Twos are terrific, and challenging. Just weeks ago you were adept at distracting your child. Now you have a tenacious toddler, intent on demands that are no longer easily met. Your child's persistence leads to conflict between you and your child and conflict within yourself. How do you respond? Do you cave in? If you ignore demands, are you being too strict?
Most toddlers go through the "tantrums in the supermarket" stage at about 2½ years, some as early as 18 months, some much later. They seem to delight in doing just what you do not want them to do. They demand things they shouldn't have, and they demand things they don't even want. Their favorite word is "no" even when they mean "yes." It is a way for the toddler to feel independent and to be thinking differently from his/her parents. There is a conflict between wanting to explore the world while at the same time feeling frightened by choices or frustrated by rules. When your toddler reaches this stage, he/she is not deliberately misbehaving, just growing up.
If you're having frequent struggles with your toddler, you're not alone. During episodes of negativity, be firm. Children want to have a firm adult in charge. When you can listen to your child cry, whine, stomp, kick, groan and argue over something he/she wants and yet not give in, you have grown as a parent.
Behavior that is harmful to self or to others needs to be dealt with immediately, by voice and body language. It is up to you to keep your child safe and to teach your child how to avoid getting hurt. You must make a decision and stick with it when it involves an unsafe situation. However, it is best not to prolong the negative attention, as behavior that is ignored is less likely to continue.
When their choices are directly the opposite of what we want them to do, the toddler's behavior can often rapidly deteriorate into the familiar toddler tantrum, the sudden explosion that appears out of all proportion to the event that triggered it.
For the parent, tantrums can be alarming, frustrating and, when they occur in public, excruciatingly embarrassing.
As difficult as they are for adults, for the child they can be frightening and overwhelming. The child feels out of control emotionally and physically and is unable to respond to reason.
Tantrums might be due to many things
- Your child cannot understand what you are saying.
- Your child cannot express him/herself well enough to be understood.
- You child wants to do more than he/she is allowed and cannot express his/her anger.
A Physical Problem
- Your child may be hungry, tired or anxious.
- Not yet being capable.
- Your child might not be adept at doing the things that he/she wants to do.
When your child is having a tantrum, as long as there is no danger to your child or others, you can:
- Ignore your child.
- Distract your child.
- Hug your child.
Keep calm and be understanding. Never punish your child for having a tantrum. It helps to remember that tantrums are a normal part of growing up.
Be positive when appropriate
- When your child's desires are not really a big deal, unreasonable or inappropriate—wanting to hold that balloon all day for instance—there is no harm in giving in.
- Let the child make a decision within the larger context of the desired behavior. For instance, at lunchtime, you can ask, 'Do you want soup or pasta?' and by allowing a choice, the lunch is enjoyed without a struggle.
- Expressions of encouragement when reasonable expectations are met, and ignoring childish but harmless behavior, are keys to helping toddlers through this stage of uncertainty.
By concentrating on the positive aspects of this phase of parenthood, you will find that children at this age are really fun. They say and do cute things, and delight in everyday awareness of things around them, which can bring a new appreciation on your part as you view the world through the eyes of a child.