Toddlers are not unlike terrorists.
Toddlers are not unlike terrorists.


Thankfully, my toddler-rearing days are behind me.

When I see clusters of mums in  parks on sunny mornings, clutching takeaway coffees and opening Tupperware boxes of watermelon chunks I don’t think, ‘those were the days.’

No, I think, thank God that’s over.

At the time I enjoyed it. I thought my kids were the most beautiful, funny, intriguing little people ever put on the planet. And I was right, even though others were sometimes blind to their magnificence.

Of course, they weren’t perfect. Sometimes they would completely lose it. But when they did, it was never OVER NOTHING! Sometimes a truck wouldn’t move satisfactorily through a sandpit or I’d refuse to serve sauce with their peas. The trick was how to manage such crises. For a long time I managed very badly, because I was following the wrong advice – that of parenting experts who took the wussy approach of calming them down, and speaking quietly of ‘choices’ and ‘angry feelings,’ and gently diverting their attention in more positive ways.

Thanks for the parenting advice, Howard!
Thanks for the parenting advice, John Howard!

The advice I ended up following came not from child psychologists or early childhood teachers, but from world leaders. Specifically, George W Bush, Tony Blair and our own John Howard. Stay with me.

It was 2005, and my daughter was two-and-a-bit and at the peak of her toddler powers. She was refusing a bath and had gone limp in a deadweight manoeuvre much loved by political protesters and I was debating whether it was worth a back injury trying to move her.

I was about to attempt to bribe her with the offer of a Range Rover for her 18th when I heard Tony Blair’s defiant voice come from the television:

‘It is untrue that terrorists have no demands. They do. It is just that no sane person would negotiate on them.’

Do you see where I’m going with this? Replace the word, ‘terrorist’  with ‘toddler’ and you have parenting advice from the highest offices in the world. Check it out –

‘It is untrue that toddlers have no demands. They do. It is just that no sane person would negotiate on them.’  

Thank you, Tony.

There are many parallels to the modus operandi of the pissed off nearly-three year old and the political crazy.

1. Both carry out their attacks at a time and place that will cause maximum disruption to as many people as possible.

2. Bystanders are frequently caught in the chaos.

3. They have no respect for the schedules, beliefs and responsibilities of others.

4. It is impossible to prepare for or predict their actions.

5. Toddlers and terrorists both like backpacks.

Give in to their demands, and life... as you know it... will be over.
Give in to their demands, and life… as you know it… will be over.

6. Everyone, from governors to grandmothers will have an opinion on the way a toddler / terrorist situation was handled.

7. They are impossible to identify in a crowd. Toddlers and terrorists wear no uniform and work to no timetable.

The big one is this, and leaders of the free and smart parents know it:

8. Give in to terrorists’ or toddlers’ demands and life as you know it – or want it to be, will be over …

One day you’re making yourself late for work so Emma can watch the last five minutes of Peppa Pig and the next thing you know, you’re calling in sick because of the Peppa Pig mega-marathon.

It’s an odd situation – we value democracy at home and in public life, but it’s important to realise that democracy cannot flourish when we act on the demands of either toddlers or terrorists.

The difference, of course, is that (most) toddlers grow out of crazy, destructive unreasonableness. And, luckily… blessedly, they’re heartbreakingly cute. Otherwise who’d bother with them?

Have you had a toddler terrorist-like experience?

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