Surviving the terrible twos

When the tears and tantrums reach crisis point, help is at hand for you and your toddler


Screaming, stomping feet and an angry toddler. Yes, we’re talking the terrible twos, where your tot can suddenly have an issue with everything and feel entitled to air her grievances in front of everyone.  “Toddlers between the ages of 2 and 3 often have temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want,” explains Dr Miriam Stoppard, author of Complete Baby And Childcare. “This is quite normal, and may be brought on by frustration, anger or jealousy.”

Ignore, bribery, treats? How do you get round a toddler tantrum?

Know why

“Unfortunately, the terrible twos are a very real developmental phase that nearly all toddlers go through,” says psychotherapist Angela Evans. “It stems from a wish to gain control of mum again after your toddler reaches an age where she doesn’t have you to herself any more, and she realises for the first time that there are other people in your life she has to share you with.”

Frances Mills, Tinies childcare expert, agrees. “The terrible twos have got their name because during this time she’s developing from a baby into a child. Suddenly, she’s at an age where she’s interacting far more with the world than ever before, but finds herself unable to communicate effectively. If she’s finding these transitions difficult and frustrating, it’s natural for her to get upset.”

Try and talk to your toddler rather than just tell him off

Show empathy

Temper tantrums often start with a child feeling hard done by,” explains Frances. 
“She may want something she can’t have or reach, or simply feel like she doesn’t have any control over a situation. This can lead to a lot of whinging, crying or generally being stroppy, which in turn can result in screaming, or throwing herself on the floor.” And while there’s not much you can do to completely stop this tantrum phase happening, there are ways to control the outbursts.

“You need to try and understand your toddler’s feelings as she goes through this time, and be there for her to feel safe with you, while also setting boundaries so she doesn’t win every battle.”

But what happens when she kicks off at home, at the dinner table or in public? Here’s how to get you both through the tantrums…

Sometimes you just need to use the ‘n’ word…

At home

If you’re home alone with just the two of you, an effective technique is to simply leave the room and let her get on with it, providing she’s in a safe environment to do so. “Explain to her that while you still love her, you have to leave the room because you’re getting angry,” explains Dr Miriam. “But never confine her in another room as this denies her the option of coming back and saying sorry.” It’s also good to keep communicating with her so she knows what’s happening. “Think and talk fast, but calmly,” suggests Frances. “The good thing about tantrums at home is that you don’t have an audience if it does get out of control.”

Are tantrums hereditary?

Visiting friends

“Never be embarrassed if she has a bit of a moment at a friend’s house,” says Frances. “Try distracting her with something else, or take her out of the room along with some toys, perhaps suggesting it’s time for a drink which will take her mind off the situation.”
Angela agrees. “If it’s possible, remove her from the scene for some time out with you, and no other children. Getting down on the floor to her level will soothe and calm her as she’ll realise she’s not completely in control but she’ll know her mum is there for her.”

Comments ()

Please read our Chat guidelines.