Being a two year old is no walk in the park. There are many factors that can affect why your two year old is constantly crying and whining. Here are some main constitutors as well as solutions:
I remember way back before having kids I told some of my friends… 2 year olds are totally the best.
They are squishy, cute, still small but not babyish, and they say really funny stuff.
I stand by this assessment.
What I didn’t know at the time in my innocent pre-motherhood state was that 2-year-olds are also tough. They fight bedtimes, they go through sleep regressions, they throw hissy fits, and they have their own minds.
Parenting toddlers isn’t for the faint of heart.
In this post…
Let’s jump into some possible reasons why your 2 year old is whiny, fussy, and throwing fits all the time.
Over-tiredness and/or over-stimulation
Nothing makes a two year old whiny like being over-tired. That’s because one of the most important/fundamental needs of a growing two year old is proper sleep.
At this age children need between anywhere from 11 to 14 hours of sleep a day. This includes a daytime nap.
Sleep is necessary because…
- Your child’s brain is growing, replacing chemicals, solving problems, and storing information while they sleep.
- Proper sleep improves attention, behavior, learning, and memory.
- Overall physical and mental health is related to receiving a proper amount of sleep.
- Proper sleep can help prevent exhaustion related crying and whining in toddlers
Prevent over-tiredness by…
- Establishing a sleep schedule.
- Limit screen time. I suggest 0 screen time, but if you have to, less than an hour. And NOT before bed
- Keeping a bedtime routine.
- Avoiding night terrors and nightmares by getting them to bed on time
At two, you’re probably still learning the personality and personality needs of your child. It wasn’t until quite a bit later than two that I discovered that my oldest boy was a True Introvert.
That being said, it shed some light on some of his crying and whining situations from a toddler. I now know that he doesn’t do well with over-stimulation. He takes it for a while, but after some time he requires alone time to “unpack.”
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Not Enough Structure So Fighting Transitions
For a two year old, every day is full of brand new experiences. It’s a lot to take in..
If you find that your child is constantly crying and whining, it may be due to the fact that they don’t have enough structure in their day.
Even on days where we’re traveling or people are over… I always stick to some basic daily structures. It can be challenging, but children thrive with consistency.
Humans are creatures of habit. And, change takes lots of energy.
Try looking at the situation from your child’s perspective…
They just settled into playing at the park (because they have no concept of time and you’ve really been there 3 hours), but it’s time to go. When you say “it’s time to go” it’s meltdown city and the town is burning down.
This transition may be hard for them because they are having so much fun and don’t really see what’s coming next.
Try this to avoid crying and whining…
- Give your child a time warning. Five or two minutes before leaving, have them pick one more activity before they leave. Explain that they will be leaving soon.
- Once you say “it’s time to go” stick with it. If they get used to you going back on your word, they may cry and whine to get their way.
- Offer a genuine reason for leaving. For example: “I’m making yummy spaghetti for dinner and I need to get it started now.” Bright kids particularly resist when they don’t think what you’re doing makes sense.
- Positively enforce using words of affirmation. Be clear about what you are proud about. Say: “I loved the way you came right when I called and smiled when I put you in your car seat.”
- Instruct your child by telling them what you expect then to do, not what they are doing wrong. For example, say: “Let’s put a smile on your face and get excited about helping mommy make spaghetti.” vs “Stop crying and whining- that’s all you ever do.”
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Teething and Molars
Your child will probably get their two year old molars between 23 and 33 months old. These are large, flat teeth at the very back of their mouth. The lower seat usually appears first, and the upper set a bit later.
These teeth are great for grinding all the different foods they start to experience at this age. But, cutting those molars in isn’t that fun…
Although some toddlers don’t experience must discomfort, others can have quite a bit of pain. Every child is different.
Your 2 year old may be teething if…
- they start chewing on toys, fingers, or clothing
- night wakings start happening that had stopped a long while ago
- they become super irritable which is abnormal for them
- they have a low-grade temperature
- or they are constantly crying and whining
I learned with my first child that teething symptoms usually worsen at night. Unfortunately this is when a child is more tired and doesn’t have the daytime distractions from the pain.
So, if they are constantly crying and whining… it may be good to look into some teething remedies.
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Not Getting Enough Physical Activity
In a world full of device and screens… more and more young children are inactive in their lifestyle. Being overly inactive can be damaging to a child’s development, physical health, and mental health.
Kids learn by doing. They learn by having experiences. They grow through active play. Active play is essential and a lack of it can cause a two year old to be constantly crying and whining.
To be bored, listless, and zombie like.
Take the kids to the park. Create safe outdoor areas where they can run wild and free if you have the space. Make walking, running, or playing a priority. This helps with mood regulation and tires them out.
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It Gets Them What They Want- So They Cry
I recently had a mom confess to me that she let’s her two year old get whatever she wants… because she doesn’t want to hear her cry.
I am by no means suggesting that children should be left along to cry their heart out. However, I am suggesting that teaching children to cry as a means of communicating what they want can be avoided.
What if I already do this?
If you’re already in the trap of “they cry to get what they want”- try these things:
- When your child starts to cry for something, model the correct way to ask for it.
- Take it slow, but require them to attempt the “please” or “can I have” before giving them what they want.
- Reward them with smiles, hugs, and positive words affirmation when they use their words to communicate.
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Feeling Emotionally Disconnected and Needs More Connection Time with Mom
I’m gong to go back to technology here… It’s easy to fall in into the Present But Absent mom status.
It your two year old is constantly crying and whining, take a step back and notice when they seem their worst. Is it while you’re on your device? If it is, they are probably craving more connection time with mom.
Feeling emotionally disconnected can also come from:
- Lack of time spent together (some 1:1 tips for kids here)
- social stresses such as change of environment or new people,
- a sudden change in routine,
- or too much screen time themselves.
Major Changes Going On at Home
Major changed going on at home can certainly cause a two year old to be constantly crying and whining.
Often times, children take longer to process change than adults do. What is simple to us, may make them feel like their whole world is upside down.
Also, children who are on the spectrum or have specific learning exceptionalities are more often than not… more sensitive to change.
- Be constant and unwavering in your reaction to change (around your two year old). In other words, don’t freak out about chance- this can upset them.
- Understand that they may show symptoms of change hours… days later. The constantly crying and whining may even seem like it’s about something else altogether.
Erratic Sleep Routines like Super Late Bedtime or Sleeping Half the Morning Away
As any mom would tell you, it’s super tempting to let them stay up late- in order to sleep in. That way, you can get some things done in the morning.
Unfortunately, this type of routine can cause a two year old to be off kilter with the normal daily rhythms. Our bodies do align with the rising and setting of the sun.
Little ones who go to bedtime by 7pm or so can enjoy 5 hours of restorative sleep because the hours until midnight are the deepest of the entire night.
A sleep routine for your 2 year old is super important and children will behave better when they have one under wraps.
- Wake up and start the day time should be fairly consistent
- Nap times (or rest times) should be consistent
- Bedtimes should be consistent
Normal Developmental Changes (More Emotions Coming Up/Developmental Leaps)
At times, being a two year old is hard work.
They are growing so fast. And have many emotions and developmental leaps coming up.
During this age, kids start to develop a strong sense of self and therefore can come across as being being bossy or selfish. Furthermore, they are not developmentally ready to share and have a wide range of curiosities (which probably get them into trouble).
Additionally, two year olds experience extreme feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, and shame. And yet, they don’t quite know how to express themselves.
This burst of independence- coupled with the inability to effectively communicate can lead to crying and whining.
Rest assured, with patience and time… this too shall pass.
Separation Anxiety which Can Take Hold Around This Age
Separation anxiety can take hold around 9 moths of age, and last for years. It can lead to crying and whining during the most inopportune times. Remember these truths:
- It’s a normal developmental stage.
- Helps develop object permanence.
Stay calm and confident in your approach to their separation anxiety.
The more you can exude confidence and calm to your child during the emotional moments, the more they will model your behavior and trust that everything really is “OK”.
Ways to Support Your Emotional Toddler
- Teach about emotions
- show acceptance & understanding by responding to their reactions in a calm but firm way
- give them lots of affection
- work on forming a secure attachment (not based on if your child can see you at the moment)
- applaud effort (not success)
- encourage learning whenever possible
- practice patience
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