Two-year-old Tommy squirmed anxiously in his seat in the grocery cart. “I want up!” he cried to his mother.
Tommy’s mom looked inside her purse and found a box of raisins to give little Tommy in hopes that he would settle down. She had just started her weekly grocery shopping and didn’t want to have to return home.
Tommy munched on a few raisins and then asked his mom to lift him out of the cart again. When she declined, Tommy angrily threw the remaining raisins onto the store floor and started wailing loudly. Quickly, Tommy’s mom complied and took Tommy outside to their car. Another trip to the grocery store was a disaster. What could she do to cope with her little one’s persistent temper tantrums? Here are ten ways to make the “terrible two’s” tolerable:
1. Be prepared.
The “terrible two’s” are a developmental stage toddlers usually go through anywhere from 18 to 30 months and can last into age three. Educate yourself by reading some books that can give you some insight on what to expect and how to handle it. A book entitled How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk might be a good start.
2. Let them make choices.
When children are in the “terrible two’s” stage of development, they are trying to assert their independence, and explore the world. They are not trying purposely to make their parents mad. Give your child choices between two things you are OK with them doing. “Do you want to eat dinner or go outside,” may not afford you the response you want when you are trying to get your child to eat dinner. “Would you like to play inside with your Legos or play outside in your sandbox?” allows your child to select an outcome that will give him some exercise which is what you want him to get.
3. Allow your child to help.
Children at this age love to imitate and help. Although it may be easier for you to put away groceries or laundry, let your child help to build a sense of independence and learn a new task.
4. Give fair warning when it’s time to transition to another activity.
Don’t expect your child to agree to leave the playground when he is really enjoying himself. Allow about 10 minutes. Give him time to transition by saying, “You may go down the sliding board two more times and then we must leave.” Show him two fingers and count with him each time he goes down the slide.
5. Pick your battles.
If you are having a day when your toddler is really “pushing your buttons”, you ‘ll need to ignore small things for the time being. For example, if there is a certain way you expect your child to eat with a fork and he isn’t doing it that day, let it go. On a particularly trying day, it can keep you sane instead of frustrated. Continue to reinforce the eating-with-fork behavior you want him to adopt on another less trying day.
6. Use distractions.
When your child starts to ask for an ice cream cone right before lunch at the zoo, try saying, “Look, Johnny, see that tall giraffe? Let’s go see what he’s doing before we miss it.”
7. Be positive.
Research shows that children remember positive statements more so than negative ones. Instead of saying, “No hitting,” say, “We use our hands to help others not hurt them.”
8. Manage those temper tantrums.
If your child acts up in a public place like little Tommy did, remain calm. Try saying, “I know you are upset but let’s pick out some bananas for your breakfast tomorrow. You‘ll be able to pick them out better sitting in the cart.”
If he still doesn’t calm down and insists on getting out of the shopping cart, for example, take him out of the store to a private area. Talk to him face-to- face and say, “You‘re out of control. I am here to help you. You can’t get out of the cart in the grocery store because people may walk into you and you may fall hurting yourself. Mommy doesn’t want to see you get hurt. Until you calm down, you are going to sit here.”
Continue to offer him understanding and eventually he should settle down. If it will inconvenience you to take him home, return to the store once your child is calm and place him back into the shopping cart.
9. Ensure your child gets enough sleep.
Tiredness can make a child cranky. Try to maintain your child’s regular nap times during the day. If your child no longer naps, then make sure he is getting the proper amount of sleep each evening by getting to bed at a consistent time every night.
10. Get together with other moms.
If possible, don’t go it alone. Meet other moms with young children through your church, preschool, neighborhood or meetup.com You can share helpful ways to make the “terrible two’s” tolerable.
How have you managed to survive the “terrible two’s”?