Months ago, my now-2-year-old boy would happily come and let us put his shoes and jacket on and walk out of the door with us.

Now, when we tell him it's time to get ready or time to go, he'll run away and want us to chase him (we don't feed this behaviour), hang back, wander off in another direction, demand a treat—basically do anything to prevaricate and delay.

It takes forever to get out of the house. On occasions when we just have to go, the only option is to pick him up and force him through the process, with screaming and struggling.

What's going on? How to address it?


3 Answers 3


To solve the problem of him getting into the car, we and a few others recommend using choices phrased like:

"Do you want to get yourself into the car or do you want me to put you in the car?"

Either way, he gets in the car, and usually a bit calmer as he's "made a choice".

Longer term, reward charts will help. Getting a sticker every day on the chart that he gets into the car well is a good way of reinforcing good behaviour.

But ultimately, he's two. Two year olds will push boundaries. They just need to understand that sometimes that's going to hurt them or deprive them of something they would like. "Get in the car or you'll have less time with your friend/grandmother/giraffe" or wherever you're going. "Get in the car otherwise I won't have time to buy pudding for tonight's tea".

They do pick up on parent's frustration well as well. If they work out that if they do X you react with Y they'll do it. So even if he's really hanging back and mucking around, pick him up and put him in the car as if nothing's happened and talk about something else. Don't make it a big deal with your emotions as well as (as you're doing) not making it a big deal with your physical actions.

  • Giving choices is a most excellent suggestion. It is practically my mantra. It does so much for children; the benefits outweigh any slight hassle it may cause the caregiver or parent.
    – WRX
    Feb 7, 2017 at 15:20

Has he recently started daycare, been to the dentist or doctor, or perhaps had to wait for a long time while confined in his car seat? Is there a change at home? I ask because changes could have something to do with him balking. It is hard for 2y/olds to express their worries.

My pups do that if the last trip was to the vet for shots, they balk. We just make a happy fuss, "Oh Boy! Car! Yes!" (Yes, we do look foolish.) The dogs then get into the spirit of going on an adventure. I am not saying a 2y/old is like a dog, but the inability to express concern results in the same response.

Also at two, it is time for a child to test the waters. He wants to control the things he can control. It is completely normal. Have you tried giving him choices? You select two things that are acceptable and then let him make the choice. Red shirt or green? Waffles or pancakes? Superhero or stuffed toy in the car?

I highly recommend reading Barbara Coloroso kids are Worth it and Just Because It Isn't Wrong Doesn't Make It Right: Teaching Kids To Think And Act Ethically are terrific.

  • 2
    Going around making a happy fuss with "Oh boy! Car! Yes!" is exactly how my SO convinces our 3-year old to go to the car. It seems dumb, but it works!
    – T. Sar
    Jan 31, 2017 at 17:28
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    @TSar I think making things fun works for everyone at every age. Little ones allow us to be as silly as we like to be!
    – WRX
    Jan 31, 2017 at 17:47
  • 1
    Drawing correlations between child-rearing and dog-rearing often offends people for reasons that are completely beyond me. If you are really good at taking care of and training a dog (which implies a lot of love and patience and consistency, and never abuse or anger), and you apply the same principles to a child, you will have a lot of success. Of course there are differences, but the similarities are striking.
    – gahooa
    Feb 9, 2017 at 18:30
  • @gahooa Love and caring are always a good place to start. I agree -- if a person is miserable to/with an animal, they should not be a parent.
    – WRX
    Feb 9, 2017 at 19:01
  • 1
    @WillowRex, unfortunately sperm has no such filters.
    – gahooa
    Feb 10, 2017 at 20:11

My first thought is Welcome to Two Year Olds. This 2 shall pass.

It sounds like you're doing the right things; 1) Be patient, 2) Don't yell, it will only make it worse, 3) When necessary, pick your child up and carry kicking and screaming. I'll go into a little more detail.

  1. Be patient. Its hard as it is for a busy parent to stand and watch the grass grow while your child decides if he's going to put up a fight. Give him a minute to think about it. A two-year-old boy probably isn't developed enough for a reward system, but you're welcome to try a simple bribe if you're into that type of thing. Keep saying "Please" as you try to reason with him.

  2. Don't yell, it will only make things worse. So let's take a distraught, frustrated two-year-old and yell at him. What do we think's going to happen? Not only will you have a massive tantrum on your hands, but you also guaranteed the next few efforts to leave the house aee going to be equally unpleasant

  3. Grab and go. I used this method both in the midst of a tantrum (and a dude has to be careful where he's about to get kicked) and when in a real hurry or frustrated. I found it much easier not to force shoes and coat in the house but to carry them as well and wait until in the car.

Good luck!

  • Grab and go has been used by nearly every parent and to varying degrees of success. The short and sweet version of "I need it to be this way now. Sometimes your little darling is shocked into stunned contemplation and sometimes/more often you pay with an epic tantrum! As for clothing -- nothing works as well as a cold or rainy day to make that point. My K hated shoes, so we'd take them along and remind her that she was not allowed to play in the park without shoes. "Your choice: Wear your shoes and play in the park?" Or, ""Shall we go home instead and play inside?"
    – WRX
    Feb 6, 2017 at 18:28

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