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What's your top tip for garden variety two-year old unhelpful behaviour?

(26 Posts)
HJBeans Sun 20-Sep-15 07:43:24

Our two year old is becoming predictably resistant to everyday tasks and has taken to flat out ignoring us. Past techniques aren't working and the frequent battles are winding us up, so we're looking to start a new decipline / incentive regime and are looking for inspiration. Details below if you want them. Thanks in advance.


DS is 2.2 and generally a lovely, affectionate, helpful boy. Recently we've been having increasing resistance to everyday tasks (nappy change in the morning, clothes & teeth before nursery, hands before dinner, etc. He's also started just ignoring us when he doesn't want to do what we're asking - even when it's preparing for something he does want to do. I.e. Ten minutes stalling on getting shoes in preparation to go to the zoo. They're seeing the same not-listening behaviour at nursery and needing to be firmer with him there.

His sleep has been rubbish over the period in question (switch to big bed, nightmares, lurgy) but he doesn't seem overtired (though we are!), just like he's flexing his two year old resistance muscles.

We've been responding by threatening sanctions ("if you don't get your shoes on, we won't go to the zoo", "if you don't brush your teeth, we'll have to skip a story" and following through, but it's not curbing the behaviour. Time out doesn't do much and isn't practical in morning routine when he digs his heels in at every step. Walking away / ignoring works better, as he'll come find us to do the contested thing eventually - but if we're in a hurry it can't work that way. And we're finding it hard not to get worked up by it and resorting to cross voices and anger - which we don't want to teach him is the way to get your way. Any ideas?

belindarose Sun 20-Sep-15 07:54:03

It's just really normal and I'm amazed nursery think it's 'not listening behaviour'. At just 2, I do jollying along, putting the shoes on myself if necessary, just getting through it. You don't need 'discipline' and rewards/ sanctions.

If you want to read something, try 'The Happiest Toddler on the Block' by Harvey Karp to explain why little kids behave like this and how you can help.

HJBeans Sun 20-Sep-15 08:03:16

Thanks for the reply, belinda, and for the reading suggestion. We do a lot of jollying but for things he's resisting he'll run away and then scream and struggle when we catch him. It's very hard to keep it from feeling confrontational if we're just physically forcing him to do what we want. So we try the "if X, then Y" approach, which used to work, but doesn't anymore. Should I just get a lot more physical on things that aren't negotiable?

Nursery generally are very live and let be with two year olds being two, but need him to listen when he's, for example, playing too roughly with kids who don't want that. Up till now he has responded well to that sort of request - now he just blanks them.

NannyOggsHedgehogs Sun 20-Sep-15 08:06:47

Lots of choice (mine's now 2.10) so "mummy do is or dsname do it?" Or "shoes first or coat first" type of thing. Let him think he has control!

Not guaranteed to work every single time but it works enough to take away many of the battles iyswim

BrianButterfield Sun 20-Sep-15 08:07:13

I've always gone with counting to three and at three, I bundle the child up and take them to whatever thing it is in a gentle but undignified manner. Not to be physical as such but to show them some things are non-negotiable and they can do it the easy way or the hard way. Usually you only have to get to two after that! Then once they're 'at' the activity (in the bathroom for teethbrushing) do the jollying along and 'catch' them being good so you can praise them.

HJBeans Sun 20-Sep-15 08:14:25

Thanks, nanny and brian.

We do a lot of choice but thinking about it we've stopped with the flashpoint things - I think we're already mentally gearing up for battle! So that's a helpful reminder.

And count to three then bundling sounds a good alternative to our current 'count to five and then we'll be cross / you'll loose a story / etc." as it would keep things moving and stop us getting pulled into feeling crosser and crosser. And the catch good thing to praise after is very helpful, too, as it works well with him but we tend to drop it when we've had to wrestle to change the morning nappy for the fifth time in the week. Very helpful - thank you!

belindarose Sun 20-Sep-15 08:28:00

Some good advice. I do counting to 3 once they're older (with 3 meaning whatever consequence makes sense at the time - very rarely get to 3) but when they're so little, you just want to get the incident over with and get on with life, not waste time and have struggles enforcing consequences or time outs or whatever.

NannyOggsHedgehogs Sun 20-Sep-15 08:46:51

I count down from 5 (gives a defined end point) then immediate consequence. Eg: stop throwing toys or we'll leave playgroup. I rarely get past 4!

Also, if he does get to proper loss of control stage, I wait quietly and periodically offer a cuddle to calm down. There's absolutely no point trying to engage while he's screaming, but he'll quickly sort himself out and trot over (again, in his own time so he regains some control)

winchester1 Sun 20-Sep-15 08:49:45

In addition to the things above we get our to help us so he fetches our shoes and helps put them on and then we return the favor.

Whoknewitcouldbeso Sun 20-Sep-15 08:53:28

I thought this was just normal two year old behaviour. I've never really questioned it or tried to remedy it. They are little sods at this age, you just have to do what you do to get through the day basically.

mikado1 Sun 20-Sep-15 09:05:48

Instead of 'If you don't. .., you won't. .' try 'When you do.. then...', zones him on what he should do and what he'll be doing then. I agree it's very normal. Also agree ignoring and getting on with your own thing in meantime works but as you say, not always time.

HJBeans Sun 20-Sep-15 14:22:27

winchester: He loves getting our shoes / brushing our teeth / etc. What a brilliant idea! Shame I can't extend it to nappy changes. wink

mikado: the 'when... then' formulation very useful to think about, too. Thank you!

You're exactly right with the 'not waste time' bit, belinda, and think nanny's immediate consequence after countdown is the way to go when it's suitable.

So many good ideas - cheers. Don't for a minute think it's not normal, who, just keen (perhaps naively so) to learn anything anyone does that reduces the number if domestic battles over the next several years.

Whoknewitcouldbeso Sun 20-Sep-15 16:20:56

There is one thing I do to minimise tantrums and get is on our way to Preschool on time.

I pop him in the shower and have fresh nappy, clothes and tooth cleaning gear on the bed ready to whip him straight out of the shower and into his clothes. I then clean his teeth whilst watching TV.

It beats trying to wrestle him into his room for the clothes change and then into the bathroom for the teeth clean, particularly since I'm pregnant and could do without having to pull him about.

So for me it's finding the main tantrum triggers and working round them. Path if least resistance as I said.

If he goes have a huge paddy and he is safe and we don't need to be anywhere I just let him get on with it and read Mumsnet or something. I can't be bothered to pander to the madness. When he stops screaming and stamping his feet then he gets a cuddle and we go something more interesting.

If he throws all his stuff on the floor in temper, hits me with his toys, abuses the cat, deliberately trashes something in defiance he gets time out. He is put in his room for a few minutes and asked to say sorry to Mummy if he has hurt me. Then we crack on with the day. So really bad behaviour gets consequences. The rest I just navigate round or grin and bare.

jesstar Sun 20-Sep-15 17:06:16

Just wanted to say you are not alone. Am really really struggling to cope with our 2-year old at the moment, everything is resisted and the tears/screaming/hitting/spitting/not eating is becoming continuous now. I don't know where this behaviour has come from, her big sister was never like this and is so well behaved. And she goes to nursery 2 days a week, where they say she is quiet and sweet!

So I think she is playing up for us alone. Don't know what to do. Tried distraction, naughty corner, counting to 3 etc ... nothing helps. Not sure how much more of this I can take sad

Mrbrowncanmoo Sun 20-Sep-15 17:51:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HJBeans Sun 20-Sep-15 20:13:26

Thanks, mrbrown, and sorry you're struggling, jess - do know how it feels and it's rotten. I'm taking comfort remembering when he web through a hitting phase six months ago or more and we were getting really wound up by it and then it just stopped. This too will pass. thanks

winchester1 Sun 20-Sep-15 21:14:54

jesstar are you sure nothing is a
Happening at nursery? Mine has been biting his sis lately for no reason but this weekend we found an old bite nark bruise on him. His sis has no teeth so its not her, but nursery never mentioned anything.

jesstar Mon 21-Sep-15 07:12:45

Thanks, am hoping it will pass quickly! But I fear we have another year or so to go before she becomes more reasonable. I don't think anything is happening at nursery, she is really quiet when we pick her up and the other kids seem quite placid. She was also feisty before she started nursery so I don't think she's learning bad behaviour there, I think it is in-built!

BertieBotts Mon 21-Sep-15 07:31:01

If X then Y is a little bit too long term for two year olds. They can't really care about the zoo, they only care about right now. Give them a closed choice, that usually works best smile Something like "Would you like to put your shoes on, or mummy do it?" "Do you want to brush your teeth or put your pyjamas on first?" etc.

LetThereBeCupcakes Mon 21-Sep-15 10:43:50

2.8 years here and similar issues. Getting dressed a particular flash point! The book that belinda mentioned looks good, I'll have to look out for that one.

I'm trying to come up with a game for getting him dressed. Something along the lines of pictures of clothes in a bag, he picks out a card with a picture on and that's what we put on? Any thoughts on that? Or suggestions for other games?

LetThereBeCupcakes Tue 22-Sep-15 07:43:25

Just thought I'd report back with a but of progress on the getting dressed front:

Took DS in to his room and said "let's get dressed now..." and started rooting around in his wardrobe. He took a deep breath ready to scream at me, so I put his pants on his heads. He looked at me like I was a total moron, but at least he didn't scream! Did the whole procedure "wrong" with him telling me how I SHOULD be doing it and it was fairly painless. He got a sticker for "helping me".

No idea if this will work for long. Hopefully it will work long enough to break the cycle though.

HJBeans Tue 22-Sep-15 15:06:08

Sound like a breakthrough, cupcakes! Regardless, enjoy it while it lasts. smile

Our DS has been an absolute angel the last few days. And he's slept better, too - staying in his own room all night. So we're better rested and more patient - a virtuous circle. Won't last forever, but god we're enjoying it!

Whoknewitcouldbeso Tue 22-Sep-15 15:45:18

grin that sounds funny Cupcake

Cedar03 Thu 24-Sep-15 12:08:03

If you have a contrary child - as mine was - try telling them that their favourite cuddly toy has told them that they are 'not allowed' to do what you want them to do.

My daughter couldn't brush her teeth quickly enough when her toy told her she couldn't do it. We used to have a whole game going where she had to do it quickly before said toy noticed 'quick, teddy's coming, quick he'll see you doing it, oh no, here he comes'

We also did races - I'll race to do something before she can do what I want her to do. 'See if you can put your shoes on before I get my coat' (I still use that now and she's 8).

HJBeans Thu 24-Sep-15 20:13:41

Have heard other good reports on 'racing'. A friend and mother of three young DSs told me it was a very dark day for her when 'race ya!' stopped working.

Teddy saying no sounds like fun. We - following a tip on here no doubt - have for some time had success with making it something other than us that's asking DS to do something. We use the timer on our phones with the duck ringtone. We thought we were in trouble when he found out how to set the duck, but DS still respects the duck far more often than he does us. smile

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