The Challenging Behavior of a Toddler

We had a challenging time at our swim lesson this morning.  It was actually our second week in a row where I’ve witnessed the same behavior.  I thought last week was a fluke considering how smooth the first 3 weeks went.

Unfortunately, I thought wrong.

Here’s what I’ve boiled it down to at this point :: Abigail wants nothing to do with being in the water. She wants to climb up and down the stairs (or jump back down into my arms), play with the floaty toys instead of blow bubbles, and squeeze my nose while attempting to “float” because she knows it drives me nuts and she hates being on her back.  But I can handle all of that.

She’s a firecracker. She’s mischievous. She has a mind of her own and she’s not afraid to “speak” it.  This has all been very apparent since the beginning.

But today she crossed the line when she quickly scurried out of the pool and proceeded to sprint, not run, around the pool.  You should have seen it.  There were five different adults chasing after my tie-die two-piece swimsuit-wearing 20-month old who was literally running circles around them, switching directions with a quickness as if she was cutting on the basketball court, and laughing hysterically the whole time.  Ohhh, Abby.

Inappropriate, yes.

Less than safe, indeed.

Funny to watch for onlookers, absolutely.

But more than anything, it was stressful. She already spends most of the class kicking my 35.5 week belly while trying to maneuver in the pool, but this was just too much for me. Once someone caught her and handed her back to me, I gave her another shot at being in the pool to participate but all she wanted to do was climb back out.

That’s when I decided it was officially time to remove ourselves from the situation. There was absolutely no way I was going to be able to reason with her.  I firmly yet lovingly told her we were going to leave early and she actually seemed quite happy about it (plus, she loves shower time after the pool so she was perfectly content leaving). 

After showering, getting dressed (where she sung happily the entire time – another sign to me that she wanted nothing to do with the water), and climbing into the car, I called my Mom to tell her about the day (she knew our story from last week, so she was awaiting a detailed report).  After telling her everything, she recommended that I do a little reading this afternoon to find out just how “normal” this behavior is.  Great advice, Little Momma.

Here’s the section that sunk in the most from the very first book our pediatrician gave us, “Caring For Your Baby and Young Child” ::

At this age, your toddler has a limited idea of what “good” and “bad” mean, and she does not fully understand the concept of rules or warnings. You  may say, “If you pull the cat’s tail, she’ll bite you,” but it may make no sense to her at all. Even “Be nice to kitty” may not be clear to her. So whether she’s running into the street or turning her face away from Grandma’s kiss, she’s not deliberately behaving badly, nor do her actions mean you’ve failed as a parent. She’s simply acting on the impulses of the moment. It will take years of firm but gentle guidance before she fully understands what you expect from her and has the self-control to meet those expectations.

Nor do her actions mean you’ve failed as a parent.

Nor do her actions mean you’ve failed as a parent.

We are so hard on ourselves as parents and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly embarrassed/frustrated/annoyed/etc. that we had to remove ourselves from class this morning because Abigail was having a meltdown in the pool.

My goodness, when you put it all in perspective, it’s crazy that we get so incredibly worried about the few times our kids act up.  Sure, it’s important to be consistent and to establish rules and to help them learn right from wrong, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

And when you have a little girl who is in this kind of mood 88% of the time, you (meaning I) shouldn’t be allowed to complain.

That being said, I wanted to write about this morning’s experience because I do a good job of sharing all things happy and easy in our lives, but I rarely touch on the meltdowns and the tantrums (because they always pass and I choose to focus on the positive). But they happen to all of us, and I just needed a place to share this story.

So tell me, how do you handle your kiddos major tantrums and meltdowns?  What sets them off?  How do you keep your cool?

It can be tough, I know, but remaining calm (which I’m happy to say I was able to do this morning) is the best thing we can do for our kids because as this book also says, “the control you show in helping her learn right  from wrong will serve as a model for the self-discipline she develops later on. In short, if you want her to behave well, you need to act that way toward her.”

Here’s to setting a good example, day in and day out!


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13 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ali, Rylan and Lucca are exactly the same as Abby…tons of spirit and confidence. Not with the pool, but same behavior you are experiencing.

    • 7x7xMommy says:

      Lisa, that makes me feel so much better…and that just means we all need to get together so they can be that way around each other! 🙂 haha

  2. lucy says:

    Hahahaha! Omg i love it. I think shes channeling Nico’s sauciness! There have been many days, more often now as she aproaches the fiesty age of 3 , that I am convinced she’s possessed. U definitely hit staying calm on the head. Most of the time that is the most effective and being very clear about what u expect. These all sound good and easy but throw in being tired and fitting everything into daylight hours that u need/want to and it is hard work being a mommy to a strong willed todddler!

    • 7x7xMommy says:

      haha, Lucy…I still can’t believe our little firecrackers haven’t met. And oh boy…they only get more fiesty, huh!? haha. I’m glad to hear my attempts at being calm are worth while though…sometimes I feel like I’m going to lose my mind! 🙂

  3. chris says:

    Abby running about the pool deck, dodging adults, brought to mind a couple times I took Scully out to do her business, letting her off her leash! 🙂 Yikes!
    Abby is normal and an awesome little girl 🙂 You handled the situation perfectly!
    I like what you read and quoted 🙂
    You are learning to be an awesome mom. Like I have said in the past, “children are so awesome in that they teach us (parents) how to become better people!”
    Patience grasshopper 🙂

  4. Ciara says:

    Oh my goodness we are in the exact same situation with our 20-month-old!! She used to be so sweet and attentive in her music class (and of course I was somehow proud) but over the last month she has become the rebel who wants to run around and bang on everything and explore and basically disrupt everyone. The teacher is very gentle and supportive and says it’s really normal don’t worry – but of course I also end up feeling a bit mortified! The other kids pretty much sit and listen and participate while she sprints around having her own party!
    I’m curious are you going to keep on going to swimming? We have stuck with music so far but I have to admit, I don’t enjoy the class as much.
    I agree with you though – the vast majority of the time we have a lovely, sweet, curious, (fairly) reasonable toddler. So I think we will just have to stay calm and ride this phase out… One book I just got and am finding kind of useful is called Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Alyson Schafer. It has some practical tips about dealing with typical toddler power struggles (resisting getting dressed, etc)
    Good luck – sounds like you are doing great!!

    • 7x7xMommy says:

      haha, Ciara…it sounds like our girls would be twins in music class. Abby does the SAME thing, running around and banging on everything (and jumping like a bunny rabbit)…luckily her teacher came up to me on Monday and said she thought it was great that Abby moved around so much…she said kids learn better by being up and moving, so she was impressed. It made me feel SO much better, it was incredible. And I suppose that’s another thing…it’s all about how helpful the teachers are…it would be great if her swim instructor would just tell me/us that her behavior is “normal” and that it’s okay. haha

      Anyway, to answer your question, I told my husband last night that Abby and I have officially retired from swimming for the time being. I can handle her running around like a maniac in music class and at soccer practice, but it’s honestly getting too tough for me (physically) to feel like I can keep her 100% safe in the pool. Must be something about being 8.5 months pregnant…haha.

      That being said, I plan on starting back up probably when Abby’s 2…see if she’s a bit more ready (and interested) at that point. I’m sure I’ll have an update!! 🙂

      And thanks for the book recommendation – I’ll have to check that out!
      Good luck to you as well – we can do it!!

  1. October 4, 2012

    […] I wrote about The Challenging Behavior of a Toddler (and I was happy to hear I’m not alone – thanks for all your thoughts and comments!) so […]

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