by Vanessa Salas
For first time moms, the onset of the dreaded “terrible twos” can come as a surprise. Even though it’s a well-known phenomena, often joked about by older parents (aka “terrible two survivors”), as soon as it happens to your once docile little bundle of joy, it can be a rude and startling awakening, one that must be dealt with with lots of love, understanding, empathy, and heaps (and heaps) of patience.
But before we move on to tips for your survival, let’s talk about what causes it. There are two reasons: first, your two year old has reached the “autonomy vs. dependence” stage of childhood development, meaning your little one is starting to assert their independence. Second, a toddler has a limited capability to communicate what he or she wants; their language ability has not yet kept pace with their understanding of their surroundings, causing them to be stressed and use crying or throwing tantrums as a coping mechanism.
As “terrible two survivor” myself, let me give you some time and tested tips on how to cope with your two year old’s mood swings.
1. Set a routine.
Many two year old don’t like change. They are creatures of habit, and as such must know exactly what will happen ahead of time. If you need to go from one place to another, tell them 15 minutes in advance so that have ample time to transition from one activity to the next without feeling stressed.
2. Acknowledge their feelings of frustration, anger, or sadness.
While it can be difficult to stay calm when your child is deep in the throes of a temper tantrum, especially in a public place, try not to match your child’s frustration, and instead talk in a soothing manner. Hug them close and make them feel that you understand what their going through. Sometimes just validating your child’s feelings, and saying it out loud (“you’re feeling angry; I understand what you’re feeling, I’d be angry if that happened to me, too) is enough to calm them down.
3. Offer acceptable choices.
This makes a toddler feel in control while giving them the ability to express their individuality. But as a parent, you’re still in control, so make sure that you give choices that are within the bounds of what you’re comfortable with. So whichever choice the toddler picks, you’re fine with the outcome. For example, you can give your child a choice between having a banana or strawberry as a snack. Either one of those choices is healthy and acceptable for me, while your little independent one gets to have a choice in the matter. Win-win, all around.
4. Know your child’s physical needs.
With time, you’ll have the ability to anticipate when your child is tired, needs a nap, is hungry, or has had too much stimulation. Because of their limited language abilities, they’re not able to articulate their physical needs, and end up crying in frustration instead. So take the time to assess what they need, and what their limits are, and respond or adjust accordingly.
Are you dealing with your own terrible two yourself? What tips can you add to this list? Let us know in the comments section.