My toddler has turned in to an absolute nightmare

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Post by Guest »

I don't know whats going on, maybe a growth spurt, but my normally easy going almost 3 year old toddler has turned in to an absolute nightmare, and its really getting me down.

First of all she has started refusing to sleep in her bedroom and staying awake till late each night (me and her dad have given in to letting her sleep in bed with me, for the sake of everyone's sanity).

But she is now also having mega tantrums trying to get her in the car seat or buggy. She will punch, kick, nip, and bit so hard that she has broken skin and caused bruises.

So after initially wrestling her in the the buggy causing us both more distress, I decided to let her do as she pleases.

Problem is she gets to a point she cant walk any further, but still refuses to go back in the buggy.

She wants me to carry her which obviously is just not possible for too long.

So I try reason with her, give her choices, Ill say 'we can go to the beach if you sit in your buggy' or 'we will have to go home if you don't get in the buggy'.

She insists on the beach but she wants me to carry her. After about an hour of this stood in the same spot, I bung her in the buggy standing up and get home as quick as possible while she has an absolute meltdown.

I just don't know what to do, I feel like not going out any more to avoid situations like these because there is literally no way to resolve the tantrum.

Is this even normal? Shes had many tantrums before but these are on a whole new level! She doesnt behave like this with her dad or nan, which makes me feel even worse. She is also being quite clingy with me at times too, I guess maybe why she wants me to carry her. Please help!

Post by Gabriel »

Testing boundaries is a boundary in itself. The way you react will get a response from your 3yr old. You need to be consistent and chopping and changing your response is having a negative impact on her reactions. You are in control not your 3yr old. She will push and push. Keep calm, consistent and remember who the boss is.

Post by Joanne »

I think the most important thing is to stop being afraid of your toddler’s really big feelings and the way she shows them. If she knows you’re embarrassed or unsure of yourself when she kicks off that will become her biggest tool for trying to control each situation. We all know toddlers have meltdowns. Any parent worth their salt will smile in solidarity if they see it. If they judge, ignore them, they’re not helping!

Be firm, fair and consistent. Decide what your boundaries are and stick to them no matter what, whether it’s where everyone sleeps, whether you’ll carry her, getting in to the car, what snacks she can have etc. You’re the adults, the leaders and you need to be really clear with yourselves whether a nearly 3 year old should have this much power over you both and back each other up with whatever boundaries you set.

You can do it in a compassionate way that acknowledges her feelings, offer choices that result in what you want and support her when she reacts to those boundaries. Try to anticipate what’s likely to cause friction and get your distractions ready.

In the examples you gave, the choices you offered weren’t actually choices that achieved what you, the adult, had decide on. They were bribes or incentives to hopefully get her to comply without a tantrum.

Whatever you want her to do, try to think of two options that result in what you want, but give her the feeling of having chosen. For example:

“We need to go in the car. It’s time for shoes. Can you put your shoes on or will Mummy do it?” Both option result in shoes on feet. “Right, we need a coat. Which coat do you want? This one or this one?” - both option result in a coat.

“It’s snack time. Would you like banana or cheese?” - results in a snack you’re happy for her to choose.

“We’re going to the beach. Are you going hold my hand or go in the pushchair?” “I can’t carry you. Walk or pushchair?” “Your choice is walk or pushchair. OK, Mummy will choose. Let’s go in pushchair” If you get to the stage of mummy’s choice. Stick to your choice, no matter the tantrum. Next time, she’ll realise that she needs choose from what’s offered or she doesn’t get to choose. But, at no time, do you go with her demand to carry if you don’t want to do that.

Try to give warnings 10 minutes, 5 minutes and 2 minutes beforehand that you’re moving on to the next task to help her transition.

At nearly 3 your toddler is likely able to understand action and consequence. For the majority of unwanted behaviour, try to ignore, distract or correct and quickly move on. Save your zero-tolerance reactions for violent and aggressive behaviour (the stuff that will make other kids and their parents want to keep away). If she hits, bites etc in a firm cross voice tell her “No biting. That hurt. We do not bite. Go and sit on the step for 2 minutes” or whatever timeout technique you feel is appropriate. If toddlers are hurting others (including their parents) it’s really important to remove them from that situation to protect other people, show consequence for behaviour and give space to be upset/frustrated etc and then calm down.

Try to diffuse a situation before she gets to the physically fighting against you stage if at all possible. If she’s refusing to get in the car, get her in a safe space and let her ride out the tantrum with you, outside the car. Don’t talk to her, just be with her to keep her safe. You can’t reason with a child that’s lost control. Once she moves from furious crying to upset crying, comfort her and explain that “we are going in the car. Can you climb in by yourself or will Mummy lift you in?” And then praise and encourage her as she gets in, like she hasn’t just had a huge upset, and chatter away/sing to distract her, ask her what snack she’d like as you fasten the seat belt.

Unless there is no option, avoid using physical force to make her do these things. The message she needs to figure out is that no amount of kicking off will change what Mum/Dad have asked me to do. At 3 years old, you can also make it clear that by wasting so much time refusing to get in to the car, she has lost that amount of time from her playtime at the park/softplay/beach. So that next time you can remind her before she kicks off that she needs to get in the car quickly to make sure she gets all her play time.

Stay strong. You got this!
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