How do you handle your two year old?

(28 Posts)
blushingmare Mon 07-Jul-14 22:49:52

I'd be really interested to hear other people's approaches to dealing with the tantrums, whims, boundary-pushing, attention-seeking, fussy eating and difficult bedtimes that all come with being two years old! I love this age in so many ways, but am also finding DD a real challenge at times. I really agree with the philosophy that the toddler shouldn't be the boss and that children need to have clear and consistent boundaries. However, now being faced with a (what sometimes feels like constantly) tantrumming child and also having an 8 week old DS to care for, I suddenly find I am constantly choosing the path of least resistance, ie. letting her call the shots!

What do you do when faced with the various scenarios a two year old presents you with?!

Misty9 Tue 08-Jul-14 09:16:26

Hehe, right there with you - 2.10 ds and his 11 wk old sister. Yesterday we started the day with a 22 minute tantrum. Not sure what over. Lunchtime consisted of two tantrums over the same thing, being asked to eat sandwich before chocolate biscuit. The list goes on! In his defence, he's been ill and is a LOT more whiny when he's not feeling well.

I know what you mean about path of least resistance, but I'm a stubborn mule and will dig my heels in just as much as him sometimes! I also recognise that any giving in now will only come back to bite me later. So, I ignore if safe and shout a lot if not but he likes to throw things which really pushes my buttons.

Lately I'm trying a strategy of hugging him when I feel like shouting at him (as long as it's not positively reinforcing obviously) and especially for whining this seems to help. I never know how much of his behaviour is a reaction to his sister coming along, as he was a very placid toddler beforehand. So i tend to give him the benefit of the doubt, but don't let him take the piss. I don't agree with naughty step or time out etc, but may yet change my mind on that!

In general, especially these early days, I consider us all surviving the day as an achievement grin

Haggisfish Tue 08-Jul-14 09:31:51

I pick my battles carefully! Good manners and politeness and kindness =high priority. Other things like putting a coat on to go outside, having hair in ponytail, wearing appropriate shoes and the myriad other tiny things I ask that she has definite ideas about=very low priority. I tend to give her choices including the one I know she wants, so we both sort of win-ponytail or no ponytail, I ask her-she says no ponytail and it doesn't escalate. If she us unkind to get baby brother, she must apologise and is threatened with punishment like removing fave teddy, which is carried out if she doesn't apologise. She usually apologises straight away now!

cosmicnibbles Tue 08-Jul-14 11:04:19

Ha, I came on to start a thread about exactly this!
Dd is 2.5, ds is 4 months. Since his birth the tantrums have reached new levels.. Especially first thing in the morning.

However they aren't about any specific thing, she just cries very loudly, throws herself on the floor, sometimes bangs her head against the floor/ wall..
I feel I can't really punish this behaviour as she's just distraught, but attempts to cuddle her etc are met with resistance and any suggestion gets a 'no'

I'm really at the end of my tether so watching with interest for any tips... Sorry for thread hijack!

givemecaffeine21 Tue 08-Jul-14 11:14:56

I'm very consistent and don't budge, so I pick my battles carefully on that basis. I decide what's important and never back down on it, but try to keep that list fairly small otherwise we'd be locking horns all day as she's as stubborn as me at times grin

If I'm asking her to do something important and she's refusing I ask nicely, then nicely again again, then say I'm counting to three and will either enforce it (I.e. Scoop her up if I've said we're leaving to go home from a venue) or put her on time say she's thrown her toys everywhere and I'm asking her to pick them up and she's kicking off, it would probably be a time out followed by having to do it anyway.

The other day she was having a huge tantrum on the way home for no particular reason other than being a toddler and I found a quiet spot to put her on time out .....I felt a bit embarrassed but the alternative was her screaming for the entire walk home whilst I'm struggling with the pram with DS in....and thankfully it worked. I felt she had to know I'd stick to my guns anywhere, anytime and I think she was banking on me not doing that.

Time out really works for us but it's obviously not for everyone.

Hectorcat Tue 08-Jul-14 13:17:38

Just picking up on the morning thing. With my DS (3.5) he can get very grumpy in the mornings which is v low blood sugar, so my aim is always to get something into him to eat as soon as possible. Normally we go with a banana or dried apricots / raisins which works quite well to bring him back from the grumps / tantrums.

Other than that I agree with the consistency and not backing down from the battles that you choose

cosmicnibbles Tue 08-Jul-14 13:32:02

she has a banana pretty much first thing, (dp gets her up) and she's fine with him- it's as soon as she sees me she flies into a rage!

can only think it is some emotional issue related to the baby...

Would time out be appropriate when a child's so upset and not done a specific 'naughty' thing?

PoppyAmex Tue 08-Jul-14 13:46:00

DD is 2.4 and does tantrum fairly frequently, but fortunately the meltdowns are very short lived.

We try to distract her (ONCE) and if that doesn't work we swiftly ignore the behaviour (unless it's dangerous or unacceptably rude).

We're lucky as she hates being ignored, so seems to respond to that very quickly.

I think we're fairly strict parents and have a lot of "non-negotiable" things on the list, so we cut her some slack on the smaller things.

We also found that the most important thing is consistency - I think at this age they like to confirm if certain behaviours provoke the same response /reaction.

PoppyAmex Tue 08-Jul-14 13:47:12

"Would time out be appropriate when a child's so upset and not done a specific 'naughty' thing?"

I wouldn't think so. I'd generally ignore undesirable behaviour, but if you suspect emotional issues regarding new sibling I'd try love-bombing.

blushingmare Tue 08-Jul-14 14:14:24

Really good to hear people's advice on here thank you - and no worries re anyone else tagging on to get ideas!

I think I need to be more consistent and agree re the picking the battles. She definitely strings me along at times - ie. At bedtime she'll ask for 1 more story, 1 more song, 1 more drink of water etc and I inevitably give in to try to avoid the screaming herself to sleep, but then we still get the screaming anyway, so I don't know why I don't just walk out the first time blush

I find it hard to know what to do about food. Some days she just won't eat any of her main course and just asks for fruit. I mean, it's so easy to say "well if she won't eat what you've given her then she doesn't get fruit and she doesn't get anything else" - I agree with that philosophy, but how hard is it to send your child to bed knowing she's eaten virtually nothing all day! I always end up caving on this and giving her yoghurt or a banana just to make sure she's not starving, but then feel like I'm storing up all sorts of trouble with picky eating!

Our other big issue at the moment is she's started hitting me and her 8 week old brother. I've been getting cross with her and taking her out to another room - not using the words "time out", but effectively giving one. But she'll just come straight back and do it again and as soon as she's done it she the mimics the way I say "no" in a cross voice and says "I go out the door", so she obviously likes the routine of the "punishment"! She doesn't hit with any malice, I think it's attention-seeking, but just don't know how to handle it. I've been ignoring it and just diverting her to another activity, which works in the short term but I feel like she's then not learning that it's wrong.

Hmmmm. I guess no one said raising children was easy!!

GrouchyKiwi Tue 08-Jul-14 14:25:12

They are a handful sometimes, aren't they?!

DD is 2.4 and we're expecting a baby in 3 weeks. We've been getting her used to the idea of a new sibling for ages, so hopefully won't have any of the difficult behaviour that often comes with a new sibling - but obviously will find this out soon!

What works with her depends on how long she's been tantruming for. If it's just starting then counting to 10 with her is often enough to get her to calm down. If it's been a minute or so then I'll put her onto her bed with her favourite soft toy and tell her to come out when she's happy again, at which point we sit and cuddle for a bit. If it's a long one then we try to keep her safe and leave her to it. She's never been much of one for cuddles when she's really upset (she's like me in that respect) and prefers them after she's calmed down.

With recurring bad behaviour - e.g. hitting me - then we've resorted to dumping her in her travel cot for a few minutes because she won't stay in her room. This usually works.

Agree re blood sugar - she's often awful first thing in the morning until she's had her breakfast - and of course tiredness leads to more bad behaviour. It doesn't help that she's mostly stopped daytime naps. We're trying to get her to do an hour's Quiet Time after lunch each day to give her a break and this helps a bit.

Consistency and working out effective things are both difficult, but important. Children are so different from each other that it can be hard to find good advice!

ApplebyMennym Tue 08-Jul-14 14:34:17

Badly sad he's going through a particularly trying stage at the moment. Not so much the tantrums, though those are bad enough, it's the full on hyperactivity! He will NOT lie still for a nappy change, he wriggles all over the place kicking and giggling, turns over, pushes himself backwards and is just generally a nightmare. Then at his group we go to he is the same, running around, hanging off door handles, hiding under chairs etc, while all the other children are perfectly behaved. Then screaming and growling and wriggling away when we try to stop him.

It's exhausting, not to mention embarrassing. He sleeps well and his eating could certainly be worse, so it's just this crazy behaviour that I'm really struggling with.

MillionPramMiles Tue 08-Jul-14 14:53:54

Similar to Grouchy, we put dd (2.2) in her room (with door open) and advise her to have a cuddle with teddy and calm down. We tell her to call for one of us when she's ready to come downstairs without any screaming. If she's tired she seems to want to lie down for a bit.

If dd is refusing to go upstairs and is in full on tantrum, refusing cuddles etc then I move away to another part of the room and ignore her for a bit.

The key I think is consistency, dp and I have the same views on hitting/biting etc but he is far more relaxed on say, letting dd play with the cleaning cloths that have had bleach on them. Funnily enough I don't think that's a great idea. Cue lots of screaming as I take them away (whereas it wouldn't have been so bad if he'd just said no to begin with).

Tiredness and hunger are triggers but some tantrums just can't be avoided (eg if I have to get to work and dd wants cuddles).

Dd was such a nightmare baby that even with the tantrums I far prefer the toddler stage though.

Bumpsadaisie Tue 08-Jul-14 15:31:41

What is a toddler? A toddler is someone who, unlike a baby, has started to realise how small and dependent they are in the big wide world. As a consequence the main task of toddlerhood is to work out how far I can be in control of my environment, how far do I need to cede control, and is ceding control OK or will it be a disaster? This is what a child is working through in the toddler months.

Toddler parenting = all about balance. In some areas you need to be as unmoving as the Berlin Wall. But you also need to be flexible where appropriate. A child who isn't allowed any say or agency in what happens to it will be a very frustrated and stroppy child. Toddlers need to feel they have a measure of control and also to feel secure that, where they are not in control, the controlling person is pretty consistent so it is OK and safe for them to cede that control.

Be dead firm on the non-negotiables. My list of these would include: hitting/biting/mistreating toys etc. Chucking food around wilfully. Constantly trying to extend bedtime - stick to one or two stories or whatever it is. Being mean to other children esp smaller ones. Snatching. Grabbing. Constant whining for more and more sweets or biscuits - stick to your limit. Refusing to have hair or body washed. Refusing to get in car seat. Refusing to have nails clipped. With these last few if they won't cooperate just be firm and go ahead. You cannot allow them to be dirty or unsafe in a car.

Around food. You can't force a child to eat. Put things in front of them. Leave them to eat it or not. If they don't eat much they can always have some bread or a bowl of yoghurt. I strongly believe if you don't make too much of a fuss they naturally become more adventurous eaters as they mature. My DD has just turned 5 and is now eating all sorts of things she wouldn't have touched at 2. My son is 2.8 and still Mr No Veg or Fruit (though he loves smoothies and soup so thats what he has!). I think toddlers are programmed to be hyper conservative about food. No point trying to force the issue. They will eat more exciting stuff when they are older.

Doing it Self. If it's not a non-negotiable issue, then try to facilitate if you can. It's worth taking a bit of extra time over something or a small amount of inconvenience in order to give your child a feeling of control over her environment. Yes its a pain if your toddler wants to climb in the car herself or wants to spoon out her yoghurt herself, but if you have time, it is easier in the long run to let her do it. It will develop her sense of competence and confidence and decrease frustration. Of course you won't always have time to hang around while your child tries to put her own shoes on. But sometimes, try to make time.

What is a tantrum? They aren't being naughty/manipulative when they tantrum, they just can't emotionally self regulate. My son gets really cross when I tell him he can't have a third chocolate digestive. I don't think he is consciously thinking "Oh, I will really lose it so Mum can't hack it and will give in!" I think for him he is VERY cross and VERY upset about the lack of third biscuit because he REALLY REALLY wanted one, and he is 2.8 and very immature when it comes to ability to manage feelings, delay gratification and all the rest of it. So when your toddler tantrums, instead of getting drawn in and getting equally worked up yourself (easy to do, I know!) try instead to imagine acting as a container/processor for your child's strong feelings. Try to imagine lifting the unmanageable feelings out of your toddler and into yourself, because you can deal with them. Gradually your toddler will learn to self-regulate.

blushingmare Tue 08-Jul-14 19:47:44

Plenty of wise words there Bumps - are you a professional?!

Re food - are you saying you'd give some bread or a yoghurt if they refuse to eat what's on their plate? How do you then deal with the toddler then says "yoghurt" as soon as their meal is placed in front of them and refuses to eat any of it?

cosmicnibbles Tue 08-Jul-14 21:19:38

poppy - thanks for reply - well I try to cuddle her when she's cross / upset but she often pushes me away, though she does say 'mummy cuddle' over and over again!

What do you mean by love bombing?

Bumpsadaisie Wed 09-Jul-14 11:22:42

blushing - nah not a professional except in a roundabout way of being married to one, just like the sound of my own voice!

Re food - are you saying you'd give some bread or a yoghurt if they refuse to eat what's on their plate? How do you then deal with the toddler then says "yoghurt" as soon as their meal is placed in front of them and refuses to eat any of it?

I'm just trying to think of what we did with mine when they were at their fussiest (around 18m to 2.5 years I guess). I know my son refused to eat anything and even worse chucked it all over the place. We would offer it and he wouldn't eat anything. So we would either clear the plate early (to lay down a boundary about the chucking; we decided handling the food was OK as it was getting to know it, chucking around wilfully was not!), or if he wasn't chucking it around clear it together with the other three plates then move on to pudding (usually yoghurt/fruit in our house). He would always eat that. Often if you then gave him his main meal back afterwards he would try a bit or at least touch it. It was as if he needed to establish control around getting the yoghurt first. With something as important as food I thought that was fair enough. If you create a battle over food the toddler will always win it ....

Nowadays he is closer to three and doesn't chuck food or play with it too much. Generally he eats quite well, still conservative about veg and fruit though (he will eat green beans, peas, brocc, sweetcorn, strawberries and grapefruit and banana so that's not too bad). He loves soup so I tend to make soup with loads of veg in at the weekend and he has it for lunch most days.

I just think that food is one area where you need to let them control things because its an area in which you can't compel them (short of force feeding which is probably abuse!). If a toddler even touches some food without eating that is useful progress - they are so conservative that just getting used to it is a plus. Obviously letting them control things only goes so far, you wouldn't give in to constant demands for sweets and chocolate.

I worried much more with my eldest (she was similar as a toddler) as I had no experience of coming out the other side. She eats all sorts now - salad in her pack lunch with rocket, olives, pepper, cucumber, sweetcorn and is quite open to trying new things.

Greenstone Wed 09-Jul-14 11:42:13

Really interesting thread. DD is 2.5 and I am pregnant with dc2.

I think Bumpsadaisie speaks a lot of sense about the toddler needing to have some agency thing. In fact I've already picked up a few tips on MN that have really helped me.

Such as:

1. The word 'No' delivered in a one-word answer drives toddlers insane with rage and, I guess, fear and frustration? So now I never say 'No' on it's own, I immediately look busy and say 'No because we have to go do x now..' or something, and to the constant requests for fruit 'I have a apple yeah?' I say 'Yes, after your dinner' and really stick to it.

2. Food. I have been blessed with a great eater but like any child if she snacks all day she won't eat her dinner. I want her to eat her dinner, so I let her get good and hungry after she's had her hot meal at lunch. I'm happy to let 4 or 5 hours pass if I can because the result - child eating giant nutricious dinner before bed with no whinging - is so satisfying. Obviously lots of milk and water is given.

3. Fresh air. I've found summertime to be so much easier with DD when I can open the back doors and let her out into the garden, or just go out with her generally. She gets frustrated really quickly cooped up at home.

4. Giving a cuddle when they are full of rage/obstinancy. This was really an eye-opener for me. Ignoring DD when she's upset doesn't work. She tends to kick off/run away when I go to pick her up at lunchtime from the CM hmm, and though it does my head in I just lift her up and cuddle her and soon the flailing calms.

5. Bed. ARGH. This the battleground at the moment and we haven't figured it out fully. I do find that not engaging in conversation but lovingly putting her back to bed with a kiss really helps when she gets up larking for the umpteenth time. It's so tempting to be cross and shouty esp. when I'm knackered climbing the stairs the whole time, but she settles a lot quicker if I am nice but boring.

We are lucky - she was really hard work as a baby but since turning 1 or so has been very easy and biddable. Tantrums occur but are quite rare. I feel like everything could kick off once this baby arrives, though, so definitely not feeling the smug just yet!

LittlePink Wed 09-Jul-14 15:27:56

The main issues with my 2 yr old at the moment are hitting, kicking, crying when she wants something even if its something that she can have. Instead of using a nice voice to ask for something she screams and cries about it. Like just now she wanted to go on her little bike in the garden and had a tantrum about it. Theres no problem with her going on it and the answer would have been yes and was yes. So the tantrum doesn't have to be about something she cant have. I had to giggle to myself as DH is off this week and is giving me a bit of a break by taking the reins and most of the care and she was giving him hell over the bike just now and I said to him with a smile this is what I get all week. At least he can see how bloody hard it is! Im not going to ramble anymore but all of the behaviour in the above posts is my LO!!

Bumpsadaisie Wed 09-Jul-14 15:44:00

LittlePink your post about your DD tantrumming even though the answer is yes made me giggle! grin

Bless her.

My eldest majored on whining. Oh, my ears. Have just realised that, whatever else my 2.8 year old DS does to drive me mad, at least he doesn't whine like DD did! Small mercies ...

PrincessAnnaOfArundale Wed 09-Jul-14 16:03:56

I love this age so much but I agree they are tricky. I think consistency is the key to be honest. I do pick my battles but once I've decided something is a 'no' then it's a 'NO' and no amount of arguing or screaming is going to change that.

There are certain things that have to be done and I can't let my DS2 (2.6) dictate my days. With DS1 I set the same sort of boundaries, insisted on no hitting/ throwing/ hurting each other, Tea has to be eaten at the table, Not snatching'/ disrespecting each other, Shoes on when we go out, Helping put toys away, Bedtime at 7:30pm.

Everything else I am pretty lenient with but those things are the biggies that I won't budge on. I do 3 warnings and time out too. Works well for both our DSs, though DS1 is 6 now and never needs timeout. DS2 (2.6) pushes boundaries now and then but his tantrums are not very long lasting because he knows what is expected however he still sometimes acts on impulse and is going through a mega 'that's MINE!!!' phase which is trying. Just try and stay calm and stick to your guns!

DS1 is now a lovely, calm, reasonable boy who although he is slightly bossy and power mad, he is a really good brother and nice to be around. It kind of fills me with hope that one day DS2 will out grow the 'that's MINE!' phase!

MiaowTheCat Wed 09-Jul-14 16:19:48

I've had a right bloody day of it - tantrums... fine, piece of piss and occasionally amusing fodder for future teenage embarassment.... but button pushing for a reaction riles me no end and today we've been trying that endlessly. Add in an unsupportive DH, both kids being a mountain of snot (their noses are not big enough for the amount they're producing I swear) and it's just been a shit day all in all. Trying to remember that tomorrow will be totally different and she'll no doubt come out with about 100 hilarious things before lunchtime like usual!

I pick my battles, but when they're picked - I stick to 'em. I don't ever say no unless I'm prepared to follow through with it - I don't want the word to become meaningless.

blushingmare Wed 09-Jul-14 19:10:35

See, I think what I'm really struggling with is once I've picked the things I'm strict about, what do I do about them?!

Do you think she's too young for a Time Out? She's 2.1. When she hits, I give her a time out (don't use those words, but put her in another room and leave her to herself - she yells!) and make her come back and say sorry, but then she'll just do exactly the same again 5 seconds later and take herself off for a "time out". It's like she wants that to happen!

I'm not sure what is an appropriate and effective sanction at this age.

Bumpsadaisie Wed 09-Jul-14 19:22:19

I think a key thing to hold on to is that it is worth marking the boundary even if she immediately tries to break the boundary again.

It's tempting to think oh she doesn't pay a blind bit of notice but they do, deep down.

Different things work on different kids. When my son went through his hitting phase we used to put him in his room for 2 mins and close the door. He really hated that and got very upset about the separation. So it was an effective sanction - if he was hitting I could just say "do you want to go to your room by yourself?" and he would quickly come back into line. With DD she wasn't all that bothered though. With her it was more that as she got closer to 3 she seemed more bothered about my good opinion of her, and that was what turned out to be more effective.

LittlePink Wed 09-Jul-14 20:17:14

I struggle to know how to handle things with my LOs age too. Shes just turned two so I don't know whats appropriate discipline and whats not. Im starting to get despondent about her hitting and everything I do doesn't seem to make any difference. I put her in the corner, walk away and ignore her but its the same old thing all the time- she comes after me screaming and crying saying sorry mummy and cuddles me. Then 5 minutes later same thing all over again. Even gentle hands, hitting hurts etc etc I just feel like im wasting my breath!

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