Monday, 10 March 2014

How Do You Parent Your Toddler?

I'm having a bit of a challenging time with S at the moment. She's being a typical toddler, testing her boundaries and finding out where her limits are.

Quite often, she wants to sit on my lap, hold my hands, and climb all over me, pull me over, kick me in the face, pull my glasses off. It's not enough to have a hug; she needs to be clambering all over me. Sometimes she needs me to get out of my chair so that she can sit in it.

There is a lot of crying over things I don't understand. Perhaps I've put the plate down in the wrong place for lunch, or the wrong show is on TV, or she wants me to cuddle her and I'm not, or she wants me to get lost when I'm cuddling her. She has discovered that sort of grizzle that just makes you want to reach for the ear plugs, and she does it a lot. 

At the moment, at least once a day I am finding myself in the kitchen, taking deep breaths. I spend a lot of time saying, "I don't know what you want, show me what you want!"

I don't want to do the naughty step with her; I don't want to punish her for her actions. But I do want to learn how to manage her behaviour, and how to help her to get what she wants, learn what she wants, and stop feeling the need to cry. I don't want to tell her to stop crying; I want her to not feel like she needs to cry, if you see what I mean.

The other day, I was telling someone about how S has been sleeping in my bed a lot lately. I joked that "well, the men aren't exactly queueing up so there's space for her. Why not let her sleep in my bed? Before I know it, she'll be a teenager and won't want to be there!" This person's response was: "yes, and she'll be a devil child by then." If I thought what I was doing would create some sort of selfish, nasty person, I wouldn't be doing it. But right now, I'm struggling to find a way for us both to get what we want without tears.

I'm wondering: what do you do with your toddler when he/she is having a hard time? 

Does your toddler get to share your bed if he has a nightmare or can't sleep?  What if he has trouble getting to sleep at bed time?

Does she get to eat her tea on the sofa if she doesn't fancy sitting at the table? What if she doesn't like the tea you've cooked, or isn't hungry and doesn't want to eat at all?

Does he make that horrible grizzle noise when crying that just goes right through you? Does he do it for no reason you can fathom?

Does she use your body as a climbing frame, even if it's obviously causing you pain? Does she kick you in the face, pull your glasses off, yank at your jewellery? 

What do you do when your toddler does something you'd rather he didn't?

How do you help your toddler to learn about the world, about boundaries and limits?

I'm genuinely interested to see how other parents have handled their children's terrible twos. I don't want you to tell me what to do; I want you to tell me what has worked for you. Please do leave a comment below; if you've written a blog post about this sort of thing, please feel free to leave a link.

N.B: Please bear in mind that since I am not interacting on social media at the moment I won't be able to read any comments you leave on Facebook or tweets on Twitter. Therefore please leave your comment here rather than anywhere else!


  1. I am having the same with my daughter at the moment but the whinging is a lot worse when she's come back from her dads! At home, she either had what I've made for tea or nothing at all. If she doesn't eat it all,o pudding.
    At the moment I'm struggling with bed. She will go down fine if I sit in the room with her, but 9 times out of 10 she will end up in my bed by morning!
    I don't use the naughty step with her much, only if she's really naughty (hitting, kicking etc), otherwise I take a bedtime story away.

  2. Sounds just like my daughter at the same age. Time out worked for us, no naughty step (and I hate the word naughty) but if she did things like grab my glasses and throw them (a particular favourite) I would say 'please don't do that' the next time 'if you do that again you will have to sit over there' and finally 'I am sitting you here because you keep grabbing Mummy's glasses and throwing them'. She would cry and I would just carry on whatever I was doing. After a couple of mins she would have calmed herself down, she would say sorry, we have a kiss and a cuddle and it is all forgotten. Now she is three, her behaiviour is so much better because she knows what her limits are. I find 'unkind' works much better than 'naughty' and if she ever hit me I would pretend to cry. I didn't want to banish her to the stairs or another room, but just carrying on in the same room til she calmed down gave us both breathing space. Good luck! x

  3. Oh, and pick your battles. I don't really care if she comes into bed with me when my husband is on nights. I also don't care if she doesn't eat her food, if its something I know she likes, I just take it away and assume she's not hungry. But I do care if she is grabbing my glasses and throwing them, hurting people or hitting. One step at a time! x

  4. My children are at school now, but when they were 2, I envisaged what they would be like aged 10 if they still did the same things then. Would I want them to eat dinner on the couch, or at the table with me. Would I want to be cleaning up the couch, or just the table/floor underneath. Would it be socially acceptable to stand on a chair? Certain behaviour would alienate them from society, and that had to be concentrated on. I would not use the naughty step. My two kids were very capable at understanding right from wrong aged 2. They were pushing boundaries, so I had to set them. If I wanted them to eat at the table, I would put our dinner on the table. If they cried, I would explain, and sit down to eat myself. If they wanted to stay on the floor crying, I would ignore them, and eat. Eventually, they understood the message. We then did the same every day. That way there was never any questioning. If I had let them eat on the couch just once, we would have been back to square one (at that age). It took discipline and persistence by myself. It was hard work, but worth it and rewarding. Good luck.

  5. Totally agree with Anonymous, consistency is also very important. Letting them do something 'just once' is confusing for them. Also (and i'm sure you already do this) praise the good behaviour, really go OTT, 'you are eating your dinner SO nicely, well done!' and ignore it when she plays with her food, for example. Children love to please. And at the end of the day, you are doing a brilliant job. S is happy, fed, clothed and has a mum who adores her. Terrible two's don't last forever. But I do believe a bit of boundary setting early on saves many tears and tantrums further down the line :-)

  6. We didn't have terrible twos, instead he waited until he could talk and mmoan at three instead.

    N uused to sleep in his own bed for 12 hours. But now he wakes at 5 which is when my husband leaves for work, and when I wake at 6.15, I find I've a I've a little person in with me. It's fine. Yes I'd rather he stayed in his own bed again but like you I think a little extra cuddle time can't be bad in a morning.

    To avoid all the terrible twos aimed for the talk it out approach where I explained everything beforehand so the expectations were set, and just made sure I kept talking as time went on. Giving him the opportunity to lead and show in the same way you're doing. The physical clambering over I generally avoid as my OH gets that bit instead. Maybe have a time for playfighting and hope that gets outs of the system

    Take heart that it will be just a phase

  7. Rio is a day younger so I'm putting it down to an age thing haha! He too must get sick of that sentence 'I don't know what you want, show me'.. at the moment he doesn't want to sit in the highchair/booster chair for dinner. But I shouldn't complain he really isn't that bad. As for co-sleeping..he sleeps in his bed but climbs in between me and my OH in the middle of the means we all get 10 hours so I'm not complaining at all!!

  8. She sounds entirely normal. They all do all of those things at this age. I've had 5 and all of mine have slept in my bed decreasingly until about 18-24 months, then they've all got used to the idea it's my bed, and you really have to do that over time, however hard it is for you to sleep alone. When you do meet someone special, the last thing you want is your child feeling pushed out.
    It's okay to go and stand in the kitchen for a minute, we all do. It's by far the best thing to do when you feel like that, it lets you compose yourself and calm and ultimately remaining calm is always the best thing to do.
    It's not easy doing it on your own, but you seem to be doing okay :D

  9. We're in the thick of this stage too. I only use time out if she's being aggressive to her older siblings (amazing the strength of a two year old!). If she hits out at me, I just hold the hand (fist) that hit me firmly and say 'no, that hurts mummy', if she continues I put her on the floor and walk away. I have stopped sitting in her room until she's asleep as I was more interesting than laying still! At night if she's up, teething usually, I take her to sleep on the sofa, though if there was space in the bed I'd probably have her with me there. If she hurts anyone at all I expect an apology, even if she doesn't fully understand what she does because it's important to understand that her actions affect others. Food is very clear, I don't cook for anyone and have them be rude about it. All of my children eat what they're given or go without, they have to understand they are lucky they have food on the table each day. My eldest is 8. I would say, being the third time through, I am more relaxed this time and find eye contact and a calm but firm voice helps a lot. I say "you need to stop that noise so you can hear my words" several times a day at the moment. Today I witnessed an epic tantrum because I put on the dvd she requested!
    On a slightly separate note, they do hit another growth spurt (=more tired), new teeth and a new neurological pathways are waking up, all around now. I like the tip of considering if you'd allow a ten year old to do the same.

  10. Oh, meant to say with all the changes, emotions are hard to rationally communicate, girls I think get a new influx of hormones too! However, this is a key age for learning (mine mimics her brother's outbursts perfectly), so the boundaries and standards you create now are vital. Oh, and you're amazing, sometimes I walk straight out of the house when my husband gets home, just to stop me saying or doing something I'll regret later!

  11. Agree entirely with the previous anonymous post. With the added twist that my kids are 3½ and 6 and still push boundaries. not to sound like a harbinger of doom but the terrible twos don't always end at 3! You sound like you are doing a great job. My greatest problem was sometimes using too many words - remember S is still little, so long explanations of why something isn't ok don't really help. If it helps a wise nursery nurse once told me to replace the word shame with hard when talking about my kids when they were upset. Instead of saying it was a shame for the that they couldn't get the toy they wanted, I should think of it as being hard for them. That way you help them overcome challenges by not giving into tears, you help them learn more about the world and what they can and can't control.


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