Toddler Remorse / by Susie Lubell

I have a bachelor's degree in Psychology which I feel entitles me to coin psychological phenomena as I see fit. My toddler suffers from what I like to call "Toddler Remorse", a quizzical little syndrome whereby the afflicted chooses option A and the very next second regrets this choice with every fiber in his/her being wishing only for option B. Until option B is granted and then suddenly A becomes the favored option. This scenario has played out several thousand times in our household.

For a while, between age 24 months and 30 months, this back and forth was a regular part of every single day. Every action or choice was wrought with indecision, regret, remorse, and frustration. Something as simple as taking off pajamas turned into a heated exchange and finally an FBT (full blown tantrum).

Me: okay sweetie, please take off your pajamas
Him: No, mommy do it.
(I go to unzip)
Him: (hysterically) No, I do it!
Him: No, mommy do it!
Him: No, I do it!
Me: (leaving the room)
Him: (hysterically crying) MOMMY!!!!

Nighttime is the worst. He wanted a bath, he didn't want the bath. He wanted mommy to sing him songs, he wanted aba. He didn't want to go pee pee on the potty, he wanted to go pee pee but only with aba, ONLY WITH MOMMY, ONLY IN MY PULL-UP, WAAHHHHHHH!! You get the idea. The condition is worsened by sleepiness.

Even this evening, he asked me to take him to the bathroom to go pee pee but then he didn't want to go back to his room. I said he had to back so he insisted I carry him. I said he could hold my hand and walk with me. He insisted on being carried so I gave in. I carried him back to bed and then he said, "No I want to hold your hand!" So I had to then carry him back to the bathroom, specifically to the bath mat (you stand there mommy) so we could reenact the transaction that had occurred only one minute before. It's unnerving!

This pattern had gone on for many months (decision, remorse, reenactment) until I finally decided that the "do over" was fueling his remorse. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too. And I was his enabler. I actually made it possible for him to have it both ways. So I stopped giving into the "do over". And over the past few weeks I've seen a significant improvement in his "condition". Of course, today I acquiesced his need to reenact, because I was tired and it was late so naturally tomorrow he'll be filled with Toddler Remorse and I'll have only myself to blame. I tell you though it is a powerful tool, to be able to go back and set the record straight. Unfortunately it's not something that gets to happen a lot in the adult world. Better to learn that lesson early. Sometimes I could use a parenting "do over". I would have nipped this little behavior in the bud months ago - save my son and myself a lot of future therapy.