Tag Archives: toddler negativity

The Truth About Toddlers


When your baby is born, she or he is perfect.  As they grow, and become more mobile, they get into monkey business and your primary task is to keep them from concussing themselves.  That’s it.

Then there is a subtle shift when they start pushing limits, let’s say around 18 months.  You might get a tantrum in Target, or at bedtime.  You might see them start to grab at their sibling’s stuff because they know their antics are going to get a big reaction.

It can be fatiguing, but then you get to this sweet spot, let’s say between 24-36 months. You pretty much know what makes them tick and tock.

You start to feel like you have this parenting thing down.  You’re a rock star.  Your kid goes right to bed and is potty-training like a champ!  You tell your friends, I don’t know why they call it the “terrible twos!”  It’s really not so bad at all.  Terrible twos, schmerible schmoos!

And just at that moment, while you are perhaps frying up a veggie burger, or putting in a load of laundry, you feel like you should give yourself a little pat on the back.  You’re a great mom.  Why do people yell at their kids?  Toddlers are perfectly reasonable, that is, if you know what you’re doing.

Wait, what is that smell?

The shit has hit the fan.  Literally.  Because while you were busy patting and being all self-congratulatory, your toddler has shit his or her pants and smeared it on the fan and they are giggling their poopy little ass off while you are inhaling the digested waft of that veggie burger you fed them for lunch.

And that, my friends, is the truth about toddlers.  Just when you think you have all the rules down, they change the entire game you are playing.

Just when you think everything is going great, it gets worse.

So much worse.

We sailed through the “terrible twos” with Jack, who is now seven.  Emily has been a breeze since the day she was born, roughly two and a half years ago.  All of a sudden, as she is getting closer to turning three, it is all coming back to me how wretched that year was with Jack.

At three, your toddler is bigger.  Sticking a breast in their face no longer solves every problem.  They are stronger, and so is their will.

My precious baby girl is doing things like spitting out her food, taunting her brother, and wildly screaming in our faces.  Oh, the sleep regression and tantrums are pure bliss.  Not.  And to cap it off we are in the throws of potty learning.

I’ve learned a few things about toddlers which help to ground me during those Target tantrums and poopy finger painting sessions.

1.)  Some days *it seems* their sole purpose is inflicting a sense of helpless desperation on their adults.  I say “it seems” because it really isn’t.  Their sole purpose is learning about the world and limits by bending them.  Their problem solving skills are also pretty primitive, so you get tantrums and the like.

Emily heard Jack use the words “stupid idiot,” and now when she gets frustrated with me or her dad she says it to us.  Of course it comes out more like, “Pooh ped dee dee dot!”  I mean, what the heck am I supposed to do with that?

As a child and family therapist, I’m supposed to have answers to this crap, and to know just what to do.  It is so much closer to the truth to say I don’t have a clue.  This sense of helplessness triggers thoughts of frustration and self depreciation for me.  Reminding myself my kids are doing typical, developmentally appropriate things and I am experiencing typical parental angst helps to empower me ever so slightly.

We do not use physical punishment, because inflicting physical pain on children just seems, well, yucky.  And it is largely ineffective, so that leaves us with the ever popular TIME OUT.

2.)  There is no invisible, magic glue that keeps a child with a strong will and fierce determination in “time out.”  Time out means spending a half hour in a wrestling match trying to get Em to stay in her spot, long enough to “think about what she did.”  A lot of the time, she responds to the counting to three or getting something taken away/losing a treat. But sometimes nothing works and you just have to ride it out as your little person asserts their individuality. This does NOT mean you did anything wrong.  (See # 6 below.)

3.)  There is no reasoning with a toddler, especially when they are over-tired, over-hungry, and over-stimulated. Let’s leave it at that.

4.)  Toddlers are still really, freaking adorable when they are asleep.  So, hold on to that, because toddler negativity can turn your life upside down well past two, and even three years old.

5.)  You can’t take it personally.  Easier said than done, yes, I know.  But it is true.  Your little person’s behavior is not really about you.  It is about their learning and growing experience.

Your toddler loves you.  They are not trying to make your life a living hell.  She or he feels safe and secure with you which is why they press buttons and push limits with you but not their babysitter/grandparent/daycare personnel.  They know you love and adore them and you won’t turn your back on them.

Your best bet is keeping your cool, taking a deep breath, and remembering you grew this ferocious, little beast from scratch in your tummy.  Again, easier said than done.

6.)  Somedays, you can execute every parenting move perfectly and yet nothing will work.  This does not mean you suck (or at least that’s what I tell myself).  It means you have a feisty little person on your hands who is searching for their own sense of self in this crazy drama we call life.  Also, remember even though we grow someone out of our own DNA, they arrive in the world with their own temperaments and personalities.  While we can shape them somewhat, we do not have total control.  Somedays are just chock-a-block full of growing pains for your toddler, and for you as you dig deep for that parenting Zen.

At the end of the day, I believe if the love is there everything will be okay.  Tantrums are normal.  Tantrums end eventually.  Poop can be wiped away.  You are rocking this parenting thing, and your kids love you.

Do you have any tips/tricks in your parenting bag to share?  What worked best?  What didn’t work at all?  



The Bubbie Wars or Screwing Up With Love


My little one, a freshly minted two-year-old (or as we simply call her a “two”), has gone from angel to demon in the span of a few months.

She used to be so easy to feed, to play with, to put to bed.  But now everything from sun up (or usually before sun up) to bed time is an overwhelming struggle.

Every moment with her is spent wrestling, reasoning (oh come on foolish woman, you can’t reason with a two!  For crying out loud give it up!), and reacting as quickly as possible to ensure she does not get mauled by the cat, broken from attempting to fly off of furniture, or stomped on by her brother for disassembling his 12,000 piece lego Millennium Falcon.

Part of our struggle stems from the fact Em doesn’t talk too much.  Jack was freakishly verbal, and could tell us entire stories around 18 months.  Wee Em, however, is somewhat lagging in the language department.  She has lots of words, comprehends quite a bit, and engages in lots of imaginative play.  Her most frequently used sentence is “More (insert desired item- treat, show, oranges) please.”  It comes out sounding like “Mah tweet peese.”  Utterly charming.

While we know there is no official learning or language disorder at this point, she does get awfully frustrated when she can’t express her needs or wants.  This is new territory for us.

One of our biggest battles is with her pacifier, or “bubbie,” as she calls it.  She is totally addicted to this nasty little device.  Now that she is two, I am concerned that it will further impede language or harm her pretty little teeth.  So, I made a rule that bubbies are just for bed and while riding in the car (mainly to keep her screaming from setting off Jack).

We had had a lovely morning watching Little Bear and playing with dollies, but then Emily started asking for her bubbie.  I attempted to distract her with puzzles, finger paints, play doh, and dressing her dollies.  No go.  I offered her hugs and her blankie.  No go.

Her whines turned to wails, the likes of which broke me down.  My normally jolly child actually looked frantic.  “OK,” I declared.  “If you want bubbie, you have to go have it in your bed.”  She pliantly grabbed her bub and her blankie and climbed into her crib.  She proceeded to cover herself up, gather dollies and lovies all around her and have a good, comforting cuddle.  I sat nearby and sang a few songs to her.  It was actually kind of cute.

Then she wanted to get out.  I tried to take her bub away and she climbed back in.  I told her, “If you get out of your bed, you need to give bubbie to Mama.”  She plucked bubbie out of her rosy little lips, waved it at me, and said, “Nah nah nah, boo boo!”

I kid you not.

She giggled, put it back in her mouth and cuddled back down.  The child may lack words and sentence structure, but a sense of humor?  That she does not lack.


She set about tending to her baby doll, giving it a sippy cup and then a bubbie of its own.  I figured, well, okay, this is happening, so I’ll just go with it.

Lunchtime came.  Emily screamed when I tried to take her out of her crib.  She clamped her mouth down on her bubbie and clutched it to her face with her little star fish of a hand, clearly terrified I was going to steal it.  I offered her some tasty lunch which she rejected, continuing to plaster bubbie to her face.

I finally gave up, tossed her into the crib, turned on the sound soother (ahhh, ocean waves), kissed her, and left the room.

I retreated to the living room, wondering, “Did I do the right thing?  Am I a crappy mom because I tried to take her bubbie, or because I let her keep it?  What am I going to do with this little two?”

I thought back to earlier days with Jack, who is now six.  As a new parent, I valued consistency, limits, and staying the course above all things.  I remember how we tried to force sleep training on him.  And failed miserably.  Developmentally, I believe, he was just not ready to sleep on his own all night.  So we backed things up, took him into bed with us at night and reset the clock.  He is now a wonderful sleeper.

I also recall my own urgency to potty train our son.  His third birthday came and he still was not fully potty trained.  “I don’t want potty learning,” he told us.  “I just want Mama, and Daddy, and diapers, and milk.”  So, what did I do?  I forced the agenda.  And what did I get?  I got a potty full of pee thrown at me by Jack.  It took that gesture to make me realize, well, huh, he DID tell me that he wasn’t ready.  So, again, we backed things up.  Went at his pace.  Went back to diapers for a week or two until he was ready to put on his big boy pants.  And it all worked out okay.

I’m still not sure we did the “right” things with Jack, and do not mean these tales as advice to anyone, but at this point I can say, at least in our case, alls well that ends well.

I wonder, again and again, why are we always in such a freaking rush to get to the next developmental milestone?

Some of it, I am sure, has to do with keeping up with what we see in other families, on TV, or what we are taunted with on Facebook.  Some of it may come from what our own parents or friends expect of us.  Some of it probably comes from our own good intentions and love for our children.  For me, I know some of it also comes from feeling like I am never doing this parenting thing “good enough.”

Jack blessed me with the gift of letting me learn from my mistakes with him.  Most of the time he doesn’t even seem to hold it against me!  When I was pregnant with Emily, I became aware of this thought I was having repeatedly, that I would do it better with this one, that I would get all the little kinks out of parenting and not mess up, that it was a chance to do over what I had done wrong with Jack.  I could be the mom I always dreamed of being!

Well, guess what?  I am the mom that I am.  None of us are perfect.  We all screw up our kids in one way or another.  Luckily, if there is a lot of love, those little bumps along the way don’t really seem to matter all that much.

In honor of Jack’s gift to me, I think I am going to look at this whole bubbie thing as a developmental phase.  Maybe Em just isn’t ready to move on yet?  Jack never took a bubbie, so I’m not sure how to handle this situation, and I’m probably screwing things up.  But I am going to back off a bit and see what happens, because as important as consistency and limits are for children, being flexible,  listening to and respecting them is equally important.  Although Emily can’t tell me in words what she needs or feels, she is certainly telling me in behavior.

Maybe I am just being lazy, or trying to console myself for not having the tits to set a hard and fast limit with Emily.  I mean, I know the bubbie isn’t good for her in the long run, but I don’t want to battle with my kid, and at the end of the day I know she won’t go off to college sucking on a pacifier.

If I am screwing up, at least I am doing it with love.

Have you screwed up this parenting gig?  Does your little one have a pacifier, and if it is a thing of the past, how did you get them to give it up?  

Thankful– An Ode To My Daughter As A Toddler


Thank you for your tantrum

while we stood in line at the merry go round.

Your screaming made my ears ring,

your little hands whapping my face

like starfish slapping their damp bodies onto a rock.

Thank you for trusting me to love you no matter what,

even if in the photos daddy took

I look completely wiped out, frustrated, and

maybe even a little scared by your sudden strength,

as you thrashed against me .

Thank you for introducing me to this new

side of your self, for allowing me to

partake in a sudden, bright bloom of you,

as beautiful and mysterious as lightening.

Toddler, you make me wonder where my

placid baby girl has gone, yet I am thankful

for your fight and vigor.

You are doing your job so beautifully

as I attempt to do mine with as much grace

as I can muster.