Thursday, April 10, 2014

Taming the Tyrant: 5 Steps toward Toddler Transformation

My two-year-old stands in the center of the floor, poker straight, with his face raised to the ceiling. High-pitched screams echo through the house, his once sweet face contorting with rage. The whole neighborhood now knows that I turned off his favorite show. I’m living under toddler tyranny.

The tyrannical twos can be difficult as a child pushes against the barriers hindering his egocentric universe. Five principles have helped me survive through the challenging transition from infancy to childhood.


Some days, it seems the smallest things will set off the tyrant. As the tantrums start, I feel my blood pressure rise. How dare this small person, who I carried within my body, treat me in such a way? While I want to yell and scream at him, I know I can’t. Giving into the temptation will only result in a power struggle. Instead, I take a deep breath and pray for strength. I go to my son and speak quietly and calmly. I talk about his frustration without mirroring it. Soon he calms as well. A soft answer isn’t easy, but works wonders (Proverbs 15:1).


I thought it would be fun to go to the library as a surprise, but when I ask my toddler to help clean up the toys, a fit ensues. The abrupt change in plan has disrupted his emotional equilibrium and though he loves the library, he can’t handle the transition. I’ve learned the hard way that my son can’t switch from one activity to another without some warning. By talking about what to expect ahead of time, and giving him some advanced warning, I’ve been able to reduce the number of tantrums we experience throughout the day.


Being two is a negative experience. Everyone tells the toddler “no.” Don’t touch that. Don’t go there. No. No. No. Is it any wonder that “no” seems to be the tyrant’s favorite word? I make a point to comment on the things my son does well. I thank him for cleaning up his toys and being a good helper. I talk about the kind way he treats other children and how fun he is to play with. His disposition improves under this positive reinforcement. On the opposite side, I ignore the bad behavior. As long as no one is in danger of being hurt, I walk away and let him have his tantrum. When he’s calm again, I come back and reiterate my love for my son.


When the tantrums start, I long to make it stop. I hate confrontation, but living with a tyrant tot means conflict all the time. At the end of the day, I am completely worn out. While I want eradicate the difficult situations, I let my son experience the consequences of his behavior, even when it means more screaming in the near future. We talk about expectations during calm periods and clearly state the consequences for not fulfilling those expectations. My son has missed a chance to play at the park on several occasions because he threw a tantrum in the grocery store. He’s learning that good behavior gets praise and poor behavior has consequences.


Consistency is the hardest part of training tyranny out of the toddler. Constant exposure to explosive emotions wears on my sanity. There are times I just want to give up and let my son have his way. I’m too tired to do battle but I have to. It is my responsibility, given by God (Proverbs 22:6). I must be consistent with my discipline (the training of my tot) as well as showing him my love. I spend a lot of time praying for the strength needed to meet the challenges of toddlerhood. Without consistency, the other principles lose their effectiveness. Consistency is the key.

I live with a two-year-old tyrant, but he is also a treasure. I’m doing my best to train him in the way that he should go. With God’s help, we’ll both survive this transition.

I wrote this article for a writing challenge.


  1. What a blessing to read this! You and Daniel are doing a great job with your little man. I agree with you that consistency is so important. <3

    1. I often remind myself that my job isn't to have a happy toddler, but to rear a man of character.

  2. ((hugs)) Yes, consistency is the key . . . and lots of prayer. You're doing a great job. Keep it up.

    1. The day to day practice is exhausting, and prayer is what gets us through. Thank you for the encouragement.


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