Pregnancy and Beyond

Those sweet babies turn into independent-minded toddlers. Still loveable, still appealing, and very busy. The "terrible twos" might better be called the "testing twos." Your toddler is learning a lot-about his body's abilities, about expressing his ideas and controlling his impulses, and about what other people expect of him. He learns by testing and trying out, exploring and experimenting. In the process, some unhappy experiences are bound to occur. Failure, frustration and limited language lead to temper tantrums!

Children are quick to discover, however, that tantrums can be used to manipulate parents into giving in to unreasonable demands. Be understanding of your child's unhappiness, but don't be a pushover!

Remember the following:

  • A tired, overwhelmed or over-stimulated child is "set up" for tantrums. Avoid situations that stress your toddler when he is tired. Schedule shopping trips when he is rested, and leave before things get out of hand.
  • Predictable routines for daily activities are important to small children. Establish as consistent a schedule as possible for meals, naps, bedtime, bath time and playtime. Toys, furniture and play areas should be safe and allow the child to move, explore and make a mess. Children of this age are seldom able to play together or to share toys peacefully.
  • A toddler is always testing the limits because learning what's expected takes time and practice. You can help by setting clear, consistent limits and reinforcing them courteously but firmly. Teach what is acceptable, and demonstrate what you mean. Be prepared to do so over and over again. When your child does remember and act appropriately, notice this and show your approval.
  • When your child loses control, keep yours. If the situation allows, just walk into the next room. If you're away from home, you may need to carry the child to the car and wait with him until he can control himself. Some toddlers need time away from the toy or other people to calm down. Others need to be held by their parent. With experience you'll find what works best with your child. Be ready to show him that he's still loved and you're glad he's feeling better.

If you feel your self-control is slipping, be sure your child is in a safe environment. Assure he is in the care of another responsible person, and then get away by yourself until you can get a firm grip on your emotions. Take a walk, take a shower, call a friend-whatever puts things back into perspective for you. If tantrums seem to be happening constantly, or if things seem to be getting worse, don't be reluctant to seek help. If you feel that you might hurt your child, call the 24-hour Parental Stress Helpline at 1-800-367-2543. Tell your child's caregivers to call you if they get frustrated with your baby's crying, etc., and to never shake your baby.