stops crying and is ready to have her toy's back and will play nice. This whole parenting thing can be tuff sometimes...but remember to stand strong and stay consistant. :)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.