Toddler Tantrums: What the f*ck am I doing wrong?

If you are expecting advice on how to deal with a stroppy toddler then Google again.

This is not the blog you are looking for. Move along.

I have a serious parenting issue and I’m asking for help.

Dramatic music kicks in:

Sometimes my 2 year old son refuses to eat toast on the blue plate because he wants to choose another colour plate.

CUT TO:  Close ups of people running screaming down the street.

OK I know it doesn’t sound THAT bad.

Remember how the entire nation got their knickers in a twist over an old lady taking a beardy guys ice cream out of the freezer on The Great British Bake Off?

Yeah well this is like that – but with toast instead of ice cream.

Oh hang on. Does that make me the old lady or the grumpy hipster?

Shit I don’t want to be either of them.

Ignore my attempt at an analogy.

Back to the toast.

Usually my reaction to the demand for a different plate is to ignore it.

No pissing about with fancy plate choices in my house.

This is a brilliant no nonsense system.

Well it would be. If only it worked.

Instead the toast on the blue plate is ignored and starts to curl up at the edges in fear.

Now I’m stuck I don’t want to give in as I’m worried about the message this sends to my son. That he can dig his heels in and eventually get everything he wants?

But if I don’t swop the plate the toast will remain un eaten and I will have wasted my time, some bread and I will still be left with a hungry child.

It would have been easier to swop the plate in the first place.

Do I retreat or hold the line?

Why does it require a degree in child psychology/modern warfare just to serve toast?

Supernanny would know what to do. That’s why she is super.

I’m just Mummy I have no superlative prefix to help me.

And I need help.

What the fuck am I doing wrong?

As I see it there are 3 ways to deal with this situation:

A) Comply with the original request for a change of plate.

B) Stick to my guns and deal with a ridiculous level of fallout for what is essentially a bit of hot bread.

C) Redesign the house so everything is one matching colour.

Toast is not the only battleground.

My son insists on carrying his favourite toys with him everywhere he goes.

This includes (but is not limited to):

5 plastic models depicting the entire life cycle of a frog.

2 Fisher Price helicopters with matching captains (both male: another contentious issue to be dealt with later)

A fire engine.

A large Duplo plane with detachable wings, engines and captain (male) in a seat.

Dinosaurs – various, medium to large.

A squeaky crocodile plus replacement non squeaky crocodile we acquired when we thought we had lost the squeaky one thus adding another item to the list.

Massive cuddly Gruffalo toy.

A plastic bucket.

He wanders round the house dragging everything with him screaming ‘I can’t do it!’ at the top of his lungs every time a bit falls of his plane.

As you can imagine it’s brilliant fun.

Who wouldn’t want to live with a tiny hoarder with anger issues?

Every time we leave the house we have a fight about leaving stuff behind.

Because  – guess what? When we take all this stuff out with us we lose bits.

My options are:

A) Have him lose his shit because he can’t bring stuff with him.

B) Take all the stuff with us and deal with him losing his shit later when we literally lose his shit.

C) ?

Please someone come up with another option that doesn’t involve anyone losing any shit.

I’d very much like to keep my shit together please.

Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.

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37 thoughts on “Toddler Tantrums: What the f*ck am I doing wrong?

  1. Those sort of tantrums seem a world away from me at the moment with my youngest being 9. We’ve swapped them for a new and even worse level of hell.
    However, had them we did and after hours of study I concluded the only thing which worked for us was distraction.
    “Wow, look at this very cool thing. Bet you’ve love it wouldn’t you? Want to play with it? Well just eat your toast up and you can have it”.
    Of course, not all children are the same and some will give their best ‘get real’ look. But worth a go
    Good luck x

  2. Get him a back pack. Preferably one with which ever character is his heart’s desire. Allow him to fill said backpack with stuff he wants to take with him. If it doesn’t fit in the bag it doesn’t go. Make him carry it. Your child too can have his very own bag o’crap, just like my son’s!

  3. I thought my 4 year old would have been on her way out of tantrums but we are not out of the woods yet. Her favourite is….shoes. Screams everytime she has to put them on, rolls on the floor, cries and generally disengages from life. She has to wear shoes a lot so I deal with this and she does indeed wear a pair. I asked her once, in a moment of calm what the problem with shoes was, and her reply “shoes make me sad” I’ve produced a hippy.

  4. This reminds so much of my two and a half yr old this time last year, I dont really have much advice except persevere! She’s definitely less of a turd than she was a year ago & is now happy to bring one toy out if I let her pick it. She’s also a runner, so has a little bird backpack with a handle we have to keep a hold of, but it’s v handy & she likes putting stuff in it.

  5. I’ve had four of the little varmints. By number four I was going with, ignore, ignore, ignore (mainly due to brain death?) ended up getting glared up by most blue-haired old ladies in the supermarket as I happily jumped over toddler number 4 whilst he threw himself onto the floor. If he didn’t eat, he went hungry, he ate next time…
    Child no 2 used to scream for her mum as I (Her mum *sigh*) pushed her around the supermarket, oh the joys. They’re now 21, 19, 16, 14 and OK kids, by OK I mean they’ve not murdered anyone, including me, yet..;and can tie their shoelaces. Stick to your guns, don’t react, smile serenely. They love attention, any flavour attention, good or bad, so, to sum up buy a rucksack for you and fill it with booze, good luck!

  6. I recon the best thing to do is to use the 18 rule (will they still be doing this when they are 18) and change the plate before it all kicks off. Mornings are hard enough without that little scenario to push me over the edge. In our house the fight is usually whether I cut the toast the right way, bread has been lost to the dustbin as I have lost the fight over that, it really really matters.

    For the toy carrying thing, the backpack idea is genius, someone give the woman that had that idea a medal.
    Obviously super nanny would totally disagree with the above, but did she ever have 2 stroppy kids and have to leave the house fresh and ready for a days work before 7.30am each morning.?

  7. Hi. My daughter has a responsibility chart, one of which is set the table. Before every meal she has to choose her cup, straw, plate and cutlery which are all in a low kid height drawer. It gives her a bit of control and it’s one less thing for me to do.

  8. Currenty, I find that my almost three year old will do anything (including wearing her backpack which holds all her crap) for a Bear fruit roll up. It is a marvellous foodstuff – like toddler kibble, if you will, but made entirely of real fruit. NB: I do not work for said fruit roll up company but I would like to shake the hand of their MD.

  9. I would stick to the plate you chose first, if they are hungry they’ll eat soon enough,. Luckily I’ve never had any issues with my daughter and food (that’s not to say there aren’t other areas to work on!) We’ve never made any kind of fuss at mealtimes, one of this flying to aeroplane/train crap, just plain old here’s your dinner, enjoy.

  10. I realised quite early in that I had what Dr Sears euphemistically calls a “high needs child”. Translation – often but not always a pain in the bum. But when being an arse, reliably in public in front of a gossip whose granddaughter, in addition to being a saint “never went through that stage”.

    I own many books. The gist of which is that your, (and my) kid is a control freak. They need control. They need choices. WITH EVERYTHING. Annoyingly, they don’t need or understand consequences. So prepare yourself for them making the wrong choices and needing it explaining that this time you’ll change it, but next time they’ll have to wear the consequences of their own choices.

    You even find yourself explaining that we can’t afford the bread to your toddler who knows you’ll buy a whole loaf from the petrol station to get 5 mins of peace on FB while they feed the ducks. They will then tell staff at the Jet that you can’t afford the petrol. Come up with a good reason and stick to it. But offer them the choice first.

    I forget all the other crap in the books. There’s something about not to try sharing until at least 3. (Ha-ha). There’s not being too controlling when it’s pointless. Who gives a monkeys what they wear anyway? Let them get a nap in so they kerp their shit together better. Only probs with rucksack is you will end up carrying it. So choose one to suit you too. And just keep offering choices. Octonauts or home bargains cheapy? Milk or water (answer something less healthy).

    There’s a host of developmental reasons they’re freaking out and losing their shit. I never got much solace from knowing any of them. And I certainly got none from hearing that their precociously obnoxious behaviour assured them a place at the Grammar. (WTF – that explains why all the boys round our area are such gits – I though they were just blokes in training).

    Choices 2 max. Listen. Pretend to consider v carefully. And as to the bears… GENIUS! Although obvs we don’t want to create a culture of motivating children with sweet treats for fear of obesity blah-blah. (I have 10 in my bag and when I’m good, I reward myself. Perhaps that’s why I’m in the bog all the time).

    • Thanks for reading and summarizing the books. I am testing out the backpack, the options thing is already drining me nuts cos guess what? no one listens to me. Ah well.

  11. You have my sympathy, this was definitely us last year. We now have a trolley with all the kids plates cutlery etc on it and the kids pick there own. We also have the peppa pig rucksack that is used for all crap to be taken out – if it doesn’t fit in it doesn’t come with us
    I will also happily swap anything they are not happy with such as plates, shoes etc without a murmur in order to save my blood pressure – funnily enough they seem much less interested in doing this now I react with just a smile!

  12. Just wrote a long and dull post and then posted it and it said, something along the lines that repetition was detected as I must have already said it. So true. I’m a broken record. 😉 Will I ever be interesting again? Has motherhood ruined me?

  13. As the ancient warrior Sun-Tsu would say ‘you want to win the war, not each battle’. or as Elsa would say ‘Let it go’.

    Give him a choice. Show him the pile of plates, let him choose. You are giving him control of his plate choice. It’s not about it being blue, it’s about him having choice.

    when my kids go on about f**king colour and whether it’s peppa or the gruffalo, I show them the cupboard. Here choose.

    In other situations best to keep the choice thing to two options. More than two explodes their brain. Here, do you want to watch Frozen or Room on the Broom? want to go to bed or say sorry?

  14. Hey Mama! Leave his shit alone. Have you seen what you carry in your bag every time you go out? And see what shit fit you have when you think you’ve left it behind in a changing room!
    Love from Joe. Age 2 and 3 months.

  15. I’d change the plate too, it’s just not worth the hassle! With regards to the toys- i lie. I make up things all the time anything to avoid losing or having to schlepp his motley crue of beloved (yest useless) toys. I.e. Leaving house in the morning “i take two bunnies to nursery mamma!’ ‘er, no…one has to stay at home and take care of the other toys/ guard against monsters/ answer the phone….’ You get the idea. Does it work? Sometimes..sigh 🙂

  16. I already left a comment but I kept thinking about this post listening to my toddler all day; I think I would just go to poundland or wherever & stock up on blue plates!
    I know what you mean but it sounds like one of those battles you can’t win so instead of setting yourself to fail against a toddler, set yourself to be in control right from the start, that way no battle of wills. Even if it’s not exactly how you want things to go.. I think at that age you have to decide which fights are worth it!

  17. Thank you thank you thank you. The words ‘child psychologist’ passed my lips this weekend after I had to take a 5 min walk with him upon arriving at grandma and grandpa’s house because i tried to get him to eat lasagne and he FREAKED OUT. Blotches on face, the works.

    In happier news you’ve broken your posts into singly spaced-sentences which makes it easier to read through the tears.

  18. Is it the same plate he wants each time? Mine (twins) are utter sods in that one genuinely prefers one of the plates to all the others while the other one just wants control. So twin 1 will start crying for the desired plate which will cause twin 2 to start crying for it too. The practical solution to this is to have two plates the same colour and throw the rest of them out, until the week after when twin 1’s colour preference will have changed, then go back to Ikea and purchase the whole irritating rainbow once again. Or just paint ugly f*cking Peppa Pig on everything, that always works.

  19. We avoid this (sometimes) by asking him (3 1/2 year old) in advance of presenting the toast which coloured plate he’d like. He’ll say “Blue” then say “No, I want…” then go through all the colours of the rainbow until settling on the first one he chose. We’ll then tell him that plate’s only for really good boys that eat their toast and if he really, really wants that plate he’ll have to say please and pretty please etc. By this point the plate he wants seems nearly out of reach as he will have already had a tantrum about something that morning so he will plead for it using his ‘nice boy’ please and thank you routine. Eventually we will give in and let him have the plate which by now is an epic reward for his amazing politeness and the only thing he wants out of life. The end result is, he is happy with the plate and won’t want a different one. It doesn’t mean he’ll eat the toast mind…

    • Oh my god twins! I feel so much better that at least when I’m losing I’ve only been beaten by one toddler – you are dealing with 2 – and you’re still laughing. Well done you!

  20. Best advice I ever read was ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’. I don’t think it does any harm to give in over little things as long as you stand firm over the big issues. And there’s normally a solution that will suit everyone (like the backpack idea). This approach certainly worked with my five boys and continues to as they have reached or are approaching adulthood. I don’t think my youngest ever had a tantrum or maybe I was just too busy to notice!

    Don’t overthink things, just enjoy.

    • I think that is probably the answer.
      Weird that I moan about him going bonkers over the blue plate but think me getting wound up about it is totally OK?!

  21. As far as the plate thing goes, I also try not to give into my children with their crazy demands. With my kids “I’m very sorry but your (favorite color) plate is dirty. Can you please use this one for me and I’ll wash that one for next time??” and I do try to give them their favorite colors most of the time when it isn’t demanded. It usually works better on my son than my daughter as I’m an army wife and Daddy gives the cub a “You’re the man of the house when I’m away” speech (which backfires in most other areas). As for the fit about the toys, I know he’s young but try to get him to realize why you don’t want him to bring them. My Aunt keeps my kids for sleepovers on occasion and they always want to bring a stuffed animal from their beds. I just tell them that Aunt Mammy has a dog and if he chewed their animals I would be so sad if I couldn’t fix them and it would probably be a much better idea if they stayed posted up on their beds to guard the bedroom in the kids’ absence. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it’s not like you’ll lose anything for trying.

  22. Totally get all of this. Our bonkers toddler is 3 and she is just absolutely totally irrational. Yesterday I made her porridge in her Peppa Pig bowl – but me, silly dickhead Mummy microwaved it in the Peppa Pig bowl – bowl was scorching hot, so I decanted the frigging porridge into another PEPPA PIG BOWL, but NO, she wanted THAT ONE. So you know what, we sat and waited for it to cool down – I just gave in. I didn’t have the strength to argue about the different merits all types of Peppa Pig bowls.
    I don’t know what the answer is. Ride it out. Our eldest is 11 now and we are still riding it out, not to scare you or anything…. 🙂

    • My sister told me not to buy different coloured plates and crockery. But no I had to get all fancy splashing my £3 in Ikea. Are we still expected to look after them when they’re 11? I really haven’t thought this through.

  23. After commenting on your playgroup survival post, I decided to have gander at your other posts. This was the next one I clicked on and here I am commenting again (sorry – not stalking honest!), because it just had me laughing so much. I was going to blog myself about my 2.5 year old’s tantrums, but I don’t think I’ll bother now. I’ll just redirect here.

    My eldest is nearly eight and was the hugest control freak as a toddler, down to telling our guests where to sit (the shame!). I was given some great advice when I did a parenting course in desperation – pick your battles. If something is really important, like holding hands crossing the road, putting on a seatbelt, getting out of the house for a vital appointment, then have the battle, stand your ground and bundle the screaming child into their coat/shoes/carseat (delete as applicable) as best you can. I confess I have taken my children out without shoes on in winter when they refused to put them on. Two seconds on the doorstep had them changing their minds and getting those shoes on quick smart.

    Everything else, fussing over clothes, what to have for breakfast, which cup to choose, give two options and let them have the power. My eldest isn’t as much of a control freak as she was, or maybe she is but just realised that there are other people in the house besides her. She concedes when necessary with much huffing and puffing and ‘It’s not fair’.

    Luckily my middle child is much more placid, so I had a little respite there. My youngest is not quite as bad as his big sister, but I think that’s because I’m more relaxed and better at ignoring these days. It’s the irrational tantrums that I hate most; when I can’t even work out what I did ‘wrong’.

    Don’t worry, it won’t last forever. As my dad keeps reassuring me, ‘Only another sixteen years and they’ll all have left home.’

  24. Ha, my 2 yr old is exactly the same!!!
    I held firm on the green colour spoon and took him out of his highchair once and pretended to clean up the uneaten breakfast, he screamed like mad for 10 mins (ignored him) offered him his breakfast again and it got eaten with the green spoon, no issues! Hasn’t happened again YET but probably just beginner’s luck.

    Same issue that every toy has to come with us, will try rucksack too – genius! thanks

  25. I tell my 2 1/2 that if she takes her doll/bunny/motorcycle/loathsome chihuahua to the park/music class/party then other kids might want her to share the precious toy and she is usually so horrified that she leaves it in the car. If we are at home I have to put favored toys up on the top of my closet until her playmates go home after the play date. And that probably concludes my biggest success as a parent. Every plate choice is important. She uses most plates, even ones that may shatter and cause her to bleed to death. So far so good. Our record with broken glasses is really pretty good considering how dangerously we live. I’m really tired.

  26. our eldest son used to fuss if you cut his toast in triangles instead of squares, squares instead of triangles. I don’t even give that choice to my youngest! lesson learnt!. My sister also told me something very interesting, kids usually answer with the second option, try it, “do you want red or blue?” they’ll say blue…. you can use this to your advantage!

  27. I am late to this amazing blog. But the above post did just make me hyperventilate in an attempt not to laugh and wake up the husband, consequently waking up the husband who thought I was choking to death. We too have a two year old who lugs suitcases of shit around with him. He looks like Paddington Bear with his blue coat, red scarf and brown suitcase of shit.

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