surviving the “terrific” twos

Today, I have a two and a half year old.  You know when your child is an infant and every day, week, or month that goes by is your favorite?  Well, two is definitely NOT my favorite…

I was told by my realtor that instead of calling it the “terrible twos”, we needed to call it the “terrific twos” just so that this time in her life didn’t leave us with a bad taste in our mouth.  I’m trying.  Really, I am.  But, 6 months in to the “terrific” twos, I’m not really feeling it.

Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely adore my daughter.  She is still and always will be the best thing in my life.  She is at an age where she understands everything, can communicate exactly what she wants (even though it might take me 5 minutes to understand her), and can do so many more fun things.  Just this past weekend, we took her to her first movie to see “Frozen” at our local $1 movie theater (awesome, right?!).  She really did great and I absolutely loved watching her as much as the movie because her face just lit up with every song that came on.  (We have been singing to YouTube videos, so we have been dying to actually see what happens after “Let It Go”.)


And this weekend should be really fun as well with several Easter egg hunts, and her basket full of goodies (including the “Frozen” soundtrack)!

So, really, I shouldn’t exactly say this age is terrible.  But it is really. freaking. hard.  This is the age of whining and tantrums.  It doesn’t take much to set her off on a tantrum, usually because I’m not giving in to whatever she is wanting at that time.  And the tantrums are only getting worse and more frequent.  Yes, most of the time she is my little sweetie pie, but man, when she’s upset, everyone in a 10 mile radius knows.  (Thank goodness I work 20 miles from the babysitter…)


Disciplining is also getting more and more difficult because she just doesn’t “get it”.  For example, last night, she was being a brat and hitting me (more on that in a second) and I yelled at her to “stop it” (her favorite phrase for the last 6 months).  And what does she do?  She laughs.  So, of course, the awesome mama I am starts laughing too.  Ugh.  We put her in time out but she just doesn’t understand exactly why yet.

She’s also jealous as all get out.  She doesn’t want anyone else getting the attention she feels she deserves, especially with me or Matt.  We can’t even touch any other baby without her going, “No! My mama!”  Which, of course, freaks us out if we ever want another child.  She has actually talked in her sleep saying, “No, Baby Hailey, No!”  (Hailey is the baby who follows Kenna around everywhere at the babysitters.)  I will admit she is getting better at sharing things with other kids, but sometimes it takes some convincing, and she’s especially stubborn with sharing her Mama and Daddy.

But, the thing that is making two more difficult than any other age so far is that MacKenna has become a hitter.  At first, it was just hitting herself or banging her head against a floor or a wall when she got frustrated.  This is fairly normal for kids her age, but it has gotten a little worse recently.  She now hits Matt and me frequently.  This gets her put in time out, but like I said, she doesn’t quite get it and it surely doesn’t stop her from hitting.


I didn’t get really worried until Monday night, when she actually hit another kid at gymnastics.  We immediately took her out of the gym and into another room to calm her down, but I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse.  What do I do?  How do I fix this?  You think as teachers, we could discipline our own child, but how do you explain to a two year old that they can’t hit?  She just doesn’t get it.

So, yeah, right now, we are just surviving.  And I’m told 3 is worse than 2… Dear Lord, pray for us…

  • Melissa

    I have a 2.5 year old son and while I’m generally loving 2 – I find it soo much fun developmentally – it does have it’s challenges.

    I’m also a teacher and have worked in behavior management for 10 years now. I have all the strategies in the world but sometimes they just don’t work with your own kid. My son hits as well. I’ve found being consistent wit TO helps, but what’s even more helpful is teaching them what they should being flung instead if hitting – after TO bring them back to the situation and help them right their wrong by using their words or whatever is applicable to the situation.

    You’re doing a great job. It’s just a challenging age!

    • Kristen

      Great idea!

  • These 2 year olds sure do their best to challenge us, don’t they? What we’ve found when it comes to disciplining any physical actions that C does that we don’t want her to do (pushing, grabbing a toy, hitting) we ask her how she thinks that made someone feel (sad) and if she wants to make her friend feel sad (no). That seems to work. Conversely, when someone does that to her, we ask her how she feels about it. Framing it that way seems to drive the point home. But she’s still a toddler and she plays with other toddlers and they can all be little cavemen sometimes–pushing, grabbing and hitting to get what they want. C does understand time out, but they aren’t working as well lately, she just laughs if I give her a time out. So I’ve started giving consequences. Like, no book before bed or no Jake and the Neverland Pirates. As soon as she hears the word consequence, she usually adjusts her behavior. So that’s working for now, I’m sure it’ll change in a few weeks! Also, M is acting just like a 2 year old–they all do these things that we wish they wouldn’t. Hang in there, mama!
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    • Kristen

      I am definitely going to try that! Consequences seemed to work a little for us when I tried it!

  • Isn’t Frozen a great movie?? I am obsessed with the soundtrack and I think you and M will be too! 🙂 Sorry to hear about the “terrible two’s”, hoping it gets better soon for you all. Happy Friday and Happy Easter!
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  • I have no kids so I am I am no help in that department but hang in there! What a fun first movie for her to get to see. Mine was Lion King.
    Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie recently posted..Friday Five 12

  • Sarah

    Mine went through a big biting phase. We made it very clear that biting hurts and made us sad (pretend cry and ask for a kiss to make it feel better) We also do timeouts and put her in her bed and close the door. She hates it. I hear 3 is worse too…no!!! I will have a baby just after she turns 3.

    • Kristen

      I think I might have to start putting her in her bed. My only fear is that she will climb out!

  • Thanks for posting this. Claire is also 2.5 years old and the exact same behavior is happening at our house. She attends daycare full-time and I know she picks up so much bad behavior there (good behaviors too, I am sure). I love this age but the demands are high and it is trying time at our house too. She swings between sweet and naughty at record speed! I appreciate your honesty and enjoying reading the comments for suggestions on how to help/improve her behavior.

    • Kristen

      Yes, the total bipolar swings are not fun. We had a great day yesterday until we got to gymnastics and it all went down hill. The comments have been great!

  • Jerrica

    I have made it to the other side of 2 once and I’m in the middle of it again! I have not found 3 to be harder as long as the child is able to express feelings. We successfully did this the first time by reading! I always carried books with me that related to hitting, biting and not sharing. When we were in a situation where one of those things happened, we had a together time-out. I would sit with them and read whichever book applied and then the time-out was over. I think it really helped them to understand why they were getting the time-out. At least with my kids, they have to know why they can’t do something. Telling them “no! you can’t hit!” isn’t enough. Sure, it made my purse a little heavier but it really did help us. One of our favorites is “No more hitting” by Maria Maysen.

    • Kristen

      I will definitely be looking into that! Great idea!

  • julia

    Man, that sounds really hard! It also seems like other commenters are going through the same (I’m not a mom). Do you think you are setting clear boundaries? Do you think being more firm will help? I hope to be the kind of parent that doesn’t see my relationship with my kid as a friend, and instead the relationship as more of a functional role in terms of setting standards and appropriate behavior. Again, this is likely a pipe dream as I don’t have kids. I’m sure I’ll be in for a rude awakening.

    • Kristen

      I definitely think I’m firm, but I don’t think she totally understands it. But, I see the kids all the time who’s mom is their best friend – they are terrible! I refuse to be that parent!

  • Angie

    My son is only 19 months and our pediatrician said to have a time out chair and he sits there for 1 min. for each year he is. It’s tough and I can’t imagine what’s going to happen as he gets older. We’ve only used time out when he’s tried hitting us, climbing in the coffee table, or pulling the dog’s tail. It’s helped but he doesn’t totally get it all the time. As a fellow teacher, just being consistent and always following through is the most important thing. Good luck. I hope you share any getting tips you find.

    • Kristen

      I tried this on Monday night – it did not go over well! Ha!

  • My daughter is 2 1/2 and we’ve had some of the same experiences. I am a SAHM so I have a little different situation than you, but more or less, the tantrums can overwhelm me and my husband when they do arise. I learned a lot about toddlers and their lack of communicating skills from The Happiest Toddler on the Block. It’s a great book that assists parents in communicating with these tiny “little cavemen like humans.” It makes a great deal of sense and I highly recommend reading it, if you haven’t. Basically, toddlers get frustrated because they can’t communicate clearly enough, so that is what brings on the tantrums.
    I wish you luck!
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    • Kristen

      I read Happiest Baby on the Block and loved it (read it way too late since she was already 4 months old). I will definitely check it out!

  • Here’s some info that we use in our parent training classes at work – look at the function/purpose of her hitting. “Being mad” is not a function. A function can only be one of 4 things – attention, access to an item, escape (trying to get out of a chore, going to bed, etc), or sensory (doesn’t apply here but like scratching an itch, it’s automatic behavior). Functions can also work together. In this case, it’s probably attention & access working together.

    Anyway, long story short, to break the hitting, you have to make the hitting NOT work. Think about it – when she hits, is she looking right at you or paying direct attention to you? If so, she is looking to see what you’re going to do about it (i.e. attention). Time out is totally fine but ANY attention could be feeding the hitting, including yelling “NO!” or “STOP!” Negative attention is still attention 🙂 So if there’s ANY part of the hitting that is trying to get your attention, DON’T FEED IT. Put her in time out WITHOUT ANY ATTENTION. No eye contact, no words (other than a prompt telling her what TO do – “Keep your hands to yourself” or “nice hands” or “quiet hands”), no hugs until time out is over and she has complied.

    Hopefully this makes sense. It’s likely a phase where she’s testing boundaries but hopefully you can get it gone sooner than later! Good luck!
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    • Kristen

      I just read this to my husband and he totally agrees. We think at home, it’s attention (she looks directly at us when she hits us) but at gymnastics (where she is the worst about it), we think it’s the access. But, I definitely agree that we need to stop feeding it. She gets worse when I tell her “no” or “stop it”, and she doesn’t act like that AT ALL at the babysitter’s house. I don’t think she’s every hit anyone there. Tantrums, yes, but hitting, never.