You and the Terrible Twos

Tips for coping with the terrible twos.

Cherylyn Feierabend
4-minute read
Episode #157

Every stage of development with your baby introduces new and exciting challenges. The first few months you might ask yourself, “When will he sleep through the night?” Then before the end of the first year it’s all about, “When will he start walking?” Maybe you’ll move on to, “When will he start eating” or “When will he stop eating?” Then there will come a day, possibly, where you might ask, “When will the terrible twos end?” The terrible twos just sound so negative to me. We don’t have the threatening threes or the frightening fours… so why do we have the terrible twos? Also, why the twos? I mean, this behavior could start before the age of two or last until after the age of three. Take a deep breath for this one folks. You have no control over when it happens and your best line of defense is patience! Hang in there. It won’t last forever and believe it, or not, there are some strategies for dealing with this most challenging time of your child’s life.

Understanding Why the Twos are Terrible

You might be wondering why your child has suddenly starting behaving like a little monster. He’s hitting, biting, defying you with an aggressive “NO!”, or simply ignoring you completely while going on his merry, destructive way. You’ll ask people what happened to your sweet little angel, that smiling happy baby you used to hold in your lap while he cooed back at you. He still does sometimes, but more often you are pulling your hair out trying to figure out where you went wrong. It’s at this age or to be more specific, this stage of life that your child is going through some very big changes. He’s suddenly realizing that the word just might NOT revolve around him. This could be a great disappointment. I’d be disappointed if I found out that the world I thought was all about me really wasn’t just about me at all. Learning that other people have feelings too? That’s pretty hard stuff to comprehend for a two-year-old. To make matters even worse, he doesn’t know how to communicate all these feelings. Understanding that your child is going through these changes and frustrations might help you to be more patient when you start to see the negative behaviors. So take a deep breath and offer a lot of hugs and reassurances that you will help your child through this.

Other Behavior Triggers

When you see your child acting out in these negative ways, take a quick inventory of the time, recent activities, and your child’s food intake.

Children who are hungry, tired, or bored are going to be the most difficult to deal with. You can almost always stop these things before they become issues. When you are scheduling your days, make sure to include breaks for downtime and snacks. When you are out and about, carry cheese cubes, grapes, crackers, or other healthy, filling snacks to keep the hunger pangs away. Avoid late lunches or meals whenever possible. Hungry kids tend to be unhappy kids and oftentimes, don’t recognize that they are hungry. Similarly, kids will be tired, which is sometimes more obvious because they are rubbing their eyes or having sporadic bursts of energy to keep themselves awake. Routine naps or downtime will help alleviate the tired grumpiness. Routines will also prevent periods of boredom. When kids know what to expect, things run much smoother and during this adjustment period of their lives, the less changes they have to worry about, the less rebellious they will be against the few changes that are naturally occurring.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.