Dealing with difficult people # 5: Toddlers

Dealing with difficult people - toddlers {Image by Revoluzzza}

I am not one of those mothers who smiles sweetly at the wild-eyed newbies frantically rocking their selfish newborns and shrieks “enjoy the baby stage, just you wait until they’re TWO.”

No, I’m not one of those. I can’t stand those know-it-all mothers who just have to share (but more on them in a later post). Besides, I think newborns are the most difficult creatures known to woman.

But toddlers, ah Toddlers, are a very close second.

Ruthless, cunning; dear god they’re accountable to no one. If you’ve never eyeballed a Toddler on the Verge of a Naughty Breakdown, you’ve never viewed a true enemy. Once a Toddler has something in their sights, they will stop at nothing, absolutely NOTHING to get it.

Enter the Terrifying Toddler Tantrum.

Mothers have been broken. Supermarkets have been trashed. Dummies have been spat.

But fear not, I’ve got their number. Most toddlers will try the major full-blown TTT, but most will hang out the white nappy after a single incident* when they come up against their natural born enemy: The Prepared Mother. Pop these tips in your arsenal and get ready to return fire.

1. Ignore
It’s a constant refrain here at the Difficult People Files. Whether the bad behaviour is coming from a smug shop assistant, an Olympic Parent or a juiced-up Mr 2 in aisle five… the strategy is the same: IGNORE THEM. Quietly (but in a voice loud enough to be heard over the screeching… this takes practice) say, “I don’t like the way you’re behaving, Mr 2. I’m going to head off and you can join me when you’re feeling quieter.”

Step over the little tyke if you have to (avoid stepping on fingers, but they can generally take some subtle foot-to-the-butt treatment as you go by) and hide yourself nearby. Monitor out of your peripheral vision, only looking at them directly if you are certain they can’t see you.

Note that while you are ignoring Mr 2 you will most probably have to ignore the tsk-tsking of general passersby as they judge you for being a cold, heartless mother or wonder what you’re doing hiding behind the biscuit display. IGNORE them. If you so much as make eye-contact with one of these Concerned Citizens, Mr 2 will have won.

2. Be patient
They don’t show this on Supernanny due to editing, but ignoring takes lots and lots of time.

Just keep waiting and Mr 2 will at some stage work out that you are not around for his grand performance, get even more hysterical, come looking for you, find you behind the biscuits, throw himself at you dramatically and cling like a demented barnacle to your disinterested skirt. Keep ignoring. Resist the urge to kick the hysterical little cling-on off like a used pair of undies. Mentally run through your shopping list. Mentally run through your ‘To Do’ list. Mentally run through your ‘Life Goals’** list. Remind yourself that no child ever died from crying***. Ignore Concerned Citizens.

3. Do the walk
Allow Mr 2 to exhaust himself sobbing. You will need him fairly droopy for this next stage. This is the ‘I’m really leaving’ stage. You have to walk as if you mean business – with confidence, purpose and vigour. You have to do this while dragging a screaming child along, clinging to the edge of your skirt.

Oh, make sure you always wear a non-elasticised skirt to the supermarket. That should have been Tip 1.

4. Bring out the big guns

By this stage you’ve been hanging out in aisle five so long that they’re rotating the use by dates on the food. Most toddlers will have eased to a dull roar by now, but if you’ve got one of those stubborn ones, you will need to bring out the big guns.

“Mr 2, if you don’t calm down, I am happy to leave you right here. I don’t hang out with screaming children.”

“Do you want to stay here tonight? Well, calm down please.”

Start to walk away again. Repeat the threat of abandonment until tantrum has subsided (don’t panic, things are generally faster now they’re facing a night hanging out with the store packers).

5. Hug and praise
Once the tantrum has gone and you are left with a red, heaving sludge that used to be Mr 2, get down on the floor with him (he will absolutely be on the floor. Prone.) and say, “That’s a nice boy now, I’m so glad we’re friends again. Shall we keep going with the shopping?”

The answer to that question, by the way, is “No.” Do not keep going with the shopping. Move at lightening speed through the check-out and get the hell home.

Yes, it’s taken time, yes it was a long haul. You should feel battle weary, but smiley. Exhausted, but satisfied. For you, my friend, have won the war against the Toddler. Now, you can do anything.

How did / do you handle your own children’s tantrums?

* I mean it when I said that they will only ever have one using these tips. Each Tsunamis had exactly one. My only glitch was Cappers – she was never a screamer, she was a leg dropper (you know, suddenly the legs cannot possibly bear weight and the child is stiff as a board). She used to watch you disinterestedly as you walked and walked and walked away and eventually you were faced with having to start walking backwards lest you find yourself crossing roads. Really needy that one…

** If, of course, you are self-absorbed enough to have such a list. I will not judge.

*** This claim is not substantiated. It is possible that one or two healthy, loved children have cried themselves to death at some stage in history. Please do not forward sad children-dying-of-crying stories. I will not read them.

How to deal with difficult people - click for more

[Image via Revoluzzza’s amazing monster fest and used with permssion]

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  1. says

    After an absolute monster day here with a teething 15 month old, I found your post so refreshing. Thank you for the laugh and for the reminder that no kid (that we know of) has died of crying.

    Let tomorrow be a new day. X

  2. says

    Gold! Funnily enough I have actually found it easier with the twins. With two two year olds cracking it at the same time, all a Mum can do is ignore it. It has made me enjoy the funny side of the 2 year old tantrum (which frankly, after Nugget, I never thought possible!)

  3. says

    Lexie is still a tanty chucker. She plans it. She does a reccy for the cleanest spot in the shopping centre, in viewing/hearing distance of most people/shop-keepers.

    Even the butcher steps over her now. The aldy at the chemist just rolls her eyes.

    The post-mistress called out to her the other day – “Alexandra, you embarass nobody more than you embarass yourself. Hush child.”

    I love your list. Love it.

    Toddlers are even harder than in-laws, I reckon…

  4. says

    Love the “subtle foot-to-the-butt treatment” comment (no, I would never…).
    I’ve only ever two really bad ones like this (both from my eldest). The first I walked away and some other mummy horrified at my abandonment took my screaming little chicky up to the counter (I was watching…in amusement!).
    The second was the stereotypical ‘lollies at the checkout’ moment. Yes, on the floor. Yes, kicking and screaming. Yes, mummy laughing (it was so funny). But this time concerned citizen speaks up – hmmmm, gave her a little bit of mind-your-own-bees-wax which actually seemed to shock Miss Tanty back to her usual state and off we trotted. What fun it is to have kiddos!!

  5. says

    I think I’m going to need this advice for my number 2 and if you could donate any advice on how to deal with wineing for child number 1…..or maybe the advice would be the same. I shall try it and see! x

  6. says

    LOL, I am sooo glad those days are behind me, we’ve moved on to ‘compromise’ (bribery and corruption) or “my word is law, you will comply, I own you and I fund your social life!” But during the toddler phase of child number three (devil spawn I’m sure) I can remember locking myself in a room and calling for my husband at work for back up. It was that or throwing myself under the nearest moving car. Generally though I was very good at the ignore tactic. Oh the memories.

  7. says

    I cannot tell you just how much I enjoyed this post! Having a seven year old, five year old and a three year old it was nice to feel like I’m not the only one dealing with a toddler. My three year old is quite the handful and although sometimes I feel like nothing works as he’s laughing at me when I’m trying to discipline him, sitting in a timeout chair seems to give both of us a new perspective and new start….sometimes.

  8. says

    Humm, just moving into this stage and while Lala has been pretty good so far, I’m resigned to the fact I’ll have to deal with a full toddler meltdown at some stage. Good tips though, I particularly like offering to leave the child in the supermarket all night.

  9. says

    Just catching up on your posts. Fantastic. Love this one. Makes me want to go out and get a toddler to do it all over again (not)!

  10. says

    I l-o-v-ed the toddler stage!1 I admire that they can be true to themselves without conforming. I’m sure we all feel like a full-on tantrum sometimes but can’t really get away with it as an adult. I agree with all your points. I used to leave Miss T and continue shopping around her. I knew she was okay by the noise she was still making. I would then go back and ask her if she felt better and she would always say ‘yes’. Then we would go home. We called them ‘power surges’in our family. Life at that age can be frustrating for them. My motto was to not sweat the small stuff and they wouldn’t be doing this at Uni. “This too shall pass”. Love the comments too….

  11. says

    I mostly do the ignore thing, but I think I end up losing patience and have been known to pick up my screaming child and carry him under my arm to the car, strap him in and drive him home. I’ve had the ‘tsk-tsking’ ladies too. The 8yo had a doozy in Big W at age 18mths, and heavily pregnant I wasn’t up for it. I simply strapped him in to his stroller (and that took some work) and ignored him whilst I paid for my shopping and walked him back to the car. The stares I got. What else was I going to do?

    You are one wise woman. Move over Supernanny.

  12. says

    I think I’ve laughed, nodded my head in agreement, and generally enjoyed every one of these types of posts. They’re very refreshing and I’m so glad I found your blog! Cheers.

  13. says

    Brilliant! I will put them aside and try them out on my tantrum throwing cats at the earliest convenience!

    At least when the cats throw tantrums you can usually lock them in the laundry and no-one ever calls DOCS on you for that…

  14. says

    Hah – you really don’t wanna know. Suffice to say I have grown men leaping to attention in supermarkets.

    PS. It is worse than you think – I actually have FOUR blogs…

  15. says

    Dear maxabella, what impeccable timing. My son is in the throes of daily tantrums at the moment – SUCH FUN for all. he even saw fit to scream at me at 1.30am and 3.30am this morn when I refused to sleep in his bed with him. Expect it will get worse before it gets better but now I’m armed with your arsenal of firepower I’ll be much better prepared for the next onslaught…

  16. says

    Oh, Lord, Maxabella…
    I have a 2 and a half year old who insists on going to the potty with NO one but me. Not one of her 5 sibs, not my husband, not the next-door-neighbor, ME. She is driving me mad. Today I was quietly ignoring her impassioned potty pleas while folding laundry and calmly fobbing her off on the two siblings in the room with us. “Never mind,” she said sullenly, and walked away to sort socks. Then she wee’d on said socks, crying all the while that “Bad Mommy” wouldn’t take her to the potty. Otherwise, she’s a charming little thing, but I’m going to whack her one someday soon…

  17. says

    Ah the classic ‘high risk situation’ – love your tips!!! We’ve experienced a few TTT here – now my approach is to br prepared- so I state the rules, plan, bring disractions, and offer incentives for good behaviour!!! But I do love a bit of planned ignoring!!! I’ve pretended to take a call whilt a tantrum was happening in public and I said to one horrified onlooker ‘yes he is just regulating his emotions’!!

  18. says

    Loved this post! We’re there now… third time round. I ignore Little One and my other two run to her rescue shouting ‘you can’t leave her here Mum, you’re not really going to go are you Mum?’ I will and I do. I doubt LO will ever learn with the others as her saviours. We’ll get there… gxo

  19. says

    Gotta love the tantrums, being a mum of 4 I have had my fair share and with my youngest just hitting 2, I know Im in for more, but this time prepared with all my weapons of war! The best thing to remember when you are out and about and your kiddy chucks a tanty is remember to NEVER care about anyone around you! As soon as you get over that you can better deal with the situation:) Love your blog, I am now following:) Found you on FYBF:)My mummy blog,

  20. says

    Georgie – I have the exact same problem. Torn between going ‘aaaaah, how lovely’ when the older two want to rescue The Badoo and ‘aaaargh, get out of my way while I discipline the undisciplinable!’ x

  21. says

    Oh see my newborns were a dream, so when my first turned 2 it was even more shocking. Love the warning on elastic waist skirt, ah yes, they know your down fall!!
    I would do the waiting game, i’m patient, but so few happened in public, i could get on with my day at home. My twins never threw them, they watched their big sister get no where. My son was too young to witness it, so he took me back down memory lane, with a fresh spin on tantrums.
    Now i can nod at mums at the supermarket & say “we’ve all been there” which looks strange as i’m often childless as they all made it to school.
    I have a new chapter, high school & teenagers, i’ll let you know how it goes!! They are equally unpredictable & smarter at negotiations. You have to be well armed & prepared. Love Posie

  22. says

    Darling, I am living this right now, except Mr 2 is now Mr 3, and even more determined to be defiant and independent. His tantrums are less frequent, and it is becoming easier to rationalise (just) with him, but he still insists on setting his own bed time. To fight it or not to fight it, that is the question. You may have read my post about getting the toddler to go to bed and stay in bed – and months in we are still not winning the battle. And so, we have decided that perhaps Mini Hoges is just one of those few kids who really doesn’t need to go to bed until after 9pm…so why fight it?

    PS OPL will be back 1st Feb!

  23. says

    Oh dear sweet lord.. So glad I did many pelvic floor exercises after giving birth.. There would be on great huge wet spot otherwise..
    You rock maxabella!! You so truly rock!!!

  24. says

    Haha, that’s hilarious! Even more so as I don’t have kids!

    Thanx so much for stopping by my blog – I’ll let you know how the Xmas lights=no chainsaws thing works …

    Have a great weekend!

  25. says

    Oh yes. I happily walk away. The more distance I put between us the better. People start looking around for “the mother”. I most certainly do NOT make eye contact with third-parties, as you state, as you begin to second guess your tactics. Thankfully, the boy is now two-and-a-half, and some good quality speech on his part seems to have cured most tantrums!

  26. says

    Oh yes I remember the toddler years well, wish I had a super list like this to follow when my children were little ☼

  27. says

    That is fabulous! Nothing brings my two year old to her senses faster than being told I’m leaving. I laughed so much I snorted at the elastic-waisted skirt tip;)

  28. says

    Seriously brilliant! When are you going to start writing a column for a mag, Bron? You are such a wonderful writer. I will let you in on a secret (and I swear its true).. often when I am reading a column by a certain famous blogger/Mummy I think to myself “Maxabella should be doing this, writing here!” You always have me (and all your readers) in stitches.

    On the topic of tantrums – Gah! I am right there, right now. I have the worlds most defiant toddler. Truly. Throw a newborn in the mix and its just torture at times. It takes patience and a whole lot of humour to get through it. If I dont laugh, I will surely loose it!

  29. says

    oh we are sooo close to these moments in our house. She’s starting off small- mainly back arching and screaming, but she doesn’t last very long in this hysteria, at the moment. I’m finding the toddler section of life rather challenging… but nothing on newborns.

    PS: I think I’m one of those advice-giving Mothers. Ohhh nooooo! Believe it when I say it comes from a place of goodness, not know-it-all-ness 😉

  30. says

    non-elasticised skirt

    So smart! Excellent tips. These toddlers are like MASTER MINDS of manipulation. We need all the help we can get.

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