Handling the Terrible Twos


By Sarah Audu, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.

It seems all new parents are warned about the much-dreaded “terrible twos.” I have reflected upon my own journey as a new mom and have given this phrase much thought and consideration.

Throughout pregnancy, new parents dream of what their child will be like, and their love for this child is already indescribable. When the child is born, our love for them only grows a million times more. At the same time, parents are trying to figure out how to care for a tiny human, which is a process full of self-doubt and deep emotions.

Society understands that having a newborn is hard, and support is commonly shown to new parents. Is that same support always given to parents when their baby grows into a toddler?

Imagine a time when you’ve seen a toddler throw a tantrum at the grocery store. Situations like those can often be viewed as annoying, obnoxious, or simply the result of bad parenting. Now that I am the mother of a two-year-old, I have more respect for parents raising toddlers, because this phase is not for the weak! (LOL)

Behavioral tantrums can include kicking, hitting, crying, screaming, throwing themselves on the ground, rolling around, and more. Tantrums may be triggered by something that upset the child, such as being told “no,” or can occur for seemingly no reason at all.

These negative behavioral outbursts are extremely defeating for parents. Parents are typically putting their best effort towards teaching their children to behave positively, make good choices, communicate effectively, and calm down when they are upset.

In my own experience, I try my best to teach my child positive social-emotional skills and practice these things with him daily. However, that did not stop him from screaming, kicking, and refusing to walk with me when we were trying to leave a restaurant.

One arm was carrying a heavy infant seat with my 8-month-old, and my other arm was carrying my toddler, who was still screaming and refusing to walk. I received many annoyed stares from bystanders, and the looks on their faces just communicated, “Why can’t you get him to stop?” I was trying everything. I felt so defeated.

I am forever grateful for the woman who stopped me right before I reached the door and said, “Would you care if I helped you?”

What needs to be remembered is that toddlers are still trying to figure out this big world. They are trying to learn to communicate and express themselves. They are trying to find their independence.

As I reflect on my experiences, the word that comes to mind is “grace.” As adults and parents, we should put more effort into showing grace to toddlers as they navigate the world. We should show more grace to other parents, as they are trying their best. Lastly, we should be intentional about showing grace to ourselves, as we have earned it as well.