The “Terrible Two’s.” We’ve all heard of it. But just what exactly does it mean, and how can you navigate this notoriously difficult stage with your little one?
Around the age of 2 (of course, it can begin much earlier or later), children begin to undergo a rapid change in physical and emotional development, which often causes major shifts in mood and temperament. Because these changes are often challenging, many people refer to this stage as “The Terrible Two’s.”
What areas of development are affected during this time?
- Motor skills
- Speech skills
- Intellectual skills
- Emotional skills
- Social skills
During this age, your child begins to develop motor skills such as walking, running, and climbing. She begins to talk and increase her vocabulary every day. She will begin to explore the world around her with a heightened sense of independence. She will also experience new emotions, and become more opinionated. Your child can also begin to play with other children, learn to follow simple instructions, and practice taking turns.
However, this stage is difficult because your child hasn’t mastered any of these skills. Your child’s understanding of words will be much greater than what he can actually express. If your child doesn’t have the words to communicate his wants or needs, this can easily frustrate him. Even though your child may understand how to play with others and why we take turns, he may become frustrated when he has to share a toy or wait his turn for an activity. Even though he may have physical coordination and strength, he may still lack the ability to successfully catch a ball, peddle a tricycle, or drink from an open cup. All of these skills take time and plenty of practice!
When do the Terrible 2’s usually occur?
This difficult stage usually begins anywhere between 18 and 30 months of age. And don’t get your hopes up - just because your child turns 3, doesn’t necessarily mean the behaviors will end! Have you ever heard of a “three-nagger”? Thankfully, tantrums seem to decrease significantly as your child gets older. And keep in mind, not all children go through this “terrible” phase. Toddlers with advanced language skills will experience much less frustration during this age and may have fewer tantrums than other children their age. The “terrible two’s” are more of a social construct than an actual medical diagnosis. It can be helpful to remember that this stage is all about developing independence and a sense of self.
The Dreaded Tantrums
Tantrums can vary in intensity, but all children have them from time to time. From mild whining to muffled crying, to full-blown kicking and screaming, tantrums can be a nightmare for parents. Tantrums often involve a physical element such as hitting, kicking, throwing himself on the floor, biting, banging his head against the wall, or throwing objects. Although they are extremely frustrating to deal with, studies show that 75% of tantrums don’t last for more than five minutes - so do your best to take a deep breath and not lose your own patience. Incidences of tantrums decrease significantly as your child gets older!
Top Tips For Surviving The Terrible Two's:
- Take a deep breath and have an extra measure of patience. Keep in mind that you and your little one will likely butt heads from time to time, and that’s ok!
- When your child throws a tantrum, redirect his attention. If this doesn’t work, ignore him until he calms down.
- If your child has a meltdown in public, immediately remove them from the situation until they are able to calm down.
- Plan accordingly. Don’t take your child out to lunch during their typical nap time. Don’t try to run a bunch of errands during your child’s normal mealtime. Don’t try to keep your child out past their typical bedtime. Taking into account your child’s normal schedule can help avoid a lot of conflicts.
- Set your expectations and rules, and be firm. Explain rules to your child before every new activity, and be clear in your language. Once you establish a rule, be firm in sticking to it, and try not to rationalize with a whining 2-year-old.
- Show your child you respect her growing independence. Praise your child for helping, cleaning, and listening. Give your child age-appropriate tasks she can complete on her own. Begin to back off on assisting your child with everything, and let her show you what she is capable of - even if that means making some mistakes!
The “terrible two’s” don’t have to be terrible! There are many ways parents can adjust their mentality in order to help navigate this difficult stage. In addition to their big personalities and opinions, two-year-olds are also a lot of fun to interact with! Try to take a deep breath, go with the flow, and enjoy watching your child’s development!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.