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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.

UriGHOULer Thu 31-Oct-13 15:20:16

Somethingonce, I completely agree and with my own kids (because i know what they're like) I would definitely put that sort of thing down to 'experimenting' grin if they were just doing it for nothing.

But the op did say she was sorting the laundry and perhaps the toddler had been trying to get mums attention.

PaperSeagull Thu 31-Oct-13 15:24:32

I think you overreacted. I'm certainly not trying to make you feel bad in any way, but your response seems disproportionate to the "crime." Cancelling a trip to the park and taking all his toys away? That is quite harsh for a little one.

The fact that your son was adopted and has not been with you for long is very relevant. How long has he been with you? How is the attachment process going so far?

A woman I admire greatly, who has adopted four girls, is one of my guides to raising children. She says many wise things, and one of the wisest is that focusing on your relationship with the child is the most important thing of all. When the relationship is strong and secure, everything else is much easier. She also says to keep short accounts. In other words, forgive your son for his thoughtless words and move on.

Congratulations on the adoption, BTW. smile

mennie1980 Thu 31-Oct-13 15:26:29

Thanks, I suppose I was just looking for gentle advice but a bit od hand holding to assure me I am not the shit mum I feel like.

Can I just express again, he has been in care since birth so not subjected to a violent past.

Glimmerberry Thu 31-Oct-13 15:31:16

They pick up all sorts (my 26 monther has a habit of saying, "Don't you dare!") and it's a bit alarming, especially when it hasn't come from you. But remember at this age they don't really fully understand the meaning behind what they are saying.

Try to make discipline more closely linked to what has happened e.g. He's thrown his toys, put the toys away.

MummytoMog Thu 31-Oct-13 15:31:34

My two year old and my four year old have taken to screaming 'GO TO WORK' at me when I do something they don't like. It's a bit upsetting, but I at least have the back story of their entire lives with me, and know they don't mean it. It must be incredibly tough to take on a toddler (and they are SO challenging at that age) without having had the learning curve up to that point. You might have been a bit harsh, but it's ok, just move on. He probably won't even remember once he wakes up. He sounds super articulate and bright, so maybe if you haven't read it, try 123 Magic, which I love. I don't use it slavishly, but it is SO helpful to me in understanding why my children push the boundaries. Good luck xx

PS nobody is perfect at parenting. When I am at home I consider it a good day if we only have one meltdown (mine or theirs) an hour.

Nanny0gg Thu 31-Oct-13 15:35:09

I really think that expecting an under-3 to apologise (he wouldn't necessarily understand what he was wishing on you) and have any real understanding of apologies is a bit unrealistic. Especially when you don't know how that sort of behaviour was handled in the past.

Certainly tell him to stop and take the toys away so he can't chuck them. And if he carries on misbehaving an immediate 'cause and effect' punishment would be better. Also, a sweeping ban on everything planned is too much. What have they got to lose with later bad behaviour? Nothing left to use as stick or carrot.

You're not a shit mum - if you were you would go ahead and not even think of asking for advice. There's lots of different boards on here where there'll be lots of support and advice for you.
It's obviously going to be quite a learning curve for you and I wish you and your new family lots of luck.

notanyanymore Thu 31-Oct-13 15:38:08

sounds like pretty normal toddler behviour (but then I do have a tantrumer!) he's only 2 i don't think they understand empathy at that age.

i think you should leave it now, he's a bit little to bring it up again when he wakes. give him a cuddle and have a nice afternoon, he's already had he's punishment hasn't he?

YouTheCat Thu 31-Oct-13 15:38:09

Mennie, don't sweat the small stuff or you'll spend half of your time telling him off. Toddlers are a totally different species - give yourself a chance to get used to each other.

TheFabulousIdiot Thu 31-Oct-13 15:39:37

I think you have been too harsh.

dreamingbohemian Thu 31-Oct-13 15:40:07

Have you seen the Behaviour or Parenting sections on here? Much more gentle places to get advice smile

I would second Paper's post about short accounts. We got the 1-2-3 Magic book when DS was going through some terrible toddler behaviour earlier this year (it's quite good btw) and it emphasises that any punishment is to be very short (3 minutes) and then you just move on.

What it would suggest in this case is -- the first time your DS throws toys on the stairs, you tell him calmly but firmly that he shouldn't do it. If he keeps doing it, you say 'One', if he continues then 'Two,' and then 'Three' if he still doesn't stop. At three you remove him from the scene and put him somewhere (a chair or a special spot) and he has to stay there for 3 minutes. You don't yell or go on about it, you just remove and put him there. Then afterward you go and let him up and move on. They don't push the apology but you can add that if it's important to you, I think.

I don't know how that sounds to you, but I can say it was incredibly effective for us. Very quickly we only ever had to say One and DS would stop what he was doing.

Oh and if it's something really bad, like hitting, you go straight to Three.

Basically it's just a simple way of communicating boundaries. And it takes some of the guesswork out of parenting because you have a go-to strategy. And if you do overreact, well, it's three minutes in a chair, you don't have to feel too guilty.

whois Thu 31-Oct-13 15:49:56

I think you were really harsh and had a massive reaction to him saying he wanted to hurt you. He was probably just testing boundaries or looking for a reaction, or reassurance that you do love him.

He's 2 and not yet really in control of his emotions (understatement). I think you should have brushed off the nasty comment amd said something like "oooh but if mummy broke her leg how would she be able to catch you for a hug" and given him a massive bear hug and kisses or tickets or something to diffuse the situation.

conkercon Thu 31-Oct-13 15:49:59

You are not a shit mum. You are trying to do your best. When my son was around the same age he wanted a sponge finger. But he would not say thank you so I would not give him the finger. That battle went on for hours. He cried, I dug my heels in. What a total plonker I was.

He is 17 now and still loves me I think so don't worry. When he wakes up put it behind you and start again.

PaperSeagull Thu 31-Oct-13 15:51:06

OP, have you read The Connected Child? It is all about adoptive families. There is also a book called The Weaver's Craft which is specifically about toddler adoption.

If your son spent 2+ years with a foster family, he is probably still experiencing grief and confusion about losing them and he can't possibly understand why it happened. He is just too young to be able to process this loss cognitively. On the one hand, it is wonderful that he had a loving foster family caring for him since birth and was able to form attachments to them. OTOH, this means that leaving them was probably quite traumatic for him.

Do you have a rocking chair? The woman I mentioned above absolutely swears by it as a way to foster closeness and attachment. Swimming together is also great for that.

Sparklyboots Thu 31-Oct-13 15:52:57

Mine is 2.10 too!

WRT throwing things down the stairs, offer an alternative with your explanation (that you may be hurt)? I would have offered waiting until I was out of the way, finding an alternative direction to throw stuff in, or finding something more appropriate to throw in this case. I think if you can find things to tell him TO do you get more cooperation than if you are telling him to NOT to do stuff.

WRT him saying he hoped you would get hurt, I wouldn't in any way take it personally. I meet stuff like this from mine by turning it into a joke or game (to make us both laugh and lighten the situation) - think of it as role play where you're teaching him how people respond but in a light emotional atmosphere. So in this case, mock serious, " You hope I will fall down the stairs?! AND break my leg?!! But that's OUTRAGEOUS!!! I would be so upset!!! AND we wouldn't be able to go to the park!!! Then we'd ALL be crying!" Cue melodramatic sobbing - all said and done in a way that he knows you're trying to make him laugh. He'd understand that he's not to say that to people but you wouldn't be at odds with him.

WRT refusal to apologise, I actually don't think you can force a genuine apology in any circumstance - I think it unlikely you want to teach him to make false ones. Apologies have to come from them. Mine IS a good apologised, but I've never forced him to make one. I've apologised to him lots and in social situations where he's hurt or upset another child I tell him why the upset and then turned to the other child and said, "Sorry x," sometimes with a brief explanation. He usually joins in the apology, and has sometimes initiated them. I have also.sometimes suggested WE go and make one when he has upset someone then buggered off, always with an explanation as to why they're upset. I can only remember him refusing once in this sort of set up and I went and apologised on my own. Even if I suspect he knows, or worse did it on purpose to upset the child, I talk and act as if he means well and has upset by accident because I want him to know that whatever he does I believe him to he good and lovable.

I come from a position that I should model rather than direct the behaviour I want from him.

wonderingsoul Thu 31-Oct-13 16:08:13

ybu hes 2, he wont understand the punishment , plus given hes still getting used to you i think you have been way over the top.

i would have just said thats not nice and got on with what ever you where doing.

saying that every one is allowed bad days and it doesnt mean you cant make amends. put it behind you have a cuddle and enjoy your day together.

intitgrand Thu 31-Oct-13 16:19:44

He's 2 he doesn't understand what a broken leg is!
why didn't you just say, if i break my leg it will be too poorly to take you to the park for a long long time.And then distract!.
1)You have just adopted this kid you need to be warm and loving and understanding not have him crying himself to sleep.
2)The main message here should have been the not throwing toys onto the stairs, and that has been lost in the crap that happened afterwards
3) There is only one way for a child to develop empathy and consideration for others and that is to experience it.They learn what they live!

HoleyGhost Thu 31-Oct-13 16:23:07

With little kids you always get second chances so quit beating yourself up

Though I do think you were harsh - you are expecting so much of him and yourself.

RedHelenB Thu 31-Oct-13 16:25:43

My nearly 7 year old might say something like that but I know he doesn't mean it & certainly wouldn't punish him for it. Re the toys, I think I would have said they are not to go on the stairs & removed them, Sounds like an experimental game tbh. I think when he wakes up he will have forgotten the suggested punishment 8& throwing things over the stairs so i'd start from scratch at that age. it is only really now that my boy understands cause & effect re punishments (dds seemed to grasp it a lot quicker!) Mischief & immediate gratification are often worth the punishment!

mennie1980 Thu 31-Oct-13 16:31:34

Intitigrand, oh to be the perfect parent without any insecurities.

I am warm and loving. I am well aware they learn what they live but he has also been severely lacking boundaries in his foster home and I will not be dictated to by a two year old so I am enforcing boundaries.

NoNoNoMYDoIt Thu 31-Oct-13 16:32:54

my 2.10yr old stood at the top of the stairs screaming "I hate you". and when I didn't respond, she shouted even louder. "I said - I hate you". I can't remember why she hated me at the time, but I doubt she really knew what it meant.

OP - sounds like you are feeling insecure, so is there anywhere you can turn for assistance? perhaps the adoption board could help you?

don't feel guilty - I have overreacted at times to things which have pushed my buttons. DS went through a phase of spitting in my face when I was trying to reprimand him - getting down on his level to talk to him with eye contact, super-nanny style. the first time he did it (he was 2 or 3), I totally flipped at him as I was so angry. however, I only did that the once. the next time he spat at me, I walked away and left him. my reaction and the surge of anger I felt towards him made me scared as I really felt that I could have lashed out at him there. so I decided to pick my battles - and spitting got ignored when it was directed at me. he only did it 2 or 3 times and then stopped, so that tactic obviously worked.

he probably did want your attention, or just wanted to experiment, or was tired (if he then cried himself to sleep).

be kind to yourself; pick your battles; don't expect perfection from yourself (or him) and don't take it personally.

neolara Thu 31-Oct-13 16:33:34

I'm afraid that I too think you over-reacted. At not quite three he is unlikely to have any concept whatsoever of what breaking a leg really means. Consequences also need to be immediate and if possible, linked to the "crime". The consequence you imposed effectively lasted all afternoon. If you ask him, I'm pretty sure he won't be able to tell you why the activities have been cancelled. I think 1-2-3 magic is a great book, but at not quite 3 I'm not sure he is ready for it yet. Toddler Taming is great for understanding the basics of bolshy toddler behaviour. It's also very good (the best book I've seen) for explaining what is reasonable to expect from kids at every age.

There is a lovely, lovely book called Playful Parenting that is definitely worth a look at. It's very kind on both kids and parents. The techniques are also very, very effective.

But don't be too hard on yourself. No parent gets it right all the time. You're presumably both learning about each other. I've had my 3 with me from birth and I frequently get it wrong. I just have to try and do it better next time.

NoNoNoMYDoIt Thu 31-Oct-13 16:35:03

cross-post. boundary enforcing is important, but you have to realise that it will take him time to adapt and he will push those boundaries...

make sure you give him LOADS of praise for anything which isn't negative. not just positive behaviours but the absence of negative (iyswim).

ignore those behaviours which aren't dangerous or serious, and focus on those behaviours which are undesirable.

don't tackle too many things at once. focus on sleeping / eating if those are important. also safety outside the home.

pick the other things off one at a time once he is safe and secure in his own environment.

good luck!

intitgrand Thu 31-Oct-13 16:36:05

at the moment he must be feeling confused,cheated, cross , frightened at being taken from the family he has been with since birth.These are too bigger feelings for him to be able to manage by himself.He is going to direct a lot of anger at you
Please don't get upset but it is normal and natural for him to sometimes direct these feelings at you.You just have to hang in there.Understand him and build up a relationship of trust.

intitgrand Thu 31-Oct-13 16:37:21

I don't mean to sound patronising it is a very hard road you are travelling, but because you clearly care so much you will get there in the end.

mennie1980 Thu 31-Oct-13 16:41:00

When he woke up we made cakes and now DH is home they have gone for a kick about to give me a bit of space. Cuppa and a cry

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