Understanding the Terrible Twos


Picky toddler eaters

There are no boring phases of child development. For the first few months of a baby’s life, the issues are about how long it will be before they can sleep all night. Once that feat has been accomplished parents look to other milestones such as the baby’s first words or the baby;s first steps. After they reach the first year of life, parents start looking to the second and start to wonder if or when they will have to start dealing with terrible twos.

The term “terrible twos” is a bit of a misnomer. It is said that its use began in the 1950s but the implication that this phase will start up when a baby hits the 24 month mark and then go away when they turn three years old is far from accurate. Not all children will go through this phase. Other parents have to start dealing with terrible twos when their child reaches 18 moths old. There are some toddlers who keep exhibiting this behavior until they reach four years old but you never hear anyone talking about the “terrible threes.” While it is impossible for anyone to predict when, if even if, your child will begin this phase of their development. The good news is that there are things you can do to prepare for dealing with terrible twos, whether or not it happens at all.

It is important to understand what is happening. People wonder how their “little angel” can morph into a “little demon” at the drop of the proverbial hat. Terrible twos tantrums can include such upsetting behavior as biting, hitting or just going against your wishes. Some toddlers in the terrible twos phase just ignore their parents all together. Like Godzilla over Tokyo, they continue with whatever mayhem or destruction that they are able to manage.

There is a lot going on in your child during this time. During children’s first three years of life, their brain will grow faster and more than during the rest of their lives. Before they reach their first birthday, their brain has tripled in size. A three year old toddler has a brain that is three times as active as the average adult. Think about that. That same three year old brain has already formed more than 1,000 trillion connections between neurons.

Additionally, this is a big time for their psychological development. Suddenly they are beginning to learn that they live in a world where they are not the center. Like when we figured out that the solar system revolves around the sun and not the earth, it was a shocking revelation. Toddlers are beginning to learn about other people’s feelings. It can be hard to process all of this new information and experiences without a real way to communicate how you feel. They are frustrated with this and frustration is what leads to toddler screaming tantrums.

At the same time, this is when children begin to test their limits and exhibit independence. You want your child to be independent, right? They begin to test their boundaries and part of that is saying “no” to you. Understand all of this may help you cope with the phase of development known as the terrible twos. Another thing that may help is realizing that it will not last forever. You will get through it.

That does not mean there is nothing you can do to make dealing with terrible twos better. It is a good idea to keep a journal or calendar to take notes of your child’s terrible twos behavior. You may begin to notice a pattern or some triggers that cause the tantrums. Does your child have more tantrums when they are hungry? How about when they are tired? Being over tired or hungry are usually triggers for toddlers so if you plan your activities with that in mind, you may be able to ward off some of the problem behavior before it starts. Boredom is also another trigger for many toddlers so finding ways to keep them occupied may go a long way in your temper tantrum prevention strategy.

People dread the terrible twos. The bad news is the terrible twos phase cannot be predicted nor prevented, the good news is that it will not last forever.

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