Tackling Those Terrible Twos or Threes

terrible twos

Ah, the terrible twos (or threes). It is no doubt a challenging stage, both for parent and child. Mainly because of that dreaded, inevitable stage of tantrum throwing, a series of fits, and battles.

What makes this stage so “terrible”?

Though the phase is affectionately named “terrible twos”, it doesn’t really mean that the child is being terrible at all. However, there are a few things that typically happens at the turn of the second year, the main new thing being temper tantrums.

At this stage, toddlers seem to spike in their tantrum throwing, seeming to be not listening to the parents, getting a lot more frustrated, and throwing down a battle with you to try to get what they want. It’s trying because your sweet baby is suddenly trying to mark their independence, which makes you feel like pulling out your hair.  Yes, terrible…well, maybe we can make it a bit better.

Why the sudden surge in tantrums?

It’s important to understand why the temper tantrums are occurring instead of just assuming that your child is not listening to you or being “bad.” In fact, that’s not the case at all.

Here is a list of a few things that are happening:

  • Their language skills are still being sharpened, so they are not always able to communicate what it is that they want
  • They want to try to do things by themselves (dressing, putting together a puzzle, etc.) but may not be able to get it right away
  • They do not yet fully possess the ability to express their emotions fully

All of the above causes them to get frazzled, and hence the tantrum occurs.

Terrible Twos

What to do when a tantrum strikes?

While frustrating to be dealing with a screaming toddler, one of the best things you can do is to appear calm and supportive. Try to refrain from yelling back, this will only escalate the battle and make them feel more misunderstood, and the tantrum may last longer, or occur over and over.

Here are some tips we found key to tackling a tantrum:

  • Get down eye level and give them a hug until they are able to calm down or stop crying, then try to talk it out using words in their vocabulary
  • If you feel on the verge of yelling back, give yourself a breather (take a moment to yourself – or open up this article hehe), and then once calm return back to the child and offer your support
  • Do not reinforce the undesired behaviours by giving in, this will only teach them that tantrum throwing will let them get whatever they want. Offer alternative situations, items, or give choices…giving them some control but what you allow
  • Give them space. Sometimes that tantrum is over a piece of candy before dinner, which you won’t cave into and know what they want. In that case, sometimes being firm is the key and talk to them in a calm manner and allow them to choose to calm down themselves.
  • Remember, it won’t last forever (they typically go away once the kids near four when language skills improve).


*All images courtesy of ShutterStock.com



  1. 1

    Great tips! Having a toddler can be trying at times but you just need to remain calm as this stage too will pass.

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