Coping with the terrible twos

Becoming more independent is an exciting time in your toddler’s development. They’re curious about the world and their place in it, so it’s no wonder they want to explore everything, test out different behaviours and see where your limits are! If things don’t go their way and they get frustrated, or they haven’t yet got the skills to express themselves, that’s when the dreaded tantrums can happen. Learning what tends to set them off, and knowing how to respond when a meltdown strikes, is the best you can do. Remember, you can always call us if you’ve got a case of the terrible twos on your hands!


Understanding the terrible twos

Toddlers are curious little people who want to get their hands into everything. They love to explore, climb, hide, poke, prod, pull and do everything the big kids can do – and they sometimes get a little too carried away! Partner this with the fact that they are starting to feel emotions more strongly but they don’t know how to express them, and it’s easy to see why this can be a challenging phase!

If your toddler does go through this stage (and thankfully, it is just a stage), it may not necessarily be during their second year. Some children begin showing their strong-willed side soon after their first birthday. And it may not be until after they turn 3 that they’re able to keep things on an even keel when life isn’t going their way.


Tantrums!

Most toddlers will have tantrums at some time or other as part of the terrible twos – prolonged outbursts of crying, kicking and screaming, and generally losing control. Recognising the kind of things that trigger the tantrums, and staying calm while they let it all out, are some good starters for helping your toddler to deal with what’s happening. Here are some of our mums’ top tips:

1. Consistency is key
Being consistent with your rules is important for helping your toddler understand that there are limits, and therefore helping them learn from their behaviour. They can get confused by mixed messages, so make sure that everyone is on board, including grandparents, childminders and friends of the family.

2. Knowing when to use ‘no’
Saying ‘no’ is hard. Say it too often, and your toddler will start to ignore you and carry on regardless with what they are doing. Yet, if ‘no’ isn’t said often enough, and they may get a little too carried away. So, choose your real ‘no’ situations to help your toddler learn what is and isn’t ok. We suggest talking through with a partner or friend, and setting some simple ground rules that you’ll all be able to keep.

3. Look for tantrum triggers
If a tantrum strikes, think about what may have caused this to happen. When the same thing comes up again, use a distraction or take them away from the potential cause to avoid a repeat performance.

4. Stay calm
Toddlers are quick to pick up on, and respond to, your emotions, so if you’re becoming frustrated, then the situation may easily escalate. Take a few deeps breaths, use a firm, yet calm voice and try to be an example of how you’d like your toddler to behave.

5. Help them learn about consequences

After a tantrum, or some terrible twos behaviour, explain to your child what happened and why. Keep it short and simple in language that they’ll understand. Likewise, you can help them learn about positive consequences by praising them when they’ve done something good. You can sometimes give them a little reward, such as a sticker or a new pencil (something other than a sweet treat!). Giving them plenty of attention for good behaviour means that they’ll be less likely to try and earn it in other ways.

6. Try a ‘time out’
If your toddler repeats the same undesirable behaviour over and over again, a short ‘time out’ might help. You may need to stay with them to stop them from wandering off. Together with a simple explanation of why they are in ‘time out’, this can be a great way to teach your toddler a lesson why what they have done is not acceptable behaviour.

7. A balanced diet can help keep things calm
Your toddler’s diet can play a big role in their behaviour throughout the day. Lots of sugar can lead to surges of energy, followed by sudden lows – neither of which are a recipe for calm! Encouraging your child to eat 3 well-balanced meals, with healthy snacks in between, will help to keep their energy levels and moods at a steady level.


Be patient – it will pass

The terrible twos and toddler tantrums don’t carry on forever – thank goodness! Your child is going through some incredible leaps and bounds in their development, while learning about themselves and the world around them. It’s a learning process for the whole family and as long as you’re consistent with your expectations and rules, your child will soon begin to understand boundaries and grow out of this stage. In the meantime, offer plenty of fun toddler activities to keep their hands and minds busy. And remember, we’re always here with support and advice if you need it.

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