Seven Tips Terrible Twos | MommyCrusader.com

Seven Tips for Surviving the Terrible Two’s

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It’s about time, in my family, for the Terrible Two’s to be our companion again. This will be our fifth time through the Terrible Two’s (which actually starts around 18 months for my kids).  Here are our seven tips for surviving the terrible two’s.

Causes of the Terrible Two’s

It’s important to remember what causes the Terrible Two’s. There are two major factors in all the tantrums, “no’s”, and fights. The first is an inability the toddler has to communicate what she wants. She has experienced enough of the world now that she has some very decided opinions. Unfortunately, her language development has not kept pace with her understanding. This understanding to language deficit causes the toddler to have a lot of stress. The main way she alleviates that stress is through crying or tantrum throwing.

The second major factor involved in the Terrible Two’s is that the toddler has just reached a childhood development stage named “autonomy versus dependence”. In other words, the toddler has just figured out that she is her own being –separate from Mommy. She is also learning she has her own will and voice. And although the tantrums are very frustrating for the parents, they are how the toddler is expressing her voice, will, and separate self.

Now, Early Childhood Development class is finished. On to the nitty-gritty – How parents stay sane, and keep the household functioning while their toddler moves through the Terrible Two’s.

Seven Tips for Surviving the
Terrible Two’s

Tip 1: Talk, talk, talk with the baby before the baby becomes a toddler.

If you’re able, teach the baby a few key sign language signs. Words we use include “finished”, “milk”, “eat”, “want”.  Those are the basics. There are a lot of great books to help with this, but my favorite is “Teaching your Baby to Sign”. Another resource is “Signing Time” –which is a PBS show and is available in DVD’s too.

Talking with the baby (and later toddler) establishes a habit of communication. And although the baby/toddler might not respond all the time, the patterns of responses the baby gives will become evident and both parent and baby will be better able to understand each other. Also, teaching the baby the sign words will help because then the baby will have a way of expressing herself long before she is able to do so verbally. Signing has also be shown to help language development in babies and toddlers – an added bonus.

Tip 2: Offer choices, all the time.

This will help the toddler begin to express her individuality in ways that are acceptable to her adults. The trick with offering choices is to only offer choices that you are comfortable with. Meaning, no matter what the toddler picks, the outcome is acceptable. Also, only offer as many choices as the child is old, rounding up.

For example, I offer my baby a choice of two cereals in the morning. Both choices are okay with me, and there are only two for her to choose from. This simple act of letting her choose what she is eating lets her develop her autonomy in a positive way.

Seven Tips Terrible Twos | MommyCrusader.com

Tip 3: Repeat what you’ve understood the toddler wants.

That doesn’t necessarily mean giving it to the child, it just means saying back to the child what you heard the child say. I even use this with my older children. But when I do this with my toddler, I say back what I heard over and over and over again. I try to think of at least four different ways to tell my child what I heard. There are two reasons for this. First, it shows my child that I truly heard what was said and understood the message. And second, saying it so many times stops the frantic, stress response before it starts and helps the child calm down.

Tips one through three are designed to lessen the number of tantrums the family experiences. And they are habits that can be developed prior to the Terrible Two’s. The following tips are how I’ve learned to deal with a tantrum once the tantrum has started.

Tip 4: Assess the child’s physical needs.

This is a difficult thing to do, but a lot of tantrums occur because a physical need has not been met. These needs include: hunger, thirst, fatigue, and over stimulation. I’ll often go through a check list in my mind while the child is tantrum-ing and see if I can remember the last time the child ate, drank, or napped. If I can, then usually the child has received too much stimulation, and needs to be wrapped up in a soft blanket and cuddled until she calms down. It’s the unmet physical needs that are causing the tantrum, and once they are addressed the tantrum will dissipate.

Seven Tips Terrible Twos | MommyCrusader.com

Tip 5: Don’t respond to the tantrum.

This can be really difficult to do, but it’s often the best thing to teach the child that tantrums won’t get her what she wants. It’s very hard to ignore a child screaming and pounding on the floor. As long as the child is safe, and you’ve done what you can (without giving in), then sometimes it is best to walk away or put the child in her bed – away from you.  This helps to teach the child that throwing big fits will not get her what she wants.

Tip 6: Don’t bribe or give in.

So, this also means be sure this point is one you are willing to be stubborn about before you start. Once a battle has started saying things like “If you stop crying, I’ll give you a treat”, or “Okay, fine, here you go”, only undermine your parental authority and will make the tantrums happen more often. Once you’ve said no – then you can’t go back on what you’ve said. This is also a really hard one to do, but it makes life a lot easier in the long run.

Tip 7: Say yes as often as possible.

This idea ties into the previous tip. When the child asks for something, as long as I’m not really opposed to the idea, I try to say yes. There are a lot of questions I’m asked and I really don’t have strong feelings about the outcomes one way or the other. So, in those cases I try to say yes. This really helps to make the times when I say no stand out and be more effective.

Some of these tips can be implemented earlier than when the terrible two’s hit, and some are exit strategies for when the terrible two’s are at their worst. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it contains the seven tools Iuse most when my children are dealing with this stage of life. Good luck to any of you currently enjoying this particular parenting adventure.

I’d love to hear any other tips or stories! Post them in the comments below.

This post was written as part of Best Toys For Toddlers ‘Tot Hacks’ Series.  Please visit this page to learn more tips about how to survive the ‘No’ stage.

 

Comments 39

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  1. Great tips! We did sign language to some extent with all the kids except our fourth. Kicking ourselves now for that one! 🙂 Maybe #5 should start in utero. LOL!

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  2. Great list! I really need to work on the bribing thing. I tend to distract my nearly-2 year old with whatever “treat” I can think up to stop the meltdowns. They can be so hard to deal with! It’s something I’ve been working on lately and I came across this reminder at the perfect time 🙂

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  3. Great tips! My son is just 14 months so I am glad I read this to prepare myself. I think communication is very important. I also agree with you about tantrums. DON’T ENGAGE! haha I taught Kindergarten so I have had to deal with my fair share of tantrums.

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      Bless you for teaching Kindergarten. I think all Kindergarten teachers should get a free pass to heaven. Good luck with your boy, although I’ve found boys to be a bit more mellow through this stage then girls. 🙂 Here’s hoping you have terrific two’s instead of terrible two’s. Thanks for coming by and commenting. 🙂

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      Thank you so much for repining this post. That means the world to me. Thanks for coming by and commenting, and pinning. 🙂 I’ll be seeing you at Pecked to Death by Chickens soon. 🙂

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      Yes. He’s just starting to figure out that he is his own little person. He’ll keep you on your toes for a while, but offering him two choices and talking to him about what you and he are doing will help alleviate some of those tantrums. Best of luck!

  4. I needed to read this today. My almost 3 year old is driving me NUTS. I give him choices. He’ll pick one. I’ll give him that, and he’ll say NO to that too. UGGGH!

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      That can be so frustrating. In that situation, I usually say “okay”, and take back what I was offering. After a while, the toddler learns that “no” means a loss of what they want. Good luck, though. I’m cheering for you.Thanks for coming by and commenting.

  5. Thank you for this! My son is 19 months and we’re getting more frequent “meltdowns”. It’s difficult as his language is not developed and he can’t say anything that he wants. I usually can tell what he wants and we’re trying to encourage him to tell us, but he’s just not there yet. I like the trying to say yes more but find it difficult as he always seems to be doing things that aren’t great – like sucking on nappy cream tubes or balancing of the coffee table!!!

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      Those two behaviors definitely would be no behaviors, that’s for sure. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and I hope you found some ideas to help you through this next little bit. Hang in there! Thanks for coming by and commenting. 🙂

  6. Coming from someone that has been through the terrible twos 6 times with 1 more to go I’d say this is some pretty solid advice. Thanks for sharing with us at #MomTimeThurs

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  7. So ofte my little ones would throw a tangrum when they were tired, hungry, or just palin overwhelmed by the environment. I still see that today though they express themselves differently.

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  8. This is really great! But what do you do if your 2 yr old is literally just defiant? And when I get on to him then he breaks into a terrible rage? Tonight after dinner my songot my cup of the table with a little drink still in it I told him to pleas put it back he didnt listen n so I asked againand told him m that wasnt to play with and put it back still not listening to me I went to get the cup from him amd put him I time en out but before I could even get him m he just looked at me and poured it on n the floor!

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      That’s a hard situation. First of all, don’t get upset at the child. He doesn’t understand the full consequences of his choices. Your next step is to gently teach him the consequences. I would say something like, “Uh Oh, Now you get to help mommy clean up the spilled drink after your time out. It’s so sad when we make poor choices.” There will inevitably be crying and wailing, and the behavior won’t instantly change. But over time, and with consistency, he will. He really wants to make mommy happy. Also, please remember the power of praise. The child needs to know that you are noticing when he is trying to make good choices. Try to praise 3 times as often as you correct. It gets tricky, but keep trying. Hang in there, it gets better.

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  9. The tip are really good my sons 17 months just like every baby he has tantrums and gets stressy.. But it’s when he’s with other kids he starts hitting them and being nasty to them. I get really upset because I don’t no what to do. I get scared taking Hun out and all the other mums look me up and down. I don’t no why he does this any tips for that pls xx

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      That’s a hard situation. I don’t feel like I have enough information. Does he do this unprovoked? Or only when he’s frustrated? I would monitor the situations that he’s in and try to find the trigger. It might be just an inability to communicate and helping him communicate will help reduce the behavior. The key is making sure that he understands that you understand what he wants. He should be taught that his aggressive behavior isn’t appropriate and logical consequences(such as not being able to play) should consistently be reinforced. Sitting down and playing with your child during the play date might help alleviate yours and his anxieties.

      1. He just does it randomly so thw other day o took him to a massive play area he went off playing then after 5 mins a lil girl came up to me and said ur boy is sitting on my brother so straight away ran over there and there he was sitting om this boy hitting him I was so embarrassed I didn’t no what to I took him out the play pen got down to his level and told him what a naughty boy he was and went home. :/ he does it at nursery too but o did get told that one of the older boys and was hitting my boy. But jaiden hit him back :/

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          I’ve thought a lot about the situations you described. That’s why it’s been a few days. . . . I have two suggestions. First, keep up consistent expectations. Let your boy know that physical violence is not something your family does. And natural consequences — like removal from the play area– are the result of the behavior. Add to that an increased amount of positive attention from you. Try for every time you correct him to catch him being good three times before you correct him again. This will help build your relationship with him, so he’ll want to make you happy. I hope this helps. Again my apologies for taking so long to respond. You really do have a difficult situation, and I wanted to give you the best ideas I could. Keep loving your boy, he is amazing in his own way. 🙂

  10. Thank you for this!! Although we are already working on a couple of these key steps. My second is 2 1/2 and neck deep in the two year old syndrome. Ugh! Which also starts 16_18 m w my kids. I needed the reminders for a few things i was forgetting.

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      When you are in the thick of things it can be really hard to remember everything that works. I’m glad this helped and am sending you calm and happy thoughts. You and your son will make it through this, that’s for sure! Thanks for stopping by and sharing. 🙂

  11. Anyt tips for getting rid of a dummy (she usually only had it for sleep times), but of late she has been having tantrums to try and have the dummy all of the time.

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      Before you start stressing about having your girl lose her dummy, make sure she hasn’t experienced any upheaval in her life. Children often revert to sucking on things as a comforting mechanism. If there has been upheaval, wait for a while, and let life calm down. Then work on changing the behavior. I haven’t had any children take to a dummy (which I think is a pacifier.) I’ve heard of people sending them to the Pacifier Fairy and giving the child a small toy in exchange — like the Tooth Fairy. One pacifier every night, until they have all gone to with the fairy. I hope this helps.

  12. Very helpful tips! I’m super late to reading this post and wish I would have back when my son was 18 months old!!! I swear the terrible two’s started for us then, too.

    He’s now a month away from his 2nd birthday and things have gotten SO much better for us! Just a month ago, I was nearly in tears because everything… EVERYTHING caused a temper tantrum and I spent so much of the day trying to help when I could but otherwise calmly let him work through the tantrum on his own.

    Soon after our terrible week, he started using a ton of new words (that I didn’t realize he knew)!!! I’ve always made it a point to talk to him, even as a baby, but it’s like the switch flipped and the number of tantrums seriously decreased by 75% or so! Wow… like you explained, it has to be all of that frustration of knowing what they want but not being able to express themselves.

    We definitely still have our bad days, but I’m so glad he can communicate more effectively with words now and I’m learning to understand toddler-speak better, too 🙂
    Amy @ http://www.livinglifetruth.com/

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      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with your little one. I’m always so glad when the communication switch gets turned on a bit more. Thanks for visiting. I hope you have more good weeks with your little guy.

  13. I really hope to use some of these tips! We are in the terrible twos and it doesn’t help that I am also 7 almost 8 months along with #3! I have tried just about anything I can but he screams “help or Ouch” when I am holding him out in public. That is if he wants to run around like a wild child. lol I am afraid someone is going to think I’m kidnapping my child.

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      That’s a tricky situation. It might help to rename the “help” and “ouch”. Saying something like “Your heart hurts because I’m keeping you from doing something you want to do. But my job is to keep you safe, and that may mean not letting you do everything you want.”

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