There isn’t a parent in the world who hasn’t heard of, or at some point dreaded, the terrible twos! And there isn’t a child in the world who hasn’t, at some point, displayed some of the attributes of said, terrible twos. However, 2-year-old’s are actually more terrific than terrible and with a bit of understanding you can approach these years with less dread and more joy!
Understanding the terrible twos
Your child may not actually be two when this phase hits. The terrible twos are a very broad term and can apply to behaviour displayed by children aged 18months up to 3 years! It’s a very real phase and it’s important to remember that it’s a normal part of development and is helping shape your child for the future. Your child is learning about the world and how they fit into it and as their brain develops they are desperate for independence. However, this desire can be frustrating for them as they are still very reliant on you at this age. It is vital to recognise that some of the behaviours that manifest during this developmental stage are not due to defiance or naughtiness but a natural reaction to situations your child is in.
The biggest fear is the dreaded temper tantrum! Toddlers can have meltdowns over the smallest of things and there is often no rationalising with them in these instances. Tantrums are incredibly hard for parents to witness especially when your child appears genuinely upset, and you’ve been pushed to breaking point. However, there are ways to deal with them and minimise the fallout.
In some situations it can be possible to prevent a tantrum before it even occurs, and presenting choices can be helpful in doing this. Sometimes toddlers can have a complete breakdown because they were given the red cup when they were desperate for the blue one.
These kinds of meltdowns can come completely out of nowhere and will try the most patient of parents. Offering your child, a choice of cups in the first place may prevent this as even if they aren’t presented with the cup they had their heart set on. The option to make their own choice asserts their independence and gives them the feeling of control.
Limiting choices in certain situations can also stop your child from being overwhelmed. If you tell your child to choose what to wear you are helping them be independent but they may struggle with too much choice. Offering them a choice between two t-shirts limits their options whilst again, helping them feel in control.
Toddlers also need as much information as possible to help them process events. If you know that your child struggles in the supermarket, explain what you are going to do there and how long you will be. Involve them in as many ways as possible – whether that’s in choosing red grapes or green grapes or which juice to get – help them to feel empowered in these situations.
It’s also important to remember that, like adults, toddlers are more likely to have a meltdown when they’re tired or hungry. Sometimes avoiding a tantrum can be as simple as having a snack on hand. Once again, this is the time to remain objective to your child’s behaviour; they aren’t necessarily being ‘naughty’ they may just be reacting normally to their own needs.
Dealing with Tantrums
It may seem like your toddler will pick the worst times and places for their meltdowns! Handling tantrums in public places is no easy task. Rest assured that you’re not the only person who has ever had to deal with this and despite the embarrassment it may cause at the time, you’ll never have to see most of the people in that supermarket or restaurant again. Sometimes the hardest part is the worry that the unwelcome glances from strangers are full of judgement. Trust me when I say they’re not! Lots of people know what it’s like to battle a toddler.
Firstly, don’t lose your cool. This can be easier said than done, especially on those days when nothing seems to be going your way. If you raise your voice, your child will hear your anger and not the words you are saying. Your toddler doesn’t know how to deal with their own frustration, so try and remember that they aren’t deliberately trying to act out. Help them manage this by calmly narrating their feelings for them! ‘I can see your frustrated because…’ This can seem unnatural at first, but it really will help your child to understand their own feelings. Then try and remove them from the situation. Distraction is a far better method than shouting and screaming.
Often parents are advised to ignore tantrums, and this can seem impossible in a public place! However, you can ignore a tantrum without ignoring the child. Instead of responding to the tantrum, talk to them about something else or show them something to distract them. Removing your child from the situation that caused the tantrum can be the best way to solve the problem.
Toddlers are notoriously stubborn and determined to do things themselves. Help them to channel this attitude into every day tasks they can help with. As I mentioned, tantrums manifest themselves from a desire to be independent, so boosting your child’s confidence in their own abilities can help to minimise these outbursts. If you are folding laundry then give them a few things to fold too. You can also give them their own duster when you’re cleaning and help them feel important. Praise their efforts when they help with chores as this will boost their belief in themselves and their self-worth.
For more advice and support check out our Tips on Managing Children’s Behaviour
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