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2.5 year old need help

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namechange405 Mon 02-May-16 14:30:52

Name change for this one.

DD is 2.5. I’m on my own (single parent, sole custody) and virtually no other support. DD is at nursery 5 full days a week where apparently she eats everything and is a little angel. She’s also pretty good when out with peers and other children in general, is socially confident and happy. She’s not ‘awful’ at home, but when she’s with me she is a lot more difficult. I’m kind of expecting people on here to say that what she’s doing is normal for a 2 year old but I feel like I'm struggling a bit and looking for someone to tell me what I'm doing wrong or recommend some book, course that will help. Open to ideas.

1. Food

I get told that at nursery DD eats everything. Things like lentils, meat, and potato. At home, here is a typical day eating:

Breakfast - more often that not will eat 3 weetabix, though sometimes has 1 spoonful of rice crispies. Typically the most successful meal of the day.
Mid morning snack - she likes snacks. Usually e.g. a pile of satsumas, or some nuts (she will snack on a bag of brazil nuts), something like that.
Lunch - here’s where we start to struggle - sometimes bits of cucumber, tomato, sometimes scrambled egg. I struggle to get her to eat a sandwich though sometimes she will eat a bread roll and nothing else at all. Generally refuses cheese. Refuses tuna point blank. Will sometimes accept peanut butter, if I give her jam will lick if off the bread and ask for more so i avoid.
Mid afternoon - usually something like rice cakes and raisins, or she will eat a whole apple or pear.
Dinner - this is the difficult part and where we really fight. She will not usually eat anything I would typically serve - so e.g. meat, fish, potatoes (maybe chips but not always). Won’t eat mashed at all. Won’t eat any cooked vegetable. Will eat baked beans 50% of the time if I’m lucky. Will usually eat plain pasta or rice but if I try to put a sauce on it (say, tomato) she will scream at me. Will usually eat fish fingers but not always. Won’t eat pizza. If I put anything she won’t eat on her plate she wails (ear splitting)and won’t eat anything at all, just insists I remove it. I remain calm and try not to react, and praise her if she tries something new (she ate lamb once) but can't say that's had much effect (she didn't eat it the next times)

I do generally give a ‘pudding’ at dinner time, she asks for it and I want her to eat something. It might be 2 petit filous, or some raspberries and creme fraiche.

I KNOW her diet isn’t awful, but it’s the dinner time that is really getting to me. I have tried cooking so many different delicious things only to have her scream at me and want to get down from the table, and it spoils my enjoyment of food (and I am a real foodie) when she does that. I’ve given up recently and just serve her plain pasta or rice, and I eat the nice food on my plate. She then points at my plate and says “I don’t like that’ at 10 second intervals, which is just as annoying.

I know some would say don’t give her the snacks/puddings, but they aren’t unhealthy and she has to eat something. I don’t want food to become an issue but also don’t want her to learn to live on snacks, or see them as the ‘prize’

2. Hitting/Kicking

Me, not anyone else as far as I know.

Example - this bank holiday she has been punching me (closed fist) in the face repeatedly, and kicking me in the face when I’m trying to dress her. She is tiny but can still hurt a lot.

With the hitting, so far I’ve begun sitting her on the sofa, counting slowly to 20 in a calm voice, holding her there. She cries a lot but seems to get it, though won’t always say sorry afterwards (I haven’t insisted upon that)

With the kicking, I'm ashamed to say I slapped her hard on the leg this morning and then she really did wail. I didn’t mean to do it at all, it was just an instinctive reaction to being full on kicked in the face. She then kept showing me her leg and saying I hurt her, which made me feel guilty as hell.

I try to explain verbally, repeatedly, that it hurts when she hits/kicks mummy, that I want her to be gentle please, that it wasn’t very nice, was mean when she hurt me. I think she knows all that, because sometimes she ‘feigns’ as if to throw a punch and watches to see how I'll react. When she does that I look at the sofa and back at her, and that seems to stop her.

Advice..??? - I don’t want this to escalate and am so scared she will remember me slapping her when she’s older and want nothing to do with me.

3. Repetition and rejection

Here are some examples:

DD: I want x
Me (no reply)
DD: I want x
Me (no reply)
DD: I want x
Me (no reply)
x 20.. I then give it to her..
DD: I don’t want that

DD goes up to table at meal time with her blanket and looks like she’s going to put it on her chair, struggles, wails and stomps feet
Me: do you want some help with that?
DD: yeah… (sniffs)
I go to help her, put the blanket on her chair
DD shouts angrily, wails, stomps ‘I don’t want that!’
I then walk away and leave her to it

DD (upset): mummeeeee mummeeeee mummeeeee
Me: come for a kiss/cuddle
DD: either says ‘I don’t want a kiss’ or gets me to lift her up just enough to use my energy, onto hip/knee then immediately wriggles ‘want down’
(then switches to another one of the annoying behaviours listed)

DD refuses to brush her teeth so I have to sit her on my lap, pin her arms and wait until she wails to do it - which works, but feels awful. I have tried all the cajoling I can think of before getting to this stage, but it didn’t work.

if I suggest anything (e.g. how about we play with x toy, read x book) the answer is 'no', if I say 'what do you want to do?' DD will say 'don't know', if I offer 2 choices DD will say 'don't want that/those' or 'no' and wail quietly.

DD has also started throwing toys (e.g. every piece in her lego box, individually, to a different part of the room).

She like being thrown around, in the air, physical play - I can't keep that up for long but it does make her laugh. She loves being outdoors and the park, btu if I do something like e.g. kick a football, that is not a direct instruction given by DD she will angrily shout 'no mummy' and sometimes come up to hit me. So I sometimes just have to stand there feeling like I'm not interacting with her at all for fear of her reaction if I do. If there are other children outside and she can play with them, DD is much happier and not like this.

On the days when I'm at home, I want to be enjoying precious time with DD, but I feel like I’m spending all day trying not to strangle her, hit her over the head with something very hard, which I confess would be satisfying in that once instant (joke in poor taste MN --but not too far from the truth--). Just dealing with her is driving me into a blind rage at times.

Is this just par for the course with a toddler? I barely see anyone else with a child and have no idea. Tried HV, not much use. Tried asking for counselling/therapy on the NHS.. hahaha. There's noone (noone, noone, noone) else who can come to help me with DD. I get a break at work but there are other stresses there. I don't get chance to go to clubs and meet other parents due to the work schedule.

I can put cartoons on but don’t like to sit her in front of them for long and it’s only a slight reprieve.

What can I do, by myself and for myself, and DD, without outside assistance? How do I stop feeling so bloody angry (and acting in anger)?

superwormissuperstrong Mon 02-May-16 16:19:04

Gosh - what a lot (may not have read it all but a quick skim)...
Gut feeling is that a lot of it is toddler behaviour but you are getting the brunt at the weekend - she can behave at nursery but just wants to let go when she's with you.
A couple of things that we seem to have seen with our nearly 3 year old. Her food intake has dropped dramatically even though she seems to be like the energiser bunny - we wondered if her digestion is getting better at extracting nutrients now its more developed so she doesn't need to eat as much. We don't give mid meal snacks - it ruins main meal times. At weekends we have our main meal at lunchtime - I think its an easier time to have a bigger meal and less tired than in the evenings which can cause messing around. I know its old school but if its food that she's eaten before and has liked we don't still allow pudding - ok so you don't want your lunch, well there will be no pudding or treats till next meal comes round and we have just offered water when she has complained of hunger (and brought next proper meal forward rather than relented with a snack)

Its definitely boundary pushing time - she is absolutely testing if we are going to be consistent. We made the decision that less time at grandparents (who never follow through on consequences) and that even if it might spoil some days for us at the moment we have to be hugely consistent if we have said no to something.
Also we used the 'count to 3' threat - you will do as you are told or we will count to 3 and make you do it. This worked when she was just over 2 and she would do it, but then it stopped working. So we have had to follow through and physically make her do something, e.g. get dressed, brush teeth, leave a shop, etc. Invariably it has caused a tantrum, crying, dramatics as she has got upset that we have made her do something, but we have never not made her do it. We are just coming out the other side on this - and I just have to say are you going to make me count to 3 and get upset or will you do it the nice easy way and we are finally getting some cooperation (I'd say its been 3 months of hell!)

From reading many threads on here I know that our approach to food and behaviour is probably old fashioned but to be honest with our little girl they are the best way of teaching her that we are a family with parents that make decisions, otherwise she would have life completely revolving around her. I was particularly keen that we had to crack the behaviour thing because I am pregnant, she is growing stronger and there will be a point soon when I can't use physical force - so I need to have an ability/strategy to control her that doesn't involve force.

Good luck - hopefully that might help some of the things (and is probably almost as long a post as yours!)

Mytummyisnotatrampoline Mon 02-May-16 19:53:15

Your post rings a lot of bells. DS is 2.2 and is pretty much identical in many respects.

Food-I have stopped caring/stressing about it. Honestly, it's just not worth the hassle. I serve up a very small portion of whatever I'm making and supplement with something I know he likes. Like you, this varies on a day to day basis and I get it wrong more than I get it right. If he doesn't eat at all I offer a slice of toast before bed. He loves breakfast, picks at lunch (won't do sandwiches either) and snacks throughout the day on fruit/crackers/sweet things he can wrangle out of people. Eats everything at nursery because all his friends do.
Please give up the battle.

Repeating. DS was a very early talker and I'm living through the fact that every single second of every day is filled with inane chatter.
Him: this is a hedge mummy
Me:that's nice
Him: "this is a green hedge..."
Repeat times infinity.
We're also having mini-meltdowns whenever I do something wrong (e.g all the time). Today he wanted to walk from the bath to his bedroom wearing his towel. Cue meltdown. Turns out towel wasn't touching his left shoulder.
Mantra: they are two. You can't reason with them so don't try!

As for the hitting/kicking, you have to find a sanction that works for your child and apply consistently. I learned very quickly that DS loathes being separated from people so I place him in the doorway (this strategy works as there is always one handy) and he has to stay there until someone comes to get him, within 10 seconds he's usually shouting "I want to say sorry mummy!". i then insist on a full apology and a hug. This took a while to sink in as he'd keep running from the doorway at first, but I just kept putting him back.

Honestly, everything you're describing is completely normal. Soul-crushing, frustrating, maddening and normal. it will pass-just grit your teeth and strap in!

LongDivision Mon 02-May-16 20:30:12

flowers You sound at the end of your tether! It is very hard, especially if you don't get a break. I hated this phase, but it really really does pass. what helped me a little bit was to think of DS more scientifically, as a 'developing human', rather than as 'my child deliberately trying to drive me crazy'.
I think it also helps to avoid any big reactions to behaviour, so just a mild, bored-but-stern 'no, we don't hit people', and you provide food but do not make any fuss about whether they do or do not eat it. (and it's a notoriously picky age for food, especially at dinner when they are tired, so keep your expectations low.)
i found it really hard to enjoy this stage, but I always felt better if I could muster up enough energy at least once each day to make DS laugh out loud, even if just chasing/tickling type activity.
it's tough - I don't envy you, but this too shall pass!

43percentburnt Mon 02-May-16 20:45:57

For teeth brushing I find singing works, we ask him what song he would like and sing it enthusiastically several times. I look for random items in his mouth 'is that a car I can see? Surely not a zebra etc. it makes him laugh and he wants to hear more.

Ds eats a good breakfast and lunch but isn't bothered about dinner. We give porridge usually or weetabix with added raisins and fresh fruit. Followed by either a peanut butter sandwich or an omelette with cheese and tuna or ham or a grapefruit or yoghurt. We try to keep it varied so he keeps tasting things he likes.

Dinner we don't stress about he usually has a few mouthfuls, again we used to be quite playful - the veg would 'talk' to him and ask him to eat them! He often found it difficult to refuse!

Eeeek686 Mon 02-May-16 20:51:02

I also skim-read a bit I'm afraid as it was rather a loooong post Op blush but tbh it all sounds reeeally normal for her age - DD is 3 and went through pretty much all of it in varying degrees!

Most of it I let ride, for eg eating - DD is a rubbish eater and had been for a little while, I just don't force it and don't offer anything else is all. Have recently started giving kiddy vitamins as well which makes me feel a bit better!

The changing the rules thing - "stop it, mummy, don't do that" kind of thing really doesn't bother me, and in fact she still does it quite often (for example telling me to stop singing/dancing/farting about our whatever but she may have a point! grin ), I just indulge it, much easier to be told what to do than told off I find!

Hitting, kicking, etc, I came down on pretty quickly and firmly and although she still does it occasionally if she thinks it's funny to get a reaction (when getting dressed, for eg) I know exactly how to knock it on the head, if you'll excuse the pun! What works for her is direct sanction wrt whatever activity is coming up, say smacking at bedtime will be met with "do that again and no bedtime story", and meaning it. On actual fact I think I have a pretty good firm voice as I've actually never had to act on it with that one! If she did it while we were out somewhere fit her it would be Do that again and we're going straight home... You get the gist.

We are coming out the other side of it (the boundary testing that is, as that's what i think this is, in essence) now but it's still there, on and off, I just think I'm getting better at knowing what works, and crucially, minimising my emotional reaction to it? I have totally found that the calmer and firmer I am, the better she responds....

I would definitely recommend meditation!! grin
Good luck, Op, it'll work I promise!! X

Hedgeh0g Mon 02-May-16 20:57:49

I can only comment on the food front, but it sounds like she's getting enough food for the day just in breakfast and snacks, which would explain your issue with lunch and dinner. It's so hard, I know, not to think 'but they have to eat something', and I don't think I'm quite there yet! But I'd recommend you read a book called 'My child won't eat' by Carlos Gonzalez. Really helped me.

namechange405 Mon 02-May-16 21:04:49

Thank you everyone
And sorry for the very long post blush
We've had a good afternoon, once DD woke up -
One thing she DD do is sleep really, really well (as in, straight through the night 9-10 hours, and half the afternoon)
Once she woke up today she seemed in a great mood, and with some time outside even better. Then for tea she decided to eat all the (veggie) sausages which was really suprising. Nothing else mind, just all the sausages (I'm on a toddler-enforced vegetable diet this eve)..

Might have to try the no-snack thing, but anticipate some major meltdowns if I do that and not sure I can do it and not give in

Singing songs - that's one of the things that makes her angry, if I sing the first line of a nursery rhyme DD will often shout 'no, mummy!' and come to hit me if I continue. Which is sad, because I'd kind of like to sit around singing with her!

Maybe I'm making it sound worse than it is, there are some good times too, she can be funny and sweet, and I love to see her laugh. It's the power struggles I hate, plus not having someone to take turns with so I can at least run walk away sometimes.

Iguessyourestuckwithme Mon 02-May-16 21:06:33

I am a nanny to a 2.5 year old.

1. Food

She seems to be having a lot of breakfast and a huuuuuge snack. No wonder she isn't hungry at dinner time. We do
7am Breakfast [1 or 2 wheetabix] ; 11am 1 big ricecake, half an orange, then 12.30 She has a toddler size lunch. If your DD doesn't eat a sandwich why not do a picky lunch [we do olives, avocado, cherry tomatoes, pitta bread, veg sticks, blueberries etc] or something like beans on toast [1 small tin and 1 slice of toast] scrrambled egg etc 3ish we do another breadstick or oatcake then dinner at 5.30. For dinner why don't you put things into dishes for her to help herself too. Someone once told me to just say you don't have to eat it and just get on with eating mine. then clear away without a word. I don't do a pudding if she hasn't eaten her dinner. If she hasnt eaten much all day I may give her an early bath then downstairs and we may both have a snack ie banana and milk but its not part of dinner time.

2. Hitting

Hitting is an instant BIG NO CRIME. 1 warning if you see she's going to do it, or if she has done it then straight on the naughty step for 2 minutes. We find dc1 needs to be removed from everything as she doesn't like to feel like she's missing out. Your DC then seems to monopoloise/get your attention by having her sat with you until the count of 20

3. Repetition

Why aren't you responding? If she says I want 20 x and then gets it where is she going to learn that we say Please, and that you ask once. We have a rule that is you only have to tell me two times. I don't do repetition. By 2.5 I also expect please and thank you to be present at 95% of requests.

4. Being at the park

I am the grown up and I will not be dictated to or hit by a 2 year old. If I want to kick the ball and get told No. I say "we either play nicely or we go home" praise her for playing nicely and timeouts for hitting. If she won't play nicely then she has 3 warnings then we go home.

Smartiepants79 Mon 02-May-16 21:21:16

They are very wearing and exhausting aren't they. Especially when it all falls to you.
A lot of what you've written is 'normal' toddler behaviour. The whinging, the repetitiveness, the contrariness. I would think it's just magnified becuase there's only you dealing with it. Me and my DH can tag team and get some time away from it!
I think your doing the right thing with the food. Just stick at it. Keep offering her different stuff but try not to take it badly if she rejects it. She'll come round in time. I would perhaps cut down the 3 weetabix and snacks a bit. Even my 5 yr old will only have 1 weetabix for breakfast so 3 is a lot! Maybe get rid of the afternoon one to improve her appetite for tea? Bring tea earlier?
I would remove her from your company every time she hits. No talking to her just in a safe space away from you. Again this is a phase but needs to be dealt with consistently.
Don't let her tell you what to do but equally I'd say maybe avoid things you know are triggers for a while. Again. It's a phase. Try the nursery rhymes again in a few weeks and see.
Reply to her requests but if you've said no, mean it. Stick to your desicion

Eeeek686 Mon 02-May-16 21:32:12

Long Division puts how I described as Emotional Detachment better - raising a mini human, that's exactly how I try to see it! In my head I was thinking, should I compare it to training a puppy? But obvs that didn't sound right! grin To be frank, as she's developed and her language had progressed another thing that actually seems to work (for both of us!) is Properly explaining why/why not in a calm no-nonsense tone...
At first I started doing it to help me regain my calm and control - almost thinking out loud, iyswim - but found that she actually seemed to be listening, or at least not doing the thing she wasn't supposed to be doing! grin obvs I don't do this all the probably wouldn't have time to draw breath if I did but definitely found it provided a Cooling Off opportunity for everyone.

And Don't worry, it doesn't sound negative at all - we are all in truth stumbling along as noone has a crystal ball to see if they turn out OK in 20yrs... I'm hoping if I have confidence in my ability to train this little person, and balance the battles with love and fun, it Will turn out OK!!

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