10 tips for surviving your child's "terrible twos"
Posted February 13
Updated February 14
Observing your toddler’s development is (sometimes) a riveting and heartwarming experience, but when “no” dominates their vocabulary, parenting becomes aggravating and stressful. Two-year-old toddlers struggle with their reliance on adults and desire independence, creating quite the struggle. They’re in tune with emotions they don’t know how to control — crying one minute and laughing the next. It's a new stage for the both of you, but understanding what's motivating your child's behavior is the first step to changing the terrible twos into the terrific twos:
Why temper tantrums
Parents need to understand their child’s outbursts, although frustrating, are not in defiance against them. Toddlers are learning to be independent. Two-year-olds undergo key intellectual, social, motor and emotional changes. Their desire to do things on their own grows stronger as they discover the expectation of keeping rules.
According to the Mayo Clinic, tantrums stem from a toddler’s inability to communicate clearly and control their emotions. They are learning to cope with so many things at once: their frustrations, communications skills, independence, emotions and self-control.
Here are 10 tips to keep your sanity during your child’s crucial developmental period:
1. Keep your emotions in check
If your emotions escalate, so will your child’s. Their tantrums will calm more quickly if mom keeps a cool head.
2. Avoid temper tantrums
You can avoid many temper tantrums by paying close attention to your child’s behavior. Tantrums are often instigated when your child is tired, hungry or overwhelmed. Consistently plan snacks and nap times to avoid raging tempers.
3. Plan your day
Imagine a day where you had no idea what was scheduled and every time you started having fun, someone came and took you away. Would you throw a fit? When planning activities, give your child a 10 minute warning before leaving for the next activity. Also, planning around children’s nap times and meals will give them consistency and providing a bit of warning will allow them to transition more smoothly.
4. Ignore them or remove them
When your child is throwing a temper tantrum, ignore them until they calm down. This will ensure you are not reinforcing bad behavior. Letting your child cry and throw a fit can be embarrassing, but it does not make you a bad parent. Giving in to hush them rewards them for bad behavior.
If your child won’t stop throwing a fit in public, remove the child to a quiet place like your car or a restroom and hug them until they stop. Discuss what happened. They may not understand everything you say, but they will never learn if you don’t teach them.
5. Teach discipline
Discipline keeps children safe and teaches the difference between right and wrong, and how to have control over their life. Give them two options to demonstrate that every choice has a positive and negative consequence. For example, “You can choose to help clean up toys now, or you can choose to go in timeout.”
Making it their choice helps them understand how to make decisions and deal with the consequences. Parents avoid making threats when they allow the child to choose. Kids are smart. Even if they can’t talk yet, they understand a lot.
6. Reassure them
Tell them you love them, especially when teaching discipline. Guide them by explaining how they could have handled the situation better using calm, soothing tones. Gradually, your love and reassurance teaches them how to express feelings through words instead of fits.
7. Toddler-proof your house
Make necessary changes or precautions that will help ease your mind. When a child can get into everything, open every cupboard and toss it's contents across the entire room, clean up time and frustration take time away from loving and teaching moments.
8. Learn to distract them
Children fixate on what they want, but they lack the communication skills to tell you. Introduce something new into their focus. Adjust to their need, and never assume you know what they want. Be creative! When you are not sure what they want, direct them with something new.
9. Be consistent
Consistency evokes stability and assurance. Children respond better when they know what to expect.
10. Praise them
Praise them when they do something well or just because you love them. They are willing little helpers. Take advantage of that, and tell them how well they are doing.
The “terrible twos” will pass. Tantrums decrease as motor and language skills develop. You and your child will experience less frustration as you teach them to express their wants and needs without fits. As you use these tips, the “terrible twos” will become the “terrific twos.”
Kristina Tieken is a publics relations specialist with a love for the fine arts, food and exercise. She enjoys spending time with her husband and family.