Your two year old is likely the love of your life. A little slice of heaven and joy… except when they’re not. All parents face the terrible twos with their toddler; there is really no getting around it. But just as annoying and frustrating as it is to be told “no” to every request you make, coupled with the screaming, food throwing and biting of siblings, this is all part of a perfectly natural development phase for your child.
How you handle this new independence will help you and your child form a healthy relationship, and keep your wits in check. Here are some helpful tips to get you and your child through the terrible twos, safe and sound.
The main trigger for tantrums and other undesirable behavior from toddlers is their lack of communication skills and being unable to express their needs and desires. Parents can really help out here by teaching your child to form words and reading to them as much as possible. A good exercise is to cut out pictures and words of food, toys and other things and place them around the house. Your child will then point to the pictures, learn the words associated with them, and get a head start on their alphabet and literary skills.
Give Food Options, Not Choices
Don’t ask your child if he or she wants breakfast, lunch or dinner. Chances are, food is the last thing on their list of priorities, even when they’re hungry, and you will likely face a lot of no’s. Instead, provide two options at mealtime that they can’t say no to, such as “do you want cereal or yogurt?” Be firm and insistent that they eat one of the choices provided. Also, as hectic and unpredictable as some days are, try to stick to meal times as much as possible. If you make your child eat at the same time everyday, they will be prepared for it, and know the routine and what is expected of them.
If a Tantrum Strikes, Disengage
Although they can seem like little bouts of evil, tantrums are quite normal for a small child who can’t express themselves properly. The best way to handle a tantrum, even in a public place, is to not get involved. Simply tell the child that you love them and understand they are upset that they can’t have the cookie/ toy/ chef’s knife, but when they calm down, you can find them something better to eat or play with. Then continue with what you are doing and let the child simmer down. Don’t yell, punish or show signs of aggression, as this will confuse and scare an already upset child. Stay calm, and the tantrum will eventually disappear on its own.
Plan Ahead When in Public
A toddler’s attention span is non-existant, and they get bored extremely easily. When making a trip to the grocery store or other outing, be proactive in situations that might present a challenge. If you are grocery shopping, let the child munch on a snack before you hit the cookie aisle, or let them play with a new toy when in a department store. Keeping their nerves calm is easier when they are distracted by something they already enjoy.
Praise and More Praise
When your toddler has shown calm and mature behavior either at home or in public, make sure to shower them with praise and tell them how proud you are of them. Tell them that you understand it wasn’t easy to be surrounded by all those toys at the department store, or to sit at the table and eat dinner when they’d rather be playing, but they did a wonderful job! Praise and complements are important components for the healthy mental and emotional development of a child. Plus, they will come to learn that you really do pay attention to everything they do, increasing their sense of trust in you.
The terrible twos are inevitable, but they don’t always have to be so terrible. These tips can help you and your toddler survive this natural phase as peacefully as possible.