Two and a Half Year Old Terror: That’s My Kid
So when your extended family all get together over the holidays and one little person is screaming in the bathroom with you on the other side of the door keeping it shut, what do you do? Oh, that’s me and my two and a half year old. It’s time to talk about little-person-induced-trauma around here again. I have a whole series on tantrums & toddler behavior viewable on the bottom of home page, here. But really, what do you do when your smart, sweet, adorable, intense, intelligent, and very headstrong little child is seemingly out of control?
1) How did we get here?
First, a little background on SuperBoy’s development towards this behavioral cliff, you might call it. He’s a bright child with a highly developed sense of language and comprehension. Am I biased? Sure, but I don’t say this to brag. I mean, he talks a ton and seems to understand a half ton. So when he corrects us, or insists on something, or has to have it his way, I’m often just bemused by how aptly he can articulate his position. Or how brilliantly he can negotiate. Or how splendidly he can wield concepts and words to get what he wants.
Lots of yeses, lots of negotiating, and few hard & fast nos. Lots of talking talking talking. Lots of attempts at reason (I know! I know! Don’t try to reason with a 2 and a half year old! Rule 1 of parenting a little person!). Lots of not following through on my part regarding things that will be “taken away” or privileges “lost.” Maybe these are terms better suited for the older, more emotionally developed child.
2) What does ‘here’ look like?
It looks like at least one massive meltdown almost every day, lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. The meltdown includes screaming the word ‘no’ while crying, jumping up and down and down and up, pushing me, insisting I leave whatever room we are in, insisting I stay, insisting he has to go to the bathroom, insisting he won’t go to the bathroom, sometimes hitting, and always ending because he is seemingly worn out. Nothing I say, do, don’t do, threaten to do seems to help.
It can begin with something as simple as, “SuperBoy, please don’t swing that bat near your sister’s head.” The pattern appears to be when he doesn’t get what he wants or doesn’t get to do what he wants to do. Sometimes there’s protracted whining ahead of the actual meltdown; sometimes it just flares up.
Spanking or the threat thereof, nope. Just makes it worse.
Talking in hopes of assisting him calm himself down, nope. Talking about okay things to do with your anger (like hit your angry pillow), or saying feelings are okay, but you still have to be respectful, nope.
Holding him in my arms, nope. He wants to get away, hard.
Raising my voice and explaining consequences, or offering a bait & switch, or bribery, nope.
Avoiding too many instances wherein he has to follow directions (not asking him to do or refrain from hardly anything), nope.
At first I thought this was developmentally normal, but has it has become a daily issue, and a serious one the stronger and bigger he gets with a little sister in harm’s way, I now think we have to do something completely different if we want to help him internalize his sense of self-control. He appears to not be able to accept when things don’t go his way.
3) The plan moving forward.
We want him to learn to deal with not getting his way. So that means allowing the opportunities for meltdowns and then simply putting him in his room and not allowing him to play or be with us, for a longer period of time than the 5 minutes I’ve been doing.
I say, “No. I understand you want X, but not right now.” or I say, “No. We don’t do X for Y reason.”
He begins the melting process.
I say, “Time out upstairs.”
He either stops melting and gets to stay with us, or he continues and goes upstairs to his room. If he’s half-way whining, I will ask if I hear a whine. He usually stops whining then. Depending on how bad it gets, he may have to go up to his room.
I struggle with wanting to give him emotional leeway while teaching him that self restraint is important. It’s okay to be angry (normal and healthy), disappointed, and frustrated. It’s not okay to hit, whine, tantrum, or scream no at the top of your frenzied lungs. Wish me luck! Share any advice you have. I need it!