Tantrums and Tots: Showdown at the OK Corral

Posted by on Mar 21, 2014 | 7 comments

Tantrums and Tots: Showdown at the OK Corral


The Showdown, better known as…the Tantrum

Last week, three-year-old Andy threw a tantrum. Not just any tantrum. He threw a tantrum for Grampy. He threw a tantrum that Grampy didn’t believe possible in a pint-sized peanut.

Remember some of the hallmark behaviors of three-year-olds?

  • 1. They are stubborn.
  • 2. They are illogical.
  • 3. They are unreasonable.
  • 4. Their favorite word is no!
  • 5. Did I mention they are stubborn? It bears mentioning twice.

Andy and Grampy had been playing on the floor, building a castle with wooden blocks. The blocks rose higher and higher with turrets and bridges, until it was almost as tall as Andy. It started to sway. Andy swooped his hands like the wind and scattered the blocks to the far corners of the living room. He and Grampy laughed.

Once the giggles died down, Grampy said, “Okay, time to pick up the blocks.”

“I don’t want to,” Andy replied.

Hoo boy! I snatched my rice cakes and grabbed a ringside seat on our padded rocker. Man this was gonna be good! I was eager to see how Grampy would handle the situation. He couldn’t possibly handle it as well as a seasoned mother and grandmother…


“We made a big mess. Now we have to clean it up,” Grampy said.

“No. I don’t want to.”

“But you will.”

“No, I won’t.”

“Yes. You will.”

“No. I won’t.”

Tension grew in leaps and bounds. The fight scene was as good as the one in The Princess Bride. Grampy parted his feet in a wide stance. He crossed his arms. He peered down at Andy.

Andy watched Grampy and did the same.

It had become a duel—a duel of words and wills!

Who would win? It couldn’t possibly be Grampy. Men don’t know how to diplomatically handle three-year-olds–or do they? The only thing needed to make the scene livelier would be playing the music, “Dueling Banjos”—remember that from the 70’s?

I chomped on my rice cakes as if they were fingernails. My eyes darted back and forth between Andy and Grampy. Grampy picked up the box for the blocks. He held it out for Andy. “This is what we put the blocks in.”

Andy’s eyes shifted to the side. He thought for a minute….His mouth curled into a mischievous grin. Then, he snatched the box from Grampy and ran.

Grampy and I watched in disbelief as Andy raced across the room and threw the box behind our white sofa. Afterwards, he galloped back to his spot in front of Grampy and replanted his feet.

Grampy looked at me. I pressed my lips into a thin line to keep from laughing, then I shook my head as if to say, This is your battle and the finale is going to be good.

Grampy didn’t raise his voice or show anger. Wow! He had tons of self-control. “Andy, get the box and I’ll help you pick up the blocks,” he said.

“That’s okay. I don’t want to help,” Andy said. “You can pick up the blocks, Grampy.”

About this time, I might have said, “Time for a two-minute time-out.”

But Grampy didn’t say that. He stood his ground. The duel continued. What was Grampy’s plan? What would he do? He couldn’t back down. If Andy won, he’d never listen to Grampy again.

“Okay, Andy. I’ll pick up the blocks, but if I have to do it alone, I’ll put all the toys in the garage. There won’t be any more playing today. Would you rather help and we can play, or would you rather sit around doing nothing for the rest of the day?”

My eyes grew wide. What an excellent move. Three points for Grampy. Andy twisted his body and his foot sideways. His little eyes squinted into slits and his mouth scrunched into a tight pucker. “I think I will get the box,” he said. He raced back to the couch, retrieved it, and helped Grampy pick up the blocks.

Bravo!  I gave Grampy a job well done wink. That solution was ten-times better than a time-out. Andy got to make a choice.

I forgot to mention in the beginning, that three-year-olds love choices.

Peanut butter or chicken? Red shirt or blue shirt? Clean up or no fun? They can only handle two choices at a time, but it allows them some control. After all, that’s what three-year-olds are seeking–a little bit of independence and control over their lives. Some psychologists believe that life comes around full circle in cycles. Eighteen year olds go back through the cycle of seeking independence, similar to the three-year-old stage.

I remembered three important things from watching Grampy:

  1. Give three-year-olds choices to facilitate their desire for independence.
  2. Teach three-year-olds to pick up toys, etc., instead of doing it yourself, even though that would be eaiser.
  3. Remember the most important thing, ever: NEVER BACK DOWN

This is one of my favorite Bible verses for parenting: “Train your child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NIV.  I wonder what God thinks about our stubbornness? Could we possibly be as stubborn as three-year-olds when it comes to obeying the Lord?

Deb Gardner Allard is a writer of books & stories for children. She has a B.S. degree in psychology and is a retired registered nurse. Her book, “Izzy and the Real! Truth About Moose Boy,” a book for 3rd through 5th graders, encourages children to talk about the difference between teasing and bullying while reading about the pranks of Moose Boy. The book can be purchased through Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon.com and most other venues. Deb enjoys blogging about children, as well. Visit her website at www.debgardnerallard.com.

Image obtained from RGB free stock photos. Title: Cowboy Grape.



Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Patsy Reiter


    Yes, train up a child in the way he should go . . .
    What a terrific solution! I wish I had been this wise when raising my children. Firmness, standing ground, a choice, and unending love solved the issue. Thanks for showing us a positive outcome. 🙂


  2. A. Cobb

    I love this! Way to go Grampy! 🙂 so very true…those terrifying threes are way worse than the “terrible twos” everyone refers to…love the face-off…kept me reading intently to find out how it ended. Great writing! Now if we could only figure out the “Really Terrifying Teens” we could all live in harmony! Lol!

    • Deb Gardner Allard

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It really happened just like that, and I really sat on the rocker with anticipation. Now the terrible teens…did you know that the mid teen years are a repeat of the terrible twos? See what you have to look forward to?!!! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Wanda


    Great Title and hook. Love your story, kept me interested and reading to the last word. A three year old can sure throw a tantrum, but it sounds like Grampy had it all under control.
    Score one for Grampy!


  4. helen dening

    What a great story! Parents (grandparents, caregivers) of 3-year-olds can certainly relate. Grampy is a keeper! I love how you weave factual information into a Grampy experience and then top it all off with scripture- a winning combination! Thank you.

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