Win the Battle of the Terrible 2s

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on February 22, 2022
3 min read

Around your toddler's second birthday, sometimes even earlier, you may wonder what happened to your adorable, sweet child.

All of a sudden, you may start seeing behaviors like:

  • Screaming
  • Temper tantrums
  • Kicking and biting
  • Fighting with siblings
  • Total meltdowns

It's the "terrible 2s." Your child's behavior is a way of expressing their need for independence along with their frustration at not being in control all the time.

This trying time will pass. Teach your child phrases such as “My turn please” and encourage them to express themselves while staying calm and using their words and not their fists. In the meantime, deal with meltdowns by being patient but firm and maintaining a consistent routine. Remember, you're the adult.

Your Toddler's Development This Month

Meals aren't always enough to satisfy a hungry toddler, especially a picky eater.

Your child needs 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day. That includes meals and two to three snacks.

Not every snack is equally healthy. Eating too many fatty or sugary treats or drinking more than 4 ounces of juice daily can lead to obesity. Extra-large portions can also be a problem. A toddler-sized snack is only about half a cup of cereal or crackers.

Here are some healthy snack ideas:

  • Sliced strawberries or apple
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • Small pieces of cheese
  • Applesauce
  • Low-fat yogurt (watch the added sugar -- some are loaded with it)
  • Half a cup of low-fat milk

Foods that are high in fiber and protein will keep your toddler full, so they won't be begging for another snack an hour later. It's also a good time to start shifting to a lower-fat diet.

Your child is still growing, but not as fast as newborns do, so it's normal for 2-year-olds to not eat quite so much or be a little less interested in eating a variety of foods.

But remember, your child may not accept a new food until they've seen it 10 times. So keep letting your child try new foods, but without pressure. Never turn meal time into a battle.

  • No matter how bad the tantrums get, keep your cool. Take a deep breath, leave the room, and regroup so you can calmly deal with the behavior.
  • Don't schedule outings or activities at times when you know your child is most likely to fall apart -- usually near nap time or meal time.
  • Your child may still be taking a 1- to 3-hour nap each day. Don't schedule naps too close to bedtime or they'll have trouble falling asleep at night.
  • Some kids suddenly wake up screaming in the night. To prevent these "night terrors," make sure your child gets enough sleep and isn't overtired.
  • Coughing is normal in toddlers, but if a cough lasts for more than a couple of weeks, it could be an infection, allergies, or asthma. See your pediatrician.
  • Don't let your child sit around for more than an hour at a time (unless they're sleeping). Get them up, outside, and moving!
  • Cut their food into pieces they can handle and avoid round candy, popcorn, or hot dogs that could pose a choking or gagging hazard.