Terrible twos. Most probably you are experiencing toddler tantrums right now, and wondering what happened to your baby? Maybe you’ve tried everything and nothing works on your strong-willed two-year-old. In that case, you must be wondering when do the terrible twos end?
To give you a short answer, terrible twos last from 18 months of age to about age 3. But for some children, they can go on well into the threes. Regardless of when it ends, what you need to know is that, what you are experiencing with your toddler right now is expected toddler behavior.
Let’s dive into this parenting challenge we call the terrible twos.
Which by the way, before we start let me tell you, I detest these terms we use to describe normal toddler behaviors.
If instead of focusing on these terms we use our energy to observe our child, his environment and support him in a period of rapid development we can all do better for our children overall.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF TERRIBLE TWOS
Common signs of terrible twos that you may observe are
Pushes limits set by parent
Physical aggressiveness (hitting, biting, kicking)
Gets frustrated easily
Says No to almost anything you ask
REASONS BEHIND THE CHALLENGING TODDLER BEHAVIORS
What can help parents immensely is first accepting that this phase that we call as “terrible twos” is a perfectly normal phase in child development. In-fact, we should take it as an indication that our tiny toddler is growing up.
Now, what is happening at the toddler level.
Toddlers are growing up fast between the ages 1-3, they are learning to talk, walk, run, jump, and experiencing new emotions all at the same time.
At the brain level, a toddler’s brain functions on impulse rather than reasoning.
Therefore, it is easier to use strong reactions and physical outbursts to convey unhappiness or discomfort.
Essentially, all bad behaviors are a form of communication. The toddler is trying to communicate to his parents in a way he knows as easiest to get attention and help.
When we start viewing our child’s “bad” behaviors as a means to communicate with us, we are better equipped to deal with the terrible twos.
A beautiful quote by Rebecca Eanes that will help me drive home my point here
“Are we parenting a whole human being or are we just on behavior patrol?
Because, I can tell you from experience that when we operate on behavior patrol, we miss a whole lot about the human being. “
For the first time your toddler is trying to assert independence, pushing limits, wanting more control, and what we need to focus on is creating an environment where he gets just that, without causing harm to himself, those around him and in a way that aligns with the family culture.
This is our job as parents as we see our toddlers troubled in how to express their feelings, wants and dislikes to us.
How can we empower our child to be free in his environment yet respect our limits designed for his safety? More on that later in the article.
WHEN DO THE TERRIBLE TWOS END
If you understand the developmental needs of the toddler years and are able to meet them, then the terrible twos should end by age 3 or a little beyond that.
How our children learn to handle their frustrations and big emotions ultimately comes from how we support them during the twos.
I am surprised when my son, now age 5, sometimes says back to me the same comforting phrases I used during his outbursts as a toddler. He remembers them and took in this input from me on how to deal with emotions.
Do take some time to read through these articles with specific strategies to help you with toddler tantrums from a place of connection over correction.
WHAT COMES AFTER THE TERRIBLE TWOS
The threes and fours come with their own set of unique challenges.
As children grow, they become more and more independent and crave freedom to explore their environments as they like.
As parents we need to be able to balance our expectations from our child, set the right limits that provide for safe exploration and rein in any unwanted behaviors without crushing their hearts.
Related reading : Age appropriate expectations from toddlers
The more agency our children have over their own life the calmer and more settled they will be in their daily routine.
In fact, we find that children who are given the freedom to explore their environments grow up to be highly motivated.
By age 4, children are more emotionally and socially aware, patient and more verbal. This helps them be able to express themselves properly, (especially if you have coached them on emotions in the toddler years) and you should see an end to tantrums.
If the parents have not been able to teach the child how to express his emotions in an acceptable way and not created an environment at home where the child feels safe to express his true feelings, you will see a continuation of the tantrums and other defiant behaviors.
Related reading : How to get your toddler to listen without yelling
HOW TO HANDLE THE TERRIBLE TWOS
Okay, you may be wondering, how am I supposed to survive the terrible twos?
The answer is simple,
Consistency (in routine and in setting limits done using positive discipline strategies.)
Emotion Coaching (I highly recommend the my feelings cards as a game based way to work through and regulate emotions.)
For an in-depth look at how to deal with the terrible twos I would recommend reading this post I wrote with 10 tried and true tips that helped us through the twos.
My aim writing this post for you was to help you understand that though right now you may be feeling alone and lost as you parent your two-year-old, this is just a phase that will soon pass.
In the meantime, you must focus on creating an environment that supports your child.
When these years have gone by, you will see how the gentle parenting approach you take today helps your child grow more confident and settled.
For more parenting tips follow me on my Instagram page where I regularly discuss my own gentle parenting journey.