From One Mom To Another: How To Deal With The “Terrible Twos”

Outdoor portrait of an adorable chubby 3 year old toddler with beads and braids

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The “terrible twos” is a time when your child is starting to come into their own sense of self, becoming more independent, learning the power of “no” and starting to defy mommy and daddy. While these growing pains are a necessary part of a child’s development, it can also be an extremely difficult time for parents to deal with. The good news is this phase won’t last forever, even though it may feel like it will never end. Trust me when I say you will survive and this too shall pass, especially with the help of these seven tips and strategies.

1.) Stick to Your Schedule (With Meals) – If you are planning an outing, do it at a time when your child won’t be hungry. I mean we all get “hangry” but toddlers with no impulse control “go from 0 to 100 real quick” and then everyone struggles. If you have to plan a longer outing, pack healthy snacks and drinks to nibble on is a must. Having snack reinforcements available may reduce the likelihood of a food-related tantrum.

2.) Nap Time is Sacred – One reason two-year-olds have tantrums and act out is because they are overtired and sometimes over stimulated. If you are planning an outing or will be outside of your house with your little one, a good practice is to avoid taking outings when it is nap time, or make accommodations so your little one can still sleep. If the baby is rested, they will likely be in a better mood and less prone to tantrums. If you just can’t seem to get your toddler into a routine, and sleep is limited, you may need to invest in sleep training for babies to limit tantrums and keep them in a happier mood.

3.) Don’t Give In – If you give in when your child throws a tantrum about whatever their issue of the moment is, (i.e. losing it over a toy, a snack, not wanting to leave, not wanting to wear socks, not wanting to share, not wanting to “use the potty”, etc.), it will only be harder the next time. Get ahead of tantrums in the long run by standing firm with your child and making it clear what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.

4.) Be Consistent – Consistency with your rules is an essential part of helping your toddler understand that there are limits and consequences for their actions which helps them learn appropriate behavior. Children of any age and especially toddlers can get confused by mixed messages. Therefore, it is important that you are consistent and that you ensure your “team” is on board; including, grandparents, babysitters, daycare employees, family friends, and anyone who the child spends significant amounts of time with.

5.) When to Say No – Saying no to your child is a hard line to walk. If you say it too much, then your child will begin to ignore you and if you don’t say it enough, than your child could get too carried away and not listen to your no. Strategically, using your no in situations where you toddler can learn from it is the optimal time to use the word. If other boundaries are established for your child that you and your partner agree upon, then you may not need to use “no” for everyday toddler indiscretion and instead reserve it for when you really want to catch their attention and curb bad behavior.

6.) Eliminate boredom – Children of all ages and, especially toddlers, will act up when they are bored. If you are taking them out of their home or daycare environment, try to come up with some creative ways to keep them occupied. Have a stash of age-appropriate games, toys, and books in the car. Take help of websites like iTest, look at their exclusive reviews, to find the most suitable toys to counter your kids’ boredom. Have something in your handbag or diaper bag for entertaining in a pinch and you will find your child will be much less likely to act out if their attention is captured doing something engaging.

7.) Toddler ‘time out’ – If your toddler repeats the same unwanted behaviors, specifically tantrums, screaming, and other destructive behaviors over and over again, a short time out might help. Depending on where you are, you may need to stay with them to stop them from wandering off. Starting with an explanation of why they are in time out, can be a great way to teach your toddler a lesson about consequences when they behave in unacceptable ways. This method is usually best suited for when you are at home or in a confined environment, not in the grocery store or clothing store etc.

The good news is the “terrible twos” and ensuing tantrums don’t last forever. The “terrible twos” (and if I’m being honest threes), is an important part of your child’s emotional and social development. This period of time is a learning process for not only the child but the whole family, and as long as you’re consistent with your rules, you’re prepared, you’re making sure your child is napping consistently, you use your “nos” strategically, and you don’t give in, your child will soon begin to understand boundaries and appropriate behaviors/responses, and will grow out of this stage. In the meantime, offer plenty of fun toddler activities to keep their hands and minds busy and you will all get through it and be ready for the next development milestone.