Does your toddler throw diaper change tantrums? Learn what to do when your 2 year old fights diaper changes 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 diaper changes 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 2 year old. 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 changes
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.
The key is to keep trying and not give up. That’s why below, I list several ideas for you to try when your 2 year old fights diaper changes.
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 things to do when your 2 year old fights diaper changes:
1. 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. Making diaper changes fun makes it more likely for him to associate them with enjoyable memories, rather than something that triggers a power struggle between you two.
Here are a few ways to make diaper changes fun:
- 3-2-1 liftoff: Pretend your child 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 with your 2 year old. You can cover his face with a burp cloth and smile as you reveal his face.
- Blow raspberries on his belly: Your child will love getting his belly kissed as you get ready to change his diaper.
- 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 getting him to laugh can easily take the place of tantrums and meltdowns.
- Do you hear…?: Want to grab your child’s 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 from next door, or the song playing on the radio.
With diaper changes fun—rather than a hassle—your child will be more likely to want to do them again next time.
2. 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. If possible, 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.
3. Have a consistent routine
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 does she know what to expect next, she’ll often do it automatically.
This is especially handy when your 2 year old fights diaper changes. She’s less likely to resist them when they feel so automatic and are ingrained in her day.
A few ways to incorporate diaper changes into your routine are:
- Change your child’s diaper before or after the same activities every day. For instance, diaper changes are the first thing she does after waking up and drinking milk, or after waking up 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 in your child.
- Use the same “signs.” Baby sign language is a fantastic way to communicate with your child. When starting the diaper change, sign “diaper change,” then once all is done, sign “finished.”
4. Have everything ready to go
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Trying to wrestle a flailing child 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.
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. If changing into new clothes, have those turned right side out and nearby for easy dressing.
If your 2 year old is going to fight diaper changes, might as well make the task as quick as possible.
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 see, many parents have tried to distract their toddlers during diaper changes, from phones to toys to household items. But they’ll admit these items don’t last long, or don’t work at all.
Why? Your child may have lost interest in these items, so that a gadget that may have caught her attention is now “old” in her eyes. And second, you don’t engage with her, assuming that the item will hold her attention long enough.
The best way to think about these items is to use them as conversation starters between you and your child. Don’t simply hand her a toy and assume she’ll be thrilled. Instead, talk about the toy, ask her how it works, and use the opportunity to engage with her.
One trick to find the “right” item? Have her hold a toy she’s already playing with and interested in. If she’s playing with magnet toys, for instance, and it’s time for you to change her diaper, allow her to hold a few in her hands while you do so.
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 beyond diaper changes as well to other times of the day when she cooperates. Praise her for fetching her own plate or 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? That may in fact be a sign that you need to try something different.
It may be that this is your cue to replace diapers with pull ups, especially since they tend to be easier to change into and out of. Or maybe your child’s resistance to diaper changes could be a sign she’s ready to potty train.
Whether pull ups or potty training, a new change can intrigue your child so much that she 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 your child is outgrowing diapers.
Dealing with a 2 year old who fights diaper changes can test even the most patient mom. Maybe she resists them outright or has developed a sudden fear of changing diapers. Rest assured, you’re not out of hope, especially if you’re open to change and willing to try different things.
Are diaper changes making both of you miserable? Turn them into a fun experience by picking the right items for her to hold and by engaging in conversation with her. Choose the right time to change your child’s diaper, making sure to have everything you need ready to go.
A consistent routine will make diaper changes a part of your child’s day so she’s less likely to resist them. Encourage positive behavior by praising her when she’s cooperative and helpful. And finally, when nothing else 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.
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:
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Tell me in the comments: what are your biggest struggles when your 2 year old fights diaper changes?