Dylan spent at least half the day throwing one tantrum after another, the earsplitting tearless kind that are driven by pure anger and frustration at not being allowed to engage in a variety of undesirable behaviors such as, for instance, attempting to shatter the television screen with a metal spatula.

I joke a lot about how he eats dog hair when he’s mad, but he really and truly does this and it’s seriously demented. I mean, I have never heard of a kid lashing out in that way. I even googled it, and sadly, the only result was my own website.

That’s not his only retaliatory response towards hearing the word NO, of course. There’s also biting furniture, pulling up his shirt and biting the fabric, walking over to my bookshelf and pulling out books, reaching to pull things off the kitchen counter, throwing toys across the room, pushing buttons on the DVR, and spitting.

But the thing where he sits and plucks fuzz and dirt and pet hair off the carpet and jams it in his mouth? Drives me out of my goddamned mind. Which, of course, is the point, as far as he’s concerned. The entire time, he’s staring directly at us, so it’s perfectly clear to all involved parties just what’s going on here: this isn’t simply an idle taste-test of carpet filth, no sir. This is a RADICAL ACT.

Sometimes it’s kind of funny, you know. The pint-sized fury, the beetled brow, the fact that he’s so deliberate in his revenge. But other times I just feel dragged straight to the end of my rope by the screaming and the chaos and the obnoxiousness of it all. More than once today I lost my patience and shouted at him to STOP IT, goddamn it. Stop the crying, the spitting, the throwing, the fucking dog hair, just STOP IT.

Shouting in rage at the little boy I’d take a bullet for. Yeah, that’s a good feeling.

After today I realize that I’ve got to head off the behavior when it’s getting out of hand, because this thing where I follow him around getting more and more pissed off by the things he’s doing for the express purpose of pissing me off is . . . well, for god’s sake. I’m 35 years old. He’s not even two. Someone’s got to be the grownup, right?

If it were Riley who were acting out, I’d send him to his room in a heartbeat. When I’ve tried this with Dylan, though, he just stands in his crib screaming at the top of his lungs. But it’s true that sometimes it’s more that mom is the one who needs a time out. Next time, he’s going in his crib and I’m going outside for a nice long count of ten. Maybe two hundred.

The moments of scary, angry yelling are the ugliest I’ve ever known. The brief helpless feeling of catharsis, followed swiftly by shame and regret.

I’m so sorry, little guy. Sometimes I really suck at being the grownup.



126 Responses to “Stop”

  1. Leah on October 19th, 2009 6:36 pm

    Yes yes yes. I told Wombat to “Stop it and leave me alone” (because he was sitting on my head while I was in bed trying to sleep), and the guilt was as immediate as it was vast, especially because the poor thing is only ten months old and doesn’t even know what those words mean. Poor thing. Sometimes it’s hard to be a nice mama.

  2. Shin Ae on October 19th, 2009 7:11 pm

    Gosh, I have to comment again because reading all these reminds me of two things my oldest did when having tantrums: (1) screamed until his nose spontaneously started to bleed and (2) broke the windshield of the car WITH HIS HEAD and did not miss a beat. Not one. (By the way, car was not moving…I had trapped him in the car due to him throwing a fit near a busy street).

    Yeah, let me say again that a few short years later, he never has tantrums. We talk.

  3. Amanda on October 19th, 2009 7:27 pm

    @Robin at 7:35 a.m.”…he jumps up and attacks me.” Thank you–for you just made me laugh so hard that I lost MY shit. :)

  4. Heather on October 19th, 2009 7:30 pm

    OMG. My daughter’s the exact same age and at the exact same stage (please,God,let this be a stage). Sadly, the only comfort I have is knowing that someone else is going through the same thing.

  5. Anonymous on October 19th, 2009 8:24 pm

    I don’t have kids yet so no help here…but the thought of you sitting on the couch w/ Dylan’s future girlfriend telling her how he ate DOG HAIR as a toddler made me laugh out loud. Hang in there!

  6. MotherGooseAmy on October 19th, 2009 8:29 pm

    “The moments of scary, angry yelling are the ugliest I’ve ever known. The brief helpless feeling of catharsis, followed swiftly by shame and regret.” –sadly, I know this feeling all too well. Happens to the best of us. Doesn’t make in any more acceptable, but makes me feel less like a monster when I read that you lose your shit too!

  7. Clover on October 19th, 2009 9:00 pm

    My daughter is a couple of weeks younger than Dylan, so I GET IT.

    An idea – when he’s freaking out and starts the dog hair eating shit, get out the vacuum. The noise will (cross your fingers) drown out some of the screaming AND you’ll be taking away his snack.

    Just a thought.

  8. mnsm31 on October 19th, 2009 9:32 pm

    you have no Idea how much I needed this post, and needed it today.

  9. Belle on October 20th, 2009 5:53 am

    FWIW, our son was a tantrum-thrower, too. He magically calmed down when he went to k’garten – don’t ask me why because I have no idea. He turned into the most laid-back and easy-care guy around. (He’s now 33.) I imagine Dylan will be done with all this eventually, so all you have to do is wait it out! And isn’t it funny just how different two kids from the same parents can be?

    P.S. I want to pinch those cheeks of his because he is so freakin’ adorable!

  10. Anonymous on October 20th, 2009 6:25 am

    If anyone is in the LA area (and having the problem), I have heard really wonderful things about the Center for Nonviolent Education and Parenting…How to handle your own emotions when your kid is acting up. My friend takes a lot of their classes and is a firm believer in their methods….

  11. lisa on October 20th, 2009 7:09 am

    We’ve all been there. :)

  12. Fay on October 20th, 2009 8:43 am

    Sorry if someone else has suggested something similar: My sister has two kids (I have none), and in such situations she started using “the crying room,” much like you used the crib. Even at that young age, before they could talk… she’d put the offender in a room and say “I’ll be back when you’re finished crying.” (Does he understand what you say to him, for the most part? Forgive my ignorance on that point) And they’d just sit there and yell, until they were done. She’d come check on them… “are you done yet?” and get some kind of wimpy/cute “uh-huh” or “I’m pinished (hee),” and then they got to come out.

    It was pretty darn effective. Still is. In one house they lived in temporarily, the bedrooms were upstairs so there was a “crying rug,” in the kitchen. The crier couldn’t leave the rug til s/he was done with the tantrum.

  13. Sue on October 20th, 2009 9:26 am

    My daughter is also a royal pain, and like you, I lose my shit with her ALOT. My husband has an approach that works very well at least with her. When he sees that she is going to have a tantrum, she lays her down on the couch and tickles her until she isnt mad anymore, then he sits with her on his lap, and lets her catch her breath. It is not foolproof, but it works often. You are a fine mother, just be grateful that your boys will not remember all of the things you regret saying…

  14. Tatiana on October 20th, 2009 10:02 am

    Rule of timeout: one minute for every year. When the timeout is for me: see you in half an hour…

  15. Nicole on October 20th, 2009 10:33 am

    Obviously not an expert here and probably more clueless than most but according to the books I’ve read on sleeping, you should be careful not to use the crib as a means of punishment. Makes the kids associate being in their bed with bad things or some shit. Ergo, sleep issues. But obviously at this age you need to be able to put them somewhere safe while you crawl into a corner, assume the fetal position and try to will yourself into another dimension. How about a time-out playpen? I’ll let you know if it works because we are just about there… My Riley (16 months) has taken to angrily pawing at me when I don’t allow him to do something. Which of course is a precursor to actual hitting. Which of course is absolutely unacceptable! I’ve heard (okay, read – I’m sure you are sensing a pattern here) that toddlers at this stage are fascinated by their ability to cause a reaction, positive or negative. So the idea is to stop the undesirable behavior with as little reaction as possible. So… Meditation? Mood stabilizing pharmaceuticals?

  16. Colleen on October 20th, 2009 11:35 am

    Thank you Linda, for another wonderful post. Along with the comments above, it made me feel slightly less terrible and alone about losing my temper with my son (3yo) and YELLING at him to just STOP IT. And then he tells me, “you’re NOT my friend” or “bad Mommy” – ouch.

  17. Carla on October 20th, 2009 12:15 pm

    “The moments of scary, angry yelling are the ugliest I’ve ever known. The brief helpless feeling of catharsis, followed swiftly by shame and regret. ”

    THIS? Is exactly how I feel. We tend to think the rest of the world has it together when we’re falling apart. Thank you for being so honest to share.

  18. Jules on October 20th, 2009 2:36 pm

    Totally been there done that. Many many times. I agree with the crib time. It’s not pleasant, but it’s safe. You get a break, which you need, and he doesn’t get attention. I agree with the vacuum cleaner suggestion as well. You will get through this. Albeit with some new gray hairs, but you’ll come out on the other side.

  19. MichelleRenee on October 20th, 2009 3:19 pm

    I here ya. I’m working on my tone..

    I tend to snap more at my older child.

    I think it’s because I expect her to “get it”.

    I forget that even though she’s taller than me, she is still a kid.

    Thank you.
    This post is great food for thought.

  20. wealhtheow on October 20th, 2009 3:21 pm

    Been there, done that. YMMV, but I’ve found a book called “Positive Discipline: The First Three Years” to be helpful. It’s all about what stuff is developmentally appropriate and how to deal with it–which duh, I think we all know that tantrums are developmentally appropriate, but sometimes it is just so soothing to turn to the book and think “see, it’s not just my kid.” I re-read it when I’m having a tough time with the little bugger, and it helps me take a step back and realize this is just a phase and I CAN be patient, even though it’s sometimes the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

  21. Amanda on October 20th, 2009 7:19 pm

    Anonymous, I’ve totally had the same mental imaginings of Jo the Supernanny playing back a video of me shrieking at the boys in the bathroom! Ah, the comisery!

  22. Juls on October 21st, 2009 5:26 pm

    Having 3 kids of my own (my oldest is now 14!), I have totally had my share of exorcist moments when I find myself in a complete meltdown. On one occasion I was with a girlfriend when all hell broke loose. Mid-tirade, she handed me a sippy cup while acting like Vanna White and proclaimed me “Mother of the Year!”. Well, it was just so damn funny that I took the cup and made an elaborate acceptance speech which cracked up the kids. It is a running joke to this day.

  23. Sarah on October 21st, 2009 6:57 pm

    Oh scary, yelling angry mom? Yeah. I know her too well. And scares me more than it even scares the kids. A kind of out of body experience at times for sure. When it was one boy, I did okay. I put him in his room. I stepped outside. When it was two boys, I kept my cool. I split them up. I stepped outside. Now there are three boys. I can’t step outside or they will literally draw each others’ blood. So I yell. Or I just give in. I don’t know which is worse sometimes. Ah, it’s all relevant. And they’re not half-bad if I do say so myself. And we’ve made it this far. C’est la vie. This motherhood shit is rough.

  24. Lena on October 22nd, 2009 5:08 pm

    Hi Linda – I’ve followed your blog for a while now, but never commented. (I know, who cares). But I woke up this morning thinking about this post – because, you know, I read it + all 3 gazillion comments yesterday. How in the world do you have time to read these??? Anyhoo, I am a firm believer that cribs should not be a place for punishment because as Nicole said, that can lead to sleep issues. I have 2 1/2 year old twins and have been very careful to keep their room and cribs a happy place, and it has paid off (I’m neglecting to add the part that they didn’t sleep through the night until they were 11 mo. old and I convinced myself I had to give them up for adoption, but that’s another story entirely.) And I was also thinking about the whole dog-hair eating thing. He needs an audience for effect, so tell him that you’re not interested in watching him and leave the room. Finally, I hate to sound judgemental because I’ve had SOO many moments with my girls that I care not to remember, but DO NOT THROW COLD WATER IN A CHILD’S FACE! Hello, people!??

  25. akeeyu on October 26th, 2009 11:20 am

    My nephew eats hair, paper and fluff when he’s agitated or anxious.

    Google “pica.”

  26. piecemeal people on October 31st, 2009 9:51 pm

    So there have been 125 comments before mine, and I haven’t read them (Hell – I’m not even sure YOU’RE reading them at this point), so someone else has probably already made this point but I shall continue nonetheless: I think it’s PERFECTLY fine to put him in his crib when he’s starting to melt down like that – for you, yes, but also for him. He’s over a year old, right? I’m of the opinion that he’s old enough to at least *start* to make the connection between his behavior and the result – “Hey, when I act like a total jackass, I am suddenly removed from all the action. Huh…”

    It’s hard to know when is the right age to start disciplining kids (I’ve found there’s a very fine line between “my sweet angel baby” and “who is this a-hole, anyway?”), but I do know that a lot of people wait too long – and then all of a sudden you’ve got a monster three-year-old on your hands who can’t understand why suddenly so much is expected of him.

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