How do I get my 2 year old to stop screaming when he does not get what he wants? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Here's the magic phrase, and a few thoughts on how to deliver it:
"Are you angry?"
Ask this in a calm and sincere way. Wait for the 2-year-old to answer. Often the answer is a huge, grief-stricken "Yes!" followed by some soft sobbing. And then the sobbing stops. The child looks up. He or she repeats the sticking point, in a much more subdued voice.
Your next line: "I understand." Pause for a moment and then offer a hug, or a verbal alternative. Most of the time, the thunderstorm is done and reasonable relations can ensue.
Children at age 2 have such fierce willpower, and so little ability to control themselves. Not just controlling their moods, but also controlling their grasp, their spoons, their bladders, their feelings of exhaustion, etc. They're lurching from opportunities to calamities all day long. When they come unstuck, sometimes they just need recognition that it's all so overwhelming and that it's OK to be overwhelmed.
The insight at the back of all this: There's no way to win a test of wills with a two-year-old. They have willpower beyond anything imaginable. But it is possible to reframe the situation. And then everything usually goes better. That's our role as adults.