Quite the Contrary

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Categories Behavior, ToddlersTags

Saturday morning was probably one of the worst (non-sick) days we’ve ever had with our pair.  Specifically, it was the worst, and most persistent, bad mood and rotten behavior I have seen to date from my almost-2.5-year-old son.

Believe me, we’re no strangers to temper tantrums and general two-year-old funks in my house.  The moods shift with the winds, as toddlers do.  They get set off for no reason and proceed to wail for 15 or 20 minutes. That’s kind of the accepted day-to-day.  But they snap out of it.  We get out of the house, we go for a ride in the car, and the upset is at least broken up, if not completely forgotten.

Not this time.

Holy moly, I’ve never seen one this bad. Literally everything, every thing was wrong.  And not just wrong, but clearly going to bring about the end of days.  Or, at least, that’s what his tone and response would have you believe. He didn’t want to put on his shoes (jacket, hat, etc.). He didn’t want to eat breakfast (the one he had just demanded).  His snack cup didn’t have any raisins in it.  Oh, the horror.

We get in the car, thinking we just need an outing to snap him out of it.  NO get in the car! I don’t WANT to go on the highway (the kid usually loves highways.)  I don’t WANT to get off the highway! The killer was that he would just keep saying no, even if you gave him what he claimed to want, or vice versa.  I want some juice! NO! I don’t want any juice! That cup is wrong! I don’t want a top! I don’t want a straw! GIVE ME MY STRAW! The only word to describe him was “contrary.”  He wasn’t in favor of anything.  He was simply anti whatever was going on at that moment.

first snow 09

And while the moms of two-year-olds are nodding along in commiseration, you have to know that this went on (with intermittent hysterical crying) for no less than three hours.  He was in such a foul mood that he completely skipped lunch and I sat in a quiet room with him for 20 minutes, just to get him calm enough that I could put him in is crib for nap.  It was so off-the-charts, my husband and I literally had to laugh so that we wouldn’t cry.

So, here’s my question: what in the hell do you do when they’re like this?  For most behavioral issues, I’ve been trying to use the 123 Magic/time out approach.  But can you exactly “count” this type of behavior?  I’m sort of inclined to ignore it as best I can, but three hours?! Come on, we have to move on with our day somehow.

Thankfully, I know this time will pass, just like all the others before and to come.  But man alive, that was one hell of a day.

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14 thoughts on “Quite the Contrary”

  1. You have described Nate 2.5 to 2.75. It’s why I’m not finding 3 to be as difficult because I can easily snap him out of it by letting him be in charge.

    The best part was that he held it in at school really well all day then really let us have it at home. And that’s when we found the individual time to be extremely beneficial.

    (Also Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender, highly recommend)
    .-= LauraC´s last blog ..The trick to good parenting is staying one step ahead of the kids =-.

  2. I don’t have 2 year olds yet, but I just read Love and Logic for Early Childhood and I liked a lot of what I read in it. Of course there’s no one way, but I could see myself using some of the things in the book. It’s a pretty quick read, and I really recommend it. It’s by Jim Fay.
    .-= Bekki´s last blog ..Awesome, Not Awesome =-.

  3. My guys will be 2.5 on Christmas, and I am seeing this stuff junk up our lives. No 3 hour states of contrary, but we’re in the same crummy book. I don’t think there’s anything to do other than empathize and ignore, over and over. If you figure it out, lemme know.

  4. God I love you guys. If not just for the commiseration factor. I feel like I’m always looking around at other kids and saying ‘what’s wrong with my kids??!’. Then I read you guys, and it’s, ‘ok, breathe in, breathe out, it’s just a normal phase.’ On top of that I get my mom and dad throwing out comments like , ‘spoiled’. Urrgghhh, I’m like, ‘I need SUPPORT here, not criticism!’ Unless of course it’s backed up by specific fail proof instructions.

  5. My son is just 3 now and starting to come out of it … he got so bad at one point that he was refusing to eat. We got so concerned that I talked to our Pedi about it … her advise was to wait it out … she thinks that boys imparticular have a hard time with the lack of control in their lives at this age. She recommened finding things that he could control and try to get him to focus on those … It only worked with limited success … he was really awful for several months but he is much, much better now.

    Good luck and hang in there.
    .-= M´s last blog ..Politics … Read At Your Own Risk =-.

  6. When I was little my parents most devastating bit of criticism was to tell me I was being contrary. I knew precisely what contrary meant, so I also knew there was no right answer to that. It usually made me pause in whatever bit of funk I was in. It also usually ticked me off, but then I was stuck having to prove how of course I wasn’t being contrary.


    Of course, this worked with a 4 year old me, not a 2 and a half year old me.

    I have no concept yet of what the full contrariness will be with my two. At just 13 months my daughter is already willful to the point of absolutely refusing to let me do anything for her that she thinks she should be able to do (and she thinks she should be able to do anything I can do), and my son’s mercurial temper is a thing to behold.

    I can see that both of them will be strong and independent, which is awesome, but… strong independent adults started out as contrary and willful kids.

    Every day, I appreciate my parents more and more.
    .-= Janel´s last blog ..Busy December =-.

  7. I usually tell Abigail she has a choice—stop yelling, or go upstairs for a while. Sometimes it’s a long while—think 10-15 minutes in her room with the door shut. She’s fine—and I need a break. It’s not time out in the traditional 1 minute for each year kind of time out—it’s a Mommy time out and an Abigail re-set.

    My son is never—and I kid you not–contrary like this. He’s a weird two year old. He does dissolve into hysterical tantrums—again, needing a 5-10 minute reset upstairs or in the other room.

    Play around with some options, see what works. Don’t feel tied to one way of disciplining—it’s only one style and it might not work for this kid or this situation.

  8. We, too, deal with the 2-year-old funk at times, and at times it’s not just our 2-year-old who is displaying these behaviors! We have a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and 11 month old twins (all boys!), so it gets complicated when one of the older boys is being weepy or contrary. I concur with Rebecca above; we do a modified time-out, where we tell them they can’t come out of the bathroom (that’s where we do timeout) until they are ready to cooperate, stop using a whiny voice, stop objecting to everything, etc. We say that no one likes to be around a whiny/weepy boy, and so they need to be by themselves until they can be nice to be around. Then we let them choose when they are ready to come out and rejoin the family. Sometimes it takes a LONG time for them to decide they are ready to come out. If they come out only to repeat the behaviors, we send them right back in there and say they obviously aren’t ready yet and to come out when they have pulled themselves together. We don’t lock the door or anything like that, but we do require that they close the door, and they can’t have any toys in there. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it usually works for us. Good luck . . . it’s tough!

  9. oh yes. Fun times.

    There were (are!) times when the only thing that would get Burke out of his funk was to pick him up and dance around. It’s hard to stay in a funk when you’re bouncing and shaking all over the place. :) (And it helps mommy snap out of it too…) Remember to sing the silly “shake, shake, shake…shake, shake, shake…shake your Buuuuurke thing!” (with the right name, of course 😉 )

    Good luck!!
    .-= Nancy´s last blog ..A Shining Star in the Crochet World =-.

  10. oh, yes. i know that day. many times over. they suck. and i have virtually no advice, other than to ignore the behavior unless it gets destructive and try to stay positive. that, and drink a beer or a glass of wine, or several, to keep your sanity.
    .-= Tracey´s last blog ..higher education =-.

  11. Goddess, thank you! Thank you for posting this. We have been stuck in the house for 2 weeks (1 to start potty training and 2 for sick kids) and my son has just started to display ALL of the behaviors that you, and all the other moms, reported. I have been beside myself with contrary behavior…he had been such a happy boy before this. Also, being stuck in the house has made it impossible for me to talk with other moms about this, so I was beginning to go off the deep end. Thank you again and again for the absolutely perfect timing of this post!
    I hope we all have a better day tomorrow;)

  12. I found a few useful tips in Raising Your Spirited Child. I talk to the girls about how to calm down (breathing deeply, taking a break to read a book, hugging a blankie, asking for a hug, washing their hands – water seems to help) when they’re not mad, which makes them much more receptive when they do get that way. If I can’t get them to consider one of those things, I just hold them tightly to my chest until there’s a break in the screaming, and then read to them.

    Both Melody and Jessie have started learning how to read their own melt-down symptoms and proactively taking a quiet moment in their room.
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Overheard 26 =-.

  13. My two year old had one of those days (nothing can go right) last week. What I’ve noticed with her is they often seem to be connected to teething or not feeling well. Sometimes (not always) offering and giving her 1 or 2 homeopathic teething tablets helps her mood. Truthfully I think it is more psychological than anything. I’ve noticed she also calms down when she gets to put “special mommy” lotion on. Nothing works always but another thing she responds to is when I say that mama is getting fussy too now. She’ll often request that I cry so she can comfort me. I think she feels more in control comforting me than being comforted. But I only have two singletons and not multiples so it may be different with multiple toddlers the same age.

  14. We occasionally get this with our ggg triplets for no apparent reason, but the vast majority of the time it is teething related for us. We have two very crabby teethers…they always have been since the first tooth. We have one that is less crabby, but still a handful when her teeth are hurting. If they are just in a continual foul mood for no reason I can figure out I try one dose of motrin. If they snap out of it in the next 30-60minutes…and the mood returns when the drug wears off….I know it is teething.

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