Getting Through the Terrible Twos

The terrible twos are a normal phase of child development, but can be a difficult time for both parents and child alike. We spoke to psychotherapist Karine Vézina ( to find out more about exactly what goes on during this period; she also gave us her tips on how to deal with it most effectively as parents.
What are the terrible twos, and why are they so difficult for the child?
During this period, your child starts affirming himself; he realizes that he is a whole person, and distinct from others, including his parents. “He then comes to understand that his attitudes or responses create a reaction in others,” says Vézina. This is why kids start expressing themselves more, and sometimes reacting more intensely or dramatically.MOMMY_14artHow much time does this period generally last?
Although the period is called “terrible twos”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the second your child turns two years old, he’s entered the phase. “It’s not a rare occurrence for me to hear parents say that they thought they were in the clear, but that now that their child is three, or three and a half, they feel like he’s finally going through it”, confirms Vézina.What is the best attitude for a parent during her child’s terrible twos?
According to Vézina, “It’s important to be clear and firm, all the while respecting the child’s current emotion.” Your toddler should feel that his emotions, and a reaction, are justified, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll get what he wants.

What type of attitude should a parent avoid?
“Some parents can start second-guessing themselves, or feel guilt. This guilt, or not really knowing how to react to the child’s behaviour, can bring the parent to try to avoid crises or try to cut the reaction short,” explains Vézina. According to Vézina, it’s important to act and supervise, rather than avoid crises. The more constant your responses are, the better the child will evolve during this phase.

Karine Vézina’s terrible-two tips
– “Be clear, constant, coherent, and consequent, despite the daily bustling, fatigue, and unexpected occurrences. These attitudes are […] reassuring for the child.”

–  “Respect your child’s emotion, name it, and recognize it. Let him express himself while setting limits. He can cry, and let out his anger and screams, but there can be certain places (the bedroom, for example), and acceptable ways of doing it (hitting the bed or cushions) and others that are not (screaming in his parents’ ears, throwing objects, spitting, etc.). This is part of setting clear limits and giving the child a sense of security. He will then be able to tell what is allowed or not, and will have the appropriate tools to deal.”

– “The question falls on the parent: Do I want my child to simply stop screaming, or do I want him to learn from the situation and stop screaming? The latter way of seeing things may seem more demanding on the short term, but the effects will be beneficial on the long term for the whole family! Your toddler will have evolved and learned, while feeling that he was respected in what he is going through and feeling.”

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