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Advice please re sensitive two year old - especially re bath time

(21 Posts)
SunnyUpNorth Sat 13-Apr-13 16:24:21

Our dd is 2.4 years old. She has always been very fun loving, and generally a really good little girl.

Recently she seems to be very sensitive and getting upset really easily, but this is then leading to ongoing behaviour.

I appreciate that part of this is just her age, so I am trying to gloss over tantrums and reward good behaviour.

We have a 14 week old ds who she adores thankfully, and is always really sweet and affectionate to. But I also realise this is a huge change in her little world and that her insecurity with the new situation may be coming out in other ways.

The main problem we are currently having is with bath time. She used to adore her bath and would get upset to be taken out. For the first 5 weeks after ds was born she point blank refused to get in it. Eventually she got back in, with him in it, and seemed to be loving it but now is refusing again. It was been around 5 weeks or so now I think. We have tried just leaving her, trying to get her in with her cousin or friends, new toys, having a shower instead, having a bath/shower with me or dh. Nothing is working.

Dh was bringing her swimming every weekend so she was at least getting a shower there and would go in it there although not at home. But for the past few weeks she has refused to go swimming, again she used to love swimming.

Last Saturday she cut her finger. It was only a tiny cut but probably the first time she has been cut and seen blood. She was hysterical for about two hours, it was horrible. For the past week now she has refused to use her hands and has them permanently clenched. She is also refusing to wash them. She is still letting me brush her teeth and wash her face at least!

So I am having to feed her etc. she will occasionally use her thumb and forefinger on the non-cut hand if to hold a lollipop miraculously!

She has willpower that's for sure.

Then the last few days she has been stuttering a bit and keeps saying sorry all the time if she trips or falls etc, even though she hasn't hurt anyone.

We have recently tried forcibly bringing her into the shower as we were desperate to wash her (she was getting a bit smelly). It was horrible and she got very upset, but was fine as soon as it was over. But I felt wrong so I am not keen to do it again as I don't want to cause bigger problems.

She has been a bit funny with having her nappy changed but obviously I had no choice with that one so she seems to have begrudgingly accepted it. She isn't potty trained but was very happily doing a wee in it in the morning and before her bath but has refused since being on bath strike - gets v upset if I even mention it.

We have managed a sponge bath a couple of times but she is not happy with it really.

My main concern is that she is refusing to do something that she actually really loves which makes me sad. Plus I don't want to handle it in a way that could create a longer term issue like a permanent fear of bath time.

She played happily with some water in the garden yesterday so I don't think a fear of water is currently a problem.

I am also annoyed as we have booked center parcs in two weeks mostly for the swimming!

I am a full time SAHM so she is only ever with me and dh or occasionally my parents. So her world is generally very steady and nothing could really have happened that I would not be aware of such as falling in the bath etc.

Sorry this is so long, I appreciate anyone taking the time to read it and would really, really appreciate any words of wisdom.

Wishiwasanheiress Sat 13-Apr-13 17:31:24

Sorry, is she bathing alone? Or with ds? Just wondering if she saw this as her special time with u and now it's been taken over?

I'm going to have a think a bit more about other bits. Hoping this might help bump it too...

Wishiwasanheiress Sat 13-Apr-13 17:32:12

CP might be ok as she can see other kids playing. I'd encourage shallows and making friends defo.

plantsitter Sat 13-Apr-13 17:35:56

It could be attention seeking. Is there any way you can spend some time alone with her, doing something she enjoys (prob not swimming just yet!)? A sibling is a massive change, as you're aware.

plantsitter Sat 13-Apr-13 17:37:24

Sorry I didn't really finish there! I have found that spending time with one kid alone makes them behave better all round. I know it's difficult with a tiny baby but she's probably missing time with you - and attention from you.

Bumpsadaisie Sat 13-Apr-13 18:01:44

My DD was and is a bit like this. At nearly 4 she is now much better at trying to get a grip but at 2.5 she was very hysterical and got things so out of perspective.

She was never really naughty and never tantrummed. The challenging bit of the "twos" with her was the hysterics and the emotions!

I would try and give her some one on one time and otherwise just go with it and try and trust that she will grow out of it. There's no point trying to get her to stop being hysterical about the smallest thing (I know from experience) until she is much more mature and is better able to "pull herself together" something they can't really do till 4 or so.

Good luck.

SunnyUpNorth Sat 13-Apr-13 22:25:58

Thanks for replying everyone, I think you're right that it might be linked to attention.

Wishiwasanheiress - when ds was first born and the health visitor came out they suggested that it might be linked to bath time being her special time. The first time it happened was when we put him in the bath with her, she got upset and that spurred the first round of refusing a bath. But then she started having baths again with him and seemed to be really enjoying it. Liked washing him etc. Since the more recent refusal we have suggested having a bath by herself but she won't.

Plantsitter - I will try and make a conscious effort to do something on my own with her. I might try and take her out for cake at the weekend or to softplay or something. I have been trying to time it so he naps when she has her nap so I have a little bit of time to myself and to get things done. But maybe I will try to get them to nap at different times so I can have some time with her whilst he is asleep.

I think because she is such a good girl I'm prone to leaving her on her own more often. For example when he has his morning nap I go and have my shower and empty the dishwasher etc and let her watch telly for a bit while I do that. But maybe I should try and do that quickly before he goes down so I can spend time with her.

Bumpsadaisie - sounds very similar. She doesn't do anything actually naughty, just had total meltdowns because I haven't immediately got her some juice or put her slippers on as soon as she demands it! It is very tiring maintain patience and try to distract her each time especially as I am so sleep deprived at the moment.

Strangely enough,my in-laws are here this weekend and looked after ds all afternoon, so I had a couple of hours with dd on our own. Then this evening she let me give her a sponge bath, wash her hair and was really cute and funny. So I suppose that proves the point.

I had identified other attention seeking behaviour but hasn't linked the bath stuff in with it. I will try to give her more one on one time.

Thanks all for your advice and for replying.

SunnyUpNorth Sat 13-Apr-13 22:40:37

Oh and she sat on the potty for the first time in weeks too!

Bumpsadaisie Sun 14-Apr-13 11:12:13

She does sound like my DD - she adored her brother and still does. I expected a lot of her, probably too much. Like you I tended and tend to get on with my jobs when DS is asleep, poor DD often gets left to fend for herself, which she is very good at doing.

One thing that works really well for us (though not sure if your DD is big enough) is having DD in the front seat when we are out and about. She loves to be next to me and we often have really good chats.

The other thing I always made sure I did was that once DS was asleep DD always got her own story and special time with me. Again she always used to talk to me then too.

I think it helps them if you give vent to some of the feelings they must have, on their behalf. I often say to DD, its tough having a little brother isn't it, even though we love him. He always wants things! That kind of talk really helps and perhaps more so with a younger one like yours who probably really doesn't know herself yet what the problem is, and certainly can't put it into words. Ive noticed my DD recently is able to start telling me whats bothering her, but she is quite a bit older, nearly 4. The hysterics have calmed down since (alleluia!) grin

Despite her difficulties with getting things in perspective she's a lovely kid though and very sweet natured. I would rather the hysterics than an aggressive child who you can't leave in the same room as the baby.

cloudhands Sun 14-Apr-13 15:05:38

I'm sorry to hear your daughter's having a tough time at the moment, she sounds like a lovely girl, and with lovely understanding parents, that want her to enjoy life, and her experiences, and not be forced to do things that she doesn't want to do.
My daughter has been through something similiar with the bath. She used to love it, and then would have odd times, where she just refused to get in. I have taken courses, and bought some online reading material, from the Hand in Hand Parenting website, and what I've learnt is that crying is a healing process, (tears contain all sorts of toxins, and stress hormones) and also that sometimes our children, (especially the young ones) don't know how to tell us how they are feelings, so they may 'pin' upset feelings onto things, and refuse to do them, such as take a bath etc.
When my daughter doesn't want to take a bath, I know it's not to do with the bath, but probably something else, stress and tension, that build up, a series of upsetting experineces, just the general stress of living life in a busy world, and not always getting her way!
So I set a limit, and tell her she needs to take a bath, but I don't put her in the bath, I will sit with her next to the bath, and gently tell her she needs to get in. She cries about not wanting to have a bath, but what I've understood through Hand in Hand, is that this is her way of shedding all those upset feelings, as I gently hold her, give her some love and affection, she'll keep crying, and then after a while, stop, and once she's finished crying, she will happily take a bath as if nothing has happened at all!
It's amazing to watch the transformation that takes place when we gently set a limit, and stay present with our children, and listen to their upset feelings.
It's great that your daughter loves her new sibling, and she probably just needs an outlet, to let go of those contrary feelings, perhaps of jealousy or just adjusting to the change.
I definetly recommend checking out the Hand in Hand website, for more about their ideas, as this is such a loving, yet effective way of parenting.It's wonderful to be able to gently set limits, and find that if we listen long enough to our children, they will shed all their upset feelings, and then co-operate with what we want to do, it certainly life a lot easier and more affective than fighting against a challenging toddler!

cloudhands Sun 14-Apr-13 15:13:01

oh just rereading and thinking, what I like about this approach, is that your are not forcing your child to do anything, you are just saying that they need to take a bath, and then waiting till they are ready.
It can take time, but i think it is an investment, in time, as if they can release their upset feelings, they tend to be in a much better mood in general aftewards, making life easier for everybody!

SunnyUpNorth Sun 14-Apr-13 23:19:56

Thanks both. She has been really good today, it's lovely seeing glimpses of my happy little girl.

But one concerning thing is that she seems to be stuttering a bit. It's only been happening the last couple of days and we haven't mentioned it to her, just waited whilst she got it out. Poor little thing.

I haven't tried venting for her as I didn't want to out ideas in her head if they weren't there and make her dislike her brother. But I will try to think of a way to suggest things which may be upsetting her without causing more problems.

Thanks Cloudhands - I will check out that suggestion.

SunnyUpNorth Sun 14-Apr-13 23:22:16

Ps I agree that I would rather the tears than be worrying about her disliking her brother. Seeing them together is just the loveliest thing, now to just make her feel secure and happy again.

Athrawes Sun 14-Apr-13 23:34:31

Oh the hysterics and drama of a two year old! The smallest things - DON'T stir my porridge, wails etc.
I find that if I give mine a warning ahead of time that something is going to happen..."in five minutes we are going to have a bath" helps - it gives him time to digest what is going to happen, finish what he is doing and prepare himself for the change.
Just a small thing.

SunnyUpNorth Mon 15-Apr-13 09:12:33

Ps I agree that I would rather the tears than be worrying about her disliking her brother. Seeing them together is just the loveliest thing, now to just make her feel secure and happy again.

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 15-Apr-13 09:16:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Bumpsadaisie Mon 15-Apr-13 11:09:02


Don't worry that you will make her dislike her brother; the fact is your DD has feelings (positive and negative) about your DS and the new situation which are there already, they won't be "created" merely by your giving expression to them. There is no question that the arrival of a baby is unsettling for any child. Those feelings will be there already (together with the positive ones too!). All you are doing are giving expression to them and helping her. If she knows you understand and help her get a handle on it, she won't need to act out quite so much.

I was very anxious about the effect of DS arrival on DD - and was unrelentingly positive to DD about DS all the time. My own sibling was much younger so this was uncharted territory for me really. DH pointed out that maybe I should get real and acknowledge to DD what really was going on - which is a mix of love affection and pride in the new baby together with anxiety about the new set up and having to settle for coming second sometimes. I am convinced it helped DD to become a really kind big sister - she knows she can talk about it when her brother is annoying her and that its OK and the world isn't going to fall apart because of her negative feelings. If negative feelings can never be expressed, children grow up fearing their power. If your DD can say she hates/dislikes your DS/the new set up sometimes, she will see the limit of her negative feelings, that the world doesn't fall apart, that she isn't "dangerous" to your DS because of the negative feelings she sometimes has, and she will be learning a lot about the reality of relationships, which is complex.

As my two got older and started squabbling over toys I got anxious as I wanted them to love each other. But if you get really worried each time they don't get on, you'll have a nervous breakdown. Gradually I realised that they have a very deep bond - sure they don't get on if they are arguing over the same toy, but their relationship is much too deep to be destroyed by it. I don't need to worry, I just need to make sure that no-one gets hurt and that fair's fair. Sure enough now they go from arguing over a toy to having a great laugh together, in minutes.

Sorry to harp on but this is close to my heart as its something I've dealt with recently. You don't need to put ideas in her head but you can talk discursively with her about whether she finds it hard having a brother sometimes (she does find it hard sometimes - this is certain!) grin

SunnyUpNorth Mon 15-Apr-13 13:34:28

Thanks WouldBe- it's just hard to find time for one on one time but my dh is going to try and get home on time more often so he can put ds to bed and I can spend an hour before bed with dd.

Can't remember if I mentioned up thread, but she has started stuttering a bit the last couple of days. She has very good speech with lots of vocab. Not sure if this is linked to the attention thing it just developmental.

Bumpsadaisie - thanks for the detailed tips. I've tried asking her a bit today but she either got upset or ignored me! Will persevere.

Thanks again all.

gybegirl Mon 15-Apr-13 13:52:46

Hi sunny,

You've had some very good ideas here.

Just to say my one of my DDs did start to stutter for while (she too had great speech and vocab). We just waited for her to finish her sentence as it didn't seem to make her upset. It lasted a fair few months but then seemed to disappear. Another of my friends children did the same.

I also used to acknowledge that my girls wouldn't be happy with everything all the time. I wouldn't be saying "won't x be fun" when I knew that it may be a source of concern for them. Instead I'd say "we're going to do X in five minutes, I know this can make you a little bit sad, it will only take 2 minutes and we need to do it because of Y". Some people probably think I'm mental for trying to reason with a toddler, but I think that explaining why we have to do things we don't want to is a good thing - it helped my children anyway.

Reward charts with sparkly stickers also worked. 8 boxes on a line - finish the line and get a chocolate coin. Finish all 8 lines and get a magazine.

You sound so sympathetic and loving to your children!

gybegirl Mon 15-Apr-13 13:57:54

Oh and they can be hugely irrational...

After the arrival of dd2 I asked dd1 what she would like to do. She replied go to the park. I said 'that's a great idea' and then asked her to put her wellies on. she then screamed and cried for 45 minutes. Eventually, she stopped, smiled and said 'ready now'.

SunnyUpNorth Mon 15-Apr-13 15:07:54

Thanks gybegirl! They are so irrational, I particularly love when you offer to so something such as read them the book they just requested only to be met with a total meltdown. Yesterday I had the audacity to turn around in the car to look at her!! You can imagine her fully justified reaction!!

A friends daughter has recently been doing the stuttering thing and had been told by her HV that is can happen when they are learning alot of new words and their mouths can't quite keep up with their brains. So we are just being patient with that one and otherwise ignoring it.

We did a star chart recently for staying in bed til 'wakey wakey' time. She has been a great sleep for the last year but was moved to a big bed about 2 months ago and just recently seems to have worked out she can get down from it when she wakes in the morning. The sticker chart has worked really well so far so I might see if I can use it for bathtime too once she starts having them again.

Thanks again.

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