Terrible Two’s and Whinning

Dear Dr. Corwin,

Francesca turned two in January. She is a very energetic child and she is very sweet. We came to Toddler Talks last year and your suggestions were really helpful.

I just purchased the DVD as many behavior challenges have been occurring. It is overwhelming sometimes. Last night, she did not want to go in her car seat and it was exhausting. She was frustrated and so was I.
I asked her to help Mommy by getting into her seat. She refused. We had been at the mall and she was probably getting tired. I was also getting tired.

I am searching for answers. I love her dearly and am concerned because so many of the techniques that have worked before are not working now. It feels like she is becoming more defiant. We do not want to spank either.

I understand this is a time for her to be her own person and try out new things. I want to embrace her spontaneity and most of the times I can laugh. When I feel the most anxiety is when we are tired at the end of the day. Also, she will lie down at the mall and I do not want her to get stepped on.

What I do not know is if there is something that we are doing as parents which would be a better suggestion. We have tried time outs, redirecting and counting to 3 (when requesting her to do something like getting in the car seat).

In the past month or so, it feels like she challenges us more than previously. What I do not know is if this is typical two year old behavior and it will pass? Or, if the behavior is due to having Mommy around less so confusion in rules have led to these patterns?

My in-laws watch Francesca while John and I work. When she whines, they have handed her what it is she is asking for. Now, she is whining more often and crying when we tell her no. My husband and I do not give her the item while she whines. My husband is also discussing with his parents how having two different responses is not helpful. They are trying so I hope it gets better.
I was taking a class towards my degree so between work and school there was less time together. It was for four months and just finished a couple of weeks ago. I am hoping that we can get back on track this summer. I am analyzing which work committees to back off of so I have more time with Francesca and my husband.

I would appreciate hearing any suggestions that you have. Thanks for listening. I woke up with insomnia.

Cara B

Cara,
Thanks for your thoughtful questions. In a nutshell, whenever a child’s behavior starts to escalate, it means you are giving them too many chances and choices. So just put her in her car seat by pressing the heal of your hand on her breast bone, her back will automatically round and then you can put the straps on quickly.

Don’t ask her to help you, don’t look at her or give her any opportunity to object, ‘just do it’ because car seats are not an option…it’s all about safety, as you know.

You are probably right, your absence has been tough on her, but now that you will be spending more time with her some of that will go away.

Your husband is right, you need to get grandma on the same page about ‘whining. Whining is a form of communication that kids experiment with, if they get a response from a parent/grandparent when they do this, then the child inadvertently believes that sometimes they should continue to use this form of communication.

So whenever she whines, stop looking at her, do not talk to her or give her what she wants. That will stop the behavior. But, in order to change the behavior, you need to talk to her ALL the time when she speaks without the whine.

Tell her that you love her voice, label what the voice is, like say “I love your Buenaventura voice, talk some more”. So she knows she gets time and attention from you when she talks in that voice instead of a whine, where she gets nothing.

Hope this helps? The next Toddler Talk is Sept 8th, 15th and 22nd. You can call and register any time you want. Take care, Dr. Ann

P.S. And yes a lot of this behavior is typical two.