Surviving The Terrible Twos

Many parents throw up their hands when their two-year-old starts balking at everything and refusing to do what is asked of them. If you understand the phase your child is going through, you can save a lot of head-butting (and headaches).

It's Just A Phase

It may be a phase, but it's a very important one that is the foundation your child's life will be built on. In phase one, your child depended on you for everything. You fed him, you dressed him, you chose when he played and when he slept. His mood matched your mood and he was an extension of you. He did not think about the past and had no sense of the future.

At about 19 months, he started moving into the second phase of his life.

The Independent Phase

At about two years of age, children develop a need to become independent. They begin to understand that they are not an extension of their parent. They start to realize that they are an individual.

This concept is a little scary for many two-year-olds, and totally new to all two-year-olds. Some children have more powerful urges to make their own choices and can seem extremely contrary to parents who are used to a cuddly bundle of joy.

Understand His Choices

You have company coming and you ask your two year old to pick up his toys. He looks you right in the eye and says "No!", or worse, he starts crying. It may or may not develop into a full blown temper tantrum.

Understand that he must disagree with you in order for the choice to be his own. He probably can't tell you why he disagrees with you because this need for independence is new to him. He doesn't understand it. He might even be afraid of what he is feeling.

In the Independent Phase, he will even disagree with himself. You might ask him what he wants for lunch and he will tell you soup. But when you set the soup on the table, he cries and says he doesn't want it.

Don't lose your cool. Understand that his mind is developing and he is experiencing feelings that he has no control over. Make this phase easier for you and for him by learning how to guide him.

How To Help Him Through This Phase

Offer choices. It's scary to assert independence with no boundaries. Instead simply offer two or three choices and praise him when he makes a choice.

If (when) he balks, take a minute to get down on his level and talk with him. I don't mean talk to him - I mean talk with him. Make it a conversation. Tell him you understand that it's hard to make a decision, but you know he can do it. Ask him if he wants help making the decision and then point out the pros and cons. Praise him when he makes a choice.

If there are two things he needs to do, give him a choice of which he will do first. Praise his choice.

Tell Him Yes

One of the biggest breakthroughs I had with my son came when I changed the way I answered his requests. He would anxiously wait for his dad to get home so we could go play in the creek (his favorite thing to do). When he would ask if we could go play in the creek, my answer would be "As soon as your dad gets home."

I was forgetting that children think "right now". There is no past. There is no future. Everything is right now.

While I was thinking I was telling him "Yes, we will go play in the creek (later)", what he heard was "No". His reaction varied from a pout to a full-blown temper tantrum.

One day I tried a different approach. When he asked "Can we go play in the creek?" My answer was "OK! We will go play in the creek! I can't wait for daddy to get home so we can go play in the creek."

He looked at me. Then he smiled and said "I can't wait for daddy to get home. We will go play in the creek."

From that day on, I thought twice before answering any request. I learned to answer in a way that he could understand. He learned that I wasn't telling him "no", I was actually saying "yes".

Don't Deny His Feelings

He is feeling angry or scared or jealous. These are all feelings that he needs to learn to deal with. Instead of telling him not to feel them, explain that they are common feelings and help him deal with them. You will be teaching him a lesson that will mold him into an independent adult who is able to deal with feelings.

Phrases like "Don't be mad", "You're not hurt", "Stop crying", "Don't be afraid", deny the real feelings your child is experiencing. Acknowledge those feelings and teach him how to deal with them.

Help your child through the terrible two's and you will be building a foundation that will be the base for a solid, self-assured adult. An added bonus is that when he reaches the next phase of independence (the teenage years) he will be more willing to look to you for guidance through it.

Want to do more research on the terrible twos? It's easy! You can use the google search box below to search for more articles like this or to narrow down your search.

Try typing "two year old temper tantrum" or "two year old crying".

You can learn how to make raising your children more enjoyable with a Parenting Class.

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