Refuses to wear shoes. Check! Kicks the car seat. Check! Has meltdowns over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Check! Check! And check! Power struggles are a natural part of development as your toddler gains independence, but lacks full communication and reasoning skills.
But you’ve got this! And we’ve got seven strategies to help you navigate through the terrible twos.
1. Show empathy
Okay, it might be hard not to laugh when they throw themselves on the floor because you asked them to put on clothes, but sometimes all it takes is a little empathy to show that you understand. I know you don’t feel tired enough for nap time. It makes you sad to leave the playground, doesn’t it?
This doesn’t mean you’ll give in, but it demonstrates you appreciate their side of things.
2. Give warnings before transitions
Transitioning from one activity to another can be hard for some toddlers and trigger some tough toddler behavior. If transitions are a challenge for your child, try using a timer or set limits to help them know what comes next. When the timer goes off, we’ll get ready for lunch. Two more trips down the slide and then we’ll head to the car.
Be sure to follow through or else your child won’t take the next warning seriously.
3. Watch your wording
Avoid figures of speech that sound like you’re asking permission. “Okay” is a common one. We have to go now, okay? So, of course, your toddler thinks, Nah, that’s not okay with me! Lose the figures of speech and let them know: It’s time to go.
4. Give simple choices
Having input gives your toddler some control. It doesn’t have to be big decisions. It’s enough to have a say in small matters: Which three books should we read? Do you want the red cup or the green cup?
5. Make it imaginative
Turn potential power struggles into something fun. Make a game out of picking up toys. Who can go fastest? Race your little one from the swings to the parking lot. Talk in a funny voice that engages your toddler and distracts them from their bad mood.
6. Cut back on “no”
It’s easy to say no. Unfortunately hearing no all day long can trigger difficult toddler behavior. Of course, you have to set limits, but it’s better to set up a yes environment. Try using distraction and redirection instead of saying no. Even responding with humor can diffuse a difficult situation for a toddler going through the terrible twos. Save no for when it’s essential, so it has more power.
7. Praise the good stuff
When you praise your child for behavior that you like to see—putting away toys, remembering to touch a baby gently—you encourage more of that in the future.
Now that you have the tools to help navigate the terrible twos, time with your ever-independent toddler can become a little easier. That is, until they turn three…