I used to think they didn't really exist, tantrums. Or perhaps my child was just too sweet, too happily adjusted, to succumb to them. Tantrums of the full blown, body thrown on the floor, heels and fists pounding, banshee-shrieking variety - these were just toddler myths of the "uphill in the snow both ways" variety, told to scare new parents into buying lots of parenting books they won't have time to read.

I mean, sure I've witnessed tantrums on tv comedies featuring stereotypically frazzled parents and dysfunctional families. And I may have caught a glimpse or two in a random Target toy aisle, fit being pitched by a dirty, snot-faced street urchin a la Oliver Twist while a harried mom with frizzy hair aims menacing threats involving a lot of under the breath "if you don't stop this instant, I'm going to..."

But in this family, we practice gentle but firm no's followed by reasonable discussions of rules and expectations that produces an agreeable, respectful child who desires and receives structure and boundaries.

We practice this for about two seconds. And then watch as Violet throws herself to the floor in a dramatic swan dive of disgust and loathing and begins to pound the floor like a prize fighter going in for the KO. And the shrieking. Oh the shrieking. Neighbors walking their dogs can be seen pausing across the street with concerned looks on their faces. Their dogs whine. Somewhere a wolf is howling in commiseration.

Because as it turns out, I have a typical two-year-old after all. Now, seeing as most of my friends don't have a child of this age yet, I don't have too much advice to go on. (Naturally, I never behaved this way as a wee lass, so I don't even have any "I told you so's" from my own mother to rely on.) So allow yourself to learn from my experience.

When such a tantrum strikes, such as this weekend's nuclear meltdown involving the wrong color snack bowl or... something, there are a few choices. I've tried all of them.

Choice One: try to physically remove your child from the situation. This involves picking them up. You have lots of practice in carrying your child - her 30-ish pounds aren't that big of a deal. You once carried her all over the grocery store while simultaneously pushing a cart full of food and juggling a cell phone.

Your child will be ready for this, however. They will go completely limp, inexplicably adding 50 pounds of dead weight to their small frame. Picking them up will be like trying to haul an 80-pound eel out of the water. It is next to impossible. If I'm ever jumped in a dark parking lot some night, I'm merely going to lay down on the ground like a dead fish - it is an insanely effective strategy.

Choice Two: attempt to reason with your child. Topics to discuss include: why you are right and they are wrong, how life is unfair, how the pink snack bowl is dirty and (fill in the blank with your treason) is actually for their own good. Use a calm, soothing voice that will hopefully be heard over the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

When this fails utterly, you may move on to distracting, cajoling, and finally, bribing. Note that the bribe should be the exact thing that caused the tantrum in the first place (oh, you wanted the pink bowl? Here, I'll wash it off, just take it!) It will be resoundingly rejected.

Choice Three: stare, flummoxed, at the red, splotchy, writhing thing your child has become. Possibly recoil in quasi-amused horror. Find your spouse so they can witness what obviously comes from their side of the family. Attempt to restrain your laughter. When that fails, physically remove yourself from the scene of the crime, lest the thing hear your laughter and try to put its grubby, snotty paws on you. Bonus points if you can make it out of the room with either a good book or ear plugs.

Return when the hurricane has finally blown itself into exhaustion and has morphed back into your sweet, loving child, albeit much snottier. Do not, under any circumstances, mention what caused the tantrum in the first place. In fact, your best bet is to just avoid eye contact altogether as you hold out a variety of peace offering snacks. In the pink snack bowl. Because you are not an idiot.


  1. I am sure this post was much funnier to read than it was to live through. Several people referred me to James Dobson's book The Strong Willed Child after time spent watching Matt trying to boss us. I already owned the book and had read it so was doubly frustrated. For a time. Until he hit about 4 when he became perfect. :). Parenthood can be the most humbling job in the world, but keep writing. There is a book in here just waiting to be published.

  2. Oh I'm terrified... May I offer Choice Four: Take photos and videos to remember the drama?! :-)


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