The Terrible... Ones?

One of the funny and wonderful--and sometimes maddening--things about small children is that they are completely incapable of hiding their feelings. Whatever they feel at any particular moment is completely apparent on their little faces. Now, as a parent, I'd love it if Jason's face always looked like this:

Even this would be fine:

Unfortunately, more and more often lately, Juliette and I have been seeing this:

And, worse for us, that face is frequently followed by a full-on, heels-kicking-on-the-floor tantrum.

He gets this face pretty much any time we tell him he can't have something or can't do something. "No, sweetie, that's not your toy, that's the dog's toy." Or, "Jason, you can't go outside and play with your water table right now, it's too cold." Or, "Mommy's in the bathroom right now, can you play with Daddy instead?"

Unfortunately for Juliette and me, Jason has fully inherited both of our stubborn streaks. Once he sets his mind on something, it can be very difficult to pull him onto a different track. He'll even throw his whole body weight into pushing one of us away if we try to thwart him. Sometimes he even hits us.

We're dealing with it the best way we can. Juliette and I have discussed and decided on our guidelines for what is and isn't acceptable behavior, and give him instruction on that every day. We require that he say "Please" and "Thank you." We praise and reward good behavior, and we've introduced "time-out" for when he breaks the rules, or doesn't listen, or gets too out of hand. We try to be consistent.

It's been kind of a mixed bag in terms of results, so far. On the one hand, he has gotten better about listening when we tell him to do something--the threat of a "time-out" is a pretty good motivator, especially because he knows we'll follow through on it. On the other hand, he still has breakdowns pretty frequently, and sometimes it feels like they're only becoming more common. The problem is that he's such an inquisitive and active kid. He always wants to be doing something or touching something, getting into new places and seeing new things. And when he wants something, that desire is both strong and untempered by the maturity required to delay gratification.

It's been a tough time, and both Juliette and I have been feeling our patience wearing thin. Sometimes we wonder what's wrong with him or with the way we've been raising him, since it seems like he acts out more than any of the other kids we know. We just have to tell ourselves that we're doing the best we can, that we don't know what any of those other kids are like when we're not around, and that this is just a phase that he'll grow out of.

It's not like he's completely awful, either. On the contrary, Jason is often sweet and smart and funny and fun to be around. I particularly love how generous he is with his things when his friend Amalea comes to visit--he's constantly showing her books and giving her toys, and generally trying to make sure she's having a good time. He also spontaneously gives hugs to me and Juliette, or to his friends.

It's things like that that keep me going when Jason falls apart and screams "No Daddy!" over and over. I just close my eyes, take a breath, and remember the feeling of his little hand patting me on the shoulder when he gives me a hug.




I think you're on the right track. Consistancy is a must, of course. And you'll have to be patient to have the results show.

Hang in there, I can't imagine better parents than those who agonize over what they may be doing to their offspring.


Kids are so complex. And one thing I know for sure is kids are much more willing to fall apart at home, away from the world.

Mike Sakasegawa:

Yeah, we never hear about any behavior problems from his daycare teachers. Which is kind of comforting, I guess, though it would be nice if he could keep that up at home.


I love that face in the last photo. Toby has also entered tantrum land - any 'No' from us results in head banging, floor throwing and feet kicking. We are assured that it is more than normal for this age group.

I like to tell myself it's because our kids are so engaged and interested - after all, if they weren't so active and exploratory, this wouldn't be an issue!


This is where we are with Nathaniel. By turns sweet and sour.


It always seems like your kid acts up more than any other kid. You're right, you don't see them at home, and besides, Jason knows you and Juliette will always love him and be there for him, so you are the safe boundaries for him to test in the world. I decided that the terrible twos are really called that because they're two years long (18 mo to 3.5 years) and not because the rugrat is two!