Can you do the wet noodle? | Seeing myself in my toddler’s tantrums

toddler protesting in a high chair

What if I just hit the deck every time I didn’t get my way? Would that get me very far in life?

Apparently I’ve learned along the way that it doesn’t… but I watch my two-year-old moving from a normal standing position to sprawling out on the floor multiple times a day and realize that clearly this is a lesson he’s yet to learn.

My mom said that when I was little I would hold my breath – that was my way of engaging in the power struggle. My own toddler has done the wet noodle, head-banging on the floor, screaming, throwing things, and probably other shananagins that I can’t even remember. But his favorite—by far—is just to hit the deck.

I can’t have juice now? Ok, I’ll lay on the floor.

You want to get me dressed? Alright then, I’ll lay on the floor.

Why can’t I watch TV? Fine, I think I’ll just lay on the floor.

It’s easy to get fed up with the (negative) antics of a toddler. (It’s also hard to refrain from laughing a lot of the time.)

Just when did they learn to be so dramatic?

Yes, I know the “real” reasons – the struggle with language, the growing independence, the developing fine and gross motor skills that aren’t always as refined and polished as their little hearts desire, etc. etc.

But I also know it’s just that they’re little people, not yet skilled at the art of composing themselves.

There have been many times already where I’ve watched Levi throwing a train because it fell off the tracks, kicking his bike because it rammed into something, or chucked food on the floor because he didn’t like the taste of it.

And I see myself—my inner self—in his bad behavior.

How many times do I want to ram my car into another driver because he cut me off?

How many times do I want to throw my computer against the wall because it’s frozen (again)?

How many times do I want to abandon my screaming kids and leave them to work it out themselves while I drive to a café for a quiet coffee and a magazine?

I have all the same feelings and emotions of anger and frustration that Levi does… it’s just that I’ve learned “hitting the deck” doesn’t get me very far. I’ve learned it doesn’t actually solve anything. I’ve learned I have the power to bring change if only I can keep a level head, use sound reasoning and creativity, and exercise a bit of patience.

But my little two-year-old isn’t as smart as I am.

He’s not had to endure endless hours on the phone with automated “customer service” lines to help him learn self-control. (You know that’s what they were designed for, right??)

When we’re in the thick of a tantrum day (as some days just are – I’m betting you know what I mean), it helps me to remember that he’s just being human.

He’s being very human… just not very adult.

I can totally relate to the train throwing and bike kicking and food chucking… I’ve just had a few more years to learn how to not act on my every whim.

That, my friends, is what helps gives me the fuel to deal with his tantrums with a little more compassion and a little more patience.

Someday, just as my mom’s told me I used to hold my breath during power struggles, I will also be chuckling as I tell Levi he used to hit the deck.

Until then, we’re both teaching each other patience and self-control.

And, if truth be told, I’m sometimes jealous that it’s considered normal for him to throw his peas on the floor… because I certainly have days where I feel like doing that too.

Dear friends, how are your littles frustrating—and mirroring—you lately? Can you see yourself in their melt-downs? How do you remain compassionate and level-headed when dealing with the drama?

About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Bella
    20 February 2012 at 6:01 am

    When The Gremlin was 2 he used to make himself throw up when he got mad at me. It was just SO GROSS. I can’t see ME in that behavior but I can understand what you’re saying.
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  • Rosilind
    20 February 2012 at 7:29 am

    haha!! Robi thinks he’s a teenager already and stomps off to his room. He goes all the way to the wall and faces it, with his back to the door. Of course, the wet blanket falls on his fiery tantrum when we fail to give him the reaction he’s looking for and he sheepishly comes back into the room where mama and tata are ignoring this hilarious behavior. I have no idea where he learned it from. Couldn’t POSSIBLY be from me, or anything! lol!
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  • Nessa
    20 February 2012 at 10:17 am

    Oh man… I have a wet noodle too… that kicks.

    Wouldn’t it be fun one day just to stomp your feet and scream “NO” when someone tries to make you do something you don’t like… I can totally see the attraction to the behavior.
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  • Adrienne
    21 February 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Oh yes! I see my bad behavior in my kids all the time. I shutter sometimes at how much they learn from my bad moments.
    Adrienne recently posted..5 Tips for Getting Your Family to the Table!My Profile

  • Alicia
    22 February 2012 at 12:44 am

    I totally had one of those lightbulb moments the other day when I was yelling at the dog for doing something I didn’t like and less than 5 minutes later Simon was screaming at me because he didn’t like what I was doing… Oh, he gets that from me, huh…

    I was so glad to read this today and be reminded that my toddler is not the only one who throws himself on the floor when he doesn’t like what’s going on. Thanks for posting!
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  • Angel
    23 February 2012 at 2:49 am

    Oh I can totally relate! When Lala gets frustrated or things aren’t the way SHE thinks they should be she lays on the floor. Lol It is so hard not to bust up laughing when she throws these little “protests”, I try to ignore them and for the most part they seem to have passed, now if we could only get the head banging to depart as quickly. Then there are days when you tell her no that she puts her head down, walks back to her room, and sits on the bed with her head down. Quite possibly the cutest , funniest thing I have seen. Kids can certainly test your patience, but they do the funniest stuff. 🙂
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    • Adriel @ The Memos
      24 February 2012 at 11:30 pm

      oh, levi’s only done the head-banging once or twice. it scares me! i’m so glad it’s not his “usual” tantrum tactic of choice! oh, these little ones… they are crazy, aren’t they?!
      Adriel @ The Memos recently posted..who taught my two-year-old THAT??!My Profile

  • Jessica
    24 February 2012 at 8:52 am

    Oh, I can definitely relate to this post. My little Nya bangs the walls with her hands, hits things (or people), throws things, and will do this whining noise that drives me insane. Usually, I’ll try to distract her with something else, but sometimes, sometimes, I just continue doing something else and she’ll come around. Eventually. And yes, I do see myself in my toddler’s tantrums. and that’s intriguing but also kind of scary. 🙂
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  • Adriel @ The Memos
    24 February 2012 at 11:31 pm

    i like that you said she does a whine that drives you insane. i just found that little sentence so validating. thanks for that. 😉
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