December 12, 2008

The Unmentioned Circle of Hell

Dante did an exceptional job when he wrote the Divine Comedy and described the 9 circles of hell, but he forgot one. It's called "the three year old". This circle is characterized by a 3-4 foot person parading around throwing temper tantrums if one of the dogs looks at her funny and has fallen completely helpless when it comes to finding sippy cups.

Someone please tell me that this whole "I'm three now, so I think I'm an adult" thing is only a phase and it will dissipate soon. Please. It's ok, lie to me, make me feel better. If this lasts until she's 4, this will be a long and heavily medicated year for me (just kidding about the heavily medicated, ok maybe only half kidding).

Seriously though, it's like my nice, well mostly nice, previous 2 year old became possessed by the 3 year old demon. Everyday is a power struggle, or a full fledged war over the most minuscule things imaginable. "Lay down"; "No, I can't". What?! You can't lay down? Ok, ok, I naively thought this was a one night thing. Yeah we're going on about a week now. The "I can't" thing doesn't stop there, but the other stuff I kind of see coming. "I can't pick up my toys, etc".

Rationally, I understand this is just where she is developmentally and I know it's hard on her without DH being around. But still, I get sucked into the power struggle and before I know it I can't remember how I got in it and I am completely clueless on how to get out.

Welcome to the 10th circle of hell.


  1. im sorry tina, it will last till she is 4. NO easy way out


  2. That's why I've adopted 2 phrases - "terrible 2's" and "mother f'in 3's." It gets better. 3 is when my now 7yo decided he would not eat melted cheese. He kept that up for at least 6 mos. Thankfully he eats pizza and grilled cheese again.

  3. Sorry about that.. Connor is three and he's just so mellow that I rarely have any problems out of him. Now James is 2 and I know him and I will have fights. He's just so mischevious and then the pouty look and all. Drives me insane. LOL I hope it gets better.

  4. Two of my three kids are past age three, and I tell you with great confidence that it gets better.

    I will not scare you with what pre-pubescence brings.

  5. Yes, it does get better.

    You need to know what sets off a tantrum. The obvious triggers are hunger, exhaustion, and frustration.

    Keep a pad and pen handy and take notes whenever your child explodes (a chart or matrix, perhaps done on an Excel spreadsheet, may help you visualize these events more easily - whatever works). Among the items that should be included are:
    Where was your child?
    What was he doing?
    What day of the week was it?
    Was someone visiting?
    Was it the first time?
    If not, did something happen that frightened your child the last time you did this activity?
    Is someone at day care or school calling your child by a proper name instead of the nickname used at home (e.g., James instead of Jimmy?
    Who was with your child?
    What time of day was it?
    What happened right before the tantrum?
    What was your child wearing?
    What was the last thing he ate?
    When was the last time he had something to drink?
    When was the last meal?

    Then list how long the tantrum lasted and how the issue was resolved. Did you help your child over this rough spot or did he calm down independently?

    You have to put a CSI (crime scene investigation unit) to shame with all the details you collect.

    You may discover that tantrums occur most often before nap time or bedtime, or when you are busy making dinner. They may happen when your child returns from a play date with a friend. Changes in the weather, temperature (heat and cold, indoors and outdoors), humidity, and air pressure can affect a person's physical and mental well-being. Thunderstorms may trigger a tantrum because the winds stir up mold and allergens. If the tantrum starts about four hours after a sugary dessert or something else sweet, ask your doctor if your child is hypoglycemic.

    Eventually you should find a pattern of tantrum triggers. Avoiding, as much as possible, that pattern or chain of events can go a long way to avoiding tantrums. That requires another list so you remember what you did last time and what works and does not work.

    Do you see signals that your child is nervous or upset? Perhaps your son twists rubber bands around his fingers or wrist. Do these signs precede a tantrum and can you catch the signals before the tantrum erupts?

    When you discover a tantrum-prevention technique that works, use it. If the tantrums come when your child is hungry, feed your child before you leave your home or bring a snack with you when you run errands. If exhaustion is the cause, plan your outings immediately after a nap, whenever possible. If strange situations are the cause, bring a favorite toy or blanket for comfort. If frustration is the trigger because you will not let your child run into the street, explore that fascinating electric socket, or touch the hot stove, be prepared to divert your child's attention.

    Good luck!

    Judy Colbert