Time Out for the Terrible Twos


When Lil Ma is angry, she screams. It’s loud. Actually, it’s louder than loud. Every day, I am amazed by how a person so small can make such a deafening sound.

I thought we had more time before we reached the Terrible Twos, but my little overachiever got there 7 months shy of her second birthday. Now, two months later, her screams of frustration are combined with hits and tossed toys.

A friend suggested that I put her in time out. I laughed. How in the heck would Lil Ma understand that she had to stay in one place for any length of time?

“You’re underestimating her,” my friend said. “She gets more than you think.”

I had given time out a try before my friend mentioned it, but my initial efforts were weak and inconsistent. Whenever a tantrum hit, I dragged her to the designated time-out corner. Two seconds later, she would move and I would give up.

“What about a timer?” my friend asked.

I figured it was worth a shot. So I pulled out an old egg timer and waited for a chance to use it. I didn’t have to wait long. Lil Ma popped me in the face with a Lego after I told her it was time for bed. She then fell backward and started the kick-and-scream routine.

I moved her to the corner and set the timer for 30 seconds.

“No hitting,” I said as I backed way.

Lil Ma stood up, stared at me with her tear-stained face, and took one step forward.

“No,” I said while wagging a finger. She cried louder but took a step back.

Then she tried to move again.

“No.”  I said, more gently this time. “Calm down.”

She stood in place silently and stared at me. We eyed each other cautiously until the timer ran out.

“You can come out now. No hitting.” I said. “Time for bed.”

She smiled and went to put her Legos into a container.

I was stunned. It had to be a fluke. But over the past few days, I’ve seen a big difference in the length of her tantrums. They seem to last for only as long as the timer is set. Today, she calmed down in about 15 seconds.

I don’t know how long this technique will work, but I’m going to stick with it. We’re got a long way to go before the Terrible Twos are history.

How did you survive the Terrible Twos?

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