Whether you’re there already or looking ahead at your future, there are big changes that occur around the time your baby turns two. This transitional period is marked by greater physical capabilities, a broader understanding of language and ability to communicate, and the emotional evolution that comes with asserting independence while still craving nurture. With these huge psychological shifts, tantrums, dangerous curiosity and other forms of misbehavior may arise, hence the name “Terrible Twos.”
The good news about the Terrible Twos is that it’s only a stage and, with understanding, proactive and compassionate parenting, you can navigate the terrible twos with minimal struggle. Although every child is different and reacts individually to his particular environment and feelings, today we’re explaining the science behind the Terrible Twos to help ameliorate some of the negative effects on you, your toddler and your family.
Much like puberty, the transitional period around two-years-old is about physical, emotional, neurological and psychological changes. It’s a period of self discovery and independence when your child’s true personality is likely to emerge. As your toddler becomes more mobile, she’ll be able to make choices about where she wants to go and what she wants to do, much to the chagrin of parents. This gives her the opportunity to get into things she shouldn’t and wreak havoc anywhere you go. That can be a frustrating situation for both of you, since she will surely need to be deterred and your anxiety will elevate.
Additionally, your little one will be able to understand much more of what you’re saying and even communicate back to you. With more words, comes more freedom to express personal thoughts and desires, many of which may conflict with your own. While having words should make things easier to communicate with your child, they sometimes cause you to butt heads. And your child is now all-too-aware that she is her own being and she can make choices in the world, aside from you. Although she may appear pleased as can be that she’s marching to the beat of her own drum and testing her limits, her independence and freedom often causes an internal struggle as she still longs for a parents’ nurture, affection and direction.
When all of these transitions come to a head at the same time, major frustration can occur for both children and their parents. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm. Your child will feed off of your reaction and your behavior, and ultimately this is the response she will learn when faced with an adverse situation. If your child is not in a position to be reasonable, comfort her without addressing the issue first and also ensure she is safe. Once she has calmed down, use positive discipline methods to help you discuss what happened. Try to boil down the feelings involved in the situation since that is ultimately what tantrums are about. And once you understand the feelings and triggers, you can better navigate away from them in the future. This is truly a learning opportunity for both of you.
Redirection, humor and compassion are all terrific ways to navigate the terrible twos. Sometimes all it takes is distraction and a goofy attitude to snap your little pal out of that bad mood. Most of the time, tantrums are short-lived and forgotten when the stressor passes.
The science behind terrible twos tells us that they are very normal and an important part of developing a healthy psyche. It’s the way we as parents handle them that can make all the difference.