Did I handle this situation with my toddler correctly?

(53 Posts)
toddlertantrumtrouble Thu 27-Feb-14 14:06:33

This is more of a 'am I right or is my Mum'.

I'm really struggling with my 2 and a half year-old at the moment. She is fighting me over everything - getting up for nursery, brushing teeth, getting dressed, getting shoes on, sitting at the table to eat etc. She's a lovely little girl, as long as she can do what she wants all the time. Obviously that's not on so I am having to battle with her to get through every day. I tend to start with making things into a game, if that doesn't work I work through distraction, incentives, negotiation and then resort to telling off and naughty step.

The other day I picked her up from nursery and she was happy. She put her little nursery backpack on and walked down to the car with me chatting happily. When I was about to put her in the car she tried to run off but I held her hand and took her back to the car. She started kicking and screaming. I tried to take off her backpack so I could put her in the car and she got really worked up, threw herself to the floor and struggled to keep it on. I tried explaining that we needed to take it off to put her in the car but there is no reasoning with a 2 year-old in the middle of the tantrum. As we were in a car park and it was dangerous for her to be thrashing around on the floor and trying to run away I took her back in to the nursery building, sat her on the bottom step and gave her a minute to calm down. Then I knelt down in front of her and explained that she could hold her backpack and put it back on when we get home but she had to take it off to go in her car seat. She started screaming and crying again. I tried to take it off myself and it made her more distressed so I tried talking to her about the fun things we could do if we went home. She just carried on crying. Then one of the nursery staff saw I was struggling and offered my daughter a sticker if she took her backpack off, at which point DD snapped out her tantrum, took a sticker off the lady and said sorry to me. I felt pretty mortified that I needed someone else to help me get control of my child.

I relayed this story to my Mum who said that as I'm bigger and stronger than my DD I should have forcibly removed the backpack and forced her into the car. She also said that by being given a sticker she was rewarded by her bad behaviour. So who is right? Should I have been more physically forceful? I don't really feel comfortable using my strength against her. She is a big, strong girl and I would have had to struggle with her which I know would have made her more distressed and I think it would have really struggled to have forced her into her car seat against her will

What do you think?

Also, if you have any tips for dealing with a toddler who says no to everything I want her to do it would be appreciated.

MinesAPintOfTea Thu 27-Feb-14 16:02:46

I have emergency biscuits blush

If DS is getting tired, hungry and grumply on the way to the car I tell him that if he's very good and walks nicely and gets in his carseat he will get a biscuit. If the tantrum starts before I notice then there are no biscuits but if he's being difficult that little knowledge that he's going to get a biscuit in the immediate future will keep him doing what I need him to.

This usually gets him into the carseat without tantrum. Otherwise I get him to a safe place and let him thrash around, then give him a quick cuddle once he's calmed down.

Thisvehicleisreversing Thu 27-Feb-14 16:47:22

With mine I'd have done what your mum suggested. However tantrums are crap and if you've managed to come out of one with the child alive and all your hair still in your head then you've done great. grin

You're doing fine, just because your mum's opinion differs doesn't mean she's right and you're wrong.

Booboostoo Thu 27-Feb-14 17:36:34

You did great and I would have done the same thing. You had to deal with a very difficult situation and were coping great. Don't beat yourself up about the nursery worker, a third party tried a new idea and it worked, that's toddlers for you! Also if you had not calmed her down the sticker may not have worked at all. Toddlers are often differently behaved with parents and with nursery staff/childminders.

For me the physical approach doesn't work, not least of all because my DD is so big I am not sure I could actually restrain her, pick her up and manage to get her in the car seat if she was losing the plot.

If it's any consolation this 'no' to everything is a stupid phase they get over. My DD peaked at around 2.5 too, she was just saying no to everything and the days felt so long, but now at only 2.9 she's a delight!

toddlertantrumtrouble Thu 27-Feb-14 17:40:06

Ok thank you. I appreciate all your thoughts and advice. Funnily enough I think we were heading for the same thing today but just by coincidence the nursery manager offered her a pull-along bag as we were leaving which was a leftover promotional item and she was so happy she forgot about the tantrum.

Since last week she has dropped all daytime sleep at nursery so she is exhausted when I pick her up. Hopefully things will settle down once she has adjusted.

Eatriskier Thu 27-Feb-14 18:44:15

Ah, I can sympathise. My DD is in that stage where she is close to being able to drop her nap, but not quite ready. Unless she is completely exhausted at nap time she will not sleep at nursery. On days she doesn't sleep we have tantrums aplenty, which also roll into the next day too hmm. She is getting better at coping without the nap though, I hope it settles down for you too.

Booboostoo Fri 28-Feb-14 07:53:58

Is it worth carrying some stickers with you and trying to motivate her into good behaviour before she loses the plot? DD loves stickers and they are usually the first line of defence!

LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Fri 28-Feb-14 08:04:23

You handled it fine. However you may be in that situation in future when you don't have time to deal with it that way, sometimes a child needs to do what you want it to do even if it means making them.

Don't stress about it or question yourself, just do the best you can each day.

JohnnyUtah Fri 28-Feb-14 08:10:47

As everyone else has said, whatever works is what you do in a situation like that. But in general, you try to avoid flashpoints by regular food and by sticking to doing things in the same way whenever possible so the little bugger one knows what's going to happen.

hiccupgirl Fri 28-Feb-14 08:59:35

You did exactly what you needed to in a difficult situation. Tantrums at the end of the day are horrible to deal with and sometimes you do whatever is needed to get through - don't worry about the sticker or someone else helping. At 2.5 the distraction of a sticker was enough to stop it but only from someone else - it wouldn't have worked if it was from you because she was angry at you.

I had exactly the same situation with my DS at 3. He is a bolter though when in mega meltdown and was trying to run off across the busy dark car park. In that situation I put him in the car and locked us in (because he was then trying to open the doors to get out) and waited till he was calm enough to strap in. There was no way I could get him into his car seat in that state - he's just too strong to force in during a full blown tantrum. I think all credit to you that you kept calm and took her back to sit and calm down.

QueenofKelsingra Fri 28-Feb-14 09:15:12

I do a combination in that I offer my DC the chance to do what I've asked or I will do it my way. conversation would have gone as follows:

DS take off your backpack and get into you seat please.
DS if you have not taken your backpack off and got into your seat by the time I count to 5 I will do it for you.

then count and follow through as required. I always try and make sure they are made aware of what I want, given the option to do it themselves or I will and then do it. they have the choice of which way it happens but at the end of the day me parent, them child so what I say goes!

My DS is now 4 and although he can make it very difficult I am bigger and stronger and if needsbe I can pick him up and get him in his carseat against his wishes.

personally I don't do bribery with my kids to get them out of bad behaviour. I might pre-empt it, so on leaving school say 'you've been so good today, if you are good all the way home you can have a sticker' but once they are in a tantrum they wont get a reward for coming out of it.

pianodoodle Fri 28-Feb-14 09:32:12

You were very patient I'd have just wrestled the bag off and bodged mine in!

The drawback is it looks bad in public and I'd probably put my back out so I'd end up worse off by the end of it grin

They are generally tired, ratty and horrible when you pick them up. I think some kind of treat in the car seat so she associates getting in and strapped up with something nice helps. It must be difficult to go from a very high stimulation environment, where everything is fun and nice and exciting, to then have to go home, via a car journey which is perhaps hot or cold and a bit uncomfortable and very boring because you can't do anything, and you suddenly realise you're really tired and just can't be bothered and it's ALL TOO MUCH and it can be that the tiniest thing sets them off, like, but WHY do I have to take off my bag, I WANT it on.

Would she not be uncomfortable with the bag on in the seat? You could try letting her sit in it with it on and then laugh at how silly it is (socks don't go on your head! kind of silly) although I suppose there's a danger she wouldn't find it uncomfortable and would insist on sitting with it once you'd said it was OK! It probably does need to come off because the straps wouldn't be tight enough with it on.

pianodoodle Fri 28-Feb-14 09:38:58

When they're tired I feel sorry for them although sometimes DD is just thran for the sake of being thran and then I feel sorry for myself smile

toddlertantrumtrouble Fri 28-Feb-14 09:41:54

Thanks for all your replies. It's helpful to hear how you all deal with these situations.

I used to offer a sticker as a reward for getting dressed in the morning without a fuss but it doesn't seem to be working any more. Maybe I'll put them in the car and try using them as an incentive to get in the car.

I also find that telling her what I want her to do after a count of 5 works sometimes so warning her that I am going to count to 5 and then take her backpack off myself might work. Then I'm giving her a warning and a chance to do it herself.

It's a steep learning curve at the moment!

Having actually done both answers at different points I can completely confidently tell you that neither is right and you personally feel shit about both.

All you can do is your best. I think this time worked fine from your description. Another time gentle force might. It's all a bit in the moment. I try just to work on not regretting my behaviour so not screaming shouting or smacking just low calm talking or even silence if I have to.

Re car I find making it a rocket ship works well. So she has to ensure all passengers safe, count down to take off etc. has helped a lot.

Oh and a bag of haribo treat size sweets lol

I remember being told that I talked to much when dealing with tantrums. I had to simply state what we were doing and why but nothing else. Sounds silly but I realised that I was talking too much! Ds was getting lots of attention because I was going on and on about random things trying to calm him.

Maybe it could become a 'New' routine that you open the boot and she places her bag in the boot and swaps it for a toy that only lives in the car, maybe a teddy. When she gets out she places teddy in the boot and gets out the bag?

YY young children don't like too much detail especially in the moment.

OpalQuartz Fri 28-Feb-14 09:50:41

Your mum was probably bringing kids up at a time when it was considered ok to hurt a child to get them to behave. Forcibly removing the backpack and forcing her into the car and carseat would likely have resulted in her getting hurt. I think your way was better. I used to find it helped to take a snack with me to nursery pickup.

LimitedEditionLady Fri 28-Feb-14 10:15:27

I also present my ds with choices that both work in my favour so he feels like he has an amount of control,it does seem to be really effective and he has to stop and think which choice so it distracts him.I dont believe in forcefully doing things tbh,to me that would just make a child battle against you more and create a bigger battle.Im sure its just an age thing and she will grow out of it youre doing fine.

pianodoodle Fri 28-Feb-14 10:25:25

YY young children don't like too much detail especially in the moment.

Yes I find DH gives our toddler long winded explanations rather than being concise and she just looks confused after the first sentence and loses interest.

He's trying not to but his style reminds me of when Corporal Jones tells a story in Dad's Army grin

"So toddler DD, next time we're walking down the street in a nonchalant manner, and you gesticulate in the direction of....."

Don't get me wrong - it's great for older kids to have detail. But sometimes, especially when they're little and if they are tired and if they don't really want to listen, they switch off. So half of your message (probably the important part!) is lost.

I am a big fan of later debriefs. Obviously deal immediately with the issue in the moment but pick a time when they are calm and relaxed and talkative and bring up something and talk about it in a matter of fact, non-blamey way and you will often find they retain it more and/or are able to put it into action with just a reminder.

toddlertantrumtrouble Fri 28-Feb-14 11:53:23

Ooh, littleballerina I like that idea. I think she'd like a new routine of putting her bag in the boot to get a special car toy. I'm going to try that.

I also think that both DH and I are guilty of talking to her too much. We are in a habit of doing a lot of negotiating to try to get what we want when we should just be more firm and keep the instruction of what we want her to do brief.

I do try to give her two acceptable choices so she feels like she is in control. It works sometimes but not others.

DH is picking her up from nursery today so it'll be interesting to see if she bahaves the same with him.

hiccupgirl Fri 28-Feb-14 12:22:34

I find choices do help sometimes but only when DS 4 is in the mood to compromise and co-operate. If he's in a stroppy mood or on the edge of losing it he just refuses to make a choice and says 'nothing' or says he wants something else. Then when he doesn't get what he wants he goes into total meltdown. I have learnt though that some days nothing I do will make a difference - he is just a stroppy grump waiting for something to trigger a tantrum. Once it's out of his system it's all sunshine and smiles.

I really like the idea of putting the bag in the boot and swapping it for a toy that lives in there till home time. That may have actually worked with him at 2.5.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now