We’ve all heard stories about 2-year-olds long before we have to parent one. But is it really true?

Some of their behaviours can be seen as exhausting and negative. But they can actually reveal some wonderful positives about your child. Find out what to expect and how you can manage “terrible twos”.

EASILY FRUSTRATED...BUT ALSO FACING MANY
EXCITING CHANGES

Your 2-year-old can seem moody, changing at lightning speed from cheerful to meltdown. But this is a time of continuing major cognitive, motor, and social changes. She is realizing there’s a big, interesting world out there. She may want to do things that she sees older children or adults doing, but her interests often go beyond her physical strength and skill or her ability to understand.

What helps: Set her up for success. Provide age-appropriate activities and toys that challenge her without being too easy or too hard but just right.

ALWAYS GETTING INTO THINGS...
BUT ALSO CURIOUS AND SMART

That unspooled toilet paper, emptied kitchen drawer, or block-strewn floors aren’t the results of wilful disobedience. They’re all growing signs of your toddler’s deep interest in wondering what things are and how they work. Your toddler is like a detective pulling together clues about the world around her. (Okay sometimes, pulling them apart too!)

What helps: Create a “yes” environment so your 2-year-old can play and explore without getting into situations that cause you to say “no” or get upset.

TESTING LIMITS AND BOUNDARIES...BUT ALSO LEARNING THE RULES

When your toddler keeps doing something after you’ve said no, it’s another form of learning. She’s trying to find out, “If I do it one more time, do you really mean stop? If I do it again, will you follow through on your warning?”

What helps: Establish limits and follow through every time. Consistency helps children first learn about discipline as they make their way through the terrible twos.

OPPOSITIONAL AND NEEDY...
BUT ALSO LEARNING TO BE INDEPENDENT

During the terrible twos, your toddler is discovering her own will, needs, and desires. That’s the root of the word “no.” It’s a powerful way your 2-year-old can declare that she’s her own person, separate from you. She is developing a personality. That’s a heady feeling that makes her feel good—even when she’s disagreeing with things she normally likes!”

What helps: Let your child exert some control over her life by offering limited choices in times of making commands: “Do you want the red cup or the blue cup?”, “This spoon or those?” They shouldn’t be big choices (“Do you want to go to preschool?” “Do you feel like having cake?”). Your budding independent child still needs you to take care of the big decisions in her life. But by feeling that she has some say in things, she may be less likely to oppose you.

Work with her not against her. Go easy on her and on great days when all goes well, you may wonder why they don’t call the terrible twos the “terrific twos.”