on (not so valiantly) surviving an escalated toddler tantrum

“I’m not going to sleep,” my two-year-old shouted as I was trying to get him settled for a nap. He hadn’t slept yesterday afternoon and I knew he needed sleep this afternoon. So I laid him on his back and attempted to put a diaper on him (which he now needs only for sleeping). He twisted himself every which way and thrashed about while I tried to hold him down and get the diaper on.

I would love to say that I remained calm during his fit, but that would be a lie. I tried insisting he let me put his diaper on. I tried distracting him. I tried speaking sternly. I tried reasoning with him. I tried raising my voice. I tried discipline. I tried putting on a diaper with one hand while holding him down with the other. I tried leaving the room for a few minutes. Nothing would stop the screaming, thrashing, or crocodile tears. I was ready to have a fit of my own.

Finally I did as best I could to get a diaper on my son, pulled on his jammy bottoms, set him in the crib and closed his bedroom door as I walked out. All the while I was trying to figure out how that sweet 4 1/2 pound darling we brought home from the hospital had transformed into such a monster. Yes, this child who shares some of my DNA.

The screaming didn’t stop for a long time. I was afraid to peek my head in his room to see what he was doing because I knew he’d hear me. So I sat down at the computer to do some work, hoping he’d keep his diaper on.

An hour and a half later he was still awake. He made the occasional noise to confirm this. Then he called out like he needed something, so I went to his room to investigate. His diaper had been tossed on the floor. The other clothing from the lower half of his body was strewn around the crib.

He needed to pee. I took him out of the crib for that. When he was done he returned to his room and handed me the diaper. He was finally ready to sleep. (And he woke up in a much better mood.)

As I was writing this, I had a look at what child development experts have to say about toddler tantrums. Nothing I hadn’t heard before. One point was, “Make sure your child is getting enough sleep.”

That’s just what I was trying to do.

2 thoughts on “on (not so valiantly) surviving an escalated toddler tantrum

  1. This is so hard, isn’t it? We KNOW they need sleep, but getting THEM to understand that can be an impossible task. It sounds to me like you did all the right things.

  2. The one good thing I can say about such incidents is that they give me empathy for other parents. “Some days are just hard,” I can say because I’ve been there.

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