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18 month old very upsetting behaviour - advice please

(43 Posts)
Glizz Tue 10-Feb-15 08:43:54

My daughter has got into a bizarre pattern of behaviour where she only wants the attention of one adult and shuns everyone else. The person changes but unfortunately I get the brunt of the rejection, some days she throw a tantrum if I walk in a room or look at her, if her Dad or Gran etc are there. It's embarrassing and upsetting, each person finds it funny until they are in receipt of it then they in turn realise how hurtful it is. It is beginning to affect our whole family, my husband wants to start naughty stepping her but I don't feel the behaviour is clear cut enough for it to work. It's been going on for a long time and I know it is likely still a phase but I need some advice on how I can manage it now. I get loads of quality time with her where we have fun but I feel that is all cancelled out by the fact she is so awful to me when someone else is around (not always, but especially this morning :-(). I know my MIL thinks she isn't bonded to me, and tbh in dark moments I wonder if that might be true.
Please help!

Velvetbee Tue 10-Feb-15 08:57:25

Small children do this but you're risking turning it into a 'thing'. She's a tiny, tiny person and you're giving her power over your happiness - don't.
Be bright and breezy, you know she's fickle and will change her preferences in a heartbeat. Just carry on with your day, setting an upbeat emotional tone.
And she's too young for the naughty step.

Quinandthem Tue 10-Feb-15 09:02:32

My 18m dd goes through phases - often in the same hour - when she prefers my h or me.

We laugh about it as it means that 'favourite' person has to change the nappy, read million books etc. sometimes we ignore her preference when it's not convenient to us and she gets over it quickly.

ShadowsShadowsEverywhere Tue 10-Feb-15 09:08:34

I'd say this is fairly normal. Both mine went through phases like this. Just largely ignore it and remember the mantra "this too shall pass" because twee as that sounds, it will and before you know she will be fully into the terrible twos! Don't make it into a thing because if she sees it gets a strong reaction from everyone she will keep doing it. Just carry on oblivious and try not to take it personally. You are the everyday person that she sees all the time. Everyone else has fun novelty factor. When she's hurt or sick though you will be the one she cries for, and she is bonded to you.

Pagwatch Tue 10-Feb-15 09:09:51

You are all reacting to it too much - all of you.
The thing children do is, if something gets a strong reaction they do it more.

She's a tiny person attempting to control her environment.
Look at it from the outside. You have a whole room of adults being controlled by a toddler. You need to stop layering adult emotions on a toddler .

Glizz Tue 10-Feb-15 09:18:09

You're all saying pretty much what I would have said, and did say for the past six months or so. But it isn't just a flip in preferences, she'll be like it for days or weeks. We are going on holiday in a few weeks with my husband and his mum and I know she won't want me anywhere near her for the week. And she wants others if she's ill/hurt. I don't know how that isn't a 'thing'. I also don't know if I have that much bright and breezy in me, and tbh I'm not sure anyone would if you actually saw what it is like.

firesidechat Tue 10-Feb-15 09:21:21

Experimenting with having a "favourite" person is not naughty, so punishing her would be a big mistake. By their very nature tantrums are hard to understand as an adult - you take it as a personal attack, but your child may just have decided they don't like the colour blue today (a frivolous example I know, but it underlines how irrational tantrums are, although perhaps that was just my children). confused

My reaction to stuff like this was to ignore and it seemed to work. Perhaps others will have more constructive advice.

Pagwatch Tue 10-Feb-15 09:29:26

I'm sorry - the situation you are describing is actually pretty difficult tounderstand so forgive me if you felt i minimised it.

So is she perfectly normally behaved with you most of the time but then rejects you when others are around? It's hard to get a grip on as most children favour/dismiss one adult at some stage. Are you suggesting that the behaviour is more extreme than that?
Is there anything else about it you can describe because it clearly is bothering you more than the usual manifestations of this would.

Whatever the cause behind it you still can only ignore it really. You can't punish an 18 month old - certainly not without making it worse.
I think too you have to try and filter out your embarrassment. I genuinely do sympathise but it can't be helped if you feel awkward - I say that from experience.
My son exhibited controlling behaviours when he was 2 - he would want one adult to sit next to him, climb on me and be quite aggressive if I tried to move him. It was ultimately one of his behaviour related to his autism.
The thing is though - even when I knew what the cause was I still could only ignore it. That was the only way to deal with it . I used distraction and I learnt to ignore his tantrums.

hoppus Tue 10-Feb-15 09:34:03

Perhaps talk to a health visitor if you have one that is helpful?

I do think it is normal behaviour though, and I am 100% sure your bond is fine. You clearly love her an awful lot and she will know this.

My DD is 20 months and we just ignore any behaviour like this, the way she reacts to us doesn't affect the way we react to her iyswim. I mean I respect her personal space if she wants it but I won't walk out of a room or stop talking to her etc just because she is all about Daddy at that moment. Don't make it a big deal or give extra attention, bribes, or anything. I assume it's just hard to process your feelings at the age of 18mo and that's why "oh mummy is here, but I was having fun with nanny" becomes "it is the end of the world and everything is ruined"

Crazyqueenofthecatladies Tue 10-Feb-15 11:44:23

I think it sounds on the spectrum of normal, although not wanting you when she's sick or hurt is at the extreme end. Have you researched attachment disorders and does anything else fit? Anything from her early days that might have resulted in attachment problems? She is too young for naughty step and it isn't punishable behaviour. If she's still doing this in 6-12 months and ads have been ruled out, I think I would consider having the person who is her favourite put her on her thinking step if she's really going bananas about it for hurting the rejected persons feeling.

Queenlizandabottleofgin Tue 10-Feb-15 11:51:28

Don't punish her - it's absolutly normal. Just don't feed it by reacting in a negative way. When my youngest (20 months) does it occasionally we just ignore. Mine went in to full blown tantrum mode on the bus the other day for no reason what do ever and I just let her ride it out. It was massively embarrassing but I just ignored and spoke in a quiet soft voice intermittently when she was calming down.

Honestly it will pass. My 19 year old grew out of it years ago!

Glizz Wed 11-Feb-15 07:53:09

I'm going to have one more go at explaining, of course if it were a normal level of favouring one person, as my older child did and many do,I wouldn't be on here. Yesterday the first time I see my daughter, she bursts into tears, she won't make eye contact with me. I try to give her her cup of milk and she cries and points at her dad, basically she'll only take it off him. I can't feed her, change her, if we all try and play together she'll cling to her Dad's legs crying until I get up or he plays a game just with her, it is pretty much impossible to ignore her crying, crawling on his legs while we try and play, and she'll keep it up for as long as required. I can't take her out as she'll cry to the point of vomiting, and this carried on for the whole day. I went in to wake her this morning and she lay face down in her bed for half an hour rather than look at me. I tried just playing her favourite game away from her, no joy, I went and came back, no joy. So when her Dad is around I get no contact with her at all, and she actively wants me gone. If I go out for a few hours and come back it's worse. If I stay it's no better, no matter how 'bright and breezy' I am. I hate it, my husband hates it. We get no nice family time because of it. Favouring one person is not naughty but it is hard to accept how mean (I know, she's a baby, she can't be mean, she doesn't understand it. Well, it feels mean) she is to me.
And I don't think she has an attachment disorder, she is a confident, gregarious, beautiful little girl. She clings to me when it's just us. I am a good mum, the only obstacle we had is a bad bf experience for the first few months. Maybe that was enough. She hates me.

Fugghetaboutit Wed 11-Feb-15 08:09:11

She doesn't hate you, op. It sounds bloody horrible though, poor you.

If she's ok when it's just you, then maybe you need to spend A LOT of time alone and don't let her dad come and 'rescue' her.

Do you both work? Is she at nursery?

Fugghetaboutit Wed 11-Feb-15 08:10:40

Just found this

ChippingInGluggingOn Wed 11-Feb-15 08:18:34

You need to see the difference between you not wanting her to have an attachment disorder and her not having one.

You won't be able to access any help if you continue to be defensive & snappy.

Pagwatch Wed 11-Feb-15 08:21:02


Well you are obviously and understandably upset but, to be really honest, you won't achieve anything constructive - and will just end up feeling more guilty - if you are just pissy with posters trying to help.

What you are describing is clearly extreme.
She doesn't hate you - that is just emotional tosh. I understand it and I sympathise hugely, but it's actually just a way of blaming her too, as if she is actively and consciously choosing to upset you. 18 month old toddlers are not malevolent (they just seem that way smile

In my opinion you need to see your gp. You need to describe the behaviours exactly as you have here - perhaps film them.

What does your DH think? Does he view the behaviours as extreme because I think one of you should by now be seeing this as outside average toddler behaviour and seeking some medical/behavioural support.

It's early and I'm on my phone so forgive me if my tone seems harsh or brusque.
I spent six months pondering why I had children when I clearly couldn't parent my second child, before I went to the gp and got him the help he needed. It is something I regret.
And your relationship and interaction with your child won't improve while you are immobilised by fear and anger. Although those emotions are totally understandable.

To be clear, I am not suggesting she has some issue or you are being silly about feeling hurt - not at all.
But you all clearly need help and should seek it out in a more specific arena than randoms on the internet.

Maybe an educational psychologist could help unravel what has led to this and help you unpick it.
I wish you luck and strength.
Feeling like you can't reach your small child is the most heart breaking thing.

Glizz Wed 11-Feb-15 08:23:07

I am a SAHM, my husband works but gets a lot of time off, which is currently being ruined :-(. When he's at work we have, I think, a pretty awesome time. I've never been one for lots of housework so apart sharing me with her big brother we just play and go to nice places. Occasionally during these weeks she'll show a preference for me but then as soon as it's the weekend or he's on holiday it begins again. I think I've done ok at dealing with it but this week I am failing completely

Fugghetaboutit Wed 11-Feb-15 08:27:06

Where was the op pissy? Missed that. I can understand that she's going through a horrid time and if my ds was like this with me for days/weeks I would be in pieces tbh. Some people aren't as tough as others.

Glizz Wed 11-Feb-15 08:49:02

Thank you Fugghetaboutit for your understanding. I am just upset and could have done with a bit of support and advice. I have read about attachment disorders and my daughter doesn't fit the categories. She has been much loved and much wanted since birth, she is extremely social, loves interactive play, if you saw us out you wouldn't mark her as a child with anything but excessive cuteness. It is just this one thing of favouring. And occasionally it is me, just not this week. But even when it's me she favours I'd still rather we could all play together. I think the people who have said she is just learning to control her environment are correct. She is smart and I don't think we are handling it as well as we could. That is why I came on here really, just for some ideas and pointers. Me and my husband like to work together to get through parenting obstacles and some outside ideas may have helped. Maybe I will speak to a Hv. But Pagwatch you are right, this wasn't the right place to come so I'll sign out now

Fugghetaboutit Wed 11-Feb-15 08:53:03

So how long has she been doing this, op?

tak1ngchances Wed 11-Feb-15 08:54:21

I think when your husband and you are both there and she is insisting that he does things instead of you, you should not comply.
He needs to be all, Daddy is busy doing x and then you just do whatever it is that needs doing such as nappy change or whatever.
Right now she is demanding things and you are doing what she wants

Pagwatch Wed 11-Feb-15 08:54:52


Well I'm pleased I spent that bit of time talking about really personal stuff so I can get admonished for being unsupportive.
Great. Thanks.

Fugghetaboutit Wed 11-Feb-15 08:55:01

And have you spoken and got advice from your hv? Personally I would go to the Gp and explain concerns and ask for a referral to a developmental paed. It cannot hurt for them to observe and listen to what she does.

I'm sure she will come out of it, but you need strategies to help you all through it and they can help with that. When my ds was 1 and not responding to his name, talking and basically ignoring us we were v worried and did that route above and it's helped so much.

Fugghetaboutit Wed 11-Feb-15 08:55:46

Agree with tak1ng do not comply, even if meltdowns ensue.

timeforacheckup Wed 11-Feb-15 09:02:37

I didn't think you were snappy - unfortunately posts can be like texts and sometimes taken in the wrong way.
I think you should speak to a health professional as it does seem extreme especially if she doesn't want you when hurt or scared.
It sounds absoultely exhausting and soul destroying and I hope you get some answers soon.

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