Whole Parenting Family

When Your Toddler is a Toddler and You Lose It

This feels like a confessional diary entry: Dear Diary, I lost it with my toddler today. Here’s to hoping tomorrow’s better!

My little SuperBoy is as perfect as they come: he’s patient, sweet, listens well, plays well, and has never been nasty to his 8 week old baby sister. But even the perfect do fail, right? Or rather, behave like normal 23 month olds.

I am far from a perfect mother. And having two children seems to have exacerbated my imperfections. Whereas with one child you can kind of always keep your cool, and respond to their needs in a calm and rational fashion, even when the needs involve irrational behavior, with two this task becomes impossible on occasion and difficult on a regular basis.

1) Case study.

I’ve just gotten the babe to sleep happily in the sling while doing housework, and SuperBoy awakens from his nap full-bore and letting the world (and neighborhood) know that he’s AWAKE and wants out of his bedroom NOW. I traipse upstairs with SweetPea on my chest and approach SuperBoy’s room.

I let him know I hear him, but that I need to put his sister down before getting him up and changing his diaper. He doesn’t like this and cries even harder. So I take her out of the wrap, lay her on the floor bed we have in his room, and go to his crib (yes, he’s still imprisoned in a crib) and talk to him. Reasoning doesn’t abate the tears, so I eventually haul him up to his changing table where he’s containable as I remove the world’s largest poopie diaper. 

She’s sleeping. He’s crying. She starts crying. He cries harder. He has poo everywhere on his cover, pants, and now the changing pad as he is super squirmy. I’m crying. I’m trying to stay calm, removed, and calming. Instead I’m on the verge of shaking him to get him to stop crying. As if that would have even helped. I threaten him that he won’t get to play with his cards (a favorite toy), that he’ll be in time-out forever. Then I soften and explain I love him, but that love doesn’t mean no diaper changes. He is completely beyond words, so I just hold him down with my hand on his chest, finish the diaper change, and then rock him in the chair for a while until he calms down. 

2) Handling it better and more consistently.

How do I not join in the chaos? How do I keep it together and not get angry with my toddler when he acts like, well, a toddler? I don’t know. I pray for patience and grace. How do I be rational, consistent, firm, and kind. How do I give him the boundaries he’s asking for without going nuts?

We’ve all talked here about where toddlers should sleep, toddler night sleep trouble, how they should potty train (or elimination communication train), and all sorts of other helpful topics. Your input is desired and needed! Help a mama out!

When he’s happy, he’s oh-so-happy. When he’s mad, he’s horrid!


  1. Kristi on June 7, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Hi! I don’t know you, and truthfully, I don’t even remember how I found your blog. But, I take something away each time you post. So, keep it coming! I stay at home with my 16 month and almost 3 year old daughters, so I can TOTALLY relate to “losing it.” Yesterday was one of those days for me, too. I was glad to hear I wasn’t the only one. My 16 month old is beginning to throw those mini-tantrums. It’s at the stage where it’s sort of cute – because she’s showing newly discovered strong will. But, it’s also a little frustrating as I try to find the way to best help her. Like you said, it’s not too difficult if you’re only dealing with 1. As I tried to help the younger one, the older one made things 10 times harder. I reminded her that she should go potty. “Nope, I’m gonna have an accident.” I nicely asked her to come inside for lunch. “Nope. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to play outside as long as I want.” I asked her if she would like an apple or yogurt for a snack. “I not like those choices. I want cookies.” It sounds as if I’m raising an animal, but honestly, she is really sweet, compliant, and funny 99% of the time. By the end of the day, I was happy to put her to bed. I found myself rolling my eyes at her responses, a reaction I’m not proud of. Today, we’re also starting over. Here are some things that I’ve done in the past that have helped:

    -a date with the older one. I know that with nursing the younger one, you can’t be gone long. It’s ok. The date can be short. Take him, and only him, someplace special. Go to the park, get ice cream. Turn your phone off, and only focus on him. I’ve noticed a big change in behavior after these dates.
    -let him do something that you normally don’t allow. For example, right now, my older one is watching youtube videos about Disney World on the iPad. It’s a special treat, and hopefully it will reset her a little.
    -Music and water. I’m not sure what it is about these 2 things. If I bring kid music outside while they play, things are amazingly calm and wonderful. If I let them play with water (water table, pool, tub, kitchen sink – anything will do) it takes the crabbies away every time!

    Things will get much easier once the baby can sit, crawl, and play. You will be able to fold an entire basket of clothes while they’re awake. You’ll be able to finish your meal in one sitting. Just hang in there! Good luck:)

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 8, 2012 at 4:10 am

      Hi Kristi,

      What an incredibly helpful response. Sometimes blogging is like casting a rock into a canyon–I have no idea if it helps or really brings about a conversation. Thanks for reaching back! And it’s so reassuring to hear that you’ve been there, and somedays ARE there, and that it does get better. I really don’t want to be a mom who is constantly correcting her child, or constantly having to hold back anger, or constantly putting him in time out. I think our toddlers would get along very well. My son will say (in response to, “it’s time to clean up and then have lunch”) No, I’m not going to clean up. I want to make a mess. I don’t want to eat.” Or when I say, “Be careful, you will fall down off your tower”–“I want to fall down.” It’s like, really?!?

      Water–instant soother for him too. But enlighten me, what’s a water table? I think I need one!! And other excellent ideas too. Thank you so much! Good luck to you too!

      • Kristi on June 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm

        A water table is a plastic monstrosity from Target. But, for $35-40, it provides hours of creative fun outside. It’s a big basin on legs, so your little stands next to it and plays. You can “wash” cars, play with kitchen utensils, pour water with buckets or bowls, throw in some bathtub toys, etc.

        • Natural Mama Nell on June 8, 2012 at 8:26 pm

          Excellent. Thank you!!

  2. mothering spirit on June 7, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    I lose my temper every single day. I wish that were not true, and every morning I pray for this to be the day where I do not raise my voice and yell. But I fail every day. I figure I am giving my children good lessons in forgiveness since I have to ask it of them on a daily basis! But a few things that are helping me along the way:
    1) I taught my oldest to take deep breaths when he gets frustrated. So I do the same to model for him. Stop, take exaggerated breaths, try to calm my pounding heart. It helps. The first day he stopped himself while sobbing and said, “Should we take a deep breath?” was one of my proudest moments of parenting to date. He got it!
    2) I try to use songs or humor to diffuse the situation. Sometimes no goofy face or dance from mama will break the crying/tantrum. So when all else fails, I sing to myself through their screaming. Very slowly, to calm myself down. I have a few “mantra”-like songs that have become my go-to for the hardest moments (Elizabeth Mitchell’s “Peace Like A River”) is one. Otherwise I sing something from church to pull me out of the heat of the moment.

    But know that you’re not alone! I’ve already lost it today, but I resolve to try again this afternoon. Kids are wonderfully forgiving – they have that to teach us. The fact that you’re concerned about it and want to do better just reinforces that they have a wonderful mother!

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 8, 2012 at 4:13 am

      What a beautifully honest response. Thank you for that. I almost didn’t want to blog that yes, I feel so angry I could scream or throw something (or someone) because it sounds like I’m a case for Child Protection Services. It helps to know other moms feel this way too (though we try not to give in to our emotions–and certainly not to hurting our children).

      That is just beautiful about your son asking if he should take a deep breath. I’m going to try that tomorrow. Love the singing.

      Children do have this amazing goldfish memory at times–like two seconds after the biggest cry fit, they’re happily playing and wanting to hug you. It reminds me to be quick to forgive and forget too.

  3. Jen on June 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I can so relate to this post. I am a very calm & usually patient person but add three kids (ages 3 1/2, 2, & 5 months) and I find I am all to often losing it.
    The deep breathing really does help everyone involved. Sometimes it’s hard to remember in the heat of the moment. Silly songs or just playing music can help as well. As parents we need to keep our cool & change the mood. I find the more I escalate the more they do (or they crumble into tears which then breaks my heart!)

    They have water tables at Toys ‘r us or you can probably find one at a garage sale. If you or your hubby are handy you could probably make your own using a large plastic container. Goodness knows our Minnesota summers don’t last long enough so go get one this weekend 😉

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm

      Thanks for the insights and help, Jen! You’re totally right. When I escalate, he looks frightened, and he does too. It is heartbreaking!

      Keep trucking, amazing mama. Way to go on three! And good suggestions on the water table 🙂