10 survival tactics to help you through toddlerhood.

June 14, 2013

tantrum (2 of 2)I’ve made no secret about the fact that sometimes (often) I struggle with parenthood.

Each age brings with it new and wonderful things. At six months I thought that was the best age EVER.
One brought all the cuddles and giggles and personality. One was surely the best age EVER.

Two was great. I love two. More talking, more comprehension, more joy. More personality, sure, more ‘push-back’ if you will but it was still an enjoyable journey.

Terrible twos, they said… and I thought, this ain’t that bad.

Hellooooooo, three. Aren’t you just a wilful, spirited age?

That’s what the books call it, but I think that’s because little shit is deemed offensive by many, if slightly more accurate.

I would like to loudly and boldly state that three is officially NOT the best age ever. There are many awesome bits, but I do find myself checking to see if there is suddenly a great big curl right in the middle of his forehead, for when he is good, he’s very, very good, and when he’s bad, he’s…….

A turd.

I feel like my sweet, loving, obedient and caring little friend has been abducted by aliens and replaced with a tantruming boy-bot.

tantrum (1 of 2)


We lock horns terribly (pointless). I try reasoning with the crazed, screaming child (ridiculous) and I feel my rage gauge climbing and it appears that the roof of my head may simply spin off, and leave a terrible splatter on the roof (messy).

I have a few mums around me with beautifully behaved, slightly older children and what I’m observing with these parents is they do not take one single ounce of crap, and the argument is over before it even begins.

‘The answer is no’


Wow. That’s not what happens in my experience.

Apparently, the key is this bit. This now bit. This three bit.

This turd bit.

If you get this right then it’s smoother sailing for the rest of your lives, but if you don’t nail it, you’ll have a big kid throwing these unsightly, mortifying tantrums and totally owning your arse in the process.

Oh, sweet Jesus, save me from that fate.

This is my game plan. Allow me to share, in case you know a wilful and spirited toddler.

tantrum (1 of 1)


Stick to your guns

Don’t say no, and then cave in after incessant whining. If you cave even once, your kid will think you will do that every time if they keep it up long enough… and you’ll be amazed how long they can keep it up for.

Watch your words

Try not to say things like ‘you are a naughty child’, but more things like ‘your behaviour is unacceptable’ or ‘I don’t like it when you’re not listening to me’. Don’t ever say things like ‘you are stupid.’
It’s important to reprimand the behaviour, and not the child.

Deep breaths

Not just you, them too. If your child is one to throw things or lash out in anger, get them to take a few breaths. In theory, you’re aiming to get them to take breaths before the anger in the future.
Sometimes, D Man will fight against it, but if I breath deeply with him, it helps us both chillax.

Respect their anger

Anger is a valid emotion, just like happiness so we don’t want to try to get them to not feel their anger, just to control it.
When they’re losing their shizzle, let them know that you understand they’re really cranky right now, but you’ll listen to them when they calm down enough to talk to you.
Then walk away. Don’t watch the fireworks.

Change of scene

Sometimes it feels like your squalling kid is stuck in a screaming vortex long after the issue. I often wonder if he even remembers what he’s screaming and carrying on about.
Rather than flip your lid, try going for a walk. It’s not rewarding the behaviour, it’s just everyone getting some air because in times of stress the house becomes incredibly small and tense. Just mix it up, and everyone feels a bit better….and you can walk past the shop (bottlo) and buy a sneaky chocolate (wine) while you pretend you’re buying milk.

Naughty corner

I never understood the power of the naughty corner. I couldn’t see why a child would stay there….but they do.
I’m finding great success with the naughty corner. Stay there until you’re calm doesn’t work for me though, as he gets super upset by the thought of being punished. It just gives me an option to put him somewhere that expresses that he’s misbehaved and we get space from each other. He does get worked up by it so I don’t leave him there long, just a minute or two and they I ask if he’s ready come out and do what is asked of him.

No option

A common trap to fall into is asking your little one if they’d like to do something, thereby creating the space for a resounding NO.
Perhaps, instead of asking if they’d like to clean their teeth, come to dinner, or put their toys away, you gently suggest it, and lead the way.
‘Let’s go clean your teeth’ and take their hand….. or in some cases chase them around the lounge until you catch them and then gently take their hand (drag them) to the bathroom.

Two options

I love this one. If you don’t want them to do something, offer two options of things that they can do. This essentially gives them some power (which is what most of the issue is about), but not too much. You can guide them into a direction you want, and they feel like they’re in control. Everyone is happy.

Remember you’re a good mum (or dad, or non-specific carer)

It’s ok to get angry. If you smack because you lost your cool, don’t beat yourself up, just try to use better tactics next time. You’re human. This is a tough gig. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to breath instead of react, and act in a rational thoughtful way.

Drink wine

Or whatever floats your boat. Not before 5, not all night. Just a little bit. It really bloody helps the dinner/bath/bed vortex.
Above all always bear in mind that this too shall pass.

tantrum (1 of 1)

I am not a smarmy preachy parenting expert, and I have written this in a list as much for me as you.
If you have any crackers to add to help me through…..please don’t be shy!

Do you know anyone with a toddler?

Share this with them PRONTO. It may mean the difference between survival and not!!!!

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Hooking up with the gorgeous and gracious With Some Grace for Flog Your Blog Friday.

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  • Reply tric June 14, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Happy days. They were definitely not easy, but as I had more children and got busier they became less of an issue. Something I have often wondered about. Was it just that I got easier or was it that I became more effective as a mum? I really do not know the answer.

  • Reply Kevin June 14, 2013 at 11:12 am

    So I work up the other day and the same aliens had been in my little girls bedroom. Al of a sudden there’s NO!s and screaming and upset-ness over the (I think) smallest things. I think we fell into the two-isn’t-too-bad trap as well.

    I like your tips. We use the naughty corner (called Time Out in the Illiterate household) and a kitchen timer set for three minutes.

    I’ve also started to coach Little miss just-three to breathe. When it all goes a bit crazy I hold her, look straight at her and just help her breathe.

    Last comment – I’m a weeknight/weekend Dad – I don’t know how wise and calm I would be if I was playing this game 7 days a week.

    • Reply Kevin June 14, 2013 at 11:13 am

      spell check is for the weak!

      • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 14, 2013 at 11:19 am

        How many errors?

        Sent from my iPhone

        On 14/06/2013, at 11:13 AM, Keeping Up With The Holsbys

        • Reply Kevin June 14, 2013 at 11:23 am

          I’m talking about my comment – a frenzy of typos!

      • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 14, 2013 at 11:21 am

        Thought you meant me. I never do it. My father is endlessly horrified.

        I’ll try remember to send you a pod cast (if I can find it) by a dude who said if your shit is epic enough, who cares about a spelling mistake.

        That was my get out of jail free card. Now I’m lazy as shit. 😉

        Sent from my iPhone

        On 14/06/2013, at 11:13 AM, Keeping Up With The Holsbys

        • Reply Kevin June 14, 2013 at 11:25 am

          The epic ratio of your shit definitely qualifies you to work without the safety harness of spell checking!

  • Reply Kylez @ A Study in Contradictions June 14, 2013 at 11:48 am

    LOVE IT!!! Just so you know, I have created a new folder in my bookmarks bar called Parenting Tips & Techniques and I have bookmarked this post for reference in about 18 months time, perhaps sooner, the rate we are going! Punky is a very strong-willed 18-month-old and I fear for what the Terrible Three’s bring! Your tips are definitely going to help and I think some of them are really good even for now!

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      That’s awesome. Planning ahead….Stock up on wine too. Good luck with that gorgeous Punky of yours.

  • Reply Julz June 14, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Love it! I use a warning system when they are about to lose their privileges (I used to use the naughty corner when mine were smaller, it doesn’t work so well now that they are older so they lose technology time and have reflection time in their room where they write in their journal). But i count, 1-2-3. You ALWAYS have to get to 2 before they stop but it works.

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 14, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Really? Yours are snappy. I get to three and then he runs!!
      I’m starting on the taking a toy away, but it’s just endless tactics, isn’t it? Tiring.
      Just behave already!!!

      I’m sure I was an angel. All the time.

      • Reply Kate June 14, 2013 at 2:24 pm

        Next time he runs gather up his favorite toys and put them on top of the fridge overnight. You don’t need to yell about it, although it is nice to offer an apology to the toy just loud enough that Dman can hear. Just calmly wander about collecting lovely toys and putting them up high. One by one. He’s a smart cookie and will figure out he had better come back.

  • Reply Kate June 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    I am having that tattooed somewhere, if your shit is epic enough who cares about spelling!
    Probably not one I should have visable for my work….

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      Oh Geez, what have I started? No Miss Paget, spelling is important, of course. I hate reading blogs full of bad spelling, but I figure one little slip here and there…..oh, shit.

      Am I on detention now????

      • Reply Kate June 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm

        No detention. You can have a gold star and a smile stamp!

  • Reply ksbeth June 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    fantastic advice from someone who has obviously lived it firsthand

  • Reply mummywifeme June 14, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    This is awesome. I’m going to print this off and will share it too. We are just over a month off the terrible threes and I can feel Little Miss cranking up the tantrums a notch. Lord help me. I like the don’t watch the fireworks one. I’m terrible at doing that and it just gets everyone more upset.

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 17, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      Yeah, it’s true. Half the battle is you keeping your cool. You have the upper hand just from that alone, but it’s SO HARD TO DO!!!

  • Reply momsasaurus June 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    One word: Threenager.

  • Reply One of My Own June 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I think those aliens often attack my pre-teen step-children!

    Wonderful post and I really appreciate all those tips (Except I’ll eat chocolate instead of drinking wine).
    Will be booking marking those post for future reference!

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Buy extra large blocks of chocolate then. I think you need more chocolate for the effect, but it’ll work fine if you’re committed.

  • Reply Trish MLDB June 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    I needed this about 4 yrs ago , with twin three year olds. I (we) did get through it and they were better by the ‘awe of four’.

  • Reply mamagrace71 June 14, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Perfect reading as I am a mum dealing with the terrible 3’s x 2! The naughty corner has indeed been a very powerful tool for us. We also have “the car” if the naughty corner receives no reaction. A great back up! 🙂

  • Reply Zanni Louise June 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    I totally relate to the difficulties of 3, Dan. I loved 1 and 2, and was shocked by 3.
    I don’t use punishment of any kind, and some say I have ‘loose’ boundaries, but I agree that limiting options is a necessity. Being empathetic is important. I was doing the stern thing for a while, and not putting up with an ounce of it, but I came to hating how I sounded, so I ended up going back to my original approach, which was to acknowledge crazy behaviour, ignore a lot, and just try and keep the peace with myself. It’s been way more effective. If I lose my crap, it makes behaviour a thousand times worse. I feel like we are kind of turning a corner. Maybe. xxxx

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 15, 2013 at 8:55 am

      Whatever works in your house and in your heart. I will admit I still try to say ‘Heart mama’ to myself to calm myself down!!
      I reckon you are intrinsically a more peaceful person than myself. I get so worked up by it all!!
      I feel like we turn a corner and then we hit another speed bump, but those moments of air in between are truly priceless, and make it all easier to cope!!
      Love to you xxx

      • Reply Zanni Arnot June 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm

        You’re very sweet. Believe me, I have my mental break down moments. Often. xx

  • Reply Mel @mummyandtheminis June 14, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    LOVE this post. My three-year-old is extremely wilful (stubburn) and spirited (crazily emotional). Today I gave her an ice cream which is a very rare treat and she threw it on the ground because she didn’t like the way I decorated it on top. She cried for half and hour wanting another one but I said no and more no. I truly believe that sticking by your guns is incredibly important. I use to be swayed a little more but trying hard to get this one right. I might just have to stick your list onto my fridge as a reminder!

  • Reply Dani Murray June 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    My little man is nearly 2 and I dread another year from now….he is doing the dash and run already! All your advise and the additonal comments are priceless….thank you!

  • Reply Have a laugh on me June 17, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Mmmm wine – but yes I always do the two option approach and it works, or the one option – I’ve become a lot better at dealing with little shits since the arrival of No.3. But he’s the worst, at 21 months he stands up to me like his 3.5 year old brother. Lucky my 5 year old is perfect (ha ha) Em x

  • Reply momohyeah June 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Ha ha ha we have the naughty boy chair but first time I used it it created great confusion. I told him that is the naughty chair sit on it till u calm down.

    Later while dressing I asked why did you have to sit on the naughty chair. In a small voice fiddling with his fingers he said “cause the chair was naughty”. Oopsy. Now that its clear what the naughty boy chair is just the threat of it works like a dream.

  • Reply finallygotsomethingtosay June 19, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    I have two kids, a nine year-old son and an almost two year-old daughter. My son was (and mostly is) perfect. No Terrible Twos. No Terrible Anything. He is a laid back people pleaser by nature. He gave us a false sense of security. My daughter, at not even two, is… challenging. Smart and funny, to be sure, but absolute trouble. She has tantrums the likes of which I’d never seen. When she’s angry she throws herself to the floor, hard. Forward, backward, with the coffee table in the way… makes no difference, and if she’s injured in the process it’s our fault for pissing her off. If she doesn’t end herself she may well end me… and don’t talk to me about three. I might not make it that far.

    Love the blog!

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys June 19, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      Maybe she’ll run out of steam by three and be a total dreamboat.
      You can but hope!
      Thanks for the love x

  • Reply Elizabeth June 23, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    These are great tips that I will totally use, especially “respect their anger”. I feel like sometimes we forget kids are humans too. Likely easy for me to say since my daughter is only 1 but still! Thanks for this post.

  • Reply Meemformommy June 29, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Reblogged this on Meem for Mommy and commented:
    Love this honest look at the challenges of toddlerhood.

  • Reply The Magical Three: On parenting a three-year-old - My Little Sunshine House July 30, 2013 at 6:01 am

    […] I am not the first person to say this, but age three took me by surprise. […]

  • Reply Aleney @ BoyEatsWorld November 10, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Three! It’s a magical age. And by magical I actually mean hellish, brutal and tortuous. Sugarpuff is doing three now. And she is doing it in stubborn, arse-kicking, tantrum-throwing style! I try to be empathetic and not to lose it right back. And mostly I am successful. She is a little person and she has a right to her emotions just as I have a right to go to the bottle shop.

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