DS is 20 months old. While on the changing table he likes to kick us, but just when he’s getting ready for bed. I’m 37 weeks pregnant so getting kicked isn’t pleasant. Normally my husband does this part of bedtime, and though he does get kicked he just holds his legs gently and leans in to tell him, “No kicking, it hurts,” and waits for him to stop; it’s just straight simple talk and DS stops usually after two or three kicks.
The other night I had to put DS to bed and it was a nightmare with the kicking. Nothing I said or did worked; I moved away so he couldn’t kick, I told him no, I used the stern face, we had stare down, I yelled at him, I didn’t yell at him… I know, I laugh because this is way too much for a 20 month old and it’s no wonder he kept laughing at me, which really does wonders for your parenting self-esteem. I think I just got through it quickly and moved on.
My husband heard us struggling and later told me about his technique, but wouldn’t you know tonight DH had the same exact experience with DS as I did! (So happy to know it wasn’t just me). DS laughed at him with every effort to discipline his kicking. It was like watching a TV show with a mirror image of what I went through the other night.
So… what do we do before this gets out of hand? I thought about just putting him on the floor and walking away, but we need to get him ready for bed, and I suspect part of this behavior is because he’s overtired and wound up so getting him to bed as soon as possible is part of the solution. I'm pretty sure this is part of the problem because during the day he gets disciplined for other things and doesn't act this way.
What do you suggest? We use a lot of redirecting with toys he can play with on the table, but he probably has more fun kicking us because the “reaction” is like a game to him. So how do you end the game so he knows you’re serious?
Well first, you're right that he probably doesn't understand and it's a game to him. Also, you also might be right about him being wound up before bed.
For being would up before bed, you might try just very slightly shifting his bedtime, like by 15 minutes or half an hour one way, and if that doesnt' help 15 minutes or half an hour the other way. A slight change could shift him to being just slighty more tired or slightly less tired, and might make things easier.
For my toddler, and when my older child was a toddler, I just say "Ouch! No kicking." Which you're basically doing. I try to be very consistent and matter of fact - so no laughing or playing along, but also I don't get angry as it's just a normal toddler thing and not really misbehavior. They do eventually figure it out but it takes time and maybe a bit more maturity. I do gently hold her legs down to keep her from kicking me, and say, "no kicking mommy." I don't just let her kick me.
Also, he might not be comfortable on the changing table depending on his size and that could be part of it. As pregnant as you are, the floor might not work, but maybe putting a towel on the bed and sitting on the bed to change might help? They get really antsy during diaper changes at that age. I got some pull-up style cloth diapers at some point so I can do some of the diaper changes while my daughter is standing. Also, at some point with my older daughter, I would set her on the toilet to change her diaper, like pull it down and set her there, and tehn wipe her and put a new one on. It led to her potty training so it wasn't a bad thing, and she didn't squirm as much.
Two year olds do not have any impulse control. They've also just recently realized they are separate from you and are trying to see how much influence they have over their self. There are a lot of normal toddler behaviors that annoying, including hitting or kicking and tantrums. It's more effective to discipline calmly and not take the behavior personally. A strong reaction is too interesting and reinforces the behavior. You don't have to worry about normal two year old behavior becoming permanent because it goes away as the two year old matures. An 'owie, kicking hurts, be gentle' is enough reaction. Also changing the diaper standing up is a good idea too. I really agree with mamazee, too.
I was going to suggest standing up dipe changes too.
Also distraction can still work wonders at this age. Get him singing along with you, or give him something exciting to hold (maybe something normally "off-limits" like a cell phone?). I've been known to do diaper changes on the floor in front of the tv just to get it done peacefully!
Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010
My son's about the same age; definitely a kicker too!
What works for us (sometimes!) is I'll "ouch! kicking hurts!" and then I'll go on to list all the things he can do with his legs--running up the hill at our house, climbing the stairs, jumping, dancing, etc. It's really just a distraction thing, I guess. He loves being talked to like that, so I have no idea if that would work with your son's personality! Just thought I'd throw it out there though.
And yes, standing diaper changes, hah.
My ds is a bit older than yours, but I start crying when he kicks me. He has a HUGE vocab, and understands everything I say to him, but it doesn't work. So, one day I cried (I was acting, but I REALLY played it up), and he squished his little face up and looked so sorry and sat up to "kiss it to make it better". It's my go-to everytime he kicks now - it sends the message that it hurts, and he stops, AND I get kisses (which is the best part of course - we love kisses in this house!).