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.

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justmouse
justmouse
12 years ago

i think your idea of just putting him in his crib and letting him scream his damn head off for a while, while you go sit outside and catch your breath for a minute is a perfect idea. sure, he’s screaming, but he’s not hurting himself. let him. and while yelling at your kid surely does make you feel like a bag of shit (i know this first hand), at least you are aware that this is not working, and that you need a time out to collect yourself before trying again. one of this worst times i can remember is when i was living back home with my parents, and my son was pushing every button i had, and i lost my shit. totally. and i screamed at him, literally. my mother came upstairs and sent BOTH of us to our rooms. ya…feeling about 2 inches tall after that one.

wordygirl
12 years ago

We have ALL been there. I really struggle with patience, and the thing I freakin HATE MORE THAN ANYTHING is the whining. My daughter whines while she is waiting the .000045 seconds for her meal to be ready. (You’re familiar with this sound: Enh. Ennnnh. ENNNNNNNHHHHHHH.) So naturally, I model patience for her by saying, “Be patient, Gwen. It’s coming, Gwen. Just wait, Gwen. It’s coming…. OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY STOP MAKING THAT FUCKING NOISE.” Great way to teach the value of patience and restraint, no?

Melissa
12 years ago

I hear ya. My not yet two-year-old is getting over the plague. Two full days of the exact tantrums you described (not to mention several days without sleep causing me to plead with him at 3am telling him that if he loved mommy, he would just go back to sleep and not cry until the sun came up – yeah, that was a parental high note) had the inevitable conclusion of an identical shouting match (btw, my kid bites the furniture too, wtf?). Earlier, he put himself in a time out, not because he did something naughty, but because he THOUGHT about doing something naughty and noticed I was watching. He pulled his pointy finger back, an inch from the DVR, grabbed his blankie, and stomped off to the time out step shouting “No! No! No!” then proceeded to have a world class baby melt down as if I’d beaten him within an inch of his life. I am pretty sure if I’m so terrifying, my child puts himself in time out, I’ve abused my parental privileges somewhere along the way.

Pete
Pete
12 years ago

I don’t have much to offer other than to try dumping a couple of boxes of baking soda on the carpet (and vacuum up the excess). It gets rid of odors and taste horrible.

Amy
Amy
12 years ago

I’ve been there. I get so mad at myself when I have such a crappy response. But you’re right…the time out is more for us than them. I did have to laugh at your description of him, the look, the shovling of pet hair. Ours doesn’t do the exact same thing, but similar. Hang in there!

Michelle
Michelle
12 years ago

I’ve been extra yelly lately and that makes me feel like ass. This helps you not at all, I’m sure, but I just wanted you to know that you are not alone.

You never are. :)

donna
12 years ago

Oh, boy. Going through the same thing right now. Tonight my almost three year old told me it hurts her feelings when I yell at her. Holy crap, that stung.

This stage can’t last forever, right? RIGHT???

Carey
Carey
12 years ago

I’m thinking (hoping?) that every mother knows this shame. Even those you could never imagine would lose their cool like that, because quite frankly, kids are frequently soooo very annoying! I’ll admit that about every six months, my son pushes me right off the cliff of sanity and I scream at him at the very top of my lungs. At this point he’s six and just looks at me in a curious sort of way and says, “jeez, you don’t have to yell like that, mommy.” When he was younger, his little face would crumple in that heartrending way where you know you’ve ripped away a little piece of his spirit. You’re so right about that momentary feeling of catharsis followed immediately by burning shame. I’ve recognized that his behavior at this moment is usually not any different than any other day. It’s me. I can only take so much from him, my job, my world before I’m filled to the brim with frustration and exhaustion and then the cork pops and the vitriol spews out all over the person I love most in the world. Each time I vow to do better. And I do…for about six months.

Serenity Now
12 years ago

Sweet Jesus, don’t we ALL suck at being the grownup sometimes? My kid does everything you just described except for the dog hair thing. Instead, he cries until he pukes every.single.time. – I’ve actually sat in a chair and sobbed while he threw a tantrum and threw up in his high chair because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve lost my temper and gritted my teeth at him and felt like a total asshole because of it. I thank GOD there is someone like you who so candidly shares her experiences because it’s all just so REAL. And I would bet money almost every parent reading your blog nods their head through most of it. This parenting stuff is hard.

Serenity Now
12 years ago

Also? I’d like to see Michelle Duggar lose her shit JUST ONCE dammit…

Hilary
12 years ago

Oh, this really stinks, I’m sorry. How is it that they know how to push our buttons at such an early age?

I think you’re on the right track with trying to head the behaviors off at the pass before they escalate. Thinking back, is there a pattern to them? Do they always happen when you’re involved in something else (he wants attention) or before meal or naptimes? If so, or even if you see the little Hulk coming out, maybe have a Super Fun Distraction Drawer at the ready to draw his attention away from whatever destruction he’s contemplating.

I don’t know — these ideas always sound so great in theory, but in practice life isn’t that predictable. This will pass. You’re a great mom.

molly
molly
12 years ago

Exactly what Carey said (but mine are 3 1/2 and 21 months). I’m so glad I read the comments; I feel better now (even though it is 12:06 am and, once again, I am in front of my laptop because I have enough work for three people at my fucking job). And sneaking in my own vent also feels quite refreshing.

This too shall pass, Linda! Mine won’t go to prom with a Pull-Up to poop in in her purse and Dylan’s prom date won’t have to take dog hair out of his mouth in order to smooch him.

Lara
Lara
12 years ago

I’m not a parent so I can’t add to the conversation, but I have to say that picture slays me. Those eyes, those lips, those JAMMIES.

Philos
12 years ago

The chainsaw in the background of that photo is a nice touch.

Anna
Anna
12 years ago

I love the chain saw in the background. Hee.

yaya
12 years ago

No magical words of advice, just: been there, done that :-( Didn’t leave the house for 2 months when kiddo would have what I called “medical grade tantrums” in public places and/or getting in the car seat. I thought so many times he was going to have a seizure or faint or start bleeding from his eyes he was screaming, crying, drooling, etc etc etc etc very scary & frustrating…anyway..I feel ‘ya…you are an amazing mom and parent who loves, clothes, shelters and protects her young, even in the worst of times…deep down, way below the yelling, you know that~kiddos and you will be fine, forever ;-)

Nicole
12 years ago

I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with putting him in his crib during a tantrum. I did that with my daughter when she was about 16-20 months because a simple ‘no’ when put her in such a ridiculous state of rage, I was afraid she would hurt herself. She would do that fish flop thing onto a tile floor and honestly, I’m sure she would have ended up with a concussion one day. When it started getting bad, I just scooped her up and dumped her in her crib. I would calmly tell her that no meant no and no amount of screaming would make me change my mind. She could keeping screaming for as long as she needed to, I understood that she was angry and that was ok, but I would only come and get her when she was done because I did not want to listen to the screaming. Every once in awhile I would shout from the other room ‘Are you done yet?’ and when she said yes, I would go get her, perfectly happy, as if the tantrum never happened, and just pick up where we left off. I think that it is a good technique for ignoring tantrums. I also think it is important to find a way to shift the balance of power back to you and thats why this might work really well with Dylan. So long as tantrums put him in control of the situation, he will keep doing it.

Swistle
12 years ago

I love the crib idea. (Er, perhaps that’s because what I do.) I think it is a good way to signal This Behavior Needs to Stop—while also in fact stopping it. Unless he has reserves of dog hair put aside in his crib.

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Beth
12 years ago

A friend of mine told me she splashed her kid with some ice cold water when she started a tantrum. She claims it stopped hers in her tracks. Might be worth a try, at least it wouldn’t hurt him. Ewww, dog hair!?!

erin
12 years ago

You are not alone in screaming at your kid. I’d venture to say everyone has reached their limit for the very last time and yelled at some point in their lives of raising children. And if they say they haven’t, they are robots and they can suck it.

Heather
12 years ago

Oh, yes. I know this feeling. For us it is the car. Strap him in, put the car in drive, and wait for the whining, the seat kicking, the blanket/cup/book/anythingtokeephimquiet throwing. The arching back, flailing legs, head banging, oh yes. I know this.

Robin
Robin
12 years ago

If you figure out how to head it off at the pass, will you share please? Because I could sure use some ideas on that front.

Brigid
12 years ago

My 5YO calmly looked at me as I was totally losing my shit this weekend “When you yell at me like that? It makes me just want to do it more and more and worse and worse.” I closed my mouth and almost cried out of frustration.

wn
wn
12 years ago

Am SO glad that I am not the only one that sucks at being a grown-up. The worst is that when my husband MD says NO….the kid magically listens. assholes.

PS – I don’t always use the crib (mainly because it is upstairs and I am lazy) but I have used the highchair (strapped in) and left him alone in the kitchen, and stepped outside for a few minutes. It was more of a timeout for me than for him.

stephanie
stephanie
12 years ago

oh honey… my first one is 28, my second 11 and I’M 51!! and sometimes i STILL suck at being a grownup… just know you have lots of company. :::hugs all around:::

Robin
Robin
12 years ago

We had that kind of weekend too! I yelled a few times and was told by my 4 year old that I’d ‘made him very sad’ because I was ‘so cross at him!’ (he’s a big Thomas fan and picked that term up on the show.) I felt like such an asshole.

I can’t remember if Riley is older or younger than mine, but man….4 is way, way harder than 2 in the annoyance arena. Some days they just never stop. And that’s all you want them to do. STOP. For five fucking mintues, just stop.

The cramming of the dog hair i his mouth though? That would drive me bat-shit crazy too!

Thanks for sharing….everyone. It makes me feel a little less bad for losing it every now and then.

Cookie
12 years ago

I’ve been there too. And it’s so hard. Especially when I’m so frustrated and yelling and then his face scrunches up and he starts crying because he’s hurt that mommy’s yelling and then I just feel like a major douche bag, but dammit, stop doing x,y and z, please! Nick also likes to bite the stairs. Or Gabe if Gabe refuses to attention him. The one time I tried putting Nick in his crib, he was mad at me for like the entire day. Wanted nothing to do with me. Gabe will stay in his room and yell the whole time. I think the break thing is a good idea. I used to smoke to calm down, before I had kids, and if it weren’t so bad for me I’d seriously consider taking it up again.

Joanne
12 years ago

I am really enjoying the Love and Logic parenting book I’m reading. Some of it seems like nonsense, and makes me feel ridiculous, but it has true *plans* for how to head off tantrums, and deal with them when they happen. I have never had such a bad temper in my LIFE, nor such violent feelings, since I’ve had kids. It’s so strange, to be so in love and so angry all at once! Anyway, take a look if you can, it might help.

Pam
Pam
12 years ago

My niece used to do that irrational screaming and lashing out thing from when she was about 2, until about 4. My brother and sil seriously considered that she might be mentally ill and took her to several doctors, who advised them to just wait it out. And then almost overnight she changed, and is now an extremely pleasant 15-year-old, who really is a joy to be around, with no traces of that earlier behavior.

I hope this gives you [some] hope. Hang in there.

Michelle
Michelle
12 years ago

My kids are way past the tantrum stage, thank God. But I remember very clearly how exhausting and frustrating it was for me.
Beth mentioned a friend throwing water at her child during a tantrum. I did that once,
suprised the hell out of both of us. I felt
terrible, but a little water in the face was
much better than what I felt like doing.

Jenny
Jenny
12 years ago

I am sadly dealing with the same thing (minus the dog hair). My 2 year old son actually said to me “Mommy, you are always, always, always yelling at me.” Ok, I know this is SO not true as I do not yell that much, but it still makes me feel like a pile. Let me know if you find a magic remedy to getting so crazy frustrated that your mouth erupts in a tad bit of yelling.

ELC
ELC
12 years ago

Yup, he’s totally ready for “time out”. Whether it’s his crib, highchair, pack n’ play, he should be told once or twice what he is to do or not do, and if he does not comply, into time out he goes. In 2 weeks, all you’ll have to do is ASK if he wants a time out and he’ll cooperate asap. I hope. It works for me anyway.

MLH
MLH
12 years ago

Thank you for letting me know that I am not the only one who yells…and sometimes sucks as a grownup! We love these little guys so much and yet…they drive us bananans! aRGH

susie
12 years ago

I was a difficult child. Knew all the buttons to push to make my mother feel what I think you are describing.

It stops, eventually – and then one day, you’ll get to tease him for eating dog hair when he was a toddler. And then, another day, you’ll get to giggle about it with his significant other.

You’re a wonderful mother.

charissa
12 years ago

It’s hard for me to be the grown up (and I’m just talking about dealing with my coworkers and husband) fairly often — definitely more often than I’m proud of.
While I think that that’s understandable (if not admirable), I also think you should be proud of yourself that overall you seem to be winning the war on Being A Big(ger) Person (in the personality sense, obviously).

Corinne
Corinne
12 years ago

I’m sorry. I had one of those on Saturday. It’s so sucky. I think you’re right, though – standing on the porch doing some deep breathing brought me back some sanity. Next time however I will wear socks, it was cold out there.

Redbecca
Redbecca
12 years ago

Ugh the deliberate button pushing. I don’t get how they quickly figure it out, either. Our big issue these days is the screaming in the car, when the car comes to a stop for too long – although not all the time and not always in the same places (bashes head against steering wheel). You either have to start distracting him with asking for the run-down on animal sounds, or just deal. I’ve started taking toys away each time he screams, but what do I do when he has no more toys? Gah.

seadragon
12 years ago

Oh my goodness, that red little pout and those polar bear pajamas – too cute!

I have no words of advice for you. Sometimes I think Squeakles doesn’t have tantrums, but then I realize it’s because he spends a lot of time playing in his (big) play corral rather than running around our apartment grabbing/breaking everything. So anything he wants to touch / bang / whatever is ok there. So I guess unless you cage your child (understandably difficult with some personalities and when you have an older child who is free to wander anywhere), there’s going to be the constant battle between what he wants to do and what you don’t want him to do. Whenever we do “let him out” (and we do!) it’s exhausting for all of us, even when he isn’t trying to smash things.

I like Nicole’s technique of putting her daughter in her crib (though for our own personal sleep-related reasons, I don’t know if I’d put my son there) and calling out “Are you done?” and then going to get her daughter when she finally says “yes”. It sounds like her daughter is familiar with that routine and so she doesn’t freak out, but instead gets a chance to yell it out and calm down on her own.

Also, I think if you’re writing about yelling STOP, then it’s not the case that you’re yelling at him all day long, just when you’ve finally had it. So don’t beat yourself up about it too much. The “I’ve had enough” message is also a message that needs to be sent! I’m quite sure you follow it up with lots of love.

warcrygirl
12 years ago

I’ve found that when my kids would do stuff like this that ignoring the behavior took some of the wind out of their sails. I realize that it does bother you and it SHOULD (because, EWWW) but if you can fake it he may stop if it’s not getting the desired effect. Giving yourself a time out is an excellent idea, many moms have done the same thing so don’t beat yourself up over it. And yes, NIP THIS IN THE BUD. Once they get to the point where they not only know what buttons to push but WHEN it can get out of hand. When I was in the shoes you’re in now I simply put them in their rooms, told them they couldn’t come out until they stopped *insert infraction here* and left them there until the noise stopped. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Kids are funny that way. Hope this helps.

Liz
Liz
12 years ago

yeah – right there with you. my 3.5 yo is much the same with the angry, red-faced screaming and the destructive behavior until I want to scream at him until I pass out.

last night he was starting to work himself into that rage and I looked him in the eye, stood up and went to put away the laundry. as I left the room I had my ear out for explosion to come and you know what – NOTHING. it’s like his audience got up and left so he had no-one to perform for! of course my husband was nearby and Dylan is younger so you might not be able to trust him as much – but maybe sneak around the corner and peek. sometimes they deflate quickly when they see that they won’t get the response they expect!

we all need lessons on being a grown up and being more patient – hang in.

Clueless But Hopeful Mama

Oh girl. I’m so grateful that you write about this because it’s so hard and so universal and yet SO SHAMEFUL for us all.

Everytime my three year old was mad in public as a two year old she would throw herself on the floor and LICK IT. Mall? CHECK. Public restrooms? CHECK. Grocery store? CHECK.

You get the idea. She knew what would make me insane (GERMS! GAH!) and literally DOVE into it.

My mantra: Do not engage the beast. That’s what the beast wants. (The beast= BEING a two year old. Not the actual beloved two year old.) So I would walk away. Seriously. In a store, she would throw herself on the floor and start to lick it. I would walk around the corner and let her go to town. Yes I got some serious stares. Yes she licked some seriously gross floors. Then she would stop, look for me HER BELOVED AUDIENCE, and come running. It ended it after about a month of ignoring it.

Now, that won’t quite work for you, I realize as I’m sure Dylan could gag on the dog hair and might actually make a hole in your TV but remembering to NOT ENGAGE THE BEAST BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THE BEAST WANTS is a good reminder.

alomellin
alomellin
12 years ago

I am in the thick of this right now. I get so irritated with myself when I lose control. It’s so hard in the heat of things to keep a grip sometimes. This line, I love,
“Shouting in rage at the little boy I’d take a bullet for. Yeah, that’s a good feeling.”

I am sometimes taken back at how much I can love someone and how angry they can make me soemtimes.

Kim S.
Kim S.
12 years ago

I’ve been there too, with the crazy yelling. With my first daughter it was so much easier to control that rage. With my toddler twins, uh, not so much. But when they get mad watch out. I have one girl who growls and (almost) calmly looks around for something to destroy. Just wandering aimlessly until she finds shit to bust up. I can’t take it. Then I yell, hoping to snap her out of it. She always shoots back a “You mean mommy!” at me and then I die a little more.

I keep chanting, this too shall pass. Please. Now.

Erin W
12 years ago

“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.”

Its so EXACTLY how I feel.

Lesley
Lesley
12 years ago

Beth wrote: A friend of mine told me she splashed her kid with some ice cold water when she started a tantrum. She claims it stopped hers in her tracks. Might be worth a try, at least it wouldn’t hurt him.

“Might be worth a try.”

I’m trying to picture myself doing this to anyone without feeling – and being – a total douchebag.

penne
12 years ago

This post makes me want to yell at my 12-year-old just because it’s reminding me of what a total asshole he was at 18 months. His trantrums included pounding his forehead on the floor, or my favorite, the top of my foot. One day, I just started doing it next to him and he looked at me like I was batshit crazy, because, I WAS. Slowed him down for awhile. I wonder what Dylan would do if you sat down and started eating carpet fuzz with him? Good luck. The very fact you doubt yourself means you’re doing the right thing. (PS – the 12 y/o is totally cool now, with no visible forehead scars.)

jen
jen
12 years ago

Thank you. Seriously. I’m sure it wasn’t your intent but reading this makes me feel so much better. To know that I am not alone in being so frustrated and at times at my wit’s end.

I was trying to shop on Saturday with my 17 mo old and lost my shit several times because of the whining and the fit throwing. I was seriously angry at him until he went eerily quite and then it hit me that I was the adult and he was the child and would I tolerate being in a stroller in the mall for 1/2 hour? Probably not. And then wham, the guilt for being so mean to him when he is just a kid. I vascillate between thinking kids need to learn how to behave in certain situations and thinking I expect too much from him.

Keri
12 years ago

I had been having some struggles with my 4-year-old and really losing my temper with him until I decided something had to be done. During my research on discipline, I found this book:
Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery by Judy Arnall

It has really saved my sanity. Reading this book I realized that it was ME that was causing all the distress in my son. Ever since I changed my word choices, changed my approach with my son, his behavior has turned for the better. And I feel much more connected to him. The basic point of this book is that behind every misbehavior, the child needs something. They act out as a way of communicating and it’s up to us to take a step back and address their feelings and figure out what it is that they need. It really works and there’s no stress for all parties involved. Good luck! =)

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

As mother to a 3.5 yo and a 2.5 yo, I think its safe to say that I’ve lost my shit with my kids a few (hundred) times. Right afterwards, I picture myself sitting at my dining room table with Supernanny and her little DVD player of shame. So fun. Also, to make me feel like even more of a slug, my three yo will creep up to me and say “Mommy, do you love me, or no?” ouch.

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