The “Terrible Twos” is really an unfortunate term. It tends to set parents up to be apprehensive about their two-year-old, and it also may cause parents to worry unnecessarily when “Terrible Twos” behavior manifests when their child is three, four, or five years old.
Regardless of the age, there are some strategies out there for keeping that kind of behavior – temper tantrums, screaming, etc. – from becoming completely out of control. Here are some tips.
Let Them Know You’re Bigger
This is not to say that you need to intimidate your toddler. Instead, let her know you are big enough to “take it.” When your toddler acts up, she may be looking for a reaction from you to see if her behavior is appropriate or if it gets results. If you do not let their behavior make you react strongly, it may curtail the tantrum. Also, by remaining calm, you are modeling the correct behavior for the situation.
It’s tempting to want to respond angrily to your toddler’s behavior. But you might try something unexpected that is recommended by some child development experts and counselors: help your toddler calm down by putting your arms around her, letting her know that you know her feelings are really big but that you are bigger, and can help her manage those feelings. You are physically restraining her, but in a loving way that says you are there to help her control herself, not just “hold her down.”
Tame Your Own Temper
It’s a good idea not to have a temper tantrum of your own. If you “lose it” when your child is losing it, then all is lost! The two tantrums tend to feed off of each other and make the situation so much worse. Also, consider your behavior during the times when your toddler is calm – are you modeling anger and tantrum-like behavior as a way to handle frustrations in life? For example, if you tend to have angry outbursts, your toddler will see this behavior and may adopt it as his own.
Knowing what to expect can go a long way in keeping toddler behavior calm. Making transitions smooth – “Five more minutes until we leave the park…three more minutes…okay, one more minute…” – can also help toddlers have time to adjust to an upcoming change in activity, which tends to decrease potential frustration.
Some little ones find a timer helpful as a visual and auditory reminder of the passage of time and the upcoming change. Daily routines help toddlers feel secure, too – they don’t have to be so worried and upset about what is coming next.