L.G. asks from Portland, OR on June 17, 2009
2 Year Old Is Testing Me Constantly - Don't Know How to Gently Deal with It
My daughter is 27 months old and deep into the terrible 2's. I hate to call it that, but it's a struggle to just get through the day. I can't take her anywhere without her being destructive, and an activity involves anything but her, she is a terror. Today at the library, she started pulling my hair. When I asked her to please stop, she felt an even stronger need to do it. Bedtime and naptime is ruled by her - and that is where I mostly want the advice. Usually, I take her shoes off, she gets into bed, the curtains are closed, and we read a few books. AFter the few books, I hold her hand or snuggle, then I say, 'ok, naptime', and she goes to bed. Now, I can't leave her room at all. I have to hold her hand and sneak out after she falls asleep or all heck breaks loose. I have tried just sitting in the rocking chair and ignoring her after announcing it's naptime, but that just doesn't work. She's left just screaming and crying. I don't want to leave her, but I don't know how else to get her to nap or to let her know she is not in charge. I have a 2 month old as well, so I don't have all the time in the world to put her down. I can't bring my baby into the room or it's worse. So I put him down to sleep and then take care of her. I would like just a little time to myself, considering I'm not getting any sleep at night either. Please somebody help me find a gentler way to deal with a tyrant two year old.
My 2 year old (daughter), is very well spoken and understands quite a bit. I am able to reason with her verbally sometimes.
I'd also like to add that the days are centered around her. I don't make a big deal about my infant's mealtimes, but he is carried quite a bit. My daughter wants to be carried too. I understand about the jealousy when a new child arrives, but nothing has changed with my daughter. She still gets almost all of my attention, with activities centered around her, and my son gets very little. We have special time alone as well.
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So What Happened?™
Thanks everyone for the advice. Just having the words helps me get through it. I am aware that I've put myself in a position where my daughter rules the house and needs constant attention. I've been working on getting her to play independently and it's been a slow process. It's my fault that we're in this position, because I overscheduled her with activities just because it drives me nuts to spend time at home. I have been very firm with the hair pulling, but when I see her crying because she wants to be carried, it breaks my heart. But also, my husband always gives into her, and it makes me out to be the bad guy when I say no and he says yes. Makes it tough to get through the day when it's daddy-daddy-daddy. My husband and I are just going to have to sit down, make a plan and stick to it. I just want to be a gentler mom who doesn't always say no.
Thanks also for the harsh criticism. It's hard to tell sometimes what's a tantrum and what is a little girl who needs reassurance. Maybe one of these books and your collective advice will help me figure it out.
P.M. answers from Portland on June 17, 2009
You've said several things that lead me to believe your little girl is jealous, angry, anxious and heartbroken about her mama's attention being taken away from her by your "amazing" new baby. This is so normal that it's almost easy to overlook.
But your daughter's needs are terribly real to her, and she's learning that negative behavior is getting her the attention she craves. Even negative attention from the parents she depends upon is better than no attention to a young child. She's probably trying a million things every day to capture your notice, and learning by trial and error that the most negative ones get the most attention.
L., you are surely busy, overextended, and tired. Get yourself as much help as you can with your baby (family members? friendly neighbor? babysitter?), and use some of the time this frees up to spend special, one-on-one time with your daughter.
I hope you will look for some good coaching on effective parenting techniques. Kids don't come with instructions, and all the best parents I have known consider it necessary to continually educate themselves about the intricacies of this most wonderful (and sometimes terrible) of relationships. Love and Logic is one very fine resource.
There are a some brief but helpful videos at http://www.naomialdort.com/lectures.html . I have been reading and applying Naomi Aldort's advice for several years working with my grandson and young children in my religious community, and have been better for it.
Here's another wonderful 8 minute video on communicating with your children in a way that respectfully connects with their needs, and results in a much greater likelihood that they will (eventually) be able to hear your needs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQO7h9MNCqI
I also resonate with Alfie Kohn's approach in Unconditional Parenting. Google his name to see a couple of YouTube videos, or find him here http://www.alfiekohn.org/index.html
And finally, I just found this recommendation in another response on Mamasource. She's a parenting coach who also blogs. I like what she has written: http://www.theparentpartner.com/
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M.P. answers from Portland on June 18, 2009
Peg has described the difficult 2 yo so well. I won't add to that but I'd like to add something I learned when I was learning to be a supervisor. Focus on the goal instead of on finding a way to show that I'm in charge. I was, for the most part, supervising men many of whom did not accept that I, a woman, could be in charge.
Your goal is probably to have a more do-operative little girl. How can you gain that. It isn't by being the boss. Once we, a parent or a supervisor, fall into that trap we've started a power struggle. As you've seeing, the kid (or the employee) wins because we get so frustrated and start to "give orders" instead of focusing on what "they" need to get the job done.
I'd back off completely from nap time. She may not need a nap. You need her to have a nap so you can rest. Let's find a nother way. Changing the pattern that you and your daughter have created will take time.
I think the first thing to do is choose a couple of "rules" and decide on consequences for those. As I've heard alot of people say, "choose your battles." Misbehaving in public by pulling your hair would be a situation for which I would immediately leave the library with her. Tell her in a calm, assured voice, that even tho you know she'd like to pick out a book we have to leave because you are hurting me.
It will take several times of this sort of exchange for you to see progress. In fact her misbehavior may intensify before it gets better. That's where consistency comes into play. You're right, "she's testing." She's not so much testing you as testing her world which is expanding. What are the limits?
Then find ways to spend pleasant time with just her. If whatever you're doing isn't pleasant, tell her you'd like to do such and such with her or even, you'd like to share some fun time with her but this isn't fun and leave. Stay within her sight but don't pay attention to her. She is insecure with the new baby, and her new abilities, even tho it doesn't seem like there's been much of a change for her.
Baby is held. She needs to be held too. It's not that she just wants to be held. She needs to be held. Try to see what is happening from a 2 yo's view point. I think it helps to actually get down on my knees and look them straight in the eye. This is difficult to do when you are holding a baby or carrying one in a sling. You can move to a chair, sit down, and ask your daughter to come to you.
I find myself getting impatient with my grandchildren because I have goals unrelated to them. I want to get the dishes done before I start dinner. Then there's the clothes to fold. My daughter gets upset when she can't get the vacuuming done. So we push the kids away without really listenting to them. I say, just a minute, until I get these last few dishes in the dishwasher. After a few times of this they act out. They will get my attention one way or another. So I've learned to stop what I'm doing, squat down, or lean over now that they're older, and really listen. Then, I say, we can do that in 10 minutes. They watch the clock. YOu can set a timer for your 2 yo.
There are all sorts of skills to learn so that our babies and children will be more co-operative. It helps my daughter to remind herself that it's the kids job to test. They have to find out where the boundaries are. (I tell her it's my job as grandma to spoil them. She doesn't quite get that one. :):))
Peg gave you some sources of amazing ways to get along with 2 yo's. I'll add small book that gives ways to deal with various situations in very few words. I found this book at the library and liked it so much I bought it. The title is off putting to some parents. How to Con YOur Kid, Simple Seams for Mealtime, Bed Time, Bathtime----Any Time, by David Borgenicht and James Grace. This book already assumes that the parent recognizes the child's developmental level is that of a child and that they are respected. Because children are not adults they are motivated in different ways than adults are. The giving a choice between 2 things is an example. Do you want to put away your toys first or make your bed first? When the toddler is 2 you know that you will have to help You've given them a sense of control over what they do while limiting it to what you want them to do.
I admire all of you who have a toddler and a baby. That is a very difficult time for everyone. As a grandma I'm fortunate in that I can sit down with them and not be concerned about the dishes, dinner, or the laundry. And best of all I get to go home. :):):)
One of my favorite sayings is "this too shall pass." when I had more responsibility I'd add "if I live thru it." I always have.
I reread your post. re: naptime-try going without a nap. Give her some toys, books, put on some music and tell her she doesn't have to take a nap. She can just have a quiet time instead.
re: bedtime. My daughter and many others don't agree with me. I always lay down with my grandkids. My granddaughter was nearly 3 when her baby brother was born. My laying down with her, gave me a rest, gave us both quiet, loving time together. And she went to sleep much faster. Then of course, I don't have the dinner dishes waiting for me.
My daughter just kept putting her back to bed; the same with "baby" brother. She wasn't consistent. They still learned in a few weeks. What is needed is consistency in always doing it and consistency in being calm and matter of fact. That's difficult. I'd rather just lay down with them.
Music or a story on CD or tape helps them get to sleep. Of course a nite lite and their bedroom door cracked a bit. The bathroom light left on, a cuddly toy and a blankie. And then a firm walk back to bed holding their hand. Never give up. Do it all night with firmness and lack of anger. That's the really difficult part. When we get upset they get upset. It's easy for us to get upset when they're upset. However, we are the adults and have the capacity to learn how to remain mostly calm.
If you want to get her to sleep in her own bed and stay there one of you take care of the baby so that the other will have no interruptions. When I saw it done on Nanny source the mother stayed in the bedroom with her toddler and just kept putting her back to bed the minute she got out. And she did this without saying a word. Nanny said you might have to do this several nites in a row. This mother did it 2 nights if I remember correctly.
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M.C. answers from Portland on June 18, 2009
I'm going to try to keep my response concise. I really like Peg's advice. I too have a 27-month-old and a 5-month-old. Basically, after the baby was born, my sweet girl turned into a monster! It was a very difficult transition for the whole family, and it really took until the third month for things to calm down.
I think that becoming a big sister or brother is a major life change for a two-year-old. Especially since this event happens when the toddler is wanting to be more independent and the presence of the baby confuses them (do I want to be a baby or a big girl?)
Even when I tried my best to give DD1 as much mama-time as possible, she would still throw huge tantrums; whatever I did was never enough for her. I would wear the baby all day long, and for the first few months, I would also wear the toddler (and both of them at once) if needed.
Now DD1 is less jealous of the baby, and I can see an immediate effect if I spend quality time with her; she can then go off and play by herself etc. She is playing nicer with her baby sister as well, although there are still times when hitting may happen if DD1 is overtired, etc.
So I think that the most important answer you could have right now is TIME...give it time. Make sure you do what you can to take care of yourself as well. I found that if I wasn't eating well or drinking enough water, it would be really difficult to control my temper.
and of course, i didn't take the time to read many toddler tantrum books when I was pregnant, so within a month or two of the birth I scrambled to get some books...there are a lot of good books out there, but I still haven't found the time to finish reading them.
I live in NE Portland; if you live in that area too, we can get together for a playdate. I find that those kind of distractions are always helpful for the toddler's mood.
oh, and one more thing: I just took a nap with both girls for the first few months. i needed the sleep just as much as they did! It would be a little hard at times to get everyone settled in at once; but luckily the toddler could sleep through the baby crying if it happened. I am still nursing the toddler, so I could still nurse her to sleep which was a nice trick to have up my sleeve...not sure if this would work for you or n ot.
ok, so this wasn't very concise! sorry!
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M.H. answers from Seattle on June 18, 2009
Heh, this must be really hard. I'm sure your two year old is reacting, as well as to everything else, to the new baby. I think its important to remember that this is a change to her world, and she needs specialized attention, too. Scheduling 'special time' with her and you, or her and dad, without the baby could be a great idea. You can even use this as a reward, if she accomplishes a goal. 'When you stay in your bed for nap every day during a week, you and Mom will go for a special trip to the playground on Saturday.' -- then make a chart so she can track how well she does. Or, do it on a daily basis - if you go straight to sleep for your nap, dad will spend 30 minutes playing with you. Maybe making it explicit, and even an explicit reward, will help her cherish that time together.
You can also then say, 'this is mom's special time with baby'. Or, 'you will have special time with Dad, while baby has special time with Mom'.
Anyway, seems to me like you need to lay down the law a little bit. She is definitely testing your limits, and you have to show her where they are.
For example, you don't have to hold her hand to go to sleep - you need to tell her its nap time, and leave the room. It will be tough for a day or two, but when she realizes that you are serious about this being a limit, she'll relax into it. The pay off is huge. But you have to do it every time, because if you reward the screaming sometimes, she'll keep doing it to see when she gets the reward.
If she pulls your hair, put her down and turn your back until she apologizes. If she acts up somewhere, take her to the car, put her in her seat, and give her a time out. Again, this takes work, and sacrifice on your part, but once she gets the message that there are definite limits on what is acceptable behavior, she will be able to relax and start learning to stay within those limits.
I think time outs will be effective for you if you remove your attention. Hair pulling is useful to kids, because it is really hard to ignore - what a great way to get a reaction (my kid bites!). But responding by putting her down, walking away, and saying 'I want to play with you when you don't want to hurt me anymore' is something that might hit home, and show her that her actions aren't ok, or rewarded.
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K.T. answers from Spokane on June 18, 2009
I have a 2 1/2 year old son and a 4 month old little girl. Some of your situation sounds all too familiar and I have recently been learning from research and experience what has been working. First of all, what I found with my son about the nap thing--I truly don't care as much about him sleeping as long as I have a break somewhere in my day. Here is what I did: I put him down at the same time every day. He's always tired at this time but won't always want to sleep. We read one book, I give him some loves, leave the room & shut the door. I found a childproof door knob "thingy" that he hasn't yet been able to figure out how to open (we've tried a couple different ones). If he gets up and attempts to open the door, screams, kicks, I wait about 10 minutes. It's usually stopped by then and he goes to bed or plays with his toys quietly. If I really need him to sleep, every 5 minutes I come in and put him to bed, but I never give in and let him come downstairs, nor do I stay and play with him. Now he knows that he doesn't get what he wants from me and he concedes and just stays in bed *almost* every time (he is still two, afterall), and ends up falling asleep almost right away.
I also want to say that any sort of violent behavior receives ZERO tolerance from us and we strive to keep our cool. If he hits, I get at his level, firmly say "no hitting", pick him up (usually kicking & screaming), and put him in his room for two minutes or until he calms down. The same with fits, etc. If we are in public, then I do the same thing and remove him from the situation. I know it stinks when you are grocery shopping to just up and leave, but every time I've done this, I leave my cart with customer service and come back for it later. If you just do it, it will only take a few times before she learns that she just does not get the attention she wants and it will improve. It is just consistency. Since we have started doing this, his behavior has vastly improved and he *almost* never acts out in public any more.
Finally, I have also started teaching my son about love in simple terms. Love is patient. Love is kind. Etc. (1 Cor. 13:4) I teach these simple "lessons" in the morning over breakfast while I have his full attention--just one simple concept. And all day I will remind him or find ways to show him the concept we are working on. You can share that toy to show you love someone; Pet the dog gently to show you love him; etc. And then, when teaching not to do certain things: "Is pulling hair kind?" "No." "Is it loving?" "No." "Do you love mommy?" "Yes." "Can you show mommy you love her?" Hug--and usually problem resolved, and attitude completely changed. Takes a bit of work, but makes such a huge difference. Sometimes we are constantly "parenting" them and not making the effort to teach them. How can they learn without these practical lessons?
Also just understanding that your daughter is normal helps tremendously. She may be jealous and acting out of that. Plus just testing and battling is a two to three year old thing. You are the parent--just be consistent, do not give up your needs (time for refreshing, etc.) and make sure hubby is on board. This will pass.
Best of luck--I know how you feel
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S.S. answers from Seattle on June 18, 2009
Hate to say this...but I find 3's worse than 2's. But on the other hand, I have a 3 year old boy and a 5 month old boy. So I think the reason why 3's are worse, is because there is another child in the picture.
What I would say, is when it is nap time, it is nap time. You need to leave the room and let her throw her fit. Get down to her level and look her in the eyes to talk to her. Tell her she is a big girl and needs to take a nap. I would let her cry and throw a fit for about 20 minutes and if she hasn't calmed down by then, then go in and have another talk with her and give her a hug. You need to start new habits. All she knows is that she was your center of your universe and now she has to share with another one. Your son needs attention too. I know it is easier said than done, but if you keep letting her be in control, you will never know peace and she will be a demanding and uncontrollable grade schooler, teenager and adult. It will be hard at first but well worth it in the long run. As for public, just tell her you will leave and then do it. Follow through with what ever you tell her.
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S.S. answers from Seattle on June 18, 2009
Oh, I so feel for you! My son is the same age and we have been dealing with sleep issues his whole life! We have tried EVERYTHING to get him to go down on his own and nothing has worked. He is also very articulate for his age and seems to have a good understanding of what's going on. I am expecting twins in a month and am scared I'm going to be in your situation soon, too! We have started bribing our son - and (knock on wood) it has been working. He gets a sticker for every time he goes to bed on his own (i.e. every time I don't have to sit there for an hour or so until he falls asleep). Sometimes he cries when I leave the room, but I tell him I'm just outside his room in the living room (we have a split level bungalow, so I just watch TV in the living room until he falls asleep so he knows I'm there) and then if he starts to fuss we tell him we're going to have to shut the door, which usually stops the crying at some point. So, when he reaches 10 stickers, he will get a new toy (something small as we don't want to break the bank with this!). He currently has three, so I'll keep you posted on how that goes, but he really seemed to get the idea last night and was pretty excited to get a new sticker this morning and see his progress on a chart.
The other thing you might want to try for the discipline aspect is a book called 123Magic. This has also been working wonders for us. The basic premise is that he gets two warnings and if I get to a count of three for bad behaviour or if he's not doing something he was told to do, he gets an automatic time out. This has helped me a lot not to lose my cool and it has stopped a lot of nasty behaviours at the count of one. I know other people using the book too, and it seems to be working for them as well.
Anyway, hang in there and good luck! You're not alone!
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R.S. answers from Portland on June 18, 2009
You might consider taking a nap with your 2 year old, that way she's getting the attention and you might get a rest too.
You said she gets most of your attention and activities center around her.
I feel you need to let her have time where she's not entertained by adults, and has a safe play area, that way she can learn to entertain herself and play. Everything shouldn't centered around her or her thinking that it's ok. It might take a little time for her to get used to entertaining herself. Also if you are in a public place or even home and she does something destructive to you or her surrounding, I would quietly take her away and give her a time out and say: I will not allow you to hurt me or others. Training takes time and I know you're tired, but it will make things easier after you get through the hump. Praise her good behavior too even if it's harder to find like; thanking for helping pick up the baby's sock I love having you help! or give her a sponge and say; You are a good helper helping me wash the table. Give her positive ways of getting attention
She know you love her and you said you give her alone time with you, she needs to learn that doing other things doesn't stop you loving her. You can't have her ruling the house and demanding all your attention and it's not healthly for her to have that power.Best of luck getting through the storm.
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