How To Handle The Terrible Twos

How To Handle The Terrible Twos
María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez.

Written by Gladys González

Last update: 27 December, 2022

In this article we’ll share with you all you need to know about the so-called “terrible twos.” We’ll also offer you a few recommendations about how best to handle the difficulties that occur during those especially intense months.

Each one of the stages of childhood has its own particularities. There are some tender moments in which our little one makes gestures and actions that are incredibly adorable and often very funny. But on the other hand, there are also other critical moments of great difficulty.

Out of all the stages of childhood, there is no doubt that the terrible twos is one of the stages that requires special attention, tolerance and love. This stage marks the beginning of childhood independence.

Guiding and educating a two-year-old child can be difficult at times. Parents have to deal with their children’s desire to walk, feed and dress completely independently.

In order to properly handle this, we should be patient and tolerant, even though the results of their independence are frequently disastrous.

The age of two is very determining for a child’s future. This is because at this age they begin to understand that they have the capacity to make decisions.

For example, they can choose what clothes they want to wear, the way they want to walk or whether or not they want to take a bath or get dressed.

They start to show part of their essence and personality. They also become incredibly energetic, bold and unpredictable in comparison to the previous months.

As children reach the age of two, the pre-operational phase begins. During this phase children learn to interact with their environment in more complex ways through the use of words and mental images.

Classic behavior during the terrible twos

the terrible twos

During this fun and special stage, we can begin to notice different behavior and attitudes that we should enjoy and at times try to correct.

Here are a few examples:

  • Children start to show how they feel in relation to the moment. They can express happiness towards the visit of a relative or annoyance when you don’t fulfill their wishes.
  • It is easy to capture their attention at this age, but it can also be easy to lose it if the activity becomes monotonous or unattractive to their senses.
  • Little ones can be very sensitive and somewhat self-centered. They might want to be, for example, the queen of the house or mother’s little warrior.
  • Tantrums, screaming and even displays of aggressiveness can be typical behavior that characterizes the terrible twos.

Recommendations to handle the terrible twos

the terrible twos
  1. Reward your children for their good behavior. It is important for you to show them that good behavior is recognized. Rewarding their good behavior can also reinforce the value of effort.
  2. Be good role models. When the family sets good examples, it is easier to see good behavior reflected in the little ones of the house. The terrible twos are highlighted by the repetition of words and behaviors of those close to them.
  3. Establish rules. Imposing rules and sticking to them will help them to be well mannered. It will also favor their integration in society when they are older.
  4. Teach them to express themselves with words. This will prevent them from going on tantrums. It is important for you to show them that negative behavior will not help them achieve what they want.
  5. Give them the power to make decisions. Every now and then, give them the power to choose what food they want to eat or which toys they want to play with. This will help them understand that we take their opinion into account.
  6. Let them experience consequences. If you have already told them repeatedly what will happen (as long as it doesn’t compromise their integrity), then let them experience the consequences of their actions. Perhaps they will pay more attention to what you say afterwards.
  7. Relax. You must understand that the messes they make are normal due to the phase they’re going through. Try not to wear yourself out looking for perfection at home, as that will only add to the stressful situation.

Despite the difficulties, the terrible two’s can also be a beautiful, witty and fascinating phase.

As parents we should simply appreciate it and give our little ones the best we can. All they need is our support and tolerance as they grow.

I am an earthquake of love
with you I want to share
You my beautiful mother, watch me go out and return,
Thanks to you, my eyes can shine,
I can feel the breeze go by,
Thanks to you my feet make me jump

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Hoecker JL. (2016). I’ve heard a lot about the terrible twos. Why are 2-year-olds so difficult?
  • Potegal M, et al. (2003). Temper tantrums in young children: 2. Tantrum duration and temporal organization.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.