My 23 Month old baby is driving me nuts

by Annamarie
(South Africa)

My 23 Month old baby is having this terrible out burst - she will scream and if I don't answer her she will start calling me my name and cry. She doesn't call me mummy or anything she calls me by my name. I can't do anything when she cries.

She doesn't sleep - sometimes she will sleep after 11 a clock at night. I have tried everything. I have been nice and calm and patient and I have done everything just to keep her happy but she is like a wild animal it feels like I want to run away.

Dr Maud Answers

It sounds as if you have a willful toddler - in the future, this characteristic may help her achieve in life, but I can see that it is causing a lot of distress for you right now.

Let's start with the easy things:
1. Your toddler calling you by your name rather than mummy. Lots of toddlers do this especially if they don't have older siblings that are calling you mummy. They hear everyone else calling you your name and they are copying. Don't despair. Just keep on using mummy when you talk to your daughter and don't be concerned if she just uses your name.

2.The screaming outbursts. When your daughter screams for something, just calmly say "you don't need to scream, just ask nicely" or "I don't understand what you want when you scream, use your words" and then demonstrate, so say "can I have a drink please, mummy" and then give it (answering "of course you can") whether she copies you or not. You are then modeling the behavior who want her to use.

If you are busy at the time, tell your daughter "mummy is busy now. I will get xxxx for you in a minute". When you are free, say "now, what is it that you want". You can acknowledge her frustration, so say "I know it's frustrating having to wait sometimes" and then proceed as above.

If your daughter starts crying uncontrollably and you can't do anything then just leave her. Say "I can't help you if I don't know what you want" and then just ignore her until she settles down. Don't try and cajole her in that state - just leave her.

3. Sleeping. If she doesn't get to sleep until 11pm, think about her daytime naps - is she sleeping too much in the day? Perhaps shortening her daytime nap will mean she is more tired at night.

It is important that the time before bed is settled. So have a routine - eat, bath, story, bed. There should be no energetic games before bed.

If your daughter is up because she hasn't settled, don't give extra attention. So if you and her father are there, just carry on as if your daughter is in bed. Don't reward her staying up by playing or having a lot of attention.

Have a look at the Sleep Page - particularly, read about the Controlled Crying Technique.

Finally, you might want to consider this audio course - Talking to Toddlers, which has very useful information on how to talk to toddlers to get them to do what you want without a fuss. To read more about this, Click Here!

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