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Children / Humor / Motherhood

Our revolutionary, best-selling parenting book: How Not to Get Eaten Alive

Our revolutionary, best-selling parenting book: How Not to Get Eaten Alive

My husband and I are currently in what we refer to as “the good years” of parenting. At ages 8 and 10 our little cherubs are becoming self-sufficient, funny, great travelers and are often downright delightful. Though life certainly isn’t perfect, we’re holding fast to these fleeting  moments because we know the granddaddy of them all will soon be upon us: teenagers.  Sure, we’re seeing hormonal, irrational glimpses of our future but as of yet, they’re nothing compared to the toddler years.

I remember shortly after my daughter Hadley turned 3 she went through a phrase I called The Tyrant. When I offered suggestions for a snack, I braced myself for the unleashing of how dare I even suggest something so unthinkable as apples. When I pretended to turn her into a princess with my magic wand, I was sent to the dungeons because I held the wand at the wrong angle. Anything set her off, which made me wonder if she had some kind of chemical imbalance.

Or if it was the fact that she was 3.

I’ve heard from some that the 3s are worse than the 2s. Doubting Thomas that I was, I didn’t buy in. But then there I was: sold out.

We had one uncharacteristically good day with what I would consider to be a reasonable amount of T.O.N. (Tantrums Over Nothing). We were sitting on our leather sofa watching out the window for my husband Jamie to come home. I looked down at how precious she was being and decided she needed some positive reinforcement.

“You know, Mommy is so happy with how sweet you’ve been today. Thank you for being so nice to your brother Bode and me.”

Within seconds, seconds people, she started acting up and it did not stop the rest of the night.

As we were eating dinner, she miraculously downed most of the curry chicken phyllos I made and I decided again: positive reinforcement.

“Haddie, what a great eater you’re being tonight!”

Within milliseconds, milliseconds people, she choked out her food and spewed it all over the floor. Jamie looked at me dubiously.

“Hey Amber. Here’s a new parenting strategy for you. How about ditch this positive reinforcement crap and STOP WITH THE COMPLIMENTS.”

We’ll begin our book tour next month.

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.



    Don’t tell me it gets worse! My daughter just entered her “terrible” ones, and I’m amazed at how much she understands already, since she hardly speaks. I tell her daddy how well she’s eating something, and she immediately spits it out. Or drops on the floor sobbing her heart out when I tell her she can’t play with something.

  2. Survive??? You don’t survive – you muttle through as they turn into teenagers and then you realize that positive reinforcement will again, get you no where – but you still use it to keep yourself out of jail.

    And then you visit temple grounds with you tantrumer to keep you grounded and steady.

    Ugh, good luck? I guess?

  3. Hi Amber, and thank you so much for stopping by my site. It’s been a long time since I’ve been over here, too (way too long, to be exact).

    Bridget will be 3 in July, and we’re just getting into the tantrum phase with her. We’re still muddling through the I-can-do-it-myself phase, which seems to last forever!

    I do hope you’ll consider submitting an article for Root and Sprout sometime in the future. Your opinions and sense of humor would be a great addition. (not like you aren’t busy enough!)


    It’s like my two toddlers can be the cutest things ever, or like total psycho’s – and unfortunately lately, their good days and bad days seem to be staggered so I can’t get a peaceful day (hour, 15 minutes, whatever) out of both of them at the same time!

    My 23 month old Rand has been especially crazy of late – where did my buddy go? He used to be like a puppy, following me around being cute and making messes. Now he just follows me around screaming and making HUGE messes, oh and refusing to go to sleep at night. Wah.

    I need a nap 🙂

  5. Fun times! If only we could find a magic spell that would make us unable to hear all the whining!

  6. Lots of w(h)ine…


  7. I can’t imagine…I’ve dealt with it with nephews and neices but I can leave (sometimes)…I’m not looking forward to it.
    AT ALL
    thanks for stopping by and saying HI

  8. Its like you reminded her that she was forgetting to be bad, hehe.

  9. The twos get a bad rap. The threes are DEFINITELY, infinitely worse! Hard to believe we survive that stage, actually.

  10. Ice cream. Lots and lots and lots of ice cream. Sometimes I would hide in my room, curled in a corner, mumbling to myself as I administered the heavy doses of frozen stuffs.

    Now that my 3 year old is starting to come out of the tantrum phase (just starting) I am about to give birth again. I keep telling myself, “Just one more time. I can do this, just one more time.”

  11. I was lucky… my first child was PERFECT. So of course I had a second. I mean really people… what’s all the fuss?
    Boy oh boy did I ever eat my words! The 2’s were nothing compared to the 3’s. I haven’t noticed any back-lashing because of the positive enforcement, but good or bad, he doesn’t care as long as he is doing something that he can get attention for…..

    The 3’s are hard. I’m ready for them to be over!

  12. I raised six kids and I can say with certainty that the fearsome 4’s and flush them in the camode 15’s are the worst ages imaginable. They actually resemble each other

  13. I’m just getting in to this!! My 2 year old really knows how to put it on sometimes. Today when I told him it was time for lunch, he screamed and kicked and fought me and WOULD NOT get in his chair to eat. I finally had to hold him (to calm him down) while I started to eat, and then he finally decided he would eat some too. The worst part of it was that he WAS hungry, so it made him more upset, but he had decided he didn’t want to eat!
    So much fun! What can you do? We’ll get through somehow!

  14. c’mon you mean a two yr old who flushes your glasses down the toilet, eats a cake with a lacrosse stick and mops your floor with flour adds stress- I paint and I blog and I stay semi-sane

  15. I’m just getting into the 2’s — and am just amazed at the will and drive of this little human…

  16. I regret to inform you that 4 is just as bad, only in a different way. Then their language is more advanced and they can say, “NO! I’M NOT DOING ANYTHING YOU SAY, MOM!”

  17. It as soooo fun meeting you at the Expo!

  18. Oh, and I am so excited to have found Mile High Mammas!

  19. i always thought the 3s were worse than the 2s. but it’s been so long for me. i think i’ve blocked out most of those painful memories =)

  20. So, if I am reading this correctly, no one has any advice for surviving the toddler years.

  21. Well, minus just enduring it!

    And wait a minute – 4 is worse than 3? I have never heard that? To think I have been looking to 4 as my safe haven!

  22. Yep, no advice here. I am currently trying to endure the 2’s…I laughed when you talked about suggesting something as unthinkable as apples! That is my life everyday! I’m such a mean mom!

  23. I so hear you! Each one of my boys has been a lot harder at age 3 than age 2!

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