7/52 – Exploring the Ever Growing Toddler Terrorist

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We have been dealing with the early stages of the terrible twos. This includes tantrums that have been known to shriek at the top of her lungs, throwing her food on the floor and the ever popular banging her head on the floor. This has been going on since she was about 18 months old, slowly escalating to where we are today.

I’ve talked about the fact that both of Punky’s moms have some sort of diagnosed mental health issues. I have a little PTSD and Anxiety and Kim is Bipolar with a heavy dose of her own PTSD. Having a toddler thrown in the mix has been hard. Not unmanageable, but hard.

We are the type of parents who want to instill respect and manners in our child, use discipline that is appropriate for her age and her understanding. But, at the end of the day, whether you like it or not – whether people talk about it or not, I’m going to say it – the TWOS suck and she’s not even officially two for another two weeks.

The situation escalated last night when I came home and found a distraught Kim sitting in a chair with Spaghetti and Meatballs at her feet. Astonished by the amount on the floor isn’t even the most telling part. The story that Kim told me – just reinforced that we need to do something different.

Punky managed to kick her high chair tray so much and so hard that it came loose and it dumped an entire child’s bowl of food on our carpet. We aren’t a family of means, we live paycheck to paycheck, period. Now we have a very large orange stain on our carpet.

All Kim could say was “Why won’t she just eat?”

And my response, probably not the most empathetic was “She’s two.” Plain and simple. We both know it. But, frankly, rationally it’s hard to think logically when the child doesn’t think with reason or logic herself.

How do you handle a two year old who is so smart and so sweet and so full of life and on the go and then can very quickly turn into a completely different person in a matter of seconds. I know this is just the developmental stage, but it’s wearing on us. It’s wearing us very thin.

When I went to my therapist appointment today, we talked about it. I cried, I broke down a lot in that hour. I’ve been having increasingly more anxiety attacks, mostly at work – but that’s another story, and I’m finding it hard to cope at home without feeling like a terrible mother.

We are trying to steer away from spanking, I was spanked as a child and I’m sure it’s not left any damaging, lasting effects on me as an adult, but it’s just something I want to use as a last resort. It’s becoming more difficult.

She gave me some tips and I think we will be putting them to use. So far, we have talked about tackling some of the behavior by praising the good behavior more. We shower the praise when Punky has ‘learned something new’ but not really when she’s doing ‘desired behavior’. It never occurred to me to praise her when she’s not screaming at me and just playing normally in her room.

So today, Punky and I went to the store and picked out some stuff for the new sticker chart we are making, I’ll post more about the construction when I come up with the design I like. We picked out stickers with Dora and Cars and stars and all her favorite things. We picked out a ‘reward bag’ that I will introduce that has little trinkets like bracelets and candy necklaces and light up rings and all sorts of goodies for her to earn.

This afternoon, when we got home, she was in a “terrorist” state, she needed a nap for sure and for a toddler, nap time and sleep time have never really been much of an issue for Punky. She tells us when she’s tired and for the most part, goes to sleep with no problems or small bouts of crying it out. So she went to take a nap and her moms, exhausted already, took a nap as well.

When I woke up, I decided to try the method of ‘grazing’. We’ve done this all along, sort of. We give her a bag of veggie fries and she can eat them whenever she wants or she doesn’t really eat breakfast at a table or in her highchair, we just give her a finger food of some sort and call it a day.

The “grazing” method, from what I have read is all about letting her be a busy and exploratory toddler while still having snacks and foods available to her. I gather it’s all about not confining her to one place to eat. I’m not sure how it will work for dinner time, but so far she’s been receptive to the ‘snack tray’.

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I took a muffin tin that I already had in my kitchen and let her help me fill the compartments. So, I filled it with stuff we had in the kitchen already. I know some of it, like jello and fruit snacks, may not be the most healthy, but I wanted to start with familiar foods to her, that I know she will eat and move into other foods.

I put the fruit snacks in the center, surrounded by the granola bars and diced fruit, hoping to entice her with the stuff she’s never wanted to eat before.

The Apple O’s (knock-off Apple Jacks) went first and she’s found the fruit snacks and they are also gone. But, she’s also ventured into the granola bar and I’m waiting anxiously for her to pick up a banana or a pineapple.

IMG_4734When I introduced the tray, I made a point to let her fill the compartments and then tell her she could eat as much as she wanted or as little as she wanted. This was all her food and she could put it in her belly whenever she wanted.

When she comes up to the tray, which is stationed by my seat on the couch in the living room – on a table at her height level, I have been telling her “Good job!” or commenting about how “YUMMY” new foods are and stuff. So, far she’s stuck to the familiar food and perhaps when that runs out she will try something newer. In any event, I’m excited to see if this helps create a more peaceful mealtime for us and for Punky.

So far, she’s gone back and forth between the tray and her room and dancing in the living room. We have only been implementing it for approximately an hour, so I’m not saying it is a cure all, but for the time being, we are getting some sanity.

I’d be all ears for any other suggestions or tips on how we can curb some of the tantrums and eating issues we are having with the little one. I’m all about ‘ignoring bad behaviors’ but at the end of the day, I’m afraid ignoring it reinforces her to act out to get attention.

We are slowly coming up with ways to tame our toddler terrorist and I am all open for suggestions from veteran moms or moms in the same boat! Tell me what has worked for you, seriously. I’m willing to try anything.

In other news, another way we have been talking about curbing the toddler twos is to get Punky into a preschool in the area. She’s going to be 2 in early March and the place I’m looking at have a preschool program that I really like. It’s going to be a financial stretch, having to live paycheck to paycheck already, but 2 days a week will give Kim a much needed break and Punky some social skills with other kiddos. In the end, I think it will also help me – knowing I can come home from work to a peaceful, more harmonious house and family. Here’s to hoping it helps – though I’m not looking forward to sickness and germs that come with ‘school’ and ‘daycare’ in small kids, but it comes with the territory and I’m starting to think the good effects may outweigh those flaws.