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Your Temperamental 2-Year-Old: How to handle a toddler's intense emotions

Consider your amazing 2-year-old: Excitable, engaging, exasperating and extremely curious. Put all this energy into a small person who hasn't yet learned to wait or control his emotions and what do you get? An amazed?and often exhausted?parent.

As adults, we experience life completely differently than 2-year-olds. We rationalize, complain about, distract ourselves from, and deny destructive or negative feelings. We can wait. We can set priorities and predict, think abstractly and understand that "yesterday" doesn't necessarily mean everything that happened before today. These are essential life skills?yet still to be grasped by your amazing 2-year-old. No wonder getting out of control can be a regular event for him or her.

The challenge is to remain the adult?stay in control, with the big picture in mind. Here are ways you can help this happen:

1. Realize your 2-year-old is scared by the ferocious intensity of her emotions.
Strong feelings scare adults, too, but we've found ways to deal with them constructively. Your 2-year-old feels the same things you do?love, anger, sadness, fear, happiness?but with intense, unfiltered force. Thus, your child desperately needs your strong support and calm assurance. He or she needs to hear your voice and feel your touch.

2. Avoid seeing frustrating situations as power struggles.
When a 2-year-old acts up, it's tempting to rule with greater force. But by understanding your child's actual abilities, it's possible to respond more compassionately to your son's or daughter's needs. Realistic expectations about 2-year-olds will serve both of you well.

3. Find healthy outlets for your natural frustrations.
It's amazing how quickly tempers can flare, on both sides, when mom and child are tired, hungry or needing a break from one another. Therefore, do what you can about your fatigue and emotions: take naps, and when you're angry, take your anger out on a pillow or the pavement while you go for a walk.

If you find yourself unable to control your emotions, join (or start) a parent support group; talk to someone who can give you sound parenting advice; plan breaks to do something you enjoy; and, above all, ask the Lord to help you be the kind of parent he wants you to be.

No one can parent perfectly, and 2-year-olds tend to push us to the limit of our abilities?and beyond. The good news is that each day brings us new opportunities to grow and understand one another, to love, appreciate and forgive. For the 2-year-old child still unschooled in the management of emotions, a big dose of parental fortitude and patience can go a long way.

?Debra Evans
Mother, childbirth educator, and author
Austin, TX

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