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So you think your child is a little ahead of the game and is already showing signs of the terrible twos months before their 2nd birthday? How in the world do you handle it?
Patience, patience and more patience.
Though you may not have had a toddler go through the terrible twos before, more than likely you have had a friend or family member whose child has, so you may believe you’re an expert by default. Whatever the case, today we’ll look at 8 ways we’re dealing with those (almost) terrible twos.
Is it really that terrible?
Developmentally, around the age of 15-18 months old, toddlers will naturally explore the world. This often translates into doing everything they’re NOT supposed to do.
They torment the dogs and/or cats, play with the blinds, pull everything out of drawers, cabinets and shelves; as well as yank and pull on things that shouldn’t be pulled and yanked on. They throw their food on the floor, tease the dogs with food and say the word no parent wants to hear,”No!” Accompanied with that ‘no’ is a stern head shake, which for most toddlers looks more like they are dancing to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song. Moms, you know the song!
Toddlers who are transitioning into this stage are pushing boundaries and testing their independence. They want to do everything by themselves and they don’t seem to mind leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Meanwhile, we are going crazy trying to keep them in line. As parents, we sometimes fail to recognize the differences between when our child is deliberately trying to be rebellious or defiant, and when our child is simply trying to express their growing independence.
If we can accept our toddler’s behavior as a developmental milestone, perhaps the “terrible twos” might not be so bad.
So, What’s normal?
No really, what is normal?
We do know that toddlers don’t know how to clearly communicate themselves and their needs into words. How they display that frustration varies from child to child.
For example, if a child resorts to hitting, screaming, biting or what have you, this is usually associated with their frustration for your inability to understand what they’re trying to communicate to you. That said, hitting, screaming and biting are usually frowned upon, even if these behaviors are considered normal.
Which leads us to ask, “How do you deal with such behavior?” Here are 8 ways worth trying:
1. Establish Routines
Make sure to have a regular routine for naps, meals, bedtime, etc. Though it may be hard, it’s important to stick with the routine as much as possible. This creates consistency for your toddler with little room for surprises.
2. Set Limits
Learn to set limits with your toddler, and don’t digress from them. It shouldn’t come as a shock to you that your child will tests those limits time and time again. Make sure that you stick to your guns because it lets them know what they can and cannot get away with.
3. Provide Limited Options
When asking your toddler questions, do it in a way that limits their many possibilities for an answer. Instead of asking, “What do you want for a snack,” you can ask “Would you like a yogurt smoothie or banana as a snack?” This will make your toddler think that they have made the decision by themselves and that the power was in their hands instead of yours. This is a perfect plan for those who have very independent toddlers.
4. Beware of the Tantrum
One of the most important pieces of advice we can offer up is to never ever give in to their tantrums. If you do, they win and they will do so often to ensure they are getting their way. We all have seen those toddlers who don’t get their way and they then resort to screaming and stomping their feet in the middle of aisle nine until the parent caves from mere embarrassment.
5. Be Consistent
Make sure to implement disciplinary actions right away with your toddler. Implementing these actions at the onset of the “terrible twos” can help to ensure that an action plan is in place. Incorporate time outs and take things away from them that they enjoy. You can make them earn it back later with good behavior.
6. Use Positive Reinforcement
Praise your toddler when they are being good. This will only encourage them to behave. Toddlers like positive reinforcement, and when they realize that they receive praise for their good behavior, they’ll want to receive that praise over punishment more times than none.
7. Try to Relate
Try to relate with your toddler during this stage. It’s new to them also, and at one point or another, we all went through this stage. Keep in mind that they will eventually all grow out of it. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Make sure to provide your toddler with a safe environment that is completely childproofed in a way that shows them what they can and cannot get into. This will encourage them to explore, yet learn their limitations. They will get in less trouble when they cannot get into things that would otherwise cause them to get into trouble.
The ‘terrible twos’ don’t necessarily start when your child is two, but can grace us with their presence anywhere from their first to third birthday. Understanding that will allow more time to adequately prepare for this developmental learning stage. Good luck parents and stay strong!!