Toddler Driving Me Crazy!

Updated on December 07, 2009
A.K. asks from Idaho Falls, ID
20 answers

My 28 month old little girl is driving me crazy! She used to be a great listener and helper and she wouldn't get into everything. I hardly child-proofed because she knew not to get into stuff that was forbidden. But now she is older, and I'm sad to say, wiser too. She is extremely smart for her age. She talks great but is terrible at listening. I have to repeat myself 5 or more times before she listens. I am nursing my 3 month old and I just can't hold her all the time or give her all my attention and she lashes out and hurts me or her brother. Tonight she scratched my arm while I was nursing the baby and left a huge gash and bruise. She did it with a toy. My initial reaction was to take the toy and throw it across the room and then I hit her on the head. I didn't mean to hit her that hard but I was mad. The three of us started to cry, me, her and the baby. I felt bad that I reacted so badly but I was so mad at her. She has tried stepping on her brother and kicking him. She mostly does it when I am playing with him or changing him. I know she is still jealous but I try spending time with her and giving her attention but it doesn't seem to help.

I can feel the little patience I have with her is slipping away. I feel like a terrible mom but I have done other things when she misbehaves too, like pushing her away from her brother, grabbing her arms or legs till it is uncomfortable, pinching her leg for a moment. I am almost always yelling at her to stop doing something or to listen to me.

Time-outs mean nothing to her. She laughs at me and that irritates me the most! I have tried shutting her in her room but she just peed on the carpet. Our apartment is tiny and we have a lot of stuff so she is constantly getting into everything.

I get the feeling that I am going to just keep hurting her till something bad happens. I feel terrible and I am crying while I write this because I don't know what to do. My husband offers little help and any discipline I try he just erases with his behavior towards her.

His idea of discipline is this, "Kate, stop that or I will turn you into a 'goon'." or "If you hit your brother one more time, no more cookies." I've tried explaining to him that those threats mean nothing to her. The "goon" thing is from the "little bunny foo-foo" story. He plays with her but when she misbehaves he just taps her on the nose and says "goon!" She thinks it’s a game, which it is now. So I get nowhere with discipline when her daddy just teases her when she misbehaves.

I want to get Super Nanny's help because I am at a loss. She has also been very difficult to put to bed at night and she wakes up way to early but that is another post!

Please help me be a better mom and give me some advice on how to deal with her terrible behavior!

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answers from Colorado Springs on

Have you tried taking privledges away? I don't know if that will work or not, but I had a friend who makes her child stand in the corner with her nose to the wall and it seems to help. *shrug* My kids are only 10 months old, so I don't really have any first hand experience! Hope you get some better advice!



answers from Provo on

If you're in an area where there is a good child therapist that teaches filial therapy, I would recommend that. It's all focused on building the relationship and using skills that help the child feel some self-control while you, as the parent, stay in control. It teaches therapeutic limit-setting and choice giving and does so much in helping kids to learn self-control and self-responsibility.

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answers from Missoula on

I just went through the same thing. I promise this works. Revert to how they handled this is the very old days. The older is the helper of the younger. Praise! Praise! Praise! Have her help get the baby's blanket, diaper, toy. Teacher her soft by doing it to her. rub her face soft with the back of your fingers and say soft. Trace her face or rub your fingers through her hair. Say oh your such a big sister. Talk to the baby and say Isn't your sister so nice. Oh, look Kate loves you isn't she sweet, you love her too don't you. Around dad say oh Kate helped with Daniel today. She loves Daniel. She is so nice to Daniel. Have special lap time when dad gets home for him to talk to Kate about how nice she was to help mommy and Daniel. You have 5 min special time with her just laying on floor tracing her face or singing something easy. This will be time for you to relax and chill as reinforce that you haven't replaced or forgotten her. You will see results as soon as 2-3 days. She just is feeling forgotten and unimportant. Anytime anyone is around make sure she hears you say Kate is so nice and such a big girl...she helped with this today!

My daughter is now a guard dog for her sister. It's amazing how much children want to help and do big things. Mine is 3 and helps with laundry and dishes everyday and now isn't in the way...she really helps and understands. We do it together so it's her special mom time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Provo on

She is jealous of her brother. She may have finally realized that he is here to stay and so she is lashing out at you and him.
Look at it from her point of view: She was the center of attention, the light of your life. You spent all day with her giving her attention any time she desired it. And then, along comes this noisy, smelly, wiggly thing that gets ALL of mom's and dad's attention. When people come over they oooh, and ahh at the baby and want to hold him. That used to be her. From her point of view he's a nasty little intruder that took away alot of good things from her life.
Instead of discipline, think about ways you can teach her to love her brother. And be consistent with time outs. She's at a defiant age where she is testing limits. I would save time outs for really bad offenses and start practicing some more "time ins". When you are nursing, read to her. When the baby is sleeping play with her. And when the baby is awake and ready to "play" teach her how to play with him.
I have tried to incorporate my 4 year old into his sisters life from before she arrived. And now, at 19 months he loves her dearly. It doesn't mean it wasn't hard at first (he wanted to play with her so much and she was so tiny) and I'm not saying it's all me, but they love each other now.
Good luck to you!



answers from Denver on

I feel for you. Kids can be the most wonderful and most difficult thing on the planet!!! Just keep in mind that your daughter was the ONLY light of your life before her brother came. Now most of your mommy attention is going to the baby and she is sad and doesn't understand. All she knows is this little baby took her mommy's time and she doesn't like it.

One thing you will find is that by you reacting with this physical frustration is not only dangerous but it is teaching her to do the same thing. In other words, she will escalate this hitting and such with her brother and he is too tiny to withstand it. He could get really hurt or worse.

That being said, your first order of business is to stop the physical reactions no matter how hard it is. If that means leaving the room for a minute or two and having pee on the floor, then so be it - pee cleans up.

Another thing I learned with my three kids is how important it is to make the older one useful with the newest addition. Have them help get diapers, change them, feed them, etc. I breast fed all my children yet still pumped so I could give the other kids a bottle to feed the baby with. Also, you are just a month away from solids, have her help feed him then too. Teach her to play with him, read to him, talk to him, all of that. The more you involve her in the nurturing of the new baby the more she will come around.

Just remember, this is a moment in time. She is at an age were reason and logic go out the window. It is your job to teach her to be a helpful loving little girl.

As far as your husband is concerned, I think they all are a pain when it comes to discipline. They just get to be the good guy usually, not sure why. All you can do is set an example for him too. Consistently let him know when you have found a discipline that works and remind him of it. It is a two person job after all.

Last but not least, you need to be sure you get out of the house without kids once and a while too. You need personal time, even if it is just sitting in a coffee shop reading the paper for an hour. Just do it.

Good luck!



answers from Denver on


Hang in there. I can see the picture & hear how spent you are. You are trying your best. You are not a bad mother. However, for everyone's sake you can redirect your energy to get different results. If you are becoming a danger to your family, I suggest removal from each other. When I didn't trust myself I put my daughter in her crib & closed the door. She didn't understand & she cried but I needed the five minutes to breathe, regroup & come back to the situation effectively. Your toddler might not be in a crib anymore, but is there somewhere you/she can go to before the violence happens?

I wonder if your daughter likes her new role as mother terror? I wonder if your daughter knows that she can push you around? If she peed on the carpet, did you try that time out again? Let her pee, & let your husband clean it up. You can't get to it all. You are human. But she needs to learn that your word is solid. That's all you've got. If you continue to use physical redirections with her, & not the words, it will be even more mayhem when she is too big to control in this manner. You know that by not having verbal control, you don't have any control and that is why you wrote this honest plea. You are brave & very loving to care about the situation enough to ask for help. I can only hope that you find the answers that you need. I am trying my best at helping & hope you find it helpful.

I can only wish that your husband would support you in the discipline. Have you sat him down & had an intentional, focused conversation about the effect his discipline is having on you, the lack of support you feel...? Does he see how stressed you are? Does he realize that he can help her by helping you? Is he afraid of being a disciplinarian? Kids need healthy discipline. We all need to learn about boundaries. They are a critical part of us learning how to develop healthy boundaries for ourselves throughout our lives. Parents rarely have the same discipline expectations of their child. I have noticed that kids recognize the different expectations that each parent has of them. So although our husband may be a softie, you can set different standards for your relationship with your daughter which she will adhere to if you stick to them.

On a final note, if you change your boundaries to say what you mean more regularly, it will feel like it is getting worse before it is getting better as she struggles to readjust. This is normal. People don't like to have to readjust to new boundaries, especially ones where they are being limited, "disciplined." Press on. Let the pee happen. Breathe as you remove yourself from her anger. Things will get better. Believe it because they will you brave lady.




answers from Denver on

First - you have got to get a hold of yourself and not hurt your child. I say this from experience - get yourself to your OB and tell him/her that you want some Zoloft. When my second was born I also got so mad at my first child's behavior that I literally saw red and wanted to hurt him. It was frightening, and eye-opening. The zoloft helped to get all those hormones on an even keel and made me able to deal with the older child's behavior in a constructive manner.

Second - the child's behavior. I tired developing empathy when the older was (is) mean to the younger. How would you like it if I did that to you? Do you like it when your friends do that do you? And telling him it made me sad when he couldn't be sweet. We talk in terms of having a "kind heart" and showing that by being sweet - listening to me, being kind to his sister, etc.

Try involving her in the care of the baby - give her a stake in the process. My older loves to help, and when he helps w/the younger it makes his behavior much better. He helped burp, brought me things, helped change diapers, brought toys to the baby, etc. I praise him for having such a kind heart, and showing it by helping me and his sister.

We spend special time together when the baby takes her morning nap. Arts & Crafts, snuggling on the couch reading, playing trains, baking. Anything that he would like - so he knows he still matters.

Also - he would act up the worst when I was feeding the baby. I tried reading to him while I nursed, getting "special toys" that only came out when I nursed, and putting on his favorite DVD, sitting with him, and nursing then. It helped.

A book I like for discipline: Love and Logic Magic for Childhood. It's a slim, purple, paperback and has lots of good ideas about how to give your child control, while you remain calm.

Good Luck!



answers from Salt Lake City on

Your daughter has learned the art of testing her limits. Whatever yo do, stay calm. I know its hard, but she will get the message. Put her in time out (time out is just time away from possitive attention) If you are likely to give her negative attention, put her away from you so you don't lash out at her. She is just acting out to get a reaction from you. If it works, she'll keep using it. Good luck!



answers from Pocatello on

It is hard parenting a toddler!! And most of us (me included) will admit that we walked up to the line of "how am I going to parent and be nice to you" as we grew as parents. Two books that will absoulutely help are 1 Love and Limits by Crary (super short & practical) and 2 Happiest Toddler on the Block by Karp (the chapters are arranged by age, so it will be a quick read if you jump to the right part). These books help you present options and achieve obedience while remaining respectful and age appropriate. And toddlers *will* cry sometimes--that's okay. ANother book (but last on the list) is Time-In--When Time Out Isn't Working. Timeouts are actually a tool to *prevent* misbehavior , not as a penalty. When used as a penalty, they often achieve the wrong outcome, or they simply don't work. The book time-in has options of what to do instead and why. Hang in there!!! And get to a library, quick!



answers from Grand Junction on

Hi A.,
I don't have the space to share all the things I want to with you regarding your need for help. So I will point you in the direction we took. My husband and I have used the information from the "No Greater Joy" ministries. They have a small and easy reading book out called To Train Up A Child. You can find them online at No Greater Joy. It is a Christian oriented program that offers some terrific ways to train your children..not just raise them. Many others will tell you that your daughter is just in a phase. Truth is she's being rebellious and it's your duty as the one in charge to get her to comply if you want any type of peace in your home. I will stress two things should you decide to use No Greater Joy techniques. You must be firm (you are in charge) and you must be consistent. Whatever technique you decide to use those two ideas will come in handy for you. Hope this helps. God Bless and Merry Christmas, L.



answers from Great Falls on

Dear Kate,
I feel for you and only wish that I could stop by to give you a hand. Looking back, when I was in a similar situation with a difficult child, busy husband, and new baby, I tried to tough it out by myself and--even though we all survived--I didn't do a very good job. I needed a support system and didn't reach out for one. Is there a grandmother in the picture or aunt or friend or neighbor who would step in to give you some relief? Please get help, if not from family and friends, there surely are community services available to you such as La Leche League, child and family services, church group, a family counselor. There may be services available to you through your husband's school. This little two year old needs to have a lot of reassurance, and she needs to be getting a lot of movement, preferably outdoors, so she can build strength and coordination and receive sensorial stimulation from nature. That might be something Dad could do--take her to the park everyday to get out of the apartment. Also, she needs mental stimulation and social interaction. A high quality Montessori morning program might be wonderful for her as she gets closer to age three.
When she's receptive, teach her how to do things (everyday household tasks) so that she will feel capable and respected. The bottom line is that love is the key. I'm sending love and support to you.



answers from Grand Junction on


Have you tried getting her involved in care of your new baby boy. Maybe, she feels left out because she always use to help you. Ask her to help you get bottles or wipes. She probably just feels like all your attention is on him. Get her involved.



answers from Grand Junction on

I'm sorry I don't have too much to offer. . . we're dealing with that a little with our 2 year old daughter. I wanted to pass on some advice that someone once gave me when I had a toddler and a little baby: 1) make sure your daughter has time just with you when the baby is sleeping, play a game, read some books and then let her know you have to get back to work, laundry, dishes, etc. Maybe you could think of a way she could help do those things, too, or think of something she could do right along side your while you work on things around the house. 2) Make sure she feels needed in taking care of the baby - getting a diaper, helping with socks, picking out clothes. That will hopefully help her be more excited about having a baby brother and make her more likely to help him and dote on him rather than hurt him. 3)and make sure you, the baby and the toddler interact, all three of you together. . . that way she knows it's not just "baby-time" or "me-time" with mommy competition. Sing a silly song and make the baby dance, have her point out the baby's ears, arms, etc.
Maybe you're already doing these kinds of things, in which case, I don't have anything else to offer! It just seems that your girl has the very-typical "jealous of the baby" thing going on. It stinks, we went through that with our kids, too. And it's a tough transition from 1 to 2 kids. Good luck!



answers from Colorado Springs on

I am not writing this in a judgmental way, but rather in a can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees way. None of us are perfect - far short actually. That said, you are mad at your daughter for being physically violent toward you and her brother while you are being physically violent toward her. She is mirroring what she has been taught. Let me write that again, she is mirroring what she has been taught.

The way you deal with frustration is the way she will deal with frustration. You are her road map. You are asking about her behavior, but you need to start with the source. Do better and so will she.



answers from Salt Lake City on

First of all, if you are doing things to your daughter to cause pain (which I hate to say, is abusive) then no matter what behavior she was doing before it will become worse. She will only become more angry, and less likely to listen especially if there is yelling.
Talking quietly to her and using a calm voice will help with some of this. Help her know how sad baby brother is when she is mean etc. Playing soft music will help with the atmosphere in your home.
If you are causing pain to her, she will want to take that out on someone who is smaller or defenseless like her brother.
That is good that you are trying to give her attention. Have you tried including her in helping with her brother? If she feels like she is included in taking care of him, that should help alot.
It is very important that you and your husband are together with the discipline. When she sees you have a united front, things will also improve. Parenting classes would be really good for you both to go to. They often offer these through elementary schools, or even at the highschools. You could call and ask them.
Do you have family around that could help out and give you a break? You need to find a support group as soon as possible. If you feel like doing something hurtful, or yelling, count to 10, and take deep cleansing breaths. If you can put your son in his crib when disciplining her, that would be best. It is important that you are firm with her, but respectful (meaning no pain or yelling) Be consistant with the time outs, (have her sit on a chair or stool for 2 minutes for her age) If you have to gently hold her there that is okay. As you already know she is just wanting attention. Praise her for being kind to her brother, and when she is helping in anyway. A little praise goes a long way.
If you quit reacting in harsh ways to her bad behavior, but use consistant consequences, things will get better. It will take time, but when she sees she won't get a huge reaction out of you when she does bad things, it won't be fun to do those things anymore. Just ask yourself : How can I expect my daughter to learn appropriate behavior if I am not teaching that to her? You are teaching by the example you set...everything you do and say. Take Care.... LDB



answers from Denver on

I think you were really brave for putting yourself out there and asking for help. It can be so hard to admit when we are not being the parents that we want to be. I hate admitting it, but I have done some of the things you have described...grabbing my 2.5 year old's arm too hard, yelling at him, even cursing. Obviously, I'm not perfect, but I can tell you the things that I have found helpful.

First, I agree that you should try to find a parenting class or program. I've heard good things about Love and Logic. There is also a program called Parents as Teachers that is great. You have a parenting coach that comes and visits with you and helps you find solutions. Find out if they have that program in your area. Seeing a therapist would be helpful, too.

One of the things that works best for me is to pick my battles. It's so easy to feel that everything I want my son to do is so important and to get into power struggles. Sometimes I find myself in a power struggle and I realize that what I'm trying to get him to do (dump out his potty, finish his milk, stop kicking the bathtub) isn't really important. Yes, we want our children to listen to us, but I think at that age it's unrealistic to expect them to do everything we ask. Choose a few things that are important (no hurting others, don't play with the computer, or whatever really is important in your family/household) and focus on that. Let the things that are annoying, but not crucial, go.

Another thing is distraction. This really works when I can do it. If my son is doing something I don't want him to, I can often get him to stop by bringing his focus to something else. Often it doesn't matter what the other thing is if I use enough excitement and enthusiasm in my voice. This can be hard when you are feeling mad already. You want to yell and instead you have to make yourself sound happy and excited. You want to punish them but instead you have to bring their attention to something fun. But, when I can do it, it is so much easier. It doesn't have to be a big deal, just act excited and keep trying to get her to focus on this new thing.

Another thing is that I've realized that if I am pro-active, some battles never even happen. My son often climbs out of his high chair and we get into power struggles over him getting back in. But, if I buckle him in, then he can't climb out and then we don't need to fight about him getting back in. He plays with my laptop when I leave it on the couch and then I get mad. But, if I leave my laptop on the desk, where it belongs, we don't have to fight over him playing with it. It's hard to get him to wash his hands after he eats. But, if I remember to bring a wet washcloth to the table and wipe him down before he gets up, we don't have to fight about it. If I take the time and energy to enforce our rule about only eating at the table, we don't have to fight over him carrying his snack around and getting crumbs all over. This sounds like it might be helpful to you since you said you live in a small apartment and have a lot of stuff. You might reduce problems if you are able to get rid of some stuff or put things that she gets into out of sight or reach.

Finally, it's so important for you and your husband to be on the same page when it comes to rules, consequences, discipline and parenting in general. You can't expect your daughter to know what the rules are and to follow them if she gets different messages from each of you. Maybe you could share the message you posted and the responses yu got with him, so that he knows how serious this is.

I have a four month old, too, and I've gotten mad at my older son so much more since our second was born. You are just stretched thin and trying to balance a lot. With one child, if they make a loud noise, it's annoying. With two, if the older one makes the same noise, it maybe wakes up the baby, which creates more work for you and maybe causes you to lose the one hour in the day you had to get things done. Our older son was really a nightmare after our youngest was born, but it had gotten better. I've noticed that the bad behavior flares up when there's a change. For example, he started acting out again when the baby started going to daycare with him.

Good luck to you.



answers from Denver on

Hi A.-I have a 2 1/2 year old & 3 months old and have felt a bit like this. I got two books--discipline by t. berry brazelton & my doctor recommended love & logic magic for early childhood (birth-6 years). both have been really helpful, particularly the latter & it's super easy to read. My husband and i are working to put love & logic into place--you both have to be consistent. If you feel like hitting her, walk away! Just take a breather and let her know mommy needs some space. Make sure you get some time with her when your husband is around and even if you can't hold her when you're nursing the baby, stay engaged with her. I notice my daughter acts up whenever I try to use the computer or something while I'm holding my baby. So I try to talk to her and read to her, etc. Hang in there & try out that book. It made me calm down & has helped quite a bit.

Another hint someone gave me--since you're always having the toddle wait, you sometimes ask the baby to wait. It doesn't even have to be something important--just when the baby is put down, you say, "Daniel, you'll have to wait, I'm going to get Kate some water..." something like that. Say it often, so that Kate doesn't feel like she's the only one sacrificing. Talk to Daniel a lot about Kate being such a good big sister too. I have found that helps!


answers from Denver on

Please get some support. Find the local teachers for Love and Logic or Parent Effectiveness Training and take a class as soon as you can. Also, reach out to other moms for support: creating play dates and watching each other's children so you can have some down time.

Your current physical discipline is abusive and it is what is teaching your daughter to use physical harm to get her needs met. I am in no way judging your behavior. Parenting is the hardest job on the planet. That is why we all need support.

I too dealt with anger and frustration and not knowing what to do. Fortunately, I had a wonderful parenting class for my college degree and we used Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon and 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan for our text books. It made all the difference in my ability to deal with my three small children and to get a handle on my own anger and frustration.

There are alternatives to physical discipline. There are also ways to learn to care for yourself during these difficult times. Educate yourself. Read, take classes, enroll in a group, talk to other mothers, find a good counselor or coach. Do not wait. Do not hesitate. It is vital that you reach out and support yourself now. Things will only get harder and your patience will only get thinner.

Being a mom is not easy and therefore we need to resource ourselves in all the ways we possibly can. It does not mean we are weak or there is something wrong with us. It just means we don't have enough information. We have created the damaging belief that we should all be super moms and automatically know what to do, how to do it, and be able to do it all on our own. Not possible and therefore: crazy-making. Give yourself a break, treat yourself and your daughter with tender, loving care, and reach out for and be willing to accept support.



answers from Salt Lake City on

My oldest is about the same age apart with my second. She went through the jealous phase too. It was hard. She would want to do stuff to the baby. I had talked to her before her sister came many times about being nice and how to be nice, I had to remind her about it a few times after her sister was born and watch her very carefully. In the beginning I think she thought that this baby would leave eventually. They are now around 2 and 4. They still fight all the time, but at the same time they look out for each other and are really good friends.

It does take time. I do get frustrated too. I end up yelling at her, I mean really yelling, but sometime that is the only way she listens. I also put her in her sisters crib-she doesn't know how to get out. She will cry forever. I go get her when she is done crying and she is usually calm after that. We also do spanking though, not anything damaging, but that is how my husband and I were raised. I love my kids and I know you do too. Parenting is a hard job and there are frustrations. You just had a baby so give yourself some credit!! It usually takes a few spanks and some serious talking to before she gets it-okay I shouldn't do this any more, but she does get it!! I hope things start looking up. Your baby is still young, but I am sure she will get use to having him there and realize that he is there to stay and she will love him. My oldest always is looking out for her sister-when she is not grabbing toys from her-haha.



answers from Boise on


My two year old hit my newborn in the face with a large rock. I lost it and spanked her as hard as I could.

My husband is gone all the time and when he comes home, he just wants to play and spoil the kids, so I know how you feel.

First, I think that you would feel less rage towards your daughter if you had a discipline plan beforehand, set up in your mind and explained to your daughter. The plan needs to mostly be centered on reinforcement for good behavior, rather than punishment. Your daughter just wants attention and doesn't care if you are hurting her because that gives her attention too. Time outs won't work because she will either pee or be destructive some other way to get your attention. Some kids' personalities are that they will do anything for attention.

So while she is being good - give her tons and tons and tons of praise. Also, tell her that you really need her help all day long, to get diapers and wipes for you, get the binky, get the blanket, which blanket should we get, what outfit should we put on the baby, which washcloth should we use to wipe the baby's spit up, etc. The more important she feels and like she is your right hand man, the less violent she will be and then the less violent you will be. While nursing your baby, have your daugher bring a book over and read it to her while you are nursing.

Also, you need time outside your home regularly to work out or do meditation or hang out with a girlfriend or something. Hire a babysitter for one hour if you have too.

Don't worry right now about your spouse - you can't make him do anything. But you can tell him what you are trying with your daughter to help her behave better.

Don't feel guilty, just change what you are doing and remember, you will never be a perfect mom, ever. No such thing, and nobody else is, either. You just have to keep trying and give yourself a break.


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