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Coping With Your Toddler's Terrible Twos

Tools To Manage Your Toddler's Terrible Twos

Two-year-olds have long been saddled with a bad reputation. Alternately clingy, whiny, negative, fearful, and loud, their unpredictable behavior is epic, and it's often been written off as the "Terrible Twos." But just what does this dreaded moniker mean?

The Terrible Twos are often characterized by oppositional behavior, mood changes, and temper tantrums. "No" becomes a favorite word. All are considered normal parts of child development, say the authors of "What to Expect: The Toddler Years." This is in part due to the fact that a toddler's ability to communicate hasn't caught up with his desire to communicate, hence his frustration and challenging behavior.

Like other childhood phases, the age range is fluid. The Terrible Twos can begin shortly after your child's first birthday or not until they are closer to age 3.

That said, no one enjoys a raucous tantrum in the middle of the grocery store. What to do to keep your 2-year-old on an even keel?

  • Make predictable routines part of your toddler's day.
  • Give regular healthy snacks to keep blood sugar steady.
  • Offer limited choices -- two to three options -- to your toddler (for example, "Do you want apple juice or orange juice in your sippy cup?").
  • Set limits (but expect him to test them).
  • Provide a safe, toddler-proofed environment for him.

Dr. Harvey Karp, author of "The Happiest Toddler on the Block," recommends working with your child rather than battling him. He recommends utilizing an elaborate communication method he terms "toddlerese" in which parents try to match their toddlers words and intensity of expression. The goal is to make your toddler feel understood, because an understood child is a happy one.

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