5 Things You Shouldn't Expect From Your Two-Year-Old

by ParentCo. June 16, 2023

angry offended little girl ignoring mother words

Some of the things we struggle with are actually normal behavior for children. At age two, kids are just learning to connect to their world but still haven’t grasped many concepts adults take for granted.

Kids act according to specific development stages. Here are some of the things we need to stop expecting of two-year olds - plus what you can do instead. 

1 | Stop expecting your two-year-old to share

Sharing does not come naturally to kids. According to a recent study, although kids can learn the basics of sharing from age three, it is only from around age seven that they fully understand the concept of sharing. Even at age three, the concept of ownership is hard for kids to grasp. They don’t understand that what they own is theirs, and that they will eventually get back what belongs to them when they share.

What you can do instead

Rather than force your kids to share, let them see you sharing stuff. Share books with your partner, share cookies with the kids, teach your child about sharing by being a model.

2 | Stop expecting your two-year-old to stop throwing temper tantrums

The reason why temper tantrums are common at age two is because young children don’t have the words to express themselves yet. Young children are often unable to differentiate between different strong emotions and therefore react to them in the only way they know how, i.e., by acting out and throwing tantrums.

What you can do instead

One of the worst things you can do when dealing with tantrums is to fail to be consistent. The second is to give in. When we give in, we teach our kids that tantrums will get them what they want. Tantrums, however, can also point to your child’s inability to verbalize emotions so it’s important to know when to ignore them (unless if your child risks putting herself or others in danger) and when to hold your child close to show her she’s safe. Remember that it is also at around this age that your kid will start experimenting with independence. It’s never too early to familiarize your child with the different emotions and coping mechanisms she can use. When your child knows that a hug will help her calm down, she is more likely to come to you for a hug, rather than throw a tantrum when she’s sad. Avoid situations that trigger your child’s tantrums.

3 | Stop expecting your two-year-old to be patient

Children’s ability to delay gratification predicts their success as they grow older. Problem is, two-year olds “want it all and want it now.” That’s just the way it is. Although kids (from around age five) can be taught distraction techniques to help control behavior, these techniques just don’t work with toddlers.

What you can do instead

When kids have to wait too long, they’re bound to become agitated and frustrated so don’t keep them waiting for longer than is necessary. At this age, your kid has a short attention span so you can try distracting her by proposing an attractive alternative. Remember, however, that young children seek immediate gratification and tend to consider that the longer they have to wait for a reward, the less the subjective value of that reward (gifts, hugs, special treats, etc.).

4 | Stop expecting your two-year-old to want to play with other kids

At age two, kids rarely play with other kids – they play alongside other kids. Parallel play occurs at around this age, and it involves children playing next to each other without trying to influence one another’s behavior.

What you can do instead

Every kid goes through parallel play before transitioning into a social player, so don’t force your kids to play with other kids, especially if they seem comfortable playing by themselves. Remember that at age two, behavior is self-directed. Moreover, playing alongside other kids helps children’s development. Although kids may not play together, by looking at each other and adjusting their behavior, they learn important social skills.

5 | Stop expecting to “save” your two-year-old

There’s a common misconception that two-year-olds are helpless, yet it is at this age that they start experimenting with independence. It is also at age two that kids also start trying to act like their parents. Moreover, children gain confidence when they’re able to do things by themselves.

What you can do instead

Remember that kids at this age want to imitate their parents so let your kid help you out with age-appropriate tasks. Even at age two, children can participate in simple chores. Give her a diaper to throw away. Ask her to pick up her toys. Ask her to put her clothes in the laundry basket. And so on. You’ll be surprised at how much your two-year-old can do when provided with the right tools and the right environment. Kids at age two are frustrating, but the “terrible twos” are a normal, and (hopefully) short-lived phase. While you shouldn’t allow your kids to get away with inappropriate behavior, knowing that “this too shall pass” can make the parenting journey easier.



Also in Conversations

mother and baby
The Evening Ritual That Transformed Our Bedtime Routine

by ParentCo.

Taking inspiration from "Goodnight Moon," and research on restorative sleep, I created a routine that has put an end to our bedtime battles. Here's what we do.

Continue Reading

baby winking one eye
5 Steps to Giving (Good) Advice to New Parents

by ParentCo.

Here are five easy steps to giving your new-parent loved ones the advice they are looking for without looking like an idiot. (Often times, just listen!)

Continue Reading

baby boy in a disorganised bathroom
I Don't Mind That My Toddler Has No Interest in Potty Training

by Pam Moore

Despite my efforts, my toddler has yet to demonstrate any real interest in potty training. And that is fine with me, at least for right now. Here’s why.

Continue Reading