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Wow. As a first time mother, I'm finding this toddler phase to be the most challenging so far. My girl is almost 17 months old. She is sassy! She climbs everything, she's a daredevil, she's testing us - big time. It takes two of us to change her diaper (she just freaks out, kicks, screams, rolls, gets poop all over the place). She follows me around and clings to my leg and screams if I make her let go. I keep thinking "this will last just a little bit longer... just a little bit longer", but it just gets worse. My husband says she will be this way until she's 4.

Please, tell me this isn't true. Tell me. Please?

  • When I asked people the same thing I was told it ends when they turn around 30. Better get used to it! – solarflare Jun 27 at 1:57
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In my experience so far, "Toddlerishness" waxes and wanes in the first few years. Right now she is clingy and combative during changes, next month (or week, or... hour, honestly) she may co-operate during changes but refuse to take baths. She may becomes more independent and stop hanging on your legs, but become so brave she dashes away randomly when you're out in public.

For toddlers, everything is a phase. It's probably safe to say that boundary testing will continue, sometimes intensely and sometimes only slightly, through the better part of age 3, but some of your current frustrations are self-limiting. Screaming, whining and tantrums may ease up as she gets better at talking and expressing herself in other ways. At some point potty training will bring its own challenges, but eliminate the diaper changing fights.

Things will not be exactly as they are now until she turns 4. If anything, I think things will be noticeably different with her by the time she turns 2 (probably with some improvements and some new challenges as well, as it tends to go with kids).

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If you don't wrangle in your reactions to her behavior it could last a lot longer than 4 years.

Everyone is different, so don't panic if someone on the internet spooks you.

First, I would definitely not cave in to any outrageous behavior. At 17 months, her reactions and behavior are likely not set in stone yet so you still have time to make sure you aren't giving extreme or exaggerated responses to the things that drive you insane. Personally, I never allowed myself to have a reaction to things that were so far out there that I wanted to lose it. Toddlers seem to love extremes and reacting extremely could be like feeding a fire.

They pick up on everything, so even if you make something like a calm down face, or exhale deeply, they will see it and begin doing it themselves.

The most I would do was a quick "knock it off" if there was something disagreeable, and I would immediately move on to something else. My girls didn't develop talk back reactions, extremes, or outrageous behavior. I don't know if it was because I was always calm, or if by some twist of nature they both happen to be naturally very passive and evaluative people.

I also made sure to cycle my own behavior so they see that I am not just some monotone machine. I would always make sure to see humor in everything and point it out to them. Make sure you laugh a lot, and even if their behavior in bothersome to you, find the comedy in it and get a good laugh. She will be more likely to laugh with you than to keep doing crazy things just to get a reaction from you. I'm not a yeller, but I am a loud talker. So even if the message is something simple like ice cream, I would usually say it loudly like I mean it... GIRLS! ICE CREAM! and while this may sound irrelevant, I wanted to make sure they grasped that loud doesn't mean trouble. I believe this made them more calm as well. They got used to varying tones and no particular meaning behind them.

I'm pointing out various things I did because I don't know what you do and can't expect you to audit your own behavior and list it out here.

That particular phase in life was a hard one but it went fast. Before you know it they are walking and talking and in school and everything else. My own attitude at the time was somewhat defeatist and the unrelenting horror of parenthood turned over and - you could say - allowed me to just not care about most everything. Not like depression or giving up in life, but about most things people seem to think are of importance. When I let go, everything became something of a comedy show. I saw the humor is everything because I no longer cared to care otherwise. I don't know if I'm suggesting you do anything like that, but for me it was probably what allowed me to breeze through it all. Horrid messes, poo ... the poo... food all over the floor, and on and on. I laughed at so much that was closer to a nightmare than funny, and the girls ended up laughing with me. But we constantly found new things to laugh at. New horrors. And so much of it all, that they never seemed to develop an extreme reaction, dependencies, fallbacks (like tantrums) or anything else that would drive a parent up the wall.

I don't believe I have a magic ticket. Chances are I did more damage than good and I won't know until they are teenagers. But I believe they are doing well and behave excellently and it has a lot to do with how we were as parents, what and how we react to everything, especially their behavior, and the willingness to just roll with the punches.

If all this ramble can be summarized by just one thing, I would suggest you do your best to see the humor in everything and laugh with her. Toddlers have a definition most likely, but crazy behavior can go long past toddlerhood if you allow it to.

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