POOR parenting is to blame for the "terrible twos", a behaviour expert suggests.

Gillian Bridge, a former teacher turned therapist, says two-year-old tantrums are the result of parents' lax discipline and unrealistic expectations rather than being an inevitable part of child development.

Ms Bridge, who studied English at the University of Sussex, said families visiting Britain from other cultures were baffled by misbehaving toddlers. In a book called The Significance Delusion, she says they either have higher standards of behaviour or thought British parents expected too much of their children.

In a national newspaper she says, "[At the nursery gates] we will find harassed mums and dads who are either vainly attempting to restrain their struggling, squawking tinies or hopelessly giving up on the attempt, while all around them voices mutter sympathetically about the 'terrible twos'.

"It's as though these parents have to endure some kind of innate human torment, a rite of passage."

The paper adds that the idea that two-year-olds were naturally unruly does not exist in many parts of the world, but that toddlers in Britain are routinely taken to places such as pubs or cinemas where they are unlikely to behave.

Ms Bridge said that parents from other cultures (such as Asia and more traditional European countries) were "often mystified by the 'terrible twos' concept".

"We expect to take our children to an awful lot of places and get them to fit in with adult arenas which we wouldn't have thought appropriate years ago."

She added that people were often wary of talking about behaviour because of fears over the reaction towards negative criticism, meaning children were raised with a focus on their individuality rather than as community members.