Help with disciplining 2-yr-old :( - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 03-24-2006, 06:58 AM - Thread Starter
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My daughter will be 2 next month and I have recently found out I am pregnant with #2. Unfortunately the glory has been dulled by the attitude of my 2-year-old. For the past few weeks she has been throwing things, hitting, making messes beyond imagination.. when my dh and I try to be calm and firm, and tell her not to do something while looking her straight in the eye, she will continue what she is doing while looking directly at us. It is so frustrating. She will scream uncontrollably at diaper changes, strip her clothing off, and is very hard to divert her attention to something else. We have never spanked and I try to be very calm and logical with her but sometimes she throws these raging fits and if you tell her not right now or no, she will cry, kick, scream, and yell, especially at bedtime. I am just losing my patience.

What are some consequences I can give her at this age for her tantrums and throwing things? Any recommendations for books that are good for this particular age range? How can I keep clothes on the child! I feel like such a failure!
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#2 of 12 Old 03-24-2006, 10:01 AM
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Does she know about the baby? If she does, then I would say that she is reacting with some anxiety, and this is how she's expressing it.

However -- it could also just be normal 2 yo behavior.
scream uncontrollably at diaper changes
Resistance to diaper changes is normal at 2 yo. and very very difficult to stay patient with. I've had my very worst most shameful parenting moments while struggling in this exact situation. One tactic that was helpful to me was to keep small objects that I only allowed my son to hold during diaper changes. Little trinkets that he was attracted to, that I made seem "special" and just for this hard time. A medicine dropper was a big favorite. The TV remote was another.

But I also think the behavior indicates that she is on the verge of potty training readiness, so if you haven't already I would start reading her books about using the potty and get her a little potty. She may not start catching on for a long while yet, but she is frustrated and wanting control over her own body, so its a very good time to start explaining this special way that she can be in charge of her body and maybe get rid of diapers eventually.
I try to be very calm and logical
I can appreciate the effort involved in this tactic, but I'm thinking she has a very emotional sensitive personality, and that this is frustrating to her. Some children who express strong feelings *need* those feelings recognized and validated. Reasoning is a better tool for when they are calm. But in the moment they need to know that Mommy understands how frustrated they feel, and that its okay to feel that way. It can be scary and upsetting and lonely to feel so freaked out. Not all kids are this way -- my children are more "logical" sorts. But I've spent time with and cared for children who are like your DD -- and it helps enormously to focus on validating feelings.

What are some consequences I can give her at this age for her tantrums and throwing things?
Consequences at this age are not the best approach. And consequences for feeling angry are never helpful because they make kids MORE angry. It is important to learn constructive ways of showing anger, anxiety, frustration -- but she is very little and even if she has some verbal skills, putting words to feelings is a very high level task. Some adults have trouble with it.

For tantrums, I think the best thing is to accept that they will happen and that its okay. Do what you can to prevent them in terms of making sure she naps and eats well. But then when they do, accept that she's flipping out, that kids do this, if she will let you near her than talk about all the strong feelings she must have and how hard it is not to know what to do with them. In general, do not give into what she wants. Its not a great idea to teach her that tantruming gets her what she wants. But you can still be firm and show empathy/affection at the same time, kwim?

For throwing things -- my approach was to keep a basket around with soft objects that are safe to throw in the house. Foamy balls or bean bags. And when my child threw something innappropriate, I would quickly intervene and say, "Oh, we don't throw that -- but you can get your angries out by throwing these instead."

You are not a failure -- all kids throw tantrums. I think the biggest step for a parent is accepting that we are not always 100% in control, and accepting that its okay/not our fault when our kids have strong feelings.
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#3 of 12 Old 03-24-2006, 12:16 PM
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I think Mamaduck pretty much said it all Great post.

I also think this is very important (from another thread):

I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but a big thing we do is to tell our DS what TO do, instead of what NOT to do.

Please keep your fork on the table
(where they hear "fork on table")

Don't throw your fork
(where they hear "throw your fork" )
I really think this is true. Its much more important to focus on what they should be doing instead, rather than what to stop doing.

I try to be calm and logical
I like Harvey Karp's (Happiest Toddler on the Block) thoughts about first showing empathy, on the child's level. Those calm, reasonable words just don't get through during a tantrum. "Joining" with them, mirroring their feelings, showing their emotion (only a little more controlled), such as, "You are MAD! You're MAD! You want to climb up there!" helps them feel heard, and understood. Then you can explain, "But its not safe up there! You might fall. You might get hurt." Karp calls it "Toddlerese," I think. Speaking in their language. Adult sentences are just too dry and complicated.
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#4 of 12 Old 03-24-2006, 12:51 PM
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Yes, ITA about explaining what she CAN do rather than what she can't. My dh likes to remind me that the subconscious has no understanding of negative words such as "not" or "don't." So, according to him, anytime I say, "Don't throw that" I'm in effect, saying, "Throw that!" Not sure if he's right about the subconscious stuff, but accentuating the positive can work wonders.

Also, I wouldn't take her behavior personally, at all. You aren't a failure. This really is all normal stuff. Frustrating and challenging (and sometimes crazy-making)...but normal You're in good company

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#5 of 12 Old 03-24-2006, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by georgia
Yes, ITA about explaining what she CAN do rather than what she can't. My dh likes to remind me that the subconscious has no understanding of negative words such as "not" or "don't." So, according to him, anytime I say, "Don't throw that" I'm in effect, saying, "Throw that!" Not sure if he's right about the subconscious stuff, but accentuating the positive can work wonders.
I've read that before, too. I liken it to "Don't throw that." putting a picture in your head of throwing. Even if you understand the "don't" that pictures still there. Like, "don't think of a pink elephant" hehehe. But if you say "think of a blue giraffe" then its WAY easier to NOT think of a pink elephant

Any recommendations for books that are good for this particular age range?
Becoming the parent you want to be. Definitely recommend this for younger kids. It gives a lot of insight into the WHY'S of toddler behavior, and appropriate ways of dealing with it, including redirection (not distraction. redirection is related to the behavior) and a ton of other ways.

In addition to telling her what she can do (ie, she can throw foam balls if she wants to throw, or she can "throw" her toys in a basket), also tell her acceptable ways of expressing herself.
I find that's helped ds already. He was hitting me when I'd get in his face, if he wasn't in the mood to play. I told him he could just hold his hand up, and that's what he started doing, to tell me he didn't want me in his face. There's been other examples too. I think it would help even verbal kids, to hear the appropriate ways of expressing themselves.

Becky, partner to Teague, SAHM to Keagan (7yo), Jonah (2yo)

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#6 of 12 Old 03-25-2006, 12:51 AM
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My ds3 just turned 2 two weeks ago and sounds pretty much like your dc. We have many more tantrums lately, and a lot of stuff gets thrown in our house. I don't punish, but I do take certain measures at some points. Mainly with the throwing. If he throws something, he doesn't get it back. The things he usually throws aren't always the softest things (think things like Thomas trains) and they really smart. I know he's doing it in frustration, but I certainly don't feel like I need to give him his ammunition back right away. When he calms down and regains himself he gets his things back. As for the tantrums, I talk him through them when it's at a point where I have to be in control -- ie: I have to get the older boys to school and he doesn't want to get in his carseat. I apologize and explain why I'm doing it, and how his brothers would feel if they were late, that sort of thing. When the tantrum is at home, I talk as much as he is willing to listen, but often times I tell him that it's okay to be frustrated and angry, and I ask if he needs a hug. If he says no, I explain that I'll be right near by when he calms down and needs a hug. I also offer him his Acky (his blanky). This will often be enough to get him to calm down and climb into my lap. For him, this works very well, though I'm still getting used to the jump in the sheer volume of tantrums lately.
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#7 of 12 Old 03-25-2006, 03:03 PM
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Yes it's very important to make positive statements.

There's also a good tactic that we use in the Waldorf preschool. Our 1-3 year olds don't yet have a complete sense of who they are as seperate independent beings. It is much more effective to tell them what they are doing, rather than what they should be doing, and to demonstrate your words with physical action. Just because toddlers can understand vocab doesn't mean they can be expected to follow verbal commands always.

For example, it's time for James to come insde. Instead of calling "James, come inside. C'mon James, right now. You have to come inside!" etc, we walk up James and state "James is coming inside now" while turning around and walking inside, expecting him to follow. If he doesn't follow, we repeat "James is coming inside now" and take him by the hand.

This way instead of just telling him what to do, we are demonstrating and teaching him what to do. It's an act of great respect. If you always follow you words with a leading demonstration, your toddler will learn much more holistically how the world works.

Another great trick is using songs. In trditional cultures they sing all day, with different sond for diferent activities. If you sing a certain song everytime you lead your daughter to sit down for a meal, she'll soon learn to go sit down at the table when you sing the song. Or if you need to give her a verbal command, such as "Put that down!" it will be much more effective if you SING it, using her name. Kids hear singing better than plain spoken words.

Calm repitition is the key, and after a while your daughter will learn to be still at diaper changing time, and so on. SO everytime she takes her clothes off you can calmly put them back on her while saying "You are wearing your clothes." So much of dealing with toddlers is based on us keeping our intentions clear and calm.

Try to get your daughter into a daily rhythm, doing certain activities at regular times of day. This way she will know what to expect and life will defnitely be more simple when your babe is born.

I highly reccommend the book "You are Your Child's First Teacher" by Rahima Baldwin Dancy. It's waldorf oriented and contains GREAT advice for gently handling tantrums.
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#8 of 12 Old 03-26-2006, 11:35 AM
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i hear you, although my ds is almost 3. right before 2 seemed awfully tough but it subsided for a while after that. now, at almost 3, it's feeling like "1 step forward, 2 steps back". just remember that these really are phases and (most likely) you'll get at least a little reprieve in between, even with a highly "spirited" kid (like mine).

re: the diaper changes, please know you're NOT ALONE. this is a favorite topic for my mom to harp on, saying "that's just not normal!" if you have someone like that in your life, or even all the people who you imagine are glaring at you in public bathrooms, just think back to this post.

trying to mother my 11yo sweet skaterboy, 4yo stepgirl of the universe, this apocalypse babe-on-the-way, and my 36yo innerkid ...while figuring how to market myself, stay married, and murder my ego
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#9 of 12 Old 03-27-2006, 07:38 PM
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Things that have worked well with my 2y2week son...
1. I get down to his level. This is the most effective start to calming him down and solving the problem.
2. I acknowlege his feeling and describe them for him so he a word to associate to his feelings...mad, sad, frustrated.
3. I try to help him by trying to understand what he wants. If he can't have or do it then I try to redirect. Sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes he gets madder because he can't have or do something. Sometimes nothing calms him down and he gets very mean and starts kicking, screaming and/or hitting.
4. If he is just screaming and yelling then I just tell him I do not want to be yelled at and walk away. If he starts to hit or throw things out of anger then he sits in the "blue chair". This is his "calm down" place. As soon as he's ready to change his violent or disrespecful behavior then he can get down. He gets to choose when he is done his tantrum and can get down from the chair. I will ask if he is done and 95% of the time he will say yes and that's that.

As far as number 4 goes. I started doing this because I found that sometimes he needs a chance to stop the tantrum and just doesn't know how to go that. It gives him the opportunity to change his behavior and it's all his choice. Sometimes he's not ready and will kick at me when I ask him, he is not allowed to get down until his violence or uncontrollable screaming has stopped. It doesn't take long and then he's off as if nothing happened. I do renforce the idea that we don't hit, kick or yell and he is to make amends by giving a little loving and hugging. If we are not at home I choose something else to replace the blue chair, but the technique doesn't change just because we are not at home.
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#10 of 12 Old 03-27-2006, 07:49 PM
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The biggie with us is that I remind her that I understand she's frustrated and I understand. By letting her know her feelings are valid it helps a LOT.
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#11 of 12 Old 03-27-2006, 08:25 PM
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I'm a few months past you. DS is 2y5mo and I am 24 weeks pg with #2 (conceived just after DS 2nd Birthday). I've found that I've changed a lot in the past few months along with him. I've been spending a lot more time on this board and just generally keeping behavior in mind.

I try to keep my expectations for a 2yo reasonable. When I was at the height of m/s, DH was out of town my little boy decided that knocking plants down and sweeping things off tables was a fun thing to do. I couldn't see that telling him not to do it or punishing him in anyway was a reasonable expectation, so I moved all the plants into a room we're not in much & made sure that I didn't leave fragile or messy things where he could sweep them off the table in the room we spend the most time in... that stopped the behavior pretty quick!

Now there's some things that we're just having to be persistant about and can't remove from the situation, the dog & the computer are the biggies at the moment. DH keeps asking if and when DS will get it and the only answer I have is that we have to keep being persistent at unclenching his hand from the dog's tail and that it hurts her.

Fortunately the cats remove themselves from situations pretty quickly. Usually when DS sees them he screams and they run away Although the other day he quietly said 'Hi, cat' and waved sweetly and she still ran, guess he's starting to get it!

DH often asks me what to do and I think I need to look in to some of the books recommended. He's just started spending more time at home (he cut his hours back and I upped mine) and it's going to take some time to develop his tools - heck I'm still developing mine and know I always will be!

BTW we've been working a baby doll into our lives a bit more, last night DH asked DS to kiss the baby doll before going to bed, we take her clothes on and off, put her in a cradle, wash her hair when DS pours almond milk on it and having him interact with my belly, kissing, talking about nursing together, etc which will hopefully help the transition. Now that there are outward signs of the baby (big belly, thumps felt from the outside) I think it's more tangible.

HTH and good luck!!

Alaskan Mom to 2 boys
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#12 of 12 Old 03-27-2006, 09:28 PM
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Make it safe by childproofing so you don't have to say "no" and constantly be on guard.

Teach gentleness to pets. Teach them what they are supposed to do. Show how to pet with an open hand, and teach the pet to leave the room if she is not feeling safe, like go to the crate. Animals and children can co-exist safely, but it is up to you to enforce it. Never leave the dog alone with the child, especially if the child is being aggressive. You never know when the dog will have had enough.

Good books? Look at the GD book sticky. It has great suggestions.

Keep making positive suggestions. You can do "x" .

Diaper problems? How about starting potty training? Two tips that worked for us. We talk about how the poop and pee go to the poop-and-pee-party down at the sanitation plant. Hey, everyone wants to go to a party! Sometimes we even said, "Good-bye, have a good time at the party!" Another thing we did was dd#2 was having accidents in the bathtub and was not potty trained. My dh just started putting her on the toilet for a count of 10 before putting her in the tub. With the tub water filling, most often she went. This got her used to using the potty in a low stress way, and solved our problem of poop and pee in the tub. Again, talk about what you CAN do, instead of want you can't.

Two year olds can be so wonderful, fun and imaginative. Think about all the positive things about your child. My 2 1/2 year old is a delight. Does she drive me crazy sometimes? Yes, but I try to keep calm and positive. Scary grown-ups don't make children feel secure.
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