So my DD is a toddler (20 months old today). And she is currently in the "everything is mine you can't have it" stage. I know it is normal. I've read about it. All my friends tell me their kids went or are going through it. But man, I hate it so much! I can't stand watching my child go up to another, grab a toy forcefully, make the other child cry and either show no empathy at all or actually appear to take pleasure in it.
Last week a girlfriend came over with her nine month-old daughter. DD was thrilled to have a baby in the house. (She is also in the stage where she loves babies.) Until the baby started to play with her things. Then, she morphed into Evil Toddler. Anything the baby touched, she immediately had to have. My friend was quite amused by the whole thing. She is a child development specialist and PhD, and told me DD is doing exactly what she is "supposed" to at her age. I still don't like it.
Even though the behavior is normal, I don't believe you can start teaching your children values too early. So I always tell my daughter, calmly and firmly, that she has to give the item back that she has forcibly taken from someone. I explain that the other child was playing with it, and she can play with something else. Of course, I find that most of the time the other child just goes ahead and hands my daughter the item in question at that point. Which does not help.
I make my daughter wait her turn. Even when she doing so is causing her to have a meltdown. In her class at the baby gym, there is a time when they get to play on the swings. DD LOVES swings. But there are only four swings about about 13 children, so everyone has to take a turn. And that pretty much guarantees DD will have a meltdown. She has to wait her turn and then when it is over, I take her out of the swing kicking and screaming so another child can enjoy it.
Of course, she is not the only one who has meltdowns. All her peers do. At any given class at the baby gym at least two kids are losing it. They grab. They steal stuff from one another. They push each other out of the way to get to things. It is a case study of typical toddler behavior.
Speaking of which, as of yesterday we have also apparently entered the stage where the answer to every question is "NO!" DD doesn't say it; she shakes her head back and forth emphatically. For example, yesterday morning she refused every single food item I offered for breakfast. I went through the pantry and the fridge and got the head shake for all of it.
This is a kid who loves to eat. And eats pretty much everything. Never refuses food. She started to turn down everything I offered for lunch, too, until she realized she was actually quite hungry and decided to give up the fight. But I can tell there will be many more to come.
She is supposed to assert her independence, of course. Explore the boundaries. This is a natural and healthy stage of development. As a mom, I find it both exciting and terrifying. Satisfying and heartbreaking. My once tiny, dependent baby girl is rapidly becoming her own little person. All is right with the world. But it can feel so wrong.
Thankfully, DD still has the ability to be very sweet. She loves to give hugs. To everyone. Mommy. Daddy. Other kids. Complete strangers (this part makes me uneasy). We call her the Hug Monkey. She even hugs characters in the books we read. She holds the page up to her face and squeezes the book. It's adorable.
She recently started giving kisses on the lips. She loves when we do a family hug. My husband and I get on either side of her and squeeze. We kiss, because that always makes her giggle. And her laugh? Honestly, there is no better sound in the universe. It is the Greatest Laugh Ever. Then she gives each of us a kiss on the lips. And that cuteness is helping me get through this period.
But man, there are moments! Parents, how do you handle this stage? Are you embarrassed when your child behaves like a little cave person, even though you know it is normal? Or can you just shrug it off? And give it to me straight - how long is this going to last? (I have been hearing from a lot of parents lately that the age of four is horrific.) Is it all downhill from here? On second thought, maybe you should just lie to me...