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Toddler tantrums - advice needed

(19 Posts)
DML13 Tue 20-Dec-16 20:42:15

I have never posted on here but I'd be reassured to know that perhaps this is happening the other parents and advice would be appreciated.

I'm a full time working mum in an oncology unit (emotionally draining) and DS who is 2.5yr is in nursery 8am till 6pm monday-friday. Four out of five days a week he is picked up by MIL as I do a late shift. TBH I feel I've never quite bonded with DS, I found it difficult to breast feed, we had problems with weightloss and reflux and so I decided to go back to work fulltime after Mat leave quite literally 'for a break'. And things were good for a while - I had what I call a sense of 'equilibrium'. My DS seemed happy and complicit with the day-to-day routine. Now however he is able to talk and frequently throws tantrums. My days are punctuated by mornings with a child kicking and screaming as I strap him into the car seat all the way to the nursery and again each evening at pick up time. He does not have a nap at nursery (dropped his nap about 5 months ago). When he get in the door I have food ready but if he doesn't like it another tantrum follows and then I literally have to do battle with him to get pyjamas on for bed. He pushes me, kicks me and bites me. I have been violent towards him so this behaviour is worrying me. This cycle continues each day and it is wearing me out. Some mornings I actually leave early for work - just to not be around him! I just don't have the energy for it and there is no rationalising with him.

Recognising that this is an issue, I read a Toddler Calm book and have been trying the 'I know your sad and don't want to go to bed but Mummy is tired and you are tired and we have to be up early again tomorrow etc' and the nice approach isn't getting me results. What is worse now is I am feeling resentment that I have complicated our lives by having a child at all (DH works long hours also) although I try to keep telling myself it's his behaviour I don't like, not him it is difficult to stave off those thoughts. I have looked into our finances but neither of us can drop our hours as we are just about paying bills with both us working - part of me thinks his tantrums may be a cry for attention as he sees me only for 30mins in the morning and in the evening...but I can't change that sadly. I'm racked with feelings of guilt, resentment and overall i'm exhausted by constant battles.

I want to be a full time working mum with a happy toddler, without daily battles - how can I make that happen?

Heirhelp Tue 20-Dec-16 21:20:53

I have been violent towards him is this correct or is it a typo?

Solasum Tue 20-Dec-16 21:25:02

What do you do at weekends, and how does he behave then?

Blossomdeary Tue 20-Dec-16 21:33:24

The bit about being "violent" is a worry, and you need to get some help with this. Children of this age can be a huge challenge. There is nothing abnormal in that - but it sounds as though you are really struggling, not just about his behaviour but your whole relationship with him, as you seem to have gone back to work to avoid having to deal with him and the reality of life with a 2 year old.

I do think that you should talk to the health visitor about this and tell her how you are struggling badly with this.

Don't let this all drift - it is not good for any of you.

Heirhelp Tue 20-Dec-16 21:39:24

Children have tantrums because life is difficult and it causes lots of emotions that they don't know how to handle. It sounds like you are expecting more of his abilities to handle his emotions than yourself. You recognise that you have a difficult job/day and that this impacts on your ability to cope and your behaviour yet you just want him to be happy all the time.

I agree that you really need to seek professional help with this situation.

DML13 Tue 20-Dec-16 21:40:34

Hi thanks for your responses. No I've never been violent towards him. I'm a very placid gentle person and I loathe the tantrums and battles each morning and evening. My MIL thinks I should be more assertive, but it not in my nature to be a 'shouty' person (she's quite loud but that's just her personality). DH and MIL feel DS has me 'wrapped round his finger'. But I don't feel DS can be manipulative at that age?

My weekends are spent trying to balance housework/chores with an activity for DS - I usually take him to our local toddler pool which he loves. Or we play an hour of football or so in the park and runs off all his energy...and he does have alot of energy. He does have less tantrums at the weekend, probably because I'm around more or DH is around - which just further questions whether his tantrums are due to lack of one on one attention from me.

Thanks again, I'm rather tearful tonight, I just know the whole cycle is going to start when I try and get him out of bed at 7am for nursery run tomorrow.

Crumbs1 Tue 20-Dec-16 21:51:26

Little ones aren't usually judgemental and if he is used to nursery then he won't be demanding something else -that guilt is coming from you not him.

It is a long way day for little ones so he will be tired and fractious but he will adjust. Toddlers have tantrums and they are hard for parents to,cope with but they pass. You may need to be a bit more assertive and if he needs strapping in then just strap him in and have done with it. At supper time you might want to return to finger food for a while and not have a battle -even sandwich fingers and fruit will do if he has a meal at nursery. Don't waste your energy cooking for a while. Plain pasta and vegetable fingers always used to,go,down ok with mine.

Find time for a cuddle and calm. Maybe even sit on sofa with him whilst he eats finger food rather than forcing him to eat a formal meal. Time enough for that later.

Heirhelp Tue 20-Dec-16 21:52:47

I did think the violent bit was a typo but never the less you need to seek help with this.

I really don't think shouty would be helpful in this situation. Children are manipulative in the sense they do what they think will get them the desired outcome but not in the sense if I sense Mummy has had a bad let's kick off so I get what I want.

Does DH pull his weight? You mentioned working late, do you start later on these days?

DML13 Tue 20-Dec-16 22:06:54

Thanks again. I will try the finger food idea. A friend at work says snacks whilst in the car would help too as DS is usually hungry. So will try that also.

I work one day/week later - a 12 hr shift - so no unfortunately I don't start work any later that day.

I had a HV come round for about 6 visits when I was struggling on Mat leave with my emotions and was possible PND, but I feel different now to those times. I don't feel low or depressed, I just feel I've lost direction with parenting and thought surely another full time working parent may have the same dilemmas. But what would a HV do in my situation - I'm happy to contact them, but apart from those visits during Mat leave I don't have any contact with them.

DH is helpful around the house but he also gets the brunt of DS tantrums so he also agrees we need some help and was happy to look over finances with me to see if either of us could cut hours as our thought were that this is getting all out of hand, bringing us all down.

Solasum Wed 21-Dec-16 07:27:37

I changed jobs to something less intellectually stimulating but much more family friendly when my DS was 1. I feel the benefit to him of having the extra hour and a half with me a day is worth the personal cost to me as it is only temporary. Worth considering?

Solasum Wed 21-Dec-16 07:28:41

Are you getting enough sleep yourself? I find everything looks brighter after a few days of going to bed basically with DS

icklekid Wed 21-Dec-16 07:41:33

health visitors (whilst mixed) should be able to give you some good advice about how to focus on the positive or distract your ds when he displays behaviour you don't want. My ds is similar age and very surprised he isn't eating tea at nursery. Friends whose children are at nursery tend to have main meal at midday and then sandwich tea at 4. if still hungry could give snack when home but ds would be too tired for main meal.
I think most toddlers tantrum occasionally at 2 but having coping strategies is important. If you were to cut hours would your reduced childcare costs help? Or could you consider it as temp increase as free hours will start at 3!

what are the most difficult times when he most often tantrums? Getting up and dressed could become a race. Could he take a favourite toy in car to nursery? We sing a lot to ds to distract him when he starts getting upset.

Alorsmum Wed 21-Dec-16 07:54:05

I just want to say it's a phase and it WILL pass!
My third child was like this and I really despaired as my eldest two hadn't been so..... However it helped massively that I knew it wasn't my parenting she was just a more spirited toddler as the other two hadn't been such arses at age 2!
Definitely a snack and juice in the car as distraction.
2 is very young to drop the nap. He's probably hungry over stimulated and tired and with you can act up as feels safe with you to do so. Does he ever nap at the weekend to catch up?

I find it helps to pretend I'm a kids tv presenter dealing with someone else's child in my relentless cheeriness in the face of extreme tantrummy behaviour

I feel for you re the mornings.... Getting ready with a screaming banshee attached to your leg is not fun..... Sometimes I'd just put her in the car on a dressing gown and let the childminder get her dressed. I also started to drop off 15 mins earlier so I could return home and finish getting myself ready and tidy the disaster zone of a toddler wrecked house before i went to work.
It WILL get better.... My hard work toddler is 3.2 now and improving daily

ElphabaTheGreen Wed 21-Dec-16 08:24:23

Un-mumsnetty hugs OP. I'm a full-time working mum to 4 and 2yo boys - both were in nursery full-time from 8mo. It's really fucking hard.

I wouldn't worry about dropping hours for the sake of your DS - I don't actually think it would make any difference to his behaviour. It might assuage your guilt a little or make things less hectic for you at one end of the day or the other, but the change would only be perceived by you. He would really have no concept of the change in your working hours, and I doubt it would lessen his tantrums.

2.5 is peak age for tantrums. The more verbal he gets, the more they will pass. DS1 was a little toad at 2.5, not helped by the presence of his new baby brother, but at 3, he turned delightful.

I quite like Toddler Calm - DH and I went together to a Toddler Calm session when we were having differences of opinion on parenting approaches - but it does assume that you have a lot more time than your average full-time working parent has to sit with your child to ride out a tantrum then talk to them about it afterwards. I think the things I ended up finding most valuable were the theories on why toddlers tantrum, their lack of empathy until considerably older than one might think and that it's perfectly OK to 'give in' when it comes to some areas. I really think you just need to ride-out toddlerhood. Keep them out of harm's way and ride the mo fo out until you can reason with them. You really don't need to think too hard about 'parenting' and setting boundaries per se. You'll already have a daily routine that he has to fit into by virtue of work, and nursery will also be giving him loads of structure and socialisation. You'll get Super Nanny types (which you sound like you have in your life!) who will think otherwise - my FIL was like that, until what he saw as my lax parenting still resulted in a lovely little boy once the appropriate amount of time had elapsed. Smile and nod, and do what you have to do to survive. No one else, apart from your DH, has any concept of how unbelievably hard your day to day life is. Expecting disciplinarian parenting on top of that is a joke.

My (absolutely stellar hmm) coping strategies are to park the boys in front of Paw Patrol with some kind of snack (fruit, yoghurt, milk, etc) so I can get ready in the morning, and have all clothes laid out ready in the living room so they know what's coming. Keeping the TV on while we dress them and do teeth sometimes helps. I have no guilt about this use of the screen - it works.

We do have some mornings where we're battling one if not two screaming and kicking boys into the car. It's shit, but it just is. We have the advantage of seeing that it gets easier with DS1. We're where you're at with our DS2 at the moment but we know it will get better, as that phase with DS1 now seems like a distant memory.

Take care OP flowers

DML13 Wed 21-Dec-16 15:16:24

Gosh you lot are amazing, thanks so much for the virtual hugs and support and the advice. I tried cucumber sticks and toast this morning in the car - to hell with the uphosterly now - my sanity is what counts. But it worked and I was able to drive in peace. I have a lunchbox of snacks ready for the journey home later - prepared last night after your advice.

Alorsmum - love the comment about pretending to be a TV presenter on a kids show I'll give that a go!! I'd never thought about getting dressed in front of the TV - brill.

I'm perhaps not getting enough sleep as the guilt and worry about why his behaviour is the way it is certainly getting me down but knowing many of you say it is a phase will help me keep context. I may be able to drop a shift when nursery fees reduce at 3yrs..... Thanks again.

archersfan22 Thu 22-Dec-16 08:38:03

I suspect your son's behaviour is more to do with being 2.5 and maybe tiredness than to do with the hours you're working. For your son it's normal to be at nursery full time so he has no expectation that things could be any different. So as hard as it is try not to extrapolate any (unnecessary) guilt you are feeling onto his feelings. He will be worse on nursery evenings because he's tired, not because he hasn't seen enough of you.
I have a toddler in peak tantrum age too - favourite phrases are 'no' and 'I not want to' Although I only work part time work mornings are getting very difficult as we have to leave the house at 7am on my work days. I often have to chase him round the house/pin him down to get him dressed. So even if it was possible for you to work part time, the tantrums wouldn't instantly disappear! And the days when I'm at home with him aren't exactly all sweetness and light either, he still has tantrums (in fact I posted on here about it recently). Funnily enough, the nursery say that he's quite quiet and extremely well behaved when he's there so I think as a pp said he feels confident at home to push the boundaries.
We have a Thomas the Tank CD which is popular in the car, although luckily once we start driving he's usually ok.

DML13 Thu 22-Dec-16 20:36:41

Thanks archersfan22. Reassuring to know that as you work part time the tantrums are also present. I embraced the 'pretending to be a TV presenter' thing today and we had a 'mini disco' before bed and pretended to be dinosaurs walking up the stairs to bed. Then getting dressed was a race (I also changed into pyjamas, not sure if that influenced things but certainly had no battle getting clothes on). Tonight has honestly been the first night I've had some success with only a little 'NO'. Thanks again everybody :-))

jessplussomeonenew Thu 22-Dec-16 21:45:43

Just to say that Calm Parents Happy Kids has some great advice - and crucially it starts with trying to look after yourself, because when you're tired and emotionally drained it's really, really hard to respond calmly and positively. You sound stressed and unhappy and it's so natural for kids to pick up on that and trigger a vicious circle.

PragmaticWench Thu 22-Dec-16 22:12:21

I've been through similar with DD and DS, mostly with DD but she's just turned four and is coming out the other side, thankfully! I spent five months seeing a psychotherapist as we'd had a tough time with reflux/allergies/asthma/zero sleep in the first years and I'd become a stressed and horrible parent.

My main strategy has been to 'fake it until you make it', which is very similar to the previous idea of pretending to be a children's tv host. I take on a friendly role with the children and keep my voice light, sweet, calm and don't let my tired and grumpy self come through. It really works, the children are happier as I'm engaging more on their level, and I'm honestly starting to feel very different with them. I feel calmer, happier, and in turn they are less grotty and tantrum less.

I combine that with a fair amount of distraction before we get to the tantrum stage, and I'm trying to think 'does that really matter?' when my instinct is to get cross at something they're doing.

Loving the sound of your mini disco and dinosaur playing, did it make you feel better too?

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