2 Year Old Tantrum: Key Tips On How To Tame The Tiny Monster In Your Home
Your child finally sleeps through the night, walks around on their own, speaks and plays independently. This parenthood thing is actually getting to be pretty fun, and then it happens: your child enters the “terrible twos.” Prior to having a child hit this phase, you may have thought it was just a myth or an exaggeration. The truth is that they are called the “terrible twos” for a reason, and it is actually an important phase of development.
This phase generally occurs around two years of age, but can strike any time between eighteen and thirty months. During this time, children begin to test their reliance on their parents, and to strengthen their nascent independence. It is an important step in the long journey towards becoming self-sufficient adults! Unfortunately, it comes with some difficult behaviors that test parents’ patience, such as open defiance and acting out in other ways.
During the terrible twos, your child is also navigating how to voice anger and frustration, which is an important part of emotional maturation. This is why temper tantrums are common during this time, beginning around age two and subsiding by the time your child turns four. This probably sounds like a long time, but you can make it easier by remaining patient through these displays with the help of the following tips.
This is the cardinal rule. If you allow your emotions to get the better of you or to escalate, your child’s emotional outrage will only increase. This is obviously easier said than done. Try to cultivate awareness of your emotional state so that you can self-correct before you hit your emotional tipping point.
It also helps to have some quick tools at your disposal to help you to decompress. These can include taking a few deep breaths, closing your eyes for a moment, or taking your two first fingers of one hand and letting them rest on your pulse in the other wrist. This helps to reduce stress and rebalance both sides of the brain for a quick reset. If all else fails, and the option to step away for a few minutes is available to you, invite the help of your partner, an older child, friend or relative and take a quick break.
Acknowledge how your child is feeling and sympathize.
It is tough to be two! Keep in mind that young toddlers are opinionated, unable to reason their way through an issue, and at the whim of their emotions. The tantrums associated with this stage are the beginnings of the child being able to fully own and express their desires, and their dismay when they do not get what they want.
By putting yourself in their shoes and seeing what they want and why they are upset, as silly as it may seem to you, will help you to maintain your patience. Acknowledging to you child that you understand that they are angry may also reduce the likelihood that they throw a full-blown temper tantrum.
Help them to name their feelings.
This is a key step in learning how to process emotions appropriately. Once you have identified and sympathized with the issue – however trivial it may seem to your adult mind – you can help your child to work through the frustration. If he or she is calm enough, start by asking them what happened to trigger the emotional reaction. You may need to overtly guide your child to the answers. For example, you may ask: “are you upset because your brother took your toy?”
Once you’ve found the trigger, you can ask your child how it made them feel. This helps them to identify different emotions like disappointment, frustration, and anger, so that they can be processed.
If a disciplinary action that you took has triggered the reaction, you can affirm how they are feeling but remain firm in your decision. For example, say: “I know it upsets you that you can’t play right now, but it is time to eat.”
If your child enters this phase at the younger end of the spectrum, you may just need to rely on the age old standby of distracting them with a toy, treat or change of situation as they will not be able to walk through this process just yet.
Remove your child from public situations when a tantrum erupts.
Public temper tantrums are some of the most frustrating moments for parents. The added pressure of trying to calm your child in a public space may increase the likelihood that your patience will deplete and actually fuel the flame of your child’s poor behavior. Try to move your child into a more private space if possible, even if that means taking them to the car or the bathroom.
If private space is not available to you, remember to keep taking deep breaths and to try to work through the above tips as best as you can. As inconvenient as it may be, temper tantrums are a part of life and most people in public spaces will understand.
Praise good behavior and appropriate emotional reactions.
At the end of the day, the terrible twos and associated temper tantrums are a learning process. You can help to speed your child’s transition through emotional eruptions into more appropriate emotional reactions in two ways: modelling and praise.
First, let your child see how you deal with emotional upsets by verbalizing them. Obviously, you do not want to talk your child through adult issues, but you can name things like frustration when you’re stuck in traffic, for example. This would look like: “Daddy is frustrated right now because we can’t move the car. I’m going to take a few deep breaths.”
Second, when your child processes disappointment or frustration in a nondisruptive manner, acknowledge it. Praise them for turning to another toy when their sibling takes one that they had previously wanted, or for coming to you when they are upset by something.
By following these simple steps, and maintaining emotional calm above all else, you will breeze through the terrible twos in no time!
I am a Marriage and Family Therapist. I work with couples or families who are seeking professional help in solving conflicts, improving communication or changing behavior. I work in mental health clinics, social outreach agencies, hospitals, institutions, and private practices. Therapy usually consists of talk sessions with patients, although the therapist's approach or style can vary; a marriage and family therapist may also make referrals to a psychologist or medical doctor for additional treatment.