Hello there! My daughter is 26 months and the first 26 months of being her parent has been a breeze! She is a more reserved but just a super sweet and curious kid. People are always commenting on how well behaved and sweet she is. She is more serious and shy with strangers but super talkative and comfortable with people she knows. It takes her awhile to warm up to new people and situations. She will just stand there and take it all in. She is a good sleeper, decent eater, we are still breast feeding once in the morning. She is very verbal and pretty darn smart.
I am with her all day everyday because I teach in her classroom. She has been one of the younger kids in her class but now there are a few that are younger than her. She seems to have recently realized she is bigger and older than the littler ones and is suddenly hitting and pushing constantly! She knows about gentle touches and knows exactly what she is doing. Just a month ago, she was super helpful and kind and gentle with her friends and now its the complete opposite! I know some of this is developmentally appropriate but I am just really trying to talk to her about this and work with her and hoping this is just a phase. It is exhausting! And on top of it, she has recently become very defiant, demanding things, and more irritable in general. It seems like are days are spent correcting her behaviors, asking her to take deep breaths and asking her to stop doing this or that. I miss my sweet, happy girl! It like she has suddenly changed and I am trying to adjust but also be consistent. Any advice? :)
Welcome to the joys of having a toddler! It is an oldie but an excellent resource, How to Talk So Children Will Listen and How to Listen so Children Will Talk. One book, just a long title. I still refer to it constantly.
Has anything else changed recently at all? Have you yourself been stressed or upset about something else, or has her dad? Any changes happened in her routine or anything like that?
You say you're the teacher at her preschool. Has anything changed in your job to upset her? It could also be that she is becoming jealous of sharing you with all the other kids (similar to when a toddler gets a baby sibling and starts acting out) and having a hard time with your dual roles as mama and teacher. And the reason she didn't have that problem before was that her brain wasn't there yet....if that makes sense. How long have you been in the situation of having both roles for her? Is she only acting this way at school or also at home?
I know that behavior can suddenly change due to rapid brain development, but I can tell you from my experience (my son just turned 2) that when he gets bossy or grumpy or "mis"behaves it is usually a reflection of something going on in our home or with me....like if I am in a rotten bad mood he then usually is too. Makes sense. But I think this situation is more complex since it's at preschool where you are both her teacher and mama.
Mama since 2010
Multicultural living in Europe
My DS changed a lot right after he turned 2, and continued on this strange spiral and only seemed to come out of it around 3.5 y/o. I feel like I've spent the last 1.5 years saying "Please keep your hands to yourself." "Please don't touch that." "Please don't hurt Mommy." "That's not okay." etc, etc, etc etc..........
FWIW, DS also got a new sibling and a new home and I became a SAHM - toddler years + lots of change = very frustrated child!
Sleepy, running, wife to DH 08/09 - Mama to DS 8/08 & DD 1/11
"Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. " - Japanese Proverb
I am currently reading a book I am really enjoying. It was recommended to me.
It is called Take Back Your Kids
here is a link to it.
it adresses this kind of question.
I'm a mom of a 2.5 year old and these 3 sources have been invaluable to me:
Janet Lansbury (janetlansbury.com or Janet Lansbury - Elevating Childcare on Facebook)
Dr. Laura Markham (www.ahaparenting.com and on Facebook as ahaparenting.com) and
Patty Wipfler - www.handinhandparenting.com (on Facebook as HandinHand).
All of their websites have tons of free articles that specifically address these questions or you can go onto their Facebook pages (or Yahoo group in the case of Hand In Hand) and ask for guidance. They do not advocate any sort of punishment or artificial consequences but setting gentle but firm limits with very practical step by steps of what to do in lots of different situations.
For me personally Janet Lansbury resonates most deeply with me, but all 3 of these sources recommend very similar things to do in this situation - it's about the parent (or caregiver) stepping in and staying calm but in control and not letting the child hit or push - you validate the emotion behind it ("I know you're mad but I won't let you hit.") I've used this with my daughter when she was very angry at me setting limits back around 20 months old and I only had to do this about 3 times - it really seemed to resolve it for her that "Mommy won't let me hit" so she would usually throw a fit instead to get her anger or frustration out. I would let her do that as long as she wanted as long as she didn't hurt herself, someone else or break something. The fit would only last 2 minutes MAX and she had it out of her system and moved on to doing something else as if nothing had happened. I might just be very lucky that she resolved herself so quickly
I know you said your daughter does understand know what she is doing (gentle touches vs. hitting) BUT the part of her brain that helps her rein in her impulse to hit isn't developed yet so keeping herself from acting on a very strong emotion, even if she knows it is wrong, is very difficult until that matures.
Out of curiousity since you are also a teacher in her classroom, your daughter can't be the only kid to have this issue so is there a specific policy that the school or you follow when it happens? If not, maybe if these techniques work for you you can pass them on to the other parents/teachers.
This is an excerpt from Janet Lansbury's article "Common toddler discipline mistakes":
There was a toddler in one of my parent/toddler guidance classes whose behavior could be considered “bad”. He was compelled to push limits, probably because his adoring, gentle mother struggled to set them confidently. She admitted that his behavior unnerved her. That, in turn, unnerved him, and “acting out” was the way he demonstrated it.
Some days I would have to calmly follow this boy, shadowing him so that he wouldn’t push or tackle one of the other 18 – 24 month olds. When I sensed an aggressive impulse coming, I would place my hand in the way and say matter-of-factly, “I won’t let you push” or gently move him away from the friend he was tackling and say, “That’s too rough.”
There was no point in reminding him to touch gently (in fact, that would have been an insult to his intelligence). He knew exactly what ‘gentle’ meant and was clearly making a different choice. But what I would often end up asking was, “Are you having a hard time today?” “Da”, he’d answer a bit wistfully, a hint of a smile on his face, recognition in his eyes. This simple acknowledgement coupled with my calm, consistent limit setting would usually ease the behavior.
Toddlers love to be understood. They also need to know that their discipline “teachers” are calm, unruffled and understanding, not thrown or upset by their behavior. And that is the way that I have come to understand misbehavior. It is not intentionally bad, mean or a way to upset parents. It is a request for help.
Help me, I’m tired. Help me, I have low blood sugar. Help me stop hitting my friends. Help me stop annoying or angering you… better yet, stop me before I do those things. Help me by remaining calm so I sense how capable you are at taking care of me. Help me by empathizing, so that I know you understand and still love me. Help me so that I can let go of these urges and distractions and be playful, joyful and free again."
Hope this helps!
A second thing is that toddlers start to understand that they are their own separate people. That means the separation anxiety dies down (yay!) but it also means they start struggling for autonomy. I would give her as much autonomy as you can - let her dress herself as much as she's able, let her pick out her own clothes as much as possible, don't fight her if she doesn't want to wear a sweater (just bring it along), etc. Put her dishes where she can reach them and pick them out herself. Really, as much as possible, let her make decisions for herself, even if that isn't what you'd choose, unless there is a safety issue or public obnoxiousness issue (like she can't scream at a restaurant.) This does two things. First, the more autonomous she feels, the less she should seek autonomy. Second, the less you fight the small things, the less it'll wear you out and and drive you crazy and the easier it'll be to fight the big things.
Thanks for the responses. I have heard of/read a lot of the above resources. There have not been any new changes in her life recently (except gentle weaning). She has a ton of autonomy--a main point in her Montessori classroom and at home. Although I know the toddlers are ever changing and so much is happening developmentally, the behaviors started so suddenly (at least to me). I know she is still working through some impulse control. She has been practicing using her words lately. She will tell me she is "frustrated" and then she wants a hug. The pushing has already died down as have the other behaviors. I also found out she is getting her two year molars. Despite these things, I want her to learn now and move past it as a happy, kind child.
She has spent the first 2 years of her life in unusual circumstances--me being the teacher and her mom. It has actually gone pretty well and she has handled it well for the most part. In September she is going to a new school! I think she is ready for a change anyway and we are ready for some time apart :)