One of the most dreaded phases of childhood development by many parents is the “Terrible Twos.” This phase begins once your now walking, active toddler is no longer a “baby” and is now exploring and thinking of things to do. He/she is becoming an individual. It is a stage of childhood development experienced by young children and can bemarked by tantrums, defiant behavior and lots of frustration.
Contrary to the name“Terrible Twos” this phase does not necessarily start at exactly two and may begin anywhere between 18 months of age and 30 months of age. During this phase of their development, children are walking, talking, starting to have opinions, learning about emotions and learning how to share as well as take turns. It is experienced by both boys and girls and may vary between children due to baseline temperament. It may last way into the third year of life and gradually over time, becomes less frequent.
During this stage, they will want to explore more of their environment. However, because their emotional and physical skills aren’t fully developed, they can become easily frustrated when they don’t achieve what they want to. This can lead to emotional breakdowns and tantrums. They, also due to their new development of opinions, may protest things or situations they once didn’t mind. This could lead to oppositional behavior. They do this to show independence. They will also have mood swings and can go from being very happy and laughing to crying and having emotional breakdowns because they didn’t get to do or get what they wanted.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that in order to help with this stage of development, parents do the following:
1. Maintain toddlers on regular meal and sleep schedules.
2.Praise behaviors that are approved of and ignore those that are not.
3. Avoid yelling, spanking or hitting.
4. Distract child or redirect him/her when they start to whine or appear frustrated.
5. Keep rules simple and offer brief explanations.
6. Let children be involved in age-appropriate decision making (i.e., allow child to choose an item of clothing to wear).
7.Child proof the home.
8. Be consistent with limits and do not give in to child throwing a tantrum or holding his/her breath.
9. Always stay calm, count to 10 if you have to, during these situations and do whatever is needed to “keep cool.”
Overall, the “terrible twos” can extend past two years of age and also start before then. The tantrums and unruly behavior associated with this phase can be frustrating but by keeping cool, calm, collected, setting limits and keeping a consistent schedule, parents can manage their toddler’s behavior.
When in doubt, or worried about any behavior or situation concerning your toddler, please reach out to your child’s Pediatrician or other Pediatric Healthcare Provider who is trained to deal with all aspects of your child’s development and can provide reassurance, education as well as appropriate referrals should that be needed.
Dr Luis Velasquez MD, FAAP
Director of Pediatrics
Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center