The best way to handle the terrible twos is with understanding. Infants have a very limited range of emotions. Toddlers experience several new emotions for the first time and they don’t know how to deal with them. They have new thoughts, feelings, and hormones flowing through their bodies with no knowledge or experience of what they are and what they mean. Unfortunately, your explanations may not help if they don’t understand the words you use or the meanings you know from your own experience.
All children have three emotional needs: Your attention, your affection, and your acknowledgment. Keep this in mind during the wild outbursts that are sure to come. This is also a critical age for developing self-worth, and therefore self-confidence, so be aware of the messages you are sending.
Different children have different temperaments, and each is associated with a different style of parenting that seems to be more effective. The three broad temperaments are (1) Extroversion, (2) Negativity, and (3) Effortful Control. Extroverts tend to be more positive, active, and take more risks, which leads to more behavior problems. Negative kids tend to be more afraid or sad, but also can be more angry, and can become anxious and depressed or even aggressive later in life. Effortful control means he may be able to direct his attention and to stop his first, instinctual response and replace it with a better option. This breakthrough comes from the brain developing the executive attention network, which will continue to develop over the next few years, but early signs of effortful control predict the ability to maintain focus, develop social norms, and later develop empathy and shame. Although effortful control seems to have a hereditary basis, warm, supportive parenting is associated with its development.
The important thing is for you to understand the differences and adjust yourself accordingly. If you are unaware of the possibilities, a negative child naturally draws some negative responses from not only other children, but parents. Don’t let yourself be controlled by the terrible twos. Instead, listen to your baby’s needs, but respond in the most effective way to meet those needs.
For a deeper and more detailed discussion of how your child’s brain matures and what its capabilities are at each age, click here to see your options starting at under a dollar.