Toddler having tantrum
Mom Tips

The “terrible twos” have a bad rap, but why?

We need to stop calling it the terrible two’s. There I said it. I get just as frustrated with my toddler as the next person, but is it my toddler’s fault? No. So why should we label them as so? Let’s stop giving the terrible two’s a bad rap and instead learn ways to help them through this period of time. 

Toddler tantrums can be a triggering experience for many parents, and a lot of time we react to the situation before thinking about it.

It takes a lot of time and patience, but by learning how our toddler’s brain work during this crucial life stage will help you understand the “why” behind these tantrums. We can instead help them through this stage instead of reacting. 

Why should we stop calling it the terrible two’s?

First of all, it’s misleading. If you haven’t raised a toddler before, you may be surprised to know that the “terrible twos” don’t just happen to two year olds, we may as well call them the terrible 3’s and 4’s then too. 


During the first three years of life, your child is undergoing the largest brain development they will go through in their life. Emotions are high and any sort of logic is virtually non-existent. 

Think about that for a second. They are learning new things at an impeccable rate. It’s hard to even wrap my head around it. I can’t imagine how overwhelming that is for our kids. 


They don’t understand why they can’t wear a winter coat when it’s 98 degrees outside, or why the dog gets to drink water out of a bowl and not him. They don’t understand the logical side of things, only the emotional. They want what they want when they want it. 


While the “terrible two’s” are 100% normal, we need to start embracing this time to better understand our toddlers point of view instead of slapping a label on them. Rather than saying, “It’s just a phase, it will pass”, we need to actually put ourselves in their shoes and see the world from their eyes, and understand why tantrums happen. 


The “terrible two’s” is a bad name because it’s not “terrible”. They aren’t doing it on purpose just to annoy or embarrass you. It is their way of coping when their brain becomes overwhelmed with emotions. 

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Terrible twos


How to help your toddler through this phase


1-Give them space for their emotions, don’t suppress them

This is one of the best things you can do for your toddler. When they are in the midst of a tantrum or having “big emotions” let them. 


We as adults know how to cope with our emotions (at least most of us do). We may get frustrated, or mad, and want to throw things around and have a full blown tantrum, but we don’t. We know that’s not going to get us anywhere. We may have coping mechanisms for when we become overwhelmed, toddlers brains aren’t developed enough to be able to do the same. 


Toddlers may not have the communications skills to be able to tell you what is wrong. Throwing a tantrum, throwing things, screaming etc.. is their way of expressing themselves, it’s their way of telling you that something is wrong and they need help. 


When we get mad back or tell them to stop it, it is telling them that their emotions are bad and that they should not express their feelings. This can cause issues later on in life. 


The best way to help your toddler cope with these emotions is to tell them that you are there for them, it’s okay to be upset, and be present with them until they are feeling better.


Of course we can set boundaries. If you are in a public or crowded location, take them outside or somewhere quiet where they can be upset without everyone watching. But I find it important to be with them (not alone) to have that healthy release of emotions. They may feel much better after. 


There are also things you can do to try and prevent a tantrum before it even happens, and there are things you can say to help your toddler feel safe and understood when they are feeling upset. 


If you’re looking for a more in depth place to find information on understanding your toddler, big little feeling’s is the place to go. These two moms have put their heart and soul into teaching you everything there is to know about your toddler. Not just about tantrums, but everything toddler related. 


1-Get down on the ground and see things from your toddlers perspective

This is one of those things that may seem silly to do at first, but sometimes a change in perspective is just what we as adults need. 


When you’re playing with them and when you are speaking to them (especially during a tantrum) are two important times I believe you should get on your toddlers level. 


Would you want someone towering over you, especially during times of anger or frustration? No. I find it to be all around more respectful when I get down to my toddlers level when speaking to him. This will make you seem more like an equal and they might be less resistant to want to listen to you. 


I try to do this as much as possible when speaking to my 2 year old.


Another time to get down to their level is when we are playing together. Sit on the floor and really observe what they are doing. You may even find that you might want to rearrange the room after (at least I did). He seems to get less frustrated when his things are at his own eye level, not ours. 


This helps you to see things the way they see them. Are his books on a shelf he can’t reach, or are they at eye level so he can see what he has to pick from? I find this important for raising independent and self-sufficient kids. This in turn will help minimize meltdowns if they are able to do things more independently. Toddlers thrive on independence. 


3-Redirection & choices may work wonders

One of the best tricks I have been told when my toddler is in the midst of a meltdown is redirecting them to something else, or giving them a choice. 


Toddlers can melt down at any moment. Maybe you gave them the green cup and they wanted the yellow cup, or they didn’t want butter on their pancakes but it’s never been an issue before. 


Toddlers’ attention span is still really short. Try and get their mind off of it by asking them what color plate they would like since they weren’t  able to choose the cup. Or give them a choice on what activity they would like to do after breakfast. 


Toddlers love being in control so by giving them a choice in how things end up give them a sense of independence and that control that they so desperately crave. This sometimes works wonderfully to stop a tantrum in its tracks. 


This isn’t foolproof, sometimes there is no hope for stopping a meltdown and that is OKAY. Let them have their emotions, and give them a safe space to do so. 


4-The timer method

Does your toddler ever have a tantrum when they have to come in from the backyard, or park? Mine too. It’s normal, and I find it’s best to give them a warning before we scoop them up and tell them we have to leave. 


We don’t like to be pulled away from something we are in the middle of without any warning do we? Neither do our toddlers. 


Next time you are at the park, or need them to stop playing to come eat dinner, set a timer. Show your toddler that you are setting a timer and have them push the start button. This way they have been warned what is to come. “When the five minute timer goes off, we need to go inside and eat dinner” 


This might take time for your toddler to truly grasp this understanding, but they will catch on with consistency. By doing this, you have done everything possible to give them warning so they are not caught off guard. 


5-Routines are important

Toddlers thrive on consistency. They like to know when things are going to happen. I get it, me too. Shifts in schedules, new siblings, different bedtime routine, vacations. These can all cause toddlers to be thrown off and can induce tantrums. 


Factors such as over-tiredness, hunger, lack of attention they are used to can all cause meltdowns in our toddler.  


These things are inevitable. I’m not saying you need to avoid it at all costs, but instead, be mindful of abrupt changes to your toddler’s life. What might be minuscule to adults, can change a toddler’s entire world. I have to remind myself of this often. 


I try my best to keep our day to day lives consistent for my kids. We try to get up and go to bed around the same time. He knows when we have breakfast and get dressed for the day. These little things give your toddler a sense of consistency and peace. 


When they know what to expect, things tend to go smoother. 


If you are expecting a change in your toddlers life, hold space for them and help them along the way to navigate these changes more mindfully. 

These books have helped me ditch traditional toddler discipline and have helped me understand my toddler better:

The “terrible twos” don’t have to be “terrible”

The terrible two’s is a mindset we need to get away from. With a few shifts in perspective we can help navigate our eager toddlers through this difficult time of development instead of calling it “terrible”. You may even start to realize how wonderful this time is with your toddler! 

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