You often hear the term “terrible twos” used to describe the behavior of toddlers once they hit the magical two-year old mark. Often at this age kids start really pushing for their way, as they learn to make their wants known. Parents not only expect to deal with tantrums, and terrible behavior; they often accept it as the normal, and something that can’t be avoided. However, with some planning you can make the terrible twos terrific!
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The two-year old stage is really a fun age where you start to see your child’s personality come out, and you can begin to have little conversations with them. They aren’t necessarily easy days, because they will involve a lot of training and teaching, but if you put the effort in, you will be able to enjoy your toddler!
My husband and I have raised eight kids, and I honestly don’t remember the twos as being bad.
Yes, I remember long days of the “battle of the wills”, where kids tried to win and get their way. Those days weren’t FUN, but I knew that I needed to win the battles, and the toddler needed to learn to submit and obey.
Here are some ideas to help make the terrible twos TERRIFIC!
1. Establish a routine early.
As the parent, you are in control,and should set up a routine early for when the kids eat and sleep, and other routines that will make them feel secure.
Children function much better when there is structure and routine to their days. When they know what to expect they are less likely to get upset and start throwing a fit.
For example, they aren’t as likely to make a big deal out of nap time or quiet time, if they know that this takes place at the same time every day.
2. The more effort spent on training in the early years, the easier the older years will be.
The more time you spend training and disciplining a child when they are young, the less you will have to do as they get older. If we teach teach toddlers to obey and respect us, we won’t have the authority issues when they become teens.
Don’t wait until your child is two to start teaching and training. They understand far more than we often give them credit for by age one!
They understand what “no” means, and they can learn to come when they are called. They can also help put toys away, and follow simple commands.
3. Think and plan ahead.
Many times toddlers will behave much better if think to prepare for them, and plan for different situations.
For example, when taking them to the store bring them a snack, and their sippy cup. Early in the shopping trip, offer them the snack with their drink. It helps keep them happy and occupied while you get your shopping done.
Also consider bringing special toys that are reserved for special times, and will probably keep their attention for quite awhile.
Another thing to remember is their routine.
If they nap at a certain time everyday, plan your outings around that nap. Many times toddlers pitch fits when you are out with them not out of defiance, but simply because they are over-tired, and out of their routine.
3. Remember that they need lots of training.
Training takes time and lots of practice. (and patience!)
If they whine for something, calmly remind them to say “please”.
When you give them something, teach them to say “thank you”.
Don’t just expect them to pick up toys. Do it with them, and make it fun. Then encourage them to do it.
Usually toddlers will need much less discipline if we simply take the time to do a lot of training!
Don’t just expect them to know what you expect from them, or what acceptable/unacceptable behavior is, if you haven’t taught them.
4. Be consistent.
If you are going to make it a rule that they have to play with puzzles at the table, then you have to follow through and make sure they do it at the table EVERY time. If you allow an exception one time, you are setting yourself up for a battle, and have to start training in that area all over again.
Don’t make a rule unless it’s important enough for you to consistently enforce it.
If you aren’t consistent in following through, they will know they can push the limits, and they WILL try!
5. Keep discipline immediate and simple.
Toddlers have a short attention span, and you must discipline immediately after there has been an infraction, so they make the connection.
- If they throw a fit when you’re eating out, take them out to the car.
- If they hit a sibling, immediately have them sit or stand in time out for 2-3 minutes.
- If they are hitting with a toy, take the toy away.
They may get more upset when you discipline them, but it’s teaching them that they must abide by the rules, and what behavior will not be tolerated.
6. Be calm when enforcing consequences or disciplining.
There is no reason to raise your voice, yell, or threaten.
Quietly and sweetly say, “I’m sorry you can’t play with that toy, but I warned you and you didn’t listen. Now I have to take it away.”
Kids will be more likely to accept the consequences of their actions when you calmly tell them about it, rather than ranting and raving. When you do that, they just learn to tune you out.
7. Use positive encouragement whenever possible.
When your child is being stubborn about picking up the toys, help them get started, and when they throw one in the basket, praise them. Smile, clap, and say “Good boy! You are HELPING!”
Kids LOVE to make us happy, and when we are able to encourage right behavior through our praise, it encourages more right behavior.
It is more beneficial to praise and reward right behavior, than to give negative correction.
Don’t believe the world’s philosophy that “the terrible twos” are inevitable, and something you just have to suffer through. Make plans on what you want to teach your toddler, what the rules/boundaries will be, and give them a good routine for their days.
Decide to make it the “terrific twos” in your home!