We’ve all heard and dreaded the terrible twos, and I’m not going to sugar coat it, these darlings of ours can be right like demons on occasions, and that’s putting it mildly. We’ve all been there – these, cute as a button, little faces asking for chocolate in the shop, and when you say no, screaming blue murder and throwing themselves to the floor, resulting in every parents worst nightmare. And of course, this captures the interest of all other shoppers and we wish the earth would just swallow us whole in that moment.
So, although we all know this is only a phase and will not last forever, it can most definitely feel like it will!
The good news is there is light at the end of the tunnel and I’m going to share with you how we worked with our son and some of the strategies that kept less than ideal behaviour at bay.
What are the terrible two’s?
Okay, so most of us have a reasonable understanding of this, but it’s always worth making sure we are on the same page. The terrible two’s are a overnight shift within your child demeanour, mood and behaviours. I am under the belief, that this is attributed to their on going developmental changes whereby they are developing a better understanding a of situation, circumstances or sentence, but currently do not have enough speech or emotional understanding to articulate how they feel…I can only imagine how difficult this must be for them.
Also, around 2 they are wanting to start having independence but, like my son currently, is finding that this isn’t always possible and there are certain rules he is expected to abide by. Hence, a full blown melt down, tantrum and a child that is lashing out.
There are many different ways your child may show this, some shout, scream, bite, throw themselves on the floor, run in the opposite direction and generally fighting you whole heartedly.
So, what not to do
It’s so easy when your child has gone into full melt down mode to get overwhelmed and cave to whatever demand they want. You may find yourself wanting to pacify and comfort them. But RESIST AND DO NOT DO THIS. In their eyes you’ve just rewarded this behaviour that has just unfolded and it will be repeated.
What to do instead
There are lots of options you can apply. I would always recommend taking a preventative approach where possible by following these steps:
- Respect their routine. As an adult I have been known to be less than delightful when I am tired and hungry, so why would we expect a 2 year to be any different? Pick your timings, if possible try to avoid taking them out to stimulating environments when you know it clashes with their other needs. You’ll just end up with an irritable child. And, if you cannot avoid this make sure you are full equipped with food, snacks, blanks, pushchair so then can eat and nap on the go.
- Set boundaries. Beforehand tell your child what you expect from them. If you are entering a shop, make it clear that they are expected to hold your hand at all times, not run off, not take items etc. This gives them clear guidance as to what is expected.
- Distraction. Pre-empt what may happen and have a plan of action. Going back to the shopping example, when I go with Evan, he is promoted to chief helper, his responsibilities are to help hold the basket, to get the items Mummy asks for and to walk nicely next to Mummy at all times. This has always worked successfully for me, as he has a purpose, he is involved and feels important and he receives on going praise for all his help throughout the whole experience. If distraction doesn’t work Farwa suggests to ‘try “silence”. You can just wait for a minute or two! Make sure to maintain eye contact because you know that she needs attention.’ (ref).
- Redirect their attention – you might find even with all the best will in the world that your child still wobbles and their focus starts to wander and with that their behaviour. Best thing you can do now, is try to redirect their focus back to something you approve of. Engage with them around this and join in too. They are more likely to follow by example than instruction at this age.
- Praise, praise and praise some more! So, whilst all the above hints are working and your child is being the little angel they really are, praise them. We want them to repeat this behaviour again and again so it is really important that you encourage that. Children feed off positivity so hand it out generously.
Why would you want to have to deal with a terrible two outburst if it can be avoided?
When we are in full melt down mode
There will still be occasions where no amount of distractions or clear instructions will work. So we need to move onto strategy B – how to cope and get through without reinforcing this behaviour.
There are few different ways and approaches that are discussed and shared throughout the parenting community. Which ever approach you take the best advice I can offer, is to stay calm and collected. I know it is difficult, I’ve lived it, but take a deep breath, count to five. Know you’ve got this. But, be pre-warned there is no overnight fix, just hints and tips to help you get over this hurdle as quickly as possible. Your options are:
- Ignore the behaviour. If you know there is nothing physically wrong with your child and they are not hurt, the likelihood is that this ‘moment’ is due to them pushing boundaries – so ignore them. You’ll find that they are doing this for a reaction, to get you to cave so by ignoring this less than perfect behaviour, they’ll soon realise that screaming shouting and throwing their weight around doesn’t get results and it will pass.
- Time out. This is personally my preferred method as this is way we got the best results. We gave clear instructions and made it clear what the consequence would be if this was not met. So if we found ourselves in the midst of a meltdown we would take him to one side and do time out. Receive an apology, cuddle it out, remind him of the expectations and go again.
And remember no matter what, do NOT cave in. No matter how bad it gets remember you are the parent and are in control (even though it may not feel like it right now), stick to your guns.
Click here for even more tips and advice for parents on how to deal with your toddler when they are having a tantrum.
And, when all this is a distant memory you’ll be able to look back at this age and actually see all the beauty and benefits that make up the not so terrible twos.