How To Handle Terrible Two Tantrums: 9 Proven Tips

how to handle terrible two tantrums

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How do you handle terrible two tantrums? Simple, help your child regulate their emotions, offer choices, and promote open communication.

Easier said than done, right? The truth is that the terrible twos and threes are not that terrible. You might get scared or intimidated by the behaviors your child will show during the terrible twos.

I get it, temper tantrums can be challenging. But don’t worry, I am going to share the same strategies I use to handle terrible two tantrums effortlessly.

Tantrums are a normal part of a child’s development, and when you know why your child shows this behavior, you are better able to deal with these tantrums.

Let me help you learn why terrible two tantrums happen and how to deal with them.

If you’re short on time:

Follow these strategies to better deal with temper tantrums:

  1. Stay calm and collected.

  2. Give your child space.

  3. Let your child know that you understand their emotions.

  4. Use positive language.

  5. Offer your child two choices.

  6. Provide a prepared environment.

  7. Use positive reinforcement.

  8. Understand when your child is hungry or tired.

  9. Focus on the process, not the outcome.


I will explain these strategies in more detail and also give you some examples on how I help my child regulate her emotions.

How to handle terrible two tantrums

The terrible twos and threes are normal developmental stages where your child’s brain is developing fast. They are learning to regulate their emotions but they need your help.

There is no magic formula to deal with unruly behavior but these tips on how to handle terrible two tantrums can help.


1. Stay calm and collected

This will be the most challenging part of all. I get it, when our children are screaming and crying, it is hard to stay under control. A crying toddler can get under your skin.

But guess what, you just have to do your best to stay calm.

You are your child’s guide and teacher, and it’s essential to remain calm and composed during a temper tantrum.

When you stay calm and collected, you provide a sense of stability for your child too, and they are more likely to follow your lead and regain their composure. 

Take deep breaths, remind yourself that tantrums are a normal part of child development, and focus on responding in a patient and understanding manner.


2. Give your child space

This is what we do every time our child is not able to control her emotions. If she doesn’t want to be carried, we just put her down. We follow her needs.

And sometimes, your child might need some space to express their emotions during a tantrum. If your child needs space, please give it to them just as someone gives you space when you want to be alone.

You can also create a safe environment where your child can let their feelings out without judgment or interruption. 

This safe space can be your child’s bedroom where the environment has been created to support their physical and emotional needs.


3. Let your child know that you understand their emotions

Your child may feel overwhelmed by their emotions. Show empathy and let them know that you understand how they feel. 

We like to use phrases like, “I can see that you’re feeling upset right now, and it’s okay to feel that way,” or “I understand how you feel, sometimes I feel upset too.” 

This has a positive impact on their emotional development. When you acknowledge their emotions, you validate their experiences and help them feel heard and supported.


4. Use positive language

Growing up, I was told to stop crying and to be quiet. Remember that your child needs to feel understood. Using negative language can only make things worse.

When you talk to your child, use positive and affirming words. Instead of focusing on what they can’t do, highlight what they can do.

Toddlers don’t fully understand words like “no,” “stop,” or “don’t.” Instead, try to explain the consequences and WHY they should not be doing what they are doing.  

For example, instead of saying, “Stop hitting,” say, “It hurts when you hit someone, ouch!” Positive language redirects their behavior in a constructive and encouraging way.

Here are other ways you can communicate with your child:

  1. Instead of “stop crying,” say, “I am sorry that you feel that way.”

  2. Instead of “don’t climb on the counter,” say, “if you climb on the counter, you can fall and get hurt.”

  3. Instead of “stop playing with your food!” say, “Please eat your food so you can have lots of energy to go outside and play!”

5. Offer your child two choices

Giving your child too many choices can be overwhelming and make the tantrum worse.

Give your child only two choices during a tantrum to help them regain a sense of control and reduce frustration. 

For example, you can say, “Would you like to take a few deep breaths or have a sip of water to help calm down?” 

It is easier to make a decision when there are limited choices available, so by offering two choices, you empower your child to make an easy decision. Both choices will have a positive outcome.

6. Provide a prepared environment 

Creating an environment that supports your child’s independence and exploration is crucial in handling tantrums. 

Set up a space where they can freely choose activities, access age-appropriate toys, and engage in hands-on experiences. 

This prepared environment allows them to channel their energy positively and reduces the likelihood of tantrums due to boredom or lack of stimulation.

Read more about how to set up a developmentally appropriate bedroom for your child.


7. Use positive reinforcement 

Recognize and reward your child’s positive behaviors during and after a tantrum. 

You can praise their efforts in managing their emotions or making a positive choice. For example, you can say, “I noticed how you took deep breaths and calmed yourself down. I appreciate your effort.” 

When you use positive reinforcement, you reinforce desired behaviors, boost their self-esteem, and encourage them to continue making positive choices.


8. Understand when your child is hungry or tired 

Ah! This is maybe one of the biggest reasons your child could be throwing a tantrum!

Your toddler may not yet be able to ask for food or put themselves to sleep. The only way they know how to ask is by crying.

It’s important to be mindful of your child’s basic needs. I recommend you follow a schedule and try to keep that schedule consistent. 

A typical schedule can look like this:

  • Breakfast: 8AM
  • Playtime: 9AM
  • First snack: 10AM
  • First Nap: 11AM
  • Lunch: 12PM
  • Trip to the park or library: 1PM
  • Second snack: 3PM
  • Read: 4PM
  • Dinner: 5PM
  • More playtime: 6PM
  • Bedtime: 8PM

This is just an example. Your actual routine will vary but try to keep it consistent, especially meal time and nap time.


9. Focus on the process, not the outcome 

Between ages 1 and 3, your child is learning so much: communication, independence, walking, and emotions. 

But because these skills are not fully developed, your child can become frustrated. Learning to control their emotions is a long and steady process.

Don’t focus on the outcome, instead focus on the process. Celebrate your child’s efforts, progress, and small victories along the way. Encourage your toddler to explore and experiment, even if the end result may not be perfect. 

Nurture a growth mindset and help your child develop resilience, perseverance, and a love for learning.

What causes the terrible twos?

terrible twos behavior

The “terrible twos” is a term often used to describe a developmental stage in toddlers characterized by increased tantrums, defiance, and challenging behavior. 

Here are some causes of the terrible twos and threes:

  1. Rapid brain development: Your child’s brain is developing fast, particularly in areas responsible for emotion regulation and impulse control. This rapid development leads to behavioral changes and emotional outbursts as toddlers navigate new cognitive and emotional capabilities.

  2. Striving for independence: Your child wants to be independent and learn on their own. They want to make choices, explore their environment, and assert their preferences. But they are limited to their physical and cognitive abilities and therefore they can get frustrated.

  3. Limited communication skills: Your toddler is expanding their language abilities but may still struggle to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs effectively. They can get frustrated if they don’t know how to communicate their thoughts.

  4. Emotional development: Toddlers experience a wide range of emotions but may lack the vocabulary and understanding to cope with or express these emotions. They may feel overwhelmed by their emotions which leads to tantrums as a way to release and express their feelings.

  5. Testing boundaries: You may have set some boundaries but your child has other plans. They want to test those boundaries to understand the rules and expectations around them.
  6. Developing autonomy skills: Your toddler is developing basic self-help skills such as getting dressed, feeding, and toileting. However, their limited abilities and occasional failures can cause frustration and result in tantrums.

  7. Physical factors: Your child may feel physical discomfort like teething, hunger, fatigue, or illness, and this can be a reason for challenging behavior. These physical factors may intensify tantrums or make toddlers more susceptible to emotional dysregulation.

Signs of the terrible twos

Every child is different and the signs of the terrible twos may be different too. But here are some common behaviors you may see in your child:

  1. Increased tantrums: Your toddler may have more frequent and intense tantrums in response to frustration, boundaries, or unmet needs. Tantrums can involve crying, screaming, kicking, or hitting.


  2. Defiance and opposition: Your child is becoming more independent and may not want to follow instructions. They would rather make their own choices and do things their own way.


  3. Increased frustration: Your child wants more independence and autonomy but is limited by their abilities. This can lead to frustration when they encounter obstacles or are unable to achieve their goals.


  4. Developing language skills: Your child is expanding their vocabulary and language abilities, but they may still struggle to express themselves effectively. Communication challenges can contribute to frustration and tantrums.

  5. Disrupted sleep patterns: Your child may experience changes in their sleep patterns during the “terrible twos” phase. They may resist bedtime, have trouble falling asleep, or wake up more frequently during the night.


  6. Separation anxiety: Separation anxiety may resurface or intensify during this stage. Your toddler may become clingy, hesitant to be separated from you, and may feel distressed.


  7. Mood swings: Rapid shifts in emotions like going from happiness to anger or sadness within a short span of time is common. Your child’s emotional response may seem intense and may not always align with the situation.

  8. Curiosity and exploratory behavior: Children are naturally curious, and at this stage in their life, your toddler is becoming increasingly curious about their environment. They want to touch, taste, and examine objects, and sometimes this leads to accidental messes or minor accidents.

Is the terrible twos a behavioral issue?

​​The “terrible twos” is not a behavioral issue. It is a normal and natural stage of development that children experience between the ages of 1 and 3. 

To be honest, I don’t like the term “terrible twos” because it makes these behaviors sound negative or problematic. 

In reality, your child is showing these behaviors because they are expanding their cognitive, emotional, and social skills. 

Your child is learning to navigate their growing sense of self, assert their desires, and communicate their needs within the limits and expectations set by you.

Terrible twos FAQs

As a new parent, I had lots of questions about the terrible twos. So now I feel the need to help other parents navigate this phase. See the answers below to commonly asked questions.

To navigate the terrible twos, set clear boundaries, provide positive reinforcement, offer choices, use effective communication, and model appropriate behavior.

The terrible twos phase typically begins around age 1 or 2 and can last until around age 3, but it varies for each child.

Normal terrible twos behavior includes temper tantrums, defiance, communication challenges, exploratory behavior, and increased emotional volatility.

The term “terrible twos” is used because this stage presents unique challenges as toddlers assert their independence and navigate their growing sense of self.

The terrible twos phase generally lasts until around age 3, but it can vary for each child.

What to do next?

The behaviors you see during the “terrible twos” are temporary and part of your child’s normal developmental progression. 

With patience, understanding, and consistent guidance, you can support your toddlers’ healthy development and help them navigate this stage successfully. 

Follow me on Instagram and YouTube where I share more tips and guides to help your child become resilient and independent.

About Leslie - Latinx Montessori

Hello, I am Leslie. I am on a mission to help you support the growth and development of your child. With the right tools and proper guidance, you can navigate parenthood with confidence and assertion! My goal is to equip you with knowledge to help you construct a strong foundation for your child’s life.

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