Every stage of development with your baby introduces new and exciting challenges. The first few months you might ask yourself, “When will he sleep through the night?” Then before the end of the first year it’s all about, “When will he start walking?” Maybe you’ll move on to, “When will he start eating” or “When will he stop eating?” Then there will come a day, possibly, where you might ask, “When will the terrible twos end?” The terrible twos just sound so negative to me. We don’t have the threatening threes or the frightening fours… so why do we have the terrible twos? Also, why the twos? I mean, this behavior could start before the age of two or last until after the age of three. Take a deep breath for this one folks. You have no control over when it happens and your best line of defense is patience! Hang in there. It won’t last forever and believe it, or not, there are some strategies for dealing with this most challenging time of your child’s life.
You might be wondering why your child has suddenly starting behaving like a little monster. He’s hitting, biting, defying you with an aggressive “NO!”, or simply ignoring you completely while going on his merry, destructive way. You’ll ask people what happened to your sweet little angel, that smiling happy baby you used to hold in your lap while he cooed back at you. He still does sometimes, but more often you are pulling your hair out trying to figure out where you went wrong. It’s at this age or to be more specific, this stage of life that your child is going through some very big changes. He’s suddenly realizing that the word just might NOT revolve around him. This could be a great disappointment. I’d be disappointed if I found out that the world I thought was all about me really wasn’t just about me at all. Learning that other people have feelings too? That’s pretty hard stuff to comprehend for a two-year-old. To make matters even worse, he doesn’t know how to communicate all these feelings. Understanding that your child is going through these changes and frustrations might help you to be more patient when you start to see the negative behaviors. So take a deep breath and offer a lot of hugs and reassurances that you will help your child through this.
When you see your child acting out in these negative ways, take a quick inventory of the time, recent activities, and your child’s food intake. Children who are hungry, tired, or bored are going to be the most difficult to deal with. You can almost always stop these things before they become issues. When you are scheduling your days, make sure to include breaks for downtime and snacks. When you are out and about, carry cheese cubes, grapes, crackers, or other healthy, filling snacks to keep the hunger pangs away. Avoid late lunches or meals whenever possible. Hungry kids tend to be unhappy kids and oftentimes, don’t recognize that they are hungry. Similarly, kids will be tired, which is sometimes more obvious because they are rubbing their eyes or having sporadic bursts of energy to keep themselves awake. Routine naps or downtime will help alleviate the tired grumpiness. Routines will also prevent periods of boredom. When kids know what to expect, things run much smoother and during this adjustment period of their lives, the less changes they have to worry about, the less rebellious they will be against the few changes that are naturally occurring. Handling Negative Behavior as it Happens [[AdMiddle] Even if you have set up your preventive measures to limit the negative behaviors your child is exhibiting, you most likely can’t stop it completely. It happens. So, when it does, be prepared to handle it. Be consistent and firm. When your child acts out remove him from the situation and give him a warning. Let him know that the behavior will not be tolerated. If the behavior repeats or continues, use whatever your usual disciplinary measures are. Time-outs are generally helpful in that it allows a child to calm down, gather his thoughts, and report back to you. Allow your child to apologize for his behavior and, if possible, have him repeat back to you what he did that was wrong and why he should not do it again. Even a two-year-old can usually say, in his own way, “I hit my friend. Hitting hurts. Sorry.” Make sure to give your child time to explain to you WHY he was acting out also. You can tell him that it’s OK to be upset or even angry, but instead of using his hands or screaming about it, he should come tell you. “Use your words” is a very common phrase parents use with their children. It’s a good phrase and I definitely recommend it, especially in these types of situations. Sometimes you might need to put the words out there for your child. “Do you feel mad?” “Is this game too hard?” You could even ask, “What can I do to help?” Give your child the opportunity to explore his feelings so he can deal with them, instead of just giving in to them. In a moment of honesty, I have to admit that even as an adult, I sometimes have feelings that are difficult to communicate and I, too, give in to frustration. I think it happens to all of us at one time or another. Imagine being this tiny little child and having that great amount of frustration and no ability to communicate it. Remember this when your child is acting out in what you think are the “terrible twos” and it might give you some more compassion as to who it’s actually more terrible for. Hang in there moms and dads! This phase will pass and with a little help from you, your child will move on to the next phase of life! Let’s hope it’s the “I want to help clean my room” phase! -