In Which I Completely Lose My Cool,
Re-Affirm Spanking DOESN’T Work,
& Muddle Through As Per Usual

CHK abe

You can’t tell by looking at him (because seriously just looking at him you want to grab this kid and hug him till he fights free) but:

Pancake is a screamer.

Always has been.

Whereas his brother just needs a quick hug, knows to ask for it, and then takes a deep breath and moves on …

Pancake just DOESN’T.

I’ve talked about it before. And for a little while, THIS worked to help with the screaming.

But now it doesn’t.

For one thing, now he’s smarter.

He will not go quietly, nor be brushed off.

I love that about him.

Now, when I tell him NO, he asks WHY?

Now, when he wants something I don’t have, or don’t want to give him, he says, LET ME SEE!

He says these things at top volume.

And for long, protracted periods.

Lots of tears and snot and ruined meals and mornings while he screams and cries and throws things and the rest of us try to hear ourselves think.

He’s a passionate kid.

With a great set of pipes and extraordinary willpower.

It can make the best of us nuts. And I am way way way NOT the best of us.

  • I have experimented with extinction.
  • I have experimented with attachment.
  • I have followed basic Harvey Karp. Pancake has no interest in making a deal with me anymore. Deals are for suckers, apparently.
  • I have tried and failed at time-outs. There is simply no sure way to keep this kid still short of shutting him in his room and that does nothing but freak him out worse.
  • I’ve even tried spanking.  (Cue story of my mother telling me she never spanked us and me and my sister bursting into great gales of laughter.)

But here’s the thing:


At least not the way I do it.

I have spanked all of my kids exactly once, and they’ve all found it hilarious.

All of them. Clearly I am not doing it “right.”

This is okay with me.

Better that than THIS. I mean for CHRIST’S SAKE (and I say that with great irony as they purport to be Good Christians) WHO THE HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE? Someone ought to take a switch to THEM and lock THEM in a closet and hose THEM down in freezing weather. WHO DOES THAT TO CHILDREN? I MEAN, COME ON! AND IN THE NAME OF JESUS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

IMO they can go to hell.

Which leaves me with:

Now what?

Two nights ago, about 60 minutes into one of Pancake’s tantrums, I finally lost my cool and screamed at Pancake so loudly to BE QUIET AND PUT ON YOUR PAJAMAS! that  Diddy came running into his room to say this:

Mom, you have to be nicer to Pancake!

(Sometimes she’s an absolute ROCK STAR, don’t you think?)

I don’t know if this counts as nicer,  but here’s what I said next (and to Diddy’s credit, I said it MUCH more politely):

Pancake, if you don’t stop screaming and kicking RIGHT NOW I am going to throw your Ducky in the trash and the garbage man is going to take him away.

Lemme give you a little insight into DUCKY:

CHK ducky

Yep, that’s me, my four kids, my husband, and DUCKY in that caricature we sat still for on Father’s Day this year.

DUCKY is part of the family.

So the idea of DUCKY going away … welll …

I have never seen a kid shut-up so fast. His whole body stilled. He looked at me, and then he put on his pajamas and got into bed and didn’t make another sound.

Then he slept through the night.

For the first time over a month.


Umm …

I have now used that Ducky & the Garbage Man threat (which is the title of my next album of we’re really talking here) several other times, including such instances as yesterday’s morning whine-fest, last night’s dinner tantrum, and yesterday’s toothbrush fight when I took away the tube of toothpaste he was using to paint the walls of the bathroom.

No screaming. No hitting. No ignoring him or shutting him in his room.

Just threatening to take away the lovie that means most to him in the world.

I am conflicted about this.

  • On the one hand, I am thrilled to have found a way to help my kid regulate his temper – I mean, it’s pretty amazing how quickly he can stop crying and screaming when he wants to, which gives me hope that self-regulation is something he is capable of (I mean, truly, I was getting a little concerned).
  • On the other hand, I am a little worried that I am scaring him to PIECES to get him there. The look of shock on his little face the other night was … well, pretty damn deep.

But the quiet-ing response is Pavlovian to say the least.

I wonder how long it will last.








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Categories: Pancake.

5 Responses to QUIETING OUR RAGING (2yo) BEAST:
In Which I Completely Lose My Cool,
Re-Affirm Spanking DOESN’T Work,
& Muddle Through As Per Usual

  • Mel
    November 21, 2013

    I feel your conflict, and yes, you have found something brilliant. It works until it doesn’t. Then we adapt as out kids outwit us again (some people call that “maturing”) and use the next thing until it doesn’t work anymore. That’s parenting, but also proof that we’re doing it right, that they are growing and changing and responding to us as we teach them to navigate the world. Someday they’ll have to respond to a world that’s a whole lot meaner and more shocking than ducky and the garbageman, so I think it’s ok to let them see how that works in a controlled and loving way. We’re pretty up front with our kids about how the world works and I hope it will serve them well.
    As a side rant, I am not a book burner but that trash has got to go. Anyone who advocates child abuse in the name of Jesus needs to shut up. And I would totally buy the Ducky & the Garbage Man album should you decide to create it.

  • Anne
    November 21, 2013

    I love reading your posts and this one hit home harder than usual. My almost 2 year old is so persistent, and intense it can be overwhelming! Sounds like Pancake may have a spirited personality like my daughter- I’ve found a lot of help in the book “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. This isn’t a threat that would work for me because if it came down to it I would never be able to throw out my daughters lovie.

    • checklistmommy
      November 21, 2013

      I keep meaning to get that book! (And god no, I can’t imagine actually following through on this one, which Pancake will no doubt figure out soon enough). Since posting this, btw, he has upped his game by imitating his sisters when I get upset with him: “Mommy, are you mad at me?” OMG. Killing me.

  • Dawn Marie
    November 26, 2013

    I have always used the “I’m gonna take that away” or “I’m gonna turn your show off” “if you don’t {insert anything} here”

    At dinner I say “if you don’t start eating I’m taking your toys away” ’cause they have joined us at the table. To which my 3yr-old replies “here you go mama”
    umm…*gaping-open-mouthed* so then I have to take them and say, “OK thanks, but you still have to eat”
    Sometimes they are just too smart for us

  • Camellia
    December 23, 2013

    Coming late to the party here, but my daughter swears her child has been diagnosed with O.D.D. I had to look it up and am still ambivalent about it. Is this the latest ‘thing’? Is it for real? Is this just what we used to call stubborn? Do the tactics described work?

    Have you heard of this and has any doctor mentioned this to you about yours?

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About Sarah Kate Levy

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a novelist living in New York City. Four kids later, I'm a blogger living in LA who writes about parenting, partnering, and the rise and fall of my family / my home / civilization. I'm also a I'm a screenwriter, most recently of the movie "No Way Jose." I live with my husband, kids, dog, cats, and a tank full of surprisingly resilient fish, and I take bedtime around here as seriously as I do my morning coffee. Which is to say: I AM NOT KIDDING AROUND ABOUT BEDTIME.

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