How To Tackle the "Terrible Twos"

While the celebration of your toddler's second birthday is joyful, it is hard to ignore the feeling of dread as "No" begins to dominate his vocabulary. Though his outbursts are frustrating, keep in mind his actions are not acts of defiance directed toward you; he's developing independence and learning how to express frustration. Here are a few tips to help you cope.

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Temper Tantrums Explained

Temper tantrums are often sparked by your child's frustration at her inability to complete a task she thinks she should be able to do on her own. On top of this frustration, toddlers often get frazzled because they do not possess the language skills to express their feelings. Tantrums are normal for the development every child goes through and will decrease around age 4, once motor and language skills are better developed.

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Managing Temper Tantrums

Temper outbursts are taxing on both parent and child. Luckily, there are tactics you can use to defuse the situation, according to Dr. Jeremy Friedman, author of The Toddler Care Book.

During a tantrum, it's important to remain calm and avoid inadvertently reinforcing the behavior. Keep your emotions in check. If your emotions escalate, so will your child's. Do not laugh or confront her. Instead, ignore your child without making eye contact and wait for her to calm down. This will ensure you are not reinforcing bad behavior.

After the tantrum, provide reassurance and guidance. Speak to her in a relaxed tone and teach her how to express her feelings to you through words instead of throwing a fit. Reassure your toddler that you love her, then move on to the next activity.

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Joe Polillio

Managing Tantrums in Public

Letting your child cry at home is one thing, but when he throws a fit in public, it is embarrassing and chaotic. When a temper tantrum erupts in the middle of your weekly errands, remember that it does not make you a bad parent. Many of the people in the store are probably parents, so they understand the position you are in.

Start by removing your toddler from the situation by picking him up and taking him to a quiet place such as the car or the bathroom. Hug him until the tantrum stops and provide guidance as you would at home. Do not give in to your child's demands. If he knows he can throw and fit and receive a candy bar, you can bet on a repeat of the same situation next time you run errands.

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Preventing Temper Tantrums

Temper tantrums often take place when your child is hungry, tired, bored, or feeling overwhelmed. Anticipate these outbursts by paying attention to your child's nonverbal cues and reactions to various situations. Provide a snack, settle him down for a nap, or play a quiet activity before he gets to the stage of potential tantrums.

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Disciplining Your Toddler

While discipline is needed in order to keep your toddler safe and teach her the difference between right and wrong, it is equally important to give your child some control over her life. To do this, give her options: Ask if she would like to wear a yellow or blue dress today or if she would like pretzels or an apple for snack. Avoid open-ended questions -- they might cause frustration.

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Encourage His Independence

Even though the "terrible twos" is a trying period, this is an important time for your child to develop independence. Try to make this stage in his life as positive as possible. "I think the things that you do to help your children really blossom are to give your children freedom and to support them in their efforts," says Jen Meyers, co-author of Raising Your Child.

Provide support when your toddler gets frustrated, and help him find an outlet for his frustration. Take him on walks, or run around outside. Teaching your toddler how to deal with his emotions now will pay off for him in the future.

Copyright © 2009 Meredith Corporation.

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