How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Little Toddler Terrorists

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Finn Baby Che Guevera

My son is finally reaching that age when, if he demands something it must be completed right that very instant. If he doesn’t get exactly what he wants, how he wants it — well, he might just burn the whole effing place to the ground. By that I mean, he won’t hesitate to take a knife to the throat of an unprotected stuffed animal nearby and starve himself or piss on the carpet to prove a point. He can be completely irrational, well beyond simply bargaining for what he wants by force. He’s now getting vindictive. He’s stubbornness personified.

I think I just described myself. Maybe I’m still two years old as well. Oops.

Finn puts out a contract on another kid playing at the playground“You heard me. I want him dead. He stole my shovel.”

My little monkey has gone fully rogue. His high-pitched shrieks used to be alarm sounds, but now they’re negotiations. His backhands and kicks used to be flailing attempts at learning balance. Now, they’ve become deathblows. For all intents and porpoises, he’s transformed into a sort of maligned despot.

But more to the point, he doesn’t have the exact words or phrasing to get what he needs, when he needs it, and that may be why he has come to be known as a little toddler terrorist in my house. He simply can’t communicate all these new needs and commands. Finn’s sweet disposition now seesaws between curious cherub and petty dictator.


Like a page out of my younger brother’s handbook (he probably has one), my son has resorted to the most mind-numbing torture possible.

Let’s say Finn and I are playing, and he happens to use his incredible superpowers of “inevitably almost knocking me unconscious” with something or by giving me a Scottish handshake (read: headbutt), if I say: “Ow” or “Ouch” or “Watch where your swinging your headmelon there, Finn”, thus showing the slightest bit of pain, he loses it. The waterworks start and he runs to find mom.

Last I checked, I’m pretty sure if anyone deserves to be crying after having a fist grenade lobbed at him, it’s me. Nope. Finn reverses it and with a flick of a tear duct, he’s managed to make ME feel bad about HIM getting upset about hurting ME. Then I get to do the mansplaining to my wife about how he’s fine, I’m not fine and everything will be fine after my concussion subsides. WTF.


But I’ve got the upperhand. Want to know how? Well, here it comes, kemosabe.

I can read. Kinda.

Toddler and terrorism. Same differenceTerrorism and toddlers. Same difference.

That’s right. I went straight to the source when it comes to executing flawless counter-terrorism tactics: the websites for the FBI, the CIA and Homeland Security. I researched techniques for dealing with terrorism and local acts of tyranny. And I found some pretty useful stuff on handling people employing brute force and fear to forward their political motives, not unlike my son. They used great buzzwords like “containment” and “engage”. It made me feel safer already. Why didn’t I think of learning about parenting from these guys before?

I know. I know. I’ll probably have a few dozen agents show up at my door asking me to explain myself after I publish this, so maybe this can serve as my farewell letter instead?

After reading their literature, perhaps it’s not all bad though…

Maybe he’s just a revolutionary whose goals have been misunderstood? The Boston Tea Party, The Underground Railroad and The Great Math Class Fake Cough-Fest of 1998 were all employed against terrible regimes while under suffocating oppression. I imagine he’s just testing my parenting limits. Threatening to poop in the tub during bathtime is probably a form of peaceful protest somewhere. Right?

I guess, for now, I’ll just chalk it all up to my son “going through a phase” and he’ll return to being his sweet, sweet self…

…you know, like when the economy turns around.

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34 Responses to “Little Toddler Terrorists”

  1. Finn looks great in a beard and a beret. I can picture a poster of him sitting on top of a tank, overlooking his vast army of young militants. Maybe holding up his chubby little hand in a peace sign, with the inscription “Sandboxista!”

    • charlie says:

      Sandboxista is truer than you think. I saw a kid get peed on for attempting to steal some sand toys (bucket, shovels, etc.) at the playground. It’s straight up Darwin-style survival of the most ruthless at the playground.

  2. LOL! I can so relate to this! Toddlers are so nuts! You cannot reason w/them. Add in the fact that my daughter has given up naps (at 2.5), and you can forget about it. Misery loves company, so I’m glad to know I’m not alone.

    • charlie says:

      Sans naps?? Yikes.

      My personal favorite is when you get the requested item or activity to them, after trying to wait them out so you don’t look weak, and they are still pissed. I feel like I’m working for the Kardashians and nothing is good enough.

  3. Cheryl M. says:

    Well, mine’s 5, but apparently he put off the terrorism until now! Yesterday, he wanted to take over the coffee table with his train tracks, so I gave him the choice of setting them up on the floor or going to bed. His response?

    But mamma, the world is mine!

  4. Alli says:

    I am officially terrified that my future children will be tyrants. Oh man, I am so nervous… can I start negotiations with my pregnant belly? There should be classes for dealing with “Your Toddler: Terrorist” scheduled after completing the “Parenting 101” class at local hospitals!

    • charlie says:

      It’s okay. Sometimes it’s skips generations, like being a werewolf. If you were a terror, maybe your future child will be okay!!

      • McCall says:

        Oh no no no. I beg to differ. Terrorist Toddlerism doesn’t ‘skip’ anything, including generations. The only time I’ve seen a child who’s manipulation manifestation is super short lived, is when they’re child number 5 of 6. The more children in a family, the better. Maybe cuz parents go deaf to tantrums after the first 4 spawn. Or the second youngest get smacked around by his/her older Terrorist siblings, perhaps. Whatever the reason, you can trust me on this one. I speak, err, I type as the mother of two Terrorists – our 3 yr old son not only mimicks but has actually embellished on the tourture brought down by his regime leader’s tactics, and a 5 yr old big sister has a Barbie Townhouse full of manipulation up her sleeve.
        We live in an ethnic-only neighborhood, and I spend hours studying the enormous families who walk by, in an attempt to comprehend how they possibly get all 8 of their kids to follow like ducklings in a row AND carry the groceries! However, at night I observe a version of those same unusually compliant kids, after they ripen, because there’s a gang of 11-16 yr olds who’ve got a small ‘enterprise’ – from the payphone to the bus stop is their ‘sales territory’.
        My guess: the terrorism is merely delayed in such cases.

  5. niel says:

    My three year old is an insane person. God forbid the Roku box needs to reset, or we can’t find the remote fast enough for her to watch, Dora, Diego or Yo Gabba Gabba there will be hell to pay. I’m so scared.

    • charlie says:

      ::NINJA STARS FLIES BY:: “Daddy, I said now.”

      • McCall says:

        Wait till you have a girl! Then it’s less physical and ever-so-much more psychological warfare. Your head will spin once her ‘demands’ wane, and “Daddy, I want a golden egg and I want it NOW!!” stops working… I am utterly convinced that we women learned all of our mind-melting/men-melding techniques as toddlers. (We just perfect the tactics as we age and master a more subtle & effective slant on the same “Terrorist Toddler” manipulation and bask in our dominating control. Don’t blame us… We are forced to adapt as our taste in shoes gets more and more expensive.)

  6. Misha says:

    Dude. I get it. My 3 1/2 year old daughter, wearing her crown, yelling out her window when she’s supposed to be sleeping (at 9pm!): “I’m the pwincess of the world!!” They’re in cahoots, I tell you! Toddlers of the world, unite.

  7. Frantz says:

    I hear ya man, no wonder parents later use the words “I raised you”. and “Do you know what you put me through?”

  8. My son’s most deadly move is the backwards headbutt into my adam’s apple. I’d rather get headbutted in the groin I think…

  9. Asher says:

    I can relate. The “terrible twos” started early in our house. Our now 20-month-old is a super genius. We’re just not quite sure if she’ll use her powers for good or evil.

    And I feel better that I’m not the only one getting head-butted by my child.

    Best new tool in her arsenal: the high-pitched and demanding “mom-EEEEEEEE” should I go out of sight. Seriously–I ducked down to get something off the bottom of the grocery cart, dictator lost eye contact and “mom-EEEEEEEEE” ensued until I popped back up.


  10. stumped_bowled says:

    I think we need to cut off their means of communication, obviously their calls all over the world are exchanging information on the best tactics to use….

    • andy says:

      Agreed. Playgrounds are probably not a good idea either. There should be an ordinance against public or private assembly so they can’t plot “off the grid” as well.

  11. MommaNix says:

    I love this post, because I see every single it of it in my own 4-year-old. I was blessed, he really missed the terrible twos. Then about 3.5 he suddenly turned into this little Jeckyl and Hyde beast, who goes from sweet angel and gets compliments for me all the time on my “great parenting skills” to being the crapmonsterdemonfromhell kid. I think if the world really wants to end terrorism we should start sending toddlers in to get after our suspects. None would survive the wrath if an episode of Rescue Heroes is missed…

  12. Annie says:

    Oh man I cannot stop laughing! I was a good kid so I swear I do NOT deserve a little terrorist! I am starting to think the only difference between her and Kim Jong Il is that she has not actually killed anyone. yet. At this point I may die of sleep deprivation. I was blessed with the toddler that does not seem to require any sleep. Oh and we have used a bungee cord to “lock” the fridge. The other day she stuck her bathroom stool in front of the fridge and unlocked it. She came and informed me of this right away. She was SO proud. Now I pray that she won’t feed the entire contents of the fridge to the dog in the few minutes that I am in the bathroom. *sigh*

  13. The Momarchy says:

    The child throwing a tantrum clearly needs time to “cool down” and their room is a perfect place for this. If they try to escape — well lets just say fear has a role in our development — it keeps us safe.

  14. I guess I have this to look forward too. Right now, my daughter is still in the arms flailing balance stage and the only real damage she can inflict is on a small tower of legos. And what makes you think the FBI wasn’t ALREADY tracking your every move?

  15. Desiree says:

    The good news is that when he’s older, you wont’ even remember this anymore…

    Sure, you say. No way. But my memories are so idyllic as to be impossible. Mothering instinct is to forget these moments. I can only assume fathers have the same. They do, after all, still agree to pay for college. And I wouldn’t pay for college for anyone I remember having kicked me THERE if I were you.

    According to mother nature, my children were amazing, never going through the terrible twos…

    Although every now and again, instinctive forgetfulness loses its hold and my real memories come back to me… I catch a snippet of being told never to come back to Wal-Mart, or of spending the day curled up in the playpen trying not to cry, or the time that my oldest bit my eye during a bad enough ragefest that my boss thought my husband beat me up the next day.

    But maybe the good news is just that as of right now, after surviving the struggle for control that everyone deals with, my children turned out amazing without any flaws at all. Or at least that’s what my mothering instinct tells me.

    Your dear boy will absolutely grow out of this. Treat him the way you would want to be treated, and he’ll come through just fine.

    Wouldn’t hurt to cut out all excito-toxins. Those things live up to their name.

  16. Amy says:

    When I had my daughter (my first kid) and she hit 2, I started complaining to her about the temper tantrums. And then she said, “Oh, honey, just wait: The threes are worse than the twos.”

    And I was all, yeah, right, what could be worse than this? Other than adolescence?

    She was right. Oh God, she was right.

    I’m pretty sure if I gave my 3.5-year-old cherub an Uzi right now, he’d mow down our entire state because his mac n’ cheese for supper had green bits in it.

  17. Amy says:

    Sorry — that first line should say “I started complaining to MY MOM.” Aaaaaaargh, lack of sleep!

  18. Stephanie K. says:

    Read this right after Braelyn went absolutely insane for my tooth brush while I was nursing Liam…when i finally got up to give it to her, she screamed and ran away crying…so confused…

    I will say one thing, however, that I’ve noticed helps a LOT. MORE FOOD! and I dont mean Snacks or sugar!!! The more protein I give my little terrorist, the less terrorism there is! I literally just gave her half a pound of cut up steak and she devoured it!! And now I’m making grilled cheese for her haha – and when she has sugar, even a little, I prepare myself for a horrific day…I obviously don’t know what Finn’s diet is so don’t know if this applies or not but, that’s how it works with Miss Braelyn…

  19. cupcake says:

    I think Desiree (at 1 p.m. yesterday) has it right. Like labor, the pain of toddler tantrums definitely fade from your memory after the kids move on a couple of developmental steps. It’s probably nature’s way of ensuring our willingness to deal with the extremes of behavior we are in for as our non-first babies (whom we would not have had if we’d remembered the pain of labor with any immediacy at all) move into toddlerhood.

    My sons are 21 and 15 now and I barely remember*** their tantrums, except as much-laughed-about anecdotes we relay to embarrass them… and to warn them about what they’re in for, should they have children of their own. In point of fact, my oldest son has already procreated and has his own 18-month-old daughter’s “antics” (such an innocuous word for terrorist activities, doncha think?) to look forward t in the very near future.

    *** unless I really focus… but who wants to remember wanting to kill oneself and/or one’s offspring? (ahem)

    • Annie says:

      three years later and I have not forgotten labor. I don’t see it happening. I mentioned this to my mother and she said it has been 26 years since she had my younger brother and she has still not forgotten the pain. I lack this ability to forget and I ask: WHY? 🙂

  20. Chris says:


    I though my 3 y/o was the only one to be such a terrorist.

    She is a clever, cunning, unpredictable mix of Hannibal Lecter, Ted Bundy and Mother Teresa. With pigtails.

    I really do not understand how she can go from the sweet little girl her Mom and I adore to this Kungfu villain (mule kicks to Daddy’s groin, y’all) in 0.5 seconds flat.

    Time-outs don’t work. Taking her favorite toys doesn’t work. I was brought up `old school`: with a belt whenever I stepped out of line. I do *NOT* want that for my daughter but I am afraid I am going have to do something I hate…

    `MommaNix` put it well. Send our toddlers after the bad guys. They’ll get taken care of. After Mom and I Dad have both gone mental and died of sleep depravation , that is.

  21. phill says:

    The post is a little old, but you just mentioned it on facebook, so I’ll liven up the thread.

    Honestly, I got completely distracted by your “intents and porpoises” joke/typo. Whichever it was it sent me after a webcomic I saw a while back which is almost never related to children.

    I liked “fist grenade” as well.

  22. Heather says:

    Ha! Nothing compared to the redheaded Aries we affectionately call “Tootie” (Ginny). This 17 month od terror is part banshee, part toddler extremist. If she doesn’t get her way in 2.5 seconds, she will elicit an ear piercing, glass shattering screech that will make you go blind. Yes, BLIND. This is quickly followed by flinging herself backwards with such force, I’m surprised we haven’t needed massive skull reconstruction. Oh, and god forbid you tell her “no”! Razor sharp nails (I know I cut them yesterday) will crisscross back and forth across your face, the likes of which would put Zorro to shame! She doesn’t sleep…she waits.

    Chuck Norris is terrified of her.

  23. Chris Iceman says:

    Hahahahah! I love this. My 4 yr old daughter’s the same way; of course, my 1 yr old son is learning from the best. Great; I should post a pic of him as Che and her as Fidel.

    But yeah, they resort to mass destruction if things aren’t done Burger King style – their way, right away.

    Slowly breaking them of that habit, though – kids that age just don’t have the coping tools we adults (mostly) have in situations that require patience and/or a different solution.

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