When Do Terrible Twos Start And How Long Do They Last? 

 January 20, 2022

Every parent has dealt with the dreaded terrible twos. It is a totally normal part of raising toddlers, but there were times that I thought I was going to pull my hair out. I dealt with it all, the frustration, tantrums, and of course, the telling me NOΒ whenever I told them to do something. At some point as parents we’ll all ask ourselves: when do terrible twos start and how long do they last? What are the signs and symptoms that my child is into the terrible twos?

When Do The Terrible Twos Start And Why Are They So Terrible?

Toddlerhood starts at the age of one and lasts until the age of three. During that time, a toddler will learn about emotions, talk and walk, and have opinions. In addition, a toddler will want to explore their environment their way and do what they want when they want to do it.  Generally, the terrible twos will start anywhere from 18 to 30 months and sometimes continue well into the third year.

Can The Terrible Twos Start Early?

Yes, the terrible twos can start early. Indeed they might not occur right as they turn two. Instead, you might see them start later or earlier, depending on the child. If you are as lucky as I were this can occur as early as 1 year old.

How Long Do The Terrible Twos Last?

I found myself asking how long do the terrible twos last all the time. A friend once told me until adulthood. While it is not quite that bad, the terrible twos can last and go into the terrible threes. By the age of four, the terrible years have finished most of the time because the child can understand instructions, follow the rules, and have reached motor development where they can do the things they need to do. However, suppose a parent still sees behavioral problems at age four or the terrible twos or threes are worse than expected. In that case, they should make an appointment with their family physician to rule out any behavioral problems.

What Causes The Terrible Twos In Toddlers?

The main thing that causes the terrible twos in toddlers is related to the fact that their emotional, verbal, and physical skills are not fully developed. They get frustrated trying to do a task they cannot yet do. Some things a parent may see include the child not telling you exactly what they want, having the patience to wait their turn, and having issues with their hand and eye coordination.

What Are The Most Common Terrible Twos Symptoms and Signs?

I saw several terrible twos symptoms in my children, and most other parents will probably as well. 

The 6 Most Common Terrible Twos Symptoms

1. Tantrums

The most common terrible twos symptoms are tantrums. They can be mild whining, or they can be a hysterical meltdown. Children may scream, cry, and demand whatever they want. The toddler may also get physical and do things like biting, throwing things, kicking, and hitting. A tantrum may seem like a long-lived one, but they last under five minutes most of the time. Tantrums occur in both boys and girls equally.

2. Opposition

As a toddler grows, they will gain new abilities and skills. A toddler is naturally going to want to test those new skills and abilities. Unfortunately, it can lead to toddlers not wanting to do the things they have always done. For example, a toddler who wants to be independent may refuse to hold their parent’s help when walking or putting their clothes on. The more independent the toddler feels, the more they will not want the help they usually have had. In some cases, parents may deal with a toddler that thinks they know how to do something but cannot master that skill. They will then get frustrated, and this may lead to a tantrum.

3. Mood Swings

Another common symptom of terrible twos is mood swings. Toddlers have mood swings during this time, and no toddler is not going to have one. One minute, they will be the happiest toddler in the whole wide world. Then, the next minute, they are holy terrors, screaming, crying, and making everyone miserable. It typically comes from wanting to do things themselves, and they cannot do it, or they are simply mad because they are not getting their way.

4. Lack Of Patience

The lack of patience it’s also a very common terrible twos symptom. Whatever toddlers want they want it NOW. They are not willing to wait even a minute. Toddlers fully embrace and leave at the present moment, and since they don’t have yet a good notion of time patience it’s not one of their strong character’s features. 

5. Frustration

Since their verbal, and physical skills are not fully developed they get easily frustrated when they are not properly understood. At the same time, it’s going to be harder and harder to distract them and make them forget what they want.

6. Independency

Terrible twos symptoms and signs

Even though toddlers often need assistance to execute things often they don’t want you to help them, after all, they are independent human beings.  For them, it’s super important to do everything by themselves-eat (even though they will make a huge mess), dress (even though it can take an hour), turn on the light (even though they cannot reach it), climb the stairs (even though they constantly fall), walk on the street without holding your hand (even though they can get hit by a car). They can throw terrible tantrums just because you tried to be helpful or save their life.

How Many Tantrums A Day Is Normal And How To React As A Parent?

There is no set number of tantrums that a child can have in a day. My daughter could out tantrum anyone. Sometimes, she would have three to four tantrums a day, all because we would not let her turn the lights off and on, or her favorite toy got stuck somewhere. Fortunately, not all toddlers have that many, although some may have more. It will all depend on the child.

How To Get Through The Terrible Twos – 10 Useful Tips 

Here is a list of 10 useful tips that will help you to get through the terrible twos. Some of them may not work for you while others might be very efficient. There is no one for all solution. Every child is unique, every parent-toddler relationship is different.

1. Schedules

Toddlers should have a set schedule. For example, bad behavior can be increased when the toddler is hungry or tired.

2. Praise

When a toddler does something good, they should be praised for it. They will thrive on the attention.

3. No Spanking, Hitting, or Yelling

When a child has a tantrum, a parent might think of yelling or giving the child a spanking. Showing the child a violent reaction coming will only encourage them to keep up with the tantrum. Actually, corporal punishment is a risk factor for nonoptimal child development. When we feel overwhelmed and angry it can be a good thing to give a time-out to our child. This will allow both of you to calm down. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend giving one minute of time-out for every year of the child’s age. Personally for me and my children this was one of the most efficient solutions.

4. Ignore

When a child is having a tantrum, a parent needs to ignore it. It will not be the easiest thing to do, but if the toddler is not getting the attention, they will soon stop the tantrum and go back to their regular routine. However, in the case of a kid who is in danger of hurting himself or others during a tantrum, it might be recommended to be brought to a quiet, safe place to calm down. 

5. Distractions

When a toddler starts to misbehave, the excellent idea is to distract them. Please change the subject on what they want to do, show them a new toy, or anything to get their mind off whatever they are mad about.

6. Simple Rules

Toddlers are not going to understand complex rules and explanations. So when a toddler is behaving incorrectly, the parent should remind them of the rules. For example, if the toddler does not want their handheld while going across the street, the parent should tell them that a car could hurt them if they do not and then hold their hand. No arguing, no debating, grab the hand and go.

7. Control

A parent should offer a toddler a bit of control. For example, if they like dressing themselves, let them choose what color they will wear for the day. It will help the child to have a sense of control which will appease them.

8. Safety

Keeping a toddler’s home environment is safe. If there are things that they do not need to get into, they should be moved to an area where the toddler cannot reach them.

9. Never Give In

One of the most common parenting mistakes I have made is giving in. If my child was screaming at the store for a treat, I often just caved in so they would be quiet. Soon I learned that they took advantage of this. When my child decided to throw a tantrum, I said no and then removed them from the store. While it is inconvenient, it was well worth it to drive home my point of no.

10. Calm

One of the biggest things toddlers will feed off of is stress. They can sense it, and they will most definitely take advantage of it. So parents need to keep calm and never ever lose their cool.

What Comes After The Terrible Twos?

The terrible twos might last and go into the terrible threes. However most of the time by the age of four, the terrible years should be behind you.

Obviously, parenting challenges won’t be over with the end of the terrible twos. Your preschooler will bring you new surprises that you will have to embrace.

When Do The Terrible Twos Start And How Long Do They Last: To Sum It Up

While the terrible twos can be terrible, there are things that parents can do to help minimize the issues that come with it. Knowing what to expect will help parents to be able to prepare and deal with situations better. I know if I ever have any more children, I will do things differently regarding the terrible twos. I will work on staying calm, distracting more, and helping my little one grow.

You may also be interested in reading the following articles:

How To Deal With  Temper Tantrums In 3-Year-Olds?

Why Your Toddler Prefers Mom Over Dad?

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  1. My first child the terrible twos started around 1.5 years and haven’t stopped. My second never had them. I think it’s very dependant on the child and not necessarily a certain stage of parenting. Good luck!

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