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Coping with the terrible (terrific) twos

Bookmark and Share The sweet smiles. The terrible tantrums. Your child is two and life is a roller coaster ride of conflicting emotions. Here are some suggestions to help you cope.
  1. Teach "feeling" words so your child has a word for what she's experiencing. A child who can say, "I'm mad/sad/tired/thirsty" can have more control over her feelings. If she can't say the word, consider teaching her the sign.
  2. Build in chances to share, wait and take turns. For example, pass around a bowl of pretzels from which each child takes a portion; at dinner, give each person a chance to talk. Even if your child only says single words, he can join in by answering your question and can learn to wait for his turn.
  3. Pay attention to when your child is good and praise the specific behavior. You might say, "Good waiting, Tommy. I know it's hard to wait."
  4. Model appropriate behavior yourself. A two-year-old who sees parents lose their temper will assume this is what she's supposed to do when she gets angry.
  5. "Prepare for and coach your child through a potentially upsetting experience," suggests Virtua Health early intervention specialist, Candace Tallent. "For example, you might say, 'Your cousins are big boys and they do things you can't do yet. But we'll find something else to do.' As the visit takes place, remind the child about what you talked about, and follow through on your promise. Have a favorite toy or a small surprise ready for him when the big boys take off and leave your child alone."
  6. Relax. The things your two-year-old does now will be the stuff you laugh about in a few years.
If you think your child’s behavior is outside the norm (frequent long tantrums, excessive irritability, constant crying, not listening to directions), you should have him examined by a doctor. There might be a physical source for this behavior, such as hearing loss, chronic pain, the beginning of a mental/emotional disorder or developmental delay. If you have concerns, check with your doctor. For help making an appointment with a physician, call toll-free 1-888-Virtua-3 (1-888-847-8823).