Advice about Toddlers

Parent Q&A

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  • My 2 year 4 month old son seems to be very moody, much more so than what I've observed in other toddlers his age. There are times he's in a good mood for sure, but there are many times when he is whining about anything and everything and it doesn't seem to be connected to any clear problem (hunger, sleep, wanting a specific toy and being told "no," etc). I feel nervous to take him out when he's in one of those moods, because nothing seems to please him. But there doesn't seem to be a clear alternative. He can be "off" like this for part of an afternoon, or for a full week or even more at a time. He was a fussy baby also, but his moodiness seems to have gotten worse since turning 2. 

    A complicating matter is that he was recently diagnosed as having mild autism and some mild sensory issues. We're not sure whether this irritability is connected to the ASD, or if it's just him, and also, whether having an answer to that question would really help us at all. But it is just so exhausting to feel nervous all the time about what kid we'll get when we take him out somewhere. The rest of the time he really is a delight to be around. I'd say he's in an off mood maybe 20% of the time. 

    I'm not sure what I want to know this normal?? If it's not normal, what should we be doing about it? Have you experienced this? Does it get better? Any tips? Looking for solidarity, solutions, words of wisdom, anything. 

    I can't speak to the autism impact but this sounds very very normal for 2 year olds. They are just very erractic creatures and for both of my kids 2.5 to 3.5 years old was a lot of moodiness and crankiness, even when their other needs were taken care of. I did find that was also the age my kids became pickier with food, snacked more, and therefore ended up relying on more carbs, so I tried to add more protein. I also found that one of my two kids was extra sensitive to screen time so cutting that almost totally out made a huge difference (whereas the other one did not seem to react the same so each kid is different!). 

    I did find that this book by Louise Bates Ames really helped me better understand developmentally what is going on with their brains although big caveat that this book is a bit old and has some outdated ideas on discipline. One thing it mentions is that they are always moodier with their primary caregiver and it literally suggested spending less time with them. I know that's a privileged suggestion but if you have a partner or options for childcare, take a break!! Their crankiness makes us cranky and less tolerant and it creates a vicious cycle. 

    It does get better!! My kids are 4 and 6 now and they still have their moods but it's much more rare and they have better self-regulation and communication.

    First off, I want to acknowledge that what you are going through is very hard — even if it is “only” 20% of the time. I hope you can find lots of compassion for yourself. Also, good job getting a diagnosis so early! My son was an irritable kid, hated transitions and very moody — he was hard to get along with in many ways starting as an infant — and we didn’t understand that it was related to autism until he was 13! In our family’s experience, so much of his moody prickliness (and meltdowns) turned out to be a normal reaction for an undiagnosed (& therefore not properly supported) child with ASD trying to cope with neurotypical expectations. 
    I recommend getting family support around raising a neurodivergent child asap — I think you will find that once you have that support and can then support your child, everyone will feel a LOT better. 
    I found a lot of help with this organization:
    best of luck, and feel free to contact me directly  


    Hi there -- Mostly just wanted to tell you to hang in there. Our son is now 4, and while he doesn't have an ASD, he is probably on the lower end of the "spirited child" spectrum. I've posted here a couple of times out of similar frustration. Between 2.5 and 3.5 in particular there were periods of just crazy-making, rage-inducing episodes where he wouldn't (couldn't?) cooperate. And he is generally an easy-going kid in terms of letting things go, being distractible, liking new experiences (NOT new foods, but that's a different issue). Being in an "off mood" about 20% of the time sounds familiar. At least in our experience, it gets better. There are definitely phases that seem to happen around half birthdays that appear to be pretty normal. The things I would recommend are 1) keep talking to other parents -- it's *so* reassuring, and many have good advice (and totally ignore what doesn't make sense for you!), 2) take care of yourselves so you can stay calm (at least with our kid, the second we get angry in response, it gets immediately worse--if there's less for him to react to, it's not as bad and he calms down faster, and 3) do what you can to prepare and try to redirect or distract when possible (in other words, have snacks, a toy(s) or activity that he can do, be prepared to switch activities or stop and play a game (I Spy or whatever will distract) for a minute or two...whatever you find works with your kid). Oh, for our kid, one thing is definitely making sure he gets enough exercise. Anyway, it will get better! 

    Sounds like he’s feeling overwhelmed and just needs more support. All 2 year olds are difficult, but those with autism, in my personal experience, are often next-level! An OT can help you figure out what his triggers are so that he can feel more calm and happy. It’s a journey and you will always be learning more about his nervous system, but I promise you that it WILL get easier.

    Just adding my two cents as a mom of 4 adult kids and a school/educational psychologist...Yes, it is likely related to his ASD, yes it will get better, but for right now it is really hard.  I used to say that everything is a phase, and just when you think you can't tolerate it anymore, it changes and you will have another challenge to deal with.  Have you talked to your pediatrician?  Maybe there is some sort of support group?  Is your son getting ABA Therapy?  Maybe he should be. (ABA Therapy is usually accessed through medical providers.)  Also, have you contacted the Regional Center of the East Bay (  They are a government funded organization that supports individuals with developmental issues (including Autism).  They may be able to help as well, and should also assess your son. 

    I hope this helps!

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  • Independent 2 year old

    (7 replies)

    Our 2 & 1/2 year old granddaughter won't generally let anyone help her do anything she thinks she knows how to do even if it's beyond her ability. Not even her parents, though her parents of course are forced to help her in various situations where she just doesn't have the necessary ability. For example she just wasn't strong enough to click in the safety latch on her car seat so finally after letting her try for a bit, I helped her click it in and she got really mad and cried for about 20 minutes. Is that normal?

    My daughter was the same and still is now though once she got older she has better understanding of what she can and cannot do and will accept help when needed.  So, first, yes, it is normal.  It might be a stage or just the way she is.  We chose to encourage our daughter's independence and self sufficiency and even though we had to help her sometimes (which resulted in tears unless we were able to convince her to "do it together" and managed to get it done this way) we took advantage of her want for self sufficiency to teach her to take care of herself, i.e. get dressed, buttons, shoes, feed herself, clean after herself, etc.  Now I have a 4 year old who sorts her own laundry, folds her own clean laundry and puts it away, unloads all unbreakables from the dishwasher, carries her dishes to the sink after a meal and wipes the table after she is done eating, makes her own bed, etc.  She loves being independent and giving her a lot of "jobs" makes her feel like a big girl and proud that she can do it all herself.  It was difficult to teach her it all and do it over after she was done in the beginning, but now she is actually a big help and is happy to do house chores :)  So it is not all bad. 

    Totally normal. I would add to let her do what she wants to do and don't step in unless it is dangerous, or if you are running late because she is physically unable to do whatever it is, ask first if you can help because of whatever the reason is. Check out some Montessori materials, Even toddlers can do a lot and have joy and pride in the process.


    I have a 2.5 year daughter as well. My daughter is extremely independent as well. 2 days ago, we had to go through the exact same car seat buckling incident. She cannot do the lower latches but she can do the upper latch in the  carseat. It is normal that you put your rules like "I will do the bottom and you can do the top". I don't allow her to do the hard one. The next day after the tantrum, she allowed me to the bottom latches immediately.  If you have a rule and be consistent applying the rule, she will be ok after one or two times of tantrum. Independent children should also learn to follow the rules. When I give in more, she wants more and more and my patience level goes lower and lower. 

    Just have rules, explain to her when her mood is good. Parents and grand-parents should follow the same rules as well. If one person makes an exception, they take advantage of it and start to push the buttons again. 

    Good luck

    This is so normal. Your granddaughter is doing exactly what she's supposed to be doing at this age. If I had a dollar for every time my daughter said at two years old "I want to do it by MYSELF" I'd be filthy rich. And you're right, they do get mad when we have to step in and do something for them. It will pass. In the meantime, enjoy that she is developmentally on track!

    Yup, totally normal, especially for stubborn and independent kids.  My daughter would've cried for longer than 20 minutes at that age!

    Get her in a strong preschool program!  ASAP!

    I think it's normal, basing that on my sister's experience with her kids. My son was the opposite, very compliant, always letting me do things for him. Now, at 18, he still asks me to make his toast. So... hang in there, and I bet you won't be making her toast in 16 years. 

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