Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

From the moment your child is born, there is a little part of you that is counting down to that magic second birthday. From every account, birthday number two spells doom and terror in your household.  The terrible twos don’t just magically appear on your child’s birthday; the behavior associated with the terrible twos begins anytime after the first birthday or during the second year.

Your two-year-old is not really terrible; he or she has just discovered a new-found sense of independence and cognitively has begun to recognize him or herself as an individual.  This significant stage of development is an opportunity for you to begin teaching your child behavior boundaries.

Toddlers in this stage want control.  You can help them have a sense of control over their world by giving them advanced warning rather than abruptly changing activities.  “We are going to leave the park in ten minutes” works a lot better with a two year old than “C’mon, it’s time to go now.”  Temper tantrums, one of the standard elements of the terrible twos, should be met with time outs.

There is one thing you should know; while they aren’t called the terrible twos for nothing, if the twos are terrible, the threes are terrifying!  All of that independence and self-awareness your toddler gained at two comes with an increased ability to reason, argue, and speak at age three.  Depending on your child’s disposition, you may see less out and out temper tantrums, or you may see more, but you will probably have more tests of will.

By age three, your toddler is very aware that there is a world to explore. This exploration, however, can bring frustration when parents place limits for safety or the child simply doesn’t have the ability to do whatever he or she is attempting.  The good news is that three-year-olds are capable of communicating, so you can encourage them to use words instead of actions to express their frustration.  They are also capable of making simple choices between two things.

The best way to keep your three-year-old from becoming “terrifying” is to provide a lot of safe opportunity for exploration.  This is a great time to help your child focus on fine motor skills. Play catch, build with blocks, count and sort.  Let them help around the house with simple household chores.

Hang in there.  It won’t be long before your toddler is slipping on a backpack, getting on the bus, and heading to kindergarten.  At that moment, you’d probably give anything to have one more temper tantrum.