Today was the Day From Hell with our 2yo

Oh. My. God. Today was the most amazingly out of control day with our two year old, K-. Seemingly from the moment she woke up, she was a little spitfire, doing her own thing, being belligerent (shouts of “Never!” when asked to do even the simplest thing), being unable to stop or slow down, and just having far, far more energy than any little one should have in their body.
In our terms, she was completely out of her body most of the afternoon and evening. It was a sight to see, when it wasn’t driving us all — pets included — around the bend!
Even when we tried to give her a quiet, warm bath with lavender bath crystals, low lighting, and me quietly reading some of her favorite books this evening, she was flipping over, dumping water onto the floor, standing, sitting, laying down, standing, flopping, splashing, nonstop.

But talking with Linda about the day, we realize that one factor that doubtless contributed to this behavior, because K- really has a lovely disposition most of the time, even if she is a bit on the, um, self-assured side of the scale, was that she somehow found and ate a handful of chocolate chips this morning, and then really didn’t eat much else during the day.
It wasn’t from lack of us trying to feed her. Heck, my 6yo son G-, K- and I went to a favorite local Mexican restaurant, but she was so out of control that I finally gave up, switched our order to go, and we came home to [not] eat lunch. Even then, at 1pm, having had basically nothing to eat all day, she wasn’t interested in more than 2-3 forkfuls of rice, and that was with some bribes.
The afternoon was a complete challenge, with her running outside half-naked (it was only 47F and melting snow all over the place, not a good environment for undressed children!) or chasing our pets with various weapons of damage, or worse. Dinner time? Well, she didn’t stop moving for that one, spat a mouthful of water on Linda, and kept running in circles while the rest of us desperately tried to focus enough to actually eat dinner. Halfway through dinner we switched to the bath, as I said, and I guess it worked because within about 30 minutes Linda did succeed at getting her to collapse unconscious on the bed. 🙂
What amazes me is that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen her wig out from chocolate or other sweets, and indeed while there may be so-called experts who claim that food doesn’t alter behavior, or more specifically that sugar doesn’t affect behavior, I think they’re complete nitwits, personally. Give my kids something with corn syrup, for example, and I can predict how they’ll react in the following 10, 30 and 60 minutes. And it ain’t pretty.
So we have survived the tornado of K- today, and I have thrown out the chocolate chips she apparently snagged a handful from. I can only hope for smoother sailing tomorrow!

24 comments on “Today was the Day From Hell with our 2yo

  1. Just giving us an example here of how, very often, parent does know best. You are in the best position to see how they respond, and to make the connections as to why. But – wow – what a day!

  2. Ummmm… Did you just *let* her run wild all day? Or were there consequences to her behavior? Especially the most destructive ones (chasing the pets is a good way to get bitten, and is a time-out worthy offense in this house, for example).
    Attachment parenting doesn’t mean letting kids run wild, chocolate notwithstanding. I think the reason a lot of people think AP parents are lunatics is because AP parents tend to slack off when it comes to discipline, thinking that if we love our kids enough, they’ll turn out ok. That just isn’t so. Kids need boundaries and consequences, so they can learn how to navigate adult life, which has boundaries and consequences.
    I’m sorry you had a hard day, but I think if you reflect, you’ll realize that you made the day harder on yourself by not enforcing the rules. Making excuses for kids (“Oh, he had chocolate,” or “Oh, she has ADD,”) NEVER helps them become good, mentally healthy adults. It makes them into adults who make excuses for themselves and their bad behavior.

  3. Amy, what makes you think that we don’t have consequences for our children misbehaving? I find this an interesting comment because I explicitly state that K-‘s misbehavior produced logical consequences, like us leaving a favorite restaurant without eating lunch, yet you assume that I just “let her run wild all day”?

  4. Wow, what doctor thinks food doesn’t affect behavior? Input yields output, that’s just common sense. Our daughter drank tea one night… my grandmother thought it was decaf. That was a long, bad night with an 8 month old!
    My wife and I both make it a point to not drink caffeine, though we do have chocolate occasionally. We also limit our soda, and make it a point that our daughter never have any soda. These are for general health reasons, mostly.
    I wonder if high sugar intake when a child is developing can cause learning disabilities or behavior disorders? It would make sense to me.

  5. Dave – Maybe it’s because you didn’t *mention* any consequences. Leaving the restaurant sounded like more of a punishment to your other kids. I kept waiting for you to say, “It seemed like she was in time out all day…” or something.
    Perhaps next time Little Miss Chocolate Pants should have to sit in the car with one parent while the other stays inside the restaurant and eats with the well behaved kids. That would be a consequence. Leaving seems like a reward, in this instance, because she got to go home and continue to act like a heathen.
    These were the consequences you listed:
    Gave her a lavender bath
    Read her books
    Lunch out (after a morning of misbehavior)
    Bribed her to eat at home
    Ignored her running around at dinner
    No time-outs, no taking away of a privilege or favorite toy, no spankings, no lectures, no nothing. The closest you got to actual discipline, from your own description, was ignoring her negative behavior, which, frankly, after a day of giving that same behavior attention would’ve been completely useless as a deterrent.
    All I’m saying is that maybe the chocolate isn’t the problem. If I’m assuming, it’s because you failed to explain how you dealt with the behavior to begin with. Maybe you need a more consistent discipline plan to deal with this child, especially if this isn’t the first time she’s had a day like you describe.

  6. I have to ask this: Amy, are you a parent? Do you have the experience of disciplining a 2yo? Seems like either you have no first-hand experience, or your approach to parenting is so radically different that we might just need to disagree about how to deal with the situation.
    I will say that I took K- out for lunch today again and she was delightful and charming, great company and a pleasure to be with. So clearly there was something different about yesterday…

  7. Yes, Dave, I am a parent. I am also a trained educator. Just because I believe in attachment parenting, though, doesn’t mean that I believe that kids should be allowed to run roughshod over their parents for an entire day with no consequences! If I am missing a piece of the story, feel free to enlighten me, but you have not described one single thing that you did to CORRECT the child. You have described trying to calm her (the bath), and trying to ignore her, and trying to distract her. Did you ever once even say, “K, the way you are behaving right now is unacceptable, and this is why. I would like to see you try to do better?” or did you just quickly blame the chocolate, absolve the child of all responsibility, and say, “Tomorrow is another day,”? After all, if you didn’t tell her that what she was doing was inappropriate, how do you expect her to learn and do better next time?
    I’ve read your blog for a long time. Honestly. I’m not just some troll out of the woodwork to annoy you. I’ve probably had you on my Google Reader list for as long as I’ve had a Google Reader list, because when it first launched one of the searches I did was “attachment parenting” and you came up.
    If you’re going to put your parenting on display like this, you have to expect people to comment (and, GASP, disagree!). My daughter has had chocolate (more than I’d like, in the last month or so, with all the holidays and the grandparents) and she has NEVER had a day like you described. If your daughter’s reaction was really so severe, and you really believe it was the chocolate, perhaps you should have her evaluated for a blood sugar disorder (diabetes, hypoglycemia…). On the other hand, before you cough up the co-pay, maybe you ought to take a hard look at how you and your wife reacted to her behavior and see if you can correct your own behavior first.
    Even a two year old is old enough to understand, “This is not ok. You need to do this instead.” And time outs are extremely effective at breaking the cycle of misbehavior, reinforcement, more misbehavior, more reinforcement – because time outs (by definition) remove the child from the environment that is causing the misbehavior.
    As I said, kids who are excused for bad behavior (even at age two) become adults who make excuses. My daughter started time outs at 1 year old. One minute for every year of age. I save them for major offenses (activities that could be dangerous to herself or others – running in a restaurant, teasing the 80 pound dog, playing rough with playmates, biting, hitting, etc.) so that they retain their effectiveness. She rarely needs time outs these days. Applied consistently and correctly, they are extremely effective. (I would be happy to outline the correct procedure, if you don’t already know what it is. Feel free to ask.)
    Setting limits, enforcing boundaries, and allowing kids the opportunity to learn from the consequences of their actions are all LOVING behaviors. When they are adults, they will have limits, boundaries, and consequences, and they will be much better equipped to deal with them if they’ve been taught to from a very early age (like age one).
    What discipline strategy DO you use? If you can’t answer that question easily, you need to find one and use it consistently. Your kids will thank you later.

  8. We have a consistent set of expectations of their behavior and logical consequences for misbehavior that include time outs, being sent to their rooms, losing privileges, etc. We’re parents, not friends, and that works just fine.
    HOWEVER, there’s a line between being a bombastic drill instructor who never varies and always punishes misdeeds regardless of context or environment and someone who is a loving parent. If you have a rule that children must always say “got it” after you ask them to do something and they forget because they’re sick, do you punish them?
    Sometimes parenting is about being flexible and smart enough to see beyond the individual behaviors, beyond the moment and into the big picture. Sometimes it means letting them ‘get away’ with little things and what we call “picking our battles”. That is, I have seen plenty a parent get into a ‘death spiral” with their child, punishing each infraction and micromanaging the situation to the point of it being completely idiotic, pointless and clearly ineffective. Sometimes the best strategy is to step away, take a deep breath, and figure out of the *context* is the problem, not the behavior. A classic example of that is misbehavior due to hidden child abuse problems…
    And, yes, K- did have consequences for her behaviors, but in my experience as a parent, sometimes kids are so far gone that the best you can do is hold onto their feet and wait for them to come back to the ground, then be thankful you didn’t lose them entirely.

  9. If your two year old is so on the edge that you’re already afraid of “losing her” you’re doing something wrong. I hope you see that and get help with your parenting strategies before she is old enough to do anything that is truly destructive.
    There is a HUGE difference between lovingly setting boundaries and enforcing rules, and being inflexible (or a drill instructor, or a child abuser, and I’m going to let that one go because I am trying to help you). YOU are the one talking about punishment, here. I’ve only talked about discipline and consequences. Again, setting up a consistent discipline strategy and a predictable set of consequences is a LOVING behavior (even in the context of AP. ESPECIALLY in the context of AP). Failure to do so is failure to parent.
    What specific consequences did K experience as a result of her behavior yesterday?
    (By the way, having eaten chocolate does not mean that she was “sick.” Truly sick children are generally not well enough to behave like heathens for 16 hours at a stretch.)
    I hope you’ll come back in a week or so, when you’re less pissed off, and re-read what I had to say, and re-evaluate your approach based on reason and logic, instead of aggression and defensiveness. I hope that you will see that a more consistent application of the rules, regardless of what she had eaten or not eaten that day, would’ve been to her benefit (and yours) in the long run.
    However, in calling me (or one who would consistently apply rules and expectations to their children’s behavior) a bombastic drill instructor (without knowing the first thing about me or my children) you make it clear that you’re not in a place where you’re willing to listen or use anything that I say constructively right now. Maybe we’ll continue this discussion at a later time. It sounds like my little one is waking up from nap, anyway, so my play time is over.
    Good luck.

  10. And.. one other lesson here.. don’t say a word (positive or negative) to a parent that has had a rough day with a 2-year-old.. they are looking for a place to vent.. and when they get a chance.. look out!
    I have to say that when I read the initial blog I wondered where the consequences were.. and I thought back to what worked with my 2-year-old .. and I thought back to those first times he went totally nuts.. my consequences tended to be delivered in spite.. they weren’t hurtful.. but I was frazzled and trying to _help_ my kid.. I now know that not helping works best.. Daddy!! I’m not gonna eat!! .. Ok.. lunch is only on the table for 5 more minutes… then .. Daddy!! I’m hungry!! I know.. I’m so sad for you. I suppose you’ll eat a good dinner! … or if not picking the eating battle.. just leaving grapes (halved if necessary), carrots, cheese chunks out and in legal reach without telling him to eat.. and when he dumps the cheese on purpose, giving him a chance to clean-up .. and when he doesn’t, I’d do it and charge him a nice toy for the effort..
    2 can be a lot of work.. er.. uh.. fun.. and you know that this too shall pass.. I just struggle with letting my kids own their own problems and not taking them over for them…
    Yes.. chocolate can be nasty.. but until a kid links that their behavior is their own .. well.. it’s a fun ride. Someday your kid may say, “No thank you” to more candy.. It was music to my ears!!
    PS – for the record.. I have 2 kids.. a degree in Psychology.. minor in Sociology.. and minor in Human Development and Family Studies… and we all have days like yours… and do yourself a favor and check out

  11. Amy, I’m quite impressed at how much you’ve read into my comments, how you have misinterpreted what I’ve said, and how you have held on tightly to your own beliefs and views on things. I have no idea why you think I’m upset about anything, I just think that your ideas and how you are presenting your perspective might not be either clear or relevant to us and how we parent. Lots of judgment in your commentary (and, to be fair, my own too) which of course comes with the territory on a parenting blog.
    But because I don’t *say* that something happened, it’s a bit rash to conclude that therefore it didn’t happen. I also think that you aren’t familiar with the type of metaphors I use either. When I say something like “hold onto their feet and be glad they aren’t lost completely” I don’t mean anything literally, so to respond by saying “if you’re afraid they’re going to be lost…” is whimsical, at best.
    Anyway, enough of this. Let’s leave it at this and go on our merry ways. We can cross swords in another posting down the road. 🙂
    DaveC, you’re right. What I was trying to say in my earlier comment was exactly “this too shall pass”. Thanks for that phrase.

  12. Hi Dave,
    After a challenging day with my two year old, I had to smile to myself as I read your post. My husband and I are struggling with similar issues, though we don’t attribute our daughter’s behavior to sugar, because we don’t give her any. Ok, maybe on her birthday and Xmas, but you get the picture.
    I do very few time outs. The *only* issue that gets a time out is hitting or biting. That’s it. EVERYTHING else is about firm but loving redirection. If my daughter throws something on the floor, I look her in the eye and say, “We don’t throw in the house. If you throw this again, I’ll take it away.” And I follow through, every time. Sometimes I take it away immediately. If she whines, I tell her, “You’re whining. I’ll listen when you ask me politely.” And then I demonstrate how to ask politely, and use EXACTLY the words and tone I want her to use.
    Also, I do a lot of imaginary play and behavior “practice” with my daughter’s dinosaurs and stuffed animals. When I wanted her to learn to hold hands while we crossed the street, we “practiced” with dinosaurs. One was mom, the other was daughter. When I wanted her to learn what “Stop” meant, we played the Stop game at home, running and stopping in the backyard.
    I really believe in being proactive with behavior BEFORE problems occur, and we demonstrate explicitly as much as possible. Yes, a 2 year old can understand punishment, and timeouts, but it works well for our family to focus on the positive, and how TO behave and be loving rather than what NOT to do. Not saying our house is tantrum-free, far from it. We have hard days, and times when I really question my ability as a mom. But that’s our philosophy overall.
    Despite the somewhat tense comments, this dialogue between you and Amy has really helped clarify my own stand on parenting. THank you both.

  13. Wow! I guess I saw the point of your point as, “in my experience, my child is impacted by eating sweets”. I think that is a valid point that only the parent of the child can make.
    I also think that implied in your point is that you try to keep your child away from sweets for that reason. And finally, since your child is two and she got into sweets, accidentally or because you weren’t watching closely enough (of course you ARE supposed to be the perfect parent who watches every move without hindering exploration and development :-)) you now have a situation that needs to be resolved.
    And, so what? I saw your point as sharing. We all find these “impossible situations” in our parenting, no one’s fault, oh well. Let’s just have sympathy for a wired child and a stressed out parent…a little humor also goes a long way!
    When we find that we these situations develop, we just go along for the ride and empathize with our child…and figure our plans for the day may be a bit disrupted. I find it much more calming for everyone!
    BTW – I believe that my child, who I do my best to keep away from sweets, is impacted negatively when he gets his hands on some. Other parents do not believe that and…they are entitled to their opinion about their child…but not about mine 🙂

  14. Well, even though I agree with a lot of what Amy said about parenting IN GENERAL, I thought that she came down like a ton of bricks on Dave (and after a hell of a day), without really knowing all the facts (although she did make a LOT of presumptions about them) of how he handled the situation. That struck me as rude, to put it mildly. I have often caught myself “judging” other parents in my head when I see them in a difficult situation, and then not long after, found myself in a similar situation doing the same thing (or worse!). Theory and practice are quite different things, and I definitely agree with Dave that we need to be flexible and loving towards our kids, and to see the background behind the behavior. Sometimes I have been having a real bad day with one of mine, and then realize that the child him/herself is also having a tough time, and just can’t control him/herself. Sometimes this is caused by being over-tired, or sweets (another point I agree with Dave on!) The best thing to do (usually) at times like this is to try to calm the child down (baths, cuddly time-out, a walk outside, anything to change the energy level). Plain old time-out is a punishment (“consequence” is just a euphemism in this case) for something that the child has no control over. I agree that time-out is effective when used consistently, but Dave’s hyper-choco episode is probably not one of the times when it should be used. Parents need a whole bag of tools for their job – not just one, to be dragged out as a panacea.

  15. I think we’re all seeing a lesson here in how written comments can be hard to interpret objectively. I thought folks were using some strong words (like “never”, “completely useless”, “you failed”, sarcasm like “GASP” and all caps) which distracted from the main points. I can see that Amy has strong opinions, and wanted to share them and perhaps help Dave for the next hard day. I can also see why Dave started to sound defensive and perhaps became aggressive himself.
    If we all have toddlers at home, no wonder we’re having a hard time being civil 🙂 We’ve been having hellish days here for about a week, and it’s been a huge challenge to remember not to yell, spank, and freak out when our children need strong, calm parents.
    I also think this is another case of things working differently for different families. Time-outs are effective in some cases with some children. Some children are affected by sugar and caffeine, some aren’t so much. Sometimes children are so out of themselves that discipline isn’t effective and we need to empathize and give the child time to calm themselves. Whatever works!!

  16. I just don’t understand why people have to be so rude to each other. Amy’s comments to Dave really upset me. If you don’t personally know someone’s situation, then you should reserve judgement.
    I echo the above comments when I say — We are all just parents trying to do our best to raise amazing human beings, and no matter how “good” we are at parenting, sometimes things get a little out of hand. I know my 2 yr old is redefining everything I thought about parenting. Sometimes I dread taking him in public because of the “critics” out there. I say enough, all of us are doing the best we can. Our presence on a site like this is an indication of that.
    Thanks for sharing Dave!

  17. One other point.. from an “at-home” Dad… we have been judged from the get go.. we walk into a store with our kids and people assume we got weasled into a day with the kids.. PLUS.. we don’t seem to get the Mommy trump card.. we tend to have to explain any decision we make because we are not a Mom. The world doesn’t know that I’ve spent almost every hour of my 4-year-old’s life with him.. a couple of days off.. and two evenings with a babysitter.. The world sees a Man who, being a man, must not “do it right” when it comes to parenting..
    Parenting.. hmm.. wasn’t long ago that the word parenting started being used instead of “mothering”..
    Anyway.. the point is.. we Dads that really do this stuff.. diapers, throw-up, fevers, cuts, tantrums, sharing/not-sharing, why, NO! and all the other fun stuff.. well.. we get defensive about it.. Being defensive has developed into a knee-jerk response.
    I know Mom’s have the exact same problems.. and feel judged too.. but next time you look at a Dad with a kid, pay attention to your first thought..
    Dave… er.. Dave C.

  18. I find that it is becoming more normal for a Dad to be the at home parent. Not just a freaky thing at all. I can well remember when I was nursing and my husband was the at home care giver , we agreed that one parent needed to have the positive influence.
    Yes he did get the looks when he went to the park at first, like why is he not working..umm is he a lazy dad.
    We worked things out that his job was flex and he was able to work on the days I was home , I worked three twelve hour shifts then had three off etc.
    I find it great for a daughter to have a strong bond with her dad. When she grew older when they were out shopping then it did have the moments when she had ..the Dad I have to go peee now.
    Both when I came home and peeked at my bundle of joy and her dad…awesome.
    Nancy Macdonald RPN

  19. I just read through the original situation as well as the comments. No one mentioned a very crucial point, that there are different temperaments with children ranging from the easy child to the sensitive child to the difficult one to the hyper one, etc… Amy may very well have a child with an easy personality and that is why time-outs may work well for her child.
    However, imo, a 2 year old does not have the capabilities of understanding of their misbehavior. If anything, time-outs are detrimental at this point because all the child will associate is, Momm/Daddy is mad at me and now I’m all alone. That is most certainly not the message I want to send to my 2 year old.
    Coincidentally, I can relate to the OP’s daughter as my son is blessed to have a “high needs” or difficult temperament. On the days where he seems to be “out of his” body, we employ the holding method. This has worked wonderfully for us for several reasons.
    C (my son) has some wicked tantrums. Holding him helps him feel contained and prevents him from hurting himself. He never stops receiving my energy especially when he needs it the most. He is unable to control his powerful emotions, so I help him to get them under control. I allow to him to safely rage in my arms and explain to him that I understand how frustrated he is that he can’t have ____. That it is ok to be angry and that I love him but no matter how much crying he does, he still can’t have _____. Eventually he stops raging, and then I sit him indian style in on the floor in between my legs and I sit indian style. Then I help ground him by breathing deeply, humming softly and in our case asking for the Holy Spirit to surround us with pure white light. He may not understand my words, but he understands my tone and he always calms down. This way I am teaching him coping mechanisms.
    Time outs do not teach anything to the child because the parent is not present while they are going through it. How is the child to learn on their own at 2? Time outs are more effective for a 4 or 5 year old.

    • I was looking for instructions on how to pick up my child at the airport and stumbled upon this blog. I can’t help but wonder how this blogger and commenter Amy are doing now, how their children have “turned out,” whatever that means, etc. I’m sure everyone is lovely and I hope healthy. Posting from 15 years in the future, I have two kids, 10 and 8, who are so different that’s is been like the perfect little social experiment (n=2) in this house on parenting and discipline techniques. What I’ve learned from my years of study, most of it practicum-based? Parents who speak with certainty aren’t worth listening to.

      For Amy, whose children are all likely as well-adjusted as humanly possible thanks to her firm, yet loving consistency (and I’m sure they’d never judge a soul for any reason, never having seen that modeled in their home): I have a high-needs child who has ADHD, ODD, Tourette’s, and is quite possibly on the autism spectrum. She has been a challenge since about Month 3. I love her indescribably, but none of the techniques you listed have EVER worked for her. And honestly, I take offense at your summoning ADD as some sort of excuse that parents would use for not being consistent (which c’mon, is your euphemism for “lazy parenting.”) You honestly have NO clue what some families go through, despite some kinds of children amounting to a second or third full-time job that somehow empties your wallet and can crush your spirit.

      I am not even talking about the OP here, necessarily, as I don’t know this person or his family. I am speaking for every family who has had to stomach comments like yours in addition to the anguish and self-doubt they already feel on a daily basis. You clearly had your own unique experiences with your own kids, and the certainty with which you doled out “advice” (let’s be real, thinly veiled superiority) was truly heartbreaking. You drew tears from me today, from a decade and a half in the past. You must be proud that your words continue to have such strength and resonance. Just one of the many delightful aspects of the internet. I have learned another useful thing over the years, though, Amy, and that’s the wonderful variance in how our brains work, so I will work on acceptance of the possibility that you’re just not much of an empath.

  20. Hi, There ellei, i really hate to disagree with you but in my experience my son takes himself for a timeout when he needs to calm down and he is only three. he has been doing this for at least six months, i have used the time out method since he was about 18 months but only for very disruptive behaviour (hitting throwing toys ect) and i have explained to him that his time out is for him to think about his behavior, i talk him through the process before and after so he understands that i am not mad at him he just needs to have some time to calm down and he understands why he needs two minuites to himself, i agree that time outs are difficult to master for both the child and the parent however we all need to learn the skill of removing yourself from a diffucult situation in order to reflect on your behaviour. and that aplies to any age.
    p.s just found this site today and really love it

  21. You may consider watching her close to see if it is food allergy or sensitivity related. My daughter has allergies and some just make her act crazy not brake out in hives or swell up, but something happens internally.

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