When you first have your baby, you’ re totally in love. You enjoy the time you spend together. They are so easy to care for…until they turn two. You can survive this time if you follow these smart ways of tacking the terrible twos.
There is some truth to the idea that children at the age of two can be quite a handful. They’re beginning to become a person in their own right. They’re no longer completely helpless and they’ll be sure to let you know that fact. They want their own way and will do whatever it takes to get it. Does that sound at all like you, your partner or other children in the family?
Part of the reason why two-year-olds are given such a bum rap is because they are stuck. They’re no longer babies but they probably still have problems communicating well. When they’re in the midst of a meltdown, it is difficult to reason with a two-year-old.
Don’t wait to deal with issues which are unacceptable. Before your child reaches this stage, decide how you’re going to act the first time your child throws a tantrum because they didn’t get their way. Tell them no hitting, no biting, no whining or whatever they’re doing which you deem is not acceptable behavior. Then be consistent in how you handle that infraction each and every time.
Plan your daily activities around them. This means avoiding trips out to the store when it’s too close to their naptime. It also means being sure you have a snack with you in case they get hungry while you are out and about. If you must go out to the store, try to do it during the part of the day they’re generally in a good mood. By avoiding trips outside the house when you know they’ll be cranky you can avoid a good deal of problems.
1. Show the Love
When your child screams and cries because she doesn’t want to leave grandma’s house, give her a hug and tell her you know it’s hard to go home when she’s having so much fun. The idea is to show her that instead of being part of the problem, you’re actually on her side. Try not to get angry, even if you feel embarrassed in front of the other adults — including your mother-in-law! Be kind but firm throughout the entire transition into the car. I always had distractions waiting in the car such as a juice box, or a little bag of toys such as stuffed animals, Barbie dolls, or little cars that my kids could only play with in the car. That way the novelty of the “car toys” didn’t wear off as quickly.
2. Practice “Time Ins”
“Time outs” are a popular choice of discipline for parents who want to temporarily separate a child from an environment where inappropriate behavior has occurred. The concept behind the “time out” is to give the child a break from positive reinforcement. So, if your 2-year-old decides he doesn’t want to help you clean up his blocks and would rather throw them at you instead, you calmly tell him “No, we build with blocks, we don’t throw them” and then gently move him to another location and redirect him without anger or emotion.
When things are going well, it’s important to practice loving emotions and praise such as “Wow, you made a really big tower, I like how you’re building so many nice things.” As a result, the child gets used to feeling right when acting right, and feeling wrong when acting wrong. By making the connection between good behavior and good feelings, the child becomes motivated to keep his act together. For time out to work, he first needs a large quantity of quality “time-ins” so take advantage of every opportunity to create fun and loving feelings with your little guy so he’ll learn early on that the good behaviors he practices make others feel happy.
3. Create a “Calm Down” Corner
When our kids were toddlers straight through early elementary school, we created a “calm down” corner for them, and included them in the process of designing it. It was simple but had a few comforts for them like a favorite pillow or blanket, a pad of paper and some crayons, and a stuffed animal.
Location was important; it was set far enough apart from the rest of the action in our house. It was not used to reward them for acting out, but if a negative behavior happened because of circumstances that they couldn’t manage, like flushing the new baby’s pacifier down the toilet (true story) because he was jealous he now had competition for mommy’s attention, we would let him spend 5–10 minutes “calming down” in a more loving atmosphere. We found this far more productive than hammering into him what he did wrong. This approach has since taught our kids to find some space away from the fray where they can reflect and have a more “peaceful” time out when they need to think and regroup.
4. Respond with Empathy and Set Clear Limits
When your child is giving you a hard time and doesn’t want to have a bath because she’ having a lot of fun playing in the new fort you just built together, be sure to validate your child’s feelings. As parents, we often skip this step and go right to setting the limit. For many children, it’s these first steps — empathy and validation —that help them start to calm down. Keep language simple and direct: “I know you don’t want to stop playing in this great fort we built today because we’ve been having so much fun, but it’s time to have a bath and get ready for our nighttime story.” When you skip this step, children often “pump up the volume” to show you — louder and stronger — just how upset they are. This is often when tantrums and defiant behaviors start.
Set the limit. “It is time for your bath now. You need to get nice and clean after playing outside all afternoon.” Use language your child understands. Keep it short and sweet and non-threatening.
Enforce the limit: If none of the strategies above work, and your child is still giving you a hard time about having her bath, now you must calmly but firmly enforce the limit you just set with her. “You can start getting undressed for the bath or I can help. You decide.” If your child resists, then (without anger) gently pick her up and start undressing her for the bath. In a soothing tone, you might say something like: “I know, bath time isn’t your favorite time of day. I understand. Or, just start talking about something totally unrelated to the tantrum. “Hey, did you know Mommy bought some new bubble bath this week, wait until you see how big the bubbles will get.”
Try following some of these smart ways of tacking the terrible twos. Get the advice of other parents who have gone through them and see what worked for them. Then you may find your child’s ‘terrible’ twos can become their ‘terrific’ twos.
Pretty soon your child will stop calling trains “choo-choos” and cats “meows.” They will stop asking for you to push them on the swing or help them feed their baby dolls.
Even though you can’t imagine it right now, as you stand in your juice-less kitchen with a crying toddler…but, you may actually miss these days.