Dealing with Frustrating/exhausting 2-Year Old Behavior

Updated on August 22, 2010
B.M. asks from Long Beach, CA
14 answers

My question is about my two-year old son. I am finding that he is biting/scratching/pushing/pulling my daughter quite often these days. His language development has been slower than my daughter's so I attribute a lot of his frustration to the fact that he cannot articulate himself well just yet. I've spoken with my pediatrician about the language development and he is not concerned about it at this point, but my son's behavior creates a lot of drama in the house, for obvious reasons.

This morning was a very rough morning. My daughter was crying a lot and my son kept hurting her. I ended up putting both kids in their cribs which was good for me, as I was very frustrated AND it seemed to be good for them too.

If you have dealt with this type of behavior, what are some of the approaches that you used to help deal with your own frustration and also deal with your child's behavior?

The other issue that I am dealing with here is that my son is CONSTANTLY into something. When I say constantly, I mean he is opening cabinets, taking pots and pans out, opening doors, etc. He is an active, inquisitive little boy.

I've struggled with getting things done around the house because I have to constantly be locking doors, cabinets, etc. or else he gets into them. If i go into my office to get something done, he is right behind me or wanting to come in. I will find him standing on my desk in the office or on the dining room table. I reinforce that these behaviors are not ok, but he doesn't seem to stop doing them very easily. He is constantly challenging and trying to do things that he is not supposed to.

I am tired. Many times I feel like returning back to work, just so I don't have to deal with all of these frustrating experiences. I get tired of complaining about being tired, but I am...


What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from San Francisco on

I agree about the boredom thing, and perhaps he's acting out of always being told no... so I would suggest a cabinet he IS allowed to go into (tupperware?), a "office" box with his own supplies, and so forth. Instead of trying to close off all those things he can't do, actively make things he CAN do. Generally speaking, it's better to be avoid the "Don't"s and "NO!"s, because the kids tune out the no and don't and just hear that last part you said -- so for example instead of yelling Don't RUN, it's better to say Walk Slower.

An active inquisitive boy can absolutely be a nuisance unless you challenge those tendencies, give him safe and non-annoying ways to explore and you may find everyone breathing easier.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Milwaukee on

Have you thought about getting a "Mother's helper" for a few hours a day to come in and help you? I have a few friends that work at home that have a L. - something like a nanny called a Mother's helper - come over during the mornings to care for the kids while the parents get their work done in the other part of the house. It might help to have just an extra set of hands around the house so you are not so tired :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

You have been given some very good advice here already. Here's another suggestion. You might try setting aside morning time for you to spend time exclusively with your son and daughter. Run the time more as if you were their daycare teacher. Have activities that range from reading to totally active play. This will give your son directed activities, give him less time to get into things and 'bug' his sister, and you may even find it refreshing for you. It would be better than the frustration of having to constantly get him out of things and/or reprimand him. Take walks, play in the back yard, anything to tire him out by lunch time. Then after feeding lunch to your kids, put them down for a nap... if you tire them enough in the morning, they may be able to sleep for two to three hours during which time you should be able to do the household chores much more quickly than you can while having to also watch the children when they are awake.
I can't say for sure that this will work for you, but I find it does for me, and it's worth a try.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I'm assuming that you have twins and knowing that you have your hands full! I think you may be right about your son picking on his sister because he's not able to verbally express himself as well as she does. My first thought when I read that was teach both of them sign language. That way he has a way to express himself and you can tell him that it's a secret language for just he and his sister. Maybe that will spark an interest. As for his constantly getting into things, that's what kids do. Do you have locks on the cabinets? If not, get some so you don't have to worry about him getting into them all day long. Also, I always had a cabinet in the kitchen that the kids were allowed to play in - with pots, pans, plastic bowels or whatever that is safe for them to play with. That way, they seemed happy to only get into their cabinet and left the rest alone. I am sure your son follows you around or gets on top of your desk or table when you're trying to work because he wants your attention. I have found that the way to get some time to myself, is to first spend time entertaining the child. I call it filling up their attention bucket. You give them undivided attention for say 45 minutes or so, and then they are content to play alone for say an hour or hour and a half. It's always worked with mine. Also, you could try getting one of those baby enclosures to put the children in for the hour or so you are in your office working so you know they are safe and you can devote just that much more concentration to your work. Hope this helps. Try to hang in there. They will only be this age for a little while and things will get easier. Just think, soon they will go to kindergarten and you will have all of your mornings to yourself!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hello Busy, you are very much like all MOM's that have a child that will be the next Bill Gates. No one will discount the feelings you have about lack of sleep and being the entertainment center of your childs world. I bought all my adult children Veggie Tales movies to help give them a few minuets of breathing space--
I am blessed with 5 children. I know that they were the patterns used to create Curious George. I can say that I had a 2 young ones take apart the washer once becasue they just had to know what made it work ( and yes it got crazier as they got older). I learned that it was to my advantage to hire some teen to come in and keep them busy if I needed to shop, or get something done, OR I would have a teen come and do the dishes, or laundry so I could sit and read, play, or color with the kids.
I was one of those so structured moms that I got so worried about "things getting perfect, or at least neat and done" that I didn't live in the moment and forgot to look at the clouds , sunbeams, and stars for weeks at a time.
Most 2 year olds are just like you described busy , curious, and need the security of mom. I have a set of 2yo twins that live next door and love to hear them yell over the fence they want to come play in my back yard. I love the way that my kids were busy and healthy and always wanted to see what was on the other side of just about anything. But I also recognize that you are weary and over whelmed by it. Believe me when I say that the house work will still be there when you come back to it but the moment to play, read or chatter with a child may not be. My daughter in law recently told me after the birth of their sweet child, that she just needed 2 more arms, and had no idea how she was going to have time to take a breath after working all day , then coming home to another full time life as mother and wife. She tells me that its not easy being a working mother becasue then all the seconds you have withthe children they have been waiting all day to have your full attention and part of you is thinking of laundry. 2-3 yo are the age that is learning and growing and changing everyday. You will make it mom, you will someday( most likely when the grandchildren are born) remember these days as a survival skill and with love. I have told all my daughter's that if they can still cook one cupcake at a time, the children are happy and loved under that dirty face, and tier husbands are happy then they are a success and if someone wants to come see the house let them clean it and it won't matter if they have come to see you to step over the dolls, or leggo's. But this is a great place to vent and that is good too.
Go and take care of you and your sweet family.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

As to the acts of getting his older sibs attention, it's pretty normal. Teach him how to communicate with sign language. It goes far towards eliminating the "terrible twos" if they have some means of talking without words. I used "Signing Time" and the kids Love it.

I work where I live. I have a 2 1/2 year old that would climb the walls if he could. I have an enclosed play area for him. He has tons of toys, and I rotate them in and out for variety. His confined area is the whole living room, so there is plenty of space. No trouble to get into. I try to give him one or two meals a week that are just for experimenting with texture and utensils. Messy, but something for a change of pace. I let him go crazy with playdough a few times a week. These games let him experiment and use his imagination. They let him get into "trouble", but I have the control. I find myself turning on baby eintein or signing time vids for him to watch while I get work done. Also in his play area. Works for me.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Ah, this sounds exactly like our youngest son who is now 5. He still gets into everything, spills everything, breaks everything! If there's a puddle to step in, dog poop or mud, he's in the middle of it. This kid has stepped in more dop poop in his short 5 years than I have in my entire 43 yrs! When he was 2, there were so many times we ended up w/frozen pizza for dinner cuz he was just getting into stuff & making messes to clean up. He was also a late talker & ended up w/speech therapy. What made us have him evaluated was that he was not repeating everything we said which is very typical at this age. If your son isn't a parrot or won't repeat things after you ask him to, then I'd get him evaluated. Otherwise, read him lotsa books, maybe take him to a toddler play clas ofsome kind where he's around other talkers. Back to the 'getting into everything....' I think some of this was attention-seeking behaviour on our son's part. So, I started making a good portion of the meal ahead of time like when he was napping. You might try that....if he still naps. When he was doing things like climbing on top of the dining room table, I calmly took him off the table & made no comment. Once he saw I wasn't making a huge deal out of it, he lost interest. So, you could try that for some things. The idea of his own smaller version of your things is good, too. As well as a mother's helper. Try to have him help you clean up as much as possible. Keeping things out of our son's reach was not an option....he'd just climb to get it. He also figured out how to get around most baby-proofing things so I had to get very creative where I put things. What helped sometimes was just letting him 'help' me & deep breathes whenever it got messy. Even tho our son is 5, he still does stuff like this occassionally altho now it's mostly him trying to make his own meal or pour his own juice which almost always resluts in a big mess that he now helps clean up.. He was & still is emotionally exhausting. Good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

Get the baby proof knobs for doors to rooms he should not be in without you. Baby proof cabinets. Love the idea of showing him what he CAN do in each room/situation. Take him to regional center for an evaluation. Just get another opinion from folks who have more training with speech development. Take a daily trip to a park, even better try a different park each day.



answers from San Francisco on

Even though your pediatrician has said not to worry about it, I would pursue having your child evaluated for Speech issues. My middle son was slow to speak and I brought it up to my pediatrician several times especially at his two year old check up. By 2 and 3 months, I decided to have him evaluated anyway (you can go through the state's regional center which is free regardless of income for children under 3)

Also once he is three, you can go to one of the local universities in the area and see if they have Speech programs. San Jose State has a program because they need their Speech Therapist students to work with real children. The program is wonderful because they are watched the entire time by their professors to make sure they are giving your child the best therapy. The therapy is less expensive than going to a private office.

My son qualified for 2 hours of speech and 2 hours of OT a week, even though my pediatrician said he was fine and not to worry. He is now seven and above grade level in math and reading so being slow to learn to talk does not mean that there are signs of further learning problems.

You can call your local school district and ask for the Early childhood Regional center phone numbers. (I know that there is one in San Jose because that is where I went) but there is probably one closer to you.

I think it is important to get the language started. As you already suspect he is frusterated and I would be too if I could not communicate effectively.

He also sounds bored. My 11 month old daughter is a much happier child when we are out and about especially if it is a child centered activity. Of course you can't always be away from home but if you can schedule some park / library / beach/ museum/ playdate time so that he can get exhausted maybe he won't get into so much.

Good luck!



answers from San Francisco on

Hi there!

I just finished "The Way of Boys". It not only helped me understand my son, but men in general. I highly recommend it! It's written by a child psychologist and consists of narrative and case studies, from little kids to early teens. I particularly liked that it was current, not based on research from the 80's (which is a different generation!).

I went to our public library and saw it in the new releases. After the rental term was up, I bought my own copy so that I can refer to it over and over again. I also sent my mom a copy- and we discuss it often! Here's a recent post on more books for dealing with boys:

I also second the idea of getting help- mother's helper or daycare. I don't think you can expect some kids, esp. boys like ours, to not get into everything- they are just curious and physically active! Try classes like gymnastics, soccer- where they will use up (some of) their energy. My boy is 3.5yo and still a handful! I don't know what I'd do without the help of the daycare (he calls it play-school)! They're great!

Best regards,



answers from San Francisco on

Been there and can empathize. You are tired, because it is mentally draining to discipline all day long. Husbands don't usually get this because they don't deal with it for 10 hours per day. My best advice to you is to put him in a drop in daycare place for a couple of afternoons per week. This way you can have some personal space, time and mental break. It will be good for both of you. Also, don't try taking your kids shopping. You can have food delivered to your house by almost any major supermarket and clothes can be ordered online as well. Spend the money on someone to clean the house for you once/mth or if you can afford it 2x/mth. That too will give you more free time. Strong-willed two year olds can really try your patience. Time-outs, choices, regular naps, and lots of opportunities for him/her to have unstructured playtime will help tremendously. You'll get through this, just try and keep your cool and sense of humor. Six months to a year can make a huge difference.


answers from Modesto on

Sounds to me that you just dont have enough "kid proof" stuff in the house. My youngest son (now 29) was more "active" than his older brother. One year for Christmas we got him the different sized wooden blocks. He loved those and would play with them forever, we had to add a lot to the collection. But he would build castles and forts and stack and stack for hours, knock em down and rebuild. It kept him busy because they were multi use. Your son is two years old, he is just now really understanding language and such. They really thrive on learning and maybe you need to spend more one on one time with him and help him focus. Take him out to look at butterflys and ladybugs and such. Talk to him a lot.... don't keep squelching his spirit by yelling at him and telling him "no!" for everything, otherwise he's going to think the world sucks. Get some dr suess books and read to him and play with him, that's what he's really asking you to do.



answers from Sacramento on

Not sure how old your daughter is but my 12 year old stepdaughter will antangonize her 19 month old brother taking his toys etc. I was sure I would not run into this problem due to their age difference. Not so.
As far as your son being into everything, that is my problem/issue/challenge. He opens/gets into everything and I mean EVERYTHING. I have put door locks on all doors going to the outside, have locks on most cabinets, I give him a few cabinets to get into for play that only have tupperware in them so I know/feel your frustration.
Because of this I take full advantage of his naps( workout/shower/make dinner/return emails/make phone calls etc). Sometimes I'm so tired that I just rest during his naps but not often as I like to get certain things done.
So this only addresses part of your question but I recommend doing things during his nape so you can actually get them done w/o having to drive yourself crazy running after him/correcting him/making sure he's not getting into something dangerous.
The child locks have given me peace of mind.
Can you get some rest/a break when your partner gets home or can you have a family come over so you can run an errand sans little one, get a pedicure, do some shopping w/o kids in tow? It helps. Even if it's just 30 mins at a time.
Hope this helps some.


answers from San Francisco on

He sounds like a little boy to me. My daughter constantly gets into things and follows me also. For the most part that is a que for me to drop what I'm doing (If I can) and spend time with her. But give him a break. Some kids need more attention and are more active than others.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions