The “Terrible Twos”: 5 Survival Tips for Parents

When I initially confronted my parents about how they had successfully endured the terrible twos not once, but twice, all they could say was, “One day she’ll grow out of it.” Even though I knew my daughter’s conduct was simply a phase, I needed something more than “she’ll grow out of it.”

That was a foregone conclusion. While I know that every parent is different, I was able to identify a few essential recommendations that every parent could employ.

I immediately went to social media and the Internet to begin looking for strategies that other parents have successfully utilized to help their children overcome the terrible twos.

A lot has been said and done about terrible twos. In fact, Terrible twos have become synonymous with parenting nightmares. Over the years, we have seen how seemingly innocent toddlers suddenly turn into angry-yelling tantrum-throwing rug rats when they near their second birthday.

But, are terrible twos real or just another parenting myth? Well! Not really! The term ‘Terrible twos’ exists for a reason. Most parents will vouch for that.

What are Terrible Twos?

Terrible twos are nothing but a development milestone, nearing the second birthday. It is characterized by increased curiosity, independence, and lack of control. It is around 24months of age when tots go through the significant motor, emotional, social, and cerebral changes.

With these marked-up abilities, toddlers become more curious about their surroundings. They gain a heightened, false sense of independence. They are no longer dependent on you, or so they think.

It is a battle between what tots can do at this age and what they cannot, with zero understanding of the latter.

Tell-tale Signs of Terrible Twos

While toddlers at this age are much more dexterous than their younger selves, there is a lot they need to learn and understand. With no prior learning experience, they frequently fall into trouble. It could be from trying to open a jar to as simple as conveying their message.

Too young for emotion control, 2year olds easily get frustrated and angry. Thus giving rise to difficult behavior like yelling, defiance, and tantrums. That’s how this phase earns the title ‘terrible twos’.

Imagine this. You have plans for a movie when your boss asks you to put in extra hours. Now, as an adult, you can reason and make a decision. You choose to work and cancel the plan. This would certainly irk you but you know how to keep your composure.

Now, imagine a similar scenario with your 2year old. She wanted to go to the park but now you have some work. So the park trip is canceled. Here, the toddler does not have the decision-making power irrespective of what she believes. That’s one source of frustration. Add to this, the pleasure of giving up going to the park.

So if you have a toddler who yells, cries, throws itself on the floor refuses to understand, and always has a tantrum up its sleeve, you know that the terrible twos have arrived.

Why are Terrible Twos so difficult?

Terrible twos arise because of an augmented skill set combined with a complete lack of emotional control. While as adults we can control our annoyance, a typical 2year old cannot.

Another factor that makes them difficult is their inability to express themselves. Children as young as 18months to 30months do not have well-developed vocabulary and language skills. This makes it frustrating for them to convey their emotions and get things done.

What makes this stage difficult for parents is the inability to understand and respond to their growing child’s needs and wants. There are three areas of conflict here:

  • Physical Mobility: Two-year-olds are quite capable of running around. However, they still lack stability and balance. Parents face the challenge of keeping their tots safe while maintain their independence. This gives rise to discipline issues and is a source of anxiety for both parents and the child.
  • Self-awareness: Children of this age group become increasingly self-aware. They begin to understand that they are a different entity from their parents. That is why most of them start talking like “Aanya will drink water” at this stage.Having gained a little sense of identity, they start expressing their ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’. That’s when they turn from obedient, gullible tots to stubborn tots.
  • Language: For infants and younger children, you rely on facial clues and body language to understand their emotions and needs. Like for a two year old who has not started talking yet, you would look for signs of fatigue when she acts up.

But the expectations are not the same for a verbal 2year old. When she acts up, you might question her for the reason behind the behavior instead of looking for bodily signs of exhaustion. Also, your verbal tot might totally refuse to accept your suggestion of taking a nap.

All the above factors lead to discipline and behavior issues. Thus, making this stage difficult.

How long do Terrible Twos last?

There is no clear answer to this question. Treat this stage as a developmental milestone and work on the areas that cause the most trouble. Sooner or later, your child is going to snap out of it. The only thing you can do is help ease your loved one’s transition.

Survival Guide – Tips to deal with terrible twos

Since terrible twos is a conflict between growing autonomy and limited abilities, a good way to deal with them is to bridge the gap between the two. Here are a few tips that can help:

Be Patient

Patience is a virtue, and it is not something that you are born with. I believed I had all the patience in the world as a first-time mom until my daughter hit her “terrible twos,” when life drove me to test my patience to new heights.

While many toddlers will go to any length to see how far they can push you, it’s critical to remain patient with them. Impatience drives your toddler to test the boundaries even more.

Don’t Overreact 

Although the majority of my parent’s friends disagree with me on this, I am a firm believer in not overreacting. I simply pretend to walk away when my daughter throws herself on the floor and screams for rescue.

She realizes at that point that her actions aren’t going to elicit a response from me, so she stands up and acts as if she didn’t just raise a ruckus. While I am proud of my decision to not overreact, it was established via trial and error.

My kid used to be able to garner a reaction from me by throwing a tantrum until I realized that was exactly what she wanted and immediately changed my response.

Consistent Discipline

There are various parenting tip sites that promote consistency in disciplining your child if you truly want to create responsible children.

Disciplining your child’s behavior should never be done with the intention of physically or emotionally harming them; rather, it should be done with the intention of teaching them what is and is not acceptable behavior, as well as how to practice self-control.

Show Your Children Attention

Many youngsters will act out more if they do not believe they are receiving the attention they require. While paying attention to your child may appear to be a no-brainer, it is not as simple as it appears.

We live in a society where things are constantly moving, and many parents find it difficult to set aside significant periods of time for play or reading. It may be difficult, but it is something that must be accomplished. Pay attention to your children’s signals.

If your child begins to cry for no apparent reason or becomes excessively attached, these could be early signals that your youngster is in dire need of your attention.

Don’t Beat Yourself

Regardless of whether this is your first or last child, no parent has the perfect parenting model. Even if it appears that your friends or other parents have it down to a science, keep in mind that no one is flawless.

Never get so caught up in your own errors that you forget to appreciate what a wonderful parent you are. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that this too shall pass when things get tough.


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