34 answers

Any Suggestions on Dealing Headstrong, Overactive 2 1/2 Year Old Son...

I am at my wits end with my 2 1/2 year old son. He is sweet most of the time, but if he doesn't get his way - WATCH OUT!! He throws whatever is in his reach. I try to correct him, and he hits both myself and my husband. We put him in timeout, for 2 minutes - and it isn't working. We put him in his crib, yes - he is still in one (thankfully). He wants to do everything himself, which I know is a typical part of growing. Some days are great, some days are terrible. I just never know. He is a terror in stores, shopping, out in public. I don't go to church any longer, because he cannot sit still long enough and cries if I put him in the nursery. We have tried taking sugar out of his diet, although he isn't a big sweet eater to begin with. One on one with him is better, than sharing time with him and his 4 1/2 year old sister. She goes to preschool 3 days a week. We long for a happy household, and want so much for our children to be happy. It breaks my heart when he misbehaves. He is really starting to talk, and feel part of it may be frustration in communication. I am exhausted and out of answers. If anyone has any advise, I would be most grateful for your time. Thanks so much for listening.

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?™

I want to thank EVERYONE who responded to my request. The support has been overwhelming! I am trying each and every one. I am already getting positive results. I have given my son options in making his own choices. My husband and I are now a united front in dealing with these outburst - which is the consistancy so many of you mentioned was so important. It has helped me tremendously to know that I am not alone. I know it will take time, and I am now refreshed with new ideas and solutions. One thing I have not done for myself lately is the "me time" - this is now on the front burner. I am going to have our babysitter come a couple hours a few days a week. I think this will help with my patience. This is a WONDERFUL site, and I plan to add it to my daily online visits. I have learned so much and I am forever grateful to each and every one of you. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Lisa D.

Featured Answers

If time outs do not work take away a toy(one he likes), start a sticker shart so he can earn a sticker for behaving well all day. If he is a terror when out stop what you are doing and leave, especially if it is somewhere he likes. I know it is tough to leave a store with a full cart, but he will learn how to behave if you are strong. You are truely the one who teaches him what is good behavior.

Look into getting one of two books: The Strong Willed Child, by Dr. James Dobson, or go online for thetotaltransformation.com (James Lehman) and see if you can get the help you need there. He is, after all, two and a half, and this is a very dicey time for everyone because he is almost to a point of achieving a new level of self sufficiency. You may need to minimalize things like outings and activities or available toys for a while because the choices for him are not only endless, but they are making him crazy! He seems a little overstimulated. This too shall pass, but let's hope it can be a better ride. Caution: he will probably have these disruptive cycles often if he already does, so be ready!
Good Luck,

I'm afraid it's all part of the growing up process. A wise women once told me "this too shall pass". Hang on to that!


More Answers

Although someone else may have already replied in a similar vein, I have to contradict most of what you've been told is true about children and most of the advice you're receiving.

There is nothing wrong with your little guy. Or, rather, there is nothing wrong *within* your little guy. He is fine and responding normally to his environment. Which is clearly a problem.

Someone has told you something about small children that is not true, namely that it is possible for them to remember instructions, understand cause and effect, predict other people's behaviour, and control their impulses. The reason your little guy can't is partly because you haven't stomped out his determination that he is a valuable individual yet (congratulations, lots of people have managed that well before 2.5years) and mostly because he simply does not have a mature-enough brain yet.

And he will not for at least 5 years.

Behaving 'as if' he 'should' be able to do all these things is making you crazy, but it is seriously damaging to him. It is the reason human children require parenting until they're at least 13: they are not mature enough to take care of themselves and will not be for some long time to come. Expecting him to perform mental feats and physical tasks that are beyond his ability is deeply frustrating for him, and will eventually change him from a person who believes he is capable and loveable to someone who is incompetent and unloveable.

I strongly recommend you read a great deal more about child development, particularly focusing on the actual limitations of a child's brain... and Alfie Kohn's 'Unconditional Parenting' in order to understand why attempting to control him is exactly the worst approach possible.

Misbehaving is the only way he has available to indicate to you that his needs are going unmet.

p.s. The suggestion for big muscle movement is bang on -- your little guy is not your little girl, and they have different developmental calendars

1 mom found this helpful

I have a two year old that is very active that has temper tantrums when he does not get his way. I think it is a stage, I do not remember my other three like this but I have been hit by him and even spit at. The way I handle it is to stay calm and talk sweetly because when I yell so does he and I think he is even saying shut up when he yells. Like your son he is a sweet boy, they are just testing us. I stay calm or I have to walk away, my husband on the other hand reprimands him and gives him a look that does let him know you are not acting properly so the baby will back down. Read the book by dr. dobson a stong willed child, i think it will help.

Believe me, I know exactly where you are coming from. My son is also 21/2 and we are experiencing the EXACT same thing. There are days when I am completely exhausted from dealing with him. I had to leave the grocery store yesterday with no groceries because he would not behave. I guess the only advice I can give you is to try and have LOTS of patience. We also do the time outs and they only work sometimes. Be consistent, pick your battles, and give lots of praise for good behavior Also be prepared to do things that you don't want to do (e.g. leave the store with no groceries!). I think that eventually they will start to understand that the consequences for their actions aren't worth the struggle. I agree that communication is a big part of it too, so maybe try working with him on putting words to identify his feelings. I wish you the best of luck and know you are not alone!

Sounds like my son was at that age. It does get better, he will always be your little headstrong son but as he gets ages it will be easier for your because he will better understand where you are coming from and his actions. I promise it goes get better!!! For the time being, keep consistent. I never thought time outs would work but they will if you keep doing it and demand he stays there, we uses the stairs at first but now I use a bench and at 3.5 he is still a booger sometimes but things are so much better.


I understand what you are going through. A suggestion with the hitting. You might want to try taking your son in your arms and hold him on your lap tight with his arms against his body. Tell him in a calm voice that he can't hit others and every time he does you will put him into this type of timeout. Release him only after he has stopped squirming and screaming for 3-4 minutes. Eventually he will calm down and learn that he doesn't like being restrained, hopefully it will help him to remember the consequences to hitting.

Don't forget to praise him often on his good behavior. Kids really need that and it can be easy for parents to forget. If he is getting daily praise it may be easier for him to follow the rules because he doesn't feel the need to get negative attention from you.

One last suggestion. When you are at the store, have him bring a favorite toy or coloring book with him. If he starts to throw his toys, take them away and tell him he can get them back in 5-10 minutes if he behaves. If he starts to scream and throw a temper tantrum try to restrain him with the body hug and tell him you will only let him go once he stops misbehaving.

I don't like suggesting parents leave the store when a child throws a tantrum because the child then can manipulate you into doing what he or she wants. Which is to get away from a boring place with no fun toys and go home to where they can play and run around. Once your son is calm keep shopping and continue to tell him each time he screams and cries it will take that much longer to get home.

I know this seems like a big concept for a 2 1/2 year old, but if they can learn to pick up bad habits quickly, they can also learn to follow the rules quickly.

Good luck!

Hello - I HEAR you completely. I have a two and a half year-old son myself. He is my only child. I recommend taking a look at Harvey Karp's book The Happiest Toddler in the World (I believe that's the title anyway.) It hopefully will at least put your mind at rest and validate what you are experiencing as completely normal. Good luck. Teri

There is a wonderful course called Growing Kids God's Way. My recomendation is to find a Growing Kids class (in your area)and take it with your husband. The class will help you with your issues with your son. If you have trouble finding a class email me and I will ask my friends (who teach Growing Kids) if they know anyone in your area. Another way you could find out is by going to www.gfi.org they may be able to set you up with a teacher. Good luck and hang in there. J.

Since you indicated that your son might be frustrated because he isn't advanced in his speech - let me just recommend that you call and have your son evaluated by Early On (1-800-earlyon) or your local school district - it can only help! I had a similar situation with my son....my son understood us very well, but he couldn't say anything to us and was very FRUSTRATED (and aggressive). At about 20 months, my son was still NOT saying anything (not even babbling). There was a lot of grunting, whining, crying and aggressive behaviour. So, against LOTS of peoples advice, I called the school for an evaluation. The school performs the evaluation and writes an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which is very similar to what Early On will do as well. The Certified Speech Language Pathologist from the school evaluated his comprehension of speeach, as well as his speech (or lack thereof), AND his gross and fine motor skills. My son tested above his age for the gross motor skills, at his age level for the fine motor skills and comprehension. He tested WAY BELOW his age for talking. Additionally, the therapist thought he might have some oral apraxia (I don't recommend doing research on this - it will just scare you!). We started speech therapy with the school district (for FREE) immediately and started to see some progress - about 2-3 months into therapy my son said 'mama' for his first word. Since the school district didn't offer services through the summer, I enrolled him in a special speech summer program through North Oakland Medical Center (NOMC - in Pontiac). AT NOMC I again was given the diagnosis of 'apraxia' and my son made some progress. We started teaching him (& us) sign language and that made a HUGE difference in his attitude / behavior. Prior to learning signs, he would just grunt / cry and point to what he wanted because he couldn't communicate. Once he could communicate with us using signs, his behaviour improved. We've continued with therapy - both the FREE therapy through the school district and summer programs (we also used Beaumont Speech therapy) and now my son is 5 and talking at his age level.

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