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How to support sudden "personality" changes at 18 months? lots of "no" and increased sensitivity...

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

OK I suppose this is probably perfectly normal, but I am amazed at how fast my baby just became a regular toddler! In the last week or so, right at 17.5m, she has suddenly started having a lot more frustration in various contexts and even having tantrums on the floor sometimes. She's still very sweet and affectionate and playful, but she also cries a lot more and at things that never seemed to bother her, and almost seems to be looking for opportunities for disagreements, if that makes any sense.


I can see she's trying harder to solve problems (both social and physical), but she gets so frustrated when she can't do something and just yells and keeps trying and gets mad a anyone interfering with her goal. She's been fighting over toys etc with other kids too (or maybe more like standing up for herself around bigger toddlers), and getting her own ideas (heaven forbid ;) !) and trying to argue with us, e.g. to take the car when we're going for a walk -- she tells us with signs, then throws a small tantrum when she realizes we aren't changing the plan. Along the same lines, she's now routinely refusing to do things we suggest, and saying "no" every time we ask her a question, even things she always says yes to, even when the answer is objectively yes, and even when she actually means yes, which she shows us with her actions. Is she just trying out "no" or are we missing something important here?


We do a lot of communication (bilingual household, lots of books & commentary, baby signs) and while she doesn't have many words, she understands us both and interacts a lot, and we're used to suggesting things / asking her questions and getting pretty easy or even enthusiastic cooperation (with the exception of when we interrupt her activities for something like a diaper change -- this was where she first started saying no, even to questions we knew the answer to like is there poop in your diaper).  It's funny to us because she says "no" pretty cheerfully most of the time, and we simply haven't adapted to this and found ways to rephrase things like "it's time to..." instead of "do you want to..." or even using a question intonation, which now elicits "no". I guess another problem is how to motivate her to do a boring thing (e.g. getting dressed) when she also says "no" to the fun thing that she knows will follow (going outside). 


So I'm hoping for some perspective or ideas to help her (and us!) with this phase of asserting herself more and challenging herself (and us!) more. Of course I'm glad to see her standing up for herself but I think maybe life just got more difficult! Did other people experience this, and what helped you the most with this transition?

post #2 of 5
Oh my goodness, congratulations on entering toddlerhood with a bang! For us it was more gradual but started at 13 months so I guess toddler mamas just can't win lol.

The automatic no; that was annoying! She'd say no to water WHILE reaching for the glass and stomping her feet eagerly in anticipation eyesroll.gif. I simply followed her wishes rather than her words and would quietly say "yes, you do want water. Ok here you go". She gave it up in a few weeks but boy, did it get old FAST!

For her wanting to do it all herself without help, all I could do was to hide the worst offenders (like laceup shoes) when she was napping and streamline some things (rainboots and crocs were a great help). I got her a couple of very simple peg puzzles that she could do by herself fairly well and that helped. Really no magic here either, just survival lol.

With getting dressed, she started choosing her own outfits which helped. For a mental picture of her getups, try crossing Cindy Lauper circa 1987 with a colorblind grandfather and that should get you close lol. In fact that's still ongoing. Her latest church outfit was zebra print pants, purple rainboots, an orange tutu, a pink Elmo pajama top and a wacky 70's floral print sunhat lol. I just gave up on that. If what she's wearing isn't wet or dirty, I let her keep it on. Meh.

For other stuff, I let her have her choice as much as I can within the realm of safety and reason. I pick my battles. It's a lot easier to muster up the energy to wrestle her into the carseat if we haven't already fought about fifteen things that day.

I'm sorry I don't have a magic solution for you; welcome to becoming a toddler mama. My DD mellowed out with time and is fairly delightful and dare I say starting to get a little reasonable now at two. Good luck!
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Haha, thanks the reply - and yes she did go out to "school" in a pajama top the other day! That sort of power struggle hasn't really been an issue so far (she can wear whatever she wants if she feel strongly enough about it to choose something herself), but I do plan to set up a montessori-style closet for her when we get her room together; everything within reach and organized for easy choosing one thing from each basket/section. I really like the approach of of setting her up for success with activities she can currently handle, even if just barely.


I'm concerned more about the physical "challenges" she sets up for herself and gets stuck in - this is what I mean by "puzzles" although it includes fighting over toys etc - for example, when I picked her up yesterday, she was playing on her own with a safety gate, very concentrated, closing it and then trying to force her head through the too-small space and getting really mad and frustrated. She just does not give up now, even when it's physically impossible. On the other hand, last night she was doing the same thing trying to climb into the carrier-backpack she rides in for hiking, and after I gave up discouraging her (thinking she'd get stuck half in and fall on her head), I came back to find her all curled up inside it, she had succeeded on her own terms! So maybe she'll just work this out for herself, but she is suddenly just sticking with these kinds of challenges and not stopping even when she's really frustrated. I suppose this trait will serve her well in life if it's personality, but what can I do to help her now, and if this is just toddlerhood, will it really stay like this for another 2 years???

post #4 of 5
With the sticking with something that is clearly frustrating them, really it IS a great thing even though it can be so frustrating to watch. Usually I'll just offer a "Hey, if you want/need help, let me know!" and go about my business assuming it is safe and if DD starts fussing a bunch more I'll remind her that she can ask for help if she wants it. I remember when she was that age-ish her practicing sitting from standing in her crib for ~30 minutes, it is amazing how stuck they can get on something and I know with my DD she has a bit of a perfectionist in her at times so she wants to be able to do things correctly and well right away!

If it is something not possible (like fitting her head through a space too small), I might suggest after some tries that her head is too big, but maybe she could try some of her toys instead? Sometimes that works to break DD out of a rut, but if she isn't upset, I don't really worry about it, I figure she's learning.

Sounds like your DD is about to make some leaps ahead though, so hopefully she'll get through the frustrating part pretty quickly smile.gif I don't think she'll be like that all the time for the rest of her toddlerhood, but I'm sure she'll have phases of being determined/stubborn, I know DD has had some doozies!
post #5 of 5

Totally normal!  For that reason, I prefer a real live two-year-old to the 18-month-old version any day of the week. 


It gets easier, I promise.  Especially as they become more verbal.

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Mothering › Mothering Forums › Toddler › Life with a Toddler › How to support sudden "personality" changes at 18 months? lots of "no" and increased sensitivity / struggles / frustrations