Suffering from the Terrible Two’s? Remember to BIRP

If you find yourself complaining about your tot, wondering aloud, “WHERE DID MY SWEET ANGEL GO?!?!” know this… you are not alone.

Here’s a tool to help you with the many power struggles that go along with raising a two year old. I hope it helps.

First and most importantly, disengage from the power struggle.

I love this visual: if one person drops their end of the rope, it’s awful hard to play tug-o-war.

DROP YOU END OF THE ROPE whenever possible. The next time you and your two year old child lock horns (works for all ages but especially for two year old kids) think BIRP. Not as in belching although that might work to bring levity to the situation, but BIRP as in:

B: Boundaries
I: Independence
R: Ritual
P: Play

The first two letters stand for our BOUNDARIES and their INDEPENDENCE, the cause of many if not most of our power struggles. Both are good and necessary but one does NOT have to win out over the other. If we as parents can step back from the situation and approach it with a bit of patience and humor, in the end, our boundary can be firm and in place along with our child’s budding independence.

The way out of the impasse lies in the last two letters. RITUAL and PLAY.

Ritual is as simple as doing or saying something the same way day after day. If your ritual is playful then it’s all the better because play is your child’s native tongue. This playful repetition helps even the youngest of children feel safe and secure. They know what’s coming next and relax into the predictability. Let’s look at an example to show how it might work:

EXAMPLE 1: It’s nap time and we want them to walk themselves up the stairs. NOW. They don’t want to. The struggle begins. It seems reasonable enough to us. They have to nap. We don’t want to have to carry them. We want them to walk up the stairs themselves. They are old enough, or you have twins or a younger child you need to hold. etc, etc. We get frustrated. Angry We have a boundary and it’s getting crossed. On our child’s end, they are in the middle of playing and all the sudden it’s time to shift. They don’t WANT to nap. They certainly don’t want to hike their little tired selves up those steps and they let you know it. Maybe screaming, lying on the floor?

It is time to BIRP. Disengage from the power struggle. Start fresh the next day at nap time announcing “It’s time to hunt for gummy vitamins!” which are of course hiding at the top of the steps or maybe in their room. This game not only gets my kids to hike their selves up the steps at nap time but HAPPILY and in a hurry cause they want to get up there and find the vitamins, a blessed deception I describe in detail here lest you want to give it a go as well.

EXAMPLE 2: A playful ritual can be as simple as singing a song when you change a diaper, or it could mean setting an egg timer to encourage them to sit on the potty that much longer. For helping a child get dressed every day when they’d rather be running around try the rhyme: “One foot TWO foot, red foot blue foot” This makes it all the more fun the next time you corner them and are getting those little legs into their clothes.

EXAMPLE 3: Playful ritual can mean counting to ten when you need your child to wait or you want to transition from one thing to the next. This is a great way to encourage sharing as well. PRACTICE holding something and taking turns… ten seconds for you, ten seconds for me. When the time comes to share a toy or a swing on the playground, you counting to ten and then transition. As this ritual for sharing is now a familiar one, your child will know what to expect and won’t want to resist quite as much as when you just spring the transition on them, whether it’s “time to leave” or “time to share” or “OKAY, it’s their turn now.” Giving our kids this little heads up can ease so many of the little struggles we get into on a day to day basis.

Set up a playful ritual around any reoccurring struggle you are having. When ever possible, set your child up to feel they are WINNING with lots of independence reflected back to them in ways big and small, showing them in no uncertain terms that they are POWERFUL, that they are CAPABLE and they are loved.  Modeling this sort of respectful partnership will come back to you three-fold. All in the family will enjoy the added joy and less stress BIRP brings as balance is restored between our parenting boundaries and our little ones increasing need for independence.

If you find yourself in a near daily battle around an ordinary, every day part of life with your child, like getting dressed, brushing teeth, picking up… or walking up the stairs, it just might be time for you to BIRP with your kids too. What one thing is consistently a challenge in your home?


Suzanne Tucker hopes if you liked this article you will subscribe to My Mommy Manual’s newletter and/or join other mindful mamas here on Facebook. Suzanne runs a holistic health center in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband Shawn. She is passionate about the connection we are and to that end offers Infant Massage, parenting classes, one on one support and more.



  1. I never would’ve had the idea to look at things that way. This is going to make my day much easier.