Toddler Warfare – Surviving The Terrible Twos

What gives a two-year-old the right to challenge for leadership?

That is precisely what they are doing, right? For my son, the terrible two’s hit two months after his second birthday. He is a big-time procrastinator; I’ve no idea where he gets that from!

It wasn’t a slow build-up either, hitting us like a bowling ball in the face. Unfortunately, the end wasn’t as quick, slowly meandering like a toddler walking through a busy supermarket (how annoying is that?)

What Are The Terrible Twos?

The terrible two’ are a fight for supremacy; I do not doubt that. As the initiator of all terrible two tantrums, your child now believes they have the required skillset and life experience to do whatever they want.

Except….they haven’t fully learnt the consequences yet.

It is clear from their defiance that they know best in all situations. They are not afraid to let you know either.

You have boundaries, as does life. You have a good understanding of what they are, but a toddler does not.

What happens next?

They push boundaries and push YOU until they find a way to break you. Don’t let them win, or they will never know exactly what the boundaries are.

Imagine a fight between a superhero and a villain. They both shoot a laser at each other, and it meets in the middle. There is a huge battle. Sometimes the superhero’s laser is overpowering that of the villain. Sometimes it is the other way around.

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Eventually, I hope the superhero’s strength overpowers the villain, and life goes on in a semi-state of nerve-shredding peace.

That is your life during the terrible two’s; as a leader, you need this battle to end in victory for you. It is a massive milestone in your journey as a parent.

10 Tips For Surviving The Terrible Twos

Let’s crack on with these tips then:

1. Encouragement

Surviving The Terrible Twos encourage

Kids need encouragement. They need to grow up knowing they have a supportive network around them.

When kids receive encouragement, you will notice a dramatic increase in confidence, and they will also have added respect for what you say.

Although most of this post suggests you are the boss, and your word is final, it is essential to allow your kids to have freedom and independence.

They must be able to express themselves without the feeling they are living in a dictatorship. If they do not get this, they may become withdrawn, self-conscious, and maybe even fearful.

If you are in the middle of a full-on toddler breakdown, you can park this tip until they have calmed down.

In the meantime, move on to tip 2!

2. Tell Them Straight, Then Walk Away

Surviving The Terrible Twos tell them straight

This one might cause some conflict, but sometimes you’ve gotta tell them straight!

Except for a large nuclear arsenal, nothing more powerful than telling it how it is and walking away.

I may get beaten for this because not listening to your child is often frowned upon. Sometimes, you can’t argue. Sometimes, they need to hear it straight and authoritatively.

Tell them what they need to know when your kid does not quit and walk away. They may follow you because they do not want to give you a break, but eventually, they will learn that what you said is final.

3. Be Cool – Do Not Engage In A Verbal Battle

Surviving The Terrible Twos be cool

Do not engage in a verbal battle with a toddler!

It doesn’t matter how much logic you throw into the situation; the understanding is not there. At all.

I have adapted one of my favorite quotes that fit the situation well:

Arguing with a 2-year-old is like playing chess with a pigeon; no matter how good you are at chess the pigeon is just going to knock over the pieces, crap all over the board and strut around like it’s won anyway.

Instead, you should learn how to talk to toddlers! An excellent Talking To Toddlers program is derived from parenting expert and certified NLP Practitioner Chris Thompson.

4. Punishment

Surviving The Terrible Twos punishment

Sometimes, punishment is the only way. You may have read my post about keeping your cool in an argument with a toddler. You will already know that you must be organized with your punishment.

By that, I mean you must have a punishment ready to go instantly.

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It might be the classic ‘naughty step’ routine, or you may opt to go with the ‘I am going to take away your [insert today’s favorite toy]‘ choice. I flick between the two after a quick consideration of the reaction is likely to be.

5. Education, My Friend

Surviving The Terrible Twos educate

Get educated on dealing and negotiating with toddlers. You have made a start by reading this post.

Further reading material I recommend is Commando Dad: How to be an Elite Dad or Carer, From Birth to Three Years. Written by Neil Sinclair, an ex-Commando and PCSO in the MET. I love the no-nonsense writing style, which gives a fantastic insight into being a top dad!

6. Be Patient

Surviving The Terrible Twos patience

Patience is vital in all arguments, even more so during a disagreement with a toddler.

They will not make any sense, and they will not be making any relevant points for discussion. They are not going to listen and will not be respectful of your opinion.

Get over it before it begins.

Be patient, don’t argue back, and no shouting. It only makes it worse for your neighbors.


Surviving The Terrible Twos stand your ground

‘I want chocolate’ – Your toddler.

‘You are not having chocolate’ – You.

‘I want chocolate’ – Your toddler, volume cranked up.

‘It is 3 am, and you can’t have chocolate. – You.

You’re tired, and you have to get up for work in 4 hours. So your brain is begging you to find an end to this argument so you can get back to bed.

Don’t give in. It would help if you stood your ground.

Above is a demand from my time as a Dad to a toddler going through the terrible twos. It is still fresh in my mind. This was a time I did not back down for two reasons:

  1. My wife would have killed me.
  2. My Son would have learned to ask for things in the middle of the night because that is where I am most weak.

They will test you at all times, and they will learn when you are most likely to give in. Make it never. Be strong-willed, be like an Oak tree.

If they are asking for a drink, it is best to give in, but give them the option of water or milk when you do. Make them aware that you decide to say yes, but you also decide what they will be drinking.

8. Set Some Boundaries Man

Surviving The Terrible Twos set boundaries

The terrible two’s are all about pushing to find out where the boundaries are.

Set the boundaries and make sure they are aware.

The essential boundaries are there because you want them to stay safe and secure. For instance, do not touch electrics, do not go outside without permission or a parent.

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Take some time (when they are more susceptible to listening) to walk around the house and discuss what they can and can’t do. This helped my son and me during the terrible twos.

Setting boundaries will set their expectations for the consequences when the boundaries are not respected.

9. Do Not Shout

Surviving The Terrible Twos no shouting

This one will probably be the most challenging for you. It was for me.

When they do NOT listen, it is easy to fall back into the ‘If I shout, they will listen more‘ mindset.

It doesn’t work. There are two reasons why shouting is not the answer:

  1. They will increase their volume.
  2. They will learn that shouting is normal, which reduces the impact even more.

I hold back on the shouting for times when he is just about to put himself in danger.

Because he is not used to me shouting, my son will listen.

When you shout (make it a rare occurrence), always explain why you shouted, it helps them learn that what they were just about to do might have had severe consequences.

10. Extract Problem From Toddler Brain

Surviving The Terrible Twos extract information

Wow – what a challenge! It is worth a try, though.

Find out what is wrong with your toddler. Find out why they are having a tantrum.

Once you have completed that simple task, why not move out to the middle east and start work on brokering a peace deal.


Kids often get frustrated because they are always told, ‘NO, you can’t do that.’ Their reaction is anger because they are not used to dealing with the emotional state they are going through.

Make a conscious effort to encourage and reward good behavior. That act alone will pay dividends during the terrible two’s and long into the future!

Being a 2-year-old is challenging. They want to do so many things because they see other kids doing them, but they do not have the ability just yet – it must be frustrating!

It is your job to guide them through this time and set them on a good path for the future!

If you are going through the terrible two processes at the moment, I hope these tips will help you out. If you can think of any more tips, please let me know by commenting below!

Good luck!


About ME

Let’s start with the obvious, I’m a dad.

I have 2 kids. One was dragged out from the comfort of his Mother’s womb kicking and screaming, and the other was a little easier.

Dad Gold was created to give tips that I wish someone had given me!

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