Is Giving In the Best Way to Prevent Tantrums?

picking battles with your toddlerOnce your toddler has crossed the threshold into the “terrible twos,” it becomes paramount for parents to distinguish what battles are worth it, learn how to fight the good fight, and have the wisdom to know when it’s better to acquiesce to their whims.

It’s good for them to get their way sometimes. They feel empowered and self-expressed. If they’re lucky enough, they might even get to leave the house wearing nothing but an overcoat, pair of shoes, and goggles.

Here are some lines I’ve drawn in the sand.


Health and Safety Issues:

There are certain things my son has to deal with, like getting strapped into a car seat. I feel the same way about the stroller, particularly on a busy street.

Depending on local traffic conditions, he can dilly dally alongside me or even sit without his safety harness on, provided we’re not coming up to a busy road. Once he starts jumping out of the stroller, though, I prepare myself for battle. The last thing I want him to do is jump out at a busy intersection, or fall out and land on his head. I’ve gotten many scars in this tough, ongoing battle, but it’s for his own good.

Personal Style:

My son Ezra has an overcoat that he is completely obsessed with. It’s very dapper, mind you. But it’s still very hot where we live in southern Spain. “It’s too hot,” I’ve told him again and again before I give in. He knows when he’s hot or cold. Once we’re out and about, he eventually holds up his sleeves and says, “Off? Off?” He’s very sensible.

He also has two pairs of Stride Rite sandals that he loves. One is far too small, so that’s a definite no. The other fits him just right so, okay. Even though I’ve outgrown my preference for the Stride Rites, preferring Simple Kids nowadays, it’s Ezra’s personal style.

Here’s where it gets touchy. His favorite outfit these days is pairing his overcoat with his sandals. Occasionally he'll accessorize with his dad's goggles. That’s it. If I’m lucky, I can get him to agree on the diaper. This flasher look, I should remind you, is for the park.


I do not like junk food. But our son rarely gives us trouble about eating lots of fruit and vegetables, so if once a week he gets a bag of chips … shoot me. It keeps the battles at bay. With food, the more you push, the more pushback you get. Treating it as a reward system opens up a whole other can of worms. Therefore, it’s our policy to occasionally surprise him by saying yes when he reaches for junk food. No strings attached, it’s not because he’s a “good” or “hungry” boy, or even because he asked for it. We just treat it as, “here you go. Let’s move on, shall we? Oh, mommy can have one -- and daddy, too? Great.” Craving subsided.


For us the bedtime routine is non-negotiable. When we do bend the rules, like we did last night, the results can be catastrophic. A toddler needs certain parameters to function at his best. Remove those and you could end up with a coup.

The Barbarian Invasion:

Being the mother of a very sweet and spirited biter, I’d say this is our most challenging endeavor, one that we battle over constantly. Is it okay to get frustrated? Absolutely. Is biting ever the answer? I don’t know. They’re little barbarians and react differently than we do. But I think not.

My view on biting is bite unto others. I wouldn’t want some kid coming up and biting, pushing, or hitting my son. So when my son does it, we battle it out. It’s partially about protecting other kids from the wrath of Ezra’s formidable jaws. But it’s mostly about teaching him compassion. He’s always been a big little guy and will probably always be the biggest kid in his age group. That’s why it’s even more important for him not to be aggressive.

Where do you draw your battle lines with your toddler?

Image via K. Emily Bond

Read More >