2yo meltdowns + hitting - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 10-14-2011, 03:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am struggling with my 2yo ds (bet you've never heard that before winky.gif).

 

He hits frequently.  I respond by asking him to stop, offering to help him, trying to distract him, and finally removing him from the situation, generally to his crib because he continues to hit repeatedly whomever is around him.

 

He hits me when I don't give him exactly what he wants.  I can relate to the feeling, but I can't tolerate being hit repeatedly.  If I walk away from him he follows me screaming and hits me when he gets close enough.  I generally put him in his crib.

 

I talk to him about his frustration, offer him alternatives, laugh and play with him, offer him a high-five when I see the next blow coming, etc.  Not much luck.  Some days are better than others.

 

This afternoon was particularly frustrating.  He woke up a little earlier than normal from his nap and was not happy.  He pretty much just wanted me to hold him, so I did.  I nursed him when he first woke up, but didn't want to nurse him again after that.  I tried to interest him in another beverage or snack, but he didn't want anything.  He wanted a fish oil capsule, which I only give them in the bath, so I told him he'd have to eat it in the bath and we started a bath.  He didn't want to get in the bath, so I didn't give him the fish oil.  He was mad.  I kept holding him and snuggling and hanging out with him.  He kept asking for the fish oil, I kept telling him he had to get in the bath to have it, he kept refusing and getting mad.  I wound up putting him in his crib because he wouldn't stop hitting.  Then he got mad and didn't want to get OUT of the crib.  He'd call for me, I'd go in to see if he wanted to come out, he'd scream "no" and crawl over to the far corner of the crib, I'd say "okay" and go out, he would immediately call for me, but every time I went back he would freak out.  I eventually took him out of the crib and held him firmly (like a bear hug) and withstood a few slaps to the back and shoulders while I snuggled and shushed him to get him calmed down.  He was okay then after a while (dd was out of the bath and playing elsewhere by then) but later I put him in the crib for more chasing me around hitting me.  His older cousin came over and then he finally ate a snack and has been playing nicely with dd and dc for nearly an hour.

 

Ds is a happy, healthy child.  I understand that he is expressing his will and I appreciate that.  I just want to figure out the best way to handle it for us all to get through this developmental stage as peacefully as possible.  Dd was strong willed, but also extremely agreeable and fairly easy to redirect, even at an older age (now it's a bit of a different story at 4.5!), but ds is very stubborn and focused in a way she wasn't.  When he's freaking out like that and doesn't want anything and I can't really hang out with him because he won't stop hitting me and he sometimes doesn't even want me anywhere near him, I get frustrated and feel like I'm not doing it right.  Please share your thoughts and experiences.

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#2 of 13 Old 10-14-2011, 08:49 PM
 
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I have no advice, but your ds sounds like a clone of my ds....and I would love to know what other people have to say about how to handle it.

I am struggling with it as well. My ds is 2.5 yo. and hits when he gets frustrated or angry. I try and put him in time out on the step, but no matter what I do he won;t stay. he will only hit me... if I hold him, then he bites me. So he usually ends up in his crib.

he also does the same thing your does....calls me in, when I get close, tells me to go away. I do, then he cries and calls me back in. I usually only go in once, then just shut the door and walk away. He will scream bloody murder and cry the whole time. I usually leave him for 5 min or so, then go back in. Sometimes it takes up to 20 min or half hour to get him to calm down. I have no idea how to deal with it.

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#3 of 13 Old 10-15-2011, 05:49 PM
 
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I'd be careful not to get in any unnecessary power struggles.  What I mean is I'd think carefully before drawing my line in the sand.

 

For example, if he doesn't usually ask to nurse a second time after waking (ie. if this is not a nursing session you are actively working at cutting out or anything), then maybe this time he just particularly needed a bit more of a snuggle/nurse (maybe he woke up a bit before he was really ready?).  Maybe just bending a bit on that would have set him up to have a better mood for the rest of the afternoon.

 

Also, in the case of the fish oil capsule, is there a reason why it needs to be in the bath?  Perhaps today he could have just had it out of the bath???

 

Is it possible to find a way to give him *almost* exactly what he wants in a way that he feels like he's getting what he wants?  I've had some success with that in the past.  The whole saying-yes-whenever-possible thing, combined with honouring the impulse.  For ex. you see ds jumping on the couch which is a no-no in your house: "Oh look, you want to jump!  AWESOME!  Grab my hands, I'm going to help you do some super huge jumps!!!"  Then jump him right off the couch and all around the room.  Jump him all the way to the kitchen where you suddenly spot a tasty snack for you guys to share (distraction!  jumping forgotten!).  That's the general idea anyway...

 

ETA I'd also think about prevention.  Don't forget to be hyper-aware of triggers.  I don't mean just not getting what he wants, but also look at times of the day, or situations in which he's more likely to hit.  Keeping a kid well-fed and well-rested can go a long way in avoiding these kinds of behaviours.  Sometimes some tweaking of the routine can help (more outdoor time, get out of the house earlier in the day, make sure to have a down-time snuggle in the late afternoon, go for a walk before dinner each day to blow off steam, whatever...).


Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010

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#4 of 13 Old 10-15-2011, 07:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for the replies.

 

Kate, maybe you're right.  I will definitely take a hard look at my "rules" and consider why I am saying no.

 

I don't want him to have fish oil capsules outside the bath because it is way too messy for me to handle.  He won't sit at the table long enough to finish it and it will get everywhere he touches and things wind up smelling like fish for a long time.  I think for now I'll just get him some liquid oil and give him a spoon of it to eliminate the eating-a-capsule part.  I could have given him a different supplement or a mint (we get xylitol mints that my kids love) instead of the fish oil.  But then again, I want to get rid of all supplements and mints because he fairly regularly throws fits because I won't give him a mint -- for me there's a limit to how many they can eat in a day.  I guess I just got stuck, mentally, on the bath.  I am kind of annoyed and frustrated that my kids, especially ds, don't want to take baths much anymore.  He's still in diapers and we really struggle with rashes, so a dip or two a day would do him a lot of good.

 

Nursing may be a little arbitrary, but I don't know how flexible I can be about it.  If my breasts are empty it is very uncomfortable to let him nurse.  I'm just not able to handle having him suck on me like that.  I try to distract him with snuggles or offers to do fun things, or ask if he'd like a drink or a snack -- sometimes it works, but when it doesn't, he often goes on a hitting-spree.

 

I know you're right about prevention, but I don't know how much more I can do.  I try to hold and snuggle him extra when he's having a rough day, but he rarely wants to be in a back carry, and I do have to do other things besides sit around and snuggle/play with my toddler.  (You know, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, make breakfast, wash diapers before we run out, etc.)  And "down-time snuggle" is pretty much impossible.  Unless he's nursing or I'm carrying him around, he's fully on the move.  He does not do down-time.

 

I don't mean to complain.  He is a wonderful child and I adore him and we have great times every day.  I'm just really struggling with the hitting and kicking and meltdowns.  When I'm halfway through changing a poopy diaper and he decides his goal is to kick me in the face repeatedly, I don't feel like I have a lot of options.  (This happens daily.)

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#5 of 13 Old 10-15-2011, 08:14 PM
 
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I totally get it about the nursing.  I have BTDT.  I just wasn't sure exactly what was going on after reading your OP.  And I understand about the fish oil now too.  ;)

 

I just re-read my last paragraph and realized that it wasn't that clear.  It sounds like maybe you got the wrong idea.  I didn't mean to say that more snuggling was the answer.  What I meant was that maybe there were some things you could change around in your routine (adding an afternoon snuggle was just an example) that would make things go smoother (ie. keep him in a good mood).  You have to see what works with your kiddo.  Being well-fed and well-rested is a big part of it for all kids, but sometimes there are other, more child-specific things that we can do to keep them in a decent mood.  Like some kids thrive on having more structure, some kids need lots of time running around outside, some kids need a fair amount of at-home or alone time, some kids really don't do well in crowds.  That kind of thing.  It might be worth shaking things up, and trying some new things out, just to see what happens.

 

Besides that I really do think that trying to say "yes" whenever possible, and honoring the impulse behind what he wants to do (even if he can't do exactly what he wants to do) is a good strategy.  It has worked well for me (not for hitting, but other undesirable behaviours) when my kids (and other kids I've babysat) were that age.

 

Good luck mama!

 

 


Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010

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#6 of 13 Old 11-07-2011, 03:25 PM
 
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Just curious how things have been going for you and if you've found any relief, and if so, how?

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#7 of 13 Old 11-07-2011, 06:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for asking.

 

I think things are getting better (different, at least).  I started reading Unconditional Parenting.  I can't get very much reading done, but a little here and there anyway.  I think I actually had this idea and implemented it before I got the book, but I can't remember for sure.  Anyway, I decided that putting him in his crib was making it worse, so I stopped doing it.  I decided he doesn't actually need a "consequence" inflicted by me every time he hits.  If I am in the kitchen and dd says he is hitting, I try to go over there right away and help them negotiate whatever the problem is.  If he hits me, I ask him to stop and try to help him get engaged in something else, or get what he needs/wants.  I decided to stop taking offense at him hitting and instead see it as him trying to communicate a need or desire that I should help to fulfill if I can.  His hitting became less frequent immediately.

 

He still hits, and bites (and now spits -- blows juicy raspberries eyesroll.gif), but it is so much better.

 

He still throws fits sometimes when I stop nursing him, especially in bed in the wee hours -- but I just tell him no once and then lie quietly next to him and shield my body from any incoming blows.  He really is much, much better.

 

So, I think that in the long run (and fortunately also in the short run) showing him love and tolerance when he is violent is the most effective tool I have.

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#8 of 13 Old 11-07-2011, 06:44 PM
 
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I like looking at the hitting as a form of communication (albiet a painful one!). 

 

One one episode of Supernanny, Jo explained how oftentimes outbursts are because a child does not feel heard in some way, so as an example she used yelling.  When the child started screaming or yelling, she had the parent get down to the childs level and quietly say, "I can't understand you when you're yelling, could you please speak softer?" 

 

Kinda unrelated, but at the same time what you said reminds me of that.

 

I wonder if this is a stage that naturally passes?  What do you do if he escalates or has he?

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#9 of 13 Old 11-07-2011, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Getting down on his level and speaking quietly has not had immediately positive results.  He still freaks out and screams and hits me, etc, etc.  He does escalate.  He hits more, screams more, bites, etc.  If I can't stay calm, I put him down and walk away for a few seconds (which makes him much more upset) but I try to just stick with him and very gently and very inconspicuously protect my body from harm.  The more I stick with him and stay calm and kind of ignore his outrageous behavior, the more quickly he comes back to himself.  At least that's been my experience so far.  It seems counter-intuitive because I want to yell at him or get away from him or smack him, but showing anger or any strong emotion, or separating myself have seemed to make the problem worse.  Occasionally when I can't take it and start crying, it gets his attention, but I'm not sure that's the best reaction either -- unless it's completely genuine, maybe.

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#10 of 13 Old 11-08-2011, 09:59 AM
 
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My ds sounds like yours as well, and he'll be 3 Jan.  Something that worked with my DS when he was throwing fits and hitting (and that some people on MDC hate with a passion), was to put him in his crib, sit in the room with him until he asked me to come get him.  I would read a book, and just wait for him to calm down.  I would say, "DS, I love you very much, but this behavior is not acceptable.  I'm going to read until you calm down, and then when you want some snuggles and hugs tell me and I will come get you."  It took a while, but his tantrums got shorter and shorter, and then I would get him, and sit on the bed reading with him and cuddling him for as long as we could. 

 

Something we do now to keep things calm is that if I feel like he's having a rough day, I'll say, "DS, do you want to get the cuddles going and read a book?"  My DS loves, and I mean LOVES books, so we read together as often as possible.  It really helps keep things calm.

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#11 of 13 Old 11-08-2011, 12:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Super~Single~Mama View Post

My ds sounds like yours as well, and he'll be 3 Jan.  Something that worked with my DS when he was throwing fits and hitting (and that some people on MDC hate with a passion), was to put him in his crib, sit in the room with him until he asked me to come get him.  I would read a book, and just wait for him to calm down.  I would say, "DS, I love you very much, but this behavior is not acceptable.  I'm going to read until you calm down, and then when you want some snuggles and hugs tell me and I will come get you."  It took a while, but his tantrums got shorter and shorter, and then I would get him, and sit on the bed reading with him and cuddling him for as long as we could. 

 

Something we do now to keep things calm is that if I feel like he's having a rough day, I'll say, "DS, do you want to get the cuddles going and read a book?"  My DS loves, and I mean LOVES books, so we read together as often as possible.  It really helps keep things calm.



Thank you for sharing your experience.  Since I have a 4.5yo dd who does not want to be left alone, I do not have the option of sitting in the bedroom with him while he throws a fit in the crib.  He also is just starting to sit still for books -- not for reading, but for looking at and talking about books.  He really doesn't sit for cuddles or books or anything else.  (He likes to be held while I stand and walk around, but I can only do so much of that because he is heavy!)

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#12 of 13 Old 11-08-2011, 01:42 PM
 
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Thank you for sharing your experience.  Since I have a 4.5yo dd who does not want to be left alone, I do not have the option of sitting in the bedroom with him while he throws a fit in the crib.  He also is just starting to sit still for books -- not for reading, but for looking at and talking about books.  He really doesn't sit for cuddles or books or anything else.  (He likes to be held while I stand and walk around, but I can only do so much of that because he is heavy!)



Can you sit and read with your DD while he calms down?  Maybe seeing her get the attention that he wants will help?

 

Or, can your dd play alone for a few minutes while you wait for your ds to calm down?  I know you said she doesn't want to be left alone, but at 4.5yo she should be able to play for a few minutes while you tend to your DS.  At least I would think.

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#13 of 13 Old 11-08-2011, 02:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Can you sit and read with your DD while he calms down?  Maybe seeing her get the attention that he wants will help?

 

Or, can your dd play alone for a few minutes while you wait for your ds to calm down?  I know you said she doesn't want to be left alone, but at 4.5yo she should be able to play for a few minutes while you tend to your DS.  At least I would think.



At 4.5 she can and does play alone frequently, however, she does not do it on command.  She also has entered a new and intense period of separation anxiety; it's starting to get a little better, but she does not want to be left alone ever.

 

I can't read to her in the same room he's screaming in because he is too loud.  Also, he is very stubborn, and I don't think seeing her get the attention he wants will help him calm down at all -- to the contrary.

 

I don't want to isolate him, however, so I am going to continue working in the direction of all of us staying together and riding it out.  It seems to be helping and is much more in line with my ethics.

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