How Was Your Day, Dear?

I'm in trouble. Big trouble. The middle Monkey is putting on some serious tantrums and acting-out since Abby was born, and while I was expecting some problems, this really is more than I bargained for. I know I can't return him, and although I fantasize about some magic Toddler-Whisperer swooping down and taking him to Babies-R-Good for the day, I know that's really not going to solve my problems. So yet again, I turn to you, my fair mommy friends, in a plea for help. While I'm not sure what constitutes a "regular" tantrum, I'm pretty sure that Eric's are borderline psycho. When he gets told "No" about anything, he falls on the ground and begins to convulse- not outside of normal, I'll give you that- but how about ripping off his clothes? Or taking his shoes off and throwing them at me, or any passers by? Or biting himself? Or stripping his bed down to the bare mattress? Or emptying bookshelves in fell-swoops? Or tipping over tables in the living room? I'm talking Tazmanian Devil, folks. And I am at a loss. This morning, the Monkey's got up before me, and they opened some collector toys the DH had on his dresser- toys that were like "Stinky Pete" from Toy Story 2, old, and still new-in-the-box; I guess that means something on E-bay, but it will never mean anything to us now, since the toys are open and already broken. So much for that extra 20 minutes of sleep, eh? After breakfast, I unfortunately had to go to Target. How sad Target has been reduced to "unfortunately"- I tried to find a sitter, but pride convinced me I could do it alone. What's that about pride coming before the fall? yeah, they were right. The second mistake was not having any cash to buy the $1 popcorn deal- Never again will I not have four quarters in the bottom of my purse. My oldest, Jeffrey (4), is being very good and staying right with me, the middle Monkey, Eric (2) is in the basket of the cart, and baby Abby (6 weeks today, can you believe it?) is in her bucket in the top of the cart. We make our way through the store to the baby department- I have some things to exchange. She is like a weed. Here is where the real drama began. Eric wants to push the buttons on some baby toy he sees. We are already past it and almost to the boys department to get my other Weed some new drawers. I tell Eric no, some other time and try and distract him with Superman underwear. And thus begins the tantrum. He is flopping around in the basket of the cart like a beached Mackerel, kicking and screaming. His voice is hoarse from his many screaming binges lately, so he sounds really bad. His legs are bruised from all the things he has kicked, too. I'm sure he looks abused, and while I may really want to sometimes, I have never flogged him. He begins to wail like an air-horn, and Jeffrey is taking this opportunity to stroll further than he should. Abby begins to cry, and my breasts begin to leak, because of her cries- all in the matter of 2 minutes. While wresting with the Mackerel, I threaten him with taking away his binkies if he doesn't quiet down. He shuts off the air-horn and settles for just flopping around and a low whine. Pushing the cart with my arms crossed because milk is soaking my shirt, I change my plans. Let's just get the underwear and leave- See how quick I am! When I turn to grab what I need, Eric has jumps out of the cart and takes off running. I move to run after him, but realize my newborn is still in the cart and I can't leave her. Her, and my leaky boobs. Grabbing the cart, I wheel it around like a maniac, yelling for Eric- I can't see him now, and have no idea where he is, and Jeffrey has taken off after him, hollering "Come back here, Bean, right now!" He sounds like the mom. I can't see either of them, but I can hear them. Another mom pushes her cart by, her two children sedately and quietly sitting, and she asks if I need help. Why yes, where do you get your children tranquilized? Nevermind... Two aisles over, Jeffrey has apparently tackled Eric, and begins to drag him back to me. When I say drag, I mean literally drag... by his shirt. Eric's lip is bleeding, I presume from when Jeff tackled him, and he is smiling, now. Quite satisfied with himself, I imagine. Time to go, anyone? Finally I figured out that we didn't belong there, needful errand or not, civil society is no place for us. Unceremoniously I plop Eric back in the cart and tell them we are leaving. So Jeffrey starts to cry because he was good and he wanted to get a toy for being good.... Another mom walks by with more tranquilized kids, and gives me The Look- (Control your kids, lady) Doncha love that one? As if I wouldn't duct tape them if I could? Do I look like I'm enjoying this? At this point, Eric takes his shoe off and throws it at the lady. Do you think he read my mind? Sometimes I wish I was two, too. So, we are home now. Abby is fed and happy, Jeffrey is watching Thomas the Train Engine on PBS and Eric is lifting weights in the play room. You think I'm kidding? They are little weights, but he is pumping them sure as the Governor of California is the Terminator. No one got any toys. No one got any errands complete. No one cracked and went to the funny farm, either. All in all, a resounding success of a day, wouldn't you say? ...help...


Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

Well, this will only solve about 20% of your problem, but I would recommend a sling or baby frontpack or similar. That way you don't have to abandon the baby to chase the 2 year old.

As for the other 80%: if this was a one-time deal, just let it go. If this happens every time you go out, I would either run errands when your dh can be with 1-3 of your kids or I would swap childcare with someone or pay someone so I wouldn't have to take them. If I for some reason HAD to take all three, I would announce the Reward for Excellent Manners before we walked in the store (i.e., bribe).

Good luck.

6/06/2006 09:02:00 PM  
Anonymous sue lunt said...

I have never had any "luck" shopping with my children. And I have sometimes felt like a pathetic weakling because a. I have one or more friends who love to tell me how great their children are in public and b. I am a pathetic weakling and I just can't do it. Even now, my oldest is 14 and I can't bear to hear "why can't I get a new CD? you get what ever you want!" Yep, toilet paper and fabric softener, I get everything I "want". So now, unless it is a very special occasion--like an emergency, I do not shop with my children. That is probably not helpful, huh?

6/06/2006 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Before J was born, I took my neighbor's little terrorist (just under age 2, and truly a total brat in any kind of retail envrionment) to Target because Mom was pregnant and needed the break. Oh, that child was perfect for me, followed just a step behind, asked for toys and didn't bat an eye when I said no. Boy, did that boost my own mother-to-be ego. Hey, this parenting stuff is a snap!

Yeah, well, all I have to say is that not long ago J pitched a ROYAL fit in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store, and when I completely ignored it, waiting for it to subside while I checked out the conditioner on sale, a man walked by and said, "Excuse me, but is there something wrong with your son?"

"Nope, just didn't get his way", I said, still focusing on the conditioner--hmm, should I smell like a fruit or a flower this week?

He gave me that "wow you are a terrible mother I am five minutes away from calling CPS" look, and then walked away.

So, like I said before, been there, done exactly that.

I do like Julie's idea of Reward for Excellent Behavior. Also, when J was younger, I would practically repeat as a mantra "We are going to get toilet paper. We can get one treat. We are not getting a toy,"over and over in the car before we got anywhere, then stop before we went in to make sure he could repeat it. If he was well fed, well rested, it usually worked. If I tossed a box of goldfish or Milano cookies in the cart before we started off, it would work until he was done with the cookies. (Food, in my opinion, is really like a miracle drug for most behavior problems.) If we were both on the edge, well, forget it. Better off waiting until DH is home. Don't you think there is a reason Target stays open until 10? Somebody was thinkin' on that one!

Good luck!

6/06/2006 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

Maxwell hated to go to the store. When he was two, he would run off and we'd have to chase him. So one time, I strung a belt through his pants loop and drug him. He just laid on the floor and said, "help me" to people passing.

I didn't get any dirty looks, just moms thinking, "that's got to be hard on your back."

6/06/2006 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger Trivial Mom said...

I am so not looking forward to multiple kids. Right now as long as I have a snack, and only take 20 minutes googie does fine. I am thinking about getting a 'leash' for her, once the baby comes, just because she thinks it's funny to run away from me, especially in the parking lot.

6/06/2006 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Bek said...

This might not make you feel better, but Cubby does this too (the screeching, the flopping, the throwing and biting...etc) and we DON"T have a new baby at home.

I am so sorry about this. It sucks and it is is the reason I never go to Target alone. I usually meet other moms and we stay for lunch..b/c I am a wimp.

I finally created a device that allows me to tie Cubby's feet together (very clever if you ask me) and he gets strapped into the seat and can't get out (not allowed to..) you could put the baby seat big part and the stuff you buy goes on the bottom. It is the only way we can do it...

6/07/2006 01:11:00 AM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

With three this little, I would definitely leave the boys with someone when going shopping. It might be a long time before you take all three of them out in public. Just count on it for a while - it doesn't mean you're a bad mom, it means your kids are YOUNG!

You might try separate trips with them - like "mommy dates" - when Abby is old enough to leave with someone else. They'll love the one-on-one time and you can sneak in some "store manners" teaching moments.

I've been there. Hell would have to freeze over before I would take all my kids to the store. :)

6/07/2006 01:37:00 AM  
Blogger moddy said...

Now that I've stopped laughing, I'll try and give you some great advice, okay so maybe not great but my 2 cents anyway.
When my son PJ was an only child I never hesitated to take him to any store, he was great. And so I thought that after Miss Magoo was born it would be the same. Boy was I wrong, Pj turned in to a hellion overnight. Now I try very hard not to go out with both unless I have reiforcements (ie: dh) or I wait till I can go alone. But when I have to take both I try to set very clear rules about what is expected and what can be earned. Where we are going usually defines what is possible for them to earn (not that they get a treat eveytime). Before we start out we have a talk about where we are going and if this place is worth a treat or if they want to save getting to earn a treat the next time we go out. If we are Sam's (like a Costco) they can earn a pretzel or a icee. If we go to Target its also a icee, but if it's a store like Sears or Penny's then they get to earn a treat at home like a frosen yogurt or they get to watch the magic school bus (by far my favorite kids show!!!)
But I also let them what we are buying and not buying that trip. And as we go through the store I try to encourage them to find the items I need before I get to them. While all of this doesn't work even time, it does help. Also I have learned not to be afraid to walk out of a store draging a screaming child behind me as I leave a full shopping cart where ever I happened to be when they threw their fit.
Dh and I also try and split up our errands and he takes one kid and I take the other, then we both get to have some time alone with that child, and it makes it a little eaiser to get things done.

6/07/2006 01:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a 20 month old, 3 year old, and 4 year old. My 20 month old is a demon at the store. He's fine at home - no tantrums - but at the store - DEMON. When we go to Target together, popcorn and drinks buy me about 20 minutes, then it's a race against the clock before 20 month old goes nuts.

Last time we were there, he wanted in the cart, out of the cart, in, out, in, out, in, out.

He finally fell on the floor crying when he didn't get his way and I was ready to lose it so I just stood there and and let him cry while I tried to calm down so that I could deal with him. I got lots of dirty looks for that, so I just started taking my frustration out on those people, making smart remarks. Immature, but it felt great to ask the old lady giving me an evil stare, "Can I help you with something?" Witches.

6/07/2006 02:01:00 AM  
Anonymous JKS said...

My 3rd is 2 1/2 right now. It is hell.
A few weeks ago I swore I would never take her to another store again for months.
I made it over a week!!
Right now I am upping the discipline. She gets spanked for a few things, and the rest of my life is spent putting her in time out. It seems to be paying off in some respects. Still way too many NOOOOOs and throwing herself to the ground, but she holds onto the cart after each timeout, and has stopped destroying her sister's things because she stays in bed now.
If she cries, she goes to her room till she's done. You have to do it consistnatly to really have it work. It worked for my oldest, so I'm trying to do it more consitantly for my third (but our house is bigger so its harder."

6/07/2006 04:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary said...

I have no advice, as my dd is only 19 months and is surprizingly okay at the store. However, mornings at home are a headache - so many crying fits over EVERYTHING! You would think she's been totally wronged or offended when I deign to butter a piece of toast or when I can't carry her down the stairs (I am 37 weeks pregnant). Adding another baby to the mix really makes me nervous. I can just imagine the drama we are about to face!

So, the advice of the above-posters was great and I wish you luck and hope things calm down soon! I am learning how wearing a toddler can be!

6/07/2006 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Sue said...

Anon above was me, not sure how I did that.

I do want to say that it will pass. I know you know that, but sometimes you have to hear it. My second (who is now 3), was a bit of a hellion for a while, but she grew out of it. The trick is getting through it without making the behavior worse, so that it's a phase and not a lifestyle.

Every kid is different, every parent is different, and I don't think there is one right way to do it. The way I used to handle tantrums was to put her in her brother's crib until she was ready to calm down and apologize. I called it big girl jail. She hated that.

I also did a lot of counting to three. I know that's really cliche' but it gave her a few seconds to calm down, realize she had to stop what she was doing and make a choice - good or bad. Counting to three still works with both of my older DDs, and baby boy is learning what it means as well, which is nice. I'm not sure what exactly they think will happen when I get to three, but they don't seem all that eager to find out.

Also, with DD#2, she seemed to need a lot more physical affection. Sometimes when she was being a real piece of work, yelling at me and crying and screaming, instead of disciplining her, I would stop the behavior then hold out my arms and say "Come here baby girl," and she would just fall apart crying (and sometimes I would too) and sit there hugging me for a few minutes, and then she would be much better for hours and hours. Her emotions just seem to get the better of her sometimes and she would lash out. I can relate, I get that way myself.

Sometimes she just needed to know 1) where the line was and 2) that I still loved her very much, in spite of all of the distraction caused by the baby.

Anyway - good luck, it will pass. The first few months with a new baby, whatever number they are, are always (at least for me) tough...

6/07/2006 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Cat said...


I was perusing the Today Show website and saw this. Don't know if it is helpful at all, but here it is!

6/07/2006 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

I have a three year old, and can empathize completely. When he was about two things started getting out of control, and I read the book How to Talk to Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk:


Nothing is magic, of course, but it made such a difference in our interactions. One of the main points it made, and that I've found to be true, is how deep a child's (well, everyone, really) need to be understood and heard really is. Kids get dismissed so easily - they are just annoying demanding little embarrasments waiting to happen, etc (trust me, I'm so guilty of this). When I've really tried to understand the need that my boy is trying to fill, and listen to him, and express that I understand how much he really wants that toy or whatever, and he can see that I understand that, even if the answer is no, it makes a difference. It sounds silly, but it worked so well it was spooky at first. Of course we still have our moments, but I can't recommend reading that book highly enough. It's been around forever so should be easy to find in libraries. Good luck. It's nice to know I'm not the only one at the end of her rope sometimes :)

6/07/2006 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous wbpraw said...

I have so been there! Like there - Target, 3 kids, leaky boobs, etc. I have 4 kids now and I have found an almost fool proof way of dealing with fits. You have to have a smile on your face and truly be calm inside or no dice. When the child is clearly about to throw a fit, you encourage it. You heard me, encourage it. I usually take a step back and give them plenty of room and say something like( in my sweetest Mommy voice like he's going to sing a song or something) - Oh, boy are you going to throw a fit? Okay pitch a good one so everyone can see.(At this point I usually get, "NOOO!", but still the makings of fit) Oh, c'mon, let me see your fit! Scream louder - everyone's looking at you and wants to see! Good job! You always get what you want when you throw a fit, don't you? At this point they say No! again and then I can usually calmly explain what they do need to do to get what they want. The more often I do this, the faster they stop the fit. Sometimes at home, they end up pitching the best fit in the world as I cheer it on and we both end up laughing. The key is to be in control and calm and cheerful. The looks at the grocery store went from disgust to amusement at my tactic. Now having said this, I have also been known to yank the kids from the cart and storm out of the store swearing I will never take them out again - but when I'm calm, this approach works like a charm. (At church during sac meeting in an empty classroom too. I tell them to throw the biggest fit they can, I throw a few tips in like banging the floor or growling, and when they are done we'll go back. Works every time.)

6/07/2006 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

I think the thing you can learn from all the comments are this is normal and every kid is different. My suggestions are as follows. Don't go if the kids are hungry or tired. Be consistant. I purposely do not try to bribe my kids with food because I don't want to make food an issue. I don't always want to get them something if they are good, but surprise them so they never know when it is coming.

Some children have a hard time making up their minds when they are little. My son had a horrible time with it and so does my 2 year old now. I find it is worse when they are hungry and tired.

Spend good one on one time with each child. That has really helped with my 2 year old. She knows that she can come give mom a hug anytime, and that she can read books with me anytime. I have toys that she can play with on the fridge when I work in the kitchen.

Just know you are not alone, and perhaps not all the stares are really saying what a horrible mom, maybe they really are thinking I'm so glad I'm not in your shoes at the moment. I know I think that way, and I always worry when my kids act up. There are times my children are perfect angels, and times they are not. Just do your best, take a deep breath and go about your way. Yes I have left a cart full of stuff to get a tempertantrum child out of the store.

6/07/2006 11:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Sara R said...

Tracy, I really feel for you. My oldest was a 2-year-old "spirited child" (aka terrorist). I remember around that time, I happened to be able to go to Target without the kids. From across the store, I could hear someone else's child crying and throwing a tantrum. I saw people giving stares and talking about it. A few minutes later, the mother and child left the store without buying anything.

I was in the checkout line at the time, and really felt for the mother. The lady in front of me told the checkout lady, "I don't blame the child; I blame the parents."

It really made me angry! This particular mother did everything she could, down to leaving the store without getting what she needed so she could take care of her child. I get the feeling that because fewer people are parents nowadays, fewer people understand what parents go through and understand what is normal child behavior.

When my kids went through this stage, I avoided going to the store. If I had to go, when they were a little older I started training them exactly how to behave in the store. We practiced having the children hold onto the side of the cart so they could stay with me. I also looked for stores that had the two-seater carts so I could strap both little kids in. If the kids ask for treats, I ask them if they brought their money.

Anyway, I really feel for you. It gets easier.

6/08/2006 01:05:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

'The lady in front of me told the checkout lady, "I don't blame the child; I blame the parents."'

Yeah, well, I blame HER parents for raising such a witch.

6/08/2006 06:18:00 AM  
Anonymous lammyann said...

That is the best advice I've heard on this type of subject.

6/08/2006 10:31:00 PM  
Blogger mindy said...

I don't have anything new to add, but I'd like to second Julie's comment about the sling/front pack. LIFESAVER! And I'd also like to add my recommendation to Gina's about the book "How to talk so your kids will listen..." My husband and I have been reading and re-reading that book and we really are noticing the difference in our just turned 4 y.o.'s behavior.

Good luck!

6/09/2006 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

wbpraw- I tried it this morning, AND IT WORKED! Totally difused the whole tantrum- just kind of peetered out. Yay!

The kicker is going to be the "keeping calm" part!

6/09/2006 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger ginger said...

I think you have gotten some awesome advice... I have a 6.5 year old, 5 yr old, 2 yr old, and one on the way, so I have been there too.
Can I just add one thing that I don't think was mentioned? When the other mom offered you help, you should have taken it. She was probably being sincere, and even if she wasn't, you could have had her watch one or two while you went to get #3... I would even recommend approaching someone and asking for help watching your ones that are behaving if you have to run after one. Most moms have been in your shoes, and want to help.

6/09/2006 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous wbpraw said...

Tracy, Yay! I'm so glad it worked. The more you do it, the more they get used to it and staying calm gets easier. I even tease my older kids with it when they ask for stuff over and over after I've said no. I'll say, "Well, let's see your best fit and you'll get what you want." My 9 or 12 year old will just say, "No I won't" or "yeah right" and walk away. Or, they'll pitch a faux fit and we end up laughing anyway. Go, Tracy! Keep me "posted."

6/09/2006 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Oh, and I also have a sling that the baby actually likes to be in. I will be instituting that as the new protocol in public situations, thereby freeing up both hands to strangle, I mean gently guide, the other Monkeys.

Thanks everyone, for the stellar advice and for reminding me that I am not alone in this leaky boat called Motherhood.

6/09/2006 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

My kids are angels when I am in public with all 3 of them. EXCEPT when we go shopping. They do restaurants, movies, and just about anything else and are polite and considerate and fun. It all goes to hell the second we enter Target/Walmart/Albertsons. And the older ones are almost worse than the two year old.

I have two rules for avoiding most problems, though: 1) Take either of the older kids by themselves, or any two kids at a time -- oldest/toddler works great because oldest steps up and becomes helpful and mature; middle/toddler works because middle entertains and distracts toddler; oldest/middle works because then the excursion becomes a special "girls day out" with no brother. 2) I NEVER take toddler by himself if I can help it because without an older kid to chat with he's just too evil/busy.

Better than any of these options, though, is the late-night solo run.

6/09/2006 10:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with the idea of allowing them to throw the fit. When I watch kids (I'm expecting my first but was a nanny for 4 years) and they throw fits I let them know that I am sorry they are so sad, but throwing a fit is not the way to get what they want. Then I tell them that when they are ready to be happy again we can play, but until then I let them throw their fit (with my back turned loading the dishwasher or something). They fits stop since they don't get the reaction they expected. So what ever you occupy your time with while they throw the fit (don't make it long since the fit will end soon) enjoy it, but the key is DON'T MAKE EYE CONTACT OR PLAY INTO IT AT ALL!!

--Nicole C.

6/10/2006 05:41:00 PM  

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