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3 Bumps

Terrible twos or defiance

My youngest DD has been testing the limits at school and home for about 6 months now. She is 2. When it started I thought it may have been out of frustration, not being easily understood and not fully verbal. Now the pediatrician is having us work on looking for patterns: is she tired, hungry, etc. Fact is she is a very smart little girl. Smarter than I think he can convey, which makes me think it might be, at least in part frustration. But she loves to get reactions out of people, which was fine when she was getting laughs, but now it doesn't matter if it's laughs or being put in time out etc. We have tried time outs, removing from the situation, even spanking (please don't judge, we tried, it wasn't effective and we were torn on it to begin with) I don't know what else to try.

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Asked by LoveBuggsMommie at 2:07 AM on Jul. 21, 2013 in Toddlers (1-2)

Level 17 (3,581 Credits)
Answers (13)
  • Wait until she's 3.

    Answer by maecntpntz219 at 2:10 AM on Jul. 21, 2013

  • I'm not sure that a two-year-old has the capacity to be defiant just for the sake of defiance. Certainly she's testing her limits, which is normal, but if it's that severe, I'm wondering if it might be some kind of an underlying issue. In addition to hungry, tired, etc, I'd be on the lookout for more subtle things like how your daughter reacts to surprises or changes in her routine, or if she could be having problems with sensory stuff. Textures, loud noises, certain colors, that kind of thing. Or maybe certain foods set her off. Dairy products and many food dyes are the usual suspects. Then too, some kids are really sensitive to emotional stress. My daughter escalates fast if I get exasperated. When I stay calm, she does much better. I hope you find answers soon. Hang in thee.

    Answer by Ballad at 2:15 AM on Jul. 21, 2013

  • Wait until she's 3.

    Haha, Mae! Three-year-olds are merely professional two-year-olds.

    And wait till she's five. Now *there's* defiance. It's shocking, really.

    Answer by Ballad at 2:16 AM on Jul. 21, 2013

  • wait til she's 3, I remember when my older DD was just about 3, that was the worst phase. At 7 sometimes older DD thinks she's 17, but I wouldn't change it for the almost 3. But she never hit, kicked, classmates, or terrorized teachers, or laughed when she got scolded by Mommy and Daddy.

    We are pretty careful about what we feed our kids, they get some "junky" stuff, but they eat well balanced diets on the whole and I am particular with meats and dairy. We also think this DD may be colorblind, as colors are a source of outrage (when quizzed, which block is purple, what color is that flower etc. ) and she has zero color recognition. We went to an amusement park last weekend and she was clearly on sensory overload, she was quite calm.

    Comment by LoveBuggsMommie (original poster) at 2:27 AM on Jul. 21, 2013

  • Terrible twos and defiance are, in many ways, the same thing. The thing to remember, however, is that she's not being defiant in the way an older child or an adult would be. She's not deliberately trying to push your buttons and rebel against you. She's two. She's new to the world and trying to figure out her place in it. She's trying to determine her level of control over things - can I control this? How about that? Maybe this over there? And because she's only two, she doesn't have the kind of long-term memory that we do - we can remember that we were told not to touch someone's phone or make a scene in pubic, but she can't. So she'll try to see if she can control those things again when it crosses her mind.

    You just have to be patient, keep working with her and reminding yourself that she's two, and while she won't outgrow it in the next year, or maybe not even the next two, eventually she will.

    Answer by wendythewriter at 7:48 AM on Jul. 21, 2013

  • She is only 2. And you think she should know here collors already. I think you are pushing her a little to much. She needs to know her colors to tell you what a color is. Maybe she is getting frustrated because you are wanting things out of her that she is not ready for. Kids at 2 can be defiant.


    Answer by louise2 at 7:52 AM on Jul. 21, 2013

  • Yes, frustration usually is part of problematic behavior in young children.
    Physical aggression indicates emotional tension in the child (the term "acting out" is an attempt to describe a literal situation, that the behavior literally/physically expresses emotion.) The behaviors you describe are a big red flag signaling that she needs help. Emotional tension is interfering with her ability to think at those times, and it's likely that the responses to her problem behaviors at school & at home generate more emotional tension, which then gets acted out whenever she gets derailed inside (feeling frustrated, upset or threatened.)
    Frustration from her own limitations around communication & expression, frustration around disappointments & inevitable losses (when things don't go her way & she can't change them), frustration from the response she receives when she's frustrated! (being punished instead of understood & helped.)

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:26 AM on Jul. 21, 2013

  • One way to relieve some of the "extra" unnecessary frustration is to begin responding in the moment in ways that help her. Removing from the situation is a reasonable response when she's aggressive with children, but it alone doesn't help address the underlying cause, and IF it is punitive in any way (time out, negative/disapproving attention, etc.) it is focused on trying to stop the behavior or "make her" stop hitting (through use of negative consequences.) This focuses only on the behavior & not on addressing the causes for it. It doesn't relieve the emotional issue driving the behavior, but rather adds to it. Pressuring a child to think & do better when the issue is that she's too tense/jammed up to think exacerbates the problem. Likely she knows how to be delightful & how to co-exist flexibly without issue when she's feeling okay; it's not lack of understanding. It's lack of ability in the moment when she's feeling upset.

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:08 AM on Jul. 21, 2013

  • Home is where you have the most influence, so I would concentrate on building connection with her. The goal would be to help her "feel felt," or feel understood. Naturally in the "positive" moments, but also in the stormy times & during problematic behavior. Keep yourself & everyone safe, but rely on a physical protective limit rather than lots of verbal instructions (don't hit, you may not kick, don't throw) that focus on what you DON'T want. Provide a physical limit to keep something from happening & let your words focus on validation, simply acknowledging her feelings. (Observing what happened, how she REALLY didn't like that, etc.) Not in a patronizing way, or as some "trick" you're trying (to make the upset go away), but really expressing your insight.
    The more acceptance you can show for her big feelings, the more her ability to regulate them will develop.
    Part 2 is to focus on what you WANT at those times. Show

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:13 AM on Jul. 21, 2013

  • understanding for the feelings, and for why she hit (it totally makes sense!), and let her know what TO do when she feels like hitting/biting/kicking/throwing/grabbing. (i.e., "ask for help")
    This gives you a positive way to respond to typical toddler behaviors....conveying understanding of them (they're not just "being bad," they are behaving the way they are for a reason; they are trying to meet needs or to express feelings, it's just that their strategy violates or hurts someone else) and also offering guidance.
    This response also models exactly what you want from them when they're frustrated (other responses model getting frustrated & trying to "make" someone do/stop doing something, which is what the toddler already IS doing! And now getting in trouble for doing! With the exact strategy of force modeled back to them, except on an "adult" level.) It models the solutions of asking for a turn, verbalizing upsets, etc.

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:24 AM on Jul. 21, 2013

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