How to Manage the Terrible Twos

Child rearing is a long and involved process. From birth, we’re called to feed and care for babies who are essentially helpless. At the time they start walking and talking, they begin to form opinions and explore boundaries. These early stages of learning are the toddler years, also known as the terrible twos. And with a little preparation, however, you can handle the ups and downs that come with this exciting age range.

  1. Study: Understanding the cognitive development of a two-year-old certainly helps in raising them. There are plenty of early childhood resources that share age appropriate behavior for toddlers and offer advice in working with that behavior. Finding books, blogs, and/or videos that share information for the toddler years will support in developmentally appropriate practices that you can implement within your home.
  2. Preparation: Once you’ve prepared yourself, it’s important to prepare your toddler. Much of the struggle parents deal with in raising toddlers is the defiance of instructions given. It’s important to remember, however, that toddlers need warnings and reminders. Talk with your child about what is going to happen, so they are mentally prepared. Then reinforce it as it is happening. For instance, if you are going to the grocery store, explain to your child that they must hold your hand while you are in the parking lot before you even leave the house. Discuss it on the way there. As you are getting out of the car, repeat your instructions so that they are being followed as you proceed. Toddlers need to know what to expect before it happens. Keep “surprise” rules very limited as a change in rules is likely to precede a change in attitude.
  3. Be Firm and Concise with Explanations: The attention span of a toddler is short. Choose your words wisely as they are still developing language and learning to grasp concepts that are new to them. As a parent, you must clearly outline what positive behavior looks like for a toddler by modeling and using words that make sense to them.
  4. Repeat: Raising a toddler calls for repetition. Repetition of songs, stories and most certainly instructions. Repeating instructions for toddlers helps remind them of things that need to be done and how they need to be done. For added reinforcement, asking them to explain what you’ve stated will improve the chances of them following your directions.
  5. Read to Them (Often): Reading and discussion increases vocabulary acquisition and dialogue. Children also learn empathy, life lessons, and reasoning through the exploration of characters and their stories. This encourages a parent-child relationship based on effective communication that will aid in verbal exchanges as they grow.
  6. Engage in Positive, Active Dialogue: As your toddler grows, engaging in discussion is important. Actively listening to them speak, asking questions and giving a response is especially important because it shows that you value their perspective. That acknowledgment (in most instances) will help them feel safe and build on the trust they have for you.
  7. Give them Options: Toddlers are exploring boundaries and independence. There needs to be an opportunity to allow for options in decision making that must be done. For example, if they need to put on shoes, offer the choice of picking the pair that they wear as a compromise.
  8. Follow Through: When you have outlined consequences for their actions, be sure to keep your word. Along with repetition, toddlers need reliability and consistency. It is yet another aspect of trust in which your child will develop.
  9. Focus on the process: The end result isn’t always what’s important with toddlers as they are learning at every opportunity afforded to them. See the process of learning for what it is: a process. Changing a negative and product oriented mindset about toddler growth to one of patience and compassion will help in times when your toddler may test you.
  10. Be Realistic: Developmentally, toddlers are still coming into their own and making sense of the world. While you want to challenge them in areas of advancement, you also need to have realistic expectations of what is appropriate for their age and as an individual. Every child is different so be mindful of the pace at which they are growing.
  11. Realize they’re not so terrible. At all: As an adult, you’ve come to know what you know because you have matured. But even with challenging behavior, toddlers are learning and growing every day. Toddlers are exactly where they need to be with their wisdom. Understand that your life with them is a space for you to grow in new ways as well and just because it might be uncomfortable or new for you, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily terrible.

Did we miss anything? How did/would you handle the toddler years?

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