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Help - my nearly 3 year old acts like a wild animal sometimes and is up half the night!

(8 Posts)
fluffhead Thu 22-Sep-11 11:56:03

Hi, advice desperately needed as I am at the end of my tether. Sorry for long post. I am absolutley knackered and I can't think straight enough to write concisely.

My DD is 2.9 years old and her behaviour is really getting me down.
Bit of background: I have a 4 month old baby and DD has just started pre-school (all day, every day - long days too - this is the way it is done in Spain where we live) so two major changes in a short space of time which although she has adjusted to both well, obviously have changed her world in a big way and is having some effect upon her behaviour.

She has always been a very 'headstrong' child and was well into her terrible two stage by the age of 1...and still it continues. I know she is a lovely little girl but right now she is being a nightmare. I put some of it down to her age, and being tired but I am fed up of these 'excuses' as she thinks she rules the roost at home and I am finding it totally exhausting, especially with a little baby to look after too.

Everything is a battle - EVERYTHING. She has never been 'easy going' but blimey, from the minute she gets up it is "NO" to every request. Normal behaviour for a 2 year old but I just don't know how to handle it any more. If she does something naughty like throw her dinner on the floor I give her a warning and if her bad behaviour continues I take her to her room and leave her for 2 mins til she says sorry. It takes FOREVER which is very difficult as I have the baby too and she gets extremely hysterical, flailing around like a wild animal, screaming, banging down the door etc etc. She eventually calms down and sobs 'sorry'. It is very distressing for all of us each time it happens and I don't know what to do - continue - be stricter - use a different method???

I feel myself getting realy really angry and I am frightened at how close i am to losing it with her sometimes. If I do go nuts it just makes the situation worse. She doesn't respond to softly softly or a real telling off. I know I need to be consisent wh=ith how we tackle this but I am at a loss with what to try.

The worst time is now bedtime which was never a prob - she used to just go to bed and that was it until 8amish. She started to refuse to go to bed without Mummy or daddy sitting by her which we indulged in as she was getting SO upset and we thought the phase would pass. Not so - and it has come back to bite us. She won't go to bed (takes ages to settle her) and is up every single night screaming the house down. We no longer stay with her but do the walk back to bed approach - no talking or cuddling, just leading her back to bed. We had one night from 1am-3am of doing this and she then seemed to 'get it' and despite waking, would go back to sleep relatively quickly. But now she just screams the place down and waits for us to walk her back to bed. She just holds out her hand and is quite happy for us to go back and forth a million times. The problem is she gets hysterical - and I mean hysterical. Waking all of us up, including the baby. She also gets up around 6am every morning now which is killing me as I am up most of the night between feeding the baby and listening to her scream while my husband deals with her. Any ideas on what we could do?

I basically need advice on how to discipline her effectively and how to end these night wakings which are really taking their toll - especially on her. She is exhausted.

Thank you so much. Sorry again for going on for so long.

willowcrow Thu 22-Sep-11 13:53:15

Bless you, you sound quite worn out. My DD has just turned 3, started pre-school but afternoons only and I have a 12 week old baby. ( I also have two teenagers 17 & 14 so have been through this cycle once before) We have the baby sleep in his cot in our room and I can totally understand how in the mind of a 3 year old its unfair - mummy daddy and baby get to sleep together whilst she is left to sleep on her own. My headstrong DD's sleep has regressed too. We do need to sit with her while she falls asleep in her own bed but when she wakes in the night - for everyones sanity, she just hops in bed with me and goes right back to sleep until 7.30am. In my experience, It IS a phase and it WILL pass - could she be feeling a bit insecure?

With the tantrums, I have stopped battling totally - oh DD you don't want dinner? Ok you will be hungry (but she gets nothing else until next meal). Oh you don't want to put shoes on? Ok but you will get cold wet feet when we walk to preschool (and we DO leave the house without shoes on which are very quickly asked for) She gets lots of positive attention for the good stuff!!

I can sympathise too with the screaming it sets my teeth on edge and I do remove her from the room until she is quiet. Usually she ends up, upstairs behind the stair gate otherwise she just keeps coming back in screeching. As soon as she is quiet, she can come back down. Hang on in there with your DD she will find her calm... I actually quite like my eldest most days now!

fluffhead Thu 22-Sep-11 14:16:46

Thank you so much for your reply. Has made me feel a bit better already. We have tried the bringing her into bed with us but that made things worse. I think we have to tough it out until it passes but boy does she go mad in the dead of the night and it is just awful. It'sall just so extreme!

I am going to try your tip of 'no battles' unless she really has to do something. I have tried this before but she is such a stubborn little thing....

Wigeon Thu 22-Sep-11 14:28:35

My DD (3.3 now) has days like this - must be exhausting for you if it's happening every day. She also had a lot of change - started pre-school in April, new baby in May, major building work on our house from June for three months. But when they are flatly refusing to brush their teeth AGAIN it's not that helpful just to remember that there is a lot of change for them! I don't have any magic answers, but a couple of ideas:

DH is a very playful parent and has calmed DD down or got her to do stuff on many occasions by doing silly voices, making something into a game or a race (she loves being the winner), doing silly things (eg putting her socks on his ears) etc etc. If you search on here there are lots of threads about a book called "Playful Parenting" which DH seems to be doing without having read the book. The threads here have lots of ideas about how to implement the principles in the book. It's useful for non-cooperation or obstinacy, eg not getting dressed, rather than actual naughtiness like hitting the baby etc).

We have just recently tried a star chart / good behaviour chart which seems to be having some effect - might be worth a go? You could use it for all aspects of behaviour or just something you really want to sort out (eg the bedtimes) with a tiny treat at the end of the day or a treat at the end of the week.

fluffhead Thu 22-Sep-11 19:30:31

Yep, you are right Widgeon, it is flipping exhausting every day. And it's getting worse - the more tired she gets, the worse her behaviour is and so the cycle goes...

My DH is a very playful parent too and is quite good at getting her to do things - I'll try doing a bit more of it too.

We need to tackle the nigh wakings as these are really bad. we are all very stressed and all have dark circles under our eyes! Very good idea for the star chart - going to make one tomorrow and start it right away to see if that gets any results. Thanks so much - I needed these suggestions as I had run out of ideas and felt like I was up against a brick wall!

Wigeon Thu 22-Sep-11 19:52:14

Sooo knackering when you have a younger DC waking up in the night too.

No idea about the Spanish system but is there any way she doesn't have to be fulltime at pre-school? Do you make sure that when she gets home everything is really really low key (ie no visiting friends, no energetic games etc)? My DD gets really tired going to pre-school for just 3 afternoons a week so I can imagine that yours must be really tired.

On the star chart - we made it together with DD - just a bit of cardboard covered in paper, and covered in sticky backed plastic, DH drew some trains on it (she likes trains!), and we are such mean parents that we actually recycle the stickers that go on it (ie we use the same animal stickers each week!). But DD doesn't seem to mind.

She has the animal stickers for good things and sad faces for bad things, and if she gets more animals than sad faces then she gets a treat at the end of the week. But obviously there are lots of other ways of doing it.

I know some people go with a little treat each day (if deserved) but we decided to go with a treat on Sunday (if deserved again!) - so far it's been: a DVD of Toy Story to watch as a family, a packet of jelly tots which she bought herself from the local corner shop, a treasure hunt (her idea - basically the clues are badly drawn pictures of things round the house on little bits of paper and there were some of her toys with some of the clues (which she thought was really funny!), and at the final clue there was one small (!) Thornton's chocolate. She really loved going to the shop with £1 in a little purse which she carried, and giving the shopkeeper the money herself for the sweets etc, and she loved the treasure hunt. This week's treat - which she knows in advance - will be a magazine, again which she's asked if she can buy herself.

She is definitely still having her moments, but if nothing else it is helping us reinforce with her what our expectations are, and what good / bad behaviour is.

beautifulbooks Mon 26-Sep-11 23:22:55

She's maybe reacting to your anxiety, you poor tired mum! Please try to get some rest yourself, and a break from it all - easier said than done, I know, I've been there! Is there anyone who can help, maybe one night a week so you can sleep? Is there any way you could maybe afford some help?
It doesn't really matter how many "reward systems" etc you put in place, if you are worn out they won't help.
Please believe me that I am in no way blaming you, it's just that our little darlings are much more perceptive than we give them credit for, they just aren't able to express it or understand it.
Please, please talk to your health visitor or GP if you're feeling a bit low, with a 4 month old you may have a bit of post-natal depression without realising it, much more common than is talked about.
Hope things improve for you. Kind regards. x

LizzieMo Tue 27-Sep-11 09:29:40

My DD was a bit like this, her temper tantrums would go on forever as she is very strong willed. I found one way to 'disarm ' them was to grab her and start tickling. It would instantly make her laugh, whether she wanted to or not. Within minutes her mood was better because of the laughing, and it is also a good distraction from whatever she is tantrumming about. Not sure they would necessarily work at night time as it can be loud and boisterous, but if she is loud from the screaming, it can't be any worse. I also find that the screams of delight from being tickled have a calming effect on me- and is definitely better than screams of fury. My DD is 6 and I still use tickling now if I need to, sometimes just the mention of it can stop the bad behaviour!!

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