18 month olds, amirite?

I’ve been asked to put up a commiseration post for parents of 18-month-olds. 

Remember why 18 months is so crappy: massive sleep regression (sometimes lasting for several months), the 6-month disequilibrium phase, often movement stuff (running) , often teething (molars), and an enormous mismatch between their receptive language and what they can actually say. So you have a kid who wants to do everything themself, has a zillion thoughts but can’t get them out so you can understand, isn’t sleeping well, is physically and mentally out of sync, and has very little control over anything.

It’s not a good phase. But It Gets Better.  Usually 21 months is a turning point for development, language production, and sleeping, so it all starts to come together and they’re much more fluent in everything and in a much better mood.

Who needs to vent? Who has It Gets Better stories?

0 thoughts on “18 month olds, amirite?”

  1. 18 months is when my kids started doing all the really cool fun interactive stuff. At least that is what my brain stored as the timing of when I really started having fun with them.

  2. Oooh me me me!!!! In the last week or so, my now-18-mont-old (just turned yesterday) has been WHINEY OH SO WHINEY when he wants/needs something. Seems like he has lost all ability to even use the things that he knows (signing for more or eat or his word for Down and Up or any ability to communicate in another way other than this horrible, multi-pitch WHINE). He has recently refused to be put down to sleep at night. Last night, I rocked/nursed him for an hour and half, during which I tried to lay him down TWICE, when he promptly popped right up crying and reaching for me. THEN, my HUSBAND took him and rocked him for another hour, at which point he finally let us put him down. He has started wanting to nap at 10 or 11am, and often only for an hour or so, and won’t sleep again during the day after that, so by the time we get to 6 or 7 at night…OH THE WHINING, and head-butting, and pinching and scratching and hitting that ensue! Ugh. This too shall pass this too shall pass this too shall pass….

  3. I think my 18-month old has already hit her 2’s because every other word out of her mouth is "NO!" We think she is trying to keep up with her 3 year old sister in terms of development and what she wants to do. BUT she is still my baby, and having recently lived through the 2s with my older daughter, I’m holding on to this phase with all my might. She is still happy at least 1/2 of the time, and tantrums can still be diverted. 🙂

  4. I have an almost 18-mo. old and you’ve hit the nail on the head. Also, I can’t help but think "has a zillion thoughts but can’t get them out so you can understand, isn’t sleeping well, is physically and mentally out of sync, and has very little control over anything" describes me in a nutshell right now. What a pair we make! Thanks for this.

  5. I remember how hard it was to have an 18-month-old, but now, only a few years out from that age, when I see an 18-month old, my heart just melts. They are so incredibly adorable and, like Laura said, cool, fun, and interactive. So, if it all helps to know that, in hindsight, 18-month-olds are incredibly awesome, maybe it will help to get through the tough times now.

  6. Oh, man. The only thing better than having an 18 month old is having a 12 month old who has begun to demonstrate many of the more annoying 18 month old characteristics, while simultaneously having a 3 year old who is in the height of that whole ‘terrible three’ thing. You know: NEEDING to do EVERYTHING themselves, pitching massive fits if (heaven forbid) an adult forgets that they absolutely MUST unbuckle their own car seat or open the screen door, etc. I’m learning very quickly that 3 is a lot like a more mature version of 18 months 😛 Also? what’s with my 12 month old popping molars?? he has his 4 front teeth (2 top, 2 bottom), but rather than getting his lateral front teeth next, he’s got 1 molar half through, and another 2 about to sprout. So there. That’s my rant.

    On the plus side, the 12 month old is getting interactive in the most fun ways, and my 3 year old is amazingly sweet and learning new, fun things every day. They’re finally starting to actually play with one another–i love watching how enamored the baby is with his brother, and watching big brother do silly things that make the baby crack up. It’s so good. So that’s what helps. It takes daily practice and concentration to bring these wonderful thoughts to the front of my mind in order to help push past the negatives, hoping it all balances out at the end of the day and my patience doesn’t break.

  7. Our #1’s 18 month sleep regression almost killed us! His behavior was fine, actually – we didn’t experience a nasty disequilibrium phase from him until 2.5. But the sleep! Oy! He woke up 2-4x per night, and then woke up for the day at 4-4:30 AM. He never went back to sleep. Every. Day. One nightmarish morning it was 3:45 AM. (OTOH, I put him to bed sometimes as early as 5:45 PM to compensate). Plus I was pregnant with #2. Plus I had hyperemesis. And it last like 2.5 months, which was way longer than we thought it was last. The only good thing was that I had Moxie! So I knew it wasn’t My Fault and that there was Nothing I Could Do Except Hang In There, which actually made it easier to cope with. I also knew it would end, which it did eventually.

  8. I’m inclined to disagree with the blanket statement "It’s not a good phase". Maybe some people don’t like it much, but it’s actually my second favorite (immediately following the infant phase, which I realize also puts me in the minority).

    So can I just put things that I think are cool about this age? They’re still young enough to want to cuddle you, but not so young that you can’t put them down. They’re interested in investigating the world, so toddler + back yard = potentially hours of time in which my assistance is not required. They are learning so much right now that every day there’s something they didn’t now the day before. (I’m sure that’s true with infants, too, but it’s not so noticeable to me, the observer.) It’s dead easy to make them laugh. And laugh and laugh and laugh.

    I would very much, like, however, to curb my toddler’s great overwhelming desire to play in the parking lot of anyplace we go. Seriously, if we are on a 20-acre grassy field, MUST we head for the 3′ opening in the fence in order to put ourself in danger?

  9. 18 to 24 months nearly killed me. None of us slept through the night. The whining and tantrums started (where did my sweet boy go?!) and so did the picky food stage. 18 to 24 months remains my least favorite stage and is one of the reasons I think our son will be an only child. But it does get better. It gets so much better. He is now 2.5 and he says "I love you" apropos of nothing, asks for snuggles, sleeps though the night again, tells hilarious stories, makes jokes, and loves to try new food. He still whines but you can actually reason with him now! He understands things now! I survived. You will too.

  10. I couldn’t resist adding my two cents here. I’m sure you know most of this, but thought I’d refresh your memory. I hope this helps.

    There’s an enormous amount of growth happening inside of an 18 month old. That growth can overwhelm a child with stimulation, irritation and disorientation causing parents to experience a whiney, clingy child who has trouble communicating, separating and sleeping. Sound about right? Here’s a brief run down of all the growth that’s affecting your 18 month olds’ behavior.

    *A child’s awareness at this age begins to shift from physical reality to symbolic reality. This is a good age to begin using the same plate, cup or spoon at each meal. Seeing the same utensils at each meal signals him/her that it’s time to eat.

    *Things that didn’t scare him last month might cause some fear this month.

    *Language is beginning to emerge, which empowers her, but frustrates her because it isn’t coming fast enough. As a result she may retreat into dependency and social vulnerability.

    *The developmental imperative to explore the rules has surfaced so (s)he can find out what’s okay and what isn’t okay.

    *18 month olds tend to use just one or two words. One of course is NO, and the other word is usually whatever word they use to ask for the things they want. They use these two words all-the-time. They become very upset when they can’t be understood and may stand there and repeat and repeat the same word over and over again until they fall apart.

    *Now that they’re aware of doing something wrong and being told no, an 18 month old will check in with mom all-day-long to make sure (s)he is doing things right and is still in mom’s good graces.

    *Auditory and vestibular systems have begun to grow which can cause a child to feel dizzy and may interfere with their balance or hearing. That may be another reason why they’re whinny and clingy.

    *And of course, just when this phase is over, around 21-22 months they enter the terrific twos.

    *On the bright side, 18 month olds are inquisitive, happy, gentle, loving, sweet, little explorers who still need mom and dad very, very much. Enjoy.

  11. 18 months was by far the worst regression phase for us. I don’t remember what went on with the sleep – our daughter never went back to sleeping after the 4 month regression, so I don’t think much changed there. But around 15 months she started being able to play for a few minutes at a time on her own. I could leave her in the child-proof living room and throw in a load of laundry or do the dishes. At 18 months, I could not leave her sight. The dissolution into tears was immediate, loud, and angry. It was so much more frustrating than any of the previous tantrums or fussy stages because I had seen the light at the end of the tunnel, only to have it snatched away. I find that my greatest difficulties with kids occur when expectations meet reality, and my expectation was that she was capable (having demonstrated it before) of a certain amount of independence that she then seemed to lose for three or four months. We took a family trip to Disneyland that year when my daughter was around 21 months and I remember fuming because my SIL kept bragging about how great her 17-month-old did on all the rides, while I was busy prying my kid’s arms from around my neck because she wanted to sit ON me, not next to me, even on the carousel.

    That said, 18 months was when my daughter would point to her open mouth and say "eat" every time she wanted to nurse, and it is still one of the single most adorable things I’ve seen in three years of parenting, so there are certainly perks to the age. And while we’ve had a lot of difficulties at 2.5 (almost three now) as well , the communication is so much better, and I can sometimes actually see my daughter learning from our talks.

  12. I absolutely hated 18m. It’s the tons of mobility but zero sense phase and I felt like I was CONSTANTLY rescuing them from certain death (sitting on the couch nursing a newborn and having to JUMP UP just weeks postpartum and stop my nearly 18mo from swinging from the dining room light fixture, for instance). I don’t mind tantrums, but I HATED the always-on aspect of 1yos. Just hated it. Now I love newborns and I love 2yos so I don’t know if maybe I’m just weird. But when they start really talking around 2 and I can hear what they mean and also they develop just a TINY big of self-preservation which helps immensely – it’s such a relief.

  13. 18ish months was right after she got over the flu and stomach bug so she was actually quite pleasant because she (and we) were so happy to be healthy. I do remember sometime after this time-maybe 20ish months, she became very whiny and clingy and all about mama. It’s much better now at 25 months. She’s really fun now. Her first 18 months or so were very very rough (lots of ear infections, every other thing she could catch at day care, crappy nurser and sleeper-I wanted to run away a lot). My 6 (going on 16) year old on the other hand-good lord-he used to be my sweet, easygoing child and now he’s the biggest drama queen ever. I think 6 year olds are way harder. Can we talk about that sometime?

  14. Perhaps this is less of "it gets better" and more of a "it could be worse": I moved halfway across the country, started a new job/daycare etc. with a 18 month-old. That was tough. I suspect all the changes precipitated his picky eating issues. Those issues had been bubbling underneath the surface before the move, but I think that the timing of move and all of the changes and no good way to express his concerns caused him to take control of the one thing he could control: what he ate. He went from a cautious but mostly agreeable eater to a kid who had maybe 8 things he would eat. It lasted for about a year after the move.

  15. Little Man is 18 months old right now, and we seem to be in the minority. Honestly, it wasn’t until he weaned a few weeks ago that his sleep improved (up a minimum of 2-3x a night up to now), so I guess we’ve just been in one big sleep regression! Although I still can’t seem to sleep throught the night! Sure, there are tantrums and teeth and struggles for independence. But he and I seem to communicate well – as in, I usually know what he’s trying to say. Plus, he really likes having Jobs To Do, so we can amble along on some chores. To me, his mobility and comprehension make it the easiest stage so far, but that’s after 18 months of a lot of struggling, especially on my part….

  16. OMG, there’s a sleep regression at 18 months???? We are just about to hit 17 months and I’ve been wondering when on earth she is finally going to sleep through the night?!?! She CAN do it, but in the past few months sleep has been interrupted by molars, bronchitis, roseola, an anaphylactic reaction to strawberries and more molars. And now she started a new daycare. And we are going on a trip. And we are selling the house and moving. And, and, and. And my almost- four-year-old is showing signs of the "effing-fours". And the two of them tend to have tantrums around the same time, as if the younger one watches the older one and thinks, "oh yeah, that looks like fun, let’s do it!" Normally I feel ok and sometimes even excited about everything, but today I just feel like crying.

  17. You mean to say this should stop in about a month?! Oh joy of joys! My 20 month old is super verbal but has stopped using her words/signs to ask for things and will just WHINE instead. I wish she would say no. If, heaven forbid, you should offer the wrong thing in response to the whining she will just SHRIEK in response.

    On the other hand, when she does choose to use them she has so many words that I’ve lost count, has started counting, and can recognize a few letters and digits.

    Her sleeping is rubbish I barely notice regressions anymore but now that you mention it, it does seem to be worse than normal!

    It gets better, right?

  18. my sixteen month old pitched a full-on, ten minute tantrum today because I touched his banana. The horror. Today, he pitched a fit at dinner because he couldn’t see the moon. We had to go outside to see the moon, you see. He’s got about fifty or sixty words and counting, and I am terrified of 18 months because this is exhausting enough, with the early morning wakeups and the periodic not-sleeping and the half-articulate, half-not.

  19. Our daughter is now 2.5 years old – and even though 18 months wasn’t that long ago…I can’t really remember it that much. I must have blocked it out 🙂 There was very little sleep…and so much development! It seemed like every day she was able to do something that she couldn’t the day before. It really is an amazing age. From an Early Childhood Educator’s perspective (that’s me), it is truly fascinating what their brains and bodies are going through at 18 months. Some of the biggest milestones happen around that time – no wonder they are so whiney and emotional. We did baby sign language with our daughter – and if I can give any advice…do it! She only really used a few signs (more/again, milk, please, thank you etc…), but the fact that she had the ability to communicate with us made all the difference in the world.

  20. For the love of everything, thank you for this post! This is my first time on your website, and I tell you, my husband and I are going through all of this with my soon to be 18 month old son. He has been waking up at 3:00 AM EVERY MORNING for the past two weeks, and it has been hell trying to get up and get to work on time and not be a total bitchy zombie to everyone around me when I get there. He is picking up language pretty fast, but he still whines and cries for everything. And we are still nursing, so he has become kind of aggressive when asking for the boob… I really, REALLY, need to believe that it gets better! 🙂

  21. Here’s an "it gets better." 18 months was HARD for each of our three kids, who are now 10, 6, and 4. For us, our middle child went six months without sleeping for three hours in a row, while I was in my first trimester for #3. But it got better! It does get better. They start sleeping. That child who I truly thought would never sleep through the night now is out before I even leave his room at night. They start talking more, engaging more, and now our oldest has turned into a person who I feel delighted and privileged to know, even putting aside that she’s my daughter. So I don’t know if this helps, but without a doubt, it will pass and everyone will sleep again.

    That said, when I have pangs of desire for a newborn, reflecting on then having a one year old brings me back to reality :).

  22. My 18mo has never slept well, so, you know, whatever. But the rest! Oh the SHRIEKING. And the inability to express himself. And OMG THE PLAYING THE STREET/PARKING LOT THING.

    On the other hand, a couple of weeks ago he spontaneously hugged me around the neck and gave me three kisses on the cheek, which was just the best thing ever. And he is very, very funny.

  23. Yep. Right about then, on the dot, is when my now-27-month old started waking up screaming once or twice a night almost every night (the first time she didn’t do so in several weeks was election night, and I was more excited about that than I was Obama’s reelection). It was hell and very hard not to yell at her and cry hysterically. She went through a week of sleeping well again right before Christmas, but then holiday travel messed it up again. She gradually started coming out of it around 21 months. She would still wake up crying, but after a few minutes go back to sleep on her own. After a couple of weeks of that, she started sleeping soundly again from 8- or 9-ish pm to 7- or 8-ish a.m. It was like a switch flipped–she has been an angelic sleeper ever since then, minus a few skipped naps now and then (but she even naps for 2-3 hours most days!). She also started speaking sentences in that time period, so everything Moxie said.

    Before she came out of it I had just about decided we could never have another child. It was that rough. Within three months of her sleeping well again, I was pregnant, so here we go again.

    It DOES get better!

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