Terrible twos: Why are 2-year-olds so difficult?

content provided by mayoclinic.com

Terrible twos: Why are 2-year-olds so difficult?

Question

I've heard a lot about the terrible twos. Why are 2-year-olds so difficult?

Answer

The terrible twos are a normal stage in a toddler's development characterized by mood changes, temper tantrums and a familiarity with the word "no." The terrible twos typically occur when toddlers begin to struggle between their reliance on adults and their desire for independence, which may begin even before a child's first birthday. One minute a child may be clinging to his or her parents, and the next he or she is running in the opposite direction and disobeying them.

While the terrible twos can be difficult for parents and caregivers to navigate, keep in mind that 2-year-olds don't have it easy. No longer infants but not quite ready for preschool either, 2-year-olds undergo major motor, intellectual, social and emotional changes. Their vocabulary is constantly growing, they're eager to do things on their own, and they begin to discover that they're expected to follow certain rules. However, most 2-year-olds still aren't able to move as swiftly as they'd like, clearly communicate their needs or control their feelings. This can lead to frustration and result in misbehavior — in other words, the terrible twos.

If your child is in the midst of the terrible twos, expect that you'll occasionally lose patience with each other. Try to stay calm, however. When your child has a temper tantrum, offer comfort or ignore the behavior. Try to limit your use of the word "no" and, instead, use other forms of discipline, such as redirection or humor. In addition, be sure to praise your child for appropriate behavior. By accepting the changes your child is going through and showing him or her love and respect, you'll help your child make it through this difficult stage with confidence.
Last Updated: 2010-12-16
© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Terms and conditions of use

 

Bookmark and Share   E-Mail Page   Printer Friendly Version