So I have a question. When do kids stop crapping all over the nice things we do for them? Or more specifically, when do they stop throwing tantrums when said nice thing is over?
Here’s my sitch: I love doing fun and unexpected things for Annie. A cupcake for breakfast, surprise trip to the bounce house place, or dinner at a friend’s house. I do these things because as much as I try to keep Annie scheduled, I think it’s important to sometimes be spontaneous. I want her to have fun experiences, and I know that breaks in routine can make the best memories. I also love doing these things because in the moment, Annie is over-the-moon thrilled. When that girl is happy, she could light up the whole world. It feels great to be responsible for that.
The problem is when the surprise is over. When the cupcake is gone or when it’s time to go home, Annie flips out. To be fair, I know she’s not trying to ruin the fun on purpose. I know she’s only two, although sometimes I forget that because she can often seem older. But even so, I can’t help but be like, GAH ANNIE! I just did something super fun and nice for you and you are WRECKING IT.
Last week Annie and I were twenty minutes early for an appointment that was right next to an awesome park. For a moment I contemplated letting Annie run around there before we went on with our day. But then I realized that she’d likely flip out about leaving the park, which would make her hard to deal with during our scheduled appointment. So I opted to sit in the car with her until it was time to go inside. It made me sad, but I didn’t want to risk it.
But, just when I’m ready to put all fun surprises on temporary hiatus, I get a glimpse of what I’m hoping will become the norm. Two days ago my Aunt Lynn surprised Annie by coming over to play. She was here for over two hours, reading, playing princesses, and running around the back yard. When it was time for my aunt to leave, Annie said, unprompted, “Bye Auntie Lynn. Thank you for playing princesses with me.”
I know that expecting a two-year-old to respond like that on the regular is as realistic as hoping my dog will thank me for giving her food every day (although Rigby does lick my face every day so hmmm). I would really just settle for fewer tantrums. Or at the very least, she thanks me, then has a tantrum.
Still Playing School says:
Lately over been telling E that of she throws a fit when we leave, we can’t do the specific activity anymore. I say, “eat cupcakes at breakfast,” instead of “fun things,” so she doesn’t think I’ll take all of the treats away. It’s seemed to work a bit. It also helps to talk about it more later once she’s calmed down.
This is an interesting question. I can only speak from my experience with my own two daughters. I am very much like you. I loved doing unexpected fun things with and for my girls. Here’s what I discovered. With my daughters it came down to their personalities. One would have tantrums (not every time) after the event ended and the other would just be lovely, thanking me, and accepting each occasion for what it was. As they grew older, this stayed the same. The older one always seemed to act entitled, and expect everything she wanted, and would be irritated when she didn’t get it, but the younger one was still the grateful and loving one, who never had any kind of negativity if she didn’t get what she wanted.
So to me, as I said, it just came down to their individual personalities. I don’t know if this is the case for every child. If I knew the answer to that, I would have been a child psychologist! However, I do believe that all children (and all adults) are different, and that there’s no set recipe for behaviors.
Regardless, I am glad I have been the kind of mother I am, and have no regrets. So I guess my advice would be, for you to be the kind of mother that feels right to you.
You’ve hit it right on. It’s all about temperment. We have the same thing with our two girls (and we have an older boy). One–who went through two years of kindergarten with a teacher who focussed on charity and gratitude–is always ungrateful sounding. We know she does appreciate things, but she always needs to push it to see how much she can get first and never expresses thanfulness out loud. I think these children need more work learning how to express it….
My youngest is SO grateful for a 2nd hand Justin Bieber t-shirt, but the older one wants brand new…or nothing. So, it’s nothing. Then she complains she has ….nothing. Sigh.
Still Playing School says:
Lately I’ve been telling E that if she throws a fit when we leave, we can’t do the specific activity anymore. I say, “eat cupcakes at breakfast,” instead of “fun things,” so she doesn’t think I’ll take all of the treats away. It’s seemed to work a bit. It also helps to talk about it more later once she’s calmed down.
It never ends. I’ve started making my kids tell me something they are thankful for when they start throwing a tantrum. To be fair, I have to do that too.
I don’t even try with my middle schooler anymore, I can’t seem to do anything right! It is so frustrating! I like the thankful idea, I am going to try that.
Let me add “freaking high schoolers” to that list as well.
I teach high school. Liz is right – it never ends.
Not the news you are hoping for…but I don’t think it ever ends. I constantly have to remind my 4.5 and 6.5 year olds to be thankful for the fun/exciting/new experience we’ve had and not sad/angry/tantrum-y that its ending. Like Liz, I try to cut the tantrums off with having them tell me what their favorite part of the experience was (weather it be a playdate with a new friend or a 20 hr roadtrip to an awesome new place). It doesn’t always work, but I know they are getting the message (very slooooowly, but surely).
I think this is a pretty normal phase for toddlers. Annie will grow out of it but in the meantime it might be good to experiment until you figure out how to get her to stop screaming. For my oldest it was barely an issue – all I had to say was “we have to go but in the car you can listen to TAYLOR!” – she’s super distractible. But for my son, I have always had to tell him precisely how long we will spend doing the activity and then give him frequent updates. I even set the timer on my phone so he has a concrete reminder. And then I always try to ask him to make sure he has done everything he wants to do most wherever we are – so when the time gets close to go, he feels like he has been satisfied. Different things work for different kids but there is a solution for Annie!
The timer on the phone works for us too. We do it for everything- play dates, bath time, at the park, etc. We give plenty of warning when it is getting close to time to leave (20 min warning, 10 min warning then the timer goes on at 5 mins). It took a few times, but now they expect it and are fine with leaving (or getting out of the tub) whenever the timer goes off. My older son will even tell me to set the “tick tock” if I forget.
The other thing that worked wonders for me was praising my older son like crazy when he did leave without any hassle unprompted at 2.5.
She will be past that stage soon, Heather! Don’t worry!!
Ps the same for treats – one thing that might work is not to ever, ever give in when they want another treat. and ensure that there are consequences for every tantrum – time out or whatever you do. This way, you can have consistent expectations for behavior but can be inconsistent with regard to the treats!
Wait until she is a teenager ….
My thoughts exactly.
I will just pray for you. Its much easier then explaining this phase that wont end for many years…oops did I just spoil it….Just wait it out
We had these problems too when our oldest was two (and I imagine our youngest will be the same way when he is older). We found that warnings, “Mason, we are going to have to leave soon” and choices, “Do you want to leave now or in 5 minutes?” worked for us. Even though he couldn’t tell time he figured out that minutes were better than now pretty quickly. The tantrums decreased significantly when we started with that.
Lol, I like the “Wait until she’s a teenager” Although my daughter is a “tween” I totally get it!
Do you give five minute warnings before it’s time to leave or stop an activity? It won’t solve the cupcake problem, obviously, but it helps kids learn to anticipate an ending without being surprised.
Jessica V. says:
I was going to say the same thing…lots of prep that X activity is coming to an end and then what is coming next (e.g., we have to go home and see Daddy/Rigby/play with our toys, or go to the store, etc.). It probably won’t solve every issue, but it may help (I kind of assume you are already doing this, but it’s all I could think of). Good luck!
I have found this super effective with my toddler. Even though I don’t think he has a great/any sense of time yet, telling him “we are leaving the park/grandma’s house/daycare in 2 minutes” really helps. Oddly, he has the biggest meltdowns when bathtime is over.
Sarah Macon says:
I was just thinking the same thing this morning. I surprised my 2 yr old by sneaking 10 jelly beans in her snack trap of cereal for school, when she ate the last one she lost her mind. Was it worth the quiet 10 minute drive, kinda, but all I could think was well shit, won’t be doing that again!
My youngest is about to turn 7, and we still have this issue. However, it’s OUR issue, not her issue. Just because she had a nice time out doing something, has nothing to do with how well she gets ready for bed. For young children, each activity is a totally separate entity…..going down the slide wonderfully has nothing to do with the rock wall, 3ft and 5 sec away.
And sometimes, just by throwing things out of whack with surprises and spantaneous activity (or, even non-surprises, just something that’s not usually part of the routine) is enough to throw some children out of sync for awhile. Have you read “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka? That should be your bible right now.
I’m sure you can probably also think of adults who have issues like this….”I gave you this totally awesome present and now you act like this?!”
I feel like I should say it never ends, because there are always THOSE moments. I am in the thick of my teenage daughters’ romantic heartbreaks and college applications and not-getting-cast-in-the-school-play and all kinds of things like that, and at the end of the day they DO reminisce about all the fun things we did together when they were small. And they DO thank me. And they DO say things like, “You are the best mom on earth.”
The Mary Sheedy book that Tracy recommends is a great one, and you should get it if you don’t already have it. But for now, you are doing a great job. It’s all normal. Enjoy the ups and the downs!
My mom calls it “post event let-down”.
Shes only 2, so the memories you are trying to create right now she will not remember.
My daughter is about 6 weeks younger than Annie, and a total drama queen. She throws tantrums a lot more frequently than my older son ever did at this age.
That said, I do find that with both of them, the best way to avoid tantrums is to let them know how long we’re going to be doing whatever we’re doing (or how much we’re having of whatever we’re having), and then to have them repeat it back to me, to make sure they understand. And giving “minutes left” warnings starting at about 10 minutes. It also helps to have something else for them to move onto immediately following the fun activity (even if it’s not necessarily something super fun, hyping it up does help): “Ok, J & S! We have five minutes left at the play ground, and then it’s time to go to Mommy’s doctor’s appointment!! Yay!!!” (of course, going to someone else’s doctor’s appointment really IS a lot more fun than going for yourself…).
When I decide we are going to do something fun. We talk a lot on the way there or once we get there. I tell my 4 year old. “we are going to go to (insert super fun place here) but when I say it is time to go then we have to leave. No crying or yelling because then we can’t come back”
The more I have done it the better it works. Not always but she knows that tempertantrums aren’t going to get her much
Been wondering that myself. It kind of just morphs into something else. My kids seem like they’ver NEVER thankful, and we give them a lot. Sometimes I think it’s too much (but we want them to be happy. Not just with stuff, but doing things, etc). With my five year-old, it’s turned into “I NEVER GET TO DO __insert thing he wants to do right this very minute__ EVER! Yes, you never get to play with your “girlfriend” ever. The one you just played with for three solid hours and see nearly three times a week. I always feel like it’s never enough. And then the other night, while I was out, they decided they wanted to get flowers for me while they were out at the grocery store with Daddy. I guess I’m doing something right.
Part of it is the age, but you have to look at it from their perspective. A surprise is a random event they don’t know how they got or if they will ever get again. Their emotional response is too much for them to handle – like a tween meeting a pop star and crying all over them. I mitigated it with my girls by letting them know ok, we’re going to do X fun thing soon. Now in Y time we have to leave / stop. As they got older I added that if doing X made them cry, we shouldn’t do it, but if they liked X then they needed to be ok when it was over, so we could do X again one day. It’s hard to be patient, but reminding myself that they literally could not process their excitement helped. Now both girls are very appreciative of good fortune (one more than the other because of birth order) and roll with schedule changes like it’s nothing. I use the same tactics toward video games, because if Y amount of computer time makes you cranky, you’re showing me that computer time isn’t good for you and we have to wait till you’re older to play Z game.
Your daughter and my daughter sound very similar. My girl is now four and I’ve found the best way is loads and LOADS of warning/reminders and small rewards for complying. “Annie, I have an appointment so we can play in the park for a little bit, but we need to stop right when I say. If you listen well, you get a sticker!” Then keep reminding her for the duration. Instead of pulling out a cupcake and shouting “Surprise!”, tell her you have a surprise cupcake, but there is only one and that’s it. She needs to accept that before she gets the cupcake. Doing loads of verbal reminders should help. She’s not trying to be ungrateful, she just probably doesn’t know what to expect and being two can be very confusing. She’s figuring out the world and asserting her opinions. Healthy and good, but annoying. It will definitely get better as she gets older and she will always remember and love her surprises from her fabulous mommy!
Tammy M. says:
If you can put up with the drama, these memories will be priceless to her. Even now my kids will say, “Mom, remember when we used to …..” and then they would talk about a one-time event that they remember so well that it’s like we did it all the time. I love it when they do that because it makes me realize what an impact those kind of things had on their life. Keep it up – you are a great mom!
Jana Frerichs says:
Tammy is right. When they get older they will have great memories of these times and won’t remember anything about their tantrums. And you’ll remember the tantrums.
We have definitly had this problem (particularly leaving playdates or parks) and I had to resort to making sure I had something fun to sell as the next thing until they got better at controlling their emotions. Sometimes it would be just really selling as fun (we’re going to have hotdogs and you can put the mustard on) or a straight bribe (if you come home nicely now you can watch a video while I make dinner). I do always try to give a few minute warning too, although some people say that makes it worse I find if they are reminded it is coming they can sometimes better handle the transition. That said, once I had to call my husband to pick up one kid so I could carry the baby down the block back to our house after a playdate ended! I met him in the lobby with a screaming kid with no shoes on.)
It’s hard, but warnings are the only thing that work for us. Our daughter’s can’t tell time but saying 5 minutes, then counting down…whether it truly is 5 minutes or more or less it gives them time to adjust to the change that is coming up.
It’s the age. And know this, when she gets older, this temperament will serve her well. She is a confident little gal and that is a good thing….but it’s killing you now. Just wait, you’ll see. I had one just like that. We had plenty of power struggles over the years but they got fewer and fewer and now she is an amazing woman, spirited, confident, talented, curious and motivated. She has a strong sense of self and doesn’t tale cr#@ from guys. She leaves behind her teenage years on Friday (sob) and it seems like just yesterday she was tantrumming in the coffee store……..or the grocery store…..or Target….or the mall…….
Susannah H says:
We were totally the people leaving our state fair last week with two crying children with mouths sticky from treats and prizes in their arms, and I felt JUST like this. “This is why I never want to take you anywhere!!” In the end, I realize we stayed too long and the kids were exhausted. I’m also going to agree that I think a large part of it is temperament, and of course it’s worse for younger/tired/sick kids. Our 4.5 year old son is VERY sensitive and wears his heart on his sleeve. I’ve realized that he really needs advance notice of every possible change in routine (even if that means reminding him of seemingly obvious things: we’re going to the playground, then after a little while I will say it is time to leave, then we will leave and then we will do X). Somedays I realize I just don’t have the mental energy to devote to all this prep work and positive redirection and skip fun things, too. Honestly, I think I’m kind of like this myself (have an initial negative reaction to unexpected changes) but am aware of it and try to reserve judgment until those first negative feelings subside… so it definitely gets better by 35. Ha!
As you can tell from earlier comments, you are not alone. With my oldest we’d do an exaggerated, happy “Bye Bye swing” “Bye Bye fans” (we had a sort of disturbing obsession with ceiling fans that required going into any store, restaurant, etc… that had fans). Seemed to help signal activity was over. With that said I had plenty of — if you can’t handle it being done we can’t do it talks. This too shall pass…
Jana Frerichs says:
I’ve got bad news for you. They never completely stop crapping all over nice things you do for them. They get better about it, but will continue to occassionally crap all over it.
All kids go through this. Here is a strategy I tried with my three and it totally works (especially given Annie’s level of comprehension!)
Right before you go somewhere, practice what is going to happen when you leave. So, for example, if you were going to that playground, you would say “Annie, we have only a few minutes to play, but we can only go if when I say it is time to leave, you say “Bye swings, bye playground, see you next time” and you come running to mommy for our appt, no tears. OK?”
Let’s practice – you play it out – say “Ok Annie, time to go” and Annie says “Bye swings, bye playground, see you next time!” (they love to role play, so she will eat it up)
Then when it is time to go, I guarantee that she will do it! It is like magic for this age!
Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts says:
We use this tactic too.
For us bedtime is the danger zone. If I lie in bed to snuggle with my 4yo after tucking him in he inevitably melts down when I get up, which makes it hard for me to snuggle at bedtime even though I love doing it. But if we “practice” Mommy’s goodbye before I lie down with him it usually goes much smoother when it’s actually time for me to leave. Sometimes he even asks to practice.
Also, frustrating as the Auntie Lynn scenario was for you, at least you know she has it in her to handle transitions well. She’ll get there.
Kristin Hicks says:
Mine are almost 13 and 11 and still struggle with gratitude. Let me know if you find a magic answer!
Freaking Toddlers? How about Freaking Pre-Schoolers?!? I have a 5 yr old who still gets upset when fun time is over. It drives me to drink. I feel the same as you; we just did this awesome activity ALL FOR YOU and now you’re ruining it! So, it could just be MY kid but just in case it’s not…you might have a long way to go! PS: I’m sure you know this but it helps me when I give a warning…10 minutes then 5 and then “It’s time for us to leave.” Also, at home I set a timer (for example, you have 10 minutes until bath time) and that seems to help a good bit…kind of takes it off me being the bad guy! Happy Parenting!
Just a few thoughts…..
When I’ve done spontaneous things, like going to the park while waiting for an appointment, I lay down the ground rules as we start. I let my boys know that we are going to do this for a certain length of time i.e. until the dog barks on the timer. (BTW the timer is the best thing EVER!!! and the boys totally respect it…you can’t argue with a timer.) And that when it’s over, it’s over no crying or complaining. I explain to them what behaviour I expect from them. I then ask them to tell me what’s going to happen by asking them questions to see if they understood….(when do we leave? When the dog barks on the phone. Is there going to be crying and complaining when it’s over? No.) I also throw in a few fun quesitons just to make sure they are listening. ( Are you going to have fun and play on the swings? Yes. Are you going to stand on your head? ….Moooommmmm) I also give them a 5 minute warning when their time is almost up and tell them they need to play really hard for the next few minutes. Nine times out of ten this works really well. If they do get upset and have a melt down I calmly remind them that this wasn’t part of the deal we made when we started. I also start talking about what they’ve just done using the phrase “Remember when….?” (remember when you went down the slide really fast? It looked like that was lots of fun.) This way, they start to focus on the fun they just had and not on having to end the fun. I also acknowledge their feelings. (It is sad to have to stop playing on the playground. You had lots of fun. We should come back some day.)
I’ve done this with my children when they were very young (1ish). I do expect meltdowns because they are young, but I also feel that I need to teach them how to handle it when fun things come to an end and to leave with a feeling of happiness.
I also prompt them to say, “Thanks Mom, that was a great idea.” And I reply graciously, “You’re very welcome.” The being grateful will come with time, but it is something to be taught. When they do it spontaneously I tell them welcome and add that their thank you makes me feel really good. I also return the favour in kind. If they do something I tell them thank you. They need to know what it feels like to be the recipient of thanks when they have done something special.
Br grateful that Annie does have her own temperment and thinks outside the box. Yes, she is thinking outside the box. And she is pushing her limits. That’s part of growing up. I’m sad to say she’ll likely be pushing those limits for many more years, but probably in different ways.
I’d rather have an Annie than a child who was completely obedient 24/7 at this age. Thinking outside the box will serve her well in later years. Right now she is perfectly performng her 2 year old job and trying to expand her horizons.
In the short term however, it’s driving you nuts. One thing that works is consistency with punishment and time outs. Another is “prepping” for change and then makeing the change fun: “we have 5 minutes before we leave; we have 3 minutes before we leave; 2 more minutes until we get in the car; OK, it’s time to get in the car and have a drink from our pretty princess cup.” Of last resort is bribery. We went through quite a few lollipops just to get in the car. But it doesn’t have to be food or candy. When my son was 3 we used to take a special detour on the way home to see this really cool waterfall about a mile from our house . And if he was extra good leaving wherever we were leaving we’d slow down at the waterfall and open the windows to listen. I’d go out of my way to avoid that waterfall at all other times. Have you thought about a cool toy(s) that’s only available in the car when you’re leaving to return home?? You could have separate toys for “going” and “leaving.
Find what works for Annie and be consistant.
It definitely gets easier, or the tantrums become more sporadic. I felt the same way about my three-and-a-half-year old between ages 2 and 3; anything that was “fun” became a nightmare when it ended. It was so frustrating. That’s still the case occasionally, but my son has largely outgrown it. A kind of unrelated example, though it helps illustrate how quickly kids change: we take the bus to work/preschool in the morning, and for WEEKS my son insisted on being carried to the bus stop, a whole 3 blocks away. I knew he could walk that far, but he would go all jelly-legged and whine in an incredibly annoying voice, “Nooooo! Caaaaaaarry me!” I nearly lost my mind. Then one day, he just stopped whining, and he now proudly points out that he’s “walking so nicely!” I have no idea what prompted the change, but I’m happy to see him mature.
As a parent I struggle with this ALL THE TIME, and my daughter will soon be turning 6! When I read your post I had to laugh because every time we do something super fun, it always turns to hell-in-a-hand-basket at the end, and I always end up saying “Why are you sad?! Why are you crying?! Why are you are unhappy and whiney and complaining?!” Ugh. It’s hard to be motivated when you know the end result is usually us getting home and sending my daughter to her room so she can decompress.
this worked for my nephew when he was that age. about 20 minutes before you are ready to leave tell her that it is almost time to go then set a timer. i had a digital one from the $ store or you could you the one on your phone set it for 1/2 of the remaining time and tell her when it beeps it is time to start cleaning up and getting ready to leave. then set it for 5 more minutes and then tell her to get any last things in before the beep. then set it again for the last 5 minutes to say goodbye and gather stuff togther and tell her when the timre goes off it is time to get in the car to go home. once he got used to the timer we did just 2 times i would set it for 15 and then then last five to get stuff together before leaving. it was a much less jarring end to the fun if he knew that time was running out. this helped eliminate most of the melt downs
OMG! My daughter was SOOOOO like that. We’d go to the circus and when it was over, she would cry. We’d go to a show, a movie, chuckie cheese….. and when it was time to go, when it over, she would cry!! Does it help to know that one day you will look back with her and laugh at this phase??? Hmmmm, guess not. It does get better, just hang in there……
I agree with the minutes countdown. I also have seen how affirmation of being frustrated or sad when something ends validates their feelings. “You are sad we have to go? I understand that makes you feel bad. Let’s do this again and let’s talk about what was the best part ok?” Validating feeling sad or frustrated (or scared) is comforting and acknowledging their rights to those feelings. Plan in advance with practicing endings and how it makes her feel.
You’re a great and fun mom, Heather. She just doesn’t want the fun to end. Little does she know, it just gets better!!!
And partially, it’s a maturity issue. My oldest did this too-in KINDERGARTEN, most parents would stick around after school, nearly every day to play on the playground (we had short days). Nearly every time, my kid would pitch a fit when we left. I tried the warning, I tried the 5, 10 min pre-warning, I tried not doing fun things (that was a great idea), it was a maturity issue that she had to outgrow. Mine was 5-sorry. Her 3 year old sister handled it better. She didn’t do it every time, but it still put a sour end to very fun things. I remember saying, I know you are disappointed (or sad, or tired), but it’s time to go, and then physically removing her as necssary. BTW, she is a wonderful mature SMART 12 year old now. There’s hope!
My 18 year old still does that, ha!
last week at work we had a 6 yr old kid throw a howling, 15 minute temper tantrum, meltdown -freakout (seriously, we thought he was hurt at first). Apparently in his swim lesson he didnt want to get in the water. Mom pulled him out of the lesson and brought him into the hall. Freak out occurred, and mom couldnt handle it. It was horrible. We couldnt help, and I think mom was also having a meltdown. The thing is, he was SIX. At two, a melt down from ending an activity (while exasperating) is normal. Annie has yet to develop much of a sense of time, plus she hasn’t really started to “plan ahead” in her mind yet (after the park we go to the doctor then ice cream! or whatever… she just thinks PARK PARK PARK). The six year old? That kind of melt down has some deeply rooted causes, probably stemming from when he was two and there were no consequences for that behavior. Set clear and easy to understand expectations. Praise the good behavior & make sure you dont give in to the bad… the fact that she was able to say bye to her auntie, and thank her with out any prompting shows that you are a great parent, so dont stress too much about it.
Amy C. says:
Totally agree with the timer too! Also when you can’t carry it with you use your watch. When I take the kids to the park and such I give them a countdown 30 minutes, 15, 10, and so on and so forth. I follow it to the very seconds and minute. That way they see me looking at it and know. Then once time is up, that’s it. Let’s go. Tantrums be damned and they have happened even with the countdown. The key is to not take it personally and not to worry about people around you who are going to give you THE LOOK. LOL! There have been plenty of times my kids have had tantrums and they have been annoying as all get out but I know it is just their little brains growing and changing and this is what they have to go through to get to the next phase of their development. Their brain needs to grasp and understand disappointment and anger when they don’t get what they want. First step in this is tantrum :). They also learn boundaries and consequences for their actions. Our job is to provide the boundary, consequences, and reinforcement. I would still take Annie to all the things you want to do with her. Don’t stop to avoid tantrums it is one of those sure things in life, like death and taxes :). Over time she will get it and accept your limits as an absolute. That’s why kids can respect a timer so much. It is an absolute concrete thing that they can see. When it is outta time it is outta time :). You are doing so great with her, Heather! Don’t worry! Have fun and bring on the tantrums! LOL!
I know you’ve probably heard this a million times, but I am the same with my kids, but at the outset of the fun thing I give then..like Hey Annie, we are a few minutes early for this appt, and I see a park, let’s go play for 10 minutes until it is time for our appointment. Then at the park, I give a countdown, ok 5 more minutes until we have to leave. Ok in 3 minutes and over time that seems to have made it so we can do fun and surprising things, but has also created less tantrums. I mean the 1st few times I did this I got tantrums but the kids eventually realized how it worked and NOW things go better and I can do more spontaneous (with a limit) things. But go away, mine are 5 and 8 and I still have meltdowns over some things. So um, yes, I don’t know that part. But even at bedtime I give a countdown, ok 10 minutes until bath, ok 5 more mins of bath to play, ok 3 books, I countdown a lot.
How about if you say to Annie, ok, we have 30 minutes, do you want to go play in the park for 30 minutes or sit in the car? She’ll say PLAY! And so you say, ok we can only go for 30 minutes, so will you enjoy playing for 30 minutes only and then leave without crying? Yes? Ok, I’ll help you keep track of the time.
I’m just thinking maybe involve her in keeping track of how long she has to enjoy said activity and also setting the expectation at the beginning of how long it will last.
My son used to do the same thing. We would point out things like trains and planes on road trips, but if he couldn’t see them, he would flip out. We stopped pointing them out to him on the off chance he wouldn’t see them. My daughter was never like this, so I agree with some of the other comments that it can depend on the temperament of the child. As my kids have gotten older (they are 6 and 8 now) we have explained “If you have a fit when it’s over/time to leave, we’re not going to do XYZ fun thing again”. As Annie grows and develops the ability to think rationally she’ll figure out it’s in her best interest to keep her cool. Good luck, she seems like she’s a smart little cookie!
To me the answer to most behavior problems is “catch them when you’re good.”
So for example, when she acted so maturely when her Auntie Lynn left, you can praise her for it. “Wow, Annie. I’m so proud of you. You thanked Auntie Lynn without my having to remind you of it!” Make her feel proud of her good behavior, and she’ll do it more often, umprompted.
Also good is to model. Thank her when she does things as asked, and make sure not to react too much when you run into disappointments. I’m pretty emotional myself, so it was a real adjustment to do the latter, but I realized that part of what sets my daughter off was detecting my own disappointment that something is over, or dread at the transition (she’s only two, but she’s scarily good at reading other people’s moods). Easier said than done, I know. I still struggle with it.
And, it goes without saying, a countdown of sorts (“we have five minutes before we go… now it’s just three minutes… okay, it’s almost time to go, start saying goodbye”) always helps. Toddlers (and older kids sometimes!) easily get into a flow when they like an activity, and don’t realize that time passes quite as fast as it does, so it helps for the parent to dispense gentle reminders.
Have you thought about enrolling her in a Moms Morning Out type program? Even if it is only once a week for a couple of hours. Sounds like she needs to be around other kiddos. Also a little structure never hurts. My daughter was difficult when she was two. Once she started school it helped her understand that you can’t always do what you want to do, and when she sees that other children aren’t crying when it’s time to transition then maybe she’ll realize there’s no reason to throw a temper tantrum.
Wished I had the answer to your question, no doubt many other commenters will have ideas.
I’ve got a 4 yr old and 2 yr old (boys) and my younger sounds much like Annie. So I can relate, sista!! The only thing that has rang true for me is that my 4 yr old has gotten SO much better at the tantrums and is at an age in which he can be reasoned with (sometimes, of course). One thing we TRY to do it tell them BEFORE we go to the park, give them that special cupcake or whatever…that we’re leaving in 5 mins or that THIS is the ONLY cupcake then it’s all gone. Or whatever. Doesn’t work every time but has helped ease their expectations a tad.
P.S. love your writing style, makes me giggle every time.
I have the exact same problem. My son is 28 months, but his vocab and communication skills are around the level of a 4 year old, so I think we forget that his emotional maturity and reasoning is still just at a 2 yr old level. He loses his shit constantly, especially during transitions, even if I give him plenty of notice (“You have 5 more minutes…2 minutes left!…Gabe, we have to go in 1 minute!”) He does go to daycare and he is socialized, but he’s just two. HE’S JUST TWO! This is what I keep reminding myself and my husband. I have no advice, just thought you might like some commiseration.
I also utilize the timer, it helps when the timer has ALL THE SAY. Or so they think. When Ava was 2 I would just do what I wanted with her and throw her over my shoulder and let her scream it out. I got very used to the stares from others. They are all irrational psycho maniac midgets afterall. It gets better with time. I will admit though, my anxiety level is always WAY up there when the tantrums go on. She almost 5 and the tantrums are much fewer, something to look forward too
It just started. Just know they really do appreciate just dont know just quite yet how to show you. Just know that the fit means they are having a good time and dont want it to end.
Hey, I wanted to add something I did with my daughter when she threw a fit – it IS effective, but definitely not convenient for the adult. One time we were at out local coffee store, I had a coffee and a milk steamer for her and she started to pitch a fit over the FREE animal crackers the store gave her (they were the wrong kind). I picked her up, said good-bye and we left. I wouldn’t let her go back for a few months. If we were in the middle of the store and she got uppity about something, I picked her up calmly (no anger) and just left. If you do it a few times, then pretty soon she will know that unless she wants to leave, she better pull it together. And I agree 100% with the “catch her being good” deal. Praise her randomly for great behavior, when she says thank-you, when she comes to bed, when she shares…whenever she is practicing good behavior. She will really outdo herself to receive that praise consistently. Also, and you probably already know this, but she was always her worst when we ran errands when she was hungry or tired. Avoiding those times makes a big difference.
i use a countdown method with my 2 and 4-1/2 year old.
if we’re at the playground, i’ll tell the “5 more minutes” then also give 2 minute and 1 minute warnings.
helps them know the they need to start winding things up and starts to give them a grasp of time.
works pretty well for us!
My son is bityounger than Annie, but what has done wonders for us has been to set a timer on my iPhone. I use the duck alarm so that he know it’s time to go. Amazing success!
And as a high school teacher, I have to answer your question about when kids start to appreciate things: ADULTHOOD or beyond lol.l
Lori McBride says:
This might have been mentioned…forgive me if so. Have you ever counted down for her towards the end of an activity, play time, etc.? When my boys were little, I would always warn them when something was about to end. I would say, “Okay Colin, we have 10 more minutes of play time and then we need to go.” Then as the time to leave drew closer I would say, “Okay Colin, we are leaving in 5 minutes…then so on and so on.” Kids don’t have a great sense of time, so it didn’t have to be exactly down to the second. This seemed to give them a small sense of control and time to close down what they were doing and or playing. At that age, transition in general just isn’t easy. I mean, for adults it can be tough too. How would you feel if you were watching a cool movie and someone ran into the room and said, “Time to go…let’s leave now” and you weren’t expecting it? Giving my kids some warning that it will be time to stop soon REALLY seemed to help. It didn’t totally end tantrums, but it sure curbed the frequency of them. Maybe give that a try and see if it helps…that is, if you haven’t already.
It took me a long time to realize that sometimes being the mom I wanted to be was not the same as being the mom my kids needed or even wanted me to be.
.My son Sky was the same way at two and I was concerned too….but we found that if we helped him count down till leaving, he did better. I start at a half hour then fifteen minutes….then five and then one minute. If he asks appropriately, he can request a few additional minutes as well. The tantrums almost stopped on a dime with only the very occasional short-lived protest…which now that he’s three…he then has one minute to calm down or he loses something immediate…like story with nap or tv time. We don’t do time outs… I prefer cause amd effect or time on our lap discussing the better way to get his needs met. I find empowering him makes him feel more in control and less likely to freak out. the We tell him over and over….tantrums get you nothing….talking is always your best bet.
Not to be flip, or one of those moms who says, “Just you wait until _____” ( I hated them when my kids were toddlers)- but Annie is 3? You have about 18-22 more years to wait. And then it’s sweet. I promise.
My kids don’t as much get upset when something is over but they start to expect it more and more often. I have to be very careful about bringing a treat to preschool pick up or I may have to do it again and again if I want to avoid the whining.
Four is so much better than two. And five is pretty great, too. Just stay consistent and calm during the freak-outs, and she’ll eventually get it.
The unprompted thank you is basically the only thing that makes me feel like I am not a complete eff up at parenting these days.
I second (third fourth fifth, however many people have said it…) the time out suggestion, and I have one other to offer, especially for occasions like the “unexpected ten minutes in the park” – can you turn it into a conspiracy? Like, “Annie, we’re supposed to be here for Mommy’s appointment, but LOOK, there’s a PARK! And we have TEN MINUTES! Shall we have a SUPER SECRET PLAYTIME? We can play for TEN MINUTES and then we can go to Mommy’s appointment and NO-ONE WILL KNOW! That means we can’t cry because then people will know we went to the park before Mommy’s appointment…”. I have frequently been involved in conspiracies such as “And NO-ONE WILL KNOW we already brushed our teeth before bathtime! DADDY WILL BE SO SURPRISED!” and “NO-ONE WILL KNOW we returned the library books before we went to the dentist!!”. Me+Mommy/Daddy against the rest of the world who don’t want us to have fun is much more enjoyable than “me against mommy and daddy who don’t want me to have fun”.
Urgh, not time out, time warning…
As parents above have mentioned, you can have 2 kids that are complete opposites when it comes to gratitude and thankfulness. I know you may feel like you’re raising the most spoiled child in history (LOL), you’re not. I’m raising 3 very different kids. Some things I’ve learned thus far:
1. Not giving in to their demands is GOOD for them. Stick to your guns even though giving in seems SO much easier.
2. You have to parent different children in different ways. Harness that extra energy and willfulness and turn it to good. Annie knows what she likes and she’s very opinionated, this is a good thing over the long run, but doesn’t make parenting her terribly easy.
I have 4 kids–the oldest is 13 and the youngest is 6. So we’ve had quite a few experiences with the end-of-fun meltdown.
The thing with a child Annie’s age is that, well, breaking from routine and spontaneity aren’t really something they can appreciate. Every day is new. Every day is amazing. Every day is unexpected. It’s not like she’s in school every weekday from 8 till 3:15 and knows she’ll be in each class for precisely 55 minutes unless her mom says, “You know what? Let’s play hooky!”
Because Annie’s fortunate enough to stay home with you, she already experiences a great deal of flexibility compared to many other kids her age, but I’m sure you also have a pretty normal order of business for your day. When you do something unexpected and fun, it’s a break from the routine for you. For Annie, it’s a kind-of-freaky deviation from her expectations for the day. Even if they’re fun for a moment, then she’s going to expect *everything* to be different that day, and when you tell her that you’re going to now be returning to your regularly scheduled day, it’s pretty jarring and upsetting to her.
What I’m trying to say, very gently, is your expectations are a little high for someone her age. She will grow to appreciate your spontaneity and fun spirit, and love that she has a mom who does cool stuff on the spur of the moment. You’re a cool mom. But… she’s a normal toddler, and that means her idea of spontaneous fun is, “We blew bubbles at the park today instead of spending the whole time on the swings.”
Instead of feeling like she’s crapping all over your efforts to enrich her childhood, maybe you could look at it as an opportunity for you to find out what’s going to be enjoyable the whole way through, for you both. Instead of cupcakes for breakfast (which is really setting most kids up for failure, tbh, because of the sugar rush), maybe surprise her with one from her favorite store for her regularly scheduled dessert that day. Instead of going to a friend’s for dinner, maybe you can have her friend come to your normally scheduled dinner, and that way there isn’t the added stress of leaving cool toys that are not-hers and eating cool food that her friend’s mom probably doesn’t serve except for company. Instead of taking her to the bounce house (which is a massive amount of overstimulation and can make many kids melt down), maybe you can to the the playground that’s a mile away in the other direction from your usual.
I understand your frustration, because getting into these tiny people’s heads is an endless challenge, especially once they begin talking and it seems like if they can use language to communicate like a rational being, they should act more *rational*.
(By the way, the Mary Sheedy Kurcinka book is a wonderful resource! I third the rec.)
Two of my kids were like that. You just have to warn them every time you go out. They get it sooner or later. I would just tell them that we were going to the park, and when it was time to leave, not to throw a fit like they did the last time. Or I would say “I want to take you to the park, but when we leave you will throw a fit.” Kid says he won’t throw a fit. Five minutes before I was ready to leave, I’d remind him that we are leaving in five minutes and that he said he wouldn’t throw a fit. It’s no big deal. They all catch on and grasp it before you know it.
I agree with the giving time warnings, totally. I also believe in 1-2-3- time out. I spent many a day taking a kicking and screaming toddler to the car and home before they caught on.
I am a firm believer in behavior modification psychology. Faced with a consistent reward system one will usually catch on quick to what is the accepted behavior. When said child/person continues to get intermittent reinforcement (Ok, you can pull that stuff today.. but not tomorrow!) it is the hardest to extinguish. The child never knows how far he/she can push it in that situation.
Make a plan for general situations and stick with it. If it means taking a kicking and screaming Annie to the car a few times so be it. In time she will realize that listening to mom and dad and their time warnings (or 1-2-3 warnings) are written in stone and to be abided by.
My 14 year old daughter recently refused to take her clean, folded laundry to her room. She could not believe it when I started the old 1…. 2…. at 2 she said “What are you going to do, ground me??” Heck yes, I said! Clothes put away.
I find my teenaged kids respect me more when they know what is expected of them and know we will follow up. So sad is a child who does not know boundries and a mother who is subject to their wrath! (Yeah, my teens are not perfect and sometimes I slip!) All the best, just know what works most of the time for me..
There was something like 79 comments ahead of mine & I just couldn’t read them all (bless you, cuz I truly believe you do!)…
Anyway, I don’t have kids of my own but I taught preschool & kindergarten & have nieces & nephews & my 3yo niece reminds me so much of Annie!! It’s crazy!! My mom always says so too!
Anyway–she really went through a tantrum phase–especially when it came to leaving Gramma & Auntie M’s house. But we explained that that just wasn’t ok: it hurt mommy’s feelings & that made Gramma feel sad because she is Mommy’s mommy (mind-warp for the child! ;-0) And we reminded her that she ALWAYS comes back. That has mostly worked…though she cried her eyes out on Friday which was ironic as we were going to her house for a party Friday night & then I was going there again Saturday to babysit her & her cousins…there’s sometimes no reasoning. But my sister took her in the office on her lap & quietly talked & then they walked out and Teagan sweetly said good-bye & that she’d see us later. I sooo wish my sis would share what the heck the said in there!!!
But one thing that Teagan really needs is time warnings: in half an hour…in 10 minutes…and (oddly her favorite) in 5 minutes. She’ll even say “how about in 5 minutes we….”
Good luck w/your fun times & fun gal-pal!
catherine lucas says:
I feel so sorry for all those parents who go through tantrum phases and what else just because the kids have no experience with boundaries, rules and limitations. Even a two year old can learn that she/he has to respect her/his mom. Make rules: use a clock and tell them that when the big hand is here and the small hand there it will be time to go. If there is crying we will not do this again. Use time steps/countdowns so they know what to expect and be consistent. Tantrum toddlers are created by parents who do not believe in rules. Sorry… why do parents do that to themselves? I am European and lucky enough in Europe we have a far more down to earth parent/kid approach: the parents decide, not the kids… Why? Because we are the parents and you are the kid. When you are a parent you can do what you want, as long as you live in my house you do what I want.
I love simplicity! It works…
That is an incredibly unfair generalization. We have very strict rules and boundaries. We stop what we’re doing if she has a tantrum. I find it hard to believe that your children never, ever had a tantrum, but if that’s true, congrats on being the most amazing parent ever.
Allison Zapata says:
But, isn’t it painful to snuggle with robot-children?
I can not believe that your children have never gotten upset when told no.
There are two types of tantrums–the disagreement, and the meltdown. Meltdowns have nothing to do with giving time warnings, settng boundaries, rules, limitations. Nothing. In fact, being inflexible can create even worse meltdowns and makes the child feel you have no interest in their emotional well being.
I had tons of rules, and limits. My kids had tantrums. Why? Please tell us what we did wrong!!! All I had to do was have rules?! But I had rules!!!
I can not believe someone would over-generalize so grossly. Two of my kids also had sensory processing disorder, and all three of my kids had speech and language delays. No kid likes to hear “no” and some kids take longer to learn how to deal with that. It has nothing to do with rules. It’s child development.
Clocks? You have got to be kidding, the child is TWO! Most two year olds tantrum sorry, they do. My first born did not, he was an angel and I smugly (like you) thought that it was due to the fine parents we were. Then came my daughter….She turned out to be amazing, just like Annie will and I dare say will probably have an amazing relationship with her parents when she is older. Then Heather can preach to you Mary Poppins.
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