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AIBU? On the one hand I feel like a bad mother, on the other I wish everyone would butt out

(41 Posts)
Endo Thu 09-Jun-11 14:51:05

This might be long.

DS is not quite 2yo and to say he can be a handful is putting it mildly but it's only when we're out because at home he's a completely different child.

We go to toddler group and he's like a tornado. He rushes in and dashes from activity to activity like a ball of over excited energy. The other kids are 2-3yo so he's a few months younger and they just sort of look at him in shocked silence while many of the other mums, but not all, stare with judgey expressions. At toddler group on Tuesday he rubbed his painty hands into a little girl's hair, shovelled sand from the sand pit directly onto the floor, and kept dragging out the toys from the baby group's cupboard. I spend most of the two hours pulling him away from the toilets where he will chuck all the loo roll into the toilet if he gets the opportunity. When I'm not chasing him out of the loo I'm chasing him back into the room. The door doesn't lock so he often runs out into the corridor and tries to join the adult education classes or staff meetings going on in the other rooms. He snatches toys off one child and will try give them immediately to another child so that he can take whatever toy that child is playing with.

At other people's houses he's just as bad. He has a cousin the same age and I have friends with children the same age so he gets lots of playdates. He tries to wander off into the kitchen or bathroom, if there's a closed door he has to see what's behind it. He flings the toys everywhere. If there's a button or switch it gets pressed. He turns the TV on/off, opens all the DVD cases and takes out the DVDs, picks ornaments up, chases pets, and is generally boisterous.

I'm expecting to be flamed for being a lax parent and not watching him or guiding him but I do. I don't hover over him but I do watch him and as soon as I see him do these things I stop him, I tell him why he can't behave like that, and I either show him the right way like how to share for example or I take him away like when he's touching things he shouldn't. I take him out of the room or situation of need be and calm him down before going back. At our house he's totally different. He's not an angel, no child is, but he's much calmer and plays in a totally different way. He's a lovely boy and even when we're out he's not nasty or spiteful and while his behaviour isn't acceptable he's not actually doing it to be deliberately naughty he just gets too excited and forgets that there are boundaries and wants to do everything his own way and everything at once.

I'm getting pressure, mainly from PILs, to get him tested for behavioural problems. They keep telling me he's not normal and that none of his cousins were like this at that age. They also say things like there are no naughty children only lazy parents. I tell them he's not naughty and they agree he's not but then say he's not like other little boys though. They think I should start tapping him bum or the back of his hand because telling him and showing him obviously isn't working in their opinion. I've tapped him hand once and we were both in tears afterwards, him because I'd tapped him and me because I felt physically sick by it because I felt like I'd lost my temper and therefore lost control.

On the one hand I feel like a bad mother because the things I'm trying to teach him seem to be taking forever to sink in and despite months and months of it we seem no further forward. The faces and comments of the other mums and PILs makes me feel like I'm failing him and like I'm letting him run wild, children are a reflection of their parents is anther favourite PILs keep telling me. But on the other hand I feel like everyone should just bugger off and butt out. He's so loving and has a sunny personality, he's bright and inquisitive and imaginative and for all he can be wild he loves other children and loves getting out and about, I make a point of going out each day with him even if just to the park. He's an almost two year old, he's not going to sit still or act perfectly or be sedate. Yes he can be wild and I feel frustrated but if I keep repeating and repeating and setting the tone it'll eventually click, I would have thought so anyway. I hope.

I knew this would be long! I just feel so confused. I want him to be wellbehaved but short of strapping him to a chair I don't see what more I can do other than keep going with what we're doing, DP and I are consistent and we both sing from the same page when it comes to reining him in, I feel like it is just a matter of his age and that he'll calm down as he develops. I worry though that he's not normal, especially when I'm getting suggestions I should get him tested, and I dread toddler group because of the judgey mothers but don't want to stop taking him because he does enjoy it especially song time.

Bloody hell I need a wine

bonkers20 Thu 09-Jun-11 15:03:42

The toddler group should lock the door or have a stair gate. That's a security issue.

It does sound like you need to be "on" him more ie where were you when he put the painty hands on the other child or tipped the sand, or took ALL the DVDs out of the cases?

He's a little too young to learn boundries I'd say. What's he like when he can run free outside. Maybe he's just a very physical child and would be better either outside, or soft play, gym or swimming.

If he CAN play quietly at home then it would indicate maybe a problem with being in groups. Maybe he gets overwhelmed and this is his way of reacting.

JaneFonda Thu 09-Jun-11 15:06:36

He sounds like a normal two year old.

I really wouldn't worry too much - as long as you're consistent with what you're doing, and repeatedly tell him 'no', he should learn. He's only little, so don't expect miracles!

And ignore other judgeypants mothers, I'm sure their children aren't all angels, they're probably just glad it's not their child for once!

cannydoit Thu 09-Jun-11 15:11:06

ummmmmmmmmmmm he isnt to young to learn boundaries or how to behave well. you just need to be consistently firm with him. every time he runs out bring him back and plonk him on his bum. the same thing if he is doing something he shouldnt take him out of the situation with a firm no. and put him down else were. long, probably tantrumy and stressful to you both but he will get the hint that you mean business when you say no.
annoys me when people jump right on to the kids have behavioural problems thing.

strandedbear Thu 09-Jun-11 15:12:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Pinkjenny Thu 09-Jun-11 15:15:20

My 18mo ds is the same. I have been trying to show him what is acceptable rather than roaring, 'NO!' which was having no effect at all. I am also trying to distract and ignore the challenging behaviour. I would stress that I am trying, rather than always succeeding. You're not a bad mother, ds is my second child, dd wasn't like this at all, although she is equally challenging in different ways, and I am an excellent mother wink

<<tears hair out>>

Pandemoniaa Thu 09-Jun-11 15:22:41

I wonder if he's actually a little young to cope with this particular toddler group. I'm surprised that he can escape so readily - they really should have a stair gate or lockable door - but actually, if the other children are significantly older then it may be that his relative immaturity in that group makes his behaviour stand out. Also, it may be that he needs much smaller groups with more structured (but fewer) activities of his own choosing.

I had a very lively ds2 who would, if left to his own devices, need to open every door or tinker with the controls on washing machines, televisions etc. He did know the boundaries but sometimes the red mist would come down and my solution was always to take him home. I do remember the constant watching though which could be very tiring. However, I also remember one of his friends who behaved similarly but who somehow managed to complete the unwanted activities and he'd leave my house looking like it'd been burgled. Unfortunately, his mother thought she was "onto him" but sadly, nowhere near as quickly as needed and eventually, the invitations stopped coming which was sad.

I very much doubt your ds has behavioural problems. It's just that, right now, he's not quite established how he should behave but then he's not 2 yet either. Certainly I cannot see how either of you would benefit from bringing smacking into the equation.

bonkers20 Thu 09-Jun-11 15:25:40

OK, I said he was too young to learn boundaries. I suppose what I meant was that he's a little too young to really get what they are without much demonstration and repetition.

HushedTones Thu 09-Jun-11 15:31:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

shrinkingnora Thu 09-Jun-11 15:44:58

Distraction is your friend - lots of time saying "Oooh! Looooook!" in madly excited Blue Peter presenter tones while you remove the DVD etc and move him to another activity. I'm sure I read somewhere that they need to be told stuff 200 times at this age before they learn it. I can well believe it!

This phase will pass so even though you probably need to hover a bit more for now, you will soon be able to relax a bit. Try not to fall in the trap of staying at home because it is easier - he will get there.

Re the unhelpful comments from family - ignore, ignore, ignore. They are trying to help albeit in a pretty daft way but you need to parent in a way that you are comfortable with. Even if he does turn out to have behavioural issues, the best thing you can do for him is be clear and consistent. Show him that no means no and distract him wherever possible. It really works!

shrinkingnora Thu 09-Jun-11 15:47:33

And I know it feels like the world is watching and judging when you have a really full on toddler, but they probably aren't. They may be feeling sympathetic and grateful it's not them, but they probably aren't judging. DS1 was the most boyish exuberant mad thing ever. He has calmed down massively over the last six months and is totally delightful. He's nearly five now though hmm

GreenEyesandHam Thu 09-Jun-11 16:04:26

I could have written your OP two years ago. Word for word. In fact you've just described my son to a tee.

I can't tell you how stressed out we were over it. He's my third child, the eldest two were nothing like, and now are 'model pupil' types so I cavalierly thought I had this parenting thing pegged.

Mine is nearly four now, and seems to be getting better all the time, as he understands more about what is, and isn't acceptable. Hang in there (smile)

Sparkletastic Thu 09-Jun-11 16:09:39

Avoid toddler group and avoid PIL for a while. He will learn boundaries and self-control in good time if you keep up with the firm parenting as you already are. In the meanwhile totally agree that you continue to get him doing energetic energy-burning activities (not in groups) for the next few months or so then try groups again. He could just be over-stimulated and needing LESS company not more.

controlpantsandgladrags Thu 09-Jun-11 16:10:05

Do you think he actually enjoys going to toddler group? If it stresses you out that much, and he's not bothered either way, I would consider giving it a miss for a few months and then trying it again. You could always take him for a morning at the park instead.

It doesn't sound to me like he has behavioural problems I have to say......sounds exactly like my DD at a similar age! In the end, I used to tell her "no" and warn her if she did it again we would go home. I would then follow that through. She soon got the message, although she was probably a few months older than your DS.

ballstoit Thu 09-Jun-11 16:19:44

He sounds very much like DD2 is at the moment (she's 2 next week). If you really want to persist with this toddler group, I would go via the park, having a very energetic game of football on the way.

Having said that, I would look for a toddler group which better suits your son's behaviour and needs...perhaps one with some outdoor play space and other children his age. The extra year makes a HUGE difference to behaviour, so he probably seems very different to the other children.

Your PILS sound spectacularly rude and unhelpful. I imagine they proably see the worst of your DS's behaviour as you are unlikely to be on top parenting form when you're with them. I would get your DH/P to have a word. I very much doubt that your DS has behaviour problems, you definitely don't sound like a lazy parent and even if he has or you are, the lack of supporty is unlikely to help the situation.

Good luck, as with all childhood phases this shall soon pass and be replaced by something worse

JamieAgain Thu 09-Jun-11 16:26:15

I wouldn't take him to toddler group if I were you. It sounds like he gets over-excited and it's a trial for both of you. He will (most likely) grow out of it. At this age it is a drip-drip approach in a calm, firm manner. Don't panic and don't add guilt to the difficulties of parenting a toddler. It will make you anxious and less likely to put your behaviour strategies in place calmly.

But I re-iterate, toddler groups don't suit every child. All this emphasis on socialisation - some at this age are not ready for big groups

bumblingbovine Thu 09-Jun-11 16:26:33

Ds was exactly like this, you can also add hitting other children out of the blue to that. I did hover over him constantly and that meant that he didn't get the reputation of being a particularly difficult toddler as I would be able to intervene/stop/remove him in time around 90% of the time. We also did end up leaing quite few places if I felt he was getting too wild. I would usually then take him to a quiet part or something to calm down or home for food and a rest.

I didn't always manage to stop all the "out of the blue" hitting but I did often enough for Ds to be no worse than other children his age. It was frankly exhausting though. I would attend toddler groups but would take breaks for a couple of weeks if ds seems to be particulalry difficult on any particular day.

I am sure your ds is fine but Ds definitely went into asort of "sensory overload" when out in places that offered a lot of sti mulation. He was better at home, but he still was quite a handful even there. Ds (6 yrs old) does now have some behavioural problems but my friend's ds who was similar does not.

I don't think the things you are describing mean your ds has behavioural problems at all but if I were you I would take him to the toddler group less often and I would really follow him everywhere and "play with him" a bit.

I know these places are seen as somewhere to meet adults and relax by some parents but I just saw them as a change of scenery for ds. I didn't see then as a chance for me to relax much.

JamieAgain Thu 09-Jun-11 16:27:53

Oh, and you are right to not want to smack him

JamieAgain Thu 09-Jun-11 16:29:09

DS2 was like this, BTW, so I do know. I considered myself to be an excellent parent to DS1, then DS2 happened wink. He's a lovely normal 8 year old now

Piggyleroux Thu 09-Jun-11 16:32:36

He sounds like my 14 mo ds! I was like this at that age as well. I avoid too many toddler groups for this reason.

What helps me is to take ds to the park for half an hour before we go anywhere to let him run off some energy. Seems to work for us.

sunshineandbooks Thu 09-Jun-11 16:42:48

Endo, how do you feel about your son? Do you feel he may have a problem or do you simply feel that even though he's hard work at playgroup he's perfectly normal and ok? What's your gut reaction?

IMO, most parents know if something is not quite right, so listen to your instincts. If you think he's fine and it's just a phase, don't let other people make you feel bad.

FWIW, he sounds exhausting but perfectly normal to me. smile

tomhardyismydh Thu 09-Jun-11 16:58:05

he sounds like my DN who is now 4.10 and gets on very well at school, he is still very boisterous and aggressive at times but my dsis does you and takes all these things in hand, he is maturing and has been complimented allot lately at school on his kind nature towards his other class mates, he has no problems sitting and concentrating at school and behaving.

My dsis was worried when he started pre school but he did well their also. I think if he isnt enjoying his play group I would not take him. my dsis would stick to friends and family who were happy and able to accommodate him. I dont think this shows any signs of behavioral problems or SN, and he is to young to be accurately assessed to be honest.

tomhardyismydh Thu 09-Jun-11 16:58:36


LaWeasel Thu 09-Jun-11 16:59:39

I have to say, he sounds like the exact opposite of my DD - she is so painfully shy at groups, but at home runs around like her bum is on fire.

I have definately met kids like your DS - my assumption has always been that that is more normal, and they're just overexcited.

Everyone has worried moments. But with my DD, I do think it's just a phase, and I think it will probably improve when she is old enough for pre-school and she gets used to social situations where I'm not there...

Maybe your DS will improve then too?

Or park sounds like a good plan. :D

WriterofDreams Thu 09-Jun-11 17:04:58

I would say it's just a phase. I've worked with children who have behavioural problems and their behaviour doesn't change at all at home. The same is true for children with "lazy" parents - in fact their behaviour usually gets worse at home. The fact that he can and does behave pretty well at home would make me think that being in groups is just too much for him at the moment. When he's at other people's houses you're just going to have to shadow him a lot until he can regulate his own behaviour. He sounds like a bright inquisitive boy. If it's any help a lot of the kids I've known who are like your DS grow into really interesting lovely children who can be cheeky but who are generally a lot of fun.

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