This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
My toddler is ransacking my house- exhausted!(43 Posts)
Any tips for dealing with the aftermath of a toddler's "play" as a single parent of 2?
She is at home with me 2 days mon-fri as I work part-time. Today has been horrendous. Between the school runs, she has made a bomb site of the garden, conservatory, lounge, hallway and 3 bedrooms. Toys everywhere. Shoes taken from the shoe rack in the hall and thrown everywhere. Her pyjama drawer emptied. Clothes everywhere. Her sister's Barbie Dream House contents- everywhere.
Finished cooking dinner and eating, exhausted after she was up in the night and I just want to cry. She's grumpy anf tired and refuses to help me tidy up all her mess (she's 34 months).
Eldest DC is playing on his tablet happily- he's no bother but I'm finding no time to read or do spellings with him.
Try to do lots of activities during the day with her but the minute my back is turned when I'm doing washing, making lunch, she's feral and completely bull dozes the house.
When Ex DH was here until recently, one of us would get her to tidy up with us whilst the other did homework with DC1, we then shared the bed times, one child each.
But on my own, it's horrific. Just put DC2 to bed and I'm falling asleep on my bed trying to muster up the energy to read Harry Potter to DC1.
Guessing it will get easier as DC2 gets older and she eventually starts school. I've thought about working more hours to give me a bit of head space too.
But what do I do in the mean time? Sometimes, I think she's going to finish me off!
No advice but my younger DS whos almost 2 is also like this and I feel like my older DS is missing out because of it.
I understand the exhaustion of it. .
I would make her help to tidy it up, however grumpy she is. At nearly 3 she is old enough to understand not to pull everything out of cupboards.
Could you shut doors/put up baby gates so that there are areas she can’t access?
She's nearly 3, old enough to understand you tidy one thing away before getting something else out.
You also need to child proof the house and ensure she can't get to certain things to cause so. Much chaos. How much are you supervising her? It sounds like to make that much destruction she is playing unsupervised? You need to correct the behaviour as soon as it starts, use tone of voice and get down to her level to explain that kind what is not acceptable. Its tiring but it pays off in the long run when they gave respect for their things and their environment.
You make her tidy up every last bit of it, never mind she refuses, I say this as my eldest was like this. On his first day at nursery when I went to collect him he was having a standoff with the staff. They refused to let him come home until he had picked up and put away the mess he created, and it worked. He never did it again.
This sounds really hard for you, no wonder you're exhausted.
I think you need to set different standards and expectations around her play, talk about them with her and stick to them.
Before my ex moved out, he became quite ill and I went through a similar change myself, where I'd have to be responsible for doing bedtime etc alone with 3 small DCs and realised that I couldn't just count on cleaning up later (or someone else doing it).
Things that help:
It takes a few weeks to set this, but she needs to learn how to tidy up before starting something new. You can turn the tidying up into an activity, or if it's a big mess we pile it all into a heap and set a song via Alexa (my older ones like the 'tidy up rumba' as they use it at school, but can be anything high energy!) and see if you can dance while you do it and put things properly away by the end of the song. If you can get the older ones involved (with bribery if necessary this will become much easier)
Max of 2 items out at once (e.g. Barbies and a puzzle, if she then wants to get out Lego, one of the others has to go away). Again, this takes some time, but when they know it's non-negotiable, they will do it
No dinner until the living area is clear (I do sometimes find weird things shoved under the sofa, but at least it looks nicer!)
Getting her involved with as many practical activities as possible. She's old enough to help with cooking, or sorting sock pairs in the laundry or dusting skirting boards, it will again take a bit longer but you'll save time and misery on tidying and she may enjoy it too
Sounds like you do lots of activities but does she get lots of exercise? I find that helps a bit.
Do you have high door handles / stair gates / other ways of keeping her within one zone? It's definitely harder once they want to roam!
Worst case, strategically timed TV. I had to do this with my very active dc2, with the others I'd use TV to have an occasional coffee break but with her it was my time to do stuff fast, which was a bit depressing but as you say, isn't forever
Can the older children help too? Even if they do some Duplo or dolls with her while you do something urgent, it will help and is good for their bond too.
Last one, might be a mindset thing... When you say she's 34 months, I wonder if in your head she's still a baby and not 'nearly 3', which most people would say? I have the same temptation with my youngest sometimes, and find it helps to think in year not monthly terms and to have realistic but high expectations, it will help you all.
I'm sure plenty of this you're doing, but hopefully something helps!
I'd make her help tidy up every time. If she refuses no screen time or whatever. She's getting old enough to understand that now. Stair gates to keep her in the same room as you might work to help you keep an eye on her, but at nearly 3 she might climb over them.
Reduce the amount of stuff available to her.
Have good declutter of toys. If she only has (say) a smallish box if Lego, 2 puzzles, a dolly, a small set of building blocks, 2 balls, and 5 cars. Then the mess she can make is limited.
Even if you just store some away and rotate toys each fortnight/month. It will help.
Als, she's 3, she needs to tidy up if asked. Just let her strop and shine, but make her do it. Don't leave asking her to tidy until 1 minute before dinner, or few minutes before bed or whatever deadline. Make it part of the play time. So of she has 1 hr of play, she actually has 45 minutes and then 15 mins if tidying away. So you aren't stressed about having to do X by a set time.
That sounds really exhausting, especially as a lone parent
She will need support as the general instruction to 'tidy up' doesn't mean anything at that age. You need to be specific. 'Put all the dolls into this yellow box' etc. Can you make it fun by putting on her favourite song and trying to get everything out away before the song finishes? My DD loves that.
Tidying is a chore even for adults, so a toddler will struggle too. We did have some refusal from DD when she was younger and we would tell her that anything left strewn on the floor must be rubbish, and might end up being hoovered, lost or thrown away. I know that sounds mean, but she soon stopped refusing. We thought it was important for her to understand that the if she doesn't look after/respect her things, then the natural consequence of that is that she might lose them.
Excellent advice from @OverTheRubicon
She can be really good at tidying, she has a particular tidy-up song too. But she's exhausted and grumpy this week so getting her to do it is like pulling teeth. She just screams the house down when I ask and then if I leave her crying will come pulling at my legs when trying to wash up.
Sometimes, it's just easier to not tackle her over it when she's over-tired.
I'll perhaps pull out her reward chart again, that may help.
I've also concluded that I need a smaller house! Too much to clean and tidy now that I'm on my own.
Has anyone else found that?
Eldest DC is great. Always tidies after himself and helps me too. He gets pocket money for chores but does it just to help me more than anything else.
As pp don’t give her access to most of the stuff - lock it away in cupboards etc.
I personally would not give her too much attention for this behaviour, but amp up the praise for any efforts she does to help tidy up.
When my kids have done similar behaviour in the past, they were looking for attention (even if it is for naughty behaviour). I know that it is really hard to carve out more time with kids one on one as a LP, but if you can achieve it, you will probably notice that this naughty attention-seeking behaviour decreases. Good luck!
Many people have the approach that if it's not put away by the child it vanishes until it is earned back. (Obviously not her sister's things which the youngest has pulled out.) My own mother would have given me the sort of telling off for this that it would have been a brave child who did this again. She would have raised her voice. Your daughter knows perfectly well that she is not meant to do this and she does it. I would warn her and the next time the punishment would be severe - she loses something she values - whatever it is that she values like screen time or a toy or game. And she starts tidying now. It doesn't matter that she is tired - you're tired too. If she won't she is punished. She has behaved badly and you're wringing your hands. I personally would tell her if she is going to cry, she can do it in her own room so you don't have to hear it. Remember, you are the one in charge.
Sounds like the split from DH is fairly recent?
Perhaps look at her behaviour in isolation of the mess?
Is she overwhelmed? Feeling insecure? Confused etc. She might just be seeking reassurance and feeling a bit confused and it's coming out this way?
Well, I'm having the worst afternoon ever.
Really needed 30 minutes for a sit down and cup of tea before collecting DC1 from school after playing in the garden with DC2 all morning and afternoon up until this point. She started pulling out lots of toys, I took her favourite toy away and said she could have it back after tidying away the other stuff and she's inconsolable. Screaming the place down. Won't leave me alone.
I just wanted 30 minutes to myself 😪.
I'm cursing most of you for the crappy advice and shit afternoon.
I think it's just a phase that you have to grit your teeth and work through, but it is so tough! All I can suggest is try to declutter as much as humanly possible. Get out of the house as much as you can. Don't expect help with tidying at that age, it never worked for me and acceptance is better than battles!! And repeat "this too shall pass".... best of luck OP.
It isn't crappy advice.
Nothing will change overnight. As PP said, you just have to persevere.
You to going out as much as possible.
Take her to the park to play, take yourself a travel mug of tea, and have your sit down there . The that could easily be an hour out if the house, not making mess, and you get to sit down and watch her for a bit
@bookclockceiling you've no idea how much I needed your comment right now. Thank you.
I really needed to do without the battle this afternoon but after reading the comments on here about her being "almost 3" and should be doing more, I've felt like an absolute failure. Have awful period cramps and nausea today (I have PMDD) so really not up to the battle.
I'm cursing most of you for the crappy advice and shit afternoon.
Harsh! Direct that anger at your DD. She’s the one who’s being a pain.
Also going out not easy as I'm clinically vulberable and shielding (I have an autoimmune disorder which puts me at high end covid risk).
Amazing how people assume things are as simple for you as they are for them.
"Direct that anger at your DD."
2 years old.
Out of all the terrible MN advice I've read over the years, that one liner has done it for me.
Direct the anger you’re feeling at MN posters. Not all the anger in the world. 😆
Mines just the same 🤪 I am out of energy both physical and mental to explain about tidying up! It's usually worse in the afternoon if she doesn't nap, think she's in fear if she stops she will fall asleep, if it's a particular bad day I do go for a drive in my car for abit if peace. No amount of tv or tablet stops this behaviour, hoping it gets better before I lose my mind!