14 answers

Help with My Daughter's Uncontrollable Behavior!!!

My daughter's behavior is getting worse no matter what I do to try to get her to understand the way she is acting isn't acceptable. She is 18 mths old and already in the terrible twos phase. She throws temper tantrums over everything, cries, kicks, screams, throws her hands up so you can't pick her up etc. She doesn't lisen at all. You tell her not to do something and she will do it while looking at you and smiling. I put her in time out and that is fun for her. Everytime she tries to get up and I have to put her back she laughs. I even tried putting her in her crib for time out and she just played in her crib, kicking and hitting the crib against the wall, she enjoyed it. I took away her toys and she just says "bye bye" to them and blows them a kiss and runs off to play with something else. She has no particular toy that she loves so no matter what I take away she doesn't care. I put her in time out 3 times in a row for doing the same thing last weekend. As soon as she got out of time out she would run back and do it again. Before I take her out of time out I tell her why I put her there and ask her if she is going to do it again and of course she says "yes". She deliberately will do something she knows she can't or is dangerous and she will look right at me and smile and laugh while she proceeds to do it. I think she thinks everything is a game. She loves to see me get up to get her, and she normally runs away too so it is fun I am chasing her. She doesn't like me to carry her anymore and kicks and screams when I pick her up. I was at the store the other day and saw another mother with a daughter 1 week older then mine and she was walking next to her mom and came when her mom called her. I could never ever have let my daughter walk around the store because she loves to run away from me so I can chase her. She would never have followed me around and come when I called her and I am too worried about losing her with all of the clothes rakes and stuff. I have grown to hate taking my daughte anywhere. I am the women carrying a screaming child around or with a screaming child in a stroller that people stare. Being almost 9 mths pregnant the kicking and screaming is wearing me down. I need to know what I can to do to make things better. I don't believe in spanking so that is not an option. My daughter screams and fusses over everything from not being able to put a toy the way she wants to or not being able to go somewhere. I constantly tell her that is not the way to act if you want something. I feel like if this persists I wont enjoy being around her anymore and I don't want to be that type of mom. I work part time and spend every moment I have outside of work with her. She has never had a babysitter and I never let her play by herself unless I am cooking because that is my time with her. She has plenty of time at daycare to play on her own so when we are home I try to devote my attention to her. I use to really enjoy my days off with her but now I dread some of them. I love her more then anything and I just want to be able to get through to her. I don't want to have a brat for a child -I have seen my friend's and cousin's daughters and no one can stand to be around them because they are so out of control and get everything they want, I don't want people to feel that way about my daughter. I need advice on ways to get my daughter's behavior in control before it gets worse.

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Just to give a little more detail...I do pick my battles with her. The main battle we have is that she wants to stand on everyone of her toys including her rocking horse and she is constantly going into our neighboors garages when we are outside to play with their toys even though they aren't around. For me standing on her toys is very dangerous because she can fall and really hurt herself. We have child proofed our house and even went so far as to remove our coffee table but she still finds a way to hurt herself.

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I have a 20 month old daughter. She always wants attention. She did "bad" things, just to get my attention. What worked with her is IGNORING her. If she throws a tantrum, I just ignore her. It works better than any time out or negative reaction from me. Then, when she stops, I give her positve attention. I thank her for stopping her crying. It takes time, but if you do this for a week or so, she'll learn that she will not get moms attention by throwing tantrums.

Good luck :-)

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Let me start by saying- your 18 month old sounds like a perfectly normal 18 month old. She is RIGHT ON TRACK for that age of development. Here's some info on 18 month old development. It is not her character, her personality or her temperament--it's not your mothering style-----it's your daughter's AGE!!!!

Taken from Child Behavior (Ilg, Bates-Ames, Baker) Harper 6 Row, 1981

Eighteen Months-- The age of opposite. Everything the 18 month old does seems to be the exact opposite of what the adult has in mind-, and enjoyment of the opposite seems commonplace. Not only do they not come when called - they seldom .obey any verbal command. "No" is a favorite word. The 18 month old has not mastered many abilities, they are not easily motivated by words, they cannot wait, even for a moment, and they cannot tolerate frustration. (Yet they seem continually frustrated. If your well-engineered environment does not frustrate them, they will usually frustrate themselves!) They treat others as objects (not always their parents) and have no idea of the concept of sharing.
Suggestions for coping with the 18 month old:
1. To move them, pick them up, lure them; do not call them. They are simply not mature enough to respond to verbal commands, in most cases.
2. Use physical barriers, not verbal commands to keep them from certain areas.
3. Keep commands short and simple ("coat-car-go")
4. Keep demands that they "mind" to a minimum, giving close and rather constant physical supervision.
5. Provide an outlet for the boundless physical energy they have. There is no logic to putting a child who is into everything "on a chair". Better to take them out to run or climb stairs or twirl around to release some of that energy.
6. Be clever. If they are playing with something you don't want them to, distract them with noise or music into another room. Invite them to help. You'll be surprised to see how quickly they leave their activity to join you.

7. Finally, keep in mind that the 18 monther is an extremely immature creature. They understand more than they can say, but their understanding is limited. They can run and climb, but their balance is not good. Their quick temper and impatience show that their emotions are as immature as any other part of them. Do not call them "bad" for • deeds of immaturity or lack of skills.

Hang in there--this too shall pass and you can enjoy your daughter again.

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Try redirecting her. If she is doing something that she is not supposed to be doing tell her something she can do. Children do not hear everything that we say. For example, if someone says "dont run" all a child hears is run. Instead the person should say "you can use your walking feet". In you daughters case, you could tell her what she is allowed to do. If you don't want her standing on a particular thing, tell her something she can stand on. Also children at this age love to help. Give her simple chores like picking up her toys while you help her. You can sing a song while you do it or put a particular song off her favorite CD. The point here is to use the same song everytime you want her to clean up. Consistency is very important at this age. Even when you are cooking you could have her help. Just let her do the pouring and non-dangerous things. She could even stir things if you are doing that. She could also help you wash the dishes (granted she may just splash in the water, but it would be doing something with you). Give her boundaries and be firm and consistent. Instead of having time out as a punishment tell her "It looks like you need to take a break. You can sit here until you are ready to get up and play nice." Giving her the option of when she is ready will give her some power. She is playing power games with you and with my experience an 18 month old will always win because you will be the one getting frustrated. Another tip I have seen work is that when you are in a store and she starts to act up give her a warning. Tell her if she can't behave then you will take her home and she will not get to stay at the store with you. Only give her one warning. The next time she acts up, take the cart to the counter, leave it there and go home. You may have to leave all of your groceries but this should only happen a couple of times. Believe it or not she wants to be at the store with you. I have seen this technique done and it really works.

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just continue to pick your battles,and keep your priorities straight.her safety is the most important.if she has toys that she doesn't play with correctly then take them away and get rid of them or put them up for when she can use them properly.just continue to give the same punishments for the same bad behaviour,but try to give as much positive reenforcement as possible.everytime she does anything right then comment on it.make a big deal out of good things and try to ignore the bad ones.as for the temper tantrums the best thing you can do is ignore them.when my son was little and tried to throw tantrums i would simply leave the room.after he realized nobody cared he would stop.there were a few times i had to pick him up and set him in his room and leave because of company.usually ignoring the bad behaviour brings it to a stop.it may take some time but as long as you are consistent it will be fine.good luck!

Don't feel bad. I have 3 y/o twin boys who ack just like that since they were about your daughters age. I know how you feel. My boys are just now at 3 starting to stop the fussing and fighting but I do not know what to tell you except be patient and consistent in your punishment. I am interested in hearing what everyone else has to say.

I wouldn't necessarily worry that you will raise a brat. My 19 month old son can be the same way. The word "no" is a funny challenge for him, it is completely ineffective no matter how mean I sound when i say it. He fusses ALL the time around me and my husband, but not at daycare or with my mom. My mom has watched him all day today and says he hasn't fussed once! When I get home tonight, it will be constant. I read that it is because they know us as their parents, they know they can express themselves and how they really feel. It is suppose to be a good sign, apparently, but I know it drives me nuts! I have learned that if it isn't dangerous, ignore it. Our current battle is him hitting the screens on our windows. Now that it is so nice out, I want to open them. At first, we would tell him no (he would laugh) and if we took him away to distract him, he would go right back to it. I think time outs are useless at this age. Anyway, for the las few days I ignored him and hoped he didn't break one. Last night I had all the windows in the house open and he was great with it. Since he had been ignored, it wasn't fun or challenging anymore, and I get my fresh air! I have not idea how to handle really serious situations other than to take them away kicking and screaming like you have to. Good thing is, there are rarely such times. I have just decided to pick my battles and let most things go. Spending every momement with them doesn't stop the whining, trust me. Ignore what you can and wait for another year (probably less) when she can really have the capacity to understand what you say and what limitations need to be followed. It is hard for me, so I can't imagine you being 9 months pregnant! I hope to hear from other people as well, but I think it is mostly another phase. The last babycenter email I got actually said that this is very common and to try to plan a time to do errands without them, if at all possible, until this phase ends.

She reminds me so much of my son. Not the temper trantums, but the way nothing affects her behavior. My dh has gone to get him and put him in time-out and I swear he laughs. He also finds ways to have fun in time-out. There are times I just don't know how to get through to him. Lucky for us he's the easier child and rarely gets in trouble.

One thing that works great for him is positive reinforcement. Since your child is a very positive child (not letting anything get to her, lol) she might listen to that much better. For example, when she puts a toy away, praise her for it. Try to focus on the good things and making her feel really good for making those decisions.

With temper tantrums, they are a way to get attention. It's a way for her to get what she wants. I've been told over and over to just simply walk away when she does that. Pretty soon they realize they're not getting attention and they stop. Of course in public you can't just walk away. But, try totally ignoring her. I've seen kids go into screaming fits at stores and the mom just ignores them and keeps shopping. It cracks me up, but they're doing the right thing.

I found 18 months to be a hard time to discipline. I was never sure what my kids did and didn't understand at that age. That's why focusing on the positive part seems to help.

Out in public, my ds wouldn't hesitate to run off. My dd is older and when she was younger, she would never, ever walk away from me. My ds is more independent and would be gone in a heartbeat. So it's just no choice for him but to go in the shopping cart or stroller at that age. I worried too much and wasn't about to take a chance. Sometimes he'd get mad, but I just ignored it and he finally realized that he was being strapped in no matter what. Sometimes I'd let him walk beside me but as soon as he took off, in he went. It didn't take long for him to get the picture. And, all those quiet kids you see out in public have had their moments too. So I'm sure each mom can relate to what you're going through.

So I'd try focusing on the good things she does during the day. When she gets a lot of attention for that, she'll want to continue that.

You might want to take her to the doctors and get some profecional help for her. You don't want her to get worse.

Hi B.. The good news is that this behavior is completely normal for her age. I think Rita's advise was right on the money. As a teacher, I find that ignoring negative behavior and rewarding positive behavior is the most effective way to deal with things like this. However I understand that a dangerous behavior such as standing on her toys can't be ignored. In situations like those I recommend stern, swift action. Don't speak to her, just put her somwhere there is no stimulation whatsoever. Remember to keep the time out age appropriate because childeren her age have a very short attention span. If she gets up, keep bringing her back. Her time out should start over everytime she gets up, and continue until she has completed the time out. It will be difficult and may have to be repeated many times so be prepared. Again, don't speak to her until she has completed the time out successfully. Then make sure she understands what she did wrong. Also, reward her for some other good behavior soon after to drive the point home.
I can understand how this is very overwhelming for you, especially since you have another on the way(very soon)! If you take anything out of any of the responses you recieve it's "Consistency is Key". Always be firm, fair and consistent. She has to know exactly what to expect everytime she displays a bad (or good) behavior. Good Luck and I'll be praying for you.

I have a 20 month old daughter. She always wants attention. She did "bad" things, just to get my attention. What worked with her is IGNORING her. If she throws a tantrum, I just ignore her. It works better than any time out or negative reaction from me. Then, when she stops, I give her positve attention. I thank her for stopping her crying. It takes time, but if you do this for a week or so, she'll learn that she will not get moms attention by throwing tantrums.

Good luck :-)

Hi B.,

I didn't get a chance to read all of the responses, but read your problem. I keep thinking back to the most valuable advice that I ever received. After my first child was born, my Pediatrician told me the old, "Kids need boundaries" thing. Basically, he said that children need and crave boundaries. They need to know that if they do something wrong 30 times, you will react the same way all 30 times. He said, if a 2-year old can get their way 5 out of 30 times, those are pretty good odds for a child and enough incentive to continue trying to get away with negative behavior.

He likened it to a wall. A child will try to push the wall 30 or more times before they realize that the wall won't move. If it moves even once, they will continue trying to make it move.

I thought about this a lot. Like when my child threw a tantrum in the grocery store and I was beyond embarrassed. If we had a container of snacks/cookies, I could easily give them to her and nobody would know that my child was out of control (until the cookies ran out). Every time I thought about giving in, I would think, " Do I really want to go through this another 30 times before she realizes that I'm serious?" For some reason that was always motivation to stick with it.

We're on child #3, with our third go-around for the "terrible 2's." Another piece of advice might be to ignore the tantrums. If you react negatively or positively they are getting what they want (a reaction). If you ignore the tantrum, eventually they will realize that this form of communication doesn't work with you. BTW, when they get older, this also works for whining. Whenever my daughter would start to whine, I would tell her that I couldn't understand her and that she needed to talk to me when she knew that she could speak more clearly.

Hope that this helps and good luck :)

Unfortunately, everything you've described is completely normal for her age. The one thing I learned is that although it may seem like they understand a lot, they can't comprehend long sentences yet. Instead of talking things out as you would to an older child, you need to come up with just a very few sentences with very few words and say them with a stern voice. Try to steer away from explaining yourself. Hard to do because most of us remember our mom's saying to us after we repeat the word why a billion times... "because I said so".
I now realize that this sentence was not how it started out. She probably tried to reason and explain things with us and just eventually gave up.
Also, try not to use her bedroom or crib as a discipline area. That can end up causing problems with the child being willing to go to bed later on. She'll assocciate that area with being in trouble. So find a place that is really boring, a corner of a room, the end of the hallway, or some place with nothing to look at, no toys and out of the range of the tv or any activity. She definitely does think of you chasing her as a game.
The good thing about all this is that very soon her vocabulary will grow and she'll begin to understand more about what's going on. This too shall pass! But the tantrums will be around until she gets grown up more.

I think you got lot's of good advice and I would just add that it's her safety thats most important now. She doesn't understand consequences or danger. Remove her from a situation that's dangerous or disruptive to others. If she's not in danger or being dissruptive IGNORE IT! Don't give undesirable behavior attention at this age. They will use any means necessary to get attention, no matter how negative. Ignoring it is the best way to end it as you're setting the example of cool, calm and collected!

All the best

I wish I had better advice for you than patience and prayer. If there is a friend that can help when things get stressful maybe...however, if you don't have family here and knew few people that would be a difficult thing to do. My wonferful son was the same way. I used to think I was at the end of my rope. The entire store would hear him scream. He would scream at the checkout for candy and everyone would stare. It always helped when that other mother said not to worry I wasn't alone, she went though it too. My doctor's after hours help said to me when I was once almost in tears and told her I had no one to help that if it got to the time I felt like I was going to snap to call them right away. That it was good for me to recognize my breaking point and ask for help, even if it was just calling them to talk. My son was horrible in stores, running, screaming, you name it. You are not alone. He will be 3 in January and it is better; but we still have our times. Like everytime I go to wal mart or publix and he always remembers they have free cookies. I wish I never would have shown him that. My son used to scream at the top of his lungs in the car the entire time; I would call my mom to have her talk to me just to keep my mind distracted and myself from getting hooked and angry. I wish I had good advice for you; but you are not alone. Although it does not change your daughter's behavior, it always helps to know you are not alone. Maybe look for a mom's group. There is a place, Family Resouce and Referral over on Kingsway which offers play groups and classes mostly for free. This will not last forever.

Don't worry!!!! I was you about seven months ago. My 2 daughters are now 2 and 5 months. Right before I had the baby my daughter was a train wreck and I mean that in the most loving way. I really think they sense something is about to change and that 18 month age is rough. She sounds very normal to me. Just keep going believe me it will get better. My 2 yr is so much better behaved, it seemed like one day it just clicked and she started listening and doing as I say. You have to stay as consistent as you can. My 2 yr old loves her little sister and is a big help. Believe me she has her days but nothing like it used to be. I feel for you and completely understand what you are going through. You are doing everything great.

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