Toddlers and Trouble

This post was originally posted a year ago when FishChick was getting into mischief 24/7. The day I wrote this, she smeared a whole stick of butter on the living room floor. Holy smokes!

I’m pleased to report that she is approaching her third birthday in just a few weeks and is a wonderful help to me, especially when her baby sister is getting into mischief 24/7. Moms of toddlers, be assured that this does end. What seemed disastrous last year has passed away.

(And these solutions did help — and still do!)

Isn’t she cute?!

That’s my FishChickie. She’ll be two next month. She is just adorable with her angel halo hair and big brown eyes. She loves to cuddle with me and play with my hair. It’s her little comfort mechanism and instantly puts her to sleep.

She’s my girl, and I love her fiercely.

But, like many toddlers, she can morph into a demon of destruction in a matter of seconds.

In the past week she has

– bathed Playmobil action figures in her yogurt
– had sword fights with FishBoy4, armed with a couple of table knives
– destroyed a brand new roll of aluminum foil
– taken all the clean plastic dishes to the backyard (numerous times)
– emptied the wipes containers
– infiltrated my new L’Oreal facial cleansing cloths

– come very close to driving me bonkers

There are several possible ways that we MOMS can respond to situations like this. My default response is to raise my voice and “freak out,” hollering NO multiple times, sighing in exasperation, and basically making everyone nearby feel bad for their very existence. Hmmm… good times.

Bad choice, Mama, bad choice.

Sunday after I had picked up dishes that she had scattered all over the floor — for the fifth time that day, I paused and reflected on the situation. She is a healthy little girl doing what toddlers do. She is inquisitive and exploring her world. In many cases, like using the facial cleansing cloths, she is following another’s example. She wants to be a big girl and she’s learning how by observing the rest of us. She has the capabilities to do great things, just not yet the wisdom to know what great things she should be doing.

I am thankful that she is healthy enough to cause trouble. And she is healthy enough to eventually grow out of this. This will not last forever. In another year she will have the discernment to make better choices.

In that moment Sunday I made a choice not to blame her for her current season of development. Instead, I wanted to be thankful that she is capable of all she can do. And I had to think through some ways to roll with who she is today.

Here are some of my conclusions:

1. Stick to her like glue.
I realized that my first child didn’t get into so much stuff when he was a toddler. Well, he was the only one, and my attention was not divided as it is now. Keeping her close helps me to keep an eye on her activity. By including her in what I’m doing, I can cut her off at the pass and avert possible disasters in other rooms. When my brother babysat the other night, he clued me in. He shut all the bedroom doors so that she couldn’t disappear and get into mischief. Smart boy!

2. Limit her access.
Since we moved into this house fairly recently, we didn’t have baby locks on the kitchen cupboards. We do today! FishPapa installed them the other night when we realized I was going to go crazy without them. Yes, she can be taught to listen and obey, but that is a process. It won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, I’d like to wash my dishes once a day, not five times.

3. Talk softly.
God says, “A gentle word turns away wrath.” I know from experience that we humans listen better when someone speaks kindly to us instead of crabbing. Furthermore, she’s learning from my example. Remember her L’Oreal facial? I need to model to her the behavior she should adopt as her own.

4. Plan activities for her benefit.
Much of her playing in the kitchen is a desire for mimicry and role-playing. This is very normal for a toddler. Unfortunately, due to our move, we no longer own a play kitchen or plastic dishes and food. However, I’m keeping my eyes open for them on Craigslist and clearance sales. I think that will be a fun activity for her as well as her four-year old brother. Maybe they’ll quit sword fighting with table knives.

What about you? How do you help your toddler stay out of trouble? Share your bright ideas in the comments section.

Please!

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for reposting this! How did you know i needed it???

  2. These are all wonderful suggestions…I need to implement many of them for my little terror…oh, I meant two year old!

  3. Shalvika Sood says:

    Great post! I really like your foresight on the 'chaos'. Its very difficult to see clearly through the mayhem their inquisitiveness causes! In my opinion (and practice), being the model to your child and giving them play replicas of the activities they see us doing are one of the best ways to control what they do. Good luck until you find those!

  4. Thanks for reposting as I wasn't a reader when it was first posted. (but a faithful one now!)

    Very timely as I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 7 month old!

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  5. Jeremiah and Stephenie says:

    My 22-month-old just pulled all the wipes out of a brand-new package this morning while I was putting together a set of bunk beds! Very timely indeed. Thanks!

  6. As a mom of a almost 2 and 1/2 and 6month old kids , all those situations seem to apply . Something gets destroyed in my house at least once a day and the whining is non stop. I could handle it if my husband was more understanding that this is a COMPLETELY NORMAL toddler stage. Instead he starts yelling and adding to the overall tension. I think us moms are built for patience in these situations and dads …built for yardwork or something FAR away from the children when "it" is literally hitting the fan .

    Anyone else think Dad only adds to the chaos ??

  7. Anonymous says:

    I love your viewpoint that we should be thankful when our children are healthy enough to cause trouble! When my lo was brand new, I often reminded myself during 2am crying marathons that I was lucky to hear her healthy lungs working. It helps me to look at things from a positive perspective.

  8. Thanks for the post! I have been struggling to stay positive about and with the antics of my little one…who at 17 months is already into everything…or so it seems. It just helps to hear that we are both normal. Thanks for the tips and your honesty!

  9. Kimberly Kihega says:

    This is so much like my life right now. My Allie is 2, and is such a busy body. And, often when mom is not looking, there is trouble. My boys were nothing like her! I love this age though, it's alot of fun…most of the time!

  10. Thanks for this post. I am working so hard on the talk softly. My middle son at 4 is still into everything all the time. Unfortunately I was not blessed with patience naturally – I am working so hard but this post is such a nice reminder how important it is.

  11. Lock her in the closet:-) No…our trick is to send her over to the grandparents to burn off steel.

  12. Moms In Need Of Mercy says:

    You know, I just think now is the time that I have to supervise them all the time. Really :) The few minutes that I think my little guys are doing ok on their own, so I'll just go wash the dishes/put a load of laundry in/fill in the blanks with other ideas are the times they really do crazy, crazy things. I wouldn't want a baby-sitter to take her eyes off them for a few minutes, so as Mom, I shouldn't either. Fortunately, my 2-yr. old and 1-yr. old think playing in the playpen together is a special treat :)

  13. My youngest is 28 years old and in graduate school, but we have our two grandsons here frequently.

    With the passage of years, I had forgotten how vitally important it is to have my attention not focused on unimportant things (years ago it would've been television or a phone conversation). Now my temptation is the computer. Nearly every time I'm using it when they're here, chaos ensues. If nothing else, I get cranky when I'm interrupted and that sets a bad atmosphere.

    Children look for the unguarded moment (or half hour) to test the boundaries.

    As modern creatures, we don't like having restrictions on ourselves. For instance, I knew there were places we simply couldn't go when our sons were little. They wouldn't behave, strangers around us would be miserable, hence, I would be miserable. That only lasts a season. This is another lesson I've had to relearn.

  14. Have a hard time with the speak softly one! Poopy messes and wet pants for the hundredth time have a way of upping the decibels in seconds for me! Many days I feel like I react and act like a toddler myself. God always convicts me that I need to make things right and ask for their forgiveness when I've blown it. The other day it just hit me that it must be hard to be little and have so many things off limits and so many things to explore but are told no constantly by an angry ogre mommy! Getting on their level helps or giving them things to make a mess with! Giving my little ones bins of cornmeal or rice or beans or letting them draw in shaving cream on the kitchen table really keeps them busy and since I planned it, I expect a mess and don't get frustrated with them.

    Something that is huge for me is remembering that happy kids mean more than a clean house. I always forget this and get upset when I see my friends' perfect homes. I remind myself that I homeschool, they don't, and that I am taking time to teach my kids and read to them and not just spend every waking moment cleaning.

  15. I'm so blessed that y'all were encouraged and took the time to comment. Thank you! With time comes perspective and I just shake my head at myself for "freaking out" when now, looking back, it really "ain't no big thing." Such is life, eh?

    Good thing we can remind each other. We're all in this together.

Thanks so much for participating in this conversation about "a mom's life."

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