How to Survive the Terrible Twos: A Guide for Parents


If you’re past your little one’s first year of life and think you’ve got it all figured out, you may be in for a surprise. You may have heard other parents or your pediatrician talk about the terrible twos, a phrase used to describe a stage in children’s development that takes place around their second year of life. This phase often features temper tantrums and obstinate behavior, so it may seem like you and your little one are always clashing.

Not every 2-year-old will necessarily go through this stage, but many will exhibit at least some type of defiance. Sometimes, it may start later, so your baby may go through terrible threes instead. The important thing is not to panic or get frustrated, no matter how much your toddler tests your patience. Learn how to recognize the signs of this developmental stage and prepare some proven tactics to deal with it.

What are the terrible twos?

Toddlers undergo rapid growth and development, both physically and mentally. They begin walking, becoming much more independent and inquisitive. They also start talking, which makes them understand and communicate much more effectively. This means they also become more interested in other children and begin socializing more. Milestones also occur in their emotional development, as they learn how to control their impulses and deal with frustration. 

However, not all aspects of their personalities will develop at the same pace and the changes they go through often make them emotionally overwhelmed. For example, they may become too impatient when waiting for their turn in a game because they haven’t mastered emotional self-regulation. They may become angry because they fail to express their frustration verbally. They could also get upset if they make a mistake or don’t get their way. 

Frustration and emotional immaturity often leads to tantrums, which feature crying, hitting, kicking, and other destructive and aggressive behavior. You may also notice your toddler having mood swings. They can also get rebellious and disobedient.

How do you deal with the terrible twos?

Managing this type of behavior can be very tricky, especially since it can quickly get the better of you and make you exasperated. You may be wondering why it’s happening and worried if you’re doing your best as a parent. However, don’t be discouraged as some disobedience and anger can be expected at this age and they’re likely just a sign of normal developmental changes. 

Here’s what to do to make this phase easier for both your child and yourself:

  • Stick to a schedule: Children thrive when they have a regular routine. This helps them know what to expect at any time and gives them a sense of consistency. It also eliminates the possibility of the child getting angry because of hunger or sleepiness.
  • Praise positive behavior: Reward the child when they behave in desirable ways. It’s a much more effective strategy than punishment. Punishment can make toddlers even more frustrated, especially if they don’t have a clear understanding of what they did wrong.
  • Redirect their attention: When you notice that they’ve gotten cranky and see a tantrum coming up, try to distract them. If you know what triggers them, make sure you have a distraction at hand if you need it. For example, if you’ll be in a situation where they have to wait for some time, bring their favorite toy along to keep them occupied.
  • Give them easy rules to follow: It’s best if the toddler always knows what’s expected of them and why. It makes things clear and logical for them, so they’ll be more likely to follow your instructions. For example, tell them that they can’t jump on the bed because they could get hurt. If they really love jumping, you can provide them with a safe outlet, like taking them to a lovely trampoline playground.
  • Don’t get angry: Whatever you do, don’t let your child’s behavior make you lose your cool. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that this is a temporary situation. Remind yourself that you’re the grown-up and that the child needs your support.