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Tantrums, toddlers and the terrible twos


TRIVIAL TRIGGERS  Dramatic events, like a biscuit breaking in half, can result in all-out meltdowns lasting anywhere up to ten minutes.

Deirdre Freney

If you have a two year old or if you have navigated your way through this trying time you will empathise with those of us still soaking up the daily drama. Recently, an epic five minutes of screaming and crying after the microwave ‘ate’ my daughter’s spaghetti hoops reminded me just how difficult a time it is for these tiny brains. For years, the term ‘terrible twos’ has been used to describe the changes in temperament seen normally around the age of two. Dramatic events like a biscuit breaking in half can result in all-out meltdowns lasting anywhere up to ten minutes.
Thankfully, this shift in child behaviour, albeit challenging, is just a normal part of development. During this time, children undergo major intellectual, motor, emotional and social changes. At this age, they often understand so much more than they can communicate effectively, which can lead to frustration.
After a long period of complete reliance on their parents, toddlers at two are starting to develop their independence – and they are eager to do many things on their own. Hearing the word ‘No’ several times a day is part and parcel of being in this age bracket. It’s a lot for a tiny brain to compute, and it’s easy to see why frustrations and out-of-control feelings are often normal toddler behaviour.
Taming a tantrum can seem like a very remote possibility. Distraction is certainly your most useful tool. Generally, it is believed that overstimulation contributes to these meltdowns – although often the tantrums need little encouragement.
Praising all positive behaviour will certainly help. Try to stay calm and redirect their attention to diffuse the tantrum. Talking or trying to reason with a toddler mid tantrum is a futile exercise; waiting until the child is calm to explain things will be much easier.
By accepting the changes that your child is going through and showing them love and understanding, you’ll help them make it through this difficult stage with confidence. Whilst this can be a trying time for you and your two year old, there are many positive transitions that happen at this age that are worth focusing on. Seeing their personalities come to life, hearing words for the first time and then in turn sentences surely outweigh the spaghetti tantrums.
Most importantly, although the tantrums we witness can be described as the most powerful expressions of emotion, they are extremely short lived and forgotten as quickly as they appear. All the words that we hear so much at this stage (mostly ‘No’ and ‘I don’t want’) can be frustrating, but it’s worth remembering that it’s their voice that they are finding all on their own, and should be celebrated.
Their curiosity is infectious, and there are so many rewarding aspects to cling to. It’s hard to see the light, but it’s worth remembering the days are long but the years are short.