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Single mom struggling to set boundaries with 2yo

(12 Posts)
OhMyTummyMummy Fri 19-Aug-11 14:51:49

Hello there. I am sure mine is a familiar story but I am really struggling and would appreciate your patience and advice. Here is the context:

I am a single mom, my lovely only child daughter will soon be 2, I work for myself and we have practically no contact with my daughter?s father. We don?t live near family and have few friends as we have just moved.

My daughter is joyful, social and a petite rocket on legs. The apple has not fallen far from the tree as she is also strong willed.

Everyone said the first year would be hard. But no one told me it would get even harder as my daughter asserts her personality, no longer does what I ask her to do, and as she starts to scream when she doesn?t agree with what mummy says! And over recent months we have got into a bit of a negative spiral with these continual little power struggles.

They flare up when I want her to hold my hand as we walk along the road, or if I tell her to stop picking up dirt in the playground, or when I want her to get back in the pushchair and so on.

My daughter?s reaction is to ignore my requests - which go from calm to emphatic to desperate to irate. If I try and pick her up and take her away from the bin she wants to explore (for example) she wriggles like a worm and screams the place down, then runs back to whatever has caught her eye.

If I ask her to stop throwing her food on the floor and to leave it on her plate if she doesn?t want it, she just smirks, and makes an even bigger show of dropping it ? looking at me as if to say ?what are you going to do now mummy??

I try and explain why she can or can?t do something but I basically feel completely impotent faced with this little girl who needs me to set boundaries and stay in my role as adult rather than have a mummy melt down!
I don?t lash out, but I do lose my cool and I shout or pick her up roughly as I feel completely powerless and useless and totally and utterly exhausted and angry too as I feel I have so little left to give that this is just the last straw? and then I feel like a rubbish mum and I hear my mum in my own voice ? my mum is a woman who appears crushed by fatigue and frustration. And I am not like my mum. I used to be optimistic, joyful and full of enthusiasm about life.

Above all, I want to make my daughter feel safe, to help her discover the world but to also see and respect certain limits and boundaries?I need her to listen and take notice of her mummy. Let?s face it, if I can?t do this now, then I am doing her a huge disservice and things are going to get a lot worse!

And here is where I am really looking for ideas and tips as I don?t feel I anything left in the tank. Many thanks for your patience in reading this far and all tips and suggestions how to help a toddler understand a ?no?, how to deal with inevitable conflict and how to avoid everyday drama would be most gratefully received.

Firsttimer7259 Fri 19-Aug-11 15:05:38

I would say pick your battles seeing as your are currently in a head on power struggle. So avoid flare ups you dont need (eg the dropping of food/table manners stuff) and focus on the battles you must fight because there are safety issues involved (crossing the street and not playing in the bins). If you have fewer battles hopefully that will help you stay calm and deal with her from your adult place and not collapse into a child like space (where you sink to her level.) So no losing your rag. Punch pillows after shes gone to bed, tell her you are angry but dont tantrum in front of her.

Make sure you are getting enough childcare so you can get a bit of rest so you can re-charge and re-evaluate. You can do this, you just need to give yourself enough time to catch your breath.

Firsttimer7259 Fri 19-Aug-11 15:07:28

And dont freak yourself out about how you are going to handle all the stuff yet to come. Deal with this, go easy, take your time. You wont make it perfect in one big rush.
(And no I am never this wise in my own life)

BlueArmyGirl Sat 20-Aug-11 16:40:55

Like firstimer said pick your battles, but also deal with them consistently.

Decide what it is you want to change and what you want instead then prioritise - you can't change everything at once. Decide what you are or aren't comfortable with in terms of the way you will deal with things (we all find different things easier or more difficult to cope with and all have ways of dealing that we are more comfortable with) and then decide how you are going to deal with the things you have prioritised and do it consistently. Btw, it'll get worse before it gets better as she tests you and the boundaries to see if you really mean it....

Not that everyone would agree with me, but remember she's not quite two so actions speak louder than words. She doesn't need you to go in to lengthy explanations about what she should/shouldn't be doing and why she just needs to know (using bin example) 'no, dirty' as you move her away from the bin and stand infront of it so she can't get back to it again before you distract her with something else grin . Remember too that her understanding of negatives - don't - won't be great so avoid using them when you're asking her not to do something, tell her what you want her to do insead e.g. instead of 'don't run', say 'walk'.

tethersend Sat 20-Aug-11 17:00:48

It's not a battle.

It's a war.

Lose the battle, but win the war wink

Agree with the others, let some things go if it means you will be calm enough to deal with the important stuff.

Use trickery into making her think things are her idea, not yours.

Give choices. Do you want to do this or this?


Count to three after telling her what she needs to do/choice she needs to make- this gives her time to finish what she's doing and move away from the bin etc.

Use melodramatic emotions yourself so she can see that her actions are making you sad/happy etc.

Planned ignoring. When she throws food on the floor, it's to get a reaction from you. Don't give one. Act as if she hasn't done anything and pick it up later. Or act all surprised 10 minutes later that there's food on the floor and give her a brush/cloth to help clean up.

Agree with BlueArmyGirl- label the behaviour you want to see.

Pretend you're frightened to cross the road and see if she will hold your hand to make you feel better.

And relax. You clearly love her a lot and she knows this smile

Trouble100 Sat 20-Aug-11 18:42:10

Only thing I can really add is the classic: ignore the behaviour you don't like, praise the behaviour you want. Sometimes we forget the latter when we're knackered and feel like it's a constant battle but it really does make a difference.
I seem to remember that I found a book 'toddler taming' by Dr christopher Green quite helpful at that age.

OhMyTummyMummy Sat 20-Aug-11 20:00:40

Thanks so very very much for all these insights and your support. I will let you know how it goes!

cangaroo Sat 20-Aug-11 21:45:01

I really wanted to reply to your post. My son is around the same age, and going through similar things. So are all my friends. You sound like you are doing a fantastic job, clearly really thoughtful and loving. I know how easy it is to feel like a crap mum, and that everyone else must be so much better at knowing what to do and setting boundaries. But you sound like you are finding your way just like everyone else is.

The best advice I can give from my own experience is that every stage has its' challenges, and you just feel like you have got the hang of it, and then your LO changes and other parenting challenges occur, and you have to deal with that. I think that the toddler years are probably the hardest, but it will pass and things will feel easier (I hope!). It sounds like you are a great mum, stick with it and give yourself a break!

OhMyTummyMummy Mon 22-Aug-11 15:26:07

Thanks so much for these words of support xx

Bumpsadaisie Mon 22-Aug-11 16:25:45

My DD is just over two and just starting to assert herself. Its stressful as you realise you now have a whole person on your hands and a whole load of negotiating to do that you don't have to with a baby! Dont worry if you feel you are doing a crap job and you have no authority. We all feel like that, honest.

Here is what I try to stick to myself, mainly culled from much wise advice from all my pals further on in parenting than me!

- try to give a few minutes warning when sth is coming to an end. It can't be nice for them to be deeply engaged in throwing pebbles in a river only have have mum suddenly say "right that's it, off we go" and march them off. I am guilty of this often but am trying to be more considerate to her little feelings.

- don't "lose it" all the time and sink to her level of shouting etc. for the everyday battles. Instead try to distract - if she doesn't want to leave the playground, say "but we will be late to meet Daddy" and then start asking whether she wants A or B for supper. She will hopefully get distracted by having to make a simple choice. Or make a joke - if she is insisting on putting on her shoes at bathtime say "but we can't wear shoes in the bath can we, they will get all wet, how silly!" and make a silly face.

-While she is whining/shouting/tantrumming repeat "I am the adult, I am the adult, I am the adult". Her behaviour is developmentally appropriate - don't be afraid of it or upset by it. I think we panic as we think we are breeding a monster - but ALL of US were like this at two. She won't be like this at 5! Just as she changed from newborn to older baby, and now she has changed from older baby to toddler, so she will change from toddler to pleasant (most of the time!) schoolchild.

- if she is throwing food around at the table (my DD does this often, aarghh!) I tell her if she doesn't stop, it is going in the bin. You then need to follow through and chuck it! (Cue wailing - let her wail for a bit then distract/cuddle and "make up".)

- save the shouting for the biggies - awful behaviour, dangerous behaviour. Then really go for it! If my DD runs into the road, wilfully trashes a library book, hits me in the face, I do shout (I don't mean yell/shrill, I mean talk very very loudly and very firmly "eg Don't you dare hit me in the face DD!!!" at full volume and max outrage!) as if I mean business and she gets a real shock and starts crying. I do usually mean business as I am angry! This is good as it makes an impression. I let her cry and hide her face for a couple of minutes then I pick her up give her a cuddle, say softly "you mustnt do x" then "lets have a cuddle and kiss now". It's up to you as the adult to "put things right" after a fallout.

-if it's a small thing, eg you get half way down the stairs and she starts piping up about how she wants to go back and get x teddy, then although it is a total pain in the arse for you, consider letting her do it if you aren't in a huge hurry. After all they like to feel that they have a bit of control and that their wishes count too. I'm always tempted just to say "oh for goodness sake you don't need it" but it doesn't actually cost much effort to humour her sometimes. It's not important to me but it clearly is to her.

Onwards and upwards ... grin

Bumpsadaisie Mon 22-Aug-11 16:29:11

Oh, yes, big up the praise when she stops doing what you don't want and does what you do want!

Eg when my DD goes back to eating nicely after chucking stuff around, I tend to be so wrapped up in thinking "thank god for that, now I can carry on chatting to DH/whoever", that I forget to tell her well done for eating up nicely.

MotherOfHobbit Sun 28-Aug-11 20:16:40

I don't have too many tips other than what has already mentioned but just wanted to commiserate. My DS also doesn't listen. He loves 'no'. He thinks its hilarious and its a great game that he can get Mummy and Daddy to perform on command by doing things he knows he's not allowed to. Of course, once we insist he doesn't do it then it turns into a tantrum.
Sorry, no great helpful pieces of advice but there are a lot of us in the same boat. I just keep reminding myself that it's a phase and he'll grow out of it. Not so easy to remember while you're dealing with it though!

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