It's Called the 'Terrible 2s' and It Is

Posted December 10, 2007
Updated December 16, 2007

— The day after my baby turned 2, she had what can only be described as a complete and impressive meltdown at the grocery store.

I had vowed the time before never to bring her to the store again because she easily slithers out of the grocery cart's kid-compartment (the kind like a truck cab), stands up and runs away as fast as she can.

But company had just left and I had nothing in the house to eat. Not even enough to make some sandwiches. I was desperate. So I broke my vow and took the little beast to the store.

Produce, deli, meat counters - all good so far. Then she climbed out of the cart while I was pushing it. "Walk," she demanded.

I warned her to stay by my side, but as soon as I grabbed a jar of pickles, she was off, bolting out of sight around the corner.

I left the cart where it was and ran as fast as I could to find her. Luckily the store was pretty empty and I caught up to her two aisles over. She was giggling wildly. We tried to check out, but there was Aubrey running down the soda aisle.

Why is she doing this? What is wrong with her? But then it dawned on me: Of course! She is 2 now. She has always had a wild streak and has tried to run away from me before. But this time seemed a bit more calculated and a bit more horrible.

So is there such a thing as the "terrible twos"? Or is it just an excuse parents have to describe bad behavior?

Parenting expert Michele Borba, author of the book "Don't Give Me That Attitude!," describes the tantrum behavior of 2-year-olds as no less than an "exorcism."

"It's developmentally normal. What your child is trying to do is to assert themselves and they don't have the skills," she said.


Two-year-olds, she said, are extremely egocentric, which may explain why Aubrey doesn't want me to get any grocery shopping done. After Aubrey ran away down the soda aisle, the checker asked me her name.

Then she got on the intercom and announced to the entire store:

"Aubrey turn around. Your mother is waiting."

I was mortified. The childless customers behind me were staring.

Aubrey looked up briefly at the ceiling when she heard her name, then kept right on running. When I finally grabbed her, she threw herself on the ground and cried.

Borba said once a child is in full tantrum mode, there is no stopping it. Don't pay any attention or the tantrum will end up lasting longer. Forget reasoning with the child. Borba equated that to reasoning with a goldfish.

She suggests the old Boy Scout motto of "be prepared," meaning don't take a 2-year-old to run errands during nap time or when she might be hungry. Or, in my case, Aubrey will never return to the grocery store until she is around age 10.

But let's get real. Sometimes I need groceries or I just have to mail that package. Borba said removing the child from the situation is ideal, but if that isn't possible, try to distract the child or speak in a soothing voice.

I guess that means no curse words.

I admit I have resorted to promising lots of chocolate before and did see some improvement in the behavior.

The good news, Borba said, is that by age 4, most kids have grown out of the flailing arms, banging head, tearful tantrums that make parents cringe.

Only two more years to go for me.

Please hurry.


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