Defiant Toddler Help Needed

kimberly jkimberly j Posts: 153Registered Users
I don't post here often, but do check the site out when I get the opportunity and find everyone's advice to be helpful. Now, I need advice in handling a defiant toddler.

My daughter is 2 and a half and we usually start our days and end our days with a battle. She is so defiant, tells us 'No', crosses her arms and says, "Fine!" when she gets upset, tells us, "I can't" when we ask her to do I need to go on? I know at this age kids are establishing their independence, but this is daily, several times a day and it's really wearing on me.

We battle over getting her to sit in her car seat (she'll climb in the car & stand on the floor and say she can't get in her seat). When we say she can either get in the seat herself, or we'll put her there, she says, "I can't." SO we go to physically put her in her seat and she goes in to tantrum mode. We battle over her not listening - we put her on timeout and she sits in the chair, cries and screams. We've tried to address the screaming issue by telling her she can't get off of timeout until she stops screaming, but that hasn't sunk in.

I'm exhausted with this. I dread starting & ending my days on these awful notes and the battles usually end up with me in tears as well. I know I need to wait some of it out, but how do I address the defiance? She's a well behaved child otherwise, but seems to get particularly nasty with me ALOT lately. Am I just her venting board? I really try to praise her good behavior and emphasize how proud we are when she listens and follows directions, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. We are approaching the potty training days and we need to wean off of the pacifier and I'm dreading both with the current state of her attitude.

Has anyone else dealt with a ultra-defiant toddler? Any advice?

Thanks for your help.


  • CynaminbearCynaminbear Posts: 4,476Registered Users Curl Connoisseur
    First, ((hugs))
    You're doing a good job and seeking help now will help you later on down the road.
    2.5 is a trying time, that's for sure. Staying consistent is very important. She's looking for you to be the leader while feeling safe to learn more about her abilities. My mom told me to be more stubborn than they are, and it's helped me when I felt like caving because I just couldn't take anymore.
    Marielle might have some great suggestions, as well as Geeky. You could try pm'ing then directly.
    I know I didn't get everything right, and still mess up, but I can share what I personally might try.
    When it comes to any time I ask them to do something and they say, "I can't" I would encourage them to try. If they won't I might suggest I can help if they are having a hard time. I stayed matter of fact, like this is the way we're doing it now. Feeling firm resolution inside helped me follow through with what I needed to do.
    I looked at time-outs as a way to break them from the wrong thing they were doing to 'reset themselves'. They really can't sit there and think about what they've done. I liked the book 1-2-3 Magic which helped encourage me to not take their disobedience personally, and emphasized staying calm. I got angry way too easily which always escalated the situation rather than diffusing it.
    The screaming thing, I'm afraid I failed at that. My daughter started screaming whenever her brother went near her (learned behavior) and continued screaming through toddlerhood. It got better through the elementary years, but even now (at almost 13) she will occasionally shreik at her brothers.
    There's no such thing as global warming. Chuck Norris was cold so he turned up the sun.
  • RedCatWavesRedCatWaves Posts: 31,259Registered Users Curl Connoisseur
    I've heard it said: "If you're arguing with a 2 year old...who's the idiot?"

    Crude, but true. I didn't argue with 2 year olds. You can't reason with them. I told them what I wanted them to do, and if they refused, then I made them do it anyway, because I could, and I was bigger and I was the boss. If they tantrumed over it at home, I stepped over them and left the room. If they tantrumed while we're out, I wrestled them into the carseat and took them home immediately. If they were acting unfit for company, they had to go into their room until they could act better. If I had to hold the door shut to keep them in there, I did. Period. End of story.

    Just to clarify though...I did try to make the world as "yes" as possible for my toddlers...just to minimize the arguments. I picked my battles. I wasn't a tyrant, but I wasn't a pushover either. If I had to make them do something, it was because it had to be done.
  • marielle448marielle448 Posts: 1,823Registered Users
    First, just take a deep breath and rest assured that she is normal. This stage is necessary for her development and it's your job to fine tune that process.

    Since she's 2.5 it means she's in that second half of the year where most kids experience disequilibrium. All those wonderful step forwards in development they took during the first 6 months of the year and those seemingly happy moods are thrown out the window but it's a necessary milestone for them to grow. I recommend getting Your Two Year Old by Ames and Ilg (and ONLY pay attention the developmental stuff, not the parenting advice from the 70s).

    Also make this your mantra, "I'm the adult, I'm the authority, my child knows this". Own your authority. You don't have to beat your child over the head with it, she's plainly aware that you are the adult. It just takes us convincing ourselves many times.

    For this age the Five Steps really worked well for us: (in fact, peruse this site, yes it's christian - she's a messianic pastor but the parenting stuff is logically sound).

    The five steps shows your child that resistance is futile and it sets up a pattern of behavior for the parent that tends to trump frustration. Instead of repeating things over and over or counting to a certain number from across the room you say what they need to do, then make it happen. In fact your struggle with the car seat - completely normal. I remember at some points pinning a child with my thigh while calmly strapping them into their carseat. You can talk her through it, "momma's job is to keep you safe, you must be in your car seat" but she will learn there are certain non negotiables (I have a few of those in our house, the truly important stuff0.

    Here's another section on this site (the 1-3 age) and the second question speaks to your issue briefly but check out the other questions relevant to your child's age group:

    I've also found this site helpful:

    as well as for their articles and message board (it's a christian site but mostly positive discipline based and accepts non christian membership as well).

    The first link is for a woman who coined the term Get Off Your Butt Parenting. Basically an extension of the Five Steps. Where you choose wisely what you want to say because you have to make your words happen ALL the time and consistently.

    Hang in there, like cynaminbear posted she's just getting her bearings and testing boundaries is her job, just like you enforcing those boundaries is YOUR job. It's exhausting but rewarding after a bit.
  • geekygeeky Posts: 4,995Registered Users
    I agree with all of the above. Two and a half is a trying age. Try to avoid saying no when you can. And for things that are non-negotiable, I would offer a choice if possible (like getting in the car seat yourself or mommy putting you in) and if he did not choose, then I would say "OK. mommy is putting you in."

    Tantrums are inevitable and normal. Try not to take them so personally. I generally handled them with positive time outs "I see you are really upset. Why don't you go into your room and clam down (while carrying child into room) and come out when you feel better" or I would leave the room myself. Like cynaminbear, I see timeouts not as punishment but as a chance for the child to regroup.
    I also offered help for "I can't", or broke it down into easy steps.

    And of course I got frustrated and yelled sometimes (still do).Sometimes I tell my son that I am taking a time out and go sit and chill for a few minutes.
    To Trenell, MizKerri and geeky:
    I pray none of you ever has to live in a communist state.

    Geeky is my hero. She's the true badass. The badass who doesn't even need to be a badass. There aren't enough O's in cool to describe her.
  • marielle448marielle448 Posts: 1,823Registered Users
    geeky wrote: »

    And of course I got frustrated and yelled sometimes (still do).Sometimes I tell my son that I am taking a time out and go sit and chill for a few minutes.

    So true, same here. It's healthy for kids to see the adults in their life angry, frustrated, etc. and dealing with it in a positive manner. And on those days when I don't do so well with dealing with my anger it's also a good time to show them that adults make ammends and can apologize for rude behavior as well.
  • kimberly jkimberly j Posts: 153Registered Users
    Thank you all for your feedback, it truly has allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief.

    In the *rational* portion of my mind I KNOW her behavior is all normal and I truly do try to pick my battles and not make each and every issue a big ordeal, but I know I can work on improving things as well. The *irrational* portion of my mind is unbelievably exhausted and thinks I'm some horrible mom that can't control her child.

    I do try to remove myself at times and allow my husband to step in, but maybe we are just overbearing. I know she's 2.5 and can't rationalize, so I guess we should try to back off a little.

    In the past few months I've actually contemplated NOT having a second child because of the trying times we are going through right now. I really do want to have a second child, so I'm not going to let this stage deter me.

    Marielle, thank you for the links. I look forward to checking them out.

    Thanks for helping to ease my mind. I'm going to work with some of the tips and advice you've provided and see how things go.
  • Oregano  (formerly babywavy)Oregano (formerly babywavy) Posts: 5,297Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    Boy do I know what you're going through! Search for posts by me and you'll see plenty of threads I started about my very spirited daughter!

    As much as I agree with, and did, all mentioned above, I still felt like I was losing the battle. 2 and 1/2 was the WORST for us.

    I did read 'happiest toddler on the block' and it helped put things back into perspective as to where she was, and what I could expect out of her.
    ~ the artist formerly known as babywavy ~

    Please excuse any typos. For the time being, we are blaming it on my computer.

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