Helpful Tips To Manage The Terrible Twos
STORY: Priyanka Elhence
17 November 2022
While there may be some truth to the ‘terrible twos’ phase, it can actually start earlier or later than age two, and may last through preschool. But the terrible twos don’t have to be so terrible. You can make this phase less terrifying when you know a few tantrum-taming tactics, have a sense of humour and a big dose of understanding and compassion.
Here's how to turn the terrible twos into the terrific twos:
1. Be mindful of fatigue and hunger
Like adults, toddlers can get hangry when they’re tired and hungry. A balanced diet can help keep things calm and your toddler’s diet plays a big role in their mood and behaviour throughout the day. Avoid sugar surges and sudden energy crashes by making sure your child eats three well-balanced meals with healthy snacks in between to keep his energy levels and moods steady.
2. Soothe, don’t shout
Frustrating and embarrassing as a tantrum might be, try and remember that you are the adult here, so you have to model better behaviour. Use the tantrum as an opportunity to put yourself in your child’s shoes and understand that your toddler still doesn’t have all the words yet to express how he feels, so resorting to crying or shouting is a form of expression for him. Instead of shouting or ignoring him, sit close and try to soothe them with your words and a hug to calm the situation down. Stay calm, take a few deep breaths, use a firm, yet calm voice and try to be an example of how you’d like your toddler to behave. Toddlers are quick to pick up on, and respond to, your emotions, so if you’re becoming frustrated, then the situation may easily escalate. Then you can talk about what brought on this particular tantrum later.
3. Look for tantrum triggers
When a tantrum strikes, think about what may have caused this to happen and recognise the signs to try and minimise future tantrums. As mentioned above, try to diffuse the present tantrum by being patient and understanding. Having a distraction ready when your toddler is close to a meltdown can also help. Sometimes it can be something as simple as telling knock-knock jokes, singing a silly song or going into another part of the house (or wherever you are) to change the environment. Offer him a choice of what to do rather than make the decision for him. That will help him feel a little empowered and more in control of the situation. Tip: When you see signs of an upcoming tantrum in the future, use a distraction or take your toddler away from the potential cause to avoid a repeat performance.
4. Communicate effectively
For the most part, toddlerhood is the development phase when your child is still learning how to express themselves, so helping him find the words to say what he’s feeling are important. Build a safe relationship with your child where he’s comfortable coming to you to help connect any emotions he may be feeling (and indirectly help him develop his EQ also). Remember to praise your child when they do something right, no matter how small it is, to reinforce good behaviour, (working your way up to praising them for resisting a tantrum when they did not get their way).
5. Consistency and routine are key
Toddlers are good with predictability because it makes them feel safe and they know what to do next. So try to aim for a regular routine of eating, playing and sleeping times so that your toddler isn’t caught unaware in a new situation (fear can also lead to tantrums). Likewise, being consistent with rules is important for helping your toddler understand that there are limits and to minimise mixed messages. Straightforward, age-appropriate rules can help your child control impulsive behaviour. Ensure that everyone (you, your partner, grandparents and any other caregivers) are consistent with the responses so that your child learns the routine and understands that bad behaviour is not a good thing. At the same time, don’t change the rules unexpectedly as that can be confusing for your toddler, so discuss any changes together first.
Behavioural changes won't happen overnight, and some days might be smoother than others, but rest assured, you're trying your best! Focus on the cute or the good moments, and take the time to appreciate how you and your child are on a learning journey together.