5 Positive Parenting Tips for Handling the “Terrible Twos”
Contrary to popular belief, the “Terrible Twos” are actually a good thing! Nobody likes dealing with tantrums, but the emotions that your child experiences (starting at about 18 months) are very healthy and help them to learn critical behavioral and social skills. Since this issue causes so many of us parents hours of headache and heartache though, it prompts discussion here. Through research and my own experiences, I’ve come up with a five tips that strike to the heart of the issue.
In my experience, the most important factor in contributing to a well-behaved toddler is consistency. Making a schedule and sticking to it as often as possible is a big help! When kids know what to expect, they are more apt to go along with your wishes. Consistent discipline is important too! If little Susie knows how to wear you thin and get her way, trust me, she’ll take full advantage and exploit your weaknesses. While this can be upsetting for parents, it creates an excellent opportunity to teach your toddler about boundaries, manners and consideration for others’ feelings. Whether your little one is having a fit in the supermarket or demanding a selection of meals at dinner time, continue to lay down the rules and always be consistent. When your kids know that they can’t put one over on you, they are far less likely to make frequent demands…and that means happier days for both parents and kids!
Part of growing up is learning to be responsible and independent. When toddlers start asking for (or demanding) choices, let them take charge…within reason. Since the “Terrible Twos” are essentially the threshold that marks your child’s journey into independence, we need to take their efforts into consideration and allow them to make some choices on their own. Start simple by allowing them to pick their own snack or getting themselves dressed. When you help them to feel like they have a say, you’ll be met with fewer battles and less resistance. In cases where you’d like them to “choose” to do something that they’d rather not, remember to redirect and keep it positive! Instead of insisting that they wear their hat outside, why not respond “Wow! Look, it’s you’re pretty blue hat! You’re favorite color! Do you want to wear this one?” Try to make necessary tasks more fun and upbeat so that your child can delight in (rather than dread) those moments.
Often times a toddler’s fits come about when communication fails. Either your child is not getting the reaction they want from you or they are completely oblivious of your expectations. Make sure you say exactly what you mean in direct and simple terms and give them a chance to share their thoughts too! While their wishes may not always be desirable or even attainable, knowing that they’ve been heard and understood gives them some control in the situation and let’s them know that you’re both caring and considerate when it comes to their feelings. Listening is so important because many times we can fail to see the obvious when we’re busy or in a rush. When in doubt, don’t neglect to check for signs of the 5-Basics: hungry, thirsty, sleepy, dirty (as in diaper) and yucky (as in feeling sick).
4. Forget about saying ‘NO’.
The last thing a toddler wants to hear is “no”. It’s best to avoid the word whenever possible! But if you can’t, be sure to give a simple and understandable explanation. A flat “no” is often the worst response because you are essentially telling your toddler, through words and actions, that their feelings don’t warrant consideration or that they are bad or naughty. Both can hurt a toddler’s feelings and cause them to feel like they have no control. Not a good mix for a toddler! Rather than saying “no” try redirecting (shifting the focus from one topic to another) or using alternate phrases. Instead of saying, “No snacks right now” we can say things like, “Snack time is at 3pm. We’ll have our snack then.” In this way, we show our toddlers that we haven’t forgotten about them and that their wants will be met, but within the established rules.
Another great tool for parents is praise. Because toddlers are just beginning to understand social situations and realize what is expected of them, they often fall short of understanding the “what not to do’s”. Remember to give consistent praise and acknowledgements whenever you’re kids do the right thing, rather than chiming in too often about the bad. They’re not going to get it right all the time, but compliments and lots of high-fives and kisses help to encourage them on the right path more often. In the end, your goal is a happy toddler and loving praise is a sure way to improve your toddler’s mood!
This post was originally published on January 29, 2011.