Taming the Terrible Twos

Understanding your child's defiant behavior is the first step to knowing how to handle it.

Introduction

Terrific Twos

Toddlers have a bad reputation and it's sadly undeserved, says esteemed child psychologist Penelope Leach, Ph.D. The fact is, your child's negative behaviors are actually positive signs of growing up. The key is in how you handle this important developmental stage.

Max, 22 months, and Lucy, 10 months, have squabbled and lost it. Their mother, Joanna, quiets Lucy with her pacifier, puts her in the twin stroller, and calls big sister Jodie. With both girls ready to move on, Joanna holds out her hand to Max, who immediately throws himself on the ground. "Now see here," Joanna says, "if you won't go in the stroller like your baby sister and you won't walk like your big sister, just what are we to do with you?"

For parents, that's the billion-dollar question, especially when faced with that most dreaded sign of toddlerhood: public tantrums. Two-year-olds have always had a terrible reputation for delaying tactics, pickiness, and downright defiance. But the more we expect of young children, bringing them to restaurants and thinking they can control themselves in group settings like toddler classes, the more these behaviors seem to increase.

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