discipline, motherhood, parenting

On the arrival of terrible twos. And swatting.

My son while not speaking much, is advanced in other areas such as running, climbing, and throwing, and as it turns out, he’s decided he doesn’t need to wait for the big two point oh to jump right into the once-thought-to-be-mythical but now very real-so-very-real terrible twos.

To be fair, there’s a lot of awesomeness. Like the mad-crazy-love. The curiosity at literally everything. The imitating [sometimes embarrassing when done in the company of others as your son finds tweezers and proceeds to ‘do’ his eyebrows], and the sleeping, oh dear God the sleeping is eternally beautiful and I will forever love this part of growing up.

But back to those terrible twos.

I’m okay with the new pickiness over all things food [and the tossing to the floor of all things food, which if you have advice, I will love you forever] but its the other new development that is getting to me: specifically, the swatting. My gentle little chipmunk who is usually the one beat upon at playgrounds and in livingrooms everywhere is now the one raising his baby hands at others. And this stern former-teacher who could stop children in their tracks with the look is absolutely baffled as to how to address this since my kid? He seems to think the look is the funniest thing ever.

In his defense, he doesn’t go up to children to smack them, he does it when they enter into what he perceives as his personal space, such as entering the ‘toy house’ in the playground he was in first, or any other circumstance in which he feels like he needs to ‘defend himself’. The swat is not hard. It could almost be confused for him patting the child on the head. And it has yet to provoke a cry. Most children just look at him with a confused expression and carry on their business. And while Baby Center tells me this is normal, it’s still swatting, it could get painful when he develops more strength, and well, it’s still not cool.

When the situation occurs, I get on eye-level, hold his hands firmly in mine and tell him no. I tell him we do not put our hands on people this way. I then take his hand and run it gently over my cheek to model gentle behavior and if we know the child affected, I take his hand and model gentle pat on the shoulder to show that if he must touch, this is how. He gets it in that moment, he looks down with puppy dog eyes, he models the behavior I showed him, and then ten minutes later, he completely forgets again.

He is not destructive or mean-spirited, but I don’t want the swatting to lead to hitting or punching and want to stop it now at this particular phase. It’s tough because I see in the moment, when a child is up in his grill, he doesn’t pause to think, he swats, and well, I’m just confused as to how most effectively deal with this new turn of events in the ever changing parenting game.

How are you handling, or plan to handle, the discipline thing? Ever faced swatting? How did you successfully solve it? Or are you reading this with marker stained jeans and egg discards in your hair and are just glad to hear you’re not the only one?

14 thoughts on “On the arrival of terrible twos. And swatting.”

  1. You are NOT alone. I swear our boys have too much in common, it's eery.
    Anyway, I blame it all on the not-uttering-proper-words-yet-understanding-too-much-and-getting-frustrated-at-the-lack-of-reciprocating-undersanding-by-others stage. And he is also very good at mastering physical stuff, gross and fine motor skills are very advanced too.

    The food – dear Lord, help me. I am writing a sign and putting it up on the wall behind his high chair saying “If he throws food, just let him be, woman, and move on.”. For the life of me, I find this very difficult, for some reason. If he does not eat his meal, it's like a black veil wraps itself around my brain and I just have to make him eat. Stupid, I know. My husband is actually very good at making me see reason on this and I am getting better and better. George is obviously not starving. When he is hungry, he eats and asks for more. When he is done, he is done. Even if he likes what he is eating, when he had enough, he just stops eating. I should encourage this, not make him finish his portion… Getting there.
    Also, I find wiping the food off the floor immediately very wise, cleaning up dried food is not fun. πŸ™‚ Captain Obvious over and out.
    I am trying to discourage eating on the run, though. He nicks bits of my snack (darned GD!), and eats them while runing around the house. Not cool. Or hygienic. Or inducive of properly eating when sitting down.
    I've noticed he eats better when I let him use utensils himself. He is getting better and better and I can't wait until I can trust him with more fluid food, such as youghurt.

    Swatting/hitting – George I think it is clearly a sign of frustation. He does it mainly with me, at the creche apparently it is not an issue. Nor is it with anyone else. Mostly with my and his dad comes a second favourite. I take it we spend the most time with him and he gets upset when his wish is not complied with immediately or he gets enthusiastic. I also have been doing the routine with gentle and showing him precisely what gentle means. I suspect I will still be doing it for some time from now on. The cats are very effective at teaching him gentle, he is rarely swatting them even though they do play together, but I still have to learn how they do it.

    The tantrums. Oh, the tantrums… Sometimes he is so angry, he trashes around and throws his head backwards, always hitting somewthing and making it worse. If I try to hold him and protect him, I often get buttheaded. Lovely. It takes a while for him to calm down. I am at a loss. What can I do? I wait until it passes, try to protect his head, talk to him gently, try to solve the problem if it is solvable, and engage into something else afterwards.

    See? You are SO NOT ALONE. Let's go talk some more while we bang our heads against a wall. πŸ™‚


  2. You're handling it well, Aisha. No advice, mama. This too shall pass. Keep doing what you're doing consistently. It sinks in eventually. Boys. LOL. Gotta love 'em πŸ™‚

    As for the throwing food on the floor – I would just explain, (over and over and over again), “If you don't want to eat something, you don't throw it. You set it aside.” — If he's not speaking he needs a way to express that he doesn't want something – unfortunately throwing communicates his feelings well. LOL… Just tell him that when he throws it, it makes a mess to clean up and you don't like that. You can even model this. Sit at the table and eat some food and then take something you don't like to eat and set it aside saying, “I don't want this.”


  3. Ooooo, I like Leigh Ann's idea. Showing him WHY we don't throw on the floor, (because it makes a mess to clean up.) — No better way for him to learn that than to clean it up himself. NICE.


  4. I'm not a mother so I don't really have the best advice. But having so many cousins with kids has it's advantages. I've gotten so many tips and advice from them that I could probably have a child at 19 and cope.

    First, that imitating with the eyebrows thing has got to be utterly hilarious!

    Second, I used to throw food when younger because it was funny. My parents would tell me off and take my food away. Mealtimes were over for me the second I started throwing food, even if I was hungry. I immediately learnt that food is not something to be thrown on the floor.

    Third, the swatting is tricky. I don't know why he is doing it. You've picked up on the personal space issue so it may just be that he doesn't understand the concept of sharing. If he has his own toys and never has to give them up to someone else, he may not learn that other children may also want to play. But it may not be that since one of my cousin's kid would be at home with his grandma during the day until my brothers and I finished school or until his mother came home from work. He was lonely a lot and didn't really have anyone to play with and grandma wasn't exactly up for a game of peek a boo all the time so now, he always wants to play. He's become the kid who will invade the personal spaces of other children.

    He was an easy baby though. The terrible twos didn't apply to him. He sat in one place with a toy, laughed a lot and played. Never cried. Never threw a tantrum. Was always happy. Never cried when hungry but would eat whatever you were eating. Slept when he had to and if you were still asleep, he would just hug you and kiss you. Lol

    You could try sitting with him when he's playing and swatting him when he tries it. Part of the reason why my cousin's kid is so well behaved (we had some problems concerning biting at three)was that his own mother would show him the consequences of the biting and pinch his cheek. he stopped when he realised other people fight back. But the swatting may backfire if used too often. Just do it once and see how he reacts. The trying to show him gentleness may negatively reinforce the behaviour if he witnesses no real consequence because of the hitting. A better method may just be to remove him from the toys when he swats a kid. That's usually better than swatting them since swatting them may result in them learning from your own behaviour.

    I don't know if that helps. Parenting is never the same for more than one person. What will work for one parent won't work for the other. The best thing to do is to be involved actively in your child's life and try to encourage the positive behaviours by rewarding him for sharing or something.

    The idea of getting the kid to clean the mess up is great though! if they don't like the cleaning, they'll never do it again!


  5. Have you seen the book Hands Are Not for Hitting by Martine Agassi? Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Hands-Hitting-Board-Book-Behavior/dp/157542200X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327955161&sr=1-1

    With twins the same age as Waleed, we have dealt with our fair share of hitting, biting, and pulling hair. Usually it happens when one or both of my boys are frustrated. This book has been great for teaching a stock phrase to use. If hitting happens in my house, I catch the hitters arms, say in a stern, but unemotional voice, hands are not for hitting, then I lavish attention on the kid who was hit. The eventual plan is to get the hitter to hug the hittee and say sorry, but we aren't there yet.

    The thing about toddlers is that their impulse control is terrible, so you as the parent have to do the same thing OVER and OVER and OVER again before it starts to sink in. We started with hair pulling and did the same thing I described above, then it went to biting (there is a Teeth are Not for Biting book in the same series), now we are into hitting with toys. So, things have gotten better…even though there is still unacceptable behavior. We just keep going at it. Consistency is key right?

    As far as food throwing goes, with my boys it usually means they are finished, or they don't like it. Either way we take the food away immediately and tell them that if they throw food it will get taken away. Sometimes we will give them a second chance, but almost always it is their signal that they are finished. We have made some progress with asking them to hand it to us if they don't like it, or put it in the corner of their tray. Again, repeat, repeat, repeat.

    No magic answers. We are dealing with similar things.


  6. Kmina, sometimes knowing you're not alone is all you need to feel better πŸ™‚ Miserly loves company? As for feeding, K is the same way, very relaxed about it all, but what if they don't eat all day?!? Then do you still let it go? As for swatting, yeah hopefully the swatting will go away, its a phase ofcourse, but yes, it's all so strange, all the new things that happen just when ou think you got it all figured out! Thanks so much for your personal perspective and experience with me!!


  7. Leigh Ann, that's a great idea for when he's older, at the moment he thinks its the funnest thing in the whole world to clean up with mommy so it would be a reward not a punishment, but definitely when he's older!


  8. Tracy, I think you make a really really good point— he does try to put food on the table to let me know he's done, but I keep pushing him to keep eating because i know he hasn't eaten enough. I guess I need to respect his choice not to eat more, but then I worry since it seems he hasn't gotten enough calories in the day 😦

    Kamille, wow that's a lot of great advice and perspective! Thank you so much for sharing, a lot to chew over. Consistency and consequences are definitely important!


  9. JOLT, those sound like excellent books, I am going to buy them! Thanks!!! As for food, do you get concerned when they toss way too early? Lie they eat one bite of lunch, and then toss? And then a few bites of dinner, and then toss? I just worry that though he's telling me he's over it, that he doesn't have enough calories. 😦


  10. If it is too early in the meal, I will offer a second chance but make it clear that if they throw food again, then it is gone for good. It seems cruel, but after one or two meals of going “hungry,” they will figure it out. The other thing to remember is that toddlers are notorious for seeming to exist on air…but, they won't starve themselves. That said, I completely understand the worry and concern!


  11. I will offer food three times, if he first flngs the food and then tries again, then that is that. I too worry about him not eating enough, but then he always takes his milk, so at least I know he is getting something.
    After one or two days of this behaviour, he will surely have a good couple of days of eating everything I give him and ask for more sometimes.
    My ped told me to watch how he eats over at least 3-4 days, and if he consistently refuses food, then I should take him to the doctor. Otherwise, it is apparently perfectly normal for toddlers to eat nothing one day and half a fridge the other. All nice and fine, but how about me? πŸ™‚ I surely can't but worry when he does not eat. And get upset when I have to clean up food off the floor again…

    As for the help with the clean up, I agree, it's so much fun right now, it's an incentive to make a mess, not to not do it anymore. He saw me wiping the floor and he started to do the same. With an apricot. A ripe apricot he nicked off the table (he reaches everywhere). He was very dilligent. but at least he likes helping putting toys away too. And joining in the tidying up. Still, no making him clean up the mess just yet.


  12. Jolt, Mina, this makes me feel so much better. Just now I was trying to get him to eat some cheerios and no cigar, I just let it go. 'subsist on air' strangely this gives me comfort. It means I can let this go. I mean, I hate forcing him to eat sinc eI worry I'm messing with his inner mechancis of self-control and portion-control, but then the mom in me worries he'll starve if I dont' feed him. Thanks for the insight!


  13. Start reading your book…(sent an email on your story)…..

    Don't worry about terrible two and horrible three (it will pass on) just love it! My son start biting. Few serious reminders took care of it….


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