“Would you like to play with this toy car?” “Neh!”. “Would you like a piece of fruit?” “No!”. “Would you like to take a walk?” “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”. Any parent with a nearly two-year-old will be familiar with this chorus. It seems that “No” is one of the first words two-year-olds learn as they start to develop a mind of their own and assert their independence.
The Terrible Twos hit you quite suddenly though. One minute your little angel is cooing in your arms and the next they’re thrashing around on the floor with their face contorted into a scream. So what’s the best way to deal with the terrible twos and the associated tantrums? Here’s our advice:
- Don't panic. At first, the Terrible Twos may make you feel that you're doing something wrong as a parent or that there’s something deeply wrong with your child. Bear in mind that tantrums and difficult behaviour are completely age appropriate in this stage and are actually a sign that your child is maturing in the way they should be.
- Keep calm. Of course you may be tempted to scream right back at your two-year-old when they’re having a tantrum, but this will only reinforce bad behaviour. Keep as calm as possible but do not laugh or ridicule your child, as this will only make it worse.
- Get down on their level. Little people find the world a frustrating place. They can't communicate properly with others and everyone is bigger than them. Get down on your haunches, look them in their eyes and acknowledge their frustrations, even if you don’t completely agree with them.
- Don’t give in. Consistency is key when it comes to parenting and dealing with tantrums is no different. If your child is having a tantrum because of something you enforced (i.e. you don’t want to give them a chocolate), do not give in to their demands. This will indicate to them that tantrums are the best way of getting what they want, so they’ll use them as a tactic repeatedly.
- Give them options. They may not be allowed another chocolate, but tell them that they can have some pretzels or an apple instead. Give them a choice so they feel like they are in control of the situation.
- Praise them. Give praise where it’s due. “Wow, you just made your bed, high five!” “Wow, you threw away your empty wrapper – well done!” Tell them how proud you are of them when they do something good. They will remember these reactions and actively seek out ways of getting more of them.
- Give them responsibility. Two-year-olds love helping out around the home – it gives them a sense of belonging. Ask them to give the family pet a treat or carry a light shopping bag to the kitchen.
- Keep their naps and sleeping times consistent. A grouchy two-year-old is a fearsome thing. In order to limit bad behaviour, ensure that their naps times are around the same time each day and that their bed times are kept consistent too. If they’re fresh and rested, they’ll be able to deal with challenging situations much better.
The Terrible Twos may have a side to them that are a bit terrible but there are wonderful moments too. Your two-year-old is discovering the world and their curiosity and delight in every day things are infectious. Cherish these moments, roll with the more difficult ones and enjoy this precious time because your two-year-old will not be two forever.
See more healthy living tips at the Fedhealthy blog.