Posted in Parenting

Holy Tantrum Batman!

My wonderful son has recently decided to explore the wonderful world of tantrums.  You see, he is somehow under the impression that if he screams at the top of his lungs, cries as hard as he can, throws kicks, hits and goes in the corner of the room to pout, he’ll get what he wants.

I suppose that part of it is my fault.  I mean, when he first started his pouting spells (seriously, he crosses his arms and stomps his way to a corner somewhere), I couldn’t help but chuckle.  In fact, his dramatic demeanor still makes me smirk when he gets angry with his father or I.

Then, last week, I broke a whole lot of rules with regards to eating.  I mean, he got sick (ran a fever for the first time an all) and refused (categorically refused) to eat or drink anything for a little over 24 hours.  It was no fun.  He was miserable.  I was miserable.  So, I snuck a fruit platter beside him as I zombified him in front of some Baby Einstein (lo and behold, he ate and drank!).  I also allowed him to sit on my lap for a couple of meals so that I could coax some nutriments into his body.

It seems, though, that even though my rule-breaking was short-lived (we’re talking a few meals over the course of two days here), my son decided that it meant that rules were made to be broken.

Of course, perhaps I had nothing to do with it.  Perhaps it’s just his inherited double stubbornness (yup, he got the hard-headed gene from both his father and I) that is causing the tantrum.  Perhaps, he’s just there developmentally.

In any event, I need to arm myself (both with patience and strategies) because meal-times in particular have become nightmarish.

You see, yesterday morning, the little guy decided to initiate a power struggle with me for breakfast.  He wanted to have his breakfast in my arms.  I wanted him to have his breakfast sitting at the table.  I even got my psychology out and figured that if I gave him some measure of control, he might be cooperative.  I gave him the choice between sitting in his high chair and sitting in his booster chair.  No dice!  I gave him the choice between his favourite soy-based yogurt and toast with a raspberry spread.  He would have nothing to do with it.

So I put him in his high-chair, placed his two meal choices in front of him (which he immediately proceeded to push on the table) and calmly ate my own breakfast as he screamed and cried and twisted and turned to try to get out of his chair.  This isn’t the first time he’s acted out at mealtime.  But it seems to be getting worse.  I know that he obviously won’t let himself starve to death and though I love the little guy to death and am ready to compromise to some measure, I am certainly not going to let him have his way at 17 months old.

So, I’m turning to you all.  Any ideas as to how I can approach this tantrum-throwing?  What has worked for you?



Thirty-something year old discovering the joys and bumps of motherhood.

29 thoughts on “Holy Tantrum Batman!

  1. We do time out. Explain, give a warning, if he continues/ repeats he goes in time out. Which in vs case is sitting on his for 1min. Or more like 30seconds. I walk away and stand in hall way. Count to 30. Go back explain why I put him there cuddles and kisses and try again.
    Although when it comes to meal times. I let V eat everywhere. :/ as long as he’s eating I don’t care. More food, less breast. 😉

    1. Thanks for your input!

      You do time-outs when V throws a tantrum or when he hits/kicks/throws or both? I can’t imagine what my days will look like if I have to put him in time-out each time he throws a tantrum!

      With regards to meal-times, I’m pretty lenient on snacks and he can have them while he plays. But for breakfast, lunch and supper, I want him sitting at the table. I really can’t have him in my arms because as the pregnancy advances and he gets heavier, I struggle to keep him in my arms for very long 😉

  2. I have been there. Tantrums are the worst. I have been struggling with power games as well. Meal time is the worst. After speaking with my doctor I have given up the battle over food. They will eat when they are hungry. The more we push it the worse it is. I read to her during meals. We call it dinner theater. This helps keep her in her seat and then most of the time she will start nibbling. When she has a non food meltdown and goes on a throwing and yelling frenzy, I place her in her crib and tell her that she can come out when she stops yelling and is ready to pick up the things she threw on the floor. This has worked for us. Sometimes it takes a little time, but she always calms and then comes out and picks up her tantrum fused mess. Of course all toddlers are different. Good luck.

    1. When you say that they will eat when they are hungry, do you mean that you wait until they ask for food?

      Time-outs seem to be the suggested route for meltdowns. I’ll just have to find the best way to do the time-out (whether it’s putting him in the corner, on a time-out mat or in his crib or something). I think I will definitely have to start having him pick up the things he’s thrown in full-tantrum mode once he’s calmed down as well.


      1. No, I still make all her meals and I try all my tricks with reading to her and bribery, but if she is adamant about not eating. I let her go and wait til the next meal and try again. She does now tell me if she is hungry after skipping meals

      2. Thanks for the clarification. It makes sense that you would offer her the meal once it’s ready and go from there.

        Hehe, I’m not above trickery and bribery, perhaps I’ll have to get a few tricks up my sleeve 😉

  3. Ahh, the joy of tantrums! 🙄
    Poor thing, I totally get where he’s coming from – he enjoyed sitting with you! BUT, I also see it from your point of view, obviously. 😉 Samuel went through a time when he refused to sit in his highchair and wanted me to hold him during mealtimes. As long as I *knew* he was truly hungry, I put him in his chair anyway, but let him sit very close to me, and I attempted to comfort him. He wasn’t mad…more like offended. I would have handled it differently if he had been mad at me (timeout, more than likely).
    As it is now, because he has become very picky so I am happy to let him eat wherever he pleases. He sometimes sits in his highchair, other times with me or next to me, and other times on the floor in the livingroom. 😛 He doesn’t see it as getting his way or anything because I ask him where he would like to sit and he chooses (so, he isn’t “winning”) The only time I don’t give him a choice is when the food is particularly messy; I then let him know he can eat it, but that he has to sit in his highchair. If he doesn’t want it, he doesn’t have to have it…if he does want it but throws an angry fit, he goes to timeout and *then* he can decide if he wants to eat (in his highchair!) He almost ALWAYS chooses to comply after timeout, which seriously rocks! LOL (Watch…he won’t now because I’ve talked about it)

    1. Tantrums are certainly no joke, but a part of me is actually proud to see that he is confident enough to communicate what he wants and doesn’t want (is that weird?). That being said, he needs to learn how to communicate his dissatisfaction in an appropriate manner.

      I’ve actually changed the seating arrangements to accommodate the fact that he wants to be close to me. At our table, we have three chairs, a bench and his high chair. I used to sit on the bench, but he’s still too squirmy for me to let him have a whole meal there so I can’t really have him eat his meals beside me. I ended up putting his booster seat on one of the chairs and sitting on the chair next to his. So far so good *crosses fingers*.

      I’m thinking that I will definitely have to get the time-out card out when he starts throwing a fit. I just need to figure out where to put him now.

      Thanks Valerie!

      1. I know just what you mean! It would be weird if Samuel just always did exactly as I wanted, and didn’t express his dislike. I don’t put him in timeout for being upset, even if he’s loudly crying or screaming, only when he is angry and keeps it going (I give him the opportunity to calm down first) or he starts to be physical with one of us (in anger). Thankfully, he doesn’t throw things when he’s mad, but he did occasionally, when he was younger.

        I bet you’ll find that things improve if he sees he isn’t getting anywhere. Your seating arrangement sounds good!

        Yeah, timeout (or another consequence) is often needed, starting around this stage. I really wish I had been ready to start when Sam was 18 months instead of 2 years. Oh well, it’s working super now! 😉

      2. I see what you mean about the distinction between upset crying/screaming and angry crying/screaming/throwing etc. I will definitely have to define what warrants a time-out and what doesn’t.

        It’s good to know that consequences like timeouts can work this early on. But now that I think of it, though he doesn’t have many words, he understands a lot, so it makes sense that he’d be able to understand the principle of timeout.

        Anyway, we shall see how things go. The little guy is stubborn for sure, but he inherited that character trait from his parents 😉

      3. Oh, yes! They understand so much earlier than they can speak (usually), which is great when it comes to consequences. 🙂

  4. Tantrums can be pretty stressful and especially around food – I am actually dealing with them more with my soon-to-be-four year old at the moment (Eek!) but I have found with her the best technique is to ignore – my 20 month old eventually calms down and if she’s hungry, she’ll eat. With food I have always preferred the ‘here’s your food, you either eat it or you don’t’ technique and have never had any issues with my two – whereas I have friends whose kids will only eat crackers and yoghurt because they caved at every mealtime for fear they’d go hungry. To be honest, it’s probably just a phase but best of luck 😉

    1. Good luck with your four year old!

      I’m pretty much on the same page as you with regards to food. I figure that if he’s hungry enough, he’ll eat. It’s not like he’s going to starve himself to death!

      Crossing my fingers for it to be just a phase (I’ve been really lucky as he’s always been a really good eater). But it’s definitely a headache inducing phase lol!

      Thanks for your input!

  5. Oh, man! We haven’t gotten to this stage, yet, but my feeling is that it’s right around the corner. I will bookmark this post as a resource, as there seems to be a lot of good advice above!

  6. I’m struggling with tantrums every now and then with my soon-to-be 3 year old too.

    My daughter and I used to have food battles when she was younger. Refusing to eat and all…After many attempts and different approaches, I finally just took the plate of food away from her (she refused to touch the food for half hour). Then there wasn’t any food or milk until the next meal time. It was heart wrenching, but I figured she needs to learn every decision has a consequence.

    From that episode, she improved tremendously. No more pushing the plate away and refusing to eat.

    Regarding your child’s refusal to sit in the high chair, I’d sit beside him and eat my lunch alongside with him. The same thing happened with my daughter too.

    Just my two cents’ worth. 🙂

    1. We do the same thing food-wise. If he outright refuses to eat, then he has nothing until the next meal, by which time he’s generally cranky and VERY hungry. But it’s because, like you, I think that he needs to lean that his decisions have consequences.

      Incidentally, we ditched the high chair after that particular morning. I learned that he had been switched to a booster seat at daycare the previous day. I think he just decided that he was too big to be in a high chair. I got out a booster and let him pick his chair. Now he doesn’t fight me to sit at the table (but he does still refuse to eat, oh well – everything can’t be perfect 😉 ).

      Thanks for your input!

  7. We are already doing the timeout thing with Thor over tantrums and have been for a couple of months. Usually time out happens in the playpen in the living room. (we try to never use his bed for that) He does use several words now, but I think a lot of his tantrums stem from the fact that he doesn’t know how to tell us what he wants. The rest are definitely frustration with the limits we give him. He really dislikes being confined in one area (why the playpen comes in handy for timeout) We are hoping it will sink in eventually. He is exceedingly stubborn and almost seems to take no as a challenge.

    Mealtimes aren’t so much of a struggle as long as one of us is sitting next to him and we are eating together. He usually only gets testy about food when he isn’t feeling well, or when he is offered the same foods a little too often. I think he gets bored when given the same thing more than a couple of days in a row, unless it is something he really likes. I find if we rotate his meals and mix them up a little it helps with that.

    His favorite thing so far seems to be vegetables, so we try to offer him some at every meal, but are careful to make sure he is eating other things as well. He loves hummus sandwiches made with pita bread. That seems to be one food he never gets tired of, so he usually has this for lunch almost every day. He is not a big fan of meat, and we don’t force him to eat it. Sloppy Joes seem to be the exception. Breakfast is the tricky meal around here, some mornings its yogurt with a bit of fruit or cereal tossed in, others we will make him some scrambled eggs and fruit with some wheat bread. If he doesn’t seem interested first thing, we usually wait awhile and try him again and he eats just fine. Sometimes he just wants to eat whatever we are eating and not necessarily what we give him to eat.

    1. I’m actually relieved to know that others are doing timeouts with their young toddlers too. For some reason, in my mind, I could only do timeouts at around the age of 2. I think, though, that the important part isn’t the age as much as it is their understanding of what we say. And oh boy, does he understand a LOT! I would prefer not using his crib, but right now, I really don’t have anywhere else to put him. So far, we’ve only needed to do timeouts twice and I’m hoping that if we have to do them more often it doesn’t come and bite us in the rear and make him resent his crib. I suppose only time will tell.

      Mine is a really good eater too generally and just like yours will pretty much only refuse food when he isn’t feeling well. I’ve taken care of the seating power-struggle though and put his high chair away and took out his booster instead. Now, he’s happy to sit at the table, BUT he still sometimes decides that he just doesn’t care for what I’ve made. Oh well, he’ll learn eventually that he got his stubborn genes from his father and I lol!

  8. My son has hit a new phase, I prefer to call- frustration in stead of tantrums. He doesn’t really throw a fit (until it gets really bad then he gives up and lays on the floor hoping mommy will cave. Sadly I tend to snicker, then move him to the couch and either go back to my dinner or washing the dishes. Dinner time must be a trend with two year olds.)

    My husband and I follow the ” two more bites rule” if he keeps trying to get down and doesn’t want to eat because he wants to go play- we compromise and tell him he can have two more bites then go play. Most times he will have more than two bites because he really IS hungry, and will forget (at least for a few minutes) that he wanted to go play with his zoo animals.

    1. I suspect that meal times are a trend with two year olds is because it is one of the few things they actually have control over.

      I like the idea of two more bites, though when the little guy is having a meltdown, our problem is more having him eat a single bite, let alone “two more” lol!

      (For the record, I’m happy to know that I’m not the only one who snickers when my toddler has a meltdown).

  9. Wow! You have a lot of advice here. Mealtimes can be tough. If the child misses a meal, he’ll survive. But I know I didn’t stop worrying about skipped meals till after my first child. And it was sometimes hard to remember when a child skips a meal that they shouldn’t get any dessert or snacks later, or they won’t feel the hunger. When my kids were older and realized they couldn’t hang with a grumbling tummy, they would eventually ask for food, but I always offered what was originally refused. Sometimes they ate it, sometimes they didn’t. Anyway, I never thought I would see the day, but my kids eat fairly well now. Occasional complaint now and then, but for the most part, they eat what’s given to them. That day will come for you! Hang in there! 🙂

    1. Thanks for adding your advice to the lot!

      Right now, it is still easy for me to remember to not give the little guy a snack when he decides to refuse a meal, but I suspect that my control over the situation will change in a few months time once #2 comes along. Oh well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there 😉

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