Toddler behaviour : Not sure what I’m really asking here... - NCT

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Toddler behaviour


Not sure what I’m really asking here but I guess just hoping others might have been through similar and can offer some reassurance.

Little boy is 20 months old. He’s very energetic, funny and has lots of character. I’ve always felt he’s bright but very strong-willed. He’s never been a good sleeper and refused to drink from a bottle when he was a baby which I found really challenging.

Now he’s a toddler, I’m just finding his behaviour really hard work. He’s had a tough time lately with teething but I’ve no idea whether he’s difficult because he’s in pain or whether this is just his personality but I’m genuinely finding it hard to enjoy spending any time with him at the moment.

He seems to cry at everything unless he’s getting his own way, tantrums having his nappy changed, getting dressed, putting shoes/socks on, when his toys don’t do exactly as he wants...At meal times he just won’t eat his food even though it’s stuff I know he likes. I’ve had to just walk out of the room while he’s eating because if I’m there he’ll just constantly point at things he wants (usually books but if I’ve managed to hide all the books he’ll find something else to distract him).

He goes to a couple of groups which he’s been doing since he was younger and I’m now starting to feel I don’t want to do them any more because he just runs around, not really participating and kicks off if I stop him. It’s things he really enjoys (music and gymnastics) and he does love some aspects of the classes.

I know he’s quite young to be expected to sit down and participate in an class activity but he just always seems to be the worst one there for just running off and doing his own thjng. When he does join in, he’s really good at it and can do all the actions to the songs better than the older kids but I feel bad that the other children are sitting down and listening and they just see him getting to run around. I worry I’m being judged by other parents for letting him do it even though I know this probably isn’t the case!

He goes to nursery 3 days a week. He gets on great there and they have no concerns about his behaviour. I know some kids meltdown when they get home from childcare but he’s like that all day when I have him at home. Today he refused his porridge for breakfast, ate a few cornflakes only when his dad spooned then into his mouth and has just turned down his lunch. At nursery he eats 3 meals plus snacks 🤷🏻‍♀️

I feel like it’s all just normal toddler behaviour and I just need to cope better with it but just wanted to hear from anyone else who has/had similar worries. Just feeling like a rubbish mum as I am just sitting here in tears wishing I was at work instead of enjoying the time I chose to spend with my little boy 😔

21 Replies

Your definitely not a rubbish mum. You wouldn’t be worrying about this if you were rubbish.

My LG is nearly 23 months and we seem to go through stages where she just cries and throws at tantrum at the slightest thing. What I tend to do is get down to her level and explain things which seems to help a lot. She used to want to be carried everywhere instead of walk or pushchair so I would explain to her and we got past that stage. We also gave lots of praise saying she was such a big girl for walking etc. We have had to use a “naughty” chair as sometimes she just screams and will not listen. We set a timer and explain it will only start when she stops crying. She then has to say sorry and give cuddles.

Apparently she’s fine at nursery so I just think they like to push us a little bit and it’s just their way at the moment because they can’t always get across what they want. I’ve also given up with food as I find she tends to be really fussy (she’s fussy anyway) when she’s brewing an illness that hasn’t reared its head yet so I try not to stress too much as i think it tends to make her play up more.

I’m sure your doing fine and it’s just about finding the balance but I do find it worse when she seems to go through a growth spurt or something and then it all settles down again xx

Thanks for the reply.

It does help to hear that others are fine at nursery and play up at home. All the staff at nursery seem to adore him as he’s a right little charmer 😂 They could hardly believe it when I said he had tantrums about everything at home! He is the opposite of your LG with regard to being carried. He wants to walk (or run) everywhere himself but if he won’t hold my hand when asked to do, he gets told he’ll have to be carried e.g if we’re near a road or something.

I do try to explain things to him as best I can, particularly if I’ve had to say “no” to him I explain why I’m not letting him do it. I can tell he’s frustrated and he often gives himself a tap on the head when he’s annoyed or when he gets told to stop doing something. No idea where he’s got that from but I think it’s his way of relieving his frustration as he can’t really talk. I hope I can help him find better strategies as he gets older.

He has got a cold at the moment so maybe that’s why he isn’t eating. Will keep an eye on things and try not to push him. It’s just hard because he’s recently been discharged from paediatrics for constipation and slow weight gain (despite being breastfed til 13 months and then really enjoying his food) so I don’t want him losing his appetite.


Hey! Firstly, I'm so sorry you're having a rough time - parenthood is hard and mum guilt is unbearable! You don't sound like a rubbish mum to me, just worn out.

It does sound like normal behaviour to me.

My girl is a bit younger at 12 months, and she has been through the wars this last month with infection after infection, so I know some of her fussing is to do with that. However, she does some of what your boy does already; she kicks off when we change her nappy, she cries when I put her in high chair and will refuse to eat initially even though she is a great eater. When she's had enough of being in the highchair she moans / whinges / tantrums until we get her out. She hates her hands and face being wiped...The other day she threw everything I gave her to eat or drink on the floor and grunted while she did it!! I think it is all very typical toddler behaviour - they are unable to communicate effectively yet and can't manage their emotions,so it usually comes out as anger, frustration etc. I take my daughter to a baby group and a lot of the toddlers walk off instead of joining in, I think they are just curious and want to explore.

Definitely don't feel bad about wanting to be at work. I dropped my daughter off to nursery the other morning and felt a bit of relief to have some respite from the daily grind of nappies, naps and feeding!

I'm sure you're doing doing a great job even if you don't think you are. Xx

in reply to Winter_Girl

Thanks for the reply and reassurance. Yeah the tantrums started at a similar age to your little one, maybe 12-13 months. I think it just seems to be getting much worse but maybe it is because he’s had a cold since going back to nursery after Christmas. He’s always struggled with teething and I expected a bit of relief now his first molars are pretty much through but perhaps the next ones are coming now?!

Deep down I know that those who are not running off in the classes are probably a bit older and have better concentration than him but at the time it’s easy to feel like he’s the worst behaved and that it’s my fault for letting him run around.

I think I just wanted my days off to be really fun and am struggling with the fact that they’re not for me or him at the moment. I recently turned down the opportunity to go full time (I got a promotion a few months after going back to work and have opted to get a job share instead so I can spend time with him). I felt guilty for not really enjoying my mat leave a lot of the time as his sleep was so awful and I was exhausted so hoped working part-time would enable me to make up for that and have loads of fun together. Will keep on trying! X

in reply to kt_11

It sounds like you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself to make your days off fun. I find when my days don't go how I planned I start to question everything, especially when I'm tired (my daughter sleeps poorly too). You have obviously worked hard for your promotion and now you're wondering if you've made the right decision choosing to go back part time because being home isn't how you envisaged. I think that is normal. I do think you need to stop putting yourself under so much pressure. Is there another activity that you can do with your son where he can just go nuts and burn off his energy? Soft play? Tumble tots?

Also, I hope you don't mind me mentioning it, but I saw on another post that your relationship is suffering a bit since having your LB - could this also be why you're feeling a bit overwhelmed? Having a baby is really tough on a relationship and if you're not working as a team it can feel very lonely.

I hope my reply comes across how it is intended and not offensive in any way. Hope you're ok. X

in reply to Winter_Girl

No not offensive at all. You’re right, I think the state of my relationship does affect how well I feel able to deal with it when his behaviour is difficult. Unfortunately I can’t see me staying in this relationship much longer. Although I want to save it I think it’s probably too late.

By having fun I mean just having an enjoyable day without everything being a battle. Doesn’t have to be doing anything particularly exciting but the tantrums do really stress me out when it’s just one after the other. I do think he’s feeling a bit poorly at the moment which is probably making things worse. He’s hardly eaten today but am going to put it down to not feeling well rather than a behavioural thing as he didn’t even eat at my mum’s tonight (he usually does for her).

One of his classes is gymnastics which is great for burning off energy but he just wants to play on the same thing all the time. When I eventually have to take him away onto something else so someone else can have a go he has a tantrum. But otherwise he enjoys it.

He likes going places where he can run around outdoors so we do that and sometimes soft play. He likes going on the swings. He also loves playing with his toys, dancing and reading books but I think gets bored of being at home fairly easily and that’s when he starts playing up a bit.


in reply to kt_11

Sorry for the late reply to this.

I'm sorry to hear that your relationship is breaking down- that is definitely going to affect how you deal with challenging toddler behaviour. It's hard not to take it personally when they behave at nursery and not at home! Have you and your partner had a heart to heart about the relationship? I hope it isn't too late for you. A child is a massive strain on even the strongest of relationships. We have found it very tough at times!

I had to laugh today, my daughter is learning to walk at the moment. She uses her push along walker a lot but doesn't quite know how to steer when things are in her way, so she stands there getting very frustrated that she can't go any further. I never noticed it before until this thread!

I am sure a friend of mine went on a toddler behaviour course similar to what Scarlett suggested. It is definitely worth a look at. I may need to do the same by the looks of things! 😂 xx

in reply to Winter_Girl

Ha yep that’s the toddler frustration starting right there! My little boy was obsessed with pushing things around at that sort of age (not necessarily thjngs he should have been walking with 🙄) but he’s over that now and is very good at steering things so that will come for your LG! He still loves running around with a push-along walker even though he can run without it.

Yeah I hope we can sort it. We get on ok a lot of the time but I think there are unresolved issues from the last few years which we need to talk about and move on from. I just don’t feel he has even any affection for me now. He sleeps in a different room most of the time. I’ve tried to get him to talk about it but it frustrates me that he then makes no effort until we argue about something, usually when struggling with baby, and then he starts saying things “aren’t working” etc. This makes me feel the relationship’s not important enough to him to make an effort to work on it.

I know I wasn’t always easy to be around when I was really suffering from sleep deprivation but I can only apologise for that, I can’t change it so imo its unfair to keep bringing stuff from the past up in an argument.

I have had a lot of resentment about the fact that he wasn’t pulling his weight, particularly at night. I know equally he can’t change that now but an acknowledgement of that and an offer to do more now would make a big difference to me (LB didn’t sleep for longer than about 3 hours at a time until he was at least 14 months. Just after I went back to work I was getting 2-3hrs broken sleep every night. Baby was breastfed and wouldn’t accept a bottle so I never ever got a break). You’re right, it’s really hard work at the best of times! x

Ha ha the nursery asked me the other day if she has tantrums at home and I said sometimes, dreading they were going to say she had one there but they laughed and said they didn’t believe that as she’s so lovely there which she is at home 80% of the time. We just go through phases where she can be really hard work 😂.

We went through the phase of not hand holding and it drove me mad that we never went out on our own as it was too much hardwork. I bought reins but she went off on one when I tried to put them on so I told her hold hands or pushchair and she soon changed her mind lol.

I’m sure it won’t last long your boy sounds like he’s having a hard time around the same time my LG was really bad but then it just changed over night.

We will hit the official terrible twos in a month and I’m dreading that 🙈😂 xx

Haha yeah I’d hoped this was just the terrible twos come early but I have a feeling it isn’t! 🙄

We’ve got reins too but haven’t found them that helpful. If I use them to stop him running off he just sits down on the ground because he isn’t getting to go where he wants 😂 x

😂 I know how you feel there! We were in the park the other day and she didn’t want to walk so just laid down on the pavement for a good 10 mins before she decided she would sit in the pushchair 🤦🏻‍♀️ xx

Website I turn to for stuff like this is Aha Parenting, very reassuring of what’s normal development. A book you might find helpful also The Whole Brain Child, although I haven’t read it I’ve heard it’s good.

My children are 7 and 5 years old now, it gets easier, I went back to work for 3 months, then was a stay at home mum so didn’t get the respite of going out to work! Being a parent is tough and the person that is toughest on you is you. Be gentle with your child and yourself. See if you can find a local APUK group (attachment parenting) I’m a member of my local one and there are some really wise mummy’s there that are super helpful and supportive.

in reply to Winnie258

Thanks. Will take a look. Lots of respect for you managing as a SAHM as this is something I don’t think I could have done. My mum was a SAHM with myself and my sister but it’s really not for me. I really enjoy my work and I think it has a big impact on my personal well-being & happiness. You’re right though, work can be like respite at times xx

I’m a community nursery nurse with health visiting and we offer packages of care around behaviour as well as offering parents parenting courses at children’s centres such as ‘all about boys’ and the Solihull approach course. I’d recommend contacting your local health visiting team and children’s centre for some support and advice and help. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes and a few little strategies can work wonders. X

in reply to Scarlett13

Thanks. Will see if my HV team have anything similar to offer. They have a well-baby clinic which I visited a couple of times for advice when he was little. It runs on a day I’m at work and he’s at nursery though so might have to call them to see if they do anything else.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure his behaviour is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary really. I think he’s a very smart little boy who thinks he knows what’s going on in the world, but can’t talk enough to get his point across 😂 He’s very loving and gentle with his family and our cats, and plays nicely alongside other children. He just knows exactly what he wants and doesn’t want, but can’t manage his frustration when he doesn’t get his own way...! Nursery staff adore him and couldn’t believe their ears when I told them how much he resists having his nappy changed. Apparently he’s totally fine having it done there 🙄 x

in reply to kt_11

It sounds like normal behaviour to me BUT you can still get behavioural help for typically developing children - I’d ring your HV duty line for a chat, see if they do home visits for behaviour support where you are or can offer advice over the phone and also see what your children’s centre can do. Good luck! X

It's normal behavior, he's realizing he's his own person and is testing the limits. Sounds like my daughter who is great at daycare but gives me the business at home. I would try my best not to feed in to the tantrums they like to see the reaction. Try and be more stern and implement time outs. It will be ok.

in reply to ksquarrell

Thanks. I am pretty firm with him generally but if I’m telling him no, or if I need him to do something I make sure I tell him why. It’s being firm that makes him have the tantrums as I’m not letting him have his own way.

It’s a bit harder at the groups though. I’m not dragging him back to sit down every time he gets up, and I’m letting him explore as long as he isn’t being disruptive. These are things I take him to for enjoyment so if he’s just being forced to participate and crying all the time, I’d rather just not go. I try to praise him when he joins in well (he was really good at his music group this morning). You’re right - he’s just pushing the boundaries and trying to gain some independence so doesn’t like being told what to do!

Sounds like my toddler, just need to add poor sleeping in all that equation 🙈

In the nursery he behaves like a different child 🤷 why he's so hard with mummy, I don't know...

in reply to ChrisWest1983

Yep, poor sleep has definitely been an issue for me too. He’s got better with that though as time has gone on. Still have to get up to him most nights though 😣

in reply to kt_11

Every night takes 2h to get him to sleep. It's stressful and wastes so much of the time that could be spent with my man or ironing or just relaxing ... And then also have a 5 months old. Thank god she's a good sleeper and a contented baby in general ❤️

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