Terrible Twos: What To Expect, Plus 10 Expert Tips To See You Through
Your little one is growing and transitioning to toddlerhood, and chances are you’re about to experience (or are in the middle of!) a time often referred to as the “terrible twos.”
We know this stage of your child’s life can be challenging, but the twos don’t have to be so terrible. They can actually be pretty terrific!
Lots of changes are taking place within your little one’s mind and body this year, and your goal is to help them cope with and manage these changes. That’s where we come in.
We’re here to help you turn those “terrible twos” into “terrific twos” with a few basics, along with some tips to help guide you (and your toddler) through this phase!
What Makes The Terrible Twos So Terrible?
We’ll get right to it: the twos really can be terrible. This is a transitional phase when your toddler’s comprehensive vocabulary exceeds their spoken vocabulary.
The scales aren’t balanced, which leads to a lot of frustration. Your little one can’t express their feelings, so it can be hard to understand them, which leads to explosive behavior. This creates a disconnect.
Another reason this phase is difficult is that they suddenly want to become independent, but their motor skills aren’t quite developed enough yet to do all the things they want to do on their own.
Patience can run thin when this happens — for you and for them! But don’t blame yourself for your toddler’s “terrible” behavior. Breathe a sigh of relief and understand that this is normal developmental behavior for their age!
With a little bit of knowledge, you can guide them through their overwhelming emotions.
Signs Your Child Is In The Terrible Twos Stage
Before we dive into the details of this phase, remember that your little one is only two years old, so they won’t behave perfectly all the time. It simply isn’t possible!
That said, here are some (completely normal) signs that your child is in the terrible twos stage:
- Throwing tantrums — at home and in public (unfortunately!)
- Changing moods
- Testing limits across different environments
How Long Does The Stage Last?
The terrible twos can actually start around 18 months and linger into the “terrible threes.” Most children experience at least a bit of difficulty during the time from their second birthday to their third, but some may struggle even longer.
By age four, your little one will probably have fewer and more manageable tantrums because they’re maturing.
They’ve begun to understand how to express their needs in a healthier way. This is because their spoken vocabulary has significantly increased and their motor skills are more developed.
When To See A Doctor
Most behaviors (like the ones we mentioned above) during the terrible twos are age-appropriate. However, talk to your child’s doctor if they:
- Have a limited vocabulary
- Can’t communicate with you in any way
- Don’t make eye contact
- Are very aggressive
- Hurt themselves and others frequently
You know your child best. Discuss any concerns you have about your toddler’s behavior with their doctor right away.
10 Tips For Guiding Your Toddler Through The Terrible Twos
1) Stick To A Schedule
As much as possible, put a predictable schedule in place for your child. Naptime, playtime, and meals should be around the same time each day.
Stick to this schedule to avoid unnecessary meltdowns. For example, don’t run errands around naptime or bedtime. The more predictable your child’s schedule is, the more predictable their behavior will be!
2) Be Consistent
When disciplining your little one, be consistent and concise. By this, we mean don’t spend too much time correcting your child. The longer you talk the less they comprehend.
Parents, you can do it! Be consistent and redirect the situation to something positive.
3) Give Extra Attention to Praiseworthy Behavior
Redirect your attention when your little one is misbehaving by focusing on the good they’ve done and praising them for it.
Giving attention to praiseworthy behavior doesn’t mean you completely avoid the “terrible” behavior (no matter how tempting it may be!). That still needs to be addressed.
However, it’s important that you’re not always focusing on their mishaps. Make sure you’re also giving attention to and pointing out their praiseworthy behavior.
4) Put Your Toddler In The Bath
If your little one is having some trouble calming down, give them a bath. Even if it’s in the middle of the day, a nice, relaxing bubble bath can be just what they need!
And, parents, if you need some downtime, this bubble bath is the perfect solution to help you relax and get a good night’s sleep, too.
5) Head Outside
On average, your two year old needs to spend about three hours per day outside.
Now, we know this isn’t always possible given the weather and your family’s schedule. But if you notice your little one starting to get antsy or frustrated, take them outside.
Sometimes, your toddler (and you!) just needs a change of scenery. Go for a walk, take a bike ride, draw with chalk, or just let them run around and play.
Don’t forget to apply our Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50 before you head outside! And if you want to avoid using spray sunscreen on your toddler’s face, try our Clear Zinc Sunscreen Stick - SPF 30 - Fragrance Free!
6) Set Clear Expectations With Positive Commands
Your child can’t behave well if clear expectations and rules aren’t in place. Take a minute (because that’s all their little attention span can handle!) to be clear on what you expect from them.
Talk about things like keeping their hands to themselves and how to communicate with you — teach them basic sign language words like “hurt,” “please,” “more,” and “thank you” if they aren’t talking much yet.
When setting clear expectations, use positive commands instead of negative commands. For example, if you don’t want your child running around the pool, tell them to “walk” instead of saying “don’t run.”
7) Lower Your Expectations
Keep age-appropriate rules in mind when setting expectations for your two year old. Don’t set the bar so high that it's unattainable for your toddler. This will lead to even more frustration.
For example, if you want them to practice sitting still, try working on this for only a minute or so at a time instead of trying to make them sit still for several minutes.
It may sound counterintuitive to lower your expectations because we know you want the best for your little one! But take baby steps in working toward the goals you want your toddler to reach and they’ll soon get there.
8) Keep A Safe Environment
Evaluate your little one’s surroundings to make sure they’re playing and living in a safe environment. You might have to take your babyproofing skills up a notch.
For instance, if your little one is getting frustrated because they can’t play with the glass vase on the end table, move it so it’s not in their direct line of sight.
A tantrum is inevitable if they see something they can’t have!
9) Connect With Your Toddler
Make “connection over correction” a goal in your parenting journey. Spend some time and connect with your toddler one-on-one every day.
The good news is that, as their parent, you already have an unexplainable bond with them. Use this to your advantage when correcting your little one!
10) Stay Calm
Remember to always stay calm. The last thing you want to do is add more chaos to the situation.
We know this can be difficult, especially when a rebellious toddler throws a terrible twos tantrum. But you can do it!
If you need to, go to another room for a few minutes before responding to your little one’s behavior. Or take some deep breaths for one minute so you have clarity on how to manage the situation.
Making The Terrible Twos Terrific
You're doing a great job! Remember: The “terrible twos” is normal developmental behavior for this age group.
You can turn the “terrible twos” into “terrific twos” by sticking to a schedule, focusing on praiseworthy behavior, and staying consistent. When setting expectations, make sure they’re age-appropriate and maybe lower them just a bit.
Connect with your toddler before you correct them. Remain calm and do what you need to do to stay composed.