Toddlers’ tempers are quite large, and because they are not yet fully socially and emotionally developed, they will find it hard to control what they feel and “hold it in”. That is usually the root of the tantrums, meltdowns, whining, crying, and sour mood.
In many cases, terrible twos is the time when children find ways to be “naughty” when they attempt to explore, or deliberately test your boundaries when it comes to parenting.
Parents usually notice this a lot when their child is around the age of two. Almost every child goes through it, and it is a normal part of childhood development. Some parents handle it well, while others feel that they are contantly challenged by their toddler.
It is simply inevitable. However, you don’t have to struggle through it. There are ways you can do to deal with ti better and minimize the meltdowns.
Here are a couple of parent-approved meltdown prevention practices that many swear by:
Naps are considered top priority
You may have noticed how mild and friendly a well-rested toddler is. Even adults are usually a lot easier to deal with when well-rested, and it’s the same for your little 2-year-old.
A tired toddler is a cranky toddler. Every parent knows that. Which is why you can never make compromises around naps at this age.
Work your schedule around your toddler’s sleeping and nap times. Avoid going out too late or doing highly stimulating activities close to bedtime at night. If you plan to go out during the day, make sure that you do it hours before nap-time, or right after.
Watch out for mealtimes
“Hangry”, a combination of hungry and angry, was probably invented by parents to describe the phenomenon that happens to hungry two-year-olds.
This occurrence happens to almost everyone of all ages, it’s just that toddlers show it a lot more effectively, given their lack of socially-acceptable filter.
While adults will just sigh, mutter, and wrinkle our brows, toddlers can have a full-blown meltdown. This behavior can manifest just about anywhere, and just about anytime if you don’t track mealtimes properly.
A simple move that can minimize these episodes is to have a structured schedule for mealtimes. It also wouldn’t hurt if you pack a couple of grab-and-go snacks whenever you’re out and about.
Provide fair warning
Toddlers have a lot of desire for independence and self-determination. Unfortunately, they have little control over what happens around them. Mom and dad always make the decisions.
It can be as simple as going in the bathroom to take a bath, going to the grocery store, or bedtime. It can also be something big such as starting potty training. Check out our Potty Training 101 article!
No matter how “expected” these events are for use, they will often appear as sudden or abrupt for little two-year-old eyes.
The suddenness of these situations for them can be very stressful. Think of it this way: you’re enjoying a really nice show on the couch and then suddenly, someone picks you up and puts you in the tub. Wouldn’t that just tick you off?
To ease this stress, give your toddler a quick briefing before switching things up. It does not have to be a long explanation, but just a quick FYI like “bath time is almost up, I’ll go get your towel and we’ll dry you up, okay?” will often suffice.
Don’t give in
We’ve all seen it before at the mall. In fact, it is such a common occurrence that it even happens in TV shows. A kid sees a shiny new toy, the parent says no, so the kid rolls around the floor wailing until the parent gives in (or, hopefully, not).
Tantrums are a normal part of childhood. They can start as early as 11 months! If you want to find out more about these early toddler tantrums, check out this Survival Guide.
However, whenever your toddler throws themselves on the floor because of something they could not (or should not) have like rat poison, grass cutters, or a giant bar of Hershey’s for dinner, you should not give in.
Giving in reinforces the impression that tantrums will result them to getting what they want. It will make the problem worse in the long term and result to more frequent and more intense tantrums.
As a parent, it is our responsibility to learn to say “no” to teach our children about right and wrong and cans and can’ts. It is important to do it consistently so as not to confuse the child and make the problem worse.
Keep them occupied
Sometimes, if they’re not hungry or tired, the cause of bad behavior is out of boredom. I personally can attest to this as my little one gets into the naughtiest antics whenever he wants attention of stimulation.
Since two-year-olds are a lot more mobile and stronger than younger toddlers, you’ll catch them doing more destructive or dangerous things. They can climb on furniture, ransack your cupboards and drawers, spill things everywhere and leave marks on floors and walls.
And the cherry on top in this whole behavior is that they are usually quite stealthy about it. Parents of terrible twos are often very suspicious of a quiet house because it usually means that their toddler is up to something no good.
You can put on a couple of baby gates (we have some great recommendations in this article) for a start. The next thing you will want to do is give them something to work on. There are plenty of educational toys you can choose from to keep them busy.
Terrible twos love being busy and are always on the move for new adventures and explorations. Giving them something to occupy them like a busy-board can keep their minds stimulated and engaged so that they don’t go off attacking your house.
Consistency plus calm is key
Whenever terrible twos have their meltdowns or are displaying unacceptable behavior, you want to show them the right thing to do rather than just tell them.
It is helpful if you establish a connection, get down to their level and calmly tell them what they should or should not be doing. When a meltdown is in progress, make sure that your child is in a safe environment and maintain your presence so that they do not feel abandoned during their emotional distress.
It can be quite hard to maintain a sense of calm and composure in the face of a meltdown, but it is absolutely important. It shows your child what acceptable behavior is. If you choose to yell back, it will only reinforce the thought that it is okay to scream at the top of their lungs since mom and dad are doing it anyway.
Try your best to be level-headed and composed when your toddler is behaving badly. Keep in mind that you are the parent and therefore you should model what acceptable behavior is.
Remember that your child is still developing and that they have much to learn about good behavior. They can learn it a lot better if you demonstrate it through the way you react to them. Simply telling them to “behave” while you’re losing your cool sends very mixed and confusing messages.
Finally, if you’re caught in a pinch and need a quick solution that does not involve giving in or yelling, try distracting your two-year-old.
Distraction is not really a helpful method in the long term, but it is the fastest solution that does not harm your child’s perspective on acceptable behavior and discipline. You’re simply shifting their attention from their bad mood into something that can entertain or fascinate them.
You can’t do this all the time, though, as it will prevent you from addressing your toddler’s concerns and make them feel that you’re ignoring their feelings. It will make it seem as if their thoughts and feelings do not matter to you, especially if they have a genuine concern.
Doctors’ appointments that include injections is one scenario where you can use the distraction. Another would be if you’re at a children’s party and your little tot is about to make a scene by smashing the cake.
You can distract them by redirecting their attention to something you know they will find fascinating such as an animal, a toy, or a game.
The terrible twos is a challenging stage for many parents. If you feel like you are struggling with your toddler, know that you are not alone. There are many other parents out there who are going through the exact same thing.
Remember that this is only a phase, and that your child will eventually grow out of it. With enough attention, love, and consistency, they will soon learn how to master their emotions. They will develop empathy and kindness with your patience and help.
Always keep in mind that although you feel like you are struggling so much right now, your efforts to keep calm and consistent will bear fruit one day. Practicing patience and restraint even when you are tempted to break down or lash out will help your child grow up well-balanced and emotionally mature.
Think of it as the best opportunity for you to start your mission in raising a good human being.