Temper tantrums herald the beginning of what is wrongly dubbed  “The Terrible Twos.”  Understandable name for when your cherished precious, usually cooperative,  child throws herself on the floor of the local drug store because you will not buy candy and ultimately you get so embarrassed you either give in or drag her screaming and kicking out of the store and dump her in your car.  But still a negative view, that doesn’t help.

A baby cries because of hunger pangs, colic and other tummy aches,  other pains, and sometimes from being over stimulated. Then the parent’s job is to comfort as much as possible.  A toddler’s cries are mostly cries of frustration.  She can’t do what she wants. Frustration hurts.  When it is only frustration, comfort is called for.  But if you are the one imposoing a limit of one sort or another, the cries express defiance, what parents call temper tantrums.

Make note of this: Defiant temper tantrums mean positive growth.  You want your child to be confident; no one wants a child to be a “Push over.”  Right? Well, when defying you loudly and with vigor your child is saying,   “I am not a push over.” As his parent and first rule setter,  you are his first target in establishing his desire to be the boss of some things.

Moreover, he has probably realized that you might say “No” but with a bit of persuasion he can turn that “No” into a “Yes.”  As much as we know consistency is the first rule of parenting, no parent is able to be as consistent as the experts want.  Life gets in the way.

That is another positive, for  winning an occasional yes from a parent fosters the sense that she does not always have to do what another wants.  She is learning to negotiate the real world of human relations.  So the “Terrible Twos are not so terrible, but a time to use to move your child ahead.  You need, however, to have thought some things through and have a strategy. Here are the must haves:

Know the rules you will never allowed to be broken. For toddlers onward the absolute “No-no’s” include: hurting yourself, hurting others, putting yourself or others in danger. Translate these in to simple phrases

No hurting

No hitting.

No hitting

Not safe

And finally, there are the rules about property:


Your sister’s.

Your father’s.

The dog’s.

No breaking.

No throwing.

         No drawing on my walls.

Now a few extreme soft love parent advisors will object to the use of the word “no.”  I object to keeping children from learning how to function in the real world.  “No” is a fact of life in that world.  So I am not afraid to say “no.”

Now here is where it gets hard—shades of gray.  I was such a good teacher of the “No hurting” rule that one of my sons was being hit and not defending himself.  That was when I began teaching self-defense and assertiveness.  But first things first, you want the no hitting rulr firming established.

So here is another shade of grey.  Parents need to rule their toddlers and pre-schoolers by upholding the bully’s motto: ”Might makes right.”  You know how to keep baby safe, you know the rules of getting along with others. Children are not born knowing those rules.  You have to teach them and the teaching means enforcement. Why else do you think you are bigger,  stronger and mightier.

So when a two year old has a temper tantrum. you are the one in charge. Here are the Mean Levine Rules for dealing with defiant based temper tantrums in a two or three year old.

  1. Use time out as detailed by Super Nanny .  As soon as timeouts have been established add Phenlons “One, two, three, Magic.  Doing so gives even a two year old a choice.
  2. Try never to give in.  Err on the side of being tough but not abusive.
  3. Do not give in on the big rules.
  4. When you do give in and you will, try these strategies which make the giving in your decision.
    • I am giving in because you are too little to accept “No..
    • I am too tired  to make you do the right thing
    • Too many people are watching you be a baby, so I am giving in.Always re-establish that you care when the temper tantrum or time out is over.

A word or two about embarrassing or shaming.  Some would say never shame or embarrass your child.  Again, over-protecting a child’s feelings does not prepare her for life in the real world.

David Elkind,  one of  parent advisor’s I admire, had this to say about  self esteem, “…the fact is too much ….too much is made about self-esteem. Feeling good about yourself is healthy. But people should feel bad if they have hurt someone or done something wrong.”

Even if you could somehow manage  not to shame, your child will know shame. The same with guilt. Those  feelings were created by life or the creator or the force to help us do keep us from doing what most regard as unthinkable.  A little shame now and then is not evil or even abusive. Constant shame is abusive, so be sure when you need to shame, you make amends when the battle of wills is over.

Now when your child’s thought process mature a bit, you need a different strategy.  The happens first around six years of age which is why most cultures  begin trusting children to tend younger siblings or herd animals at that age.  In western society this is the age children start school because most will be able to sit quietly and follow rules. Once this stage is entered on, the best parental strategy is “Let’s make a deal.”  You do for me, and I’ll do for you.  Behavior charts again as detailed by Super Nanny are the tools of choice.

Then we come to the terrible pre-teens and teen. Again this is a period of growth and a sign that our darling off spring are now thinking at yet different and higher level.  Of course, for parents that often means. they are once again targets. When my youngest could think well enough to realize there were only 750 major league ball players and could also think not about his big dream, but his actual skill level, he accused us of misleading him. We didn’t, we didn’t even want him to play in Little League, but that is how it goes with being a parent.  You are a target.

This age and stage is when Parent Effectiveness Training ({PET) is most helpful.  PET focuses on natural consequences and letting life do the teaching. Parents need to maintain some rules. To the ones taught a two year old a final one needs to be added: Obey the law.

Now this also comes with shades of grey as some laws are not reasonable, but in a free country, most are, so parents need to stand strong.  Parents who have not always been law abiding, are going to have a harder time with this and many of us flout this or that laws.  I drive over the speed limit, I have my dog off leash when it is forbidden.  I barely pause at some stop signs.

So talk about the little rules many break, why and when.  Do it in the form of questions.  “When might it be okay not to stop fully at a stop sign?”  “When might it be okay to let a dog off leash?” Also make it clear, if you not obey the law, you must accept the consequences.”

Teens not only can handle this type of discussion, but will relish it.


You will need to be in charge of your feelings in order to follow my suggestions.  I wrote my book Parents Are People Too An Emotional Fitness Training Program for Parents to give parents the tools needed to take charge of negative emotions that accompany being an enforcer.  I founded Emotional Fitness Training, Inc. so every one could become an Emotional Fitness Star.   This blog, my Emotional Fitness Training, Inc. Blog and my  Pinterest Board provide on-going tips for staying emotionally strong.


Repost this if you feel it will help another, like this post or share it.  You will be helping me stay strong and maybe some others as well.   Click here for my free Ebook: The 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Training Exercises.


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