It's not called the Terrible Twos for nothing. Part of being a 2-year-old is being all over the place, but how can you tell what is typical 2-year-old behavior and what are extreme behavior problems? After all, any toddler throwing a screaming temper tantrum in the middle of grocery store probably feels like an extreme problem to the parent.
1. Preventing Extreme Behavior
Don't give in to temper tantrums, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. As much as you'd like them to stop screaming in the middle of the grocery store, if you give in, guess what will happen every time you're at the grocery store? Instead, give lots of attention when your little one is being good and ignore fits as much as possible. Stick to a daily routine so she knows what's coming next and so that she doesn't get too hungry or too tired. Make your home as toddler-friendly as possible so that you don't have to say "No!" so much. Give control on the little things, such as clothing or snack choices, so that your child isn't seeking autonomy on busy streets. Understand that tantrums and aggressive behavior are normal in 2-year-olds and remain calm no matter how upset your child is. You can't eliminate all temper tantrums, but you can make them less likely to happen.
2. Make a Record
If your child's tantrums and aggression are getting worse, you might have a child with an extreme behavior problem. Unless your child's home conditions have changed in some way, such as getting a new sibling or moving, your child's tantrums and aggression should be getting shorter, less frequent and less intense as he gets older. If you're not sure, keep track of his behavior for a couple of weeks. Write down when, where and why he loses his temper. If that sounds overwhelming, you can also use your phone to take a picture of every tantrum. You can determine whether your child is getting worse or you're just getting more exhausted.
3. Other Extreme Behaviors
While frequent, violent temper tantrums might be the most obvious extreme behavior problems for 2-year-olds, they are not the only thing to be concerned about. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents should also be concerned if their 2-year-old isn't speaking in two-word sentences, or loses that ability. In fact, any time your toddler loses skills she once had, you need to be concerned. Other extreme behavior problems include the inability to be soothed easily when frightened, the inability to copy words and movements, the inability to make eye contact and the inability to show concern for distressed friends or siblings.
4. What Should Be Done
If you feel as though something is wrong, talk to your child's pediatrician. It's helpful if you have a record of behaviors that you can show her, but it's not necessary.Your child's doctor can check for issues that might be causing the extreme behavior problems, such as learning disabilities or chronic illness. She can also refer you to a developmental pediatrician or child psychologist, who can screen for any emotional issues that might be causing the extreme behavior.
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