When Your Loved One Acts Like a 2-year-old

Dec 09, 2021

How 2-year-olds Act

A typical toddler really wants to do grown-up things but doesn't do them well yet. Toddlers may get upset when they're told "no" or when they try and fail to do things like pour their own milk, get dressed, or play games.

Some of us care for parents, spouses, dependent children or others who don't "act their age" or they think they can still do things they've done all their lives and now they can't.

This might be because they have mental illness, dementia, mood disorders, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, or other cognitive or emotional problems.

We scratch our heads, cry, argue, try to reason with them, and resort to many other activities that DON'T HELP.

Am I right?

What if we just expected our loved ones to NOT act their age. What if it's okay if they act like toddlers?

Expecting the Unexpected

What if we let them tell the same story over and over without getting annoyed. I mean, I got tired of my kid's repetitive chatter as a young mom, but I didn't think it was sad or irritating.

It just wore me down a bit by the end of the day, and I was glad when Joe came home to vary the conversation.

What if we listened to Grandpa tell that same story over and over with the same attention, love, and patience he did when we were little?

What if we let Mom win at Scrabble or Monopoly while breaking all the rules or not playing right, just like she did for us when we were 4 and couldn't understand games?

What if we took Dad to the golf course, paid for a round, and drove him around in the golf cart letting him hit balls and chat incoherently with others in front or behind us without being ashamed of him?

What if you took your wife with schizophrenia to visit her best friend hundreds of miles away and them visit no matter how sketchy the conversation became?

My dear friend's husband did just that for her several years ago.

He let her spend the night with me and she told me wild stories, covered the window with her bedding, spread dozens of my books all over the floor and topped them with a purse-ful of old credit cards, telling me she needed to record the books' contents onto each card.

I appreciated my friend's husband for having the courage to bring her to me so I could hug her and tell her how much I loved her.

What if you let your brother with traumatic brain injury invite some friends over for pizza and rootbeer floats?

How many times did you have friends over as a little kid and your parents cleaned up spills, bent over backward to make the PB & J's the "right" way, and fielded all the squabbles over toys without embarrassing you?

The Courage to Have Compassion

If you are caring for someone that acts like a child, can you have the compassion to expect them to behave that way and be okay with it?

Can you accept your own challenges of feeling awkward, tired, or worried when you "allow" those behaviors without correcting your loved one or criticizing them?

Accept your courage to try, your creativity in assisting, and your discomfort during social events. 

Have mercy when others don't understand and gratitude that you do.

We come into this world completely dependent on love, and leave it the same way.


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