The Terrible Twos…er…TEAS

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Epiphanies slap you upside the head when you least expect them. Such is the nature of epiphanies.

Anyway, there I was quietly rambling through the grocery store when, down the aisle from me, one of those don’t-ask-the-body-count-sweet-jesus-oh-the-humanity explosions shoved its way into my consciousness. The devastation, of course, was horrific; but as much as I might have wanted to, I simply couldn’t chalk it up to the nefarious machinations of anonymously foreign malcontents. The proud little terrorist responsible for the day’s despoilment, lovingly enthroned in his poor mother’s shopping cart, was clearly a lone wolf and without a doubt, wantonly domestic. In another place and time he might have been described as sweetness itself; but not here, and certainly not now.

Ah, the Terrible Twos: nature’s great leveler when it comes to parenting. No matter how many books you’ve read or classes you’ve taken, it WILL happen. It’s unavoidable; the thing’s hard-wired, after all.

Did the vicious little thug want his binky? Did he need his diapers changed? Was he concerned about the regulation of derivatives and credit default swaps? No, strike the third possibility. He wasn’t rational enough to follow any of that hoohah. And then it hit me. It all came together in one of those blinding flash thingies. Whumph! Little Osama bin Oshkosh tamping his widdle feets so deafeningly was the very model of the modern Tea Partier!

Oh, fine, scorn my big eureka moment: The Terrible Twos = The Terrible TEAS! But you’ll know I’m right when you actually stop to consider it. To speed YOUR epiphany, I’ve gone and ransacked the web to bolster my argument…

As usual, was neat, precise and to the point:

“Characterized by toddlers being negative about most things and often saying ‘no’, the terrible twos may also find your toddler having frequent mood changes and temper tantrums.”


“To help you cope with this normal stage in your child’s development, you should always remember that your child isn’t trying to be defiant or rebellious on purpose. He is just trying to express his growing independence and doesn’t have the language skills to easily express his needs. This can also be the reason why your toddler frequently gets frustrated and resorts to hitting, biting, and temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.

By learning more about this normal stage in your child’s development, it can make it easier to get through it and make sure that you aren’t contributing to more battles than are necessary.”

Hitting, biting, and temper tantrums, indeed! Doesn’t that just perfectly describe three-term Senator Bob Bennett’s ignominious firing by the Utah State Republican Convention? Or mad hatter Allen West’s slap-down for wandering off the Tea Party plantation.

Dr. Greene notes:

“…children in this phase of development have a great deal of difficulty making the choices they so desperately want to make. You ask your child what he would like for dinner, and he says macaroni. You lovingly prepare it for him, and then as soon as it’s made he says, “I don’t want that!” It is perfectly normal for him to reverse a decision as soon as he has made it, because at this stage, he even disagrees with himself.”

Sound familiar? They’re furious about a so-called “guv’mint” takeover of healthcare, but at the same time don’t want anyone to touch their Medicare? They love the Arizona “SHOW US YOUR PAPERS?!” law, but think being asked to cough up a few measly property taxes to support public schools or sewage treatment is tyrannical overreach?

How about this from ivillage:

“The key skill you may need to develop is the ability to not react emotionally to her screaming, in this way not reinforcing it.”

Damn, if that doesn’t that sound EXACTLY like Obama’s strategy this last year? He’s had two kids for dogsake. Has he quietly made the connection?

Childzilla advises:

“The key to discipline in the terrible twos is: understanding. It will be very hard to remain calm when your child is outright defying you or throwing a screeching fit, but it is imperative that you focus on the issue and push aside your frustration and anger – punishing your child in anger may only serve to exacerbate the situation. This is the age at which you will want to begin incorporating discipline techniques such as time outs and the taking away of privileges, things that a child will understand.”

Hmmm…time outs for Tea Partiers? Sounds good, but how to enforce them? And what privileges could be taken away? Joe “The Stripper” Lieberman might want to strip them of their citizenship, but that’s a bit harsh. One shouldn’t over-react; when it comes to acting childish, the child will always win that contest. Perhaps limiting their access to guns and explosives, fertilizer, and fire-crackers?

Inspired by, I offer those in government five simple strategies for dealing with the Terrible Teas.

IMPOSE A REGULAR ROUTINE. The sweet Teas desperately want structure and, irascible anarchists that they are, they are quite unable to provide it for themselves. “Oatmeal for breakfast, lunch at the Senior Center, shuffleboard at three, prune juice cocktails at five-thirty.” Don’t mention that the Senior Center is funded by tax dollars. They might get worked up and try to burn it down. The fire department (also funded by tax dollars) will get mad at you. Firemen are pretty burly; it is unwise to make burly people angry with you, trust me on this.

OFFER LIMITED CHOICES. This gives the Terrible Teas an excellent opportunity to feel like big kids since they will think they are actually making decisions. But, by limiting their options you can limit the horrifically inappropriate alternatives they WILL come up with if left to their own devices. Stump them with confusing questions like: “Which of these wild-eyed Socialists should be run out of town: Michelle Bachman, Jim DeMint or Scott Baio?” Do not mention throwing rocks or spitting, even as a joke. Terrible Teas have no sense of humor. Have you seen their attempts on protest signs? Shudder.

SET BOUNDARIES. Yes, they will test those boundaries so set boundaries you can easily defend. Choose your battles wisely. Do not say, “No throwing rocks or spitting.” That will inevitably produce in them in an irresistible urge to throw rocks and spit.

NEVER GIVE IN TO TANTRUMS. This is the most difficult thing to ask a politician to do. It’s not in a politician’s nature to say “No” to anyone they think might be a potential voter. Even if that voter is demonstrably wacko. Dear wavering politicians, even if you do exactly what the Terrible Teas demand of you, given the opportunity, they will still turn on you as viciously as an overgrown pet crocodile. And trust me, an opportunity always arises; remember Bob Bennett, Allen West and poor Charlie Crist?

USE TIME OUTS AND THE TAKING AWAY OF PRIVILEGES FOR DISCIPLINE. Yelling and screaming, while immensely fun, are neither helpful nor calming as carefully thought-out and dispassionately delivered discipline. Avoid threats of violence unless you are willing to follow through. (They know if you’re bluffing, they can read you like the badly spelled little pamphlet you are.) If you do follow through on a threat of violence, it will not be to your advantage. You will be seen as a big bully and whatever credibility you might have had beforehand will utterly vanish. Stick to time-outs and loss of privileges; it’s the safest for you and the Terrible Teas, who are far better armed than anybody else in the country, including the military. Even suggesting you’re going to shove Jell-O down their shorts counts as a threat of violence and likely to provoke a bloody reprisal.

And finally, CHILD-PROOF THEIR ENVIRONMENT. As wisely reminds us,

“It really isn’t fair that your toddler should get in trouble for playing with something he isn’t supposed to if you left it within reach.”

Please, please, PLEASE, do not let them play with an actual copy of the Constitution. Although it has survived more than two hundred years of all-too-often boneheaded tinkering, it’s still a pretty fragile document. Show it some respect, thank you, and put it in a safe place; they’re not Icelanders, for dogsake?!

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Edited By: Alexis Atherton