Is it the terrible twos or is he just naughty?

Is it the terrible twos or is he just naughty?

Any parent out there will know what the terrible twos are, right? Oh you know, it’s that phrase used to describe the idea that when your child wakes up on their 2nd birthday they suddenly become a complete nightmare and will throw tantrums and act like a demon until they turn three and suddenly they become little darlings again. Many parents will agree with me when I say this, what a load of crap! The terrible twos can start way before your child hits 24 months and can, unfortunately, last way longer than just a year. I have written about my experiences of tantrums before and how I really struggle to cope when Leo’s being naughty. Leo is approaching 3 and his bad behaviour shows no sign of slipping away, if anything, it’s getting worse. I am starting to wonder if his behaviour is not just a result of the dreaded terrible twos, what if it is something more? What if my boy is just, well, naughty?

Writing posts that show Leo in a negative light always make me a bit sad but I am honest and I want people who read this blog to see the truth of what parenting is like, not a sickly sweet sugar coated version. So, here it is.

Probably since he was about 15 months Leo has been throwing tantrums. Not just crying when he doesn’t get his own way or being a bit of a pain but proper lashing out, screams that almost burst your ears, sometimes totally uncontrollable tantrums. I could just about cope with these, I had mastered the under arm rugby hold pretty quickly and was able to make quick getaways from any bad situation. I had learnt the power of distraction and had discovered I have the patience of a saint, if I needed to sit on Tesco floor with him and ask him to calm down a thousand times then I could, if I really had to. Things changed though when the violence started.

It turns out, my little precious angel isn’t as sweet as I first thought, he is in fact a bit of a brute. It pains to write that down but it is the truth. He hits unsuspecting babies on the head, pushes children over, screams in sleeping infants faces and the thing that bothers me the most is that he bites. He doesn’t do these things because he is upset or angry. Sometimes this violent behaviour is a result of these things but for the most part, he is violent for absolutely no apparent reason.

Trips to play group and soft play have become so stressful that half the time I contemplate just staying locked in the house all day with kids cartoons on repeat, everyone is safer that way. I can’t relax on these outings that are supposed to be fun, I can’t sit and enjoy a chat with other mums as I know I will, inevitably, have to dash off to retrieve my wannabee vampire of a son from some poor child’s arm/face/leg. I feel like I can’t even explain it properly, his biting is 100% unprovoked. When he is in trouble or being picked on, he cries or screams, he doesn’t bite. When he bites I have no idea what he is thinking, he runs up to people and bites them and he always aims for the face. There’s no ‘Hi I’m Leo, can we play?’, he’s all teeth when it comes to interacting with other kids.

Many an hour I have spent on online forums searching for the answer, that magical nugget of wisdom that will stop Leo behaving this way. I feel like I have tried everything: time out, the naughty step, warnings, taking him away from the toys etc when he’s bad and giving him lots of praise when he is good – nothing is working. I sit and talk him through the things that he can’t do, he repeats it back to me and tells me he understands. However, as soon as his little feet hit the play group floor he is off in search of his next victim. I take him away, tell him no and explain to him again he is not to do those things or we will go, he promises again he won’t do it. It is never long before he re-offends and I find myself once again embarrassed and mortified, apologising to yet another Mum for my childs attempt to chew her baby’s face off. No one wants to talk to me and I don’t blame them. I’m the Mum of the problem child, the little terror. the nasty toddler, I wouldn’t want to befriend me either. Who wants to be friends with the Mum of the kid who’s a bit partial to chomping on other kids, can you imagine the play dates?

So here I am now, stressed and lonely with no clue how to overcome this hurdle. No idea what more I can possibly do to get him to listen, to stop hurting others and to understand when I tell him it is wrong and naughty to behave in this way. People say it is a phase and it will pass, maybe they are right but what do I do in the mean time? Keep taking him out and having to keep being embarrassed and upset by his behaviour? Or worse, do I just stay in the house and become even more isolated and alone? If I avoid situations where there are other children then at least he can’t hurt anyone that way. I am starting to toy with the heartbreaking idea that perhaps all of this isn’t just a phase. Maybe it is not the terrible twos and his age that is creating this behaviour, what if my little boy who I love more than I could ever fully explain is just naughty? Is just one of those kids who thinks hurting others is funny? The type of terrible toddler who grows in to the school bully and then ends up just being an arsehole when he’s older? This thought alone is enough to bring me to tears.

As parents we all want the best for our children, we want them to be happy, feel loved and grow up to be independent, well rounded decent adults. Some of us draw the short straw though, after all there are some horrible people in this world and I think it is unfair to assume it is their parents who made them that way.

Leo is not even 3 years old so I have no way given up all hope and painted his future with negativity just yet. Maybe he just likes to be physicalΒ and when he’s a bit older we can help him channel this pent up feeling into some kind of sport or something? I don’t have the answers yet. It may be more than the terrible twos that is causing him to lash out like he does but I am his Mum and I love him unconditionally, there is no way I can accept the fact he is just naughty. I just need practical solutions, lots of ideas to try and help him really understand that hurting people is not funny, it is serious and is behaviour that is really really not ok.

I hope I am not coming across as melodramatic, anyone who has experienced this kind of behaviour with their toddler will surely understand, I am simply telling you all exactly how it is. If there is just one other parent out there going through this with their little one and is feeling as lonely as me then please know I know exactly how you feel. I will never laugh it off as just a phase or make you think it’s not as difficult as it really is because dealing with a toddler who seems to like hurting other is hard, it is really frickin’ hard. This post has been written with tears in my eyes and a knot in my chest, I can’t bear talking about my baby boy in this way but I need help, I need advice and, mostly, I need someone else to tell me they have been through it too. Just one person to tell me they know exactly how I feel and that it will be OK, their child is now older and, somehow, they got through it.

What do you think? Do we too often blame bad behaviour on the terrible twos and brush it off as a phase when it could be something more? Have you got a toddler who bites? I really hope some of you have some advice as I really am stuck for what to do. Also, if you’re going through this too, please say hi and maybe we can get through it together.

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  1. June 20, 2016 / 9:41 am

    Poor thing. I don’t really have any advice. I have not been through that, yet! What about taking him to a club so that he can get it out of the system? Rugby or something well energetic like that?Or you can try yoga?!Maybe osteopathy? Sounds weird but it does wonder! #bigpinklink
    the frenchie mummy recently posted…Une photo, une histoire #2My Profile

    • Wendy
      July 1, 2016 / 1:41 pm

      Ohh I had not thought of yoga!I am definitely considering rugby, I am just worried it may make him even worse! I need to find something though as I can’t keep dealing with this for much longer, I really don’t want to get the point where I stop taking him to baby groups etc because his behaviour is so bad xx

  2. June 20, 2016 / 10:48 am

    Toddlers really are so hard to deal with, I’m hoping it is just a phase for you. One of my sons was a lot more tempermental than the other and I know just how tiring it can be. Crossing my fingers for you lovely, thanks for linking up to #Picknmix

    Stevie x
    A Cornish Mum recently posted…Pitch for a Pitch with Carpetright – CompetitionMy Profile

  3. goozleberry
    June 20, 2016 / 12:47 pm

    Definitely, definitely a phase (a really, really hard one) that you’ll come out the other side of and about a year later when a friend says that they are going through something similar, you’ll say, oh yeah, I remember when Leo did that. It’s just a matter of time. I promise you. Keep doing what you’re doing, keep trying different things out that make him realize it’s not nice to bite and you’ll get there. In the meantime, be kind to yourself

    • Wendy
      July 1, 2016 / 1:39 pm

      Awww thank you, I really really hope you’re right!xx

  4. June 20, 2016 / 1:24 pm

    Oh this made me so sad to read. I can hear your pain and anguish in every sentence. It must be really hard.

    All I can offer is this: my middle brother was an absolute nightmare (he was the child who bit, and pushed, and shouted back, etc), and my mum really struggled with him (obviously having such a perfect first child – me! haha). BUT at some point, which none of us really noticed, he changed. He grew into a lovely kid and, as an adult, he is such a gentle giant. Nobody can believe it when my mum reccounts some of the stories. I know it must be so difficult right now, but don’t give up on little Leo yet. #bigpinklink

    • Wendy
      July 1, 2016 / 1:38 pm

      Aww thanks Lucy, your story about your brother has given me hope that my boy won’t turn into to a horrible person when he is older. I haven’t given up on in, I am just despairing at the minute as I don’t know what to do xx

  5. Natalie Randall
    June 20, 2016 / 1:31 pm

    I have a toddler who is just the same, my son has smacked numerous tiny babies on the head, he pushed over tiny tots and has racked up quite a few victims of bites at nursery. He is 3 next month and we have got through all of this by distraction and avoiding risky areas, like meeting with friends when there are lots of similar aged children, as I find this is when these behaviours are most humiliating. Our little boy has autism but I don’t believe that all of these behaviours are because of his diagnosis so I feel I can really relate to your struggles. I hope that it is just a phase and that one day you can look back at this time with less stress and not worry about Leo’s behaviour so much. #anythinggoes
    Natalie Randall recently posted…The 7 stages of preparing to holiday in the UKMy Profile

    • Wendy
      July 1, 2016 / 1:36 pm

      Thanks Natalie, sorry to hear you’ve had to deal with this too. It is so hard when Leo behaves like this and every other child seems to be perfect in comparison. I’m hoping we make it out the other side of this horrible bitey phase soon xx

  6. June 21, 2016 / 8:49 am

    I’m really sorry that you are finding this such a tricky time – I know how you feel about not wanting to go to play dates for fear of it happening, Arthur went through a stage of biting and i felt awful about it! The only thing that pushed me to carry on was reminding myself that he wouldn’t learn how to be gentle around other children unless he was actually around them.

    I found it really helped me to label his behaviour and choices rather than label him – so we don’t use the word naughty or anything that would describe HIM, instead we talk about ‘making a sad choice’ or we say ‘that’s not nice, that’s not kind’….often, by calling a child naughty it gives them a label that can stick, the child hears that they are naughty and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Many schools and nurseries have a total ban on the word for that reason.

    It also helps to remember that there WILL be a reason for the behaviour, you just may not have figured out what it is. Toddlerhood is full of new emotions and feelings that they don’t understand how to deal with … Often it displays as seemingly bad behaviour whereas it may just be a case of your child feeling overwhelmed by a situation and giving a cry for help by lashing out as they can’t put it into words.

    I always try to make sure I don’t give more attention to the negative behaviour than I do the good behaviour and it is always worth thinking about whether your child actually understands negative language such as “DON’T do that” – I once taught a little boy who didn’t have a clue about the meaning and so if I said to him “don’t put the water in the sand tray” he would hear and understand “water in the sandtray” and go and do this straight away – if I hadn’t realised his lack of understanding I may have thought this was terrible behaviour! Often frustrations and behaviour can be born out of speech and language problems – this doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will not be able to say certain words or sounds, speech and language encompasses all aspects of communication such as processing information, understanding requests, ordering thinking and responding – difficulties with any of these can lead to frustrations (and tantrums!) and toddlers, just by way of age and stage, generally struggle with this anyway! It is worth keeping an eye out, and also give instructions telling him what you want him to do rather than what he shouldn’t do.

    We are learning “sorry” at the moment, and we use makaton sign language as children can use signs to communicate way before they can say the words…I also demonstrate what ‘gentle’ means by stroking his face and helping him to stroke mine.

    It’s so hard though when they act up – it’s hard not to take it personally and feel like you’ve done something wrong as a parent…you haven’t, children just deal with their emotions and feelings in a different way….we just don’t always get why! Maybe keep a record of events and see if there is any pattern in what happened before it occurred to spot any triggers? Good luck xx #twinklytuesday
    Sarah – Arthurwears recently posted…Children Changing Careers p7: Nicola from ‘Too Much (Mothering) Information’My Profile

  7. June 21, 2016 / 12:41 pm

    I am so sorry that you are going through this. It is hard and I can’t offer much advice or tips here. I faced other challenges when my kids were around that age and the only thing I can say is that don’t be afraid to talk and ask for help, if you need to. My heart really goes out to you. Thanks for linking with #bigpinklink

  8. June 21, 2016 / 1:56 pm

    I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this. My 2 year old can be such a monster too.
    Luckily though, she’s pretty good when we’re in public, she just turns into a monster at home. Her tantrum of choice is SCREAMING or GROWLING really loud.
    Hope things can better for you. It can be so hard sometimes.
    Sarah xxx

    • Wendy
      July 1, 2016 / 1:34 pm

      Thanks Sarah, I hope so too. Eeep screaming and growling is no fun, atleast at home you can go and hide in a different room πŸ™‚ xx

  9. June 21, 2016 / 2:51 pm

    Aww babe, this must have been so hard to write but good on you for doing it and it really does sound as though you’ve tried everything, so again good for you, your not ignoring it and your trying your best, so don’t beat yourself up.

    I can’t really offer much advice as my daughter is only 26 months, however she has some serious anger issues and is a biter. She has never bitten anyone else, only ME and Daddy.Phoebe will bite herself when a tantrum has gone serious tits up…she did it once so badly she almost drew blood πŸ™ it was a horrible experience and like you I also blogged about it, as i find it helps getting in out there!!!!

    Your not alone and i’ve also reached out for help as its not just a one off, she bits herself all the time when upset or angry and the other day on a first swimming lesson she did her worst ever bite…on my cheek,she pulled and dragged at it like a bloody dog…I was mortified..but somehow held it together until i got home and then wept like a baby. We have been signing with phoebe since she was little and one she understood the “sorry” sorry we made her use it and give a kiss afterwards, now she can talk a bit more she can say sorry and again we make her say this everytime… the swimming pool was a bad one and she still now 2 weeks later keep moving my head and kissing my cheek say sorry and awww….sore…so i know she uderstands but again not sure what to do!!! I hope it gets better and I’m going to speak to my HV about it maybe try that? lots of love and your not alone from one vamp mamma to another πŸ™‚ #TwinklyTuesday

    • Wendy
      July 1, 2016 / 1:33 pm

      Thank you so much for this comment, I’m sorry you’re going through a similar thing but it is nice to know I’m not the only one dealing with this. Leo always used to bite himself when he had a tantrum, really hard on the hand and he would always leave teeth marks. I totally get how horrible it is seeing your little one hurt themselves like that. All I can say is he grew out of that, one day he just stopped biting himself. It sounds like Phoebe gave you a proper nasty bite at swimming, poor you hope your cheek is ok. Again Leo used to do this too, if he didn’t bite himself he used to bite me, that is why I am so stressed about him biting other children because I know first hand how much it hurts. I hope you get some good advice from your health visitor, I am going to see mine if things are still this bad in a couple of weeks. If we both make it through the vampire stage alive perhaps we should meet for a celebratory drink? We will definitely need it I’m sure πŸ™‚ xx

  10. June 22, 2016 / 2:13 am

    Ick, this is tough- big hugs. We went through a biting phase and found the book ‘Teeth are not for biting’ to be helpful. They also have ‘Hands are not for hitting’. We read those and used the Supernannny naughty step with great success. We still have tantrums but other behaviours like hitting, kicking and biting are quite well controlled now….mostly. Good luck.

    Mama, My Kid Doesn’t Poop Rainbows recently posted…The #FartGlitter Linky: Week ThirtyMy Profile

  11. Gianna
    June 23, 2016 / 9:00 am

    We have just entered the “terrible twos” here at the start of the month, but you’re right, the tantrums begin well before that. Penelope is part darling, part demon! She can be shy and sweet around other kids, but if her baby brother touches one of her Peppa Pigs he can get a clunk around the head! We have watched so many meltdowns in Tesco when she can’t have a Kinder Egg (why is it always a Kinder Egg), and her latest thing is biting the top off one and she knows we have to buy it! I too, hope it’s just a phase and she’s just not sussed us and is naughty!

    Great post:)

    #coolmumclub. X

    • Wendy
      July 1, 2016 / 1:23 pm

      Ohh that is a very sneeky plan of your little one to make sure she gets her Kinder Egg! My boy is obsessed with those yo yo fruit bear things, we have to get one every time we’re out other wise there is a massive melt down. Fingers crossed for you that her tantrums don’t get too bad xx

  12. June 23, 2016 / 10:05 am

    I completely get what you are saying here. It’s a horrible time for both parent/s and child/ren. I hope that his behaviour does start to calm down though, I’m also hoping this for my son. The tantrums are something else entirely and when people don’t see these outbursts they assume you are playing it up, but if anything I’m playing it down so they don’t know just how bad it is. I would suggest asking for help because maybe he can’t communicate to you just how he is feeling (that’s what I got told from a nursery worker about my little ones behaviour) much love! #coolmumclub

    Jordanne ||

    • Wendy
      July 1, 2016 / 1:21 pm

      Thanks for your comment Jordanne. I’m sorry you’re having a hard time with your little one too. I feel the same as you, when I try and tell others I don’t think they actually understand how naughty and how difficult Leo’s tantrums can be. I may speak to my health visitor, I just don’t think it’s a communication problem because his speech is amazing and he understands what he is doing because he laughs about it after and goes ‘I bite people,I’m naughty haha’. Oh it is so stressful!xx

  13. June 23, 2016 / 11:55 am

    The twos are super hard. My daughter just turned three and it changes dramatically. I think overall our expectations of them are just too high and they have totally different expectations of what is acceptable behaviour and they are hugely frustrated by their relatively underdeveloped brains and capability. Knowing that is what really kept me going through the twos – that and learning how to speak Dr Harvey Karp’s Toddler-ese. Look up the book Happiest Toddler On The Block. Plus knowing a few other communication hacks like when this then & who wants to…etc. Hope this helps, stay strong and know that this too will pass…because it really does. Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xx
    Talya recently posted…Klout score – What is it and why is it important?My Profile

  14. Coral
    June 24, 2016 / 11:22 pm

    Big hugs! I know how this feels. Archie is currently in what we call the fucking fours…a variation on the terrible twos and the threenagr! I don’t have an answer. I just try to be consistent in my handling of it, and as you say, give plenty of praise when he does something well. All children are different I think. And I just think Archie has a temper; as he gets older he will learn to control it better I hope! And as my Mum (his biggest fan) says ‘at least he isn’t void of personality!’ Hope things get better for you!x #ablogginggoodtime

    • Wendy
      July 1, 2016 / 1:19 pm

      Ohh no! Archie sounds a lot like Leo, my boy is quite fiery in personality and likes his own way and isn’t scared to show when he is pissed off. Like you said, it gives them character! I do agree that being consistent is key it is just finding something that actually works first that is the hard bit xx

  15. June 29, 2016 / 9:21 pm

    Katie says “I thought it was incredibly brave to admit you are struggling with something… we all like to paint pictures of perfectly angelic children but in reality they’re not. I hope you find the love and support you need… thanks for sharing with #ablogginggoodtime
    Mummy in a TuTu (@mummyinatutu) recently posted…Top 10 Essential Items for Summer With a BabyMy Profile

    • Wendy
      July 1, 2016 / 1:08 pm

      Thank you Katie and thank you for featuring this post on #bloggingoodtime. Haha, no way are children always little matter how much we want them to be!xx

  16. July 6, 2016 / 3:51 pm

    Oh honey, the terrible two’s can be such a trying time. I feel for you. I don’t really have any advice, just best wishes. Hope you manage to find a way through. xx

  17. Theresa
    November 1, 2017 / 11:10 pm

    Thanx for sharing. Went thru very trying time withmy daughtet when she was 3-teens. Shes wonderful now. But her lil boy almost two is very trying at times. Hes a biter n hits the dogs. Were trying to break him of that. Helps to know ur not alone. He can also be very sweet and caring and affectionate. Hell outgrow it. I tell her she turned out to be a wondeful daughter. And is a great patient mom!!

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