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2-year-old's trouble with transitions/tantrums

Posted by on Jan. 27, 2009 at 4:30 AM
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My 2.5 yo DD has had trouble with transitions for - well, forever. Most of the time, she's not able to leave a place without freaking out. She'll even walk up to me, tell me she's ready to go, then start acting up when I'm getting her ready to walk out the door. (You know, winter, putting two sets of shoes and coats on, etc. - I guess she has more time to think about it.)

Does anyone have a suggestions for a good L&L way to handle this behavior? I've tried the "Now, or in five/ten minutes." If she doesn't answer, we leave right away (which results in a full on flinging herself around tantrum), or if she chooses five minutes - pretty much same result. I've even broken down the leaving routine: "do you want to put your coat on this arm first, or this one; do you want to walk down the stairs or be carried, shoes first or coat?" etc.

Last night, I picked her up from her grandma's house. She sees me, yells, "No mommy. Go away," then runs in the other direction. Today she wouldn't let me put her coat on when we were leaving a MOMS Club event - you know, the thing where they let their feet collapse under them and slither to the floor when you're trying to zip them up? So I'm crawling around on the floor trying to get the zipper together, saying, "Uh oh, looks like no movie in the car," and she flips out and I'm on the verge of tears because I'm so frustrated with the choices because it's just NOT working!

Another thing we've run into during the past several weeks is her bedtime behavior. First off, she hasn't been taking naps consistently for months now, though she desperately needs them. If she misses two naps, she wakes up at night (and I can't get back to sleep!) Second, she won't lie down in her crib when I put her in.  I explain to her, "I'll cover you as soon as you lie down." She'll just sit there and look at me, so I turn to walk out. She says, "I lay down, tuck me in" but by the time I get to her bed, she sits back up. So I leave. Tonight she had a temper tantrum in her bed for half an hour before falling to sleep. Then she woke up at 1:15 a.m. and continued the tantrum. If it's not the covers thing, she wants a drink, then doesn't, then does, then doesn't. If I put the cup in her bed anyway, she throws it out, then screams that she wants it.

She's also been pushing other kids the last few times we've had playdates. We had this problem before and she got over it, but it's coming back even worse!

What in the world is going on with this kid?  I'm losing sleep and am too embarrassed to take her anywhere. I'm having major doubts about my abilities as a parent and it's not helping that there's another one on the way!

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by on Jan. 27, 2009 at 4:30 AM
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by Group Owner on Jan. 27, 2009 at 7:43 AM

First of all, you're awesome, being a parent is hard work, especially a parent of a two year old! Try not to be too hard on yourself. Next, remember that choices only work when your feeling great, and not stressed out, because when a child does turn on ya, you'll have the energy to handle misbehavior without breaking a sweat.

If you feel that your child is testing limits at every turn, then try and remember the "Removing the offending object" rule:

One of these things are choices for me:

1. Remove the parent -may have to take a moment in the bathroom

2. Remove the child- child may have to have an uh-oh(stroller or bedroom)

3. Remove the offending object- may have to put the toys away or whatever is causing the problem.

I usually try and take amount to realize which choice I'll use with my child, if the child throws the cup....How sad (empathy) you through your cup on the floor, look like we'll need to put it up (consequences). etc.

Being consistent with your signals will lower you stress level!

Good luck and let us know how it's going...if you ever want to talk via phone, I have done that with some of the mommies before.


by Member on Jan. 27, 2009 at 9:14 PM

Glad to have found this group, like you did... I post on another L&L board and it is DEAD. I hope you get the support here you need, and me too.

I did respond to you on that other place so I won't re-type everything here :)

BUT my dd who is almost 4 is also a child who would tantrum herself to sleep after 30+ mins, and THEN wake up still tantruming. I will let you know, I am having her evaluated by a developmental pediatrician for her extended tantrums and some other tranisition issues. She is highly verbal and has met all her milestones, but she is weird about some things.

I am not trying to freak you out, but here is a test I found to score my DD and confirm that some of her behavior was a little outside the norm.

The good news is my dd has responded well to L&L as long as I am super-consistent. I also DO explain expected behavior ahead of time.

In your instance, if I used my dd as an example, I would probably tell her "We are going to Grandma's house. When it is time to leave, I want you to give Grandma a big hug and kiss and leave without yelling. Do you understand?" Now I think this is a *little* out of the L&L realm, but this is how I need to do things with my transition-challenged daughter.

by Member on Jan. 28, 2009 at 9:16 AM

The one thing I do is lots and lots of warnings of what's coming next.  If we are going to leave somewhere I start about 30 minutes before we leave.  I say, "In 30 minutes we are going to get ready to get into the car."  I don't say go home I just say exactly what we are going to do next.  Be it meal time, bath time, etc.  Then 5-to 10 minutes later I say it again.  But the key is making sure they hear you.  I always have my son look at my eyes.  Don't say look at me that's too general.  Most of the time they are busy playing and they really don't hear you.  Then keep saying it until it is time to go.  And make sure to let them finish what they are doing first.  There is nothing worse then trying to drag a toddler away from something they are in the middle of.  Like at night if he is watching a cartoon I say to him, "Payton, look at my eyes please.  After Dragon Tails is over it is time for us to shut the TV off and go to bed."  Sometime I will have him repeat what I want him to do so I know he heard me.  I will say, "What does mommy want you to do?"  Because sometimes they heard you completely different than what you actually said and then everyone is upset and confused.  My son has sensory processing disorder so we have tried to master transitions because they used to be a HUGE issue for us.  So good luck and hope everyone's advice helps.

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by Member on Jan. 28, 2009 at 9:34 AM

I feel your pain.  Don't beat yourself up you are doing great.  It's hard when you have challenging issues, kids are smart and they have their own agenda.  My kids used to have a hard time with that transition period too. They still do sometimes.  Sometimes it helps before we go to tell them what I expect and what time we are leaving, my kids are older now though (6&7) and can pretty much tell time.  Then I do give them a 15 minute warning that way they can wrap up what ever they are doing.  If they still fuss about getting ready to leave the next time they want to go somewhere I use the ohhh I wish we could but I can't take you somewhere if I can't rely on you to leave when it's time.

For some reason the reverse psychology thing with my kids worked great tell them they can't put their shoes on by themself and they'd have their stinking shoes on in the blink of an eye.  I hate using it because it feels like I'm teaching them to purposefully disobey me, but when I was at the end of my rope it got the job done.

by Member on Jan. 28, 2009 at 11:30 AM

Thanks so much for the encouragement, guys. I will be working a lot harder on the verbal part - you know, warning her what's coming next. ANd I totally need to make sure she's listening! That's a good point that I'd never considered. She looks at me with glazed over eyes during the warning and I expect her to be ready? Silly mama.

TLC1115 - are you witsend on the other board?!

I picked up a copy of "The Difficult Child" by Dr. Turecki and am halfway through it and am blown away by the very accurate description of life with my daughter! She was colicky/fussy, has ALWAYS had trouble sleeping, is now moody and sometimes aggressive, TERRIBLE at transitions (as noted above) and we might not even be a "good fit" personality-wise. I bawled my eyes out throughout the part where it talks about a "difficult" child's impact on the mother/family. So accurate, it's scary. Thanks so much for the recommendation. I am halfway through and really hoping that throughout our info-gathering phase next week, I'll be able to come to some realizations on how I can better deal with her temperament as opposed to trying to CONTROL her all the time! I'm glad I read this book now when things are just starting to get out of control as opposed to when she's calling herself "bad" and in therapy at eight years old.

by on Jan. 28, 2009 at 12:51 PM

Although you are offering ways to "control" things (such as picking out which jacket to wear, put on right shoe first or left, etc) we also had to take OURSELVES out of the equation also.  We did this by getting down to their level and giving them a 10 and 5 minute warning of leaving the house.  At the 5 minute warning, we showed them that we were setting the kitchen timer (or oven timer) and when the buzzer goes off, we need to put our shoes and coats on and get in the car.  During those 5 minutes we made them go potty one last time and pick out ONE toy to take with them.  The first week of this I also would put a special "prize" in their carseat (might be a few "magic beans" or cookie) and then tell them that "Mommy gives prizes to those who can put their shoes/coats and the prize is waiting for them in the car".  We only had to do this for a week and it became like second nature to them after my first verbal request.  I also acted silly and "danced the jig" when they were charged up about quickly putting on their own shoes and coats.  They loved it when I acted silly and hooted and hollered like I had just won the lottery.  Made all of us laugh and giggle.  Now they try to make me do it again by being the "fastest".  So yes, I do use L&L and I also add a few twists of my own to personalize it.

by Member on Jan. 28, 2009 at 1:24 PM

ktclick- Yep, I'm witsend :)

I also was in tears reading that book, just because I finally felt like someone understood what I went thru. It is so hard being judged as a terrible parent because your child has various issues... and it turns out that is just part of their personality, not something to control, but work with. To have a doctor be saying that... it meant the world to me.

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