Parental advisory
Sunday February 27th 2011, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A comment by a young mom at church today prompts this post.

Year: 1984, Baby #2. Scene: Toddler #1, a beautiful angel of a child up till then, had become  the instant proverbial Two Year Old (TM) now that she had competition for my attention. These screaming fists-pounding-the-floor temper tantrums? Where on earth had they come from? And of course when she cried the baby cried in sympathy and pretty quickly we were all miserable while I tried to reason with her, hug her, scold her, time her out, anything, please make something work.

I heard from one mom much later that what she had done was to get down on the floor alongside her little kid and throw a no-holds-barred tantrum act herself, fists and feet flailing, making her kid stop and look at her like, Are you crazy? Why are you making this scene? In public!

But that was years in the future.

In tired new-mother desperation one day, I called my Mom.

Mom said, Offer to pour a glass of cold water on her head.

Me: Say what?

Mom: Offer to pour cold water on her head. A little cold water does wonders on tantrums. Trust me.

Note that she didn’t say to just pour it, she said to make it the child’s decision.

So then I was just waiting for my chance, curious to try it, and hoped it would come at a time at home where I had instant access to the tap. It was. She did.

I smiled sweetly, totally knowing I could do this, and in my best loving-Mom voice asked, Sam? Would you like me to pour some cold water on your head?


Given who the clean-up crew would have been on that one, thanks, we’ll let that suggestion pass, and I quickly half-filled a cup at the sink. She screamed away and I poured out just a few drops into the top of her blonde curls–just enough to get her attention.

Instant end of tantrum while she assessed this new outcome. (Me: Wow! Magic!)

The next time she threw a major tantrum we were again, thankfully, at home, and I smiled and happily reiterated the offer.

End of screaming fit. Like flipping a switch.

After that I only had to offer I think once more ever.

She learned at the ripe old age of 27 months that she didn’t have to be controlled by rage but could stop. That she could respond instead to my being loving to her. It required I be at my best for it to work, and I wasn’t going to risk losing a foolproof method by fooling with it with a bad mood, but it let her be her best, too.

And I felt like the best Mom ever.

So, with a thousand thanks to my Mom and her wisdom, I pass the idea along.

15 Comments so far
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My son decided to throw a fit in the grocery store because mom said no to a toy, I sighed quietly walked around the corner down the next isle. Watching out of the corner of my eye, he couldn’t see me , he stopped got up and ran to see me. No more tantrums,his older sister told him , Mom doesn’t go for that. I know. He wad two she was 5

Comment by kristy phipps 02.27.11 @ 7:17 pm

What a great idea! I was lucky – I was a stay-at-home mom and only had the one, so when he pitched a fit, I could walk away, if we were at home, and pack us both up to go home if we were out. It forestalled a lot of public tantrums. I do wish I had the idea of having my own tantrum next to my son, though. I sure would have felt better!

Gratuitous Parker-pics! Yay!

Comment by Pegi 02.27.11 @ 8:26 pm

I heard one mother tell about throwing a determinedly tantrumish child into the shower. Well, she didn’t exactly throw-she gently placed. And she made sure the water was warmish. But her daughter was still so stunned at being dunked in the shower fully clothed that she stopped her tantrum to ask what on earth her mother was doing.
Once the pediatrician asked if Matthew (my number 3) ever threw lie-on-the-floor-screaming trantrums. I said, “Yes, occasionally.” So she asked what I did when he was lying on the floor screaming, and I said, “I step over him.” She chuckled and said, “Well, he’ll give that up soon enough.” And he did.
Of course Parker will never do that.

Comment by LauraN 02.27.11 @ 9:02 pm

No, no…1984 was baby one. We were still in the honeymoon phase of being parents!

Comment by Ruth 02.27.11 @ 9:44 pm

Oh, how I wish I had known that technique when I was wrangling my own herd of divas! Thank you for the best smile of the day.

Comment by Lynn 02.27.11 @ 9:46 pm

If only my poor mum had known about this when I was in my terrible 2s! I did grow out of it, apparently unscathed. Not sure the same can be said for the rest of the family 😉

Comment by tinebeest 02.27.11 @ 10:56 pm

Alas, your brilliant suggestion comes nearly 40 years too late!

Comment by Joyce 02.28.11 @ 4:40 am

This brings back a memory. I was in the store and Shawn (my grandson) wanted something. I said no. Shawn, You never buy me any thing. Me, Shawn that doesn’t work on me. Shawn, Well it works on my mom. He was probably 3. I wish I had thought of the water when my 3rd one was in his terrible two’s.

Comment by pat Flores 02.28.11 @ 5:11 am

Why isn’t this information wildly broadcast on national TV?! I could have used this about 28 years ago!

Comment by Jody 02.28.11 @ 6:26 am

Love it. The power of choice…

Comment by Channon 02.28.11 @ 7:55 am

Oh my! Instant flash back here. When my daughter was 2 she was having a very big tantrum one evening after we’d both had a very long and difficult week and day. At the time she hit the “high C” pitch I lost it and doused her with the glass of cold water I was holding in my hand at the time.

It was drastic and really more of a reflex on the part of an exhausted mom that was dealing with a lot at the time. Interestingly enough, she never had another screaming stomping tantrum — she was done.

Fast forward to the summer between her freshman and sophomore year — both of us having a really bad week — we had a tantrum together, throwing tupperware against the wall of the garage and yelling

perhaps not the most adult approach, but the second episode was more of a two friends being mad at the world — I’m pretty sure this would never have worked with a boy!

Comment by Bev 02.28.11 @ 8:46 am

When my nephew Jack was a little one (I don’t remember how old, but could have been two) his tantrum was to bang his head on the wall. He finally broke through the wall to the kitchen pantry.

Now look at the chins in the gramps photo and tell me that the little one doesn’t look like the bigger one.

Comment by Don Meyer 02.28.11 @ 10:06 am

Wow. Your Mom was smart.
I wish someone had suggested this to me…I’m off to send my daughter the link to your post.

Comment by Knitnana 02.28.11 @ 6:48 pm

Hah! We used to count our eldest out, and if we hit 3, she had to sit, sometimes in mid-tantrum, on the stairs until she was ready to be calm. For a tremendously social child, this was a horrid fate.

Our younger daughter never hit 3 in the count out, because she’d seen her older sister react so quickly to it. We always wondered what she thought would happen if she did hit 3!

Comment by twinsetellen 03.02.11 @ 7:35 pm

Thank you a thousand times over for sharing this idea! I am making a mental note, for sure! 😀

Comment by Suzanne in Montreal 03.04.11 @ 7:52 am

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