My 2.5 year old daughter tantrums quite strongly. We will try to find things she wants to do to break the tantrum (other than the thing she's asking for, of course). One of the things she loves doing is morning rituals like making coffee. She loves helping daddy make his coffee. During a tantrum in the morning, I'll suggest that we should make coffee. She'll scream "no," but her body language makes it clear she wants to.

However, there's a problem. Whatever step in the process we are on, she wants to do the previous step, and only that. Unfortunately, this is quite often an irreversible process, such as grinding coffee beans. Thus a session goes something like this:

(Step 1: heat the filter by putting some water through it)
Me: Do you want to flip the switch?
Daughter: NO! I DON"T WANT TO FLIP THE SWITCH!
Me: We're making coffee, right? The next step is to flip the switch. Want to flip the switch with me?
Daughter: NO! I DON"T WANT TO FLIP THE SWITCH!
Me: Okay. *flips the switch to start the water*

Daughter: NOOOOOOO! I WANTED TO FLIP THE SWITCH!

Me: Are you ready to grind the coffee? You can press the button to grind the coffee
Daughter: NO! I DON"T WANT TO GRIND THE COFFEE!
Me: Are you sure? You like grinding the coffee. Do you want to grind the coffee?
Daughter: NO! I DON"T WANT TO GRIND THE COFFEE!
Me: Okay. *Presses the button and starts the grinder*

Daughter: NOOOOOOOOO! I WANTED TO GRIND THE COFFEE!

This process repeats about 10 times, once at each step where there's an irreversible action like grinding beans or running water through them. Whatever step we just did is the one she wants to do.

Things I've tried:

  • Repeating the step. If I throw the coffee grinds out and restart the step, she goes back to not wanting to do that step. The instant I repeat the step myself, she screams about how she wanted to do it.
  • Trying to wait for her mind to catch up doesn't seem to work. I feel like I get the same response whether I give her 1 chance to behave before turning the switch, or work with her for 5 minutes before turning it.
  • Repeating the process. This is hit or miss. Sometimes she pulls it together enough to repeat the whole thing (I end up with an extra cup of coffee), sometimes she goes back to "I DON"T WANT TO MAKE COFFEE!"
  • I can ignore her, and make my coffee, but this pattern seems to happen with any task with multiple steps in it, so it seems like something about how her brain is learning. It feels really awkward to "just ignore her," which is advice I see on many site regarding tantrums.

Is this a common pattern that kids grow through? Are there recognized tricks for how to help her through these?

This certainly doesn't seem abnormal from my experience. My eldest didn't go through this so much, but my youngest did . They still do! They're now 3.5yo and it's happening less and less.

My best theory about this is that they're upset but not quite sure at what. Hence, they basically protest about whatever they can. With my own kids, once they've got to that stage, I either leave them alone or stay and comfort them (according to which they seem to prefer) until they settle themselves down.

Obviously (as you can probably tell!) I'm no child psychologist - this is just my experience and approach. Good luck!

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eff is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.

If you want a simple little trick to try, I'd try asking her "Who should flip the switch?" Maybe having her affirm that she wants you to do it will be enough participation to satisfy her.

Often children throw a tantrum for attention. - When she has a tantrum make ignore her. - If she screams like that, turn away from her and got to another room. - Do not engage her in conversation or reply to her (she's a toddler, she won't understand adult logic). - She will eventually calm down and when she has, then you speak to her about her behaviour.

  • You only need to do this several times and she will learn that you can't be won over by her tantrum.
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Kay_J is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.

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