I’ve had several people tell me since Davie turned into a toddler that it’s not really the “Terrible Two’s,” it’s the “Terrible Three Tantrums.”  And it seems like Davie Ann is right on schedule.

One minute she is the most adorable, charming, funny person I’ve ever known.  Her logic just cracks us up.  She loves to “perform” and sing for us.  But fail to pick her up at the moment she asks, or say “no” to a popsicle (or “no” to anything), or stop her from doing something she wants to do, and Little Miss Hyde appears.

Oh my gosh, the tantrums are awful.  Screaming, thrashing, just like in the movies.  If she gets mad enough, she will hit or scratch, although that’s rare.  We have set a policy for spanking – we only spank for the three “D’s”:  danger (running towards the road, for example), dishonesty (lying or stealing – she isn’t old enough for these yet) and disrespect.  It’s the last one that’s hardest to judge fairly.  It’s disrespectful for her to hit or scratch us, and that is definitely a spanking offense.  But we don’t want to be spanking her all the time, such as when she fails to share or says “No!” back to us instead of obeying.  I don’t want her to get so used to spankings that they don’t phase her anymore.  Also, it seems hypocritical to tell her “Don’t hit” and then spank her, you know?

I’m not total “spare the rod, spoil the child” but I don’t want her to be frightened of us, either.  How do you engender respect for authority in a child without instilling fear of authority?

And on a more practical note, once she’s in the throes of a tantrum, does anyone have any advice on snapping a toddler out of it?  Most of the time we can make sure she’s safe and then walk away, in order to avoid giving attention to the behavior.  But this morning, for instance, she followed me into the garage where we have a fridge for sodas.  I wanted to pack a caffeine-free Coke in my lunch.  Davie knows we keep the popsicles in the freezer out there and immediately began begging for one.  Not only are they not the preferred breakfast food for choosy moms everywhere, she makes a massive mess with them and I had her dressed for school.  So I had to tell her no, not right now, but she can have one when we get home tonight.  Cue massive tantrum. 

The bad news is – they are building new houses in the neighborhood right behind us, and we’ve been getting little field mice in our garage, so we had set traps.  I know what you’re thinking and you’re right – I never should’ve allowed Davie to follow me into the garage in the first place!  So of course as she thrashed on the floor I was terrified she’s set off a trap and get hurt.  I tried to pick her up but she caught me with a solid kick in my eight-months pregnant belly, knocking the wind out of me.  Fortunately Troy heard us and scooped her up quick.  Three minutes later, she’s perfectly fine and is singing the “Tiny Turtle” song to us.

She’s not always like that, often she is respectful even when she is disappointed.  The tantrums are MUCH more likely to happen if we let her get over-tired or over-stimulated.  And I still think she’s the most perfect, adorable, hilarious person I know.  I just want to raise her to be a kind, respectful young woman!  Any advice is appreciated!



10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stacey
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 15:13:52

    Well, my twins are now going on 3.5, and I totally agree, the tantrums are MUCH worse now. What is interesting, as you’ll find when baby #2 comes along, is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. My kids are extremely different. Tadpole is a happy child who tantrums rarely, but is extremely disrespectful. Last night we were trying to enforce the stay-at-the-table-until-you-are-finished-eating rule, and she would just say “No!” with a big smile. Turtle is much more respectful of the rules, and seems to actually like having rules in place, but also tends to tantrum more often, usually for social reasons (usually because Tadpole won’t play with him when he wants her to, for example). Anyway, in general we do not hit. I do not hit at all, my husband does occasionally, and then I talked to him about how I noticed that the more often he threatened them with a spanking (or slap on the hand), the more they hit each other. It was an extremely clear causal connection. After I asked him to please keep the corporal punishment for very severe offenses, hitting among the kids dropped off considerably. So I strongly believe in not hitting or spanking children.

    I think at this age, there’s not a ton you can do except help the children to understand their emotions and recognize that the lessons now will pay off, but not for some time. I think it’s important to be consistent, gentle, and authoritative, and I also think it’s dang hard when you KNOW they just aren’t developmentally able to control themselves to the degree you’d like, but that you’re setting the groundwork now for better behavior in the future. I also believe in natural, non-punitative consequences. Last night, as I mentioned, Tadpole refused to sit at the table, and when I told her that she couldn’t leave until she finished, she said she was finished. So I said fine, and cleared her plate. An hour later she complained that she was hungry, and I said that she should have eaten at dinnertime. She cried, but too bad.

    There are a lot of good books that follow a gentle, positive approach to discipline. The one I have, that I like, is called “Becoming the Parent you Want to Be”. It’s not a cure-all. It works better for Turtle than for Tadpole, because it relies a lot of the child wanting to please the parents, and Turtle cares more about that than Tadpole. But there are multiple strategies that can work without spanking, I believe. I rarely do time-outs, but I do them occasionally. I do sometimes pick up the child and put them somewhere else, either for their own safety, the safety of others, or because they’re clearly just trying to make a spectacle and I don’t want to reward it. I’m sure it’s hard when you’re 8 months pregnant, but I’m guessing it will still be hard when you have a newborn.

    By the way, I’m also not a fan of giving children choices about everything, as some people suggest. I do give them choices sometimes, for example about what to wear. But dinner is dinner, and I’m not going to cook something else because they don’t want what I’ve made. I’ve also put up with tantrums that last 1-2 hours, cut short fun trips, or left people’s houses when the kids won’t behave. It’s really really hard, and I’m realizing it will probably be another year or maybe more before things really improve, but I’m considering this as an investment in the future. I think that’s the best way to look at it.

    Sorry for the long rambling note. I just wanted to reassure you that it’s normal, it doesn’t have to be about corporal punishment, it’s really hard to deal with on a daily basis, but (I’m assuming) there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there!


    • iamstacey
      Oct 30, 2013 @ 15:43:52

      Thanks so much, Stacey! That is a really good viewpoint. I’m half-way through reading The Strong Willed Child, and I’m hoping it will give some good ideas on managing tantrums. I guess in the end, I just want to be sure she learns to recognize our authority, so we can guide her and keep her safe.


  2. Christy
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 20:04:49

    My best advice is something I’m sure you’ve heard of and done-the art of distraction. Try to do anything to re-direct her from whatever it is she’s upset about (which after a while she probably doesn’t even know/remember). It’s not always possible. I always wish when I’m out at a store someone would come over and ask A about her sneakers or something. LOL. It would sure help!


    • iamstacey
      Nov 01, 2013 @ 11:05:28

      I LOVE it when distraction works! The Target near my mom’s house has “taming toddler tantrums” down to a science. As soon as there’s a breakdown, an employee appears bearing stickers with the Target dog on them! Davie is fastinated by stickers so it works!

      Sometimes at home, though, she’s just determined to let us know how she feels and there’s nothing on earth that will distract her from it.


  3. Christine
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 21:21:41

    Video tape her for a minute and then start playing it back. They are amazed at what they look like upset!


  4. aishacs
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 13:18:21

    Oh its so true– two was a breeze– three is HARDER. I think my biggest challenge is keeping myself calm, like you said, disrespect is a big no-no but so subjective. There’s a sesame street episode called “Stinky and the flower show” or somethign like that. It has a plant who has no flowers and he’s upset and they teach him how to relax and take deep breaths. When W gets worked up I try to remind him of this plant, and how he calms and it helps us. If I can find a youtube link I’ll share it but maybe a similar video or something and a conversation after? At least you know its NORMAL and not PERSONAL. Those are the things I have to remind myself of when it happens.


    • iamstacey
      Nov 04, 2013 @ 09:17:27

      I know she’s not lashing out at me personally … but then I think, she’s going to hate me because I’m the one denying her what she wants. But fortunately Troy is equal with the discipline, so neither one of us has to feel like the “good guy” or “bad guy.”

      Which is probably why she loves PopPop the most. He just can’t tell her “no.” *sigh*


  5. Ashley
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 21:27:00

    Ugh, those tantrums are so frustrating! And I hate hearing that 3 is worse than 2!! Sorry, I don’t have much advice because I’m in the midst of it myself. I have heard that throwing yourself down and having your own “tantrum” works for some kids, although I don’t really think I could do that in the middle of Target. And I probably wouldn’t recommend for someone who’s 8 months pregnant! =)


    • iamstacey
      Nov 04, 2013 @ 09:18:43

      lol I’d be beached in the aisle if I tried it at the store! It would take five of those teen employees to pick me up. 🙂
      We used to try making the same sounds back at her, and it worked for a while but now it just gets her worked up and angry. 😦 I might try the video thing, though! That might snap her out of it!


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