The Terrible Twos Made Easy

The "terrible twos." Parents dread it. In our house, we have a saying, "There's no such thing as the terrible twos, only parents who don't know how to deal with it."

What does this mean?

It means that helping your child through this stage of life is squarely in your court. Although it can be a stressful time, it's a period when parents are often the ones seen misbehaving because they've failed to plan, forgotten to meet their child's basic physical needs, or are expecting their child to be able to handle more than the child is currently capable of.

Why is this such an issue?

Because the "terrible twos" are just a normal part of child development. What happens during this period is critical: the child's will is emerging and with this, his or her sense of self is beginning to form. If you're screaming or ranting and raving or punishing your child harshly for a normal stage of child development, then you may be doing damage that cannot easily be undone. Remember what the neuroscientists say: what fires together wires together. So your reaction to your child's behavior can become a trigger for him, can add or subtract from his sense of being accepted and loved by you and can also become part of his internal sense of self.

So what's the harried of parent of a seemingly monstrous two-year old who has recently discovered the power of "NO!" and the strength of his will?

Although dealing with this stage will vary from child to child, here are some good tips:

3 Tips for the Terrible Twos

1. Realize that this too shall pass. This is just a stage. Further, it is a normal stage of child development. As a parent, you are not alone. All kids go through this, some earlier than others.

2. Use this as an opportunity to teach your child how to identify and cope with overwhelming feelings which often cause the tantrums that define the worst moments of the terrible twos. When your child expresses strong emotions, ask questions, "Are you feeling frustrated?" to help identify feelings. Once feelings have been identified and expressed, help your child return to neutral. Understand that these emotions are coming from a primal part of their brains, so they need to learn how to deal with them progressively as their brains develop. This takes time.

3. Although I'm putting this item last on the list, it really should be first because physical needs do come first. Recognize the importance of your child getting plenty of sleep, eating at regular intervals to keep blood sugar stable and having playtime or time spent connecting with you, whether that means sitting in your lap while you read to your child or going outside to explore the natural world together. Satisfy these daily needs and your child is less likely to have a meltdown. Also, if you are super busy person who is constantly rushing your child from here to there, realize that children don't like being shuttled around. They need a calm environment in which to thrive. If you hurry your child from this place to the next, then your child is likely to react with a meltdown, so make sure to spread your errands over a number of days or arrange a play date, so you can have time alone while doing your errands.

Following these simple steps will help ease your child's transition through the terrible twos and give you a clear understanding of child development and what your child really needs from you. For more tips, read my parenting book, Keepers of the Children.

Copyright © by Laura Ramirez. All rights reserved.

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