General chatter - Terrible Twos or a Terrible Phase!??

01-11-2011, 12:00 PM
In general my son has been an amazing infant and toddler. He can be needy at times, but mostly doesn't cause to much of a fuss for no reason. The last 2-4 weeks he's been throughing complete temper tantrums over everything, completely emotional and cry hysterically. It was only at home at first, but yesterday his preschool said that he was just not himself and was crying a lot, sad and emotional. Being a first time mom I'm at a bit of a loss. We practice time out when necessary and we "ignore" the temper tantrums as best we can, but sometimes we have to give in. I'm trying to let him cry when I know he's not hurt or there's really no good reason to cry, but most of the time I just want to hold and comfort him.

Anyway, he's just not himself, he's been sick a good amount this flu season since being in school and he's just finishing with his two year molars, but other than just the good old fashion terrible twos I just don't know what is going on with him. Is this just a phase? He's had particularly needy phases in the past that have lasted a week or two, but this is different. The only other thing that is going on is that we've moved, but that doesn't seem to have effected him much. Any words or wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Jesse Taylor
01-11-2011, 12:12 PM
How are you reacting to the tantrums? My daughter threw one tantrum in her entire life because I didn't react. I didn't give in, I didn't flinch, I just sat on the nearest bench and watched her "make a fool of herself" as I put it. We were at Sea World and she couldn't have ice cream (I forget if they were closed or I just didn't feel she needed ice cream in March). She threw herself down on the ground, screamed, cried, and flailed. I sat there waiting it out. Oh, people walked by and made comments like "you should spank that child" or "terrible parenting" but in the end, I won. She didn't get the attention, I actually started talking to another mother while she was creating her scene and the woman told me she wished she had my restraint. When it was all over and she didn't win, she never did it again.

If you give in in any way, it will only lead to future tantrums. If you ignore the behaviour and he doesn't get his way or your attention, he'll quickly figure out there are better ways to get what he wants. Stay strong and just try to ignore the tantrums.

Good luck. Two is a hard age for the mother.

01-11-2011, 12:21 PM
Awww, first of all, sending you some hugs! As moms, we want to make things better for our kids and it's stressful not being able to. :hug:

I'm on my 4th time going through the terrible twos. It does sound pretty normal. I think it's frustrating being two as they're living in between the baby and child state. They're getting older and know what they want, but can't either a) get it themselves, b) understand why they can't have it or c) can't get something to work/fit/ect. So, they express themselves physically and vocally.

I don't necessarily ignore the tantrum, but I do treat it as a non-event. If I've taken something away and my ds throws himself on the floor and cries, I'll say "Sorry, Mommy said no, would you like to *fill in the blank* instead?" and if he continues to tantrum, I normally said "Ok." and walk off. The tantrum is usually short lived and then I'll say "Do you want a hug?" and it's all better. If it's because he can't get building blocks to fit together and is frustrated, I'll ask if he needs help and he usually brightens at that.

It sounds like your ds had a lot going on with the sickness and the teething (those 2 year molars are a bear!). I promise the terrible twos won't last forever...and then you get to look forward to the horrible threes. ;) :lol:

Hang in there! :hug:

01-11-2011, 12:32 PM
Is he tantrumming because he's not getting something? If my DS is going through a phase where he is really needy or clingy, or just plain emotional for no good reason that I can see I do hug and comfort him. He's not really having a tantrum, just upset. He doesn't quite have the language yet to express himself (he's almost 3, and getting better at telling me if he's upset, and sometimes he can tell me why) so it's frustrating for him, so I want to help him through those emotions. You may not think the move effected him but any change can be difficult for little kids.

If he is having a tantrum because I told him no, then I generally ignore it or tell him I'm sorry he feels that way and he can talk to me when he's taken a deep breath and calmed down. He comes to me afterwards and says "mommy I took a deep breath" and then it's over, lol. But if he's having a particularly hard time with something, again, I help him through it. It doesn't mean, in my mind, that I've "given in" because he doesn't get whatever it was I said no to. However, I do want to be there and help him. Anyways these little beings are challenging, aren't they?? Hope he's feeling back to his old self very soon.

01-11-2011, 12:36 PM
I thought teething too. Sometimes it seems to take forever. I also would look at what has been going on for the last few weeks in your family. I know my kids have a hard time after Christmas because of all the hoopla and crazy schedules, then they just crash. Sometimes it can be a small schedule change that he's not getting the quality sleep he needs. Or maybe a new teacher or new things at preschool that he is having a hard time adjusting to.

I think, when he hasn't just thrown a tantrum, cuddling him and exploring some of the things that you think might be going wrong, or new to him, would help. Kids know when they are tired or in pain but sometimes just don't know how to let you know. It's hard to be a mom sometimes. HUGS!! and good luck!

01-11-2011, 01:23 PM
In general the tantrums seem to occur when he's not getting what he wants or we're not doing what he wants to do. So in that case I'd say 75% of the time (which this is probably needs to be 99%) we ignore it and wait for the storm to pass. This used to pass very quickly and the tantrums were at about 1 per day. Now the episode goes on for quite sometime and is over every little thing like he's not wearing the shirt he wants to wear. It's just really out of character for him, thus my concern and great stress.

Jesse Taylor
01-11-2011, 01:27 PM
You might need a trip to the pediatrician if that's the case. There could be some underlying cause you can't see. I can think of a few things but I don't want to scare you so I just won't toss them out. Just give the doctor a call and make an appointment. Two is a little old for teething issues that manifest in tantrums. Not knowing your son it's hard to say what exactly is wrong but I do think it's safe to say it's time for a trip to the doctor.

01-11-2011, 01:35 PM
1) The move is affecting him. Hence tantrums? Sometimes there's a delayed reaction.

2) How is he sleeping? Getting enough?

3) How is he eating? Somewhere around 2 is the weaning of some kind or starting new things of some kind in food world. Like off breastmilk or formula and on cow milk, more and more solids, etc. Could it be digestive upset? An ear/nose thing from unforseen dairy allergy? Wheat allergy? Because if his nose is clogged up, he's not sleeping well, if he's not sleeping well, he's cranky... the whole domino effect thing.

4)Has he got all his teeth? Molar probs? Any more left coming in causing pain?

5) How his output? Pee/poo?

6) Def hold and comfort, see doc.


01-11-2011, 01:45 PM
If it's really out of character, you might have a check-up just to make sure everything is OK.

BUT...75% not giving in means 25% giving in. There's a concept in psych called "intermittent reinforcement", and it's the best way to make something a habit. It's the same thing that keeps players at a slot machine playing until they've lost all of their money, and a main reason that consistency is so important. If a tactic (like throwing a fit) works some of the time, the person keeps trying it because, hey, it works. Meaning that if you give in 25% of the time, he's going to keep trying it, because sometimes it means that he gets what he wants. Intermittent reinforcement is the best way to get a behavior to continue...which is not what you want.

To move the behavior to extinction (ie, make it so it doesn't happen any more!) you need to NEVER reinforce it.

I want to add that "reinforce" doesn't mean comfort or etc...if your child is upset, comforting him and helping him calm down are both good things. It only means not giving him whatever he was throwing the tantrum to get in the first place.

01-11-2011, 01:47 PM
1) possibly
2) sleeps well
3) He's a horrific eater, always has been. I'm not exagerating when I say he pretty much eats nothing but cereal and milk. I can occassionally get some fruit in him and he will eat mac and cheese and chicken nuggets, but milk is probably his main source of protien. I supplement with some viatimins.
4) He's last two molars are just about all the way in.
5) He pees and poos regularly, but he's never really had solid poo because of his diet

Jesse Taylor
01-11-2011, 01:58 PM
If he is really that poor of an eater, you need to get him to a doctor and start being the mom in this situation. Cereal and milk plus vitamins are NOT the way to raise a fit child. He needs real food whether he wants it or not. It's time to take the bull by the horns and start making him eat. Food is not a choice, you know that, it's a necessity and you need to make him eat real food.

I really like what mandalinn82 said. She is spot on in regards to the fact that if you give in 25% of the time, he's going to continue throwing the tantrums.

01-11-2011, 02:06 PM
Cereal and milk plus vitamins are NOT the way to raise a fit child. He needs real food whether he wants it or not. It's time to take the bull by the horns and start making him eat. Food is not a choice, you know that, it's a necessity and you need to make him eat real food.

Thank you, I am quite aware and I can not begin to tell you the struggle this has been for us and the multitude of things we have tried to improve his eating. I understand that you are trying to be helpful, and it is very appreciated, but please don't assume that I'm not trying and have not tried repeatedly to correct the situation. I'm a little emotional this morning so I apolgize for likely overreacting, but given my history with food this is a bit of a sore subject for me.

We're preety much at the point we're going to have to let him starve for a few days by not allowing him to eat nothing but cereal and only what is offered and that is a difficult step to take...

Jesse Taylor
01-11-2011, 02:15 PM
I was fully not assuming you weren't trying or hadn't tried. Sometimes we just need to hear someone outside ourselves say things we know to be true. I was in all sincerity and honesty just trying to help. I hope I didn't offend. I know it's tough raising kids. I did it myself with no help and no internet to ask for help on. You've got support here and I really meant no harm. I know being overweight it was hard for me to make sure my child didn't end up like me ~ she didn't, she's a skinny rail and very athletic.

Good luck. Hugs to you.

01-11-2011, 02:17 PM
:hug: That is a rough choice to make. But it does fall into the same "intermittent reinforcement" sort of issue...if he refuses to eat, he gets the foods he likes, therefore, he will continue refusing to eat.

Have you tried doing fun stuff with the food? (I know you've tried lots of things, so not trying to imply that you haven't...just making suggestions :hug:) Letting him "paint" with a slightly steamed broccoli spear and some dressing on a plate? Making fruit into faces? Lots of kids do well when they get to dip something. What about giving him a small serving of cereal alongside some items he is less apt to try, and saying when he's done with the cereal that he should try the other item if he is still hungry? What about having him pick an item at the grocery store or farmer's market, and preparing it together or with him nearby? Sometimes kids will eat something that they picked out or prepared. What about growing some greens in a window box together? If he's watering them and watching them grow, he may be more apt to try them.

It's tough-going to help a picky eater adapt to eating on more normal patterns, for sure, but it can be done! Hang in there!

01-11-2011, 02:18 PM
he sounds to me like he isn't feeling well for some reason. Maybe fighting off a cold or something.

And kids sometimes are just stressed out. Could be christmas, could be him sensing you under stress and reacting to that could be a lot of things. don't underestimate how sensitive they are to your stress. Or it could be his own stress. My older son's birthday is right before christmas and the years between 2 and 7 he was an absolute basket case the entire month of december.

as to his diet, that isn't exactly uncommon in toddlers. My brother ate nothing but apples and peanutbutter sandwiches for years. the two bite rule always worked well at my house. They don't have to finish anything but they have to have 2 bites.

01-11-2011, 02:22 PM
I'm really not sure how you can force feeding choices in a child. That is one of the only things kids have control over, whether or not they eat. It's our job to provide healthy choices, and their choice to eat it. I'm sure that is very stressful for you! I completely agree with mandalinn too - not giving in but comforting is OK. What is your approach the other 25% of the time? Also I assume you give him as much choice as possible, in day to day things? I always give my DS 2 choices of things, like shirt, what to eat, what to bring with us when we go out, etc etc. I try to let him have as much "control" over things as possible, as long as either choice is acceptable to me!! :)

I also wanted to add that while my DS is a good eater, if I want him to try something new that I think he might be weird about, I get him involved in making it. I like to have him involved in the kitchen anyways - he loves it and it gets him excited about what's for dinner. It doesn't always work that he eats whatever it is, but I try to get him to at least take a taste of it. I don't do fights though - if he doesn't want it I don't force it.

The Last Noel
01-11-2011, 02:29 PM
No advice. Just wanted to say my daughter just turned two and I am watching this thread like a hawk. :-/

01-11-2011, 02:30 PM
Thanks Jesse, I wasn't offended, like I said super touchy subject for me as it's been an ongoing struggle and I am at my wits end with it. There are so many opinions on the subject and it's hard to make the right decision. I feel like we've tried almost everything and nothing seems to be working. We haven't tried make it fun though - good suggestion Amanda - he does like ketchup :) But so far he really hasn't respsonded well to "force feeding". He will just refuse to eat and then be extra cranky. I've even gone so far as too make black bean brownies and hide veggies in mac n cheese, etc. and these have not worked either, but I'm not going to give up on those ideas.

It's just an additional stress to the current situation, he was already a horrible eater but now add these tantrums and general sadness to it and it makes concentrating on our eating problems even harder. Being a mom is tough!

01-11-2011, 02:31 PM
I saw this post and had to weigh in, because I'm in the exact same spot as you! Constant tantrums, sometimes over not getting something he wants, but mostly because he can't communicate well. (He's almost 2.5 and has maybe 10 words) Also he is an extremely picky eater. He'll only eat "dry" things, no sauces. So I really feel your pain!

mandalinn - I found your comment very helpful. I know consistency is important, but I didn't realize occasional giving in would have the same result as always giving in.

Jesse Taylor - Sometimes you can't make a kid eat! My child has sensory issues, which he's starting therapy for, and if the texture bugs him he'll starve rather than eat it. Believe me, I've tried.

Ncuneo - My advice would also be to go to the pediatrician. We did and found out that my son has some sensory and speech issues which are causing a lot of his tantrums, and he's starting therapy through Early Intervention soon. Hang in there!

01-11-2011, 02:32 PM
With both of my kids it has been "terrible two's, trying threes, fantastic fours, fabulous fives". Two was the hardest age in terms of temper tantrums and three was the worst age in terms of wanting to do everything on their own and choose bedtimes, what they ate, etc, etc, etc. Four and five have been a breeze, and my 7 year old is just sailing right along.

01-11-2011, 02:43 PM
I think I know what our biggest problem is and I think it's pretty much what Amanda has said. Today, I'm going to start working on this!

I also think I need to start preparing meals over the weekend for him that DH can give him when they get home. They often get home before me and DS is hungry so he'll give him a snack to hold him over til dinner, but I think that's often ruining his appetite. I need to get creative, be patient and not give up. Right now I'm just trying to believe that this is mostly a phase and mostly self inflicted. But another week or two of this and I may be going to the ped. Especially since, they've seen some change at school where it is nothing but consistant and he's always always on his best behavior. I think that's what is concerning me most.

01-11-2011, 02:48 PM
Sounds like you have a plan. :) Definitely listen to your mommy intuition though, if you feel like something is truly "Wrong", you won't hurt anything by getting him checked out.

The Last Noel
01-11-2011, 02:49 PM
Hmm. I just remembered that I did go through a difficult eating phase with my daughter in her second year (from about 13 mnths-18 mnths). She refused to eat anything that I made, healthy or not. Oatmeal was the only thing. As another first time mother I know exactly how you feel. I tried everything and I was FRANTIC to say the least. Ultimately I took her to an allergist and two different pediatricians. She had an issue totally unrelated to her stomach but it was having an impact on her appetite.

It is still so so difficult to get her to eat anything other than oatmeal when she is feeling bad...when she needs nutrients the most. So I commend you for your efforts because I know it must be breaking your heart.

Unfortunately my daughter still has the learned behavior of not wanting to eat green things because I allowed it to happen for so long. What helped eventually was to make yummy succulent things and mix in small amounts of vegetables with Each Spoonful. It may sound gross but some days after a week or so of her not eating vegetables SHE HAS NO CHOICE and that spoon will be a combination of oatmeal and peas!

01-11-2011, 03:41 PM
On the "making it fun" approach - what is he into? Trucks? Bugs? You can cut out shapes and make (for example) a dragonfly (I am picturing a carrot stick body, cucumber wings, etc) with some dipping stuff on the side, or a truck (cucumber rounds for wheels, frame of the car made of pepper strips, etc). Even just changing the context like that can help. It goes from "pile of veggies I don't like" to "truck! I love trucks! This truck is made of veggies, maybe I can give it a shot!" That's the same idea with the "painting" with pairs something he finds less pleasant (veggies) with something he finds more fun (painting).

Forcing generally doesn't go well - the 2 year old range is all about establishing independence of choices and differentiating yourself from your parents (that's why the "terrible twos"'s an exercise in establishing yourself as having your own free will...ultimately a good thing, but hard to deal with when it's ongoing). Another poster mentioned offering choices - even "I'm making dinner! Should I make carrots or broccoli?" can help get a child invested in the food.

Arctic Mama
01-11-2011, 05:23 PM
When my kids put up a fight over perfectly good food that they aren't allergic to, they get it every meal until they give in and eat it (we're talking maybe two or three tablespoon servings, not a large amount at all). I don't do power struggles, and yes, we've had our kids 'go hungry' for four meals in a row before they were hungry enough to obey. They're no worse for it ;)

It sounds like normal toddler behavior, I'm pretty no-nonsense about training it out of them. That said, so much can be kid personality. My first was pretty easy and compliant, she was not difficult to work through power struggles with. My second? I do the exact same thing, but she fights it harder and it takes many more weeks of COMPLETE consistency to work through the same issue, because she has a more contrary personality. It still needs to be worked through, it just takes more time.

I am positive you are doing your best! Kids are hard, especially toddlers. But you're the mommy, you need to dictate the rules and then work your son through compliance (not allowing him to move on from an action until he is doing it, and doing it in a way that is respectful and obedient). Firm boundaries, consistency, and lots of love and time is my best suggestion. Unless there are other mitigating factors, I would assume this is standard disobedience (whether there is a cause or not) and it requires sticking to your guns to correct, in my experience.

My three year old and two year old are both going through a rough patch right now, and it is taking many hours of work to bring them around to compliance and a happy attitude. It's worth it, but I feel your pain! It can be emotionally draining to deal with, but better to get a handle on it now than after it has taken root and compounded for a few years :)

Arctic Mama
01-11-2011, 05:27 PM
Oh yeah, and we don't force feed, as in 'pry mouth open and insert food'. Thats a fight, not obedience. We ask our children to eat their food, and if they refuse to even try it we continue to reheat and serve the same meal until they obey as we have asked. If they scream and tantrum, we deal with that as well. No battle of wills, necessarily. Just a calm mommy and daddy laying down the law (sensibly).

Physical force-feeding can be dangerous (possible choking issues) and unless medically indicated bolus feeding is required, we prefer to handle it by proving we will ALWAYS out-last them. It only takes a time or two of proving we'll do it for the incentive t disobey to diminish ;)

01-11-2011, 06:21 PM
As a paranoid mom who has spent most of my life overweight, mostly as the direct result of really well meaning adults in my childhood, I think I've read every book on kids and food and picky eaters and super foods for kids and everything else.

Most of them have one thing in common - parents decide what and when, kids decide if and how much. I really think that's the best approach. It's what I've always done with my daughter - no baby food. We just started with soft, unsalted versions of what we ate (cubes of potato, avocado, banana, etc) and moved up. She is now a fearless eater who loves trying new things. She lists artichokes (steamed, no dip), sushi, and ice cream as her favorite foods.

In my very limited (five years tomorrow, happy birthday, baby!) parenting experience, I have learned this much is true: you can not make another person sleep, eat, poop, or take medicine. The best thing you can do is set the stage and make them WANT to.

I just don't see the point in making kids eat stuff they don't want or finish their plate. No one else knows what I like or how hungry I am. I don't want her to be a people pleaser who eats because it makes Nana happy or gets praise from me. If I put something on her plate, she will generally try it. If she doesn't love it, fine with me. I don't keep junk in the house so most of what she's exposed to is good, whole food (if I ate as well as I feed her, I would have no weight problems...or maybe if she stayed up later. I don't eat junk or eat more than I need when she's looking. I'm her number one influence and she will do as I do, not as I preach). If she's going through a phase where all she wants is bread, bread will probably be absent for our meals for a bit till she tries a few more things. If she would only eat hot dogs and chicken nuggets, I just wouldn't buy them but I'd try very hard to find or make close approximations that didn't gross me out (I will allow a LOT of stuff, especially for birthday parties or at Nana's house, but I draw the line at chicken nuggets - that is not food! That is by product!).

Another idea - spring is coming, plant some vegetables in pots. If they can pick it off a bush, they will eat it. If you have "you pick" places close to you, GO! We have done tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in pots and she eagerly eats all of those, especially if they're some of ours. We've had pear, blueberry, fig, and orange trees in past houses (I miss you, trees!) and she eagerly eats all those as well. A trip to the farmers market where she gets to "help" and weigh things and talk to the sellers means she will be all OVER eating that stuff when we get home.

I also got one of those fruit arrangements for my birthday last week. All the kids who were over that day fell on that thing like they had never had fruit before. Lesson learned: if you can put it on a stick, it is worth eating. I guess they were thinking lollies, corn dogs, and cotton candy had never done them wrong, fruit must be better on a stick as well.

Two other ideas for picky eaters (these have worked for friends of mine, ymmv):

The ice cube tray. You take an ice cube tray and fill it with things you want him to try - like three grapes, popcorn, a boiled egg, yogurt with fruit to dip, whatever. And then one with his favorite. When it's gone, it's gone, but the rest is on the table for him to graze when he wants. Now, I was not a fan of the grazing as it's not been a good habit for ME but some people do just fine that way.

Another idea is to establish a time for his favorite - my daughter understands she gets one sweet after dinner (NOT "if you eat your dinner, you get your sweet" but dinner is one thing and that sweet - which we call "bednight snack" because she can't stay up for a "midnight snack" - are two totally different things that have nothing to do with each other. She has to take meds at that time anyway, so we save her sweet till then. It does not seem to hurt her sleep in any way. Again, YMMV). If he's old enough, you can start letting him have "his" thing once a day and that's it. It will be hard for a few days, but if you keep repeating, "whatevers are for breakfast" then eventually it might click.

Good luck. Sleep and food are such loaded issues with kids. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has what worked for their kids (or what didn't work but they're invested and NOT GIVING UP), we all want our way to be THE way but kids are all so different. It can wear you down quickly.

I think that until people deal with a very determined picky eater (I don't have one, but I've seen 'em) they just don't know that it's a lot harder than it looks.

01-11-2011, 09:11 PM
I think there have been some great ideas sated here, and I think you are doing a great job, ncuneo! If it's ok, I'd love to recommend a book:
I love this book and have loaned out my copy numerous times to parents of my students. I know I'm not a parent and am not certified to give advice, but I teach special education pre-k and regular pre-k, so I deal with a lot of stubborn, cranky 3 and four year olds, especially ones who can't talk.
Good luck!

01-11-2011, 09:33 PM
NiteNicole, this is what I am doing right now (baby-led weaning). My son is 7 months and eats butter chicken, rice, falafel, couscous, spaghetti with meatsauce, full bananas, apples (baked), etc... sure, he mostly sucks on it and sometimes swallows but not a bad palate for barely 7 months :) It's right off my plate, not mashed or anything

Sorry OP, no advice as I haven't been there (yet!!) but I hope it passes soon :)

01-11-2011, 09:36 PM
how did this turn into a thread about picky eating? my first thought was that the move is affecting him more than you thought.

01-12-2011, 12:04 AM
^lol! I'm kinda glad it did because this has been our biggest on going issue. So maybe if I can just provide him the attention he needs and ignore the I didn't get what I want tantrums this phase will pass. The picky eating has been an issue since we started solid. I'm sorry to say Sacha, because I think BLW is wonderful and usually works, it may have Bern the beginning of our issue. But for us wr tried BLW after purred weren't working and then BLW didn't work and here we are today. But it does work for many many people so keep it up.