Free-For-All Friday – When Toddlers Go Into Deactivation Mode

As I am writing this my son playing happily at my feet, oh wait now he is pushing the dog off the lounge, and in the time it took me to write that he is now across the other side of the room pushing his brand new nano-bugs into the eye pieces of a pair of binoculars (“Son please don’t do that!”) Anyone that has a boy (or possibly any toddler) knows that they are not reknowned for their ability to perform any one task for an extended period of time.

I think in alot of ways, Son is like any other toddler, and then just when I think everything is going great – he goes into ‘Deactivation Mode’. When my daughter was a toddler I was fairly fortunate that she never really went through the screaming tantrum throwing performances some children are prone to. Son, however, loves a tantrum  – and his are way worse than the screaming hissy-fit kind.

When something occurs that my son is not happy with (and this can be anything from me not letting him have a piece of cheese, to him getting into trouble for throwing something at his sister, to me trying to make him go to the toilet BEFORE he brushes his teeth, heaven forbid!) he goes into the dreaded deativation mode. What this entails is him quite literally, collapsing onto the floor and failing to function for an unspecified period of time.

When Son is in deactivation mode he refuses to communicate, he doesn’t speak, he doesn’t make eye contact, he pretty much refuses to even acknowledge that you exist. Often he can be walking along – happy as anything and suddenly he falls (as if hit by a sniper) onto the ground and ‘Deactivates’.

Sometimes when he is in Deactivation Mode he is completely silent. Other times he cries and completely inconsolable – if you try to go anywhere near him to comfort him, he scoots away from you (many a time he has ended up under the bed where I can’t reach him). But he never has the full out screaming tantrums that you see on You Tube and most of the time Deactivation Mode occurs at home (I can only think of a handful of times where this has occurred in public). Still it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

My biggest problem is that because of this he is really difficult to disipline. With Daughter whenever she was out of line she was placed in time-out. Five minutes in the time-out corner and she was blubbering mess, voluntarily apologising and promising to never to it again (and for the most part she was good on that promise). But with Son, if you even try and place him in time-out he goes into Deactivation Mode (which you might think is great as effectively he puts himself in a time-out) but when the deactivation can go on for up to 2 hrs (yes that is right 2 hours!) I often end up apologising to him and comforting him because by that time we are half an hour late for dropping off Daughter at preschool!

Everything with Son is a negotiation, he just plain doesn’t cope with things not going his way. If he wants a piece of cheese before dinner but I say no, somehow he ends up with the piece of cheese sitting next to him on the table so he can eat it after dinner (he wins the small battle but I win the war). If I put on his undies only to find out that he wanted to do it – I take them back off and let him do it himself (is it really worth a 2 hr tantrum over who put his pants on?) I know I shouldn’t give in – but somedays it is just too difficult.

So, why am I telling you this? Well, I am wondering if this is normal for a two year old to be so stubborn, or do I need to go and get an appointment to see a behaviour specialist?

Would love to hear from you – maybe you could tell me stories of your toddlers chucking tantrums – it might just make me feel a bit better!

Jody Moller

[By the way – Son is now placing a plastic container over my head and telling me I am a robot – I guess I better go!]