I always smile when people talk about how advance their children are – “Little Michael started walking at just 10 months” “Emily said her first word before one!” They are always beaming with pride and I thought I’d be just as, if not more, proud if my daughter reached a milestone early. Well, it finally happened. My beautiful little baby reached a milestone five months earlier than expected! That’s right, she entered the terrible two’s at just 17 months. And let me tell you, I was anything but proud.

Some of the tantrum highlights include:

  • Screaming bloody murder if you even tried to put her in a high chair – “Abby sit hair” (indicating a normal dining room chair). And despite the fact that her arms barely reach over the table, she has abandoned being strapped into what she calls “baby sit.” And then, this is often also followed by screams due to her inability to get herself down from our bar-high chairs.
  • Falling to the floor in hysterics when you tell her it is time for bed. Now, a 15 minute routine that used to involve easily brushing teeth, reading to her in peace, and goodnight kisses has transformed into a 30 minutes screaming match of dragging feet to her bedroom, fake sobs, and demanding book after book.
  • Demanding chicken and peas for dinner and then proceeding to throw the entire dinner place of food on the floor while yelling “DONE!” And then demanding a cookie. Well, at least the dog was happy. Oh course, this doesn’t happen if it’s pasta. If its pasta, she’ll eat three bowls and demand more. She really is my daughter.
  • Throwing a puzzle piece across the room and shouting “no” because you tried to help her figure out how to put it back in the puzzle. How dare I?
  • Full on tantrum at the grocery store, complete with desperate cries, banging her feet and hands on the floor, and screaming “no” at the top of her lungs. All because I wouldn’t let her lick an apple.

And the list goes on and on. I read every book and article I could on the topic and tried EVERYTHING in response. Distracting her. Looking for cues to intervene before it starts. Talking calmly to understand what she wants. Asking only yes or no questions. These fatal attempts only seemed to fuel the fire because apparently my child is a stubborn, independent (almost) two year old, going on 13, who will never let anything go. More evidence that she is my daughter. Damnit.

So, after all of the words of wisdom and advice I received on the topic, I’m going to tell you the honest truth of what actually worked for us.

Letting her be. That’s right. The big secret ingredient, letting her have her fit and waiting until she collected herself.

  • Walk towards her room as she fights bedtime and ignore her pleas for more playtime.
  • Using your superhero parent reflexes to push the dinner plate away before she has a chance to throw it. And letting her scream while you continue eating.
  • Allowing her to be hysterical in a public place while you keep your composure and continue on your errand. This is probably the hardest of them all because people will stare and will judge. Typically, those people have never had a toddler. I can always tell which parents have or have had toddlers. They are the ones who smile at you for keeping your cool or are too busy chasing their own kid to notice. Those are your spirit animals.

In every situation, she will eventually calm down. Eventually, she’ll look up and realize her schemes have no power, take a deep breath, and be your sweet (albeit booger covered from all the hysterics) baby. Abby became hysterical once because I wasn’t Daddy (I’m sorry?). In response, I laid on the couch and surfed Facebook until she came to terms with the fact that I, in no way, could turn into daddy. Then we played with her markers and read a book like nothing had happened. Plus, I got a few minutes to catch up on Facebook.

And, of course we compromised on a few areas. We’ve abandoned the high chair completely, however, if she screams to get down instead of asking, we pull her chair out from the table until she’s finished. (Never let the table stay near the table. Abby has learned to kick the chair away and ultimately fall. Don’t worry, we caught her, not the chair so much). And in a grocery store, Abby is now always strapped in a cart, with her side of the cart strategically placed further away from any shelves or produce. All apples are now safe.

So, next time your toddler decides to push your limits, take a deep breath, keep your cool, and let them scream bloody murder about apples until it’s out of their system. Then, after bedtime, pour yourself a large glass of wine, because it all starts up again tomorrow.