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Ages & Stages: Your Two Year Old

“The Terrible Twos” is a phrase that is used quite often to describe the two year old. This phrase is not entirely true . . . it is not until 2 1/2 that many children become rather “terrible”. It is the “no, no, no” and “I can do it myself” that gives this age period such a bad name.

If your child continues to be gentle and easygoing right on through the 2 1/2 period and does not reach the “terrible 2 1/2” period until she is almost three, don’t be alarmed . And if he is calm by nature and “not very terrible” at any time during this second year, don’t worry about that either!

For many parents, two is the best age of all. Emotionally, two year olds are comfortable and content much of the time. Warmth and affection is expressed by their voice and their cozy, snuggling ways. The child speaks of himself by his given name, usually coupled with a demand such as “Seth wants to go outside”. A repeated phrase is, “It’s mine. It’s mine”. And this is quite fair, since a child must first learn “mine” before she can appreciate “thine”.

The two year old is a delightful companion. He likes to go on little errands, like bringing Mom or Dad requested items. This child loves to go for walks but also enjoys coming home again. Routine is a MUST for the two year old. They like having the same thing happen day after day. “Again” is an often repeated demand. Even when eating, they like repetition. Once they have settled on a favorite food, it will seem as if they are only eating that food. We wonder, “How does a child survive on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches alone?”

The two year old will attempt to do many things by herself. It is important to remember that they have not yet mastered many of the small muscle skills required to do the task. Expect frustration and considerable mess.

“No” is another much used word in the vocabulary of the two year old. You may decrease its use by not asking questions that require a negative response. For example, say, “It’s time to go to bed now” instead of “Do you want to go to bed now?”

Techniques that parents can use to help two year olds through their sometimes difficult days are:

  • Take advantage of the child’s need for routines in her life. A good bedtime ritual may solve the often difficult problem of getting the child to bed without too much of a fuss.
  • Do not hurry the child when doing routines. It is wise to set up routines that are practical to follow day after day. You will feel as if you are doing the same thing over and over . . . playing the same game over and over . . . reading the same story over and over . . . and you are!!! Remember, twos like sameness. It makes them feel comfortable and secure in their changing world.
  • Accept the security measures that your child has set up such as the favorite toy, blanket, or thumb. They will let go of these security measures when they are ready. If taken away too soon, they will only be substituted by another item . . . and the new choice may be worse!
  • Do not make idle threats. Do not trap yourself by using such statements as: “If you do not pick up your toys right now, I will leave you home when I go to the store.” If you do not have someone you can leave your child with, and you are not willing to stay at home, your child will quickly realize he has “the control”. Say instead, “We will go to the store as soon as you pick up your toys.” When you offer to help them pick up their toys, most two year olds rarely refuse to cooperate. Distraction is another trick that works well when the child’s request cannot be immediately granted.


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