Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Terrible Twos - Be Gone!

Where, oh where, has my sweet, silly, giggly little boy gone? Occasionally I still see glimpses of him, but it seems that more often, I spend my days with a strange, new child who throws tantrum, after tantrum, after tantrum. This morning, before Owen woke up, I decided I was going to count just how many meltdowns he had today, but by lunch time I had already lost count. (By my best estimate, it was somewhere around 7 or 8, and he had only been awake for 4 and a half hours!)

We've all heard the phrase, "terrible twos," but I don't think I ever really realized just exactly what that looks like. OH.MY.GOODNESS! This morning, after a group Easter egg hunt, Owen got very upset when another child took the ball that he was playing with and I was unable to console him. He even started swinging at me, intentionally trying to hit me. It was at that point I decided to just leave. Humiliated and sure that the other moms (who I have tremendous respect for) were silently judging me, I did my best to contain his flailing arms and legs while I got his coat on, gathered our stuff, and all but ran out the door.

Sometimes (like in this video I captured today), he gets so upset that he resorts to hurting himself, usually by banging his head against whatever is close by.

For the most part, I try to lie him down in a safe place where he can't hurt himself and just ignore the fit, and often, that works – he usually calms down and gets back up a short while later. But the frequency of the tantrums (it seems he has more and more of them every day) and the embarrassment when they happen in public has got me at my wits end.

Out of desperation, I just typed "toddler tantrums" into Google and the very first entry that popped up was this link to I don't know that I'm necessarily a huge fan of the Dr. Sears approach to parenting, but there were some good messages in this. Here are a few things that jumped out at me during my initial review, although I intend to go back and thoroughly study this subject as if my very life depended on it.

  • Tantrums often come in two flavors: manipulative tantrums and frustration tantrums. If you feel that your child is using tantrums as a tool to get his own way (manipulative), give him verbal cues and use body language that says that you don't do tantrums. (In other words, ignore it, I believe.) Frustration tantrums, on the other hand, require empathy.
  • You are neither responsible for his tantrums nor for stopping them. The "goodness" of your baby is not a reflection on your parenting ability.
  • Temper tantrums in public places are embarrassing. Your first thought is likely to be, "what will people think of me as a parent?"
  • Some toddlers' behaviors push parents' anger buttons a lot, and some parents have very sensitive buttons. The combination of the tantrum-prone child and a parent with a short fuse is at risk for major conflicts.

Uh oh. This last bullet really strikes a cord with me. I know that I have a quick temper. And I know that I need to get it in check – fast! It does no one any good for me to react to Owen's fits by throwing one of my own. And I am making myself completely vulnerable and transparent here by admitting that I often do just that. I know it's wrong. I'm working on it. I need God's grace (more than my own will, I'm positive) to overcome this personal weak point.

Here's another snippet on the subject (from here): Know your anger tolerance. If you lose patience easily when your child throws a tantrum, know when to walk away. Count to ten (or more!) so that you can gather your thoughts and react calmly. Remember, your son is simply acting his age. You aren't responsible for his tantrum, nor for stopping it. When a toddler loses control, he should at least be able to count on the adults to stay in control.

Ok, so here's my prayer, God.

First off, thank you, VERY dearly for blessing me with this child. I trust that you chose me to be his mother because you love me and know that I am doing the very best I can. But I need your help. Please help me to remain calm, focused, and loving during this dear child's trying moments. Help me to understand that he is simply lacking the verbal capacity to communicate his desires and help me to do my best to help him choose a more appropriate way to express himself. Help me to distinguish between a manipulative tantrum and a frustration tantrum and to react accordingly. Help me to remember to count to 10 when I feel my anger rising and my patience waning. Help me to be creative and think quickly on my feet when something simple and unexpected sets him off. And above all, help me to lean on you when I just don't know what else to do. Amen.


  1. (i can't keep up with all of your posts :) - but i am enjoying reading them!!)
    mar - you are doing a fabulous job with o - he is such a lucky boy. hang in there, and i know you are on the right track to approach his "trying moments" just as you have listed here. i will be praying right along with you. love you

  2. I will see you in a few but just wanted to send a few {hopefully} encouraging words, here! My first thought is - could he be getting molars? Also, I think if they hit a growth spurt sometimes they are feeling generally uncomfortable and it makes them a bit more edgy. I didn't even see O start to melt at the Easter Egg hunt, but I have been there and done that so many times. M tries to hit me pretty frequently. Our pediatrician suggested letting Matthew know that it hurts but then putting him in time out and kind of give him the "cold shoulder". If he hits me in public, I do exactly what you did today (if possible), I leave. If he hits, the fun is over for him. Being a mom sure isn't easy - but you do a wonderful job!

    (P.S. I love how in the video Owen's face is like "Mom. Are you still watching me? You better still be watching me.")

  3. I have just a few minutes, but wanted to comment on this (My girls are currently upstairs trashing my 2nd floor, so I may end up with only 30 seconds!)

    I'm on my third round of dealing with the terrible 2s. (Chloe's never really ended, but that is another story entirely) What I can say from experience is that kids just simply go through "funks" - just like adults often do. Who knows if it's really teeth, some sort of sickness, just waking up on the wrong side of the crib, growth spurt, hormone changes, lack of sleep or something - But generally it ebbs and flows.

    All kids are different, so you have to find out/do what works for you and O. My oldest is a generally complaint cooperative child, but boy oh by, he had his moments and quite often. I often left events and gatherings because he wasn't playing nice, or cooperating, or was behaving badly. I even once abandoned a full shopping cart at walmart because he was so terrible! He mellowed out around age 4 and is now a pretty great kid! (compared to my other two, when I'm just with him, it's like having no kids!)

    Also, I want to throw in that other friends with kids most likely don't judge. Anyone who has had a 2 year old gets it!!! Every child has fits. Every. Single. One. I know it's embarrassing, no doubt about it. Often I felt like I was leaving doing the two year old tantrum walk of shame, but you have to do what you have to do. People with kids get it! (Now, I can't vouch for people without kids, because when I had no kids I was quite the judgmental person.- not proud of it, just keeping it real!)

    I have found that for all 3 of my kids, walking away was simply the best solution. After a short while, when they start to calm down, I will redirect them into something else (it changes depending on my mood and patience level at the time) and usually they forget all about whatever their fit was about. My middle child was/is a very different scenario and doesn't redirect nearly as easily. Now that she's 3 I Tell her she can go cry in her bedroom and come out when she's done crying. I figure that lets her get her feelings/frustrations/fits out of her system and she can rejoin what is going on when she is calm. Just yesterday Jacob was unhappy and complaining about something and I told him to go this room until he was in a better mood. I said, "you're not being punished, just go up there, relax or take a nap, and come down when you feel better". He goes up there and will play with some toys, read books or lay down, and comes down happier.

    I know I'm rambling (as I often do, sorry about that) but I just want to add, that I have found once kids get to the age of reason life changes dramatically.

    When the kids start to understand "if, then" statements you can begin reasoning with them. For me, that always eliminated a lot of the fits. For example, I can say "If you eat your chicken, you can have some applesauce" (instead of just eat your chicken) Or "If you touch that again,you are going to get a time out" (instead of just don't touch it) I think it helps teach actions and consequences/ cause and effect at an early age.

    I remember with each kid when that lightbulb went on and life was a ton easier. And yes, I have NO shame in saying I motivate (aka, bribe) my kids into cooperation by providing positive reinforcements. The "If, then" statements really work like a charm with that.

    Okay, so to sum it up, hang in there. It DOES get easier, I promise. And, all the hard work, consistency, frustration, struggles, battles, etc, are SO worth it if you stick to your guns and lay the law down. When they figure out YOU are the boss and you don't budge, it paves the way for a really enjoyable, cooperative kid.

  4. It's hard being a parent but I wanted to say, I see you doing a great job with Owen. Some days are going to better than others. I know you love Owen and it shows. He loves you too. Keep doing what you are doing and Owen will turn out just fine. I love you.

  5. I think you are a wonderful mother Mary!!

    Evie has had some awful tanturms and I must say the most embarrasing one was in a very quiet library. Nothing like having to beat a hasty retreat with a screaming child :)

    Please don't ever feel embarrased about a tantrum around us moms, we understand! Hope things have been going better. I think Evie is out of the bad tantrum stage, but has moved into the sassy mouth stage (I'm guessing this will last until she is in her twenties...) Good luck & know that we are here for you :)