Two year olds are exploring their world and frequently testing the limits of their own skills, their environment and your patience. At times the ride may be so bumpy and change so quickly, you would prefer a roller coaster in the middle of a tornado! Remember that this is normal behavior and in some children it extends into the age of three as well.
Remember that their emotional development is a work in progress. You can actually help your child develop some confidence by encouraging positive behavior that is more mature. Consistently set limits but allow them enough leeway to explore and follow their curiosity. Letting them know how much appropriate behavior is appreciated is a much more powerful tool and incentive than negative harsh reactions when they have a tantrum. Consistency is the key.
Tantrums are inevitable and normal. The two-year-old child is frustrated and can be very emotional with rapid and extreme mood swings. Learning to express themselves is a challenge. Providing some wiggle room for this is important in their development if they are to mature.
However as a parent one needs to direct them away from aggressive, violent behavior that might endanger themselves or others. Aggressive or violent behavior must be interrupted without overreacting. With as much of a neutral manner as possible tell your child immediately and very clearly that kind of behavior is not acceptable. If necessary a time-out or removing the child for a few minutes if you are in a public place is important. Keep calm and do not respond in anger. Physical punishment is simply not an option. This only sends the message the resorting to violence is an acceptable means to communicate and solve problems.
Reasoning in the middle of a tantrum is also not an option. When emotions have subsided a simple and clear explanation can be very helpful. Keep it simple, as a complicated discussion won’t work. This all takes time and patience. Focus on the behavior that needs to change while being positive about the child as a person.
Children are incredible “sponges.” They are soaking up the behavior that is modeled around them 24/7. Even when they don’t seem to be paying attention, they are very aware of how other children and adults respond to each other and to them. Sometimes an attempt to redirect their attention or energy to some other activity can abort the full blown tantrum.
However once it goes into something further, interrupting this with a time out is important. No more than 2-3 minutes of time out for a toddler should be necessary to make the point. Wait until they have calmed down to offer any explanation or continue activities. Television is also a powerful model of behavior for your children. Be thoughtful about what they are watching.
Your most powerful tool is appreciating and encouraging your child when they are exhibiting appropriate behavior. This cultivates confidence and self-esteem. With more confidence, children are able to develop a positive self-image of someone who models behavior that is appreciated and valued by people and loved ones around them. Consistency, not perfection, is the goal.