Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Two year-old demands to go to her crib

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Question
Dear Eleanor,

I have twin girls who turned 2 in May.  My one daughter is very spirited and throws tantrums quite often.  She has always been fairly moody with the littlest thing setting her off.  The worst is when she thinks her sister is receiving something and she is not (more food, a better toy, more attention etc.) Her sister is a lot more laid back and has fewer meltdowns.

My spirited daughter has a favorite stuffed animal puppy that she sleeps with in her crib.  We only allow the puppy upstairs and sometimes in the car for long trips. For the past several months whenever my daughter has a meltdown at home she demands to be put in her crib.  She gets extremely worked up and wails "go see puppy! go see puppy!" until we put her in the crib with the puppy and then she is fine.  She usually wants to stay in there about 10 minutes and then she is willing to come out and go back downstairs.  For a while, we went along with it - it was kind of like a reset button.  It would calm her down and I could leave her in there while I go back downstairs and attend to her sister.  But recently she is doing it so often (at least once a day - sometimes twice or three times in one day), my husband and I are wondering if it is unhealthy.  We have tried to calm her down and keep her downstairs, but she just gets worse and worse - screaming at the top of her lungs to go see puppy, and there is absolutely no getting through to her.  There is also the effect it seems to be having on her sister, who used to rarely throw temper tantrums, but now seems to be doing it a lot more often and now she is demanding to "go see monkey!" (her favorite stuffed animal).  She is obviously imitating her sister.  

I get the sense that we should be handling these meltdowns differently, but I am not sure how.  I am also worried that my daughter prefers to be alone in her crib with her stuffed animal instead of getting hugged by mommy or daddy when she is upset.

I would appreciate any advice!

Answer
Hi Jessica,

Tantrums are going to occur more frequently at this age and continue for about a year.  This may be why you're noticing it more with both daughters and why it feels like she is constantly wanting her puppy and to be in her crib.  

If your daughter is just wanting to go to her crib for the puppy when she is angry and throwing a tantrum, then I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing. Especially if after she has calmed down she is happy to come out of her crib and leave her puppy there.  

I often say to parents to allow their children a 'safe' place to calm down and really when children are in a tantrum state sometimes trying to hug them or reason with them is just not an option it sounds like she has found a great way to self regulate.  
Essentially she is having a time-out and of her own accord which will help to calm down a lot quicker.  
You could, as she gets older, around 3-4 years old, use distraction and see if you can hold off on the puppy. This isn't working at the moment because she is still quite young and can't reason or fully explain how or what her feelings are at the time.  
You may also find as she gets older that this will just stop on it's own when she gets a 'big bed'.  So for now, so long as she calms down I think it is a great tool for her.  You can cuddle her when she comes out of the crib and maybe acknowledge that you know she was feeling frustrated/angry and comment on how well she calmed down "You're calm now, that's good. What do you want to play/do now?".  
Hug her at other times and when she sits and reads with you or watch a show together.

I would probably recommend also try to keep a chart to see what times she wants to go to her crib and if it is because she is angry or frustrated or whether it is when she is sad, try to label her emotions for her, there is a feelings chart at my blog http://www.thechildrenscounsellor.com.au/p/parent-resources.html.  

Slowly you might be able to see a pattern but she is still young and I don't think this will be detrimental to her development. Please follow up if you need to.

Kind regards
Eleanor  

Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers

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Eleanor Formaggio

Expertise

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.

Experience

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 www.thechildrenscounsellor.com.au

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

Education/Credentials
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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