Are Meltdowns Normal for a 2-Year-Old?

Tantrums in children are inevitable, but if you're wondering if they're normal for your 2 year old, read on for tips from a child mental health specialist!

Imagine you're strolling through the grocery store, and suddenly, you hear the unmistakable cry of a toddler coming from the cereal aisle. We've all been there, haven't we? It's almost like we have a sixth sense for pinpointing the age of that child and guessing what's causing the commotion.

As you discreetly push your cart, you catch a glimpse of a 2-year-old sprawled out next to the Lucky Charms, looking like a beached starfish. Let’s explore why we're not the least bit surprised by this utterly normal occurrence.

Are Meltdowns Normal for a 2-Year-Old?

I'll admit, I used to raise an eyebrow when people talked about the "Terrible Twos" because surely, it couldn't be every 2-year-old. And while some children hit their specific frequent meltdown stage closer to year 3, this is all part of their natural development.

Just a year ago, your little one couldn't talk, walk, or feed themselves. But now, at the ripe age of 2, they're suddenly little bundles of independence. Often, those toddler meltdowns happen simply because they can't put into words what's going on inside their heads. They lack the vocabulary, and it's incredibly frustrating for them.

When to Be Concerned About Toddler Tantrums

While these tantrums are a normal part of growing up, there are times when their intensity or frequency might give you pause. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Duration and Intensity: Although tantrums are common, especially at this age, excessively long and intense ones could be a sign that something needs attention.

  • Physical Aggression: If your toddler's tantrums escalate to physical aggression towards themselves or others, it's essential to address the behavior.

  • Frequency: Daily or persistent tantrums may hint at underlying issues that deserve a closer look.

When Your Child Has Daily Temper Tantrums

Dealing with daily temper tantrums can be emotionally draining for both parents and children. When they become a daily occurance, it's time to dig a little deeper and explore possible triggers:

  • Communication Challenges:  If your child struggles to express their needs verbally, frustration can manifest as frequent tantrums. You may want to try helping your child act things out and show you rather than continually telling them “use your words!” 

  • Sensory Sensitivities: Sensory overload, such as being overwhelmed by noise or lights, can trigger frequent tantrums. One simple way to relieve some of this sensory overload is to try to cut down on the external stimuli whenever possible. Take your child out of the noisy restaurant for a quiet walk to calm down. 

  • Routine Disruptions: Toddlers thrive on routine, and disruptions to their schedule can lead to increased meltdowns. For example, if you know that naptime is going to have to happen in the car one day, try to keep their other routines as close to what they’re used to as possible. 

Sometimes realizing that the disruption their routine is likely cause of their emotional state will help you as the parent bring more compassion and empathy to your interactions with them. You may not love the meltdown, but you’re not surprised by it. 

Are My Kid's Tantrums Normal?

It's not always easy to distinguish between typical developmental behavior and behavior that should concern you. Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Consistently Extreme Reactions: IIf your child's reactions seem to be frequently out of proportion to the situation, it might be worth exploring the underlying cause. Pay attention and even take note of what seems to be the trigger so that you can ask your child’s pediatrician, teacher and /or therapist. They may have some helpful insights and recommendations. 

  • Regression: Notice if your child regresses in developmental milestones, social interactions, or communication skills. For example, if your child has been potty trained and suddenly starts having accidents again, this is something worth looking into. 

  • Isolation:  If your child's tantrums prevent them from engaging with peers or participating in age-appropriate activities, it's worth addressing. Just like parents shouldn’t be disconnected from others, neither should your child. They need that peer-to-peer interaction and if their tantrums are standing in the way of that, they will need you to advocate for them. 

How to Cope with Your Child's Tantrums

Coping with toddler tantrums requires understanding, effective strategies, and plenty of patience. Here are some tips to help you through those challenging moments:

1. Stay Calm: Your own emotional regulation can have a calming effect on your child. Take deep breaths and remain composed.

2. Be Empathetic: Understand that tantrums are often a way for children to express their feelings when words fail them. Validate their emotions.

3. Offer Choices: Provide choices to give your child a sense of control. This can help reduce frustration. (Make the choices simple and only give options that you want them to choose.) For example, your child needs to put his shoes on. You could give him the option of sitting on the rug or the bench while you help him with his shoes. 

4. Create Predictability: Establish routines and prepare your child for transitions to minimize surprises that might trigger tantrums. Giving them advance notice and setting timers can also be helpful to some children. “Hey honey, in 3 minutes, the timer is going to go off and we’re going to clean up the toyroom and head to the kitchen table for a snack.” 

5. Identify Triggers: Observe patterns and triggers that lead to tantrums. This can help you anticipate and prevent meltdowns. You don’t want to metaphorically bubble wrap your child from every possible tantrum trigger, but there may be a season that you simply choose not to go down the toy aisle. 

6. Teach Coping Skills: Introduce age-appropriate coping strategies such as deep breathing, counting, or using a comfort item. Modeling these for your child will be a very helpful way for them to learn for themselves. 

7. Communicate: Encourage your child to express their feelings through words or gestures. This can reduce frustration and build emotional intelligence. For example: “Are you feeling mad? Grrr.” 

8. Stay Consistent: Consistency in your responses and boundaries provides your child with a clear understanding of expectations. If you say no to something, consistently (and compassionately)  hold the line.  

Remember, you're doing a fantastic job. These meltdowns are just a part of the toddler experience. They stem from their growing ability to express themselves and navigate a world full of new experiences. While tantrums can be challenging, they also offer opportunities for growth, learning, and building emotional resilience.

In addition to tips and ideas found in this blog, one of the most helpful ways to navigate your child’s meltdowns are hearing from other parents. They can offer advice, support and even fresh perspectives as you work to be a more conscious mommy. 

For more support, join the Conscious Mommy Community today!