aibu regarding my toddlers behaviour

(221 Posts)
mennie1980 Thu 31-Oct-13 14:04:33

Hi all. Long time lurker, first time poster.

This afternoon I was upstairs sorting Laundry and my 2.10 year old son starting throwing lots of toys over the stair gate onto the stairs.

I went down stairs and told him off and explained how dangerous is was and how mummy could trip and hurt herself.

He said I want you to fall down the stairs and break your leg. I told him this was a horrible thing to say and asked him to apologise. He refused. So I told him our planned activities this afternoon, making cakes and the park were cancelled and no toys or TV this afternoon just drawing. He screamed the place down and cried himself to sleep.

He is now sleeping peacefully and I am wondering if I have been unreasonable.

He is adopted and our first and only child and not been with us very long so this is all so new and scary and today has been a dreadful day.

NumanoidNancy Sun 03-Nov-13 17:52:01

Sigh. Yes RedHelenB, I know. I don't think you are getting it, sorry. It is an entirely different thing for someone who has an absolute unshakeable belief that their mother will always be there for them and has always been, and is basically an unmovable focal point in that child's universe (as in a young birth child) to say 'I wish you weren't my mother' or ' I want to hurt you' than a child who has already lost two mother figures and has the opposite worldview - 'mothers are people that abandon you and never come back for you'. Completely and utterly different sorry.

RedHelenB Sun 03-Nov-13 17:52:24

Retro - 4 mins is an awfully long time for a 2 year old!

foreverondiet Sun 03-Nov-13 17:53:47

I think he might be a little small to understand concern apology and consequences. I probably would have said - that's not a nice thing to say and have left it at that. Might have pushed for apology but if not forthcoming probably say - oh well can apologise tomorrow.

So maybe a little unreasonable to cancel whole days activities for lack apology at that age. At 6+ then would have to apologise.

BerstieSpotts Sun 03-Nov-13 18:04:29

Golden rule with children of all ages - never take their words or deeds personally. When they lash out, it's either because they don't understand what they are saying, or because they know those words will get a reaction, or they are saying something to hurt you because they are hurting so badly themselves and they think that if they get it out then maybe you will understand. Either way, it's not about you.

I agree, it was a bad day. Put it behind you. If you're interested, I also have some advice/ideas about how to handle discipline with toddlers in general. If not then just skip the rest of my post. It's just that a lot of this helped me and I pass it on in the hope that it might help somebody else. It's really not intended as a criticism.

I think that perhaps your expectation for him to spontaneously apologise is a bit high. At his age (especially if his FCs were so lenient!) he won't understand what an apology is or why somebody might want one. If you really want the apology, then you have to tell him what to say and do (for example some people expect a hug). If you want him to learn why we apologise, then you have to explain it to him. At his age you will have to explain every time it happens because it takes a lot of repetition for something to sink in.

If you want the apology to come from him and be genuine, then (in my opinion) it's better not to force it. But you can still explain that it's nice to apologise to somebody when we've hurt or upset them, because it tells them that you didn't really mean it and that you're sad they are upset. And also that it can help make people feel better. With just an explanation it will probably take longer for him to actually come up with the "Sorry" but it can mean so much more, and you'll know it's real and he's not just saying the word because he's been told to. However, some people feel that it's better to teach them to say it first so that it comes easily/naturally even if they don't understand the meaning until they are older. Whichever way you go is up to you.

With boundaries, it's perfectly possible to enforce boundaries without relying on extrinsic rewards and punishments. This might be a good way to go with him at the moment. That doesn't mean that you avoid anything which looks like a punishment, just that the boundary enforcing is self-contained and doesn't infringe on other things. For example, when walking beside a road, always take a pushchair with you and/or a set of reins (whichever works for you - DS wouldn't walk if I put reins on him) You start off with a low-medium level of freedom like holding hands and/or having the reins on. If he's walking well, holding hands without pulling, not trying to run off, listening to instructions etc, then after a good while of this you can loosen the freedom a bit. However if he's resisting holding hands, running off, ignoring instructions, pulling etc then the freedom gets restricted a little bit. The reins go on, or he has to sit in the pushchair, or hold hands, or whatever. The tightest level of freedom has to be totally safe so that even if he is having a screaming tantrum you know there's no way he could get onto the road. Also, always take the freedom back a level where there's an extra danger, like crossing a road, walking on a very narrow pavement, perhaps being in a shop where there are things to touch/break, etc.

The most important thing with this kind of boundary enforcement is that you never threaten or impose a different punishment (e.g. If you don't hold my hand nicely then we won't get sweets at the shop) and you never threaten the loss of freedom for non-related things (e.g. stop making that noise or you can go in the pushchair). This keeps the consequence/reward directly linked to the particular behaviour. The road example is an easy one but if you think about it you can apply this kind of thing to almost any behaviour. The only one I have struggled with is cheekiness/rudeness in general which doesn't have an obvious one and is the thing I now use what I call a "generic", ie, not directly related punishment for. However, you don't have to worry about this yet! At his age it's enough just to tell him "we don't say things like that" and model kind ways of talking/being, which I am sure you do without thinking about it.

I hope that you decide not to leave the forum. It can take a bit of getting used to the tone at times but generally people mean well and are trying to help when they offer advice. (Plus, you did post in AIBU also known as the "Vipers' nest!" smile) I have certainly found a wealth of information and support here - it would be a shame to leave. For more balanced and perhaps constructive replies you could try posting in the "Parenting" or "Behaviour/Development" boards or there is actually a board for "Adoption" as well although of course you're welcome to post on any part of the forum that you like. But you may find replies are less hostile outside of AIBU.

HoleyGhost Sun 03-Nov-13 18:06:22

No matter what approach you take to enforcing boundaries, healthy children will test them. Lots!

Using punishment will mean a world of grief that is avoidable. You can instill boundaries in gentler ways that will help strengthen the bond you are building.

MrsBW Sun 03-Nov-13 18:12:45

What NumanoidNancy said.

Parenting an adoptive child, can - on occasions (more often than not) call for a very different style of parenting than when raising birth children.

Yes, the behaviours may appear similar (hence the ubiquitous comments 'all kids do that') - but the root causes for that behaviour are almost always very different and trigger entirely different emotional responses... even if that child was removed from their birth parent at birth. Setting boundaries still needs to be done... but generally in a different way.

Hence my suggestion to post on the adoption board.

mennie1980 - you're not a failure as a parent. Post again on adoption, or an adoption forum.

RedHelenB Sun 03-Nov-13 18:16:37

A two year old would not have the maturity to say I want you to get hurt & mean it! If they did mean it then they would have lashed out there & then! Honestly, that is such a normal situation that OP has described but unfortunately an OTT reaction (We all do react OTT at times, again it's a normal part of parenting!)

RedHelenB Sun 03-Nov-13 18:18:36

Plus, if they really did mean it it is even more necessary for OP to show unconditional love & say "well I would never ever want you to get hurt like that I love you so much OR well if i got hurt I wouldn't be able to bake the buns or take you to the park.

valiumredhead Sun 03-Nov-13 18:22:13

I agree red-also who knows what this child has heard where he was living beforehand. Honestly, in this house that would've been met with 'on that's not nice that makes me sad, let's go and pick toys up'

Any other nonsense would result in an early nap, sounds like he was tired anyway as you said he went to sleep.

He will push you to test your love for him, save punishments for later when he's older and settled and remember if you go in all guns blazing you have nowhere to go from there.

MrsBW Sun 03-Nov-13 18:24:54

I didn't say mennie1980's reaction was 'the correct' or 'incorrect' one. In fact, I didn't comment on mennie1980's reaction to the situation at all.

Retroformica Sun 03-Nov-13 18:30:15

He sounds like a normal toddler by the way - lively ine min and testing boundaries the next. Don't take his comments personally and don't overreact. You are doing so well and he has what every child needs, boundaries, love and stimulation.

Have a look on amazon for highly rated books about toddlers. I loved toddler taming and the secret to happy children books. Will help you work out a way forward.

Retroformica Sun 03-Nov-13 18:33:17

Brush over the comment, don't take it to heart, quick timeout, crack on with next nice activity after a quick chat.

valiumredhead Sun 03-Nov-13 18:33:48

Toddler taming is a great book and very realistic, he has obviously lots of child experience unlike some experts I could mentionhmm

HoleyGhost Sun 03-Nov-13 18:34:40

X post BerstieSpotts

I agree with what you have written and do not consider your approach to be a punishing one.

MrsBW Sun 03-Nov-13 18:34:45

quick timeout

Sigh.

FrightNightcirCurse Sun 03-Nov-13 19:03:01

My 3 year old was cross this week and said 'I'm going to burn you like a hedgehog on a bonfire'!!! He was just really cross and did not mean it at all.

Can't remember the incident but we would have dealt with that in the main, not a comment said in anger.

valiumredhead Sun 03-Nov-13 19:14:59

Arf @ hedge hoggrin

hopskipandthump Mon 04-Nov-13 13:11:03

2yo children are rubbish at apologising. They don't really get 'sorry'. It's like 'please' and 'thank you' at this age - they learn those just by hearing you say them and will then tack them on to sentences when they see you like it, but they don't really 'get it'. With 'sorry' they don't get the same opportunity to learn to say it, because it's not as regular a thing. So you are effectively just ordering them to say a random word, and with typical toddler refusenik mentality, they won't. It's a pointless standoff.

At the moment whenever my 2.4 yo gets cross (an hourly occurrence) she fixes me or DH with a steely glare and says 'I will Go Away and Never Come Back'. Then she stalks off to the next room. She does come back though, when she gets hungry or bored or just forgets. grin

The only 'punishments' I give her are when she's doing something dangerous - and then it's only removing her from the danger. She has an annoying tendency to stand on her chair at mealtimes and the floor is stone and very hard so it's not safe. I give her a warning, and if she doesn't sit down, I take her out to the hallway. She hates that, and she's beginning to be better at sitting down, though I think that's mostly just her getting a bit older, to be honest.

hopskipandthump Mon 04-Nov-13 13:13:37

And, by the way, OP. this thread might make you feel better! Toddlers are irrational little beasts! smile

LimitedEditionLady Tue 05-Nov-13 15:44:49

Ive not read on all if the post but id say cancelling everything is a bit too harsh although i cant fault you for making the step to create boundaries.Depending on how you discipline as in what style personally this wouldve achieved my son a time out and a talking to.I think sometimes taking away TOO much can just upset a child more and it no longer becomes about reacting to original incident to the child but reacting to the mass punishment.I dont think a child of his age can really understand the ins and outs of a broken leg,yes banging your leg but i dont think he can really mean it.

NewtRipley Tue 05-Nov-13 15:49:26

Excellent Post Bertsie

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