Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When toddlers are having a hard day

The girls have been testing and pushing limits lately. Typical two year olds.

We went to a play centre today. The girls were being rather rough with their friend and the other children. They seemed to be picking fights. They didn't want to share and claimed every piece of equipment as their own. I ran back and forth between T and Q trying to get them to change behaviours. I took them to a quiet corner for a time out and hug. It was stressful for me dealing with two toddlers having difficult days. I should have left 40 minutes before I did. I hoped the behaviour would change, but it didn't.

I could see that they were having a hard time and should have removed them from the situation since they were having trouble controlling their behaviour. I needed to be there for them and not feel like they were "giving me a hard time." I only realize this after what I read tonight.

I've been reading Janet Lansbury's site and Face.book page, Elevating Childcare. Tonight, she linked this article. I'll post it here so you don't have to worry about clicking again :)

It certainly hit home.

When Times Are Hard

Some days are just hard, and no matter what you do or say, your toddler may not be able to co-operate. Try to remember on those days that your toddler is ‘having a hard time’ not ‘giving you a hard time’, and he needs you in his corner more than ever.

It is never wrong to comfort your child or acknowledge her feelings. This does not mean you have to give in, change your mind, or feel like a bad parent for setting limits and following through. But come on, life is hard sometimes, and your child has the right to be angry, sad, or upset at the limits or conditions imposed upon him, even if they are in his best interests.

Just be honest, and use honest language: “This is hard for you.” “I see/hear that you are upset.” ”I’m sorry you are upset, you weren’t ready to leave the park.”

You don’t have to try to make it better by giving in. Just try to be with your child and the emotion in the moment. She might ask for cuddling, a hug, or a kiss, and there’s nothing wrong with providing this comfort- your child is not trying to manipulate you- as the teacher implied at one play class I attended.

Let me give you an example of one child who was having a very hard time co-operating at a class recently. He was hitting other children, breaking into tears every few minutes, and running out the door, despite the fact that his Mom had tried to engage him in the activities, and the teacher had intervened multiple times.

Mom said, “If you run out the door again, we will leave and try again next week.”So when her son ran out the door a few minutes later, she went to him with shoes, coat and hat in hand, and quietly said, “It’s time to go. You don’t seem to want to be at play class today.”

At this point, the little guy started to cry, and was begging to stay. Mom calmly proceeded to dress him, and headed for the car. She said, “I hear you saying you want to stay, but today was a hard day for you at play class. We are going to go home and have a rest. We will come back to play class next week, and try again.”

This Mom did so much right in this instance- she set a clear limit, gave a choice, followed through with what she said she was going to do, remained calm, and listened to her child.

She later shared that on the way to the car, her child was whimpering and asked to be held. Her question was, “Do you think my child was trying to manipulate me somehow?”

My answer was, “No, this was hard on both of you, and there’s nothing wrong with providing physical comfort and affection if your child requests it. After all, you still love your toddler even if you are less than happy with his behavior on a particular day.”

Toddlers can have bad days, just like we do, and the message you want to convey to your child is that you will step in to help her if her behavior is out of control, you love her no matter what, you have faith in her ability to learn, grow, and move on, and you are always on her side, even when her behavior may be difficult. Always try to acknowledge and allow your child’s feelings, even when you must take action or intervene in a way that she may not like or agree with!

Tomorrow, taking care of yourself so you can take care of your toddler.


  1. Thanks for this post. I feel like I need constant reminders of this as these little beings try me in every way. Have you read "How to talk so children will listen and listen so children will talk"? It explores approaches similar to the post you linked above with great examples by age. I'm finding it really helpful again as we hit a rough patch of approaching 3ness.


    1. I'll look up that book for sure. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. So glad I'm not the only one with toddlers testing & pushing the limits lately. The past couple days have been heard on all of us here & I was starting think it might be me, that maybe I haven't done something right & now the boys are out of control. I. Trying a couple new things to help with bad behavior but this post helped a lot too! Thank you :)

  3. The timing of this post could not be more perfect. Last night Grace fell asleep on the drive home. I decided to let her nap a bit and woke her 45 minutes later around 6:30pm. It was like waking a sleeping bear. She was crying and pushing me away and just throwing a fit. Nothing made her happy, not even Nemo (which is her fav movie ever). Fast forward 40 minutes and I was over it. That's when she came over to me and climbed onto my lap. We sat together with her head on my chest until G got home. That's all she needed - a cuddle. I was two minutes from sending her to time out and all she wanted was some love. I'm going to have to remember that the next time she's crashing.

    Thanks for sharing the article. The bean has had several nights like this over the past couple of weeks so I'm sure I'll need to read this again at some point. :)

  4. I remember these times. Hell....we still have them, but not to this extent. It's also hard when - YOU want to visit at the play date. There were times when I would drag all of the kids someplace.....needing that time with other adults....it made me extra mad when my kids would misbehave because I really wanted to stay ...let alone that I felt judged by the moms at the playdate.
    The other thing is when 1 kid screws it up for the others. Everyone else is playing and having a good time and then the little twins are acting beyond terrible. My big kids are getting shafted because it comes to a point where I just can't redirect, chase, break up and comfort 2 kids at the same time any more.

    I'm so glad that you understand where they are coming from. Love and logic is just as good for us as it is for the kids.

    Keep your head up. This too shall pass.

  5. Thanks for this. We are struggling lately with our son. All kinds of clingy, temper tantrums. Its frustrating, but this was a well timed, great read.

  6. I am entering the juggling 2 kids phase. It is no fun at all. I bow in respect to you Mamas with twins or close in age sibs. We try to hug it out and talk it out, but yes, some days it is JUST SO HARD. Thanks for the reminder of what we all need during times like this.