Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/BAD BEHAVIOUR


QUESTION: Dear Eleanor,


I have a 2 year old baby girl. She was very calm and everything was going well untill the past 2 months. She used to eat and sleep well before but now she is not eating. we had to struggle a lottt to feed her. She joins us and ask for fook ten times but only to play with the food, she will not put even a single morsel in her mouth.

I began to notice that she is crying and shouting for no reasons. The most annoying thing is that she wakes up in the night in every 30 minutes and starts crying. It again takes an hour for us to make her sleep. we are finding it very difficult to handle this situation. We are not sleeping the whole night and very much worried.

Please help - what is the reason for this change in her behaviour.

ANSWER: Hi Mohammed, It is very difficult for me to say why this behaviour has started or what has caused this behaviour to change so suddenly.  Sometimes it is a change in environment so children have started preschool or a family situation has changed but other times there is no underlying cause and it is hopefully just a phase which should not last long.
Two year olds can become fussy eaters, they also may not need as much food as when they were younger and growing very quickly.  Continue to let her eat with you and even if she plays with the food when food time is over it's over and she only gets food at the next meal time. I would also only give a very small serve of something rather than alot as sometimes if there is alot on a plate it can be overwhelming for the child.  The other thing you could try is to offer what she does like and let her eat that. Sometimes children just eat a specific thing for a long time and grow into other foods over time.

The waking at night can also be age related and how is she going to bed?  Is she relaxed and going to bed in her own bed or is she being moved to her room after falling asleep.  If she is being moved that can sometimes be an issue if they wake up and realise they aren't where they fell asleep.  Does she have a night light on or maybe something she likes to take to bed with her?  
Unfortunately at 2 years old it is very hard to explain to her or punish or reward her for sleeping because she may be too young to understand. What do you do when you go into her? Also sometimes children can get hot and sweaty and then cry or shout and may still even be asleep but have a night terror. Although if it is happening every night then it is probably more a habit.  Also maybe diet changes can have an impact.
If you are concerned or worried that it may be a health related issue then best to seek a doctor's opinion as I can only guess what it could be. Please send me a follow up if you need to or think of something else that comes up.
Kind regards, Eleanor

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Eleanor for your detailed answer. Most of the things that you said were correct. Yes we serve her in small quantity but she asks for more many times. She likes to eat noodles a lot. some times we get her busy into some activity or watching tv and then make her eat forcefully. She somehow manage to eat.

She does not go to bed by her own. We get her milk feeder ready and then sometimes she like to sleep in our lap or on bed but we sit near her and tap her chest till she goes to sleep.

She does not take anything with her before going to bed except her milk feeder. I agree that sometimes she gets hot and sweaty or may not feel comfortable in the night dress and she dont sleep properly.

I have something in mind - Can loneliness be one of the reasons??

Because we live in Riyadh - Saudi Arabia and here she dont get the company of other kids of her age. we sometime meet our cousins and they have kids of her age and she feels happy being with them and playing around.

Hi, Thank you for clarifying some of the points and providing some more information.  I think the food issue will pass and just continue to do what you are doing with her in regards to setting proper meal times and sitting with her to eat.  She is still young so lots of time to learn good habits.

I don't think the loneliness is necessarily a cause for this change in behaviour. I think it is appropriate behaviour for her age.  As long as she is playing nicely with her cousins when she does get to see them then that is good. When you spend time playing with her, take time to teach her to share etc and she should be fine.

The sleep issue can be resolved and will lessen if she learns now to sleep herself or put herself to sleep in her own bed. She wakes up because the habit has been that her back is tapped or she has someone near her when she has fallen asleep in the first place.  If you want to stop the night waking you may have to try to get her to sleep on her own which is going to take a few nights of crying by her and shouting but hopefully if she has put herself to sleep on her own with her milk feeder then she will stay asleep.  You can then leave the milk feeder in with her and hopefully she will learn to turn to that instead of crying or shouting for you when she wakes in the middle of the night. It is not easy to get them to sleep by themselves but it will lessen the night waking, so do consider it.

Kind regards


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Eleanor Formaggio


I can answer questions where practical advice is sought in relation to behaviour issues of 2-10 year olds. I specifically look at the influence of personality in a child's behaviour and tailor advice to suit the individual child and parent. This is useful since not all children are the same. I can suggest techniques for tantrums, child aggression and sibling rivalry and adapting to change.


I am a counsellor and child behaviour consultant based in Sydney, Australia and mum to three boys ages 12,10 and 6. I have been involved in setting up and facilitating community support groups for new mothers and run parenting workshops so parents can better understand their children's behaviour. I have spent alot of time observing personality differences in children and understanding how these differences can be used to make parenting easier. I developed the Early Childhood Personality Rating Scale for identifying child personality types in children as young as two. I am the founder of Parent with Potential and developed the Prechooler Personality Kit and READ personality system for primary aged children. More info can be found at

Book: In this Present Moment: Quality Time Ideas for busy parents.

I have a Bachelors Degree in Applied Social Science (Counselling).

Past/Present Clients
Parents of 2-8 year olds. Mothers with Postnatal Depression or anxiety attending a support group or seeking individual counselling or advice in relation to their child's behaviour.

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