Wondering what to do when your 2 year old fights diaper change? Learn what to do when your child throws diaper change tantrums with these 7 simple—but genius—techniques.
The diaper change tantrum—for any toddler mom who’s already had it with diaper changes, adding tantrums to the mix is often a challenge.
My kids would cry, kick, hit, and do anything they could to get away from changing their diapers. Sometimes they even seemed scared to have their diapers changed. And when you’re trying to change a poop diaper, that often means an instant mess on your hands (literally and figuratively).
I’d find myself frustrated when they’d fight every diaper change stubbornly, with no sign of their behavior letting up any time soon.
If you’re reading this, I’m certain you can relate.
Maybe your toddler twists and turns during diaper changes, arching his back and resisting the whole time. He won’t let you anywhere near him, no matter how messy and in need of a change he is. You’ve tried everything, from distractions to sternly saying, “No!” but those methods only made things worse.
And you’re just about ready to pull your hair out—dealing with diaper changes that have become more like wrestling matches with your toddler. You’ve even begun to worry about underlying issues you’re not seeing beneath these constant diaper change tantrums.
What to do when your 2 year old fights diaper change
As easy as it is to throw your hands up and decide nothing works, it’s crucial that you not give up. Or worse, believe that this is simply the way it is, rescinding to constant power struggles with your toddler multiple times a day.
Because yes, you may have tried a few tactics, but not every tactic works for every child, or even for every time frame. What may not have worked in the past can easily work now, or what hadn’t been effective for one child can work wonders for another.
You see, your toddler may fight diaper changes for many reasons. He might be cranky from having just woken up prematurely from a nap. Maybe he’s anxious to eat instead of having his diaper changed. Perhaps he senses a loss of control when he’s forced to do something he’d rather not.
The key is to keep trying and not give up. That’s why I list several ideas for you to try when your 2 year old fights diaper change.
As you go through this list, focus not just on the tactic, but on the way you feel and behave. Because you can run through everything on this list, but if you feel anxious, frustrated, and impatient, then none of them will be as effective as when you’re calm, collected, and in control.
So take a look at these suggestions below, and hopefully you can find a few tips to try when your 2 year old fights diaper change:
1. Have everything ready to go
Trying to wrestle a flailing toddler while wiping poop is no easy task. Besides doing everything as quickly yet efficiently as possible, another tip is to have everything ready to go before you change diapers.
For instance, open the diaper flat, placing it below the dirty diaper so it’s ready to fasten once you’re done wiping. Grab several wipes out of the container so you don’t have to fumble with pulling them out one at a time. Arrange clothes right side out and nearby for easy dressing.
Make the task as quick as possible by having everything ready to go before you need them.
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2. Make diaper changes fun
Changing diapers may not be your favorite activity, but if you make the most of it, your child may never notice. Fun diaper changes make him more likely to associate them with enjoyable memories, rather than something that triggers a power struggle between you two.
Read below for a few ways to make diaper changes fun (or watch the video):
- 3-2-1 liftoff: Pretend your 2 year old is a rocket ready to blast off into space! Say, “Ready for lift off?”, hold him in your arms, and count down to lift off. As you do, zoom him up into the air and land him onto the changing pad.
- Peekaboo: Spend a few moments playing peekaboo, covering his face with a burp cloth and smiling as you unveil it.
- Blow raspberries on his belly: He’ll love getting his belly kissed after you’ve gotten him all cleaned and chained.
- Sing songs: Sing specific songs for diaper changes, or favorite ones he loves, so he can enjoy the moment rather than fight it.
- Tickle him gently: Play with his feet and tickle him to get him to laugh. Laughing and crying both release energy, so laughter can effectively replace tantrums and meltdowns.
- Do you hear…?: Want to grab his attention during diaper changes? Get real quiet and ask, “Do you hear…?” and fill in with something he might hear. Perhaps it’s the birds cawing outside, the lawnmower next door, or the song playing on the radio.
With diaper changes fun—rather than a hassle—your toddler will be more likely to want to do them again next time.
3. Pick a good time
Parenting is all about timing. Whenever possible, pick a good time to change your toddler’s diaper to avoid resistance.
For instance, avoid the times when she’s in the middle of an activity she loves, or when she’s feeling grumpy or upset, and instead wait for a better time to bring up the diaper change.
Another good tip is to give her a head’s up. If she is in the middle of an activity but you still need to change her diaper, let her know you’ll take a quick break in 10 minutes. Count down every so often (“Five more minutes and we’ll change your diaper”) so she isn’t caught by surprise.
4. Have a consistent routine
Let your daily routines do the work for you.
You see, without a routine, you often have to nag your toddler to get things done, or to remind her what to do next. But with a consistent routine, not only will she know what to expect, she’ll often do it automatically.
This is especially handy when your 2 year old fights diaper change. She’s less likely to resist them when they feel so automatic and ingrained in her day.
A few ways to include diaper changes into your routine are:
- Change your toddler’s diaper before or after the same activities every day. For instance, change her diaper first thing after waking up in the morning or from a nap.
- Change diapers in the same place. A regular place to change diapers helps make the activity a normal part of the day.
- Use the same words when signaling a diaper change. Even announcing specific words like, “It’s time to change your diaper” can trigger an automatic behavior.
- Use the same “signs.” Baby sign language is a fantastic way to communicate with her. When starting the diaper change, sign “diaper change,” then once all is done, sign “finished.”
5. Offer the right “distractions”
Distractions don’t work for the long-term, but they can certainly work if:
- They’re items your child genuinely likes
- You combine them with your attention
You may have tried to distract your 2 year old during diaper changes, from phones to toys to household items, but perhaps these items didn’t last long, or work at all.
Why? Maybe he lost interest in these items, so that a gadget that might have caught his attention is now “old” in his eyes. And second, you might not be engaging with him, assuming that the item will hold his attention long enough.
The best way to think about these items is to use them as conversation starters. Don’t simply hand him a toy and assume he’ll be thrilled. Instead, talk about the toy, ask him how it works, and use the opportunity to engage with him.
One trick to find the “right” item? Have him hold a toy he’s already playing with and interested in before the diaper change. If he’s playing with magnet toys, for instance, and it’s time for you to change his diaper, allow him to hold a few in his hands while you transition him to the changing table.
6. Praise your child’s cooperation
Want to encourage your child’s positive behavior? Make sure to praise her for it.
Even if it seems like she always hates diaper changes, I guarantee there are a few times when she doesn’t. And when those moments happen, praise and thank her for a fantastic diaper change. Let her know how helpful she was, how quick the change happened, and how much you appreciate her behavior.
Extend this praise to any time she cooperates, in however small of a way. Praise her for coming right away to the changing table, or for grabbing a diaper. That way, come diaper change time, you can start the conversation by reminding her how helpful and cooperative she is.
7. Try something different
Do diaper change tantrums never seem to stop, no matter what you try? Maybe this is a sign that you need to try something different.
This might be your cue to replace diapers with pull ups, especially since they tend to be easier to change into and out of. Or maybe your toddler’s resistance to diaper changes could be a sign he’s ready to potty train.
Whether pull ups or potty training, a new change can intrigue him enough that he becomes more willing to comply.
Look at diaper change tantrums in a new light—perhaps it’s exactly what you needed to experience to realize that he’s outgrowing his current diapers.
Knowing what to do when your child fights diaper changes can test even the most patient mom. Rest assured, you’re not out of hope, especially if you’re open to change and willing to try different techniques.
For starters, turn diaper changes into a fun experience by picking the right items for him to hold and by engaging in conversation with him. Choose the right time to change his diaper, making sure to have everything you need ready to go.
A consistent routine will make diaper changes a part of his day so he’s less likely to resist. Encourage positive behavior by praising him when he’s cooperative and helpful. And finally, when nothing seems to work, consider doing something different, from introducing pull ups to potty training.
Because no parent needs two of the most challenging experiences—diaper changes and tantrums—to happen at the same time.
Get more tips:
- How to Get Rid of a Diaper Rash in 24 Hours
- How to Stop Your Toddler Whining (Even When You’ve Tried Everything)
- Consequences for Kids That Actually Work
- What to Do when Your Toddler Wakes Up Crying Every Morning
- 5 Things to Remember when You’re Losing Your Temper with Your Toddler
Struggling with your toddler’s strong-willed personality? Join my newsletter and grab my PDF, 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child—at no cost to you. Discover 5 ways to nurture and work with—not against—your child’s inner spirit and strong personality: