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Terrible twos' and how to handle them in public!

August 30th, 2019
Terrible twos' and how to handle them in public!
We have all witnessed a poor mum trying to cope with her angry toddler having a tantrum in the middle of a public place – my son became so frustrated and cross in the lingerie department of a well known store that he began to pull all the ladies' knickers of the rails – to the amusement of all the other shops and my total embarrassment!

The 'Terrible Twos' is definitely an inaccurate description as the tantrums can begin as early as 18 months and can continue until your child is three years old – groan!
The first step in successfully fielding your angry toddler is to understand why he/she gets so upset. The answer is easy, he is getting upset and frustrated because he wants his own way and does not want to be stopped! Toddlers love to dress themselves and spread the jam on their bread and the tablecloth and simply cannot understand why you are stopping them! Even at such a young age, he loves the freedom of making his own decisions and does not want his actions to be curbed in any way!
Tantrums can occur for specific reasons too and it is worth trying to establish if there is one for your child. The classic one is tiredness so a walk with the stroller could encourage them to nap rather than taking him shopping. Other triggers can be hunger or that your toddler is feeling ignored, jealous of another child (especially if you have a new addition) or anxious about something. These feelings can be hard to pinpoint when your toddler cannot communicate them easily but the distraction tactic could work well and of course nothing beats a cuddle once they have calmed down – with the reassurance that you love them very much. Reading a book together where one of the characters gets cross can also help as you can discuss why and how the book character dealt with their feelings.
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The number and severity of the tantrums your child has varies considerably from one child to the next. Toddler tantrums occur because your child is frustrated because he cannot communicate his desires to you and it is interesting that toddlers who can talk usually have fewer tantrums for this very reason. In this situation, if you can discuss the problem with your toddler you probably have about 30 seconds of fast talking to avert a tantrum – but it does work!
The number one tactic to use is distraction. If you can give your toddler something else to focus on, you will have successfully averted a firework display of emotions! As tantrums often occur in public, this will take some quick thinking on your part! If you are in a shop, leave and go outside to look at the fountains, trees or even a passing fire engine. Toddlers have a short attention span so should forget the problem quickly. If there is a bakery nearby suggest that a small bread roll will help. Some bread sticks (or similar) wrapped in tin foil and kept in your handbag will always prove useful too.
Whatever you do, do not give in to your toddler's demands and stay totally calm throughout. If your toddler wins the first battle over having sweets you will be subject to many more! It is very difficult not to get agitated yourself but it will make matters worse, so try and be ultra calm and unruffled throughout! This of course is very difficult as you feel the whole world is watching and judging you as a parent. In reality, people are not judging you but more likely sympathising as they well remember what a difficult phase it is! When the storm has passed, talk with your child and try and help him understand his feelings and why he became so upset so quickly.
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Of course this stage is very challenging for everyone but importantly, it must not become a
negative one. Remain positive and praise all the good things your toddler does. Try and let them make small decisions so that they feel in control. Let them choose red or green socks or for you to take the bus or walk. In the bakery, give them two rolls to choose from. Young children are easily overpowered by choice though, so best to give them just two options. A smiley chart for good behaviour works well too with a little treat at the end of every day if you have not had to draw a goblin! Treats can include bubbles in the bath or an extra bedtime story and if they get four smileys in a row then a trip to the park, library or something else they enjoy doing.
The important point to remember is that the terrible twos is just a phase and that it will pass and one day you will realise that your toddler has not had a tantrum for a few days/ weeks. Congratulate yourself on navigating a challenging course and enjoy a lovely – and peaceful - walk with your toddler including some Pooh sticks or puddle jumping!

Angey x

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