We've tried nothin' and we're all out of ideas.
September 23, 2010 9:54 AM   Subscribe

My kid is bad. I need a book to teach me how to make her not be bad anymore.

My daughter is just running buck wild. She is two years and two months old and has a two and a half month old sister. She recently got that sister and stopped being an only child doted upon by the whole world and moved up in preschool to a new class that she doesn't like as much. So she has gone through a lot of change in a short period of time and she is in the terrible two's, but despite all that she still needs to get her shit together. I asked previously about an RSS feed of how-to-take-care-of-your-baby advice, but nobody knew of one (so this is kind of mostly your fault if you think about it Metafilter), but I think this has gone beyond an RSS feed and requires an actual book. I should say that I have not read any parenting books at all and I have also not read any parenting websites. Please make the book short and not overly Jesusy and we don't want to spank her or have to do anything too intricate like color-coded flash cards or something like that. Just a "Here is a pretty simple way to make your two-year old daughter with a new baby sister stop acting the fool" book. Thank you for your help.
posted by ND¢ to Human Relations (59 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, no two year old "needs to get her sh*t together." I sincerely hope that's you trying to be funny.

It might help if you told us a little about the behavior that is so bad. (Notice I said the behavior. No two year old is bad, they just have bad behaviors.) Is she biting? Screaming and throwing fits? There are a lot of parents here on MetaFilter and we've all had different experiences and read different books. Giving us a little more info will help us help you.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:59 AM on September 23, 2010 [22 favorites]

Best answer: Happiest Toddler on the Block is ok. The Happiest Baby book was better, but we use some of the things for toddlers and our kids seems to be getting along fine. Baby #2 is due in a few months, though, so we will see.
posted by procrastination at 10:01 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding TooFewShoes: 1. No kid is "bad", and 2. We need examples.

My 5.5 year-old has gone through some WRETCHED spells, and the two things which always, always help are the two Cs - Calmness and Consistency.

Calmness: keep your emotions OUT OF IT as much as you can - it's not about the fact that you're mad at her, it's about the fact that her behavior was against the rules/not okay. It will also help calm YOU down if you behave in a level-headed, rational way. This will also result in you doing a LOT LESS stuff out of anger that you'll later regret (overly harsh words or behavior - ALL parents have done this, 'though that doesn't make it feel better).

Consistency: make sure there are rules. Make sure the rules are simple enough for a two year-old to grasp. Make sure there are set consequences for not following the rules. Enforce them in the same way for every infraction. This sounds so simple, but it remains a daily ass-ache for me to follow. Yet when I do, things are SO much better.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:04 AM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

How does she act at preschool? Talk to her teachers and find out.
posted by hermitosis at 10:05 AM on September 23, 2010

Response by poster: Giving us a little more info will help us help you.

We need examples.

How does she act at preschool?

I'm not looking for advice which my providing more information about how bad my bad two year old is will help you come up with, I am just looking for recommendations for a book to read to learn how to stop my bad two year old from being so bad. Cause of how bad she is.
posted by ND¢ at 10:10 AM on September 23, 2010 [25 favorites]

Best answer: Even though it has a hokey title I keep returning to How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk over and over again. It has a good advice about learning to empathize, helping kids with their emotions, and ways to frame problems so your kids will understand. I also found The Discipline Book by the Sears folks worthwhile. It also focuses on empathy, and has some suggestions for specific problem behaviors. So the first book is a systems approach, and the second is more of a troubleshooting guide.
posted by pb at 10:11 AM on September 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I get that you are being half serious, half joking about the situation. My children are also awful little hellbeasts in their own sweet way and I don't think I could survive it sometimes if I couldn't smacktalk them a little bit when they're out of earshot.

I recommend Becoming The Parent You Want To Be all the time; not only does it provide insights into the behaviors of different stages of development, it also provides useful tools for dealing.

Good luck. My kids are a bit older now but have a similar age difference and it's rarely been easy but it's often much more fun than it is for you right now.
posted by padraigin at 10:11 AM on September 23, 2010

Best answer: My sisters (both parents of recent toddlers) recommend What to Expect: The Toddler Years. It goes into stuff like diet and first aid, but has sections on discipline as well.
posted by desjardins at 10:14 AM on September 23, 2010

Yeah, some specifics would be helpful. And I can't recommend any parenting books because I've never read any. But as a parent and a former nanny, the two things I've found to work are:

1) Stick to your guns. If you say no, stick to that. If she knows you'll eventually give in about something, she's going to keep at it until you give in, and

2) Explain why you want her to do/stop doing something. I've found that as long as you give a kid a reason they can understand, they'll generally go along with you. For instance - "If I give you more candy, you'll end up with a tummy ache. That would hurt! You don't want a tummy ache, do you? You have to give your tummy a rest, and then maybe tomorrow you can have candy again." Or "If you hit your sister, it hurts her and makes her cry. You don't like it when someone hits you and makes you cry, do you?"
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:16 AM on September 23, 2010

Not a book, but Supernanny is actually a great resource for learning to deal with kid behaviors. Generally the plots go something like, 'Kid appears out of control, Supernanny teaches parents how to change their behavior, then teaches kids the new rules, kids behave as long as parents keep it up.'
posted by lhall at 10:17 AM on September 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I just got done reading Making The Terrible Twos Terrific, and thought it was pretty good, if a bit blowhard-y at times. His main thesis is that right around 18 -24 months kids need to move from a universe centred around themselves to a universe centred around their parents, and he has various practical tips for making sure that happens with a minimum of fuss and heartache for everyone involved.

I also thought 1 2 3 Magic sounded clever and as though it'd be effective for toddler discipline. Our kid is too young to be really naughty right now, but we plan to implement a 1-2-3 system in a few months if it seems warranted.
posted by Bardolph at 10:18 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Consider 1-2-3 Magic. I see it referenced in the foster parent forum I belong to all the time. I also see Parenting with Love and Logic mentioned a lot. No, your daughter is not a foster child with all the associated trauma. However, she's a little one who needs consistency and consequences.

Here's a comment I recently posted which outlines the 1-2-3 approach. That thread as a whole may be helpful to you.

Now, for some additional, non-book advice:
Make sure your daughter has a consistent schedule. Give her personal attention too. Establish boundaries and be consistent in your application of rules and consequences.

Your daughter's not bad. Children that young are not bad. They run wild because they have been allowed to run wild. So, if you think about it, it really is your fault and not ours or hers.

You can change things in a positive way that gets results you hope to see.
posted by onhazier at 10:18 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not looking for advice which my providing more information about how bad my bad two year old is will help you come up with, I am just looking for recommendations for a book to read to learn how to stop my bad two year old from being so bad. Cause of how bad she is.

Okay, I don't have a book but wanted to tell you that we just went through this and it gets better. Four months ago she was hell to be around, she turned a corner just recently, like in the last month. She now learned things don't always go the way she wants and while she still gets upset, it's not as horrible and it's over much faster and sometimes it doesn't happen at all.

For a while, if you didn't give her a cookie or let her start a fire or whatever, she would pitch herself to the floor and literally kick her heals and howl into the floor. We had to take her out of a football-field-sized Macy's with her screaming at the top of her longs and people shooting hateful looks at us from all directions.

The thing that worked for us was keeping our reactions calm and understated but firm, not saying No unless we were willing to face the consequences (ie., not engaging in authoritarian moves for their own sakes) and keeping a sense of humor, which it sounds like you're doing. Also we really tried to look at it as she's trying to work out some difficult stuff for herself, and she has to do it alone -- realize that the world actually isn't set up to meet your needs every second. That's a pretty tough realization, I imagine. Some of us still have trouble with it.

Also: bourbon.
So forgive the derail but FWIW.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:19 AM on September 23, 2010 [9 favorites]

I've always been amazed that Supernanny's practical strategies are actually pretty damn spot-on. Naughty step for the motherfucking win!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:23 AM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

realize that the world actually isn't set up to meet your needs every second.

I meant that's what she's learning, not you. I overuse the universal you.

(I should be done now. )
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:23 AM on September 23, 2010

Best answer: Just a note that the techniques from the Supernanny TV show have been put into a book. We have it and can recommend it.
posted by pixlboi at 10:32 AM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

More than a book you need persistance. In whatever discipline strategy you choose to use, you need to be more persistant in enforcing rules than the child is in breaking the rules. You need to be persistant while being level headed. You also need to point out and compliment positive behaviors your child shows. Thirding Supernanny - she illustrates this well.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:35 AM on September 23, 2010

I like Parenting that Works by Edward Christophersen and Susan L. Mortweet, which is published by the American Psychological Association. It takes a long-term approach, and only focuses on what's important. If this book doesn't cover your particular concerns, it's likely those concerns are temporary or unimportant.

I'm just taking a guess here based on my memory of your very funny comments in the past, and say that you might get close to the same value out of watching on Youtube some Louis CK standup re:parenting as you would reading this book. Just saying this as one bad parent to another.
posted by ferdydurke at 10:40 AM on September 23, 2010

My kids are about the same spread as yours, and we went through that stage about a year ago. In fact, the whole 'not-the-center-of-the-world' syndrome gets worse. Much worse. Right up until the moment that the oldest realized how much the youngest looked up to her. And then all of a sudden they worked it out (for the most part). We didn't use a book - we just tried to spend time with them as much as possible and really be with them, engage and explain things in a way that the oldest could understand. Certainly a book could be helpful but there is nothing that can replace spending more time with them.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 10:43 AM on September 23, 2010

We want to give our neighbors "Mom, Jason's Breathing on me" but we haven't figured out a way to do it. Maybe it will work for you.

And I sure hope you are trying to be funny.
posted by mearls at 10:52 AM on September 23, 2010

And as an observation, a friend I have had since all our children were toddlers (18 years ago) pointed out to me that the kids that had these kind of "realize that the world actually isn't set up to meet your needs every second" adjustment issues have the same issues at the beginning of adolescence.
Meaning your pain in the ass toddler will go through an equal pain in the ass 14 year old stage. I have made a careful study of my friend's observations and find them to be exceedingly accurate.
Plan accordingly by stockpiling what patience you can. Or bourbon.
posted by readery at 10:53 AM on September 23, 2010

Your wording of this-- granted, it's an attempt to be humorous, I get it-- gave me a bit of metaphorical hives on first read. Your kid wants attention. She doesn't feel like she's getting enough. Acting out results in attention. I mean, this is parenthood 101 stuff, right? She's old enough to respond to some basic disciplinary responses, so do those, I guess. But for my money the root of the problem is figuring out how to make sure she gets attention and is not shortchanged by the new cute thing in the house, and just generally helping her adjust to the new equilibrium. Time you spend reading some faddy book on the subject is time you could instead be giving her that attention; and if your kids are both asleep then I bet your time is better spent sleeping yourself, or making sure that you and your partner still have enough relationship to be good parents.
posted by norm at 10:58 AM on September 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

When I was 8, before I got a hamster, I got several books about hamsters so I knew what to expect, how to care for them, and how to handle various situations that might arise. Same thing when I got a bike at 11, a motorcycle at 25, and a cat at 30.

This statement:
I have not read any parenting books at all and I have also not read any parenting websites.

does not compute.

There is no book that will apply to your situation, and if there is, it will not make sense standing on its own. Bad behavior -- like good behavior, and neutral behavior -- doesn't exist in a vacuum, especially during the fastest development time of a child's life.

Go to the library. Go to the parenting section. Start with the A's.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:11 AM on September 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

She's not being bad - she's actually being good at her job right now, which is hitting the two-year-old developmental stage. FWIW, she'd be doing this whether or not you had a new baby in the house. In the framework of Erik Erikson, she's transitioning from the infant stage (where she's learned to trust her environment and the people in it) into the toddler stage, where her main task is to learn autonomy and how it works to be an independent entity within the family community. Throwing in a new family member complicates this, but the baby's not the reason.

Any book that has a good description of development should help here, but this is a tough time no matter what actual methods are used. Autonomy is a tricky one; as readery says, this process will repeat as she transitions into adolescence and a conscious effort to define her own self-image.
posted by catlet at 11:14 AM on September 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

Man, I feel for you. All the hassling you're getting upthread implying you're a bad parent for asking this question seems really out of line.

I bought 1-2-3 Magic on some friends' recommendations and didn't find it particularly compelling or effective. But as always, YMMV.

I just ordered Don't Shoot the Dog (Karen Pryor) on the recommendation of a previous metafilter thread, but it hasn't come yet. But the idea of using effective positive reinforcement seems like a good one, even if a lot of the book involves dog training instead of toddler training.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:19 AM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Guys, ease up. Parenting is really, really hard. I'm watching my best friend deal with a two-year old who currently thinks the funniest thing in the world is BITING HIS PLAYMATES ALL THE TIME. He bites them and then cracks the fuck up, no matter how often he's told that this is a terrible thing to do. I'm constantly horrified by the shit he comes up with.

That said, she's dog-eared her copy of "1 2 3 Magic."
posted by honeydew at 11:26 AM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Mod note: few comments removed. ND¢ please use your words and remember that we have a wide variety of people here all of whom may not understand your odd style. Other people, answer helpfully or walk away, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:35 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another vote for How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk . Lots of great stuff in there.
posted by caddis at 11:40 AM on September 23, 2010

A series I have found helpful is the Your X-year Old books. They are very dated, and the discipline chapters should be ignored. But the first half of each book, that describes what is going on for kids developmentally at each stage, can be very helpful. My partner and I just re-read Your Six-Year Old the other night, and were like, "Oh, hey! This kid we're struggling with right now is doing these very typical 6-year-old things!" Oddly enough, that often lifts some of the burden of feeling like, "We have to fix this NOW!"

Other books that have been very helpful for us include Playful Parenting, Unconditional Parenting, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, The Explosive Child (that last one may not apply to your daughter, but the author asks over and over, "You're the grown-up, and your child is the child. Which do you think is more likely: that she'll be able to change her attitudes and behavior, or that you'll be able to change yours?" Your statement--which may have been meant jokingly--is an example of the kind of thinking that puts the responsibility for change on the child. This can lead to increased frustration if you're expecting a child to live up to impossible standards, but if you think about it, it also increases the parent's sense of powerlessness.)

I find that how you think about your kids and yourself makes a huge difference. We tend to take the approach that mis-behaving child has an unmet need and they are lacking the skills to get it met in a productive way. If you can identify that need and meet it, it can often dramatically reduce bad behavior. It might be a need for activity, for time with parents, for more control over the child's own body, for a shift in diet or sleep patters. For my more introverted children, it can mean they're not getting enough time alone.

You may not be able to "make" your daughter do anything. A mother of grown children who I respect a lot (both the mom and the children) said once that you have to make sure your kids are fully filled up before you can ask things of them. You may need to give your daughter more and more, right at the time when you are feeling least able to do that, in order for her to feel like she has enough and no longer has to push or act out to get what she needs.

Also, sometimes kids just fall apart for awhile, and it can be really hard and exasperating, and you just have to do your best, take care of yourself and the kid as best you can, and wait for it to pass. We put a lot of thought and effort into dealing with our very challenging oldest son, and in retrospect (to the extent we have a retrospect; he's 9 now) a lot of stuff was fixed by his growth and development rather than by any magical technique we figured out. The folks who wrote the Your X-Year Old books have a theory that kids go through cycles of equilibrium and disequilibrium, and it can be helpful just to know that the falling-apart, shit-not-together times are a natural and maybe even essential part of development.

Finally: when things have gotten really bad between me and Delightful But Challenging Oldest Son, it can really help to take a little time to do something we enjoy together, letting him be in charge. At 3 and 4, this might be an afternoon at the zoo where he got to decide what animals to see, how long to stay at each exhibit, when to get ice cream. Not only did it help him re-charge and feel good about himself (who wants to be the kid who is always in trouble?), but it helped me remember how much I liked him.
posted by not that girl at 11:43 AM on September 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

Sorry, I realize I digressed from answering your question, which was simply about books. Consider those last few paragraphs a precis of how these books have helped shape our parenting practices.
posted by not that girl at 11:45 AM on September 23, 2010

1. She's old enough now where you have to start talking to her. She may not act like it, but reasoning - and reasoning - and reasoning - will help. Perhaps it will help eventually, not now, but it will help. So you talk and talk and talk.
1a. When the reasoning doesn't work, and you may find yourself with a shrieking toddler under one arm while you are calmly explaining, yet again, your point of view, as in, "No, I'm sorry, that's not how we treat the cat / the baby / your mother / your friend at preschool" still, at least, she's still small enough where you can pick her up, which really helps and will not, alas, be the case in 14 years when she goes through Hell Stage Number Two.
1b. Temper tantrum people go to their room until they feel better enough to talk without screaming. It's okay if they're still crying, then they get hugs until they feel better, but screaming and freaking out people go to their rooms. This applies to all ages.
1c. She will grow out of this stage. No, seriously, she will. I promise.
1d. Pick. Your. Battles. This is the biggest thing ever. It will not matter, in a couple of months, let alone years, if your child wears nothing but the same tutu every day for six weeks. It won't matter if she drags an old blanket everywhere she goes. It won't matter if she decides that she wants to be a baby again now and must drink from a bottle for a while. And it won't matter if all she will eat is peanut butter. But it will matter if she bites another kid or kicks her parents in the shins. Pick the hill you want to die on with care, keeping in mind Point 1c, above, and everyone's life will be easier and more peaceful.

2. You need to give yourself a quick crash course on child psychology and development. Here's a good but very basic checklist. I don't have a clue which book to recommend; I took Child & Adolescent Psych as soon as I found out I was pregnant - it helped that I was a freshman in college at the time - and then I took it again years later when I became an educator. Consider taking a class if you can. It helps a ton.

3. The Mother's Almanac is hideously dated but then so am I and it was my go to bible when my kids were little. Raising Your Spirited Child was helpful with my wild son.

4. And what may be really helpful for both of you are books you can read together. Frances and her baby sister immediately sprang to mind as did the (admittedly somewhat dreadful) Bearenstain Bears, but there are many, many, many great small childrens' books out there that gently and positively make a point about behavior and other things.

ps All kids when presented with a younger sibling temporarily regress. They feel, understandably, that since you obviously wanted a baby, then they can be that baby and perhaps the new one who is clearly a waste of space and bad all around idea anyway, can be left on the curb as it should be. The best analogy I ever heard I think came from the Mother's Almanac and it says, do not expect your kid to love her sibling. Think how delighted you would be if your spouse came home with a new extra spouse and a lot of cheery talk about how great it was going to be now that all of you were living together. You would act out a bit. So will kids. The difference is, the kids do get over it. And then they learn to plot together against you.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:52 AM on September 23, 2010 [10 favorites]

I'd second Sears' "The Discipline Book," although as with all Sears books, you kind of have to mentally edit out all the "The best strategy is for you to be perfectly loving, kind and patient EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE OR ELSE YOU **FAIL**!!!"

Or maybe I'm just reading too much into him.

Also, Spock. One of the older editions without too much modern rewriting. Spock knew a lot about kids, knew that most of what you have to do is apply a little common sense to deal with the psychosis that is toddlerhood.

And keep in mind that 10% of reading a book about child-rearin' is about learning techniques; the other 90% is to realize they're ALL evil, and everyone is pulling their hair out over it.
posted by mittens at 11:52 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

OK, one more thing: I realize I listed a bunch of books. On the chance that you don't really want to spend the next ten weeks reading, here's what I'd start with in your shoes: Your Two-Year-Old (which is very short), and Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline.

Moving on now. Good luck!
posted by not that girl at 11:52 AM on September 23, 2010

I've read just about every parenting book there is and these are my favorites:

Parenting From The Inside Out (The more you know and understand yourself, and your childhood, the more effective parent you will be. All parents most do some self-reflection. Why do we parent a certain way, when we swore we never would? This book explains why.)

Raising Our Children Raising Ourselves (This and Connection Parenting is a great place to start.)

Connection Parenting by Pam Leo. (Pam Leo's website with great audio interviews.)

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn Here is a sampling of Alfie Kohn here and here. There are tons of interviews with him on the internet. He is awesome.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber

The Parents We Mean to Be by Richard Weissbourd (I'm reading this now. This isn't a how-to-get-your-toddler-to-behave book. It's excellent and thought-provoking nonetheless. )

Judy Ford's (family therapist and author) articles for eHow are great.
They have helped me many times. When I wanted to snap it's was helpful to read a small, easy article to get you back to a loving attitude.
posted by Fairchild at 11:59 AM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

My kid is going through some serious two year old stuff well before he has hit two. We were in a really bad hit-mommy-all-the-time phase. It was horrible. We're still in it. But we're coming to the end of it. And you know what? Even though my kid would smack me hard across the face, I never considered him to be bad.

Kids are not bad. Their behavior can be bad. You would do well to remember this.

Your job as the parent is to correct the behavior. That's what you want help with. Without knowing what the behavior is, it is difficult to point you to the right resources. But since you're so reluctant to share that with us, here's what works for me: (the only parenting books I've read are My Mother Wears Combat Boots and The Fussy Baby Book, both of which I got some benefit from. More from the former than the latter as it spans pregnancy through five year olds or so).

- Set the kid up for success. In other words, if you can tell your daughter is going to throw a fit in the grocery store, then don't set her up to fail by going to the grocery store. Neither of you will win. Get your partner/spouse/a friend/someone else to either go for you or to watch your daughter while you go.

-If the kid is engaging in bad behavior (like hitting), then you have to understand it is because the child is upset. You need to figure out why the child is behaving that way. Toddler (formerly known as Baby) Zizzle hits me under the following circumstances: 1. He is angry. 2. He is scared. 3. He is sad. 4. He is playing. It is usually pretty obvious to me which it is based on what led up to the action. For example, he throws his toys on the bus. I take away his toys because he knows he shouldn't throw them on the bus. He commences the hitting. I firmly, but not too hard, hold him by the wrists to prevent him from hitting me, look him in the eye, and say, "You're angry. I know you're angry. You're angry because I took your toysaway. But we don't hit when we're angry. You can be angry, but you don't hit. When we're angry we say, 'Mommy, I'm angry at you. I'm angry at you because you took my toys away.'" Toddler Zizzle is not incredibly verbal yet, but he really is getting the message. A number of times he's raised his hand, stopped, and let it drop when I said, "You're angry because...."

So why is your daughter upset? Well, let's see. There's a new sister. She's in a new room at school. Her entire world is turned upside down and flipped inside out. Mommy isn't playing with her as much. It's no wonder she's acting up, but seriously --- to call her bad? Your job as the parent of a toddler is to help your toddler understand her emotions, to help her use the words she has, and to help her understand that you understand why and how she is feeling the way she is. You are her guide through what are very new and overpowering emotions.

Your new baby is very young. I understand that one symptom of PPD in mothers with more than one children can be not being able to stand their older children. I really think, given how this post reads and the age of your younger daughter, that you may want to examine some other things in your life and see if you couldn't benefit from some help. And, quite frankly, I don't see anything verging on humor in this post and I am concerned for you and your family.
posted by zizzle at 12:10 PM on September 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

Nthing "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen..."; such a great book. Also, empathize, empathize, empathize. Your daughter is doing the best she can right now. She will do much better if you're able to help her understand what she's feeling (frustration, jealousy, anger, sadness, etc.) and label it, so she can start to talk about it. It will take a while to work in reducing outbursts, but it will work throughout her life. Good luck! Things will get easier!
posted by epj at 12:22 PM on September 23, 2010

You want 1-2-3 Magic. I think I began using it when my daughter was around 2. She was very difficult at that age, and had no new sibling. Very simple to implement if you she is doing things you want her to stop (you calmly count 1-2-3 and then time out if she doesn't stop). Read the book, but that's the jist of it. It's good stuff.
posted by kirst27 at 12:37 PM on September 23, 2010

Oh, epj makes a good point that I forgot to mention. Your daughter's also moving from basic emotions (fear, anger, sadness, happiness, surprise, disgust, and a few others) to complex emotions, which require self-awareness (guilt, jealousy, pride, etc.). Part of what's frustrating her and making her want reassurance/attention is that autonomy isn't just about learning that she's an individual with her own abilities and powers within a larger community, but that being an individual leads to some very confusing and complicated feelings that her brain hasn't quite caught up to processing effectively and understandably.

One of the things that's hard when working in therapy is that most people have a really limited emotional vocabulary. We tend to resort to the basic emotion words - "I just feel sad" or "I'm here because I'm angry" - but the real feelings are complex emotions. The way we think about our emotions and those of others, however, is often stuck in the infant phase of powerful, impulsive, overwhelming feeling. Your daughter's behaviors (anger, neediness) may sometimes be driven by her being caught in a whirlpool of something that she's not cognitively ready to understand.
posted by catlet at 12:39 PM on September 23, 2010

Best answer: I highly recommend The Kazdin Method. This book is based on years of research on the best way to modify childrens behavior. We have used the book and found it very useful.
posted by bove at 12:59 PM on September 23, 2010

Father of 2 1/2 year old here. It doesn't matter what specific acts your child is committing.

Kids are just people. People act poorly when they're not getting what they think they need. That need may or may not be a legitimate one. Your job, as parent, is to figure out what they think that need is (cause they won't always tell you), and to decide 1) whether or not that's the actual need (or is it something else?) and 2) whether or not you should meet either what they think they need (which might be a bad idea) vs. what you judge them to really need (which might also be a bad idea).

Beyond all of that? Making it clear to the person in need that you're trying to make them feel better. There have been many times my son is too worked up to clearly convey to us what the problem is. Our response isn't to cast him as "bad" but to try and work with him to see what needs to change. If we understand each other and judge that making the change is ok, we ask him what we say (please) and go ahead and do it. If the change is not desirable, we explain why we can't do it and try to change his context to something less upsetting.

Let's practice this technique on you: books are good, but books are not nearly a direct enough line between what you're telling us you need (help) and the meeting of that need.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:05 PM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

When my nephew is acting up (similar age) my sister does a lot of this kind of dialogue, often through gritted teeth and with fire in her eyes, but still mostly in a neutral voice:

Mom: What's the matter? Tell me what the problem is.
Mom: Is it that you want the phone? You can't have the phone right now, because Mommy's using it. You have to calm down.
Toddler: But I WANT it!
Mom: I understand that you want it. I know. And that makes you unhappy.
Toddler: I WANT it!
Mom: Yes, I know. You want the phone. But you can't have it right now. I know you're upset. It's ok. But you have to calm down.
Mom: Ok. I know. You can't have it. It's ok. Let's calm down. Sit on this chair until you can be quiet.
[etc - once he stops screaming and is down to a quieter volume of upset...]
Mom: Ok, let's play with the [toy] or the [other toy]. Which toy should we play with?

In other words, she gets him to identify what's upsetting him, makes it clear she has understood that's what is upsetting him, repeats that it's ok for him to be upset but he still can't have the thing, and says the next step is to calm down. Then a wait so he can get over the worst of it, and she gives him two choices for a next permissible activity: toys, bath, trip to park, sidewalk chalk, eat some bread and butter, whatever.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:09 PM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Neither a nor a book recommendation nor a parenting recommendation but...I would also talk to the preschool teachers and ask what type of discipline and wording they use so you can all be using the same "don't do that" type of language with her.

Consistency across all settings can help.
posted by dzaz at 1:13 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't mean this to be snarky, but as sincere advice which my sainted mother gave to the father of my children when we were very young parents. It's not book-advice, so I apologize, but I think it's very true and very important. Kids -- little kids especially -- don't "get" sarcasm or irony or arch conversation. They hear it as hostile (which is what it is) and not funny. So, if you are in that habit, maybe think about how you say stuff.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:16 PM on September 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

Fairchild, catlet, the young rope-rider, NoRelationToLea, and not that girl provide some great advice and recommendations.

Kids understand both more and less than you think--which is why you need books on basic development as well as behavioral strategies. I suspect that's one reason people are taking some issue with your framing of 'bad' here.

If they don't have deficits in vision or hearing or processing/comprehension, the average small child is basically a Marvel superhero when it comes to what they're able to sense and perceive and add to their body of knowledge--especially when it comes to you, her parent. All of her incredible sensory and perceptual superpowers are focused on getting her needs met, and because you are a large factor in that, you are constantly being scrutinized by and interacting with a tiny, clumsy, inarticulate, emotionally immature member of the Uncanny X-Men. (Two X-Men, actually, since she has a brother.) No wonder you are freaking tired and frustrated. If Charles Xavier followed my ass around paying attention to everything I did, I'd be worn out, too. And he's an adult. Add to that the emotional immaturity aspect, and...hoooo-whee.

Still, don't mistake the tiny/clumsy/inarticulate/immature part for a lack of superhuman sensory abilities and powers of assimilation, even when you don't think you're being noticed, or you're just interacting with adults. They're the X-Men, dude. Tiny, tiny X-Men.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 1:20 PM on September 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

A lot of people have already emphasized how extremely normal your kid is acting. With or without a new baby sibling, two year olds usually have a really rough emotional period where they realize they're autonomous individuals, which is super-scary for a number of reasons listed above.

In addition to books, evaluate your home life. When parents have baby #2 quickly after baby #1, they often start fudging household rules due to fatigue and stress. Make sure you, your wife, and your caregiver (daycare, nanny, grandparents, if you use any of these) are on the same page about behavior. Toddlers crave consistency even if they don't know it. For instance! If a toddler sees cookies in a shop window and yells "Cookie! Cookie!" but knows you'll say, "Hey lady, you don't have cookies except on special occasions" each and every time she yells for a cookie, the outburst will be pretty low stress and brief because she expects you to say No because you say that every day. However, if you cave once and get her a cookie, and then go back to denying her a cookie on other outings, I can guarantee she'll flip her little toddler shit the next time you tell her "You don't have cookies except on special occasions."

So what's going on at home? It's understandable to start slipping on your old standbys when you bring home baby #2 - maybe a couple days ago you let the toddler watch more TV in the morning so Mom could feed the baby, but then went right back to denying her TV the next morning because you didn't want to make it a habit, and she freaked out. Maybe Mom is tired from breastfeeding and/or general newborn care and has become more lax if she's by herself with both kids. This is totally minor stuff for an adult, but for a toddler, whose entire world consists of comparatively little, it is Huge. It is Major. It is a big, big deal if her normal routine gets all shook up and now she doesn't know what to expect. What's worse, toddlers are extremely smart at sensing when their parents are overtired and vulnerable to caving in. They will push boundaries, and they won't understand why you said Yes! to TV in the morning one day and No, It's Against the Rules the next day.

See if there is a higher level of instability due to the new baby or some other factor. Help her negotiate her expectations and disappointments by providing a stable environment where consequences and positive enforcement are handed out kindly and consistently.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:39 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I could write volumes about this, but you probably wouldn't read it. But I'll recommend Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles. It helped us at that age, I periodically revisit it now, and I imagine I'll need it not only in the teenage years, but based on my relationship with my mother now, into our daughter's forties.

Mommy Mantras might seem too hippy-dippy, but it's a genuine help with accepting the things you cannot change.
posted by peagood at 2:45 PM on September 23, 2010

I am just looking for recommendations for a book to read to learn how to stop my bad two year old from being so bad. Cause of how bad she is.

Please be joking about this.

Having said that, as someone with two kids (age 5) who went through all this, I can say that no single book was helpful by itself; what helps is reading many books -- each of which contradict each other, frustratingly -- and distilling out those things the books all agree on.

Which, generally speaking, boils down to these three things:

1. Set firm boundaries, and stick to them;
2. Be patient and recognize that your child is not doing this because they're innately bad or punishing you, that it has nothing to do with you at all and everything to do with being overwhelmed by the facts of the world they live in and struggling to learn how to deal with that + their own newfound autonomy;
3. Give them a few specific, simple tasks that they are responsible for, then help (not force) them to do those things, to help them learn that they are capable human beings who can control their own world (to a certain extent) in an effective and understandable way.

Good luck. She'll become pretty damn sweet soon, until she isn't, and back and forth and back and forth.
posted by davejay at 3:09 PM on September 23, 2010

I know this won't be popular in this day and age, but find an appropriate John Rosemond book. He's very good but very old fashioned.

If you want something less old fashioned, positive discipline is alright, though kind of obnoxious.

Then again, any book that thinks kids' self-esteem needs to be pumped up and maintained is obnoxious to me.
posted by volatilebit at 3:10 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some books by John Rosemond
posted by volatilebit at 3:11 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a two and a half year old. I've taken elements of Happiest Toddler on the Block, Love and Logic and Super Nanny, not to mention years of observing friends parent their kids.. And that's just it. No one strategy will work for every kid. Every kid is different and your job is to figure out who your daughter is and parent her accordingly. There are so many decisions that we have made with our son that we might not make with a different kid (e.g. putting him in school at 2). It's made us less judgmental of other parents, because how on earth would I know what it takes to parent Samuel? When you're parenting the kid you have, going with their strengths and weaknesses and preferences, they seem to be a lot mellower which means you get to feel saner.

But at the end of the day, two is two and you've just got to grit your teeth and take it. She will not always be two. Just help her begin to learn how to respect other people and authority and you'll be getting somewhere.
posted by wallaby at 3:14 PM on September 23, 2010

Hi. I had a 2-year-old. He's 13 now and a really polite, appreciative person. I would like to take all the credit for this, but hahahah! I also spend a significant amount of time caring for my nephew, who is now 2 years old.

2-year-olds are weird little people. Parenting kind of goes from basic life support to dealing with what seems to be a drunken midget. When your kid is being really out of hand, just squint your eyes and imagine that she is, in fact, a drunken midget. It's hilarious.

Anyway, the parenting books that worked the best for me and my brain and had lasting effects on our lives were not the ones with "methods," like "1-2-3 Magic" and stuff like that. Those seem gimmicky to me and they only work for so long. And I ended up with a toddler with skills of logic far beyond such things. He's now 13 and taking his math and science classes at a college.

I did enjoy and still find useful the "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen..." books. I'm about to dig into the one for teens. I do like the Sears books, with the caveats above. They're wonderful books with lots of wisdom, but it's a very "slow and steady" approach. The Jane Nelsen Positive Discipline books are good and useful. It's important to remember that discipline is what happens all the time, especially when the kid is doing what's right, and eventually leads to inner discipline, not good behavior.
posted by houseofdanie at 3:36 PM on September 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Building a Positive Relationship with Your Child


Something Better Than Punishment
Am I Spoiling My Child?
Helping Young Children Behave

Wonderful basic monographs you can read right now. Nice, common-sense stuff with no particular agenda. I have a lot of respect for those wee papers, because of how I read them and think both "What sort of idiot wouldn't have figured this stuff out?" and "Yes, everyone needs to be reminded of this stuff from time to time."

"Preschool"? At just turned 2? That's day care; don't kid yourselves. How nice are the day care ladies?

And, be nice. I grok trying to be lulzy but this just comes off as mean. If you treat your kid even a little bit like you write about her you will get that all returned back to you; respect her and you will get respect yourself.

So much parenting can be simplified by empathising. I spend a lot of time struggling to bring up old memories. I was bored a lot as a kid -- which made me unpleasant to be around -- okay -- what would have made me not bored? What did I really want then? And I'm tiny and I've peed myself and I'm not getting any attention; what will calm me down? Spend a little while musing on being in your child's shoes, and the solution will come.
posted by kmennie at 3:44 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

When my children were young there were books in the library that described develomental milestones and behaviours-iirc they had them for each year of a child's life. Those books are valuable info and you need to read them. (I am sure your library will have something similar if not exactly what I read.) You need to know what to expect from each stage. And children go through rather regular stages about every six months. My three were extremely close together in age so I was able to observe these stages for myself over and over.

One bit of unsolicited advice: One thing I neverneverNEVER did was tell a child that he or she was bad, naughty, wild, etc. in their hearing (or out of their hearing but the first part is very important.) Children believe what adults tell them and if you tell your two year old that she is bad or naughty she WILL live up to it. Believe me.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:08 PM on September 23, 2010

ND, you have 21 favorites and then some. Don't worry about how you're asking the question. You obviously struck a chord with others who feel the same exact way. Anyways, the library offers tons of valuable resources on child rearing. One thing my mom used to do with me to turn me into an angel, especially as a headstrong child, she would tell me how she feels instead of giving me negative labels. It worked. I gave them no grief and got no spankings. What that evil eye won't do for your kid :-) Have you gone to parentingreality.com? They have stories like yours with no judgments, just understanding.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 8:56 PM on September 23, 2010

One thing that has helped us A LOT is helping our child (who is 4 now, but we've done this since she was old enough to talk) understand what she's feeling by mirroring her feelings back to her. If she's furiously screaming and running amok, I'll say to her "Little Termagant, you seem so angry! You must feel very, very frustrated."

Simply confirming or acknowledging the feelings behind her behavior (without passing judgment on them) often gets her to stop the behavior and begin talking about it. She seems grateful and relieved that someone understands or at least sees her feelings, and that makes her feel safe enough to start to get a grip on herself.

No one ever did this for me (helped me interpret my feelings so I could deal with them), and I think it's a HUGE part of raising a healthy person. It teaches her emotional intelligence, which means that instead of acting out when there's a "bad" feeling, she can learn to actually stop and ask herself "WHAT exactly am I feeling?" It's a short step from "what am I feeling" to "WHY am I feeling this way and what can I do about it?"

So I'll say "You must be very frustrated," and she'll stop raging and burst into tears and come over and say "Yes, I do." Then I'll ask her why and she'll tell me, and then often we can work out some kind of compromise or alternate plan, or at least if my answer is still "no, absolutely not," I'll still tell her "I know this makes you angry and seems unfair. But it's just not acceptable to poke the hamster with the curling iron. If that makes you angry, that's OK. You go ahead and be angry and let me know when you've calmed down and we'll do something more fun than being angry."

So it's not really "you exercise your will on her to get her to stop behaving in a way you don't like." It's more like "I bet you feel left out and scared and jealous now that kid #2 is here. If I were you, I might feel that way too. Now, what can we do to deal with those feelings?"

Short answer: empathy.
posted by staggering termagant at 5:11 AM on September 24, 2010 [7 favorites]

Raising our children raising ourselves by Naomi Aldort.
posted by andreinla at 2:56 PM on September 24, 2010

Best answer: Discipline: The Brazleton Way (subtitle: How to stop your bad two year old from being so bad. Cause of how bad she is.*

*not really
posted by shannonm at 7:39 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I took my bad two year old to the library for story time yesterday and got The Happiest Toddler on the Block and Supernanny while we were there and I have managed to read four pages of one of them so far. To everyone who managed to answer my question without the sanctimonious finger-waving, I thank you and my bad two year old thanks you.
posted by ND¢ at 9:43 AM on September 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

My wonderful niece "went bad" at that age when her brother was born. Her mother did not attempt to correct or punish her, which upset most of the family elders. My father, after a few protestations, finally said, "the kid is smart, she'll figure out that this BS doesn't work soon enough." Which is what happened in a couple of years.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:19 PM on February 11, 2011

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