You can’t fix 2

Life in our house right now is shit. We have endured an entire week with the screaming. The video is the funny screaming. The real screaming comes when you ask the boy, “would you like a grape?” and he says no. I then eat the grape and he says, “grape.” I pull another grape out of the fridge. “Would you like a grape?” “no.” I eat the next grape. The then throws something at me and proceeds to scream until he nearly throws up. This goes on periodically throughout the day at least 3 or 4 times a day. It is 1:00 and we’ve already had 3 screaming fits.

The other dilemma we face is the boy playing us at bedtime. This occurs at any given sleep interval. Nap, bedtime it doesn’t matter. We do our usual routine and then lay him down in the chair to rock him. The child proceeds to screw around to avoid going to sleep. Last night the trusty husband was putting him to bed and through the monitor I hear, TH: “you need to close you eyes, it is time for sleep.” Boy: “nooooo!” TH: “you don’t tell me know.” Then a lot of screaming.

The boy will squinch up his face, continually rub his face on your arm, tense up, or just generally fight us. If those don’t work he’ll lay there and laugh at us. I know this is not just an ‘it bothers me thing.’ It is getting to Derek too. Both of us are at our wits end.

We are forever trying to figure out if some of his new behaviors are PI or just being 2. I have a strong suspicion that much of it is 2. Unfortunately, you can’t fix 2. But I’m here to say if this keeps up I’m going to end up in the loony bin. I would pawn him off on someone for a few hours if I could, but I’m afraid to right now. Some of the behaviors he’s showing have a bit of attachment red flag. And frankly, that scares the shit out of me.

21 Comment

  1. Heidi says: Reply

    I’ve lived the tantrums and bedtime routine you describe. I actually did go to the looney bin (I mean child phsycologist)for advice.
    In short, it was to ignore tantrums at all cost. If you’re out and about, get back to the car and go home. If you’re already at home, walk away from the screaming child and act like you are still okay.
    At a calmer time, explain (yes, my child was also 2) how the child can calm themselves down, instead of screaming, whatelse they can do when they are frustrated (ie: count to 10 slowly, deep breaths, walk to your room to calm down or punch your pillow).
    My daughter came home from Russia @ 9 months old and she was sick. She learned early on (in orphanage) to scream until she got attention (which she needed to do and it worked and kept her alive!). When she came home she was still sick and so her screaming still worked to get her attention (rightfully so at this point).
    But then I was told I had to teach her to calm herself down (after her health was fine and not the problem anymore). It never dawned on me that that’s what I should do. But, hell, I tried everything else. It’s working… slowly.
    And I too grab the Mike’s Hard Lemonade after a hard day.
    I’m a new reader of your blog, but couldn’t help responding because it hit very close to my home!
    Re grape fight: put ‘um on the table and walk away saying in your most cheery voice, “Here they are when you feel like it my love!” Even add a kiss!
    Feel free to email me to chat too!

  2. I was going to give my 2-cents-worth (for whatever it’s worth) but…It sounds like Heidi’s advice is spot on! I thought the screaming video was pretty funny – but I could see how it would put you at your wits’ end pretty quickly.

    All I can say is that we’ll be thinking about you! Maybe it’s a 2+PI behavior – not 2 OR PI – if that makes sense. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that it is 2-behavior that is exacerbated by being PI.

    Okay, I’ll hush now.

  3. Jenny2 says: Reply

    Heidi is smart. I got nothing, other than to say you deserve a nice cold drink. Keep the faith.

  4. Stacy says: Reply

    Are you seeing an attachment specialist?? If not, I would start looking. This is how it starts and it gets worse from there. They just get bigger and stronger.

  5. Cathy says: Reply

    Elle: I agree with the above, that the boy is playing you both to see how far he can push you. I also feel that some of the tantrums are PI related. K pitched fits while we were in Russia and had issues with bedtime, etc once home. Everything evened out over the last several months, but in the last week or so she has been WAY more testy, seemingly trying to push every one of our buttons at the same time. Sure, some of it is “age 2” stuff, but I think some is “will you still love me if I am rotten?” PI stuff. She gets time outs and lost privileges like her brother to show consistency (and don’t think she doesn’t monitor that!!). Hang in there and be consistent with him. Let him know that you are in charge no matter how much you feel like you want to run screaming into the sunset. Wish I could say it will be quick and easy….but I do believe it will resolve over time!

  6. Melinda says: Reply

    Delurking to say hang in there. I’m not an adoptive mom, so can’t give advice re: the attachment thing, but my son started this crap behavior right before his third birthday. Some days I coped, some days I lost it. It seemed to be a control thing, mostly, and the more firm my stance on an issue, the more angry he became. More than likely, it will pass as he matures. You might find, as I did, that as verbal skills improve and vocabulary becomes more sophisticated, your screamer becomes a master negotiator. It’s like having a pint sized law partner in my house.

    Good luck.

  7. Oh Elle, be strong. I wish I had some good words for you, but I am still learning about all this attachment and tantrum business. It’s useless for me to give advice on the subject, but I wish you some calm moments.

  8. Rhonda says: Reply

    A few months ago, Clyde went through this thing where we butted heads with him over EVERY little thing from putting on his coat to getting into the car. Its getting a little bit better as he’s talking more, but I don’t know what’s going on. Its like the closer he gets to 3, the crazier he is. He was better behaved six months ago than now, and we’re just trying to stay firm and consistent, which is easier said than done.

  9. Lauri says: Reply

    Chiming in from vacation here ( yes we brought the laptop) ….. hang in there… we have days like that too and it is very scary.

    Your doing all you can to give him the tools he needs to deal with his emotions… the thing is no one tells us Moms how not to lose our sanity in the process

  10. No advice…just wishing you luck at figuring out how to deal with this challenge.

  11. Jessica says: Reply

    We also have days like that! And last week had about 5 of them! Something else to try: physically hold him still during the tantrum, whispering “I love you,” and encouragements as he gets his tantrum under control. Our pediatrician recommended this method when the tantrum is due to being over-tired (or something similar), but not due to wanting his way (i.e. the grape situation you described). It can be hard to differentiate sometimes, but it has really helped Quin understand how to calm down. Usually I’ll say, very quietly or whispering, “that’s good,” “take slow breaths,” “you’re doing a great job calming yourself down” etc. It can be hard when they’re thrashing, but it helps a little now because I can say those to him without necessarily holding him. We were given this advice at his 18 month appointment, and it’s taken almost a year to see something from it. Otherwise, ignoring it is the best bet.

  12. Jenni says: Reply

    We have days like that too with Eamon. The last week was particularly bad! He does a combination of screaming, hitting and (my favorite) spitting when he throws a tantrum. Since he’s now 4.5, it is most likely a PI thing. I think our kids had to be fighters for so much of their young life that now they don’t know how to deal with problems any differently.

    We’re doing a lot of what Heidi said, but with some additional behavior modifications since he’s a bit older. We generally leave him alone in a time-out and wait for him to calm himself down. Then, we talk with him about his behavior, stating why it is wrong (“When you scream, I can’t understand what you are saying.”), and showing him how to respond more appropriately using his words.

    It is an ongoing struggle, but we are definitely seeing progress. Hopefully you will start to see progress too.

    Best of luck!

  13. Tricia says: Reply

    I have no advice, but I can offer you a drink. Come ‘on over!

  14. I’ll agree with you there. You can’t fix 2. Lidia has gone through everything you are describing, so I am not a lot of help as to whether all of this behavior is 2 or PI. I, too, have a strong suspicion that most of it is 2 (with a hint of PI). As Lidia has gotten older, the behaviors have changed. She tantrums MUCH less and we have bed time problems only occasionally now. She, too, is an EXPERT at messing around and not going to sleep. She’ll get into this devious goofy thing at bedtime (only occasionally now, but it was every night during “2”) that involves inappropriate laughter, kicking, jumping on bed/people, standing on her head instead of laying down… Enough to drive me up the wall in an instant if I don’t check myself. That, I honestly feel is a little bit 2 AND a little bit PI.

    I have the advantage of having a good friend who has a home grown kiddo who is only 3 months younger than Lidia. This has helped me to put Lidia’s behaviors into perspective when it comes to the 2 vs. PI argument. The friend’s little girl had bedtime problems during 2, also (and a bit into 3) but hers manifested into getting up 800 times to “go potty” or do various other things that lent to staying awake. Tantrums, also, were rampant in her 2 year old (and still exist during 3). The vast majority of Lidia’s behaviors, though frustrating and sometimes worrisome, have been/are also visible in my friend’s child.

    Of course, keep a close eye on these things. It is scary, not truly knowing. It can’t hurt to talk to someone who specializes in such things–you know, just to cover the ground. If you are frightened, have him evaluated. Better to know if it’s just you or if there is something there….

    My eyes are always open with Lids, but over time and with lots of concentration on forming an attachment with her, I feel we have been pretty successful. These days, I am only worried about minor effects from her early attachment disruptions. It is a load off–but we have 2 1/2 years together now.

    I sincerely hope you will be able to say the same in another year or 2 ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Mom says: Reply

    Now it’s grandmas time! When we first spoke I initially thought…PI. But then I thought back, way back and have decided, no … the boy is playing you. He sees the frustration and the grief that he creates and well, thats two. How many parents haven’t experienced the near vomiting and screaming. All parents have. It’s frustrating and downright nerve grinding but stay your best to remain calm. The seeing red and not being able to calm him happens to many children that are throwing tantrums. Hence the word tantrum. Most importantly he knows you love him and screaming really gets your attention. Follow through with the Dr. BUT my bet is on him just being two. Breathe deep you guys and hang onto each other. This too shall pass!

  16. serena says: Reply

    There is nothing in your post that screams ‘attachment’ to me except your last two sentances. Don’t be afraid to listen to your gut.

    Most people I know who have had attachment issues have mentioned they knew in their gut something was off.

    If you look into attachment, and its not attachment, what harm? What if it is attachment and you don’t look into it? Don’t let your fear of what it is keep you from checking it out. Its too important to miss if its bothering you.

    Two books I have found helpful are “Building the Bonds of Attachment” by Daniel Hughes and “Beyond Logic, Fear and Control” by Bryan Post.I don’t do everything they say in the books or agree with everything by any means.
    but they gave me insight to my child and helped me cope during difficult times.

    Whether its attachment or 2, you will want to be making the best relationship possible anyway and thats really what attachment is all about.

    Best to you.

  17. Jenny says: Reply

    Oh you know I am in for them when the girls turn 2, we barely get sleep now and they are just 1.

    It sucks. And there is nothing I can say to make it better. Get away from the boy when you can, that helps me. I want to strangle my little Cam today, up all night kicking me. Yup, but if I can get 5-10 minutes alone I usually can deal better.

    Hang in there—J

  18. Nicole says: Reply

    If only it was legal to drug them. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, it is hard to calm them when they are up at night. I say, start waking earlier. It will make the nights happen earlier.

  19. Nadia says: Reply

    I can’t provide any other advice…everyone’s, esp Heidi’s is right on track. Trust your gut, and keep a drink close by! Hang in there! You are doing the best you can.

  20. Ana says: Reply

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s strange that you would continue to taunt a 2 year old with grapes until he “proceeds to scream until he nearly throws up”?

    Why would anyone continue to even discuss grapes after the first “no”? If your 2 year old is so easily frustrated, why are you even offering choices?

    There’s plenty of time for battles about important issues later – why choose to fight about something as fundamental as food?

    Our 2 year old ate whatever everyone else was eating – if she didn’t eat, that was fine, and food got put away with no comment, and the next meal just got served normally. No punishment, no taunting, no issues. If she wasn’t hungery at one meal, she just ate at the next. It’s only personal if the adult turns it into a battle.

    Some kids (especially 2s) are really frustrated by choices. Just matter-of-factly offering food, clothing, activities without discussing options can go a long way toward more peaceful and loving interactions.

    If it’s not working for you, it’s a really good idea to change the tactics.

  21. Nancy says: Reply


    No real advice since my PI kid isn’t here yet. All I can say is to chant: he will soon be three and go to school over and over, otherwise come to my house we’ll drink and let the boy loose with my hooligans. You’ll never notice his screaming over the screams of mine!

    Hang in there!!!!

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