I used to be the only one who could do everything right in my toddler’s eyes. Now it seems she’s changed her mind and everything I’m doing is wrong.

This defiant streak she’s demonstrating right now is normal, a little frustrating at times, but normal. I’m happy to see her flexing her independent muscles.

She’s challenging the world around her, learning to control her emotions and demonstrating that she’s no pushover.

It rears its ugly head at random times, like when I put water in her orange cup because the green one was in the dishwasher. She’s never shown any preference ever before, but on this occasion she wanted the green one. Why on earth didn’t I know that?

She objects when I pick out a top she used to like but doesn’t anymore, when I say we can’t stop for a drink and cake while out shopping because we’re running late, and when I tell her it’s too wet outside to go for a walk.

Our days are now filled with sentences such as:

No, don’t do it that way.”

“You did it wrong, Mummy.”

“That’s not fair.”

I find myself exhausted at the end of some days, even when we haven’t made it out of the house. I feel like we’ve been at loggerheads most of the day.

The terrible twos: five step action plan for handling a defiant toddler

I sometimes take a step back during our exchanges and roll my eyes at myself for engaging in these conversations.

The other day I asked myself, “why on earth am I debating with a toddler over whether she can have jelly for breakfast?” She can’t, end of story. But she craftily manages to get the debate going back and forth so furiously it happens before I even realise it.

But I don’t want to quash her independent streak, I want her to grow up knowing her own mind. These little tête-à-têtes we have are important for her learning.

So how do I encourage good behaviour and not stifle her independent streak? Here’s my five-step action plan for handling her terrible twos:

1. Picking my battles.

If she’s been really rude I call her out on it and remind her to ask for things nicely. If it’s just a minor strop I let it go, we would be falling out all day otherwise.

2. Ignoring the tantrums.

I can’t get into a tennis match-style exchange of words with her every time she goes off on an emotional wobbler because the Lego bricks are the wrong size. It’s just not constructive. Sometimes I’ve wasted time trying to explain to her why I can’t fix the stick she just snapped in half. It’s better just to try and distract her.

3. Taking a deep breath and leaving the room when I need to.

Being shouted at all day can be stressful, so sometimes I need to take a step back so that I can maintain my patience. It doesn’t work every time but it helps.

4. Give her choices.

I find if I set out two or three options, all of which I can fulfil, and let her pick she’s far less likely to get emotional. It gives her a sense of control.

5. Reminding myself that “this too shall pass”.

I guess this is part of my own growing up too, learning how to be the parent. Babies are so easy by comparison – a sentence I never thought I would hear myself say! But it’s true, my youngest has seemed like a dream to deal with in the daytime by comparison.

The sleepless nights have been a different story.

I’m hoping one day I’ll get back to being right at least some of the time in the not too distant future.

Have the terrible twos seen your toddler develop a defiant streak? How have you coped?



5 step action plan to handle a defiant toddler