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Out of the blue unreasonable or disproportionate behaviour

(14 Posts)
WeeFreeKings Sun 21-Dec-14 20:12:32

DD is 22 months. It might be said she's going through the terrible twos early but really I need to understand what's at the root of her behaviour.

She will go from having a lovely time, giggling, being normal to absolute apoplexy in a totally unexpected, unreasonable and disproportionate way. "Time to put your coat" on can result in her throwing herself around, thrashing out, yelling, tears and fighting me going anywhere near her. Then in another situation she'll stick her arm out for me to put the coat on or say "yes". To me no rhyme or reason between the two. Each time I explain it's cold or wet so we need to put our coats on, mummy's got her coat on etc.

Starts shouting and screaming every day when I take her pjs off to put on her day clothes even though I explain pjs are for bed and day clothes are for outside.

Tonight she went absolutely beserk at DH who was putting her to bed as he always does. Resisted every single task he was trying to get her to do. Teeth cleaning, having a bath, putting clothes on etc. Same thing he does every night. She played with him nicely downstairs until bedtime.

For the purposes of not drip feeding these are the thoughts we've had. She's had a cold for 6 weeks so feels rotten. Her getting up time has not been the same every day as if we get up her at 7 so DH can see her before work we practically have to shake her awake (metaphorically not literally) because she's still asleep. I had to wake her up at 9.20am this morning. She wakes in a bad mood whether it's 7am or 9.20am. Rarely wakes in the night but does very occasionally just needing a drink. Has a new tooth recently. I'm pregnant and very poorly so not able to pick her up as much so she may feel less loved? Try and make up for it in other ways like cuddling her on the floor/a chair. She knows she's going to be a big sister and looks for photos of the baby scan on my phone. We've wondered if she's hungry as she asks for more breakfast every day and we've been giving her another piece of toast or some yoghurt. I don't think she drinks enough water for me no matter what I give her to drink it out of but drinks fine with the child minder (and her poor behaviour is on days with them and with me/& me with DH).

I see a lot of myself in her as I'm very strong willed and wasn't parented in such a way that I feel was productive (smacked a lot) But eventually I made better behaviour decisions of my own accord and turned out OK. I feel like there's a better way we could parent her to harness the strong will and not instigate this resistance, apoplexy which is just so distressing for her and for us. We hate seeing our little girl so upset and don't mean to trigger this behaviour and we'd really appreciate people's thoughts on what to do for the best.

WeeFreeKings Sun 21-Dec-14 20:15:52

Oh she also hits out at other children when they touch something she's played with or even just something she has had her eye on. Mainly smaller kids and kids her own size, rarely bigger kids, like she knows the pecking order of bullying? I watch her like a hawk when around other children. Seems unable to share nicely. Never used to be like this either and the CM had to take her into time out on her own with a cuddle on the lap of the CM when she was hitting a 9 month old.

Clobbered Sun 21-Dec-14 20:20:55

I can remember standing banging the kitchen door from hand to hand at this age and the feeling of overwhelming rage and frustration. It all got better once I could communicate more clearly.
Try not to react to tantrums any more than you absolutely have to. If she refuses to put her coat on, carry on with whatever you were planning to do and just carry the coat yourself. She'll soon put it on once she gets outside and feels the cold. If you are staying at home, then I'd suggest saying nothing, staying calm and just getting down to her level and giving her a cuddle until she calms down. You can't reason with a tantrum, and you can only wait for it to blow over.
I don't think waking her up early is such a good idea. I'd lay off talking about the new baby too, as that may be quite unsettling for her.

Above all, repeat regularly "It's just a phase. It's just a phase". This too shall pass.

MrsKCastle Sun 21-Dec-14 20:24:39

I have to be honest here... It sounds very much as though you are looking for the source of the problem 'What are we doing wrong?' 'Why is she like this?' But what you describe is absolutely normal for her age...

Toddlers are often like this. They're old enough to know their own minds ('I don't want to go to bed') but they can't express themselves clearly or logically, so instead just fight/cry/scream.

It does get easier. In the meantime, three things I would perhaps suggest:
1) an earlier bedtime, she may be overtired
And 2) plenty of warning before any change e.g. it's bathtime in 5 minutes, it's bathtime when we've finished this story, now let's put the book away, tidy up and get ready for the bath
3) use humour. 'It's time for pyjamas,llet's pop them on your nose. Oh, is that wrong? Of course, they go on your elbow... Hmmm, still not right?'

WeeFreeKings Sun 21-Dec-14 20:38:07

Thanks both. She has excellent speech for her age but of course it's still not 100% so she will be getting frustrated when she can't get her words out.

She's always slept 7 til 7 since about 8 months or so and we have to leave for the CM at 7.45 so 7.15 is the latest I could let her lie in till. At the moment it's helpful having DH do nappy, teeth and face wash before he goes to work at 7.15 as I feel rotten in the mornings and struggle with her resistance to these three tasks in the main. But she's with me/& him for the next month so can try a later start. We've tried an earlier bedtime of 6.30 but she just bounces in her cot for an hour. It's so hard because if feels like we've tried everything but of course we haven't!

We do a 2 minute notice for things as she doesn't really have a concept of time but knows to anticipate something relatively imminently with 2 minutes. Maybe we can try 5 then 2 then 1 so she is really anticipating it. Will lay off the baby talk too unless she brings it up. I try and do the cuddle through a tantrum but because of the baby have to be careful because she kicks out. I think humour would be worth a good shot as she has a great sense of humour and it does help diffuse things. You're right about the coat - I'll stop fighting that battle as she'll probably ask for it if she gets cold. The CM has started putting it on for her before I get there to avoid the drama but I can see she's been crying even with the CM doing it (very experienced CM).

I feel like I am looking for a source, a reason. If the reason is frustration then are there things I can do to not let her get frustrated? It won't be fool proof but the sleep consultant we had gave us the 2 minute trick and it's been great for 6 months. It is a phase it is a phase. But boy has it come at the wrong time when I'm feeling so hideous sad

HearMyRoar Sun 21-Dec-14 21:34:39

this does sound pretty standard for the age. It is hideous at the best of times so I can only imagine how much worse it is when you are feeling pregnant and rubbish. I second remaining calm and picking you battles. counting down from 5 really worked for us, also giving a choice between 2 things where possible is worth a try: 'time to go, do you want the blue coat or the red coat?', If she refuses to chose try 'do you want to chose our do you want mummy to chose? I chose red!' usually dd is so intent on foiling my plans that she will insist on putting on the blue cost just to show me who's bosswink .

My only other thought is whether she is due some back teeth. We found teething resulted in terrible tantrums and general disagreeableness. The back molars where particularly horrid. Once dd's teeth all came through she became much more reasonable.

WeeFreeKings Tue 06-Jan-15 12:07:37

Pretty much all her teeth are through now so I'm not expecting it to be teeth. She's just had another (of many but this one is classic) tantrum which I just can't understand.

Me: Would you like a snack?
DD: Yes
Me: What would you like?
DD: Grapes
Me: Grapes please. OK Mummy will make you grapes.
DD: Yes
DD 'helps' me make the grapes by closing the fridge door (she likes getting involved) but also winges the whole time because they're not ready immediately after she asked for them.
Me: Here are your grapes (put them on the highchair)
DD: (starts shouting and screaming) Not want it!
Me: You don't want grapes?
DD: No!
Me: Mummy asked [name] what [name] wanted for a snack and [name] said grapes.
DD: (still tantruming) Not want it!
Me: OK what would you like for a snack instead?
DD: No!
Etcetc. So I said I was going to the loo (insight of her tantruming) and would give her her snack when I was finished. She tantrumed the whole time.
Me: Do you want the grapes?
DD: Yes.
Me: Yes please. OK here they are.
And I put her in her high chair and she ate them all.

Now for the yoghurt, which she loves.

Me: Would you like your yoghurt now? (On table in sight but out of her reach)
DD: No.
Me: OK no yoghurt. Mummy will put it away (put it in kitchen out of sight)
DD: (starts shouting and screaming) Want it!
Me: You want the yoghurt?
DD: Yes
Me: But Mummy just asked you and you said no yoghurt.
DD: Yes. Yoghurt.
So I gave her the yoghurt and she ate it all.

How on earth do I cope with such random awkwardness?? It's totally counterintuitive and I just don't know how to cope! I imagine it's typical behaviour (curled up pear thread!) but how do I cope with it?

Punishments don't seem to work because then she tried to climb out of her highchair while I was getting the cloth to wipe her up, which I'd told her I was doing and she needed to sit down. She ignored me several times so I said if she didn't sit down I would take her favourite book of the day away. I explained sit down or no book. She repeated back to me the name of the book so understood I was talking about the book and she said sit down. But then stood up even more in the chair. So I took the book away.

Nothing seems to work with her. I've been giving her stickers when she tells us she's done a poo but the last few weeks she has blatantly been doing them and when we ask her she says no. Yet in her cot to delay bedtime she tells us she's done one which we hear on the monitor and she hasn't! She had successfully been telling us for a couple of months. She's just so opposite in her behaviour it's really difficult to know how to parent her. Any help from those post toddler would be much appreciated!

gourd Tue 06-Jan-15 12:57:01

Toddlers sometimes test things, to see what will happen if they do/don’t do, or say/don’t say something. As long as you are consistent I think she will learn pretty quickly what the result is of her saying no when she really means yes for example. That doesn’t mean that she will always do what you expect though! DD at 4 still deliberately annoys us or is contrary about what she wants/doesn't want leading to tears - she gets herself all wound up, (deliberately puts feet on table knocking plate off it, throws coat on floor, won’t wash hands when it’s time to eat etc.) although she ONLY does this when she is tired or needs a hug. I am trying to get through to her that she can always have a hug anyway and doesn’t actually need to need to go through a load of shouting, door slamming and tears first!

MiaowTheCat Tue 06-Jan-15 18:25:01

Counterintuitive?! That's definitely the way to describe toddlers when they have their "moments". The best description I read of them was on here, that they were like tiny drunks at that point where everything is either the funniest thing ever or the worst thing ever leading to floods of tears (woe betide you if you use the red cup they asked for and not the blue cup they decided they actually wanted).

I have one at 21 months doing the frustration tantrum routine lately (her communication isn't as advanced as her sister so I expect this will die down a bit once that comes on) and another at 32 months doing the boundary testing/defiance/see what I can get away with/don't want to type tantrums as well.

It's a phase. A crap phase but also the gateway into some of the most hilariously random conversations you will ever find yourself having.

WeeFreeKings Tue 06-Jan-15 18:26:56

Thank you gourd. It's the deliberateness of what she does (i.e. it's clearly not because she's forgotten but because she wants to say something different) that really frustrates me. She throws a proper tantrum as soon as she's changed her mind and that pitch of screaming and whining really aggravates me. Especially when it's from 0-10 in 1 second! How should I react to it because I feel whatever I do I'm doing the wrong thing?

plantsitter Tue 06-Jan-15 18:35:31

This sounds completely normal. I'm sure your being pregnant will make her even more awkward because she'll be after your attention more.

I'm not sure there is a way to change her behaviour - you'll have to work on changing your reaction to it so it doesn't make you feel so terrible. Try to develop a sense of humour about it (maybe posting about it on mumsnet helps... that grape conversation is pretty funny). I'm not saying this in a 'get a grip' way by the way.

One thing I did find helpful was saying 'teeth time' or 'facewash time' or coat-on time' rather than making it an instruction as I think that made it seem more like the inexorable rhythm of the day rather than something I was making them do - and therefore there was no point railing against it!

MsJupiter Wed 07-Jan-15 16:34:38

Oh goodness this all sounds so familiar. I think your DD has been comparing notes with my DS (26mo). It is so hard because of the frustration you feel - I do find it difficult to put my emotion aside. I find myself chanting, "he's only 2, he's only 2" to remind myself not to expect too much rationality. It's also tough when it's something really non-negotiable, for example cleaning teeth or holding hands crossing the road. If he doesn't want to do the latter he will keep pulling away until I grab his wrist, at which point he lets all his weight go so I have to drop his wrist or drag him along. No fun in the middle of crossing the road when you are carrying a couple of bags too.

DS is also very good in terms of communication so it isn't that. He just has what other posters have described - this curiosity to see what will happen and desire to express himself (vs Mummy). I am sorry I'm not giving you any answers really but I wanted to know you're not alone!

I have just bought a reward chart and I am going to start with nappy changes, as that is a key playing up time - he knows I can't just stop and put him down half way through. I thought it was a good specific task that he can understand and then add other opportunities to win stickers if it goes well. I tried a time out yesterday which wasn't very successful and got a bit 'heated' so might try the stickers for a while first.

WannaBe Wed 07-Jan-15 16:51:16

ignore the bad behaviour, reward the good behaviour.

I understand that you're trying to reason with her a lot during a tantrum but at that stage she's not up for reason. so re the conversation about the grapes I would: ask if she wants a snack, in response to yes give her maybe two choices, grapes? or cheese. confirm the choice, cut up the grapes, but at the point she started tantruming that she didn't want the grapes I would take them away, and very calmly put her in time out, be that on the stairs (e.g. naughty step although I don't like that term personally) or in a safe space i.e. another room where she is safe and you can leave her for a maximum of two minutes.

She will cry while she's in there but chances are she'll also calm down, and by the time you go back to her her thought process will have moved on. Then just tell her that you put her in there because she had asked for the grapes then screamed for no reason, give her a cuddle and consider the matter closed. she will very quickly learn that screaming gets her nowhere.

You can also use a sort of early warning - "I am going to count to three, and if you are still behaving like that you will go into time out, 1, 2, 3...." it's often like magic, but if counting doesn't work then follow through and put her in time out.

For bedtimes/going out/coming back from the park I found counting down from five minutes helped, and as they have no real concept of time you can make this a loose five minutes, as long as you get from five minutes, four, three, two, one and then "we're going/it's bedtime/time to go out," etc.

FreeWee Fri 09-Jan-15 09:21:05

Really good advice thank you. The things that resonate most are

xxx time which she's already started using herself 'wakey wakey time'
Not trying to reason with her when she's tantruming - already used semi successfully in a car park yesterday!
Only giving her 2 choices - already kept her calm yesterday snack time
Counting from 5 minutes - we've been starting at 2 but will try the loose 5!
We do the sticker chart with poos but it's regressed lately! I changed it to tickly kisses today and said she'd get one if she told me she'd done a poo. We practiced so she got the message. I'll see how it goes.

Thanks everyone

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