The baby of our family recently turned two years old.
(I suppose that means that I am not really supposed to be calling him a baby anymore. But let’s be honest… it’ll be years before we stop calling him “the baby”!)
It also marks the fifth time our family has navigated the “terrible twos”.
Two year olds are something else!
You’re so proud of the many things they have learned to do on their own. They are really starting to grow up.
But then, just as you are marveling at their ability to walk, run, and speak (it seems like they were just born!) you hear a terrible sound.
What was that sound?
It’s coming from the baby! He must be hurt… or in terrible trouble!
You frantically run to his side to discover that there is no danger.
It’s just time to mark down a new “baby’s first” in the baby book.
Baby’s first fit!
Now what do you do?
Here’s how to handle the terrible twos
It’s crazy how a small child can turn into a champion fit thrower in a short time.
Maybe he can’t get his toy to move just so, or the cat ran away when she wanted to pet it.
Or maybe Mom or Dad used the worst word in the dictionary… “No!”
Master Fit Throwers
Fit throwing in 2 year olds is frustrating for everyone. Obviously the child is feeling frustrated or angry (hence the temper tantrum).
But honestly… it’s probably even harder on Mom and Dad than it is the child.
For two long years, each cry and strange sound from your baby meant something was wrong.
You immediately ran to their side to help in whatever way you needed to. Food, diapers, sleep…by now you have most of his different cries figured out.
Your baby has classically conditioned you.
Like Pavlov’s dog, you have learned to react a certain way to every sound your baby makes.
It’s hard to realize that you’ve now hit a point where it’s no longer your job to give your child whatever they think they need.
This crying is another teachable moment.
Except that while the earlier crying was teaching Mom and Dad…now the crying will begin to teach the child.
It’s natural that you want to make the crying stop at all costs. But sometimes it’s more important to stand firm and allow the child to cry.
Stop Trying So Hard
Acknowledge that the child wants something. Then redirect.
“Oh, you want a cookie? Sorry buddy, no cookies right now. Do you want to play cars instead?”
Use as few words as possible. Repeat as necessary.
“I know, you want a cookie. No cookies right now. Show me a toy you want to play with.”
If you are unable to redirect the child, remove them from the room that holds their temptation.
In this case, I’d close my kitchen door and move him to the room with his toys.
I don’t let him back in the kitchen, but I give him a couple of things to do instead.
Playing with a toy, looking at a book, dancing to music, or maybe tickle time! (You can give a 2 year old the choice between 2 or 3 things, but more will be too much.)
What if they refuse all those choices?
What if they keep crying and screaming?
Simple. Leave them alone.
I’m not telling you to leave the room. But quit trying to bargain with them.
And don’t bother trying to convince them to stop crying.
Teaching Babies Is Hard!
The fact is, the sooner you let your child learn to manage their emotions, the better.
It doesn’t have to be harsh.
If your child wants to be held while they sort out their emotions, hold them.
Remember your mantra. (“Sorry, no cookies. Let me know when you’re ready to play with your blocks.”)
That Cookie Is Really a Gavel!
The first few times you do this, there will likely be a lot of crying. The child will sob and maybe scream.
They will try anything to bother you into giving in to them.
Do not give in.
‘Cause the thing is, if you can’t stand the crying anymore and give him a cookie, you just taught him that he has a secret weapon.
“Gosh, all I have to do is cry for 3 minutes straight and I can get whatever I want!”
On the other hand, if you stand firm, it will only take a few times before the child learns that no means no.
Yeah, they’re going to experience disappointment. (Learn why I actually think that’s a good thing here.)
BUT, over time they’ll throw fewer fits. Kids are smart, and when they see that it doesn’t do any good, they will look for other ways to get what they want instead. 😉
Truthfully, kids will always be pushing your buttons.
But setting strong boundaries with them early will definitely make a lot of things easier as they grow.
What are the odds this will work?
Some children will require more practice than others. Stand firm each time, and be as consistent as possible.
Don’t try something new, hoping that it will make them happier.
Be boring! You want the 2 year old to know what to expect. Kids of this age love routine and knowing what is coming next.
This isn’t a perfect system, but as you use it you will learn some tweaks that work best for your own little family.
Before long, you will be a pro at how to handle the terrible twos!
Have you found a trick that helps your 2 year old avoid fits?