Bad Toddler Behavior: What To Blame, What To Do

bad behavior

Old people love to murmur but never so much as when around parents of an out of control toddler. You’ve heard their hushed criticisms, the rhetorical questions. Why doesn’t he spank her, or why does she let him walk all over her? You’ve thought barking back at them, stopping them in their scornful tracks—Why don’t you shut your mouth! But, you won’t do it—you’re too kind, too scared of what they think. And heaven forbid they should drop dead—you’d be convicted of manslaughter. What would your kids do without you? What would you do without them—prison vacation anyone?

While no one likes old people or their judgy ways, the criticisms are warranted. Your child’s abysmal behavior is ruining your public life.

The good news is you’re not alone. Generations of parents endured these long dark days, suffering under the crushing weight of toddler fits and foibles—branded incompetent. Lifting the label is hard, most parents resort to excuses, thin lies that any perceptive adult sees through.

Don’t say you don’t have excuses because all parents do. Kennedy’s gluten intolerant, Abby’s not sleeping well, Johnny doesn’t do well in new places. Cute, but wrong. None of these gets you a pass on your child’s bad behavior.

A logical explanation rooted in truth offers the best pardon—it’s a simple one. Once you know it, it will set you free. Shopping trips to Target and Home Depot will feel less like a battle royale. The tantrums will lessen, you’ll cry less, smile more and find that the derisive looks all but vanish. Here it is….

Your toddler has mild acute possession. Don’t worry, it is a temporary ailment, it comes and goes and is completely treatable.

This is not Rosemary’s baby possession or even as gross an exaggeration as the Exorcist—the head turning, wall crawling, demon chilled air—that would suck.

No, It’s the hysterical outburst that, while eerily similar, fall short of being addressed in parenting books or watching Youtube videos of the Nanny. “Acting out” behaviors such as: biting, poking, prodding, head-butting, groin kicking, spitting, frothing at the mouth, projectile vomiting, mean-mugging, and death gazing—a deep laser stare intended to burn a hole through the head.

Popular parenting resources prescribe swift tender correction in addressing these bad behaviors when and where they happen. Parents are advised to employ empathic questions meant to coax conformity. “Now, we don’t want to behave like that do we?” or “Now, we know that’s not a nice thing to say is it?” Always using “we” so the toddler senses you are in it with them, accompanied by a soft rub on the shoulder.

Sounds silly right? It is. The people who perpetrate this junk must not have kids, otherwise, they wouldn’t be alive to dish this hot garbage. Their approach is wrong and will only lead to certain ruin for the parent. Toddlers are smarter than their size and hate this type of condescension. They know it’s a tactic, a ploy to manipulate them and it only worsens the bad behavior.

When pushed to the edge by these schemes and the need for parents to appear “in control”, toddlers lose reason and take on animal qualities. In this state, communicating, much less negotiating, is impossible—all civilities are replaced by grunting, flailing, and gnashing of teeth. The more the parent exerts their will, the more the toddler resists. A toddler cornered will retaliate, and many parents are victims of vicious maulings, others receive contusions to the pants parts of their body from head butting.

In cases of extreme agitation toddlers progress to rabid confusion—it’s the worst symptom in cases of mild acute possession. Parents dealing with a rabid toddler should shelve further useless attempts at “managing” behavior and seek shelter. Consider holing up in a room when at home. In public, locking yourself in the car is acceptable. Removing yourself from the situation provides room for the toddler to work the devil out and return to consciousness.

This is not popular advice and, again, the “experts” advise the opposite. They advocate for active parenting. Their recommendation is to employ stealth to sneak behind the crazed beast, pouncing on and ultimately subduing it. Once you have the child wrapped in your arms, a soothing tantric mantra like, “It’s OK. It’s OK, daddy’s here. Shhhhh”—don’t forget the “shhh” it’s the secret sauce—is supposed to calm the monster.

This is bull crap. Don’t ever do this unless you want a smashed, inverted nose. You wouldn’t touch a hot stove, don’t touch a hot toddler. Space is the best tactic. The old adage of absence makes the heart grow fonder rings true. But when it doesn’t, sugar has a 99% success rate.

You may think to yourself, Sugar! He’s a horrible parent. I can control this behavior through—insert whatever futile, homeopathic method you’d use. That is funny, and an illusion. A little essential oil on the temples is great to manage your headaches but you try to put that junk on your toddler….you’ll pull back a nub.

Giving kids candy is not bad parenting, it’s wise parenting. The only doctor or “expert” advising don’t give your child sugar is the one with no children. Give them as much as it takes to gain compliance. Sugar ensures immediate obedience. A toddler in the presence of sugar develops hyper-focus—tunnel vision. Sugar is holy water. A toddler with a treat will sit down and shut its mouth. You’ll feel like a failure of a parent but don’t. You’re like the veteran who’s “seen things.” You did what you had to do.

Congrats, you’ve performed a successful exorcism and calmed your child but did you forget about public opinion—it’s why you’re doing what you’re doing. Unless you offered possession as the culprit for the blow up your approval rating is low.

Blame…that’s your out in excusing the mutinous moments. Blame it on the Prince of The Power of The Air. In the face of bad behavior scream out, ” Help me! I don’t know what to do, the devil’s taken her!” It’s other-worldly and sure to get attention. The onus shifts to the child. Who would be so selfish to avoid a child wrestling with a devil?

The benefit of passing the blame is two-fold. No shade is thrown at your parenting and you might get a helping hand. The sympathetic old person who offers some sweet hard candies, a Werther’s Original perhaps (all adults over age 70 carry these) to abate the wrath.

In the event someone calls you crazy, take it. It’s better than being thought incompetent. At least you won’t have to sit under the heft of contempt.

If you follow this advice, you’ll conquer any possession that comes your child’s way. You’ll live at peace knowing your status as a competent parent is intact.



Also published on Medium.