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Please help: feeling desperate about wilful, demanding toddler (plus newborn)

(33 Posts)
CityDweller Tue 17-Nov-15 13:51:18

I fear I've lost my way parenting my 2.5 yo DD. She is, of course, often delightful. But she's also 'wilful' (I hate that term), demanding, bossy and prone to shouting, a lot, whining. I've lost any sense of how to manage this 'bad' or 'negative' behaviour and I think DH and I are being inconsistent. Everyone says 'ignore the bad behaviour, praise the good' thing - but surely doesn't that mean you end up tolerating rude behaviour (e.g. her shouting or throwing things)? I don't want to be constantly saying 'don't' or reprimanding her behaviour, but neither do I want to be totally permissive and allow rudeness or, e.g., her pushing other children or shouting at me. She is also resistant about all sorts of usual toddler things (wearing a coat, getting dressed, getting undressed, brushing teeth, very picky about food, etc). She's not very good at playing on her own and demands almost constant attention. Things that don't seem to work: forcing her to do something (she'll just tantrum ad infinitum), giving her a choice of two things if neither of them is something she wants to do (e.g. 'you can wear your coat or your hoodie, which one?' She'll just reply that she doesn't want to wear either).

Other relevant info: she's very articulate/ verbal - complex sentences, wide vocab, etc. I had a baby a month ago. We moved house recently. So, a lot of unsettling change, I know, but she was like this before the baby/move. But, on my side, the stress of the move and the exhaustion of having a newborn isn't helping me on the coping front. So I must admit that I'm not as patient as I could be and have shouted a few times in the past month, something I'm not proud of

I need cast iron tips/ rules on how to help my toddler through this phase. Ideally ones that don't involve rewards/ punishments/ naughty step.

Help - before I completely lose it!

anothernumberone Tue 17-Nov-15 13:54:25

I think you are doing fine. Pick your battles, coats in the rain, and otherwise praise the good ignore the bad. There has been a massive upheaval in her life. She will not always be this way. I found that transition really hard with dd2 when dc3 was born but she is back being a delight now.

SweetAdeline Tue 17-Nov-15 14:08:16

You're at the worst bit. When Dd was between 2-2.5 we also moved and had dc2 and it was rough going.
At 3.5 she can still be rude and definitely still knows her own mind but is a lot more rational so everything is less frustrating all round.

I've found she really likes everything to follow the regular pattern so that once she becomes used to something happening she doesn't fight it anymore. So I think you need to figure out what are essentials: teeth brushing, wearing something warm outside and strictly enforce it. Once she's accepted the basics then move on to adding a few more things into the daily routine. I'll be honest, I do sometimes bribe/threaten the first few days of adding something new but never have to once it becomes established.

SweetAdeline Tue 17-Nov-15 14:11:47

I should add that the choice thing doesn't work with Dd and seemed to just reinforce the idea that she has a choice in the matter. I've stopped offering choices or asking Dd to do things I consider essential:
Ie I say "we're brushing teeth now" rather than "do you want to come and brush your teeth". She soon gets the idea that it's non-negotiable and doesn't fight it anymore.

CityDweller Tue 17-Nov-15 14:20:08

Thanks. Good to know it's normal, but I'm still struggling to cope with it. And friends saying things like 'she's unusually wilful' isn't helping!

I don't understand 'ignore the bad, praise the good' though. Don't you just end up condoning 'bad' behaviour. E.g. if she throws her books around instead of putting them away like I ask, what to do? Surely ignoring it is tantamount to telling her it's ok to throw stuff?

Certain things are, and have always been, non-negotiable (teeth cleaning, holding hand crossing road) and are enforced, but she still always fights it and the resulting shenanigans (teeth) or whining/crying (hand holding) does my head in.

katienana Tue 17-Nov-15 14:26:59

I've just read a really good book called Divas and Dictators. You need to praise whenever you see the good behaviour. So if she picks up a book say well done you picked up the book like I asked!!! Use descriptive praise. You're sitting nicely, you're playing nicely etc. Try a reward system eg extra story at bed, ten minute special playtime with mummy.
For bad behaviour quickly tell her to stop, why it's bad, and then distract her. Even if it means you have to abandon what you're doing. She's misbehaving to get your attention. Make her see that she gets your attention when she's good.

CityDweller Tue 17-Nov-15 15:50:10

Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll look that one out.

CityDweller Tue 17-Nov-15 19:38:02

Bumping for evening crowd and after a tough afternoon with DD. Any more tips before I buy a one-way ticket to somewhere far, far away

procrastinatingpeacock Tue 17-Nov-15 19:53:59

Oh yes, I have one of those, same age. No newborn thank goodness but early pregnancy not helping with my patience. Others have said and I will reaffirm - pick your battles. For me, red lines are destructive behaviour (eg throwing things) and dangerous behaviour (eg standing on her high chair). Those result in immediate "time out" (i put her in her cot for 2 minutes). For anything else it is a mixture of coaxing, reasoning, bribery, sometimes turning a blind eye if I think she is doing it for attention. Avoiding a stand off under all circumstances (like your DD, she just will not back down). She is also starting to feel the consequences of her behaviour in that if she is uncooperative about getting dressed etc, we miss playgroup (not a punishment, just the natural consequence). Reminding her of this next time she kicks off is helping to improve her behaviour.
I am telling myself this is just a phase (been about a month so far) but it is bloody hard work, you have my sympathies.

minipie Wed 18-Nov-15 22:05:51

Ah we were there.

Things that helped us:

- Enough sleep for DD - enforced naps (car/buggy), early bedtimes, whatever works

- One on one time with Mummy

- Emphasising all the things she can do because she's a big girl and baby sibling can't do

- Saying "I can't understand crying/whinging, you need to talk normally" - even if you know what she is crying about, pretend you don't

- Spending time with other 2.5 year olds and realising it is just a very difficult age grin

- Time. 2.8 is much better than 2.5

Lilipot15 Wed 18-Nov-15 22:57:53

It is really early days with the new baby being around. It sounds to me like you have good strategies. I wonder if you being sleep deprived and having had major upheavals yourself (I am in a pretty similar situation adding in a couple of other big changes to the mix) means that your own tolerance / coping mechanisms / ability to shrug things off is not at its best.
(And I mean that in the best possible way - not in any way saying that you aren't coping, it sounds quite the opposite).
I'm watching this thread for tips myself and will look at that book suggestion above.

One issue I find with a baby and toddler is that a lot of time can be spent in "maintenance tasks" eg all those dirty nappies my two seem to do in the morning! And I can lose sight of the joys of having a toddler, particularly when the baby is being quite demanding.

I would also suggest getting out for a run around, even if it's just putting wellies on her to jump in puddles. I know I feel more stressed on those days we don't get out as much (and ironically it is the days I think "I'm tired, let's not be too ambitious today" that if we stay in I end up feeling even worse).

Try to ignore comments about how wilful she is. It drives me nuts when my MIL talks about how "bold" my eldest is. I tell myself they are envious because she is sparkier and brighter!

minipie Thu 19-Nov-15 08:27:07

Sorry forgot to add a couple of other things that are really helping with my similar DD (admittedly she is now 3, but they have been helping for a while):

- Lots of pre warning. "In 5 mins we have to go (then in 2 mins, 1 min etc) "Two more bashes on that tambourine and then stop" "You can keep playing while I count to 20 and then we have to get your coat on"

- Compromise. Make her feel like she has "won" to some little extent. So for example if she won't put a coat on, I often find it works better to say "ok no coat", then I bring it with - 2 mins later, once we are outside, she usually asks to put it on! She cares much more about getting her own way/making her point than she does about the actual coat wearing iyswim. Yes it does feel a bit like pandering to stroppiness but it leads to a much better day than insistence

- For real bad behaviour (hitting etc): take away a beloved toy for a while eg until after lunch. We tried everything else and this is the only thing that worked. however it might not have worked at 2.5 as she wasn't so attached to her animals then...

Good luck! And remember it is normal for them to be little shits challenging at this age and especially when DC2 arrives...

fieldfare Thu 19-Nov-15 08:42:05

Pick your battles and be decisive.
So, if she doesn't want to wear a coat, you tell her that's fine but she will be cold. Take the coat with you, she will ask to put it on at some point.
If she's willfully destructive with toys or books, take them away. Explain that if she can't treat her things nicely then she's not a big enough girl yet to have them.
Give statements when you need her to do something non negotiable. "After the toilet we wash our hands", "after breakfast we brush our teeth".
Give warnings about an activity stopping, "in five minutes you need to stop playing and put your shoes on as we are going out", then talk in a positive, excited manner about whatever it is you're going to do. Even if it's the shopping. She can help count apples, she can give the money to the cashier etc.
Wear her out. Small children are like puppies, they need fresh air and the wind in their hair.
Make sure she's getting enough sleep, if she's dropped her after lunch nap then enforce a bit of quiet time - reading with you on the sofa, cuddling up for a bit of tv or a film.
When the baby naps in the afternoon, make sure she's getting some really quality one on one time with you. Even if that's just preparing dinner, she can help peel veggies, wash up, stir things with close supervision. Keep this time as positive as possible, praising specifically all the things she's doing well. You may feel like a cheerleader and you're being over the top but it really does help!

I wouldn't tolerate being rude, that would result in a time out. Don't get angry, just tell her that was unkind, made you feel unhappy and that she needs to sit for 2 minutes and think about it. Then afterwards have a hug and tell her it's so much nicer when she uses kind words to you, it makes everyone feel so much happier.

Good luck! This stage will pass.

BeStrongAndCourageous Thu 19-Nov-15 08:52:50

Ah. I was all set to recommend a combination of naughty step for bad behaviour and reward chart for good when I saw your last paragraph. Up to you of course, but it worked really well for us in the exact same circumstances. We didn't have to do naughty step for very long at all, and never need it now.

I suspect it's an unpopular view on here, but I also think sometimes a good, sharp telling off is required. Like you, I don't know how they're supposed to understand what is bad behaviour if we don't tell them.

CityDweller Thu 19-Nov-15 11:20:15

Lilipot my coping mechanisms are definitely sub-par. It's been an incredibly stressful move and I'm sure the toddler has picked up on that. Luckily, the baby is relatively low maintenance.

Thanks for all the tips and support. We're instigating a new 'non-negotiable' around coats, which seems to be going ok so far. Still having daily (hourly?) meltdowns over every other tiny thing though. Sigh. It just makes me sad that she's clearly feeling so unsettled and is acting this way - she seems so unhappy a lot of the time now. I feel like we've brought this on her, and ourselves, mostly due to the move, which has whipped away all her stability (house, childcare, regular activities, etc). sad

flanjabelle Thu 19-Nov-15 11:55:27

Im there with you op.

My biggest realisation with dd has been that she mirrors me, she absolutely copies my behaviour. I have to model soft speaking, gentle reminders, always talking to her in a loving tone, even when she is naughty. the minute I lose my cool even slightly, she copies and throws it back at me, amplified x1000000.

So when I want to shout because she has broken something on purpose or drawn on something she shouldn't have, I calmly get down to her level and quietly tell her that it's not ok. if she speaks rudely to me or shouts demands at me, I get down to her level and calmly tell her that she needs to speak to mummy nicely. if she continues to speak in a nasty way, I tell her I will not talk to her until she is nice. All in a very calm and gentle tone.

I ask for a sorry, then we have a cuddle. I use this time to show her how happy it makes me when she is nice. It lightens the moment and we move on.

The rest of the time, I'm madly praising the good stuff. All the tiny little things that would normally go unnoticed And it makes her happy. I involve her in everything that I'm doing if I can, and I'm making more effort to have special time together. Yesterday we played pirates in the park for ages, and she was beautifully behaved for the rest of the morning.

Talking is important too, just talking and making her feel heard. she needs to know that I'm interested in what she has to tell me, no matter how trivial. I think this has made a difference with the shouting. She has no need to shout all the time because she knows I'm listening.

SweetAdeline Thu 19-Nov-15 11:58:03

So much of it could just be age related though so don't feel guilty.

flanjabelle Thu 19-Nov-15 12:05:22

The whole point of ignore the bad/praise the good is to stop the vicious cycle of children acting up to get attention. Even negative attention is still attention. the point is to have as small a reaction to the negative stuff as is possible/safe (so just a firm no instead of lots of shouting and lengthy explanations as to why it's wrong) and a big reaction with lots of positive attention for the good behaviour. If you are looking for attention, which one are you going to go for? unfortunately, lots of us slip into a pattern of giving more attention (albeit negative) when they are naughty, than when they behave nicely which feeds this cycle.

CityDweller Thu 19-Nov-15 12:21:21

I also had a brainwave that I think a lot of her behaviour is down to losing our routine. We used to have a very predictable weekly routine, which has totally gone out the window since we moved. Hopefully once she's settled into her new childcare settings and we do other activities on a regular basis this will help. My DSis also recommended drawing a colour-coded weekly planner and sticking it on her wall so we can look each morning and she knows what to expect.

katienana Thu 19-Nov-15 14:27:34

Flanjabelle has put it really well.I think a new regime might be a bit much for you and her at the moment.

Bishboshbash Thu 19-Nov-15 14:44:25

First of all I think lots of Mummy cuddles and time spent playing together/reading stuff like that would be good if she is feeling unsettled. Have you heard of love bombing?
I am not a fan of the naughty step/time out etc. Any major bad behaviour (hitting ,throwing etc) I do two "no we don't do that"s and then I will take away whatever he is throwing/remove him from the situation/remove myself if he is hitting me!
Lots of warnings about leaving places/going out. Including something he wants to do "we will get some cake at the shop/go to the park on the way home/go collect Daddy from work!"
Pick your battles is something I try to keep in mind too, if he doesn't want his nappy changed/to get dressed I leave him another five mins and go do something else. If he doesn't want to wear shoes/coat I say we will go without them then and open the door,all of a sudden he wants to put them on then! I also let him take a toy in the car (usually a little car or two) he likes picking what he is going to take, as going in the car seat is a battle for us!
I think you are right about her routine, I'm sure that will help and I love the chart idea.

Lilipot15 Thu 19-Nov-15 19:16:09

OP - the upheaval of everything will pass. I remember crying when we moved not because we were leaving the house but because I was taking DD1 away from a childminder she had settled with (and it took a while to settle!), plus we had a new house, in a new town where I knew no-one, baby was arriving in a couple of months prior to which I was coordinating home improvements and settling in at new nursery. I suddenly felt horrified at what I was expecting a tiny person to deal with.

We have muddled through. It is really tough but there is never a good time to make all these changes in my opinion.

flowers/brew/wine for you!

waterrat Thu 19-Nov-15 20:37:18

Gosh are being hard on yourself as a parent ...she is a baby herself in many ways..which I promise you will see more clearly in a year's time when you look back at pictures etc.

The routine thing is massive for kids at that age. She has had her world turned upside down and a new baby! That means you are shattered so you are.worrying more than you need to.

She is a 2 year old of course she is wilful

I'd just take a big deep breath and put cbeebies on whenever things get fractious !
I am a year ahead of you and I was just looking at pictures of my son aged 2 and a bit. ..I can't believe how little he looks and how like a baby. I found him such hard work and so stressful and now I think it was mainly because I was pregnant then had a new born.
I wish I cpuld go back in time and just relax more about all of it. It's all completely natural for a 2 and a half year old ..developmentally appropriate etc. She will grow and change and you don't need to worry about it.

waterrat Thu 19-Nov-15 20:39:30

Blimey and new childcsre. I think you are forgetting the stress her mind is under accommodating ao much change.

It's natural that you worry but I promise if you weren't in the throws of newborn life uou would feel much calmer about it.

CityDweller Thu 19-Nov-15 21:16:04

Thank you all for the supportive words. Perhaps we do just need to lower our expectations and standards. But I really don't want to encourage certain bad habits - eg if she wants something she tends to yell 'Daddy - give me X' at the top of her voice, repeatedly. I'm so sick of endlessly saying 'how do you ask nicely?' I feel like I'm constantly policing her actions and behaviour. But I also don't want her to think the way to get what she wants is by yelling and demanding...

And I'd happily stick her in front of CBeebies or the iPad, and in fact we do. But she's then a demon when it's time to turn it off.

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