Toddler Tips: Easing the ‘Terrible Twos’

As babies grow into toddlers, some children may begin to get very argumentative, use the word “no” on a routine basis, throw tantrums, or even hit and bite. This behavior is often referred to as the “terrible twos”. While two is definitely in the range, the reality is this behavior may happen earlier than age 2 or may not occur until the third or fourth year rolls around. And some kids may never display the “terrible twos” at all.

However, if your toddler is exhibiting this type of behavior, it is not an uncommon stage and is considered to be a normal part of early childhood development.

“Most toddlers begin testing limits shortly after their first birthday and continue until about age four,” says Ari Brown, M.D., author of Toddler 411, reports the publication Parenting.

Usually, the reason children are displaying these behaviors is because they are trying to exert independence and/or are having difficulty verbalizing their needs. Their vocabularies are beginning to expand, but often they can’t quite say what they are thinking and may use negative ways to express what they want.

If your child goes through the “terrible twos”, there are some ways you can try to help ease the pain for both you and your toddler. Here are a few tips:

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Establish Regular Sleep Routine

A good routine generally helps children and can also be good for parents too. Perhaps one of the most important parts of any daily routine is sleep. Try to keep to a regular routine that includes naps (keep in mind, some toddlers may give up naps between their second and third year, but will generally shift sleep patterns either going to bed earlier or sleeping later in the morning).

Adequate rest is important as this helps reduce, or even eliminate, some of the overtiredness that can lead to meltdowns and cranky behavior. It is hard to reason with a toddler on a good day, but trying to cope with through the “terrible twos” with a tired toddler can feel next to impossible.

Be Specific

When making choices, for instance during play or snack time, it helps to be specific and also limit your toddler’s choices. Too many options or any level of abstract thinking may overwhelm a toddler. By providing specific and limited alternatives, toddlers can feel a level of control over decision making, yet still be kept within limits. He or she will also be able to better communicate his or her needs if choices are clearly understood.

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Set Limits

Toddlers need structure and, by providing a safe and organized environment, little ones can thrive.  In this environment, they not only feel safe but also learn how to accept boundaries. The toddler years are a good time to introduce timeouts and, for older toddlers who understand more, a lost privilege as a consequence for any unacceptable behavior.

The “terrible twos” are not one of the most endearing stages to deal with as a parent, but the good news is this phase does pass as they become preschool age. Eventually, toddlers do grow into teenagers, and you may just possibly look back on those “terrible twos” and smile.


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