We’ve heard about it. We’ve read about it and we dread it! The words -terrible twos’ conjure up images of out-of-control toddlers who are determined to cause havoc in the lives of their unsuspecting parents. Does this stage really exist or is it merely a made-up myth? The reality is that the Terrible Twos do exist and they exist because from the age of two (or even from the age of 18 months) a child wants to be heard and they want to be seen and they are announcing their independence loud and clear!
The terrible twos do not necessarily start on the day of the toddler’s second birthday but the change is a gradual one and as soon as a child has mastered the art of walking, they start to realise that there is a big world out there and they want to explore it (come what may). In fact the terrible twos can start as early as the child’s first birthday and this stage might only come to an end when the child is three.
The -terrible twos’ can be a traumatic experience for parents who just the other day were cooing over a placid and sweet infant.
What to expect from the TTs (or Terrible Twos)
- Temper tantrums – expect a lot of these. The toddler will react to any situation that is not going their way by throwing themselves on the floor, kicking and screaming. Much to the horror of their parents, the toddler will perform anywhere and with little warning.
- Once the infant has learnt how to walk, they will also find their voice and in true terrible two style, their answer to most questions will be a resounding and shrill -nooo’! The once angelic infant will defy moms at every turn and the word -no! will become a permanent word in their vocabulary.
- Besides the horrific temper tantrums and defiance, other common behaviours exhibited during the child’s fight for independence may include biting, hitting, punching and pulling.
- Making a run for it. Yes, the mobile toddler should always be considered as a flight risk. The walking child will try their best to get away from mom and dad. Open gates will attract toddlers and what’s more the child will be attracted to electrical plug points, medicine bottles, cleaning agents, etc. If a child is playing quietly for too long and it appears too good to be true, the chances are it is too good to be true and they are probably getting up to no good. If a child is too quiet, check in on them – quickly!
- Selective hearing. Another common trait of the TT syndrome. The child will ignore parents totally. Exasperated moms will ask the child continually to stop running around, or to stop jumping on the furniture. The toddler will appear to be totally oblivious to mom’s pleas. However, the active toddler will be able to hear the sound of the ice-cream van two kilometres away!
Terrible Twos – Why?
Parents have been asking this question for centuries? Why does their sweet -butter would not melt in their mouth’ baby turn into a destructive, defiant and temper-throwing toddler? The answer is simple – the child’s brain is developing and they are seeing their world through different eyes. An eighteen-month old has no way of knowing what is right or wrong and no way of knowing what will hurt them and what is safe. The role of the parents is to educate their child and help them to grow.
A child who is throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of a store is not trying to cause a scene. They do not have the correct words to express themselves. To fully appreciate the frustration of a toddler, try to imagine yourself in a foreign country where nobody speaks your language. You are thirsty and you desperately want to quench your thirst. No matter how hard you try, you are unable to effectively communicate your needs and nobody can make heads or tails of what you want! It’s much the same for the toddler who is continually trying to figure out the big world and who is trying to communicate their needs in a world of adults who don’t speak their language.
Getting around the terrible twos
Parents cannot expect that their gorgeous infant will turn two and magically know what is expected of them. Parents must be willing to accept the fact that the Terrible Twos are not fiction and they are very real and their toddler will not become a happy, well-adjusted, well-mannered and responsible child if parents do not play their part.
The dreaded terrible twos are just as frustrating for the toddler as they are for their weary parents but parents must attempt to make the transition from infant to toddler as easy as possible. The golden rule of parenting toddlers is not to give in – ever! Once you give into their demands, you are setting a precedent that will continue. Don’t underestimate the stress of the stage and without a doubt, the terrible twos are demanding and challenging. Toddlers have an uncanny ability to sniff out any weakness and they’ll make demands when parents are at their weakest.
As with anything in life, being a parent to a toddler demands consistency and this means saying our own -NO! when needed. Not giving into the child throwing a tantrum in the middle of the shopping centre and basically taking the reins and showing the child (in no uncertain terms) that you are in charge!
Remember the most wilful of children are testing the waters and in their fight for independence, they want to see exactly what moms and dads will tolerate and what they won’t.
Tips for dealing with the dreaded Terrible Twos
- Establish a routine. With a routine in place the child will be given boundaries and will begin to understand what is accepted of them and what they can expect;
- Try to stay away from giving the toddler too many choices. The child is already confused and is trying to establish where and how they find into the world. If they are bombarded with endless choices, rather than just one or two – the toddler may become more frustrated.
- Walk away from temper tantrums and don’t give in! Look for positive ways that will help the child express themselves.
- Set limits and rules and follow through with them. Don’t bend the rules or give in because you don’t have the energy or you don’t want to disappoint the toddler. If you bend the rules once, you are again setting the wrong example and your smart and independent toddler will not forget.