Your 2-Year-Old Child
You have to take your child to daycare and then get to work—and you’re late. Your
2-year-old suddenly decides she doesn’t want to go. The more you try to put her into
her car seat, the more she fights and screams. In a few moments, she’s crying and
These tantrums, as well as other unwanted behaviors, seem to be happening a lot lately.
Is this the “terrible twos"?
Remember that this phase also can be the “terrific twos.” Watching your children grow
and learn is a wonderful and challenging experience. They are finding out about the
world. Their language is expanding. They may start to say their ABCs or 123s—they
may even say, "I love you."
But it’s also normal for them to start making their wishes known by voicing their
opinions and saying “No.” Be prepared. Give yourself a lot of extra time to deal with
When children have tantrums, it may look like they have lost control and will never
stop kicking and screaming. As long as they are safe, walk away or put them in a “time
out” until they are calm. Time out should be 2 minutes or less for 2-year-olds. If
it happens in a public place, try to pick them up, hold them close, and rock them.
Talk soothingly—say, “I love you, it’s OK,” or “take a deep breath: In, out, in, out”—until
they are calm. Try to find a restroom for privacy until the crying stops. Or simply
take them home if you can.
It’s possible the tantrum isn’t over, especially if you told them “no” to a certain
item in the store, and then they spot it again. Don’t give in, but once in a while
a compromise is OK.
What else you can do
These tips may be helpful to ward off tantrums:
Use humor. When the most unwanted behaviors like tantrums occur, find funny, positive
ways to distract your toddler. Trying to stop them early is far better than trying
to control them once they get worse.
Prepare them for transitions. "We are going to leave in 10 minutes." Then, "We are
going to leave in 5 minutes." And so on.
Let them choose—sometimes. Allow children to make unimportant, decisions that have
no great consequences. For example, let them choose what to wear to preschool or what
to drink with dinner.
Encourage good behavior. Notice good behavior and respond positively. Don’t just notice
things they do wrong.
Limit choices. Too many choices may cause confusion and problems. For example, you
might say, “Do you want milk or water to drink for dinner?” rather than, “What would
you like to drink?” Or “Do you want to watch ‘A’ cartoon or ‘B’ cartoon?” rather than, “What
do you want to do?”
Establish routines. Routines help your children stay calm throughout the day. Try
to have regular times for meals, snacks, naps, bedtime, and other activities.
Make sure your children get enough sleep. Tired children are usually easily upset
and cranky. Set a reasonable bedtime and then stick to it. Introduce quiet activities
shortly before bedtime to help them relax for sleep.
Talk with other parents. They can tell you about what worked and what didn’t work
Talk with your child’s healthcare provider. If you need help with tantrums or other
behaviors, your child’s healthcare provider can help.