I've heard a lot about the terrible twos. Why are 2-year-olds so difficult?

Answers from Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.

The terrible twos is a normal stage in which toddlers begin to struggle between their reliance on adults and their desire for independence. One minute your child might be clinging to you, and the next he or she is running in the opposite direction.

Two-year-olds undergo major motor, intellectual, social and emotional changes. Their vocabularies are growing, they're eager to do things on their own, and they're beginning to discover that they're expected to follow certain rules. However, most 2-year-olds still aren't able to move as swiftly as they'd like, clearly communicate their needs or control their feelings. This can lead to frustration, misbehavior and tantrums.

During this time, expect that you and your child will occasionally lose patience with each other. Try to stay calm. When your child begins to get worked up, try to redirect his or her attention. If you can't distract your child, ignore him or her. If you're in public, take your child aside without discussion or fuss and wait until he or she has calmed down before continuing with your activity. Also, consider avoiding challenging situations — such as going shopping during your child's nap time — and be sure to praise your child for appropriate behavior.

By accepting the changes your child is going through and showing him or her love and respect, you'll help your child make it through this difficult stage with confidence.

April 21, 2016 See more Expert Answers