We’ve all heard about them….
We may have experienced them…
We may be waiting for them….
But are the ‘terrible twos’ really real?
Well, yes and no.
The ‘terrible twos’ stage is synonymous with temper tantrums, repeated shouts of ‘no!’ and generally causing havoc. But the simple fact is that the ‘terrible twos’ is simply a stage in a child’s development which, if handled correctly, doesn’t have to be the traumatic experience that many parents end up going through.
Common behaviours associated with this stage include:
- Temper tantrums where a toddler will react to any situation that’s not going his way by throwing himself on the ground – any ground – and screaming at the top of his lungs
- Making a run for it. Supermarkets, parks, the high street….everywhere is a potential race track!
- Overuse of the word ‘no’ – usually at a high rate of decibels!
- Selective hearing. Having your child totally ignore you can be one of the most frustrating behaviours for a parent, particularly when, two minutes later, he can hear the ice cream van approaching from a mile away!
Despite the handy alliterative moniker, the ‘terrible twos’ don’t actually start on a child’s second birthday. The stage really begins around the 18-month mark, when a child has started to walk and begins to realise that there’s a big world out there to be discovered. There are cupboard doors to be opened, boxes to be emptied, walls to be drawn on and open gates to be run through…..and woe betide the unfortunate parent, who tells them that they can’t open/empty/draw/run!
The problem is that the ‘terrible twos’ is a time when a child is beginning to see the world through different eyes but simply doesn’t understand the different between right and wrong. They have no way of knowing that running through an open gate is wrong because they may get hurt. They have no way of knowing that that beautiful new wallpaper mummy or daddy has just spent hours putting up doesn’t look better without a Pentel marker plastered all over it.
Of course, logic is all very well but not easily attained when you’re standing in the middle of a supermarket with a two year old prostrate on the ground, screaming at full belt and drawing a small crowd of onlookers. Telling the crowd that ‘he’s not trying to cause a scene; he’s only doing this because he doesn’t have the vocabulary yet to express himself fully yet’ will switch everyone’s attention to you and will be accompanied by a lot of head shaking and tutting.
So, how do you get through the ‘terrible twos’ stage?
Well, according to the experts, the key is to never give in. If you bear in mind that your child is fighting for his independence and is waiting to see what you’ll tolerate and won’t, then not giving in will be easier. Remembering that ‘no’ means ‘no’ will provide consistency and your child will clearly see that you’re in charge. If you give in, then you’re setting a precedent and basically making a rod for your own back.
If your child throws a temper tantrum, then walk away (making sure, of course, that he can’t harm himself). If you’re in a shopping centre, simply take him by the hand and move to the side or to a corner until he calms down.
Try to avoid giving him too many choices. He’s already confused – and excited – about this big new world, and may become frustrated by having too many choices, so keep it simple. Don’t offer big choices such as ‘do you want to go to playschool?’ though. Offer limited choices such as ‘do you want to wear the blue shoes or the red ones?’ If your child feels that he has some say in things, he may be less likely to argue with you, but he still needs you to make the big choices in his life.