Toddler PMS

I had heard about the terrible twos. Heck, I thought I had experienced them. But ohhhh no. Oh no no no no no.

I have been misinformed on many counts. I thought this was a period of mild defiance, with maybe a tantrum thrown here and there for effect. I thought this was something I might not have to experience at all. My Thalia? My sweet, loveable, charming funny little girl? Nah.

Crow: Tastes a whole lot like chicken.

What no one told me is that terrible is just understated spin, a false description offered in lieu of the more accurate (although less alliterative) appalling or egregious, a lie propagated to keep the childless from remaining so. Certainly humanity as we know it would die out, Children of Men style, should the general population catch wind of what’s in store for them a mere 30 months after labor and delivery. Like hemorrhoids aren’t deterrent enough.

This stage is fact not the terrible twos, or even the egregious twos. It is nothing short of Toddler PMS.

(Has anyone ever called it this before? I ‘m sure they have. And they’d be accurate.)

Or perhaps it’s just a case of satanic posession. Neither would be hard for me to believe, although I would like a firm diagnosis so I know whether to call an exorcist or pump Thalia full of Motrin and crank up the Sarah McLaughlin music.

I want something to eat mommy.

Okay, would you like ravioli? The fun ones, shaped like stars and hearts?


Oh I’m sorry, did I say “live earthworms in a pool of monkey brains?” I swear, I thought I said ravioli. Sometimes I confuse them.

(sniff, sob) I want cereal.

No sweetie, cereal is for breakfast. What else can I get you?


How about a peanut butter sandwich?


You can cut it yourself.

(sniff) Yes. I want a sandwich. (sniff) I want to go cut it. (brightly) Carry me mommy! Carry me and I will cut the sandwich all by myself!

The spirit is willing but the feet are weak.

I want to spread the peanut butter on the bread. Then I want to lick the peanut butter off the knife.

No sweetie, no licking off…


Fine, fine. You can lick the knife. (Am I a pushover parent?)


Okay! Don’t lick the knife! Geez. Fine. I’m going to give you some carrots with that.


Or melon?

Melon! I like melon! I want some melon. I want some melon! So good. Can I cut it?

Sure. Of course. I’m glad you’re happy. Here’s the knife…


It’s especially fun when you throw a baby into the mix. Fortunately Sage is a good-natured one. At least during daylight hours. But there was a moment tonight in which I did have to insist that only one child was permitted to cry at a time.

And just in time for preschool interviews. Good times.


86 thoughts on “Toddler PMS”

  1. I still laugh at the books I was checking out of the library when Belly was about 3—-“Out of Control Child”, “Out-of-Sync Child”—stuff like that. She could scream on her back for an hour, at least. I thought she was possessed. And, then, the switch went off and she was my sweet, loving, (somewhat) rational child again. And then #2 started to do it too, but even more intense and LOUDER! I’m waiting for my little guy to do this, but maybe it’s a girl thing—instead, he just hits and crashes his cars into the wall when he is mad. So, in short (ha!), hang in there—the time does pass and soon no one will believe that your sweet little girl was ever anything but sweet.

  2. Hang in there. I have no words of wisdom other than, BTDT and I swear at times still going through it. I like to joke that it’s good we got pregnant before Oceanus turned two or he might have been an only child.

  3. My eldest was a mild two year old… my second is a far cry from mild. He can scream and scream until he practically hyperventilates and/or throws up. It’s a feat of nature I am telling you. Hang in there, and know we are struggling with you.

  4. Ah, dinner tonight was heralded by a chorus of “peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Peanut butter and jelly sandwich!”And then after I’d applied the jelly and pulled out the container of PB, “NO PEANUT BUTTER! NO!”huh?

  5. I imposed that same rule (one child may cry at a time) shortly after CJ was born.I invoked it most recently on Sunday evening.How the hell am I going to handle three of them?!

  6. Hmmmm. This sounds a lot like life at my house, only my two year old is always asking for peanut butter and honey sandwiches and frozen peas, which he prefers to eat with an ice cream scoop.I think many two-year-olds could be classified as clinically insane.

  7. Um…she is learning that she has free will. Necessary developmental stage blah blah blah. It will wear off in 20 years or so.

  8. Sorry to tell you this, but it doesn’t always end as quickly as you would like. My daughter is still in the “I want cereal. No! peanut butter sandwich. No! cereal” stage and she’s nearly 4! Aarrggh!Of course, she has always been a difficult child, and every one I know has always been so kind as to point that out to me. Jerks!I hope the terrible twos aren’t too terribly long for you!

  9. oh gosh. I’m sorry. That’s painful.Just this morning, my 3 year-old was sobbing uncontrollably over a number of life tragedies including but not limited to (syrup dripping onto her plate, her yogurt straw pointing the wrong direction and having to get dressed before breakfast).And then a few hours later, that crazy girl was gone. And my sweet daughter was back.But I know that crazy one is still lurking around.

  10. I’m peeing myself because I feel like we’re getting to this exact stage. What to do in times like these…I say, lock ourselves in the bathroom and turn the fan/faucet on, hum really loud and look at all the pretty trees and happy birdies.(Came over through my buddy at Marriage-101)

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  12. Actually… three is much worse than 2. And so far 4 has been no picnic in the park.I can’t remember which of the baby doc advice givers it was – perhaps the guy who wrote Happiest Toddler on the Block – who wrote that when your toddler melts down like that you should talk back to them with the same tone and urgency in order to show that you sympathize with them and that this somehow magically will snap them out of their tandrum. I tried it once or twice – but the only thing worse than a toddler (or two) having a meltdown is their parent having one, too. It was one of the worst pieces of parenting advice I read.For now, the only thing to do is to hunker down for the long haul. I hear it ends eventually.

  13. Oh we use the “only one child can scream at a time” rule all the time. It works!

  14. yeah i’m kind of a pushover too, untless it’s important-like not throwing food, listening when i talk, not running out the door to the parking lot of the doctors office while mommy tries to pay the copay with a screaming 4 month old who just got shots(yeah that was yesterday) i yelled through a packed waiting room at him in my mean mommy voice, everyone jumped and stared, good times. is it still pms in boys?

  15. wow, she sounds just like my 3 year old….that is right, my doc laughed at me when i complained about the terrible two’s and said, what till you see 3. NICE huh. it is 2 with an attitude. hang in there.

  16. I had the “only one person may cry at a time” rule (“person” just in case it was ME). It actually worked a few times.

  17. Oh how funny! I have three boys and that’s STILL an accurate label! Except, mine hit it when they were three..they do say that boys develop slower than girls though! BEst of luck navigating these tough times. 😉

  18. I don’t know whether I’d refer to it as toddler PMS. I like to think of that phase as either schizophrenia or TEMPORARY INSANITY!Good luck, Liz. Keep the Motrin and the vodka nearby.

  19. Erm…the bad news is that the only thing worse than the terrible twos is the horrendous threes. Sorry to inform you of that sad fact.One day, when she’s four-ish, though, she’ll say or do something, and you’ll realize that she’s been listening to you ALL ALONG, just not able to really process and comply and DO anything about it. But at around 4ish, she will. So keep up the good work, and don’t give up. 😉

  20. The terrible twos start exactly at 2 1/2. Oh my LORD. I spend half my morning saying, “MOMMY DOES NOT WANT TO YELL!!” Of course, I am Y-E-L-L-I-N-G at this point. Sigh. Hang in there. I assume this is why there is preschool…

  21. It is all gearing up for the Terrible Threes which is the single most hellish age. Twos, a cake walk by comparison.

  22. i think i must have been watching some godawful supernanny show or something at the time jack hit that age, but each time he began to lose his shit like that i just took to sticking him on the stair until he *regained* his shit. for some unfathomable reason it worked. made for a facking long dinner time though.

  23. *whispers*The 3’s are worse.Sorry.I have a 6, a 3 and a 2. When the earth is spinning on its axis and all 3 are crying at once, I seriously look around my kitchen for the hidden cameras. Like, seriously? This is my life?!

  24. I could be completley ass backwards on this, but to me…she’s acting three. I have never minded two year olds. But three is a scary age. And as smart as Thalia is, I’m sure she got there early. The defiance, the attitude and the I must do everything my way, is all three in my book. So…um, yeah enjoy. 🙂Sorry, but they all go through some phase. And I bet you’d rather it be at two and a half than thirteen, right? I mean at least you can put her in time out or whatever if you want now. Not so east when they are as big as you.

  25. Three is worse. Then 4 year old girls are extremely unpleasant! But then it gets better and then they turn 7 and into little miniature teenagers. Gah! I love the Toddler PMS, I think it goes on throughout life. Maybe stopping when they are like 25;0)

  26. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I have to agree with the other commenters about age three. (Although Mimi seemed to skip the terrible twos and threes — but Rosie’s making up for that in spades.) So if 2 is Toddler PMS, then 3 is when they’re seriously on the rag, I guess.

  27. Yeah, for us 2 was comparatively not so bad. We had isolated days like this but it wasn’t a common occurence. Now that she’s turned 3, we have the Toddler PMS all the time.

  28. Lurker here, but I totally agree with sueb0b. She is testing to see how much contol she has. It seems like she didn’t even know what she wanted but of course doesn’t know how to handle indecision. May I suggest that instead of giving her more options, to stop her and say something like “if you can’t tell me what you want nicely, then I will choose for you.” And then end the discussion and make whatever you want her to have. Then, she learns that she can’t control the situation by having a tantrum. Just a thought! Christy

    1. Thanks..I needed to hear that. Gonna try it…you talked me off the ledge cause I was seriously contemplating jumping out of the 1st floor window………..

  29. I tell Punky all the time that only one child is allowed to cry at a time. Thank God it works!

  30. Hard to believe they grow up into rational human beings, isn’t it? My personal favorite part of this phase if the Denial of the Obvious, such as “NO! THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT PIECE!” or “NO! DADDY’S NOT HERE!” or “NO! I’M NOT IN THE TUBBY!”Forget waterboarding…let the terrorists deal with our kids for a few days. Or is that outlawed by the Geneva Conventions, too?

  31. Apt. Very.I call it “the broken cookie” syndrome.The tantrum is never really about the broken cookie. It’s about the sudden realization of the great powerlessness and inequality of being 2. And the broken cookie.I try to never ask yes or no questions. Essay answers keep them better occupied. And the old yes-as-no sometimes works for a few weeks. Or hours. You know:Mommy can I have a cookie for breakfast?Yes, you can have a cookie after dinner!The absurd aspect keeps them off kilter.And I like three choices instead of two. Three confuses them just enough to off balance them.It’s like parenting Tai Kwan Do. Good luck. I failed years 2-4 miserably. IOW, ignore everything I just said.

  32. Erm…I hate to bring this up but…um…you do know some day she’ll be a TEENAGER don’t you? At which point you will look back on these moments FONDLY? I’m just saying 😉

  33. If two is a glimpse of the hormonal pre-teen years, then three is the moody, argumentative, slam-the-door teen years.Why did we decide to have second children and go through this again?

  34. Hi there,I think you should have given in at the suggestion of cereal. Don’t we all eat cereal later in the day at some point? And it’s very nutritious. I hate to add to everyone else who’s said it, but three is usually worse than two because they get more creative in their evil-doings. Oh, and I forgot to mention that boys throw tantrums AND wreck the house.

  35. Mine sprouted horns the other day. Swear to God.And everyone tells me that three is worse. If this is true you’ll find me in my cellar with many cases of wine until Chicky turns four. Someone else can raise this new kid. I’m going into hiding.

  36. Dude, why not just give her the cereal? When one of my kids saves they want cereal, I do a little jig and then pour them a mountain. Cereal the all the time, so mommy doesn’t have to think food.

  37. Cereal advocates – lord knows I bring out the Cheerios from time to time. But my 2.5 year old is still in 18-24 month pants and I’d kind of like her to eat something besides cereal and white rice and cinnamon toast.Hey, I did offer her a pb sandwich for dinner instead. Isn’t that slacker enough for you?

  38. I have to agree that the three’s are worse. At three, they have the vocabulary to go with the attitude. Oye … I have a 2 1/2 year old who is as contrary as they come. We’ve had the “I want peanut butter! I don’t want peanut butter!” conversation many times. Take heart, there’s always boarding school!

  39. You just took me back three years. Oh, memories! Of course, it never gets better…it just gets different. Today my five yo looked me square in the eyes and said, “You.are.a.big.problem.” And my eight yo just gets snotty and rolls her eyes alot. Yes, yes, the fun never stops.

  40. Really can’t get past the “preschool interviews” line. For those of us living west of the Mississippi and east of the “gifted preschools” of CA, PLEASE blog about what the heck a “preschool interview” consists of! I’m dyin’ over here in the desert!

  41. We have just entered this living hell. Ada turns from charming toddler to spawn of satan with no warning. And occasionally back again, if only for a couple of minutes. Thank goodness, or I’d have run away from home already.

  42. The one child cries at a time rule is a standing rule in our home. I look like a shining star of a mother when I’m out and telling my children that at the grocery store.No one will EVER call me a pushover parent. “Your brother is crying and remember if he’s crying, you can’t, so just hold it in until we get home.”Everyone has already said that “3” is a bitch, and that’s mainly because not only do they have PMS but they have the total and complete verbal skills (I don’t like you mommy, go away, I’m never coming out of my room) to go with it.

  43. I can’t wait until she’s thirteen and comes back from gymnastics camp with Pre-Teen PMS. Save this post. It’ll remind you how easy it used to be!

  44. The best advice that I have for dealing with the terrible 2-3’s is this: pick your battles carefully and when you do pick one, stick to your guns. Be consistent in how you react to their tantrums. Personally, whenever my kids (now 11 and 7) would throw a tantrum in a store or restaurant, I would pick them up and leave. (pay the bill first, of course!) I had no qualms about leaving a basket of groceries at the customer service desk. By removing my kids from the situation I didn’t feel as embarrassed and I could deal with them more calmly. My kids would still scream and have their fit but it was in a safe environment, not lying on the floor of the store or screaming in a cart, where I could help them settle down. I discovered early on that the tantrums subsided quicker when they didn’t have the attention of an entire restaurant or the sales floor of Walmart. Full blown tantrums can’t be ignored but requests for something out of the ordinary for a meal or a snack are just their way of trying to get some control over their life and schedule. Sometimes you need to let them win.

  45. How is it that I have three kids and never heard the “toddler PMS” phrase before?! It’s perfect! And for me the terrible twos started at 18 months and continued well into and beyond 3 years old. I’m in the thick of it right now with my 2 1/2 year old and I’m losing my mind!

  46. Sigh. I remember it well. The good news is, that for me to say that, that phase must be OVER and I must still be LIVING. Which is not to say my house is tantrum-free (in fact my 8YO just had a tantrum over wanting cereal earlier this week) but at least we’ve all toughened up a bit and can laugh about it now.

  47. I call this “Control Freaking.” My 6 year old will still do it on occasion, usually over food, sometimes over clothes. We went through about a year (around age 3)when we would give him a choice only to have him completely freak out after he made his choice, saying that he now he wanted the opposite of what he asked for. You can do things to try to avoid the tantrums, but you can’t back down if she decides to throw one. In general though, this is a definite phase, and it does end.

  48. I’d like to say that it goes away. But those little kiddos just figure out other ways to get what they want (even when what they want changes every fraction of a second). If you have a camcorder, you should so record one of her meltdowns. That is so much better to so her boyfriend when she’s a teen than the naked photos.

  49. This is the first time I leave a comment as I’m not a blogger but I enjoy reading your blog a lot…my son is slightly younger than your daughter and I’ve gotta tell you, all of a sudden it’s like living with a psycopath in our house. Someone calls this stage “primary adolescence”. It makes sense. I fear going home after work these days….I know how you feel….I hope we both make it through 😉

  50. hey, first time here…Wow, that is hilarious to read. I am crying at my desk in work. People are looking at me. The Bear, my nearly 4 year old (it doesn’t stop at 2!), is suddenly into grunting when a question is posed that is met with disapproval. Kids really are completely psychotic.

  51. That was so accurate! Loved it!My youngest is almost 3 and the DRAMA is about to drive us nuts! My husband even asked if it was a stage. I hope this is not an indicator of what she will be like as a teenager.

  52. Oh dear. At least your PMSing toddler has things like carrots, melon and even pb&j sandwiches in her diet. You would think the world had just come to a horrific end dare I even mention anything other than chicken nuggets and mandarin oranges. For lunch AND dinner for the last 2 years. NOT KIDDING. oh, but to let you know, it really does get better. Oh, and then a little worse. What will puberty have in store?

  53. Hello Liz!I love your blog. Am an Indian blogger with a six month old baby girl. And um, now you’ve got me really dreading the inevitable ‘Toddler PMS’. Am linking up to your blog, hope that’s okay. Take care and good luck!

  54. I was reading your post and wondering why anyone would tell the two year old no cereal for lunch. Then I remembered that Thalia is #1. All the arbitrary adult-centered rules concerning what we will eat and when have been completely thrown out the window by the various toddlers in my house. Anything, dear god, to stop the screaming.

  55. I have to agree with those above….the 3’s are so! much! worse! It can be basically summed up in the sentence “Noooothing is riiiiight”. A wrinkle in their sock. Using the wrong brush on their hair. Not reading their minds properly. The only cure is turning 4…..which takes a year from onset of the terrible 3’s.

  56. This is so familiar! Not to mention laugh out loud funny. When my 3 year old was two (that is to say – last year) he threw a tantrum every time we had to leave the house (he’d scream about getting his snowsuit on, he’d scream about arriving at our destination, he’d scream about having to leave again, etc…)To the point where I started to develop a bad case of toddler-onset agoraphobia.

  57. I’m right there with ya. Just got back from a biz trip and here’s my son:Mama! Mama! (hugs me with big smiles, a few seconds late) My binky. My binky! MY BINKKY!!!!One minute he was all hugs and kisses then he freaked out because his binky fell on the ground… ahhh yes, I’m home now.

  58. Although there is still the teenage PMS (and boys get it too) to look forward to, I sympathize with where you are at this point in time. Trying to figure out what a kid Thalia’s age might want or need is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. It’s like they have Toddler Alzheimers and the moment they express a desire and you answer it, they’ve forgotten what they’ve just said and now your offer of the thing they’ve just asked for is offensive and wrong. Get through those interviews and I promise that pre-school will help in more ways than you can possibly know.

  59. I know it well, and my daughter’s not quite yet two. She’s acquired this new tone in her voice when she sometimes whines NO. There is a subtext to her nos that seems to say <>no, not only do you not understand what I want but I don’t really think you care which, by the way, makes you a bad father, and if I knew what I was getting myself into 21 months ago, I never would have left the womb.<>

  60. I think the one-crying-child policy should always be in effect.I agree with the PMS, but what if it’s a boy?

  61. Ah, I just went through this whole scene yesterday too. It seems like the terrible twos, turns into awful threes, and then to chaotic fours. It is never ending. BTW, I have an award for you over at my blog.

  62. At least you’re warned about the 2’s. No one warned me about the threes. You know how when you read something you try to connect it to a life experience? I struggled with this somewhat when I crossed Dante’s Inferno. I no longer have any questions. I understand every one of the seven circles of hell now. I kept telling myself “just make it to 4. HOLY HELL…why doesn’t it end? I have two beautiful girls, ages 6.5 and 3.5. On the bright side, I hear there is a respite between 10 and 12 before you have to hold your breath and dive in again…to the quicksand they call the teens. I hear raising teenagers is like trying to nail jello to a tree (there’s really an article with that title…google it.) I can’t wait. Sorry I didn’t have more heartening news. But, at least you are not alone. Dawn

  63. Gosh, my 6 year old can still act like that. Heck, my 10 year old can as well. I think PMS is alive & well in all females of any age, LOL. I’m glad mine were at least 4 years apart, made terrible twos AND threes a little bit easier.

  64. To Dawn, I missed this before hitting submit. Sorry to tell you there is NO respite between 10 & 12. My daughter is 10 1/2 & it just gets worse. Maybe with boys there might be a break, but no, not with girls!!! LOLOh my oldest, wasn’t too bad at 2, but oh god, 3 was terrible!

  65. I hate to say this, but… two was easy. Three fucking sucks. But on the up side – because I am not a total Debbie Downer – I have heard that children act like demons typically right around birthdays and half-years, and for us, that totally fits. 3 was hell. 3.5 was hell. In between were nice months. It could get better in a month! For a while.

  66. Ha, I’ve had the EXACT same conversations with my 3yo, who is turning 4 next week. I’m hoping that his birthday puts an end to foolishness of this sort. Ya think?My husband and I were pulling our hair out over the contrariness factor, not just with food but with everything. On the advice of a friend I picked up a book about normal 3yo developmental milestones, and I cracked up when I saw the full title…“Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy?”It’s funny because it’s true.

  67. So, she’s three – right? Because this conversation sounds DEAD on for the conversations I had with each of my three-year-old triplets tonight. Thank goodness my new baby is an easy one, too (at least during day light hours – although he keeps me up much of the night, argh). I have no doubt that it would be less painful to pull my bottom lip over the top of my head, then go through another year of this insanity.

  68. Your post made me laugh and God knows I needed that! My daughter turns two in a couple of days and what you narrated, that could be me, that IS me and her so many times!I vacillate wildly between no-means-no-and-that’s-it and ok-this-one-time-only-this-once-ok?‘Terrible twos’ does not even begin to define what they put you through!

  69. We experience the same thing. Normally my little girl is very laid back and easy going. Once a month (since infancy) there would be a week where she was a bear. We joked that it was PMS. Recently I started to realize that it coincided with my period. She becomes VERY emotional and VERY inflexible. I don’t have any answers, but your not alone.

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