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11-month-old throwing temper tantrums

July 2003

i am very concerned and don't know what to do. my sweet 11 mo. old boy has recently started throwing temper tantrums and will lash out with aggression. he is never around this kind of behavior nor does he watch it on tv. if he can't have something he wants or do something he wants he will scream an ear piercing scream and will hit or try to push me away. he has grabbed other kids ears and hair in anger and scratched his playmate the other day. is this normal for a baby his age and how should these incidents be handled. so far i have tried to be consistent and not give in to his tantrums but i am at a loss as to what to do about the aggression. thanks in advance for your advice!


Sounds like a typical one-year-old boy you've got there. At aroung 11 months we started teaching our son the word ''gentle, be gentle'' In quiet moments I would stroke his face gently as I repeated the word. I would take his hand and guide it to caress my face and then caress his own face with his hand while repeating ''gentle'' By the time he was about 13 months he was still wild but he knew the meaning of the word so he would make a game out of pating me, his dad, and our dog ''gently.'' I think it is o.k. to say ''NO'' sternly if he is particularly harsh in the moment or if it involves another child. Look him in the eyes and say ''no hitting'' etc... Also there is nothing worse than a parent who does not apologize to the parent whose child was just hit or bitten. anon

12-month-old's temper tantrums?

Dec 2003

I am perplexed. My very even-tempered, happy baby has suddenly (like within the last three days) begun to have what sure look like little temper tantrums. She will be playing happily, and then suddenly she wants something and will throw herself face first on the floor and scream. Is this normal at the tender age of 12 months? Is it just a side affect of a growing sense of will? Or could it be the affect of teething? Any great learned wisdom out there? kris


Hi there- I EXPERIENCED THE EXACT SAME THING!!! My son who is now almost 14 months started doing that too- throwing tantrums like he was having the terrible twos or something. I was at a loss for what to do and how to deal with it and a good friend of mine said that really you should (as long as they aren't hungry or tired) ignore it when they scream and fuss for nothing and really limit your reaction. Also when they calm down, talk soothingly to them and say how scary that must have been to be soooo upset. It is difficult to do, but if you are trying to cook dinner and your son is screaming (happens to me) just talk to him and explain what you are doing and when you can, pick him up and reassure him and tell him its ok. Once he has gotten his fill of mommy time, he most likely will go play for awhile by himself... good luck and let me know what happens! Shaana
It seems like all the perfectly sweet babies we know, including our own, started throwing fits at between 10-15 months. We try not to react to the tantrums, since we don't want to reinforce that behavior, but try to direct her energy and avoid the tantrums if possible, otherwise just deal with it and let her be angry for a moment. It got a little worse (e.g., head banging, gymnastic back arches) before it got better. janet
hi, my baby is 13 months and increasingly cries when we take something she wants or wants something and we can't/won't give it to her (it's not safe is the usual reason).

I think part of it is they are older and smarter and frustrated that they can communicate better what they want, are not as easily distracted as before and don't get why they can't have what they want.

However, my partner and i are very firm about it, we never give her something if she is crying, tell her why she can't have it but also feel free to comfort her so she doesn't feel sad anymore. We see very positive results in that the crying stops and she doesn't use that to communicate as much as before. We also see what looks like ''fake crying'' where she cries or wails - looks at us to gauge our reaction and either stops or escalates! it's comical sometimes. But in general she is a great baby and understands more than kids are often given credit for.

don't feel guilty about being firm. i have witnessed the disaster of kids who weren't taught to be patient or not to cry/whine and it marks the rest of their childhood! i think the transition from infancy to toddler-hood is very important for parents to make. you can't give in to them and you have to guide and teach them to understand which behaviors are ok and which aren't. it will only get worse if you don't learn to be firm now! good luck


16-month-old's holding breath tantrums

Oct 2003

Last week a friend's very energetic, strong-willed 16mo daughter held her breath during a tantrum, as she often does. The difference was that this time, she fainted and her breathing was then very shallow. She did not revive until 10 minutes later, when woke up because she vomited. 911 arrived, and she is now okay, but...

Has this (breath holding during tantrums) happened to anyone out there? If so, how did you deal with it? My friend had been trying not to give her daughter too much attention during her tantrums, but due to this terrifying experience, she is now completely at a loss as to what to do if her daughter does this again...which she most likely will. My friend is looking for any advice and/or resources about how to best parent her daughter and keep her safe! trying to help


Our daughter did this, and it is scary. But, it is harmless. The reason they faint is because they need to breathe. Once they pass out, they begin to get air again. What worked for us was to remain totally calm, both before and after the episode. We would hold her while she was having a tantrum, sing a soft song, and say, ''listen to Mommy sing. Can you hear mommy sing?'' This would catch her attention, and she would often calm down, trying to hear the song. Or we would say, ''there goes the train/bus/dog...do you hear it? Listen.'' As she gets older, she may continue to hold her breath as a way of making her parents freak out, so it is very important for them not to react and for them to know that it is not harming her to faint. And our daughter did grow out of it by the age of three. Breathless in Berkeley
My second son, a very active, bright and intense 15 month old, is a breath holder. He has been having cyanotic breath holding spells (versus pallid spells) since he was 4 months old. He has held his breath long enough to become unconcious on many occasions. He cries once or twice, holds his breath, becomes ghostly pale, turns blue around the mouth and either regains his breathing or passes out. He passes out for a minute or so. After an episode it takes several minutes for his breathing and color to return to normal, he sweats profusely and he often wants to sleep. Anger, frustration or pain are always the trigger. He has never thrown up during an episode.

We recently had our son evaluated by a neurologist at Children's Hospital. The evaluation included an EEG and an exam and discussion with a neuroligist. As our pediatrician thought, he is normal and healthy. Seizure disorders and apnea have been ruled out. In time he will outgrow this behavior. 4 to 5 percent of children are breath holders. It tends to run in families, although nobody in my family or my husband's family has ever exhibited this behavior. Nobody in our family has our son's temperment though. Most kids outgrow it by the time they are 4 years old and most begin doing it around 6 months old. This year, a time of frustration, falling down and inablity to communicate, will probably be the worst. Breath holding and the resulting unconciousness, can lead to a seizure. This does not necessarily mean the child has a seizure disorder.

I would recommend that your friend ask her pediatrician for a referral to a neurologist. Breath holding, especially if the child passes out, is extremely upsetting to everyone in the family. It gets us every time. Aside from peace of mind, one useful bit of information we learned from the neurologist, is to lie our son down while he is holding his breath. An episode can be shortened when the heart is level with the brain. We had always held him upright in our arms. Also, remain calm, advice that I can't seem to take. Even knowing he's going to be okay, it's so upsetting to see my little boy pale and limp in my arms.

If your friend would like to talk, I'd be happy to go into more detail on my recent experience with the neurologist or just lend support. kari


17-month-old's dinnertime tantrums

Nov 2003

My 17 month old daughter has in the last 2 weeks suddenly erupted into daily tantrums, mostly around me either preparing food or eating food myself (especially at dinner). I have tried several approaches: including her in my activities by pulling her stool up to the counter (works pretty well for a while but obviously can't be used when I sit down to eat myself), playing a short video (rapidly losing its appeal), bringing out a special mealtime basket of novel toys (rapidly losing its appeal), simply ignoring her (recipe for quick escalation) and putting her in her room for a brief time out(surefire way to bring on a full-fledged freak-out). Sigh. I am getting very discouraged. My husband and I decided this morning that we'll try having dinner after she goes to bed for a few weeks and then see if she's ready to join us again, but in the meantime, I'm awfully confused about the whole separation anxiety + tantrum thing: It seems to me that what is setting her off is not having my undivided attention. Is this something I should be sympathetic to in the name of separation anxiety (which she clearly is feeling right now) or is it more a bid for power? Or some combination of both? It seems wrong (and highly ineffective) to restrict access to me as a way of ''disciplining'' her if what is setting her off is separation anxiety. Or am i just being too much of a softie?


Just a few things that came to mind when I saw your post: First, it seems that around 18 months, and again around 30 months (the ''half-years'') seem to be when children's behavior becomes most difficult to deal with, so your daughter's right on target. Second, I don't think you're too much of a softie. Everything reasonable I've read suggests that at 18 months, most ''discipline'' involves avoiding the conflict in the first place, and distracting once it's happened, rather than providing consequences (like time-outs)-- kids are simply too young to understand the latter most of the time. Third, my husband and I only recently started eating dinner with my 30 month old son; before that, he just couldn't sit still long enough. He'd finish his dinner in half the time it took me, and start begging me to come play, and misbehaving to get my attention. So I think eating dinner after your daughter's asleep is probably the best plan for now. Finally, during the meal preparation part of the problem -- is there any chance your daughter's hungry? My son, normally a sweet, easy-going child, totally melts down if he's at all hungry -- his personality completely changes. Just some thoughts. Karen
I highly recommend two books that may be helpful to you. The first one I read when I was getting a Masters in Education and the second I found when my baby was born.

1. Positive Discipline by Nelson
2. The Discipline Book by Dr. Sears ( Ch 5 is called ''Taming Temper Tantrums'' Michelle


I feel your pain with the tantrums! Yesterday my daughter had her 18 month doctor's appointment and I was assured that this is developmental and that she's coming into her own and learning that she's an independent person but feeling a little freaked out by it. I've chosen to adjust my reaction to her tantrums to the situation at hand. If it is possible for me to stop what I'm doing and comfort her, I will. If I can talk to her about what's going on (''I'm just going to used the potty'') I'll do that. But if I can't respond immediately, (I'm scrambling eggs and she's trying to be picked up) I don't. I admit that on occasion, I've even threatened to put her straight to bed if she didn't settle down. I've even raised my voice and said ''Enough!'' and believe it or not it sort of startles her into quiet and then I explain what I'm doing and when I'll be able to attend to her. I'm not a model parent. I lose my patience and I get frustrated. Maybe not having a consistent response is not the best approach but for now it is working for us. I hope that she learns that I will do what I can when I can but that once I've reached my limit, then that's that. I guess my thought is, I don't experience her tantrums the same way every time so it's hard for me to react the same way.

Anyway, about not eating with your daughter, that's a tough call. My daughter and I don't always eat at the same time in large part because we don't eat the same things. I can see where in the short run it might make mealtimes more pleasant to feed your daughter first. I also can see how it might be beneficial to struggle through this until she get's out of this stage so that she'll see mealtime as family time. I've decided that I'm going to try and do better about eating together even if we're not eating the same thing. Good luck. Alicia


My daughter (20 months at the time) started throwing tantrums right after we moved. After a few months of my being distracted with selling and buying a home, and the packing and unpacking of boxes, she began to throw full-fledged, throwing herself on the floor, screaming and kicking, tantrums. It's as though she had had enough and decided to try a new approach to getting our attention. Everything I read said not to give her attention for the negative behavior.

So after making sure that she could not get hurt by anything around her, I just pretended to ignore her, all the while watching her out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes it was just a 15 second one. The worst was probably two or three minutes long. After she was finished, she was in a normal or even good mood. It was as though she felt a ''phew...got that out of my system'' kind of thing out of it. But in the meantime, I was afraid my neighbors would think I was beating my child.

After two weeks of this behavior with no change, I decided to change my approach. Since this might be her call for more attention, I decided to devote an entire day to having fun with her. Everything was about her. We went to a Kindergym class. We played at the park. We did whatever she wanted to do - fun stuff I knew she liked. She slept well that night (no tantrums). And after that, I just made sure she got uninterrupted Mommy time every day just to make sure. So far, no more tantrums.

Your child's tantrums may be coming on at dinnertime because it's late in the day and she just can't take it anymore. And so then...there she blows! Good luck and hang in there. This is a frustrating time for them because they KNOW what they want, but they're not always able to communicate it to us. Mama who can't wait for the verbal skills to improve!


Try one of those high chairs that fastens to the table and place a make-up mirror in front of your toddler, out of reach, of course. My daughter suddenly began enjoying mealtimes when she could watch herself eat. MEG

18-month-old hurting herself in crib during tantrums

June 2006

My 18-month-old has gone to sleep pretty painlessly since she was about 5 months old, but recently she has been having a harder time saying goodbye and ending the day. We have a ritual of reading, nursing, and singing, but she has now begun asking for things - a different book, singing songs again, choosing different stuffed animals - as delay tactics. When it's time for me to leave, she says, ''no no no!'' and begins to throw a tantrum, which usually involves jumping, banging the crib and sometimes falling and hitting her head, or banging her mouth. I took the crib bumpers out long ago and there is nothing to protect her. If I go back in because I think she hurt herself, it is harder when I leave and she starts the tantrum again. Is there anything I can do to make the crib safer that won't allow her to climb out? Should we switch her to a bed? Is this just a passing phase? Thanks for any advice Anon


You might consider switching to a pack n play, and not putting it directly against any furniture or walls. Good luck! anon
Check out the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy kid - the Weissbluth book - it mentions the crib/head-banging stuff. My 2.5yr old did this for a while and it broke my heart, but after MANY nights of responding and the family basically falling apart from lack of sleep I realized 1) that he wasn't really injured (no big bruises, no bleeding lips) and 2) that for the health of all involved we had to get through this, so I left the house and let my husband listen for a few nights and it did pass. It was a phase. Our son also hit his head against the floor when he was mad. Our doctor promised that it would pass and it did. It helped a lot when he learned a few words and each jump in his language skills has equated with a decrease in teh crazy tantrums - even as he enters his twos.

I think I heard somewhere that you can duct tape pillows to the side of the crib, but I wasn't sure how safe that would be once they did fall asleep. If possible I'd let her work it out for a few nights and see if she calms down. Also - I figured out only after a while that a lot of the loud bumps I was hearing was actually my son lying on his back and slamming his feet onto the mattress rather than slamming his head. Feet were a lot easier to deal with. I feel for you - these fiesty kids are tough to parent but I keep thinking, they're going to be really dynamic, motivated and wonderful adults. Best of Luck mama of a slamming rock and roller


She seems to be delaying you leaving, not delaying going to bed. Could you bring some reading for yourself and sit with her instead of leaving the room (maybe with a little booklight, or even sit with a little candle that would be bright enough for you but still relaxing for her)? There will be plenty of days in the future when she doesn't want you around, this is a chance to add another bit to your already nice routine you described. We had friends who did this with their sons (who were fearful of them leaving) - after their routine, the father sat in the doorway reading to himself. He wasn't ''held hostage'' and his kids had the comfort of his presence in the doorway.

She may not hurt herself but she may, and worrying about head lumps right at bedtime is not conducive for a peaceful evening. Good luck, Shannon


Two-year-old's tantrums, and we just had twins

Dec 2006

I have a 2 year old son. His behavior has changed over the last 3 months and I need help with two specific things. I'm not surprised he has changed (we just had twins, we got a new nanny to help me, he entered day care, he is 2, etc), so I know things will be hard for a bit, but I'm not sure how best to handle these changes.

1.) He is whiny a lot and cries a lot of the time. He was never like this before. He was only cranky when he was sick. We do the ''use your words'' bit and the ''I can't hear you when you are whining'', but it doesn't seem to have any long term impact and sometimes not even short term. Sometimes these episodes turn into all out tantrums where he screams and cries for long period of time. We have tried the time out, the staying calm and trying to talk him through, the sitting there with him screaming on our lap...all without much success. Sometimes it goes on so long, he completely loses control of himself all together. Obviously dealing with this while nursing twins is a bit hard.

2.) He is waking up a lot during the night. Most of the time, he just calls out Mommy or Daddy and we go to him and he goes back to sleep. Sometimes, he calls out, we go and then he does this again 45 minutes later. Some nights, this repeats over and over. After a few hours, we bring him into bed, where he sometimes sleeps and sometimes stays awake and keeps up awake. We haven't tried letting him cry it out because he used to wake up screaming and we taught him to ask for Mommy or Daddy rather then screaming so now we feel we should honor his request for us. Again, having to handle this while getting up 2 times a night for the twins, is difficult to say the least.

So, I am looking for strategies to handle this during this transition time and any information on how long it all might last. He seems like to like the twins (gives them things, talks about them, smiles at them), but since his behavior changed pretty much when they showed up, I don't know if this is the terrible two's or sibling/mommy attention issues.

Thanks in advance Mom of now three


2-year old tantrums - aren't they special? here's what we did, and they disappeared after about a week or so. i told her mommy had a hard time understanding what she was saying, so please use a calm clear voice. i never discussed whining or crying. if she didn't respond with a calm clear voice, she didn't the first few times, i knelt close to her, touched her gently and lovingly said in her ear that i was sorry she was having a hard time and i would love to help her sort it out, so when she was ready for my help i would be at x (like sitting in the next room) reading my book and she could come get me. it helped if i had a snack ready to go, like a graham cracker or fruit leather (something that would boost blood sugar level pretty quick) to offer her. good luck julia
Wow! You have your hands full and it sounds like your little one does too with all the changes. Have you read Happiest Toddler on the Block by Karp? Some great communication tools for toddlers. He has a very different approach that emphasizes talking to them at THEIR level. Feels kind of goofy at first, but we've seen some good results. Best of luck Anon

26-month-old wants it both ways

July 2003

My 26-month-old son has recently started displaying a very difficult ''terrible two'' symptom. When faced with a choice of two mutually exclusive alternatives (''I'm finished with my meal and want to get down'' versus ''I want to stay at the table and eat''), he seems to want both of them (when he's sitting at the table he wants down, when I try to help him down he wants to stay up) -- and keeps noisily demanding the one he's currently not getting. This is very frustrating for me -- the only two methods I've found to deal with it are ignoring him (and it can go on for a very long time), or just making one of the choices for him (pretty much guaranteed to result in a tantrum). Neither seems to me like the way I want to handle it, but I can't seem to think of a better solution. Talking to him and explaining that he needs to make a decision simply doesn't work. I know this is normal toddler behavior -- they just don't know how to make decisions yet (this is after all a pretty complex cognitive skill). What I am looking for are tips and strategies for smoothing out this difficult stage, helping him to make a choice when he gets stuck in one of these ''I want it both ways'' ruts, while minimizing the tantrums for him and the stress for me. Karen


One answer: read ''Becoming the parent you want to be'' by Laura Davis and Janice I-forget-her-last-name. Wonderful book that helps you find your own way of dealing with difficult behavior. The library should have it. m
What they want, it is their way of experimenting with control. ''I want down, Mommy fusses over me, I want up, Mommy fusses over me. I want...''

Baby will learn very fast if you make clear, age appropriate rules, for example Leaving the dinner table equals no more food. You say ''if you get down, you're done eating, Do you want to stay and eat, or get down and no more food?'' Let's say he decides to get down then throws a fit because you wont pick him back up. Have someone else (dad...) take him outside or to a differant room to calm him dowm and distract him. Finish your dinner. Later If he is still hungry have dad or you feed him a business-like meal (so he is nourished) after just a couple of times he will learn that in this particular situation tabtrums are not tolerated. IF IT NO LONGER SERVES HIM HE WILL STOP! I was at dinner once w/ my 2.5 yr old niece. she was doing the same thing. Grandma said ''if you continue Im taking you out to the car.'' (not a big deal to our adult minds but toddler want to be whare the action is) Grandma ended up taking her out 2 times kicking and screaming (for 3-4 minutes untill she calmed down). The second time she was brought back in she was an angel, and her effort to behave, in order to stay part of the family fun, was clear. anon


My 2.5 year old does the same thing. She wants the piglet toothbrush and when I bring that she wants the tigger one and can have a tantrum over something like that. Or it could be that she is supposed to get in the bathtub and wants to get in herself, but isn't getting in and so I say that I will put her in, but she wants to get in herself, but doesn't and this loop can continue. However, I have noticed that this primarily occurs when she is tired. When she is not tired it is still hard for her to make a decision: she could spend 10 minutes staring and trying to figure out which toothbrush to use if offered a choice. (Of course, you're aching to say JUST PICK Oneat this point). So I just say ok this one and this is her prompt to choose the other one and she is happy with that decision.

So, I believe that decisions really are hard and yet she wants it to be her own decision. When she is not tired she can handle the weight of it all and when she is tired, she just can't. At times like those, I try to keep my voice as relaxed as possible, move things along before I get mad even if I have to take charge of the decision, and when I have my wits about me try to make it funny ( a song about it, a monkey that howls and scratches and then becomes aware and says sorry, a towel on the floor that is a yellow brick road, etc. and a kiss or hug usually help) before a tantrum has time to set in.

All that said it is extremely taxing and one of the things that makes taking care of a toddler depleting even if they are so cute and lovable. Anon


Our toddler also does the ''yes'' then ''no'' type behavior. We call it the ^Qpush-pull^R and it can get really rough. It started benignly enough, and we would allow him to try different alternatives to each and every issue. Then we realized that it had turned into a way to manipulate us, particularly when he gets embarrassed, scolded, or caught off guard. We sought some advice from a person who works in early childhood development. She told us to limit choices and act on his first choice. We still allow him to make decisions, and then let him live with the consequences. So, for example, if he says he doesn^Rt want anymore dinner, then dinner is taken away ^V and that is the end of it. After a few tantrums, he started looking for other ways to express himself (we encourage him to use words and he is getting pretty good at that). Good luck! pushme pullyou Mom
If your toddler is simultaneously demanding two mutually exclusive options, offer him a third! If he both wants down from the table and to keep eating, suggest that he go play with his trains -- or whatever positive alternative that will distract him from the impossible situation. It really works when done with enthusiasm! Good Luck!
Until he is older and can actually choose, maybe deciding for him without his really knowing it might work and avoid a tantrum. It's a bit more work for you but what would happen if you say ''It looks like your finished eating and want to get down now. So, lets go play with the fill in the blank.'' You are articulating for him the experience you think he is having and providing him with a distraction from the thing he is giving up (sitting at the table) with something fun! He often really does want both things (I think we have that experience alot too) but he doesn't have the frustration tolerance to give anything up. Sometimes we don't either. Hence I want to have my cake and eat it too!! good luck another mom
Oooooh! I remember this! My older daughter used to drive me crazy with this! I will bask in a moment of ''I'm so glad I don't have a toddler anymore'' then give two pieces of advice ... OK, 1) try as much as possible to let him make the decision and act on it, e.g. put him in a chair instead of a high chair so he can get down or up on his own. Part of what he's reacting to is an aversion to his dependency on you -- he wants to do it himself. Of course then you'll have to deal with him getting in and out of the chair over and over again ... 2) distract! distract! distract! Most kids this age have very short attention spans, but they do get stuck in a rut & you need to interrupt that repetitive behavior. If you must make a choice for him, e.g. lifting him out of his chair, ask him a question or make a joke or say something silly. I've headed off tantrums by saying in a loud voice ''Oh my god! Look at that!'' And then when I had her attention either making something up or saying ''never mind'' ... the point is to grab their attention so they forget what they were about to pitch a fit over. TTSP! (This Too Shall Pass) Good luck! Melinda

How to deal with 2.9 yo's tantrums

June 2004

I have, until recently (the last month or two) had what I thought was the easiest toddler in the world. At 2 yrs, nine mo. however, she is the epitomy of a ''terrrible two.'' I'm at my wit's end. Everything is a battle. And it's random. This morning, when she woke up, she said good morning to me as she always does, then when I went to open the curtains, she started screaming and crying telling me not to. When I told her not to scream and to talk to me that way, it made it worse. I told her I would come back to get her out of bed when she could calm down and speak to me nicely. That didn't work either. She screamed for 20 minutes and finally climbed out of her crib for the first time. I have tried reasoning with her. I've tried distraction. I've tried taking things and things to do away. She doesn't seem to care. ''Time outs'' don't work. She just follows me around screaming. I am at a loss. I stay at home with her (have been for almost 2 yrs now) and there isn't a day that goes by that she doesn't have some kind of fit. Some days it's all day long. I could go on and on....

The things that have changed recently are that she doesn't see some of her relatives as much as she used to, for logistical reasons they just don't come around as much. She's in the middle of potty training. Also, she is trying to give up her naps. Other than that life goes on pretty much the same as it has. I need some guidance. Some days it's all I can do to keep from walking out the door. desperate mom


Just know that you're not alone-- our 2.5 year old is behaving the same way. I, too thought maybe we wouldn't have the terrible twos, but it hit with a vengeance about 2 months ago. What I have learned is that it's all about control and they are just starting to understand how little control they have over their environments. So when I say, ''Let's change your diaper'' and he says no, I say, ''Okay, tell me when you're ready to change it and we'll do it.'' And within 3 minutes he's ready and there's no battle. Also I think it's important to acknowledge the feelings, like ''Oh, you don't want me to open the curtains right now? OK. Why not?'' Then they at least feel like their expressions of needs are being heard (no matter how ridiculous they seem to us).

Granted, these ideas don't work for us all the time, and even my husband who is Mr. Patience is starting to lose it sometimes. But my friends with older kids assure me that he will outgrow this stage, probably by the time he's 3 (6 months away!! yikes!). Good luck. Like I said, you're not alone. anon


Ah, the twos! It can be so exasperating for parents. I have a 2.5 year old myself and an older child. I feel for you. I hope other respondents will recommend good books, as nothing comes to mind right now. When kids are this age they get a new spurt of wanting to do things on their own, trying their independence, yet desperately need to know that you are still there. They are also limited by how few words they have for expressing their feelings and what they can do physically, and sometimes their frustration builds up so much that they scream! What I try that works best is to try and put myself in my child's shoes. How would I feel if I so desparately wanted to do this particular thing by myself and couldn't, or if I wanted to say what was boiling up in me and couldn't find the words or my parent didn't understand me? I must say that many times I fail and get impatient or short with her, yet I always feel bad about those times and they aren't helpful. What I find works best is to stay connected, not to walk away or leave her alone, to keep a bit of a distance if that is what she wants, but to see if picking her up after some of the storm has passed and hold her, rock her, will help. I try to follow her leads through the storm, and try to feed back what she is feeling: You are so frustrated that you couldn't do ....., that makes you really angry. Or if there is a way that I can let her do what she wanted, I'll give it a try if it is safe. Sometimes it has to do with wanting to do something herself and I did it too quickly for her. Yes, usually it is unreasonable, meaning, not following reason, it is emotion at its most raw, and it is hard to stay with it. Sometimes it seems this emotion just needs to be released, it could be a build-up of the whole day. I also always wonder if she is hungry or tired, and try to take care of her needs, if not in the middle of the storm, than shortly after.

You wrote there are some other things going on, relatives not visiting as often, potty training and outgrowing naps. These are all BIG things for a little child. Is there any way the relatives could come around a bit more often during this turbulent time? Or are there others you could reach out to for some company, play time. Is it time to start a playgroup for her with you and other moms? Outgrowing naps and learning to use the potty are big steps and can stress her out. It is not easy to learn something new, and going without a nap usually means being tired (cranky, etc) for some of the day. Also what I tell myself is: this is just a stage, it will pass! I try to breathe and do whatever I can to stay calm, and remember that it has very little to do with me. Also I try to give myself space to experiment a bit. What helps, what makes it worse? (For example, staying close or giving some distance, singlng, distracting, or just staying present with the tantrum.) Finally, I learned some interesting tools, or perhaps an accepting attitude from some booklets by Patty Wipfler, from the Parents Leadership Institute. They are at 650 332-LEAD, and www.parentleaders.org. They have a packet of 6 or so pamphlet for $7 with one booklet on Tantrums. The packet is called ''Listening to Children'' and you might find it helpful. Anyway, my heart goes out to you, and please know that you are not alone in this stage of your child's life. ym


Dear Mom-- Your daughter is turning three! It is not the terrible twos, but the terrible threes. Read the book titled ''Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy?''. My children never experienced the terrible twos, but the threes were really hard. Get the book! Been there, too
My daughter is 22mo and she too will follow me around the house screaming, that is if daddy's not around. I can tell her no and she loses all control of her emotions. I too feel somedays of wanting to give up. My husband is very supportive but he doesn't see our daughter that way very much, as I stay home with her. I'm told that she is just testing the limits. I'm supposed to give her choices but after two or three tries of helping her get what she is asking for, then stop and say no. An example is that she will say she wants milk. Not until after I've already poured the milk, she'll change her mind and say No, no Mommy, want juice. This irks me to no end as she'll go back and forth, like a game. Ocassionally I will just give her both :) She then pauses a moment and says, No, no Mommy, want water....she doesn't even like water. I feel for the moms who go through this. Days seem like they drag when our little ones don't get their way. Hang in there. Blessings. Tina
Hi there, First, I want to commend you for not losing you temper with your daughter and for trying to understand why she might be acting this way, as well as coming up with constructive ways to deal with her behavior. Parenting is not easy (especially without the instruction manual at birth!) and it is a learning process for both sides. I am not a professional child psychologist; I do have a bachelor's degree in psychology and have a 10 year old myself, but you may want to seek the advice of a professional if your daughter's behavior gets worse. The last thing you want to do is encourage this type of response from her for a prolonged period of time so that it becomes more engrained in her personality versus getting through a temporary phase that she will outgrow (which I believe is the case currently). It sounds to me that your daughter is not responding to your direct approach at setting boundaries. This is why the time outs, telling her not to talk to you in particular ways, telling her to go to her room, etc. aren't working. Instead, I think the key may be to set the boundaries indirectly, or at least less overtly so that she doesn't feel so threatened by them. Perhaps, she is responding to some change(s) occurring in your lives and is displacing her anger in these particular situations with you. If that's the case, changing the way you interact with her when trying to correct her behavior seems like it would help remedy the situation. In concrete terms: Ease off trying to reason with her so directly since she is responding so negatively towards it. Don't tell her not to scream or not to talk to you that way. Instead, try to encourage her positive behavior when she is good by rewarding her (e.g., give her a favorite dish, dessert, toy, take her on a favorite outing, etc.) Start little rewards for the little, good behaviors, then move to bigger rewards for the behavior you'd definitely like to stay, like the cease-yelling. For example. when she wakes up in the morning and says good morning to you, pause, give her a hug and smile and reward her for saying good morning. Now that she's distracted with her reward (a toy or snack) open the curtains slowly and if she doesn't respond negatively, reward her again by promising an outing or her favorite breakfast. If she is not fully distracted and starts to get angry, don't open the curtains just yet and come up with a completely new distraction (''I think there are birds outside!'' Oh! I think I see a cat!'') Then, reward her if she comes over to open the curtains, but especially if she calms down. The fact is, you can always open the curtain when she's out of the room if it means avoiding a fight. The timing of your response and rewards are critical because you don't want to positively reinforce her negative behavior. It may be hard in the beginning but try making adjustments until it works. And definitely reward her for talking/interacting with you in a respectful way, whether it's hugs and kisses or playing with her for a moment because she spoke nicely to you. Ultimately you will decrease your rewarding of the little displays of good behavior and just concentrate on the rewarding of the bigger displays of good behavior. Also, this change needs to be consistent with all of her care providers, including your family, so as to give her the consistent message. However, if a strong and solid trial of these types of changes don't instigate a dramative change in your daughter, I would strongly recommend a visit to a professional to seek out the cause of her behavior. I hope this helps and wish you the best of luck. Hang it there! PJ
I have a 2 year old toddler as well, and I think some tantrums are inevitable (and normal). I recently bought a book called the Happiest Toddler on the Block, a sequel to the Happiest Baby on the Block, written by Dr. Karp, an LA pediatrician. The Happiest Baby on the Block really helped us with our daughter's fussiness as an infant, so I thought it was worth trying this book. It has some excellent suggestions on how you can communicate with your toddler on her level to let her know you are listening to her, even if you can't always give her what she wants. He also describes why a lot of tactics like reasoning or distracting don't work terribly well when a toddler is melting down. I've found some of the techniques he suggests work really well, although it's a little hard to describe them concisely. Good luck! vali
Dear Desperate Mom: Your child's behaviors are NORMAL! Taking privileges away and other forms of punishment are not a good idea. If the giving up of the nap is making her too tired to function, she may not be ready to give it up (my three year old still naps -- a lot). If you can stand it, the best advice I have is to stay quietly nearby -- so she knows she's safe and that you're available -- and let it happen. Three is the time of needing things to be exactly how you need them to be, regardless of how you needed the same things yesterday or even ten minutes ago. So she's not late on the two's; she's early on the threes (which lasts more than a year). Please try to keep whatever patience you have. I have two daughters, 3 and 5, and they still have the need to melt down regularly. Keeping your cool will help your child regain composure. Good luck! Laurel
Being a toddler is exciting and challenging and also scarey and frustrating. There are so many new things to learn and do, so many things they still can't do. And so many feelings and emotions that they just can't express yet. My 2.9 year old daughter was a having a fit the other day because I did something for her and she was screaming ''I wanted to do it!'' So I said, ''Okay, honey, you can do it.'' and she wailed, ''But I can't!!'' Very frustrating. Sometimes you just have to ride out a tantrum and be sympathetic. Don't you sometimes get pissed off and want to rant and rave about it to someone and just have them listen? So, when she does have a tantrum, you can help her express her feelings and also give her guidance in the appropriate way to do that. ''I understand that you're mad at mommy for opening the blinds, but I don't like it when you hit me and I don't want you to do it again.'' I think timeouts and punishments will only lead to more anger and frustration. While you can't control a tantrum, sometimes you can manage to head them off. First and foremost, make sure your toddler is well-rested and well-fed. Nothing leads to a tantrum faster than a hungry, tired toddler. Second, keep your child informed about your plans and actions. ''I'm going to open the blinds now so we can start our day.'' ''When you're done with that puzzle we'll have a snack.'' Third, give your toddler choices they can handle whenever possible. ''Would you like to wear the pink shirt or the yellow?'' ''Would you like a peanut butter sandwich or a hot dog?'' They like to feel in control of their lives, but too much control or choice is scarey! Finally, make sure your toddler knows that no matter how much they can do, no matter how independent they are, and no matter how impossible they are at times, that mommy/daddy/caregiver will always love them and be there for them.
Hi there- This could have been my post 4 months ago (in fact, it was! and I didn't get any really helpful feedback, so I decided to write about my experiences)

My son is 3.5, and when he turned 3-seemingly to the day-he went through a Jekyll and Hyde sort of transformation from my ultra- sweet 2 year old to this tantrum-ridden, willful, difficult little boy. Like yours, my son was transitioning from 3 hours naps to none (?!), our family pet had died, and the nanny had left to have her own baby. Some days my son would have 2 to as many as 4 tantrums. I was very unhappy (between the pet, my own ill health at the time, and the lack of support) it was a pretty stressful time for both of us.

To make a long story short, we finally had two show downs-one in the car, when he started having a tantrum and I snapped- I just said (very loudly) STOP, STOP, STOP. I was so afraid I was going to get into an accident with this major distraction going on, and I was unable to pull over at the time. He *instantly* stopped. The second instance was at 3:30a.m. when he threw a tantrum, and with no resources in the middle of the night to draw on, I followed his tantrum with a tantrum of my own (to my shame, admittedly). Incredibly, these two instances seemed to give him some sort of boundary to operate from-the tantrums stopped entirely almost immediately.

I had been reading voraciously - and I was trying to employ every tool I could learn of (the best I read was Positive Discipline by Nelson, which I found quite helpful once we got beyond the tantrums). Like you, time outs didn't work for him-I finally started giving myself time outs - saying I needed time to ''cool down'' (which I did!). In any case, I am convinced it was 1) a stage we simply had to go through and 2)it was *very* helpful when I finally figured out that if my son took a very early and brief nap (no later than 12:30, and up again at 1:30pm) he was good for the rest of the day until bedtime at 7:30 or 8:00. He definitely needs 6 hours in between getting up from his nap and going down for the night. If he doesn't have it, he will simply resist and/or sit straight up in bed bright eyed until 11pm or later... So those are my helpful tips. Thankfully, the nanny is also back, with baby in hand, and we are all a much happier, more settled family once again. Good luck-there is an end in sight- been there


Sounds like you've got a text-book toddler. Here are some tips that helped me through this phase (although I had the Terrible Threes''):

* Remember that she's supposed to be acting this way. It's developmental. She can't help it. It's her nascent self coming out of her total dependency on you. Celebrate it. Laugh.

* Pick your battles! She's going to battle you on everything, so only go to the mat when it's important. She doesn't want you to open the drapes? Fine. Wants to wear her pajamas to daycare? Fine. Won't get in the carseat? Not fine. Tell her what you need her to do, count to three, then pick her up and strap her in. She'll scream and cry, but tough. You're bigger. You're the mommy, and she'll very quickly realize you won't be swayed on thit particular topic. (not to worry, she'll find another).

* Keep routines. Get her up at the same time every day and with the same song. Toddlers like the SAME cereal and often a particular bowl. My daughter wouldn't eat unless she had the Magic Spoon (a regular spoon with designs on the handle). They'll only wear the Batman shirt? So have three on hand. Go ahead and let them watch the same Wiggles video over and over and over until you want to kill someone. Bedtime routines are also very important. When toddlers know what to expect out of the day, they're much more likely to go along with it.

*Distractions. Use them early, use them often. See a tantrum coming on? Sing and Dance! You might startle them out of it. Or say, ''Check out these ants!!'' and they'll forget what they were planning on protesting.

* Food! Oftentimes a cranky toddler is a hungry toddler. Always have little baggies of raisins, Cheerios, rice cakes or whatever on your person. And the little bags are a KEY part of this equation.

I hope some of this helps. I think the most important thing to remember is that this is all just a normal part of your daughter's development and it will pass. I know how exhausting and enraging it can get, especially if you don't ever get a break. But come at it with humor and understanding, and as much patience as you can muster. You'll live to tell the tale. Keep laughing! Attack of the Toddlers survivor


Hey there- It sounds like there is a lot going on with your little one. She is trying to give up her naps.....do you think she is ready or is this a way she is just trying to assert control ? I think your little one is just going through a pretty typical stage, the sleeping may be a combination of missing you and her new found will. My son tried desperately to give up his nap around two. He slept with us until he was 3.....so I am an advocate of ''nighttime parenting'', and moving him was hard, but I finally did reach the point of letting him cry duirng nap fits. It was hard, but I am so glad he still naps now and has a no hassle routine(most of the time). He is 4 now and I believe the early evenings would be harder on all of us if he gave up his nap. Whatever you decide, remember, they say the half-years are a little nutty. I am a believer! Anne NT
You might want to read ''The happiest Toddler on the Block'' by Dr Karp which talks about toddler tantrums and why they occur (they are normal for this age group) and how to deal with them. Anon
I've been through this with two kids, and I only have this to say: 2-year-olds are crazy. I mean that, they are literally insane, by any grown-up definition. That's why it doesn't do much good to reason with them, or reward them or punish them. They don't really have control of their behavior. So, how do you live with them? Well, there are certainly days when you think you can't. I used to fantasize about running away from home, maybe to Mexico, changing my name so no one could find me ... What I actually ended up doing was just enduring. My mantra -- and I actually posted this on the refrigerator -- was It Changes. When you're caught in the hell of a two- or three- year-old's meltdown you forget that it won't always be like this. It helps to read books about child development, which will reassure you that your kid is normal. It helps to vent to other parents who are going through the same or worse. It helps to get out of the house -- pop the kid in the stroller & just get out -- fresh air and exercise make everyone feel better. Two-year-olds are having an awful struggle with control -- they want to control everything and can hardly control anything. They want to do everything themselves & can hardly do anything themselves -- your daughter probably wanted to control the opening of the curtins. And they can't articulate what the problem is, so they get very frustrated & often explode. So they're basically extremely irritable for a year or two, like extended PMS.

This might be a good time for her to go to pre-school or daycare at least part-time, so you can get a break from each other & she can have a fun time with a peer group & get some additional socializing from other adults. My kids got a lot of benefits from their daycare/preschool experiences, and it probably saved my sanity. So-glad-I-don't-have-a-toddler-anymore


It may be your daughter is one for whom time outs feel like abandonment. Have you tried time-ins? I will sometimes say something to my daughter like (w/ empathy) ''Wow, you are sure having some strong feelings and because you are (crying, shouting, kicking fill in the blank) so much I can see you are having a hard time managing them. I don't want to get hurt or see you get hurt and I want to help you through this time, so I will hold you close until you feel better.'' ''It's okay to have these feelings and as you get older you will find a way to tell me what you feel. Until then we'll do this.'' And in a very nonreactive but warm/tender way I held her. if kicking I held her close and tight to communicate she had to stop. but if crying I often just had her and rocked her and stroked her. I found that she really did not have many tantrums and that this kept them from being more traumatic than just the excitement of the first self assertion or disagreement. Some times we adults lose it and chew someone out or act inappropriately, so don't judge a toddler too hard for not being able to control her emotions. I think the 'randomness' you describe is that she's feeling out her world...what can she control, what can't she. who gets to say for x, y, or z. mom or me? i don't think it's limits testing, i think it's more empirical and less emotionally frought than that. the choices thing might help here: I noticed yesterday that you got upset when I raised the shades. Today should we do it before you get out of the crib or after? would you like to help me? Good luck. it will pass! survived the twos (almost)

Husband overreacts to kids' tantrums

Oct 2004

I need some advice about what to do about my husband's reactions when one or both of our kids go into tantrum mode. We have 2 kids, ages 4 and 8, and both have tantrums at the end of the day, sometimes fighting with each other as well. Often these happen before my husband even gets home from work, but my reaction is to ride out the tantrums, separate the kids, provide diversions, and keep them well fed and rested so that they tantrums don't occur so much. His reaction, however, is to have a tantrum of his own--last night, for example, he began screaming at me about how they are manipulating us, that we need to ''get control'' of them, and how bad my parenting is. I get nowhere with him on ''temperament'' issues. I am stressed out, because I not only have to deal with the tantrums, but at the same time, have to be an advocate for the kids with my husband, who I thought would be a supportive parent. Are tantrums abnormal? I think not. Need a friend


We loved the book ''Tears and Tantrums'' by Dr. Aletha Solter. We had always felt that it was right to help a child ride out his or her tantrum rather that divert their attention, and this book shows all of the clinical research to back that up. If your husband would be willing to read it, it might help him understand that tantrums are just a part of parrenting, and it might help him approach them (and you) more compassionately. Also, she does phone consultations for $60 if, after you have read the book, you have specific questions about your own situation. It has totaly changed our relationship with our active and emotional two and a half year old fot the better. She is a lot mor emotionally secure now and, as a result, has fewer tantrums. Hope this helps, and good luck. peace
You are not alone, my husband acted the very same way. Talking to my friends that were having babies at that time, they were going through the same thing. I think it has to do with him not having as much patience as you have. Tell him if he can't handle the noise, tantrum, etc. then he needs to go somewhere else for a little while because you can't take care of two babies. I know that sounds harsh but I have been there and it's extremely difficult when the adult is acting like the kid. Never Again!
Hi-- Boy, oh boy! Have I felt the same way about the tantrums! I have one daughter, age 3, who has her end of day tantrum, too. As i'm sure most kids do. My feeling about this in regards to husbands who react similarly is that because you manage the home it's your duty to manage the emotions as well. Managing the kids emotions (an not to mention EVERYTHING else) is quite a task...and can be very draining. But, to have your husband act like he's one of the kids, too is just ridiculous and chiildish! Why not mention to him the his 'attitude' does not remedy an already stressful situation and try letting him know that the next time he tells you that you're a bad parent you're going to take a 2 hour walk and the rest of the evening is up to him. Turn the mirror...I do, and it works. It REALLY works!

Once they're faced with the decision of catering to the kid's needs and helping them cope with the wind down of the day without harming them or verbally challenging or degrading them...then maybe he'll understand that you have a method that works well because, well, he's not there often enough to take into account that you have methods for everything. Maybe he needs to stand back and take some tips from you sometime.

What else would help is if you took shifts. M, W, F for you and T, Th for him. Then on the weekends you work together. Come up with a pattern that works for the both of you, engage the kids in this new regime and see what sparks. It's fair, you're still in charge and he gets to have a hand in the difficulty of child rearing. Also, if he chooses the crap out method of having a tantrum himself make a 'Tantrum Jar'. He can contribute $5 every time he melts down and that money can go towrads you next manicure or movie of coffee! Good luck!


I'd like to suggest two books that have been very helpful. ''Magic 1-2-3'' and ''Siblings without Rivalry''. Both are very easy reads but great ideas about how to handle tantrums and other challenging behaviors. Good luck. Elizabeth
your husband is acting like a jerk. of course saying that to him probably will not help the situation. maybe you could convince him to try it from your end for a day or two, you know, have him stay home from work one day and you go out (as if you were working). maybe if he experiences it firsthand he'll gain a better understanding of how things really are. and no, tantrums are by no means abnormal.
husband who tries to see it from mom's perspective
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