I think we're "there"

I recently sent out into the ether the question,
To all you seasoned moms out there: What's the best way to deal with a tantrum from an 18mo old? Ignore? Divert? Acknowledge? Laugh? Cuddle?
I got some really good responses, too; most were to ignore him, but Laura went a step further in her explanation:
I think it really depends on why they are having the tantrum (if you can even figure that out!). If they are having a tantrum because they are doing something you don't want them to do or they want a cookie and you don't want them to have it, I think ignoring is good. If, however, they are having a tantrum because they can't express themselves ... Read more fully and are simply frustrated, I would *try* to talk through it and cuddle. It's a delicate balance though to make sure they don't get more riled up. So, if the tantrum is solely to seek attention then ignore, if they are struggling with communicating then try to help them work it out if it's not getting them more aggravated. All that said, my 3 year old still tantrums.

We've stepped fully into the toddler phase where Hollis now realizes he has preferences and with those preferences come desires and with those desires comes disappointment/anger/frustration at them not being realized.

He'll be a full 18 months on April 9th: right on track to personal identification. No longer is what Mommy wants what Hollis wants. Now Hollis wants to play in the kitchen right under the hot sauté pans, run up and touch Daddy's screaming hot motorcycle when he's arrived home, or eat nothing but cookies and slices of bread. And, of course, when these things are kept from him all holy hell breaks loose.

His first big tantrum happened last week. It was because I wouldn't let him continue to hold the water hose in any ol' direction (I had plants to water, goddammit). He'd been doing a fine job, but started to balk at my direction after about 2 plants. I kept working with him, dragging him from plant to plant, until he finally screwed up his face, flexed his entire body, and kept a death grip on the hose. I felt so sad prying it out of his little fingers, but that's just what I did. Then he plopped down and bawled his eyes out.

I honestly didn't know what to do. I almost started laughing, it was so heartbreaking and cute at the same time (that's me: I laugh when I don't know what to do). His world was over according to him, after all.

Side note: He'd been warming up to this (we'd had a similar incident a couple of days earlier) and I had handled it as if he were truly hurting. I picked him up, soothed him (of course he was having none of it), patted him, talked to him calmly. His hysterics had taken on a life of their own so I brought out the big guns: Super Paci and his sidekick, Wonder Blankie. He hiccuped and gulped around the paci and still big tears ran down his cheeks. I gave up entirely and decided to get in the car and run errands (he digs the car). That maneuver finally saved the day.

I didn't want to get back in the car like the day before so instead I decided to ignore the tantrum (not him) and see how it went. I turned the hose off and came back in the house. I left the back door open and asked him if he wanted some [soy] milk. He was plaintively sitting in the shade of the house howling at the sky. I set the milk down in the doorway and went about my business, careful to keep my eye on him.

He got up, walked a few feet to his left and sat down and cried some more. Then he got up and moved to cry in a new spot. Then another spot.

I periodically asked if he was thirsty and if so here was his milk. "No," he'd say with a fierce shake of his head.

Then, out of no where, he got up and walked to the house and patted it, made the "thirsty" sign, and toddled to his milk. That was that. Then we had lunch.

So, I think we're there, in the "Terrible Twos," but I hate calling it that. It's natural, they can't help it and yeah, it's a pain in the ass, but it's also fascinating to no end. I'm going to think of it as "The Zero Coping Skills" phase; less catchy, yes, but it will also serve to remind me that these torrential explosions of emotion aren't about Hollis being a jerk, but about him developing into a little boy. A really sweet, funny, careful, inquisitive, ambitious little boy.

Any and all tips from moms out there who've "been there, done that" are immensely welcome. What were some of your best tricks??


  1. Frustration notwithstanding, I don't see how you couldn't help but laugh at times -- especially to a scene like the last pic. It's all. so. tragic. And yet...not.

    Your childless pal with nothing helpful or empathic to offer.

  2. I have a hard time ignoring completely. I have found it to be beneficial to tell them that you understand that it is frustrating that they can't do ____; but they can't. (a little empathy goes a long way) Then I try to say something like, "When you get it all out or are ready, I'll be over here." And then I "ignore." (you know, completely listening and making sure they aren't hurting themselves while pretending to ignore them...) ;)

    The main thing is to keep your own emotions in check (almost flat-lined and factual)where they can tell that it has been decided and no amount of crying/temper tantrum throwing is going to change the outcome. I learned a lot through a program called "Parenting With Love & Logic." by Foster Cline. LOTS of great basic principles and ideas for parenting at varying stages of growth.

    Just when you master this phase another different one will begin...but it IS worthwhile. (love your blog title!)

    Thank you for your comments on my blog yesterday!