Toddler Rituals

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Categories Behavior, Development, Discipline, Toddlers

Some days (ok, most days) Toddler really tries my patience.

From what I can remember, the rituals really began right around the time she turned two. That was the time we started telling her Mommy has babies in her belly. And then we took a two-week trip to Asia. That was the clincher. Starting with the plane ride, which we thought we prepared her for ahead of time. She was very excited to fly, even jumping up and down watching the planes land and take off through the big window in the airport boarding waiting area. Still excited when we got in the plane and she saw all the people sitting around us. Great while we taxi’d. Then, liftoff. Her face scrunched up in a look of sheer terror and the screaming commenced. And didn’t stop for 14 hours. Made me hope for a terrorist threat so we could abort this journey. It didn’t get much better after we landed either. With the upside down time difference (15 hrs or something like that), none of us were feeling great, but also dealing with a toddler whose routine was set in stone at home was just torture. What were we thinking? Our child DOES NOT travel well. Lesson learned.

Sometime during that trip, she formed a deep attachment to her blanket (“budget” to her). Before, she liked her blanket, and we would give it to her to sleep, but it wasn’t a necessity. In those two weeks, it had to be taken EVERYWHERE we went. And there was no sleeping without it. Funny enough, the IDENTICAL blanket Mommy brilliantly bought in anticipation of JUST THIS was immediately rejected no matter how many times we offered it. (Even to this day– that blanket is now baby brother’s.) So, fine. OK. Gotta remember the blanket now. I guess it’s better than picking up dropped pacifiers all day long or sucking on thumbs till age 6.

Lately, her obsession has been to close doors a certain way. “Like this” every night and naptime, a negotiation of how much the door to her room gets closed. But it’s a moving target. You think you got it at just the right angle, walk away, and hysterical yelling/crying incoherently about a “like this, not like this” will continue until you go back and the ritual starts all over. Finally last night I let her scream for 10 minutes. Then I went in and we calmly had a discussion about how the door needs to be and there will be no more screaming.

It may possibly have worked because there was no complaint about the door at nap time. However, there was something else. The pillow on her chair had fallen over. It needed to be righted, and placed to the side. All her dresser drawers must be completely closed, her stuffed animals and books aligned in just the right way, stickers stuck to the right places. I swear she makes things up sometimes just to stall, but then they become part of her ritual too. It’s maddening to the point you can’t do anything but throw up your hands. C’mon kid, just go to sleep!

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of times when she’s super sweet. “I lub you, mommy.” She caresses her siblings and kisses them on their feet. “Mmmmuah!” But… gosh these rituals can be annoying when all I want to do is get a few minutes of quiet before the twins demand my attention. Please?

I know this is just a phase, and I definitely feel for parents of kids who have crazier rituals. But when does it end, and will the twins be just as bad times two?!?

lunchldyd is a mom to an almost 3 yr old daughter and her 3 month old twin brother and sister. She is also a high school teacher. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, 3 children under 3, and two neglected dogs.

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lunchldyd is mom to 3 year old boy/girl twins and their 5.5 year old sister. She is now teaches part-time to juggle the needs of her young children. When not at work and the kids are asleep, she is addicted to watching TV and sometimes sacrifices sleep to read in bed. She lives in the Los Angeles suburbs with her husband, three kids, and two dogs.

3 thoughts on “Toddler Rituals”

  1. My twin girls just turned four, and one is more “particular” than the other. I try to take a no-nonsense approach to most things…if she balks because I put her milk down on the right side of her plate instead of the left, I don’t indulge her. In my calmest of voices, I might say, “It’s not a problem…you’re welcome to move your cup wherever you’d like it.”

    When it comes to sleep, though, I try not to get into any kind of discussions. We have the luxury of not having much in the girls’ room aside from their beds, so there’s little distraction. I think that helps. With the door example you gave, I might take one opportunity to say, “Let’s decide the best way to close your door.” Try to have her agree…and then remind her before you go into her room, “…and Mommy will close your door just like we talked about this morning / just like I always do.” Maybe I’d try to “agree” on how she likes a couple of “big” things, and assure her those things will be the way you discussed.

    I hope this helps??? Best of luck!!!

  2. Oh man! My girl twin is just like this and my boy is as easy as they come. It’s been this way since conception basically. I find that when I’m on the brink of loosing it the “stage” ends and I hate to say it but another starts. Breathe and try not to make her needs get more attention than when she is sweet and fun. Really go out of your way to make a big deal when she’s behaving. AND most of all… good luck!

  3. My M had this sort of detail-orientation and ritualistic behaviour. She outgrew it rather too much; now she completely fails to clean up after herself. :(

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