Rigid behavior and meltdowns are nothing new for two-year-olds. They're practically a rite of passage. So how do you know if your child is simply going through a phase or if he is over-programmed with routines and rules?
Dr. Gallagher says if the rigid behavior lasts more than a few months, it might be time to re-think your child's routines. "If there are temper tantrums, if there's a strong anxious response if the routine is altered, then that's usually an indication that you need to think about this as a problem," explains Dr. Gallagher. He suggests one way to address the issue is to alter the child's routine, one part at a time, and see how he adjusts.
Another litmus test parents can use to determine whether they're going overboard with routines is derived from the old stop-and-smell-the roses philosophy of life. Are you constantly disappointing your child because you're taking her away from activities she's enjoying in order to stick to a strict routine? Do you pull him out of a playgroup when he's having a great time just so he can have lunch at exactly noon? Dr. Golinkoff warns, "Don't keep taking your child away from stuff that they're interested in." She says if they want to stop and check out, say, a toy display in a store, let them look. "Try not to rush kids. It's not good for them," she says.