When What You’re Doing As A Parent Just Isn’t Working

September 1, 2011

Yesterday was a pretty awful day. For both Bella and I.

6:30am I got woken up. Then came the meltdowns. She is teething something fierce. So hours of the day are spent whining for nothing. “Plee? Plee? Pleedada?” (all one word as Sam taught her to say please and that’s how she understands it) This was in between sobs and tantrums and I could get nothing done. She didn’t want to be held, left alone, changed, anything. Just lots o’ whining.

I honestly thought my head might explode for reals.

Right before lunch, she entered disaster mode. Full on screaming, horrific snotting, and gasping for air while banging on her chest signing “Please” as I tried to understand what on earth she wanted. Turns out?

Nothing. She didn’t even know. Tylenol, teething rings, games, stories – nothing.

Finally, about to really lose it and knowing I was not going to let myself get there, I had the thought, “If I were the nanny, what would I do?”

Because it was a lot easier for me to deal with a child that wasn’t mine. Let me tell you. I would have slapped myself right then and there if I were my own nanny watching this mess take place. I knew what I would have done with any other child.

So without any more talk, I turned around, went into the living room, picked up Cooking Light and sat down to read it without even glancing at Bella.


I swear the neighbors probably were thinking, “There’s that horrible mom, beating her child again.” But I just sat there, letting the guilt and thoughts of, “What if something is really wrong?” roll off me as I reminded myself she was fine, nothing was wrong, and I wasn’t going to give in.

It was so hard. No lie, every fiber of my body wanted to get up again, go in her room again, try to coax her into playing/dancing/reading/anything. Which she didn’t want.

After just a few minutes of her standing next to me with ear piercing shrieks, Bella did something unexpected. She stopped screaming and crying, watched me, climbed up on my lap, cuddled (which like, never happens) and read the magazine with me. We pointed out the dogs, the different foods, the people. She got to turn the pages and we giggled at things that looked funny.

For those of you reading who are heavily into gentle/attachment parenting, you may think this is way off base. But really – it’s not. To me, this was the most loving thing I could have done in the situation I kept finding myself in. I knew I was going to lose it, and I felt that urge to snap. There was no way to keep up hours, days really, of letting her do this over and over. Not healthy for her, not healthy for me. Were there other things I could have done? Maybe. But at that moment, by taking myself out of the situation and doing something totally opposite of what I usually did, there was peace. The rest of the day had it’s ups and downs, but I felt a little more confident and at ease knowing I could handle a situation in a different way – and no one would die or be neglected from it.

My choice ended up with her and I having what we wanted – the love and time of each other. We just needed to take a different path to get there.


  • What Would You Do? « *straight talk jess*

    September 20, 2011 at 10:36 am

    […] […]

  • Jennifer Burden @WorldMomsBlog

    September 3, 2011 at 10:50 am

    There is a book I read about child discipline that suggests ignoring tantrums. If you give them attention all the time they will continue. It sounds like you figured that one out yourself! 🙂

    I owe you an e-mail…heading to do that now! 🙂

    Jen 🙂

  • Suz @ Suz’s Treats

    September 2, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Sounds like you did the right thing to me.

    I love that in reading your posts now, I hear you say them. It’s so you & I love that. & miss you!

  • Ashley

    September 2, 2011 at 1:34 am

    I have to remind myself of this daily. Maddie is 19 mo and is in that stage of not really knowing how to convey what she wants or being able to do something correctly and the full on freak outs commence. and so often I want to be like “WHAT THE CRAP IS WRONG?? STOP SCREAMING” Yep, nanny’s aren’t perfect and we don’t have patience of steel. I use the walk away trick quite often and it always works. The kids are loved on all day and it def. doesn’t affect them negatively.

    1. Diana

      September 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      YES. What you said on here goes through my brain like a million times a day. What the crap is wrong?

  • Jen

    September 1, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    I find not giving him the attention when he is having a tantrum is the quickest way to end it and prevent it from happening again. Usually within less than a minute he has stopped his fake crying and is playing again.

    Glad it worked out well for you and I hope Bella’s teething gets better!

    1. Diana

      September 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      They’re through so it’s been better! Thank the Lord for Tylenol.

  • jess

    September 1, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    That is incredible advice to step back and approach it differently. Really. Good job, you’re the toddler whisperer 😉

  • Devan @ Accustomed Chaos

    September 1, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    a trick that I would always do ( and still do on occasion) that may make people think im crazy is i would break out the video camera and record their tantrum. Then while they are still in mid-freakout i would start playing the video & instantly they would stop. works like a charm & it helped me keep my cool 🙂

    1. Diana

      September 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      I love this. I actually am going to try it next time.

  • Laura

    September 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I agree. I think sometimes the best thing to do is remove each other from the situation. When I’m angry and frustrated I often need a moment to myself to sort it out without someone else in my face trying to “make it better” I assume it’s no different for our little ones.

    1. Diana

      September 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      I always feel as if I need some kind of a time out when these episodes occur. I don’t know why it didn’t cross my mind earlier to take one.

  • Krista

    September 1, 2011 at 9:50 am

    yep, I do that once in a while. Just so I can catch my breath and not lose my damn mind. And it’s always better than if I had tried, again, to find a way to be on her level with her in the tantrum. Usually, once she’s sees that I’m done, she’s done too.

  • Mrs. MidAtlantic

    September 1, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Oh, have I been there. And yup, the best thing is often to just let Laura get whatever it is out of her system. After a few minutes, she realizes that I am having way more fun doing whatever than she is screaming. She joins me, and we move on with our lives.

    Those are tough days, but you’re definitely NOT a horrible mother! So who cares what the neighbors think!

  • Sara

    September 1, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Great idea, and great strength from you, mama! Glad you found some confidence in the midst of “one of those days”.

  • Kate

    September 1, 2011 at 8:16 am

    I swear that one of the best parenting decisions I ever made was to completely ignore those first few irrational tantrums when my son was about 19 months old. It only took a few days before he basically stopped them completely. It’s been almost a year now and he’ll still throw himself on the floor every once and a while and start to fuss but it takes him less than 30 seconds (usually a lot less) to remember that this doesn’t work and to stop without me having to say or do anything. I generally still have to pick him up at this point because he’s big into passive resistance at the moment but it’s a heck of a lot easier (not to mention less embarrassing in public) than if he was still screaming.

  • Amber

    September 1, 2011 at 8:03 am

    One of the things I love most about your blog is your honesty.

    Jonas has moments like this, and as much as I do the Attachment Parenting thing, I have found the same as you. I sit down and focus on something else and he, after a little more screaming, gives up on the tantrum and either finds something to do and cuddles with me.

    Glad it worked for you and Bella!

  • Jenn

    September 1, 2011 at 7:58 am

    I will keep this in mind for next time we have one of “those days.” It’s so hard to pull yourself out of the situation, keep your temper and BP down and your patience up. Hopefully, the teeth pop in soon. 🙂

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