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desperate - two year old acting out (only with mommy)

  1. #1
    kellyst is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Hong Kong

    desperate - two year old acting out (only with mommy)

    need help. i just turned full-time mom after giving birth to my second a month ago. this week, my two year old started really acting out with me (and especially with me)

    she just refused to get out of the bath when i asked her to, the helper did it (with only a bit of crying) after i gave up. and then i man-handled her through a 30 minute screaming fit so she basically screamed herself to sleep when i was putting her down for her usual daily nap.

    feeling a bit desperate here and not knowing how to handle this. i think it's a mixture of the terrible twos and vying for attention with the new baby, and also just me being at home all the time. but it's also much more serious when she's with me, she listens much much better to her grandmother and my helper.

    so obviously something wrong with what i'm doing. what do you do when your toddler have fits? e.g. if she won't wear her jacket on a cold day, do you
    - forced her in by brute force? kicking and screaming
    - get someone else to do it? (seems to me like i'm not solving the problem?)
    - wait around and don't go any where until she wears it
    - let her have her way
    - enforce some punishment during or after the fit
    - verbal reasoning (obviously not working for me)

    any recommendations on books on disciplining? i'm feeling quite inadequate... when i can't get my own daughter to do simple everyday things that other people can easily get her to do.

  2. #2
    loupou is offline Baby Guru
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    New Territories

    Hi Kelly,

    She loves you TONS which is why she feels safe to act up w/ you. She's also probably very jealous of the new LO *and* she is discovering her own will and how delightful it is that she can in some ways control you. She's not bad, you're not bad - she's a toddler w/ a new sibling and you're a mom w/ "2 under 2". It's a common situation (not that it makes it less horrible to experience ;) )

    When my kids were that age, I would say, "OK, whatever, let's go out" and carry the coat or sweater with me. Uh Oh, drama-queen or king is deprived of a scene. :)

    When they complained about the cold I would put it on them and say "That's why mama wanted you to put it on earlier, next time, listen."

    Repeat as needed, w/ my daughter, by the time she was 3 or 4 she listened all the time. With my son, it took a bit longer.

    2 Books that helped me:

    1) Christopher Green's "Toddler Taming"

    2) William Sears "The Discipline Book"

    I've seen them both at PageOne in the last 6 months or so.

    Also something I read in Dr. Spock - don't tell so much as DO.

    Don't tell your girl "Please get out of the bath now." It makes her think that it might be optional, or that she has a choice. Instead, cheerfully say "Time to get out", and then sweep her up in a towel playfully, or just plunk her out.

    Don't say "It's time to brush your teeth" and then expect her to go. Take her by the hand gently and say "let's go brush your teeth."

    Another parent trick: Don't say "OK?"

    A lot of time parents will say something along the lines "It's time to go, OK?" - parent means "OK, did you hear me?"

    Child hears "OK, do you agree?".

    Instead, I would say firmly "we're leaving in 5 minutes, do you understand?" and Then, after the warning time "It's time to go now, understand?"

    That isn't to say I didn't have times when I carried a screaming toddler home over my shoulder. But it wasn't a regular thing.

    Last edited by loupou; 01-18-2008 at 04:27 PM.

  3. #3
    carang's Avatar
    carang is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Sai Kung

    so obviously something wrong with what i'm doing. what do you do when your toddler have fits? e.g. if she won't wear her jacket on a cold day, do you
    - forced her in by brute force? kicking and screaming
    - get someone else to do it? (seems to me like i'm not solving the problem?)
    - wait around and don't go any where until she wears it
    - let her have her way
    - enforce some punishment during or after the fit
    - verbal reasoning (obviously not working for me)

    let's see... i've been told by many people that my (now almost 3) 2 year old is one of the best behaved they have ever seen. i took his baby sister and him to canada when he was 2y1m and the baby was 5w. you would never have known that there was a 2 year old on the plane. i had a dozen people approach me after the long-haul flights(yes, it took us 36 hours door-to-door) and tell me that he was awesome.

    my secret:
    1)choose your battles. if you think it is important (ie. putting on a seatbelt) then don't EVER give in. if it is something that is not that important (ie, another 5 minutes in the bath) then don't make it a battle

    2)don't offer too many choices. (ie. you can wear this coat or these two jumpers)

    3)NEVER pass off to someone else. your child will know they have bested you and know what to do next time.

    4)same rules every day. you can't change the rules to suit you. once you set them, stick to them.

    5)a little reasoning SOMETIMES works. but they are ONLY 2. they only understand so much.

    6)don't make statements into questions. (as loupou said). if you want your child to sit in the shopping trolley, say... "here, you sit up here." do NOT say, "do you want to sit up here?"

    7) if they are losing it, YOU stay calm. it doesn't do anygood for you to be yelling and screaming as well.

    8)reward GOOD behaviour. "if you finish all your dinner, you can have 2 stories before bed."

    9)if you threaten something you MUST follow through. if you say, "if you don't finish your dinner, there will be no tv." then NO TV, unless dinner is finished.

    10)if it happens in public, DO NOT BE EMBARRASSED. treat the same as you would at home. (i was once in a restaurant with my 2 year old. he decided he didn't like eating something, so he spat it onto the floor. i told him very strictly that that behaviour was unacceptable and if he did it again, i would take him out of the restaurant. well... he did it again. i promptly stood up, took him out of the high chair and out of the restaurant. once outside, i stood off to the side and waited fro him to stop crying. i again told him that it was unacceptable and if he did it again, we would go home. when we returned to the table, i made him apologise to everyone there. he was very embarrassed... guess what... he's NEVER done it again.)

    ps. sorry for the long reply. good luck!

  4. #4
    KatBoo is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Pok Fu Lam

    a trick we use for bath time is to set an egg timer - set it for 10 or 15 mins (or however long bathtime is) when he gets in, and then when it goes off it's time to get out. We do this every day and he knows when it goes off that's it, end of bathtime. We call it the "ring-dinger" & it means it's not me 'nagging'!

    Ensure you warn them when time to leave somewhere or stop playing in time for dinner ie "we are leaving the playroom in 5 mins", they wont know what 5 minutes is yet, but it does give them warning to expect that we'll be leaving soon.

    We also use the 'counting to 3' in some situations. EG "Mummy has asked you 2 times to come & get dressed, I'm going to count to 3 and if you haven't come by then, I will do it for you". Usually by 2 he's doing what he should be (and if you get to 3, you must follow through with what you said you would do if you got to 3!)

    hope that helps.

  5. #5
    paulmackie is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Calgary Canada

    Hi Kellyst,
    From your posting there are several things going on:
    Your child's age, your new baby and your own well being.

    When handling children's behaviors the main thing to remember is harm to self, others or property.

    So, in your case your child would not get out of the bath, if she was not drowning, or in any danger, then just leave her; but keep an eye on her; maybe even enhance play by bringing in some bath toys; eventually the water will get cold and she will get out of the bath.

    Pick your battles is also good advice.
    If you were busy, I personally would have told the helper to just watch your child, but to let your child get out of the bath on her own.

    get someone else to do it? (seems to me like i'm not solving the problem?)
    This is not the case. If you are angry and upset at the behavior then it is perfectly acceptable to pass the child to someone else, but say to your child, "Name of child, I see you (describe behavior) throwing things, hitting your sister etc, that makes me feel (describe your feelings);angry because hitting hurts, or upset because throwing things could hurt someone, I will talk to you later when I have calmed down.

    2 year olds are testing their limits, that is ok, as long as it does not turn into a power struggle, or harm to self, others or property.

    Your child's cognitive (how much they understand) level is a major factor , so maybe keeping your explanation to two or three word sentences, i.e. "Hitting hurts"; "I am angry" will help, rather than lengthy explanations; keep in mind a child may not understand what angry, sad or feelings are.

    Manhandling is a last resort and only done for a child's safety; as is time out and other seclusion (on their own somewhere, but supervised) methods. If you are frustrated to the point of hitting a child, then it is time for you to pass the child to someone else, or give yourself a time out.

    Always explain to the child how you are feeling and why? Explaining the feelings, or behavior is best done immediately; later is ok, but children of this age have short attention spans and will forget quickly.

    As for the jacket, again, harm to self, if it was well below freezing I would give the child a choice (never give more than two choices), "You can wear your jacket and come to the mall, or you do not have to wear your jacket and you can stay at home?" If staying at home is not a choice and it is above freezing; and there is no harm to the child, then let them go without a jacket; take the jacket with you, and when the child gets cold they will ask for it. Only give choices that you are able to follow through with; i.e. if staying at home is not a choice, then don't offer it.

    The baby issue is to be expected, this is probably why your child is feeling left out, make some alone time for her; and try to get her involved in new baby activities; explaining what you are doing and why you are doing it really helps

    Ask your child about her feelings ; remember your child is only two and may not be able to express them; go online and get pictures of emotions i.e sad, happy, angry faces etc; show and discuss them with your daughter.
    Children of this age may not be able to understand feeling and emotions, so do not hesitate to state the obvious: "I see tears in your eyes, are you sad?" "Your face looks angry, is that how you are feeling?"

    Do not feel bad about yourself you are a great parent.
    The main things to remember:

    The other thing is to take time for yourself and relax; I know you have your hands full, but you need some time for yourself.

    There is lots of good information online about behaviors, just search for child behaviors, child power struggles, temper tantrums, behaviors terrible twos or write behavior and search; behaviors can be spelled behaviours when searching; depending on where you are in the world.

    I am in the process of writing a book on dealing with children's behaviors for my daughter, who also has a two year old and would be glad to send you a copy when it is finished; possibly a few weeks, or so.

    I am a professional Early Childhood Educator and wholistic Therapist with challenged adults.

    Feel free to contact me by Email if I can be of any more help.

    Have a great day.
    Paul in Calgary
    The Child Development Guy

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