Narrowly Averted Disaster – Or What to Do When Your Toddler Almost Kills Your 4-month-old


OK, we knew it was going to happen some time.  We knew that at some point, the innocent helpfulness of our daughter was going to eventually result in an attempt on his life.   Well, it happened last night.  While my wife and I were eating, and my 4-month-old son was in his bouncer, my daughter (21 months) assumed that her brother was hungry too and should be eating.  So while my wife and I were talking about this and that, she proceeded to grab a bowl of little cheerio-sized Elmo snacks and, and happily walked over and began stuffing them in his mouth.  I looked over and didn’t see anything except a strange look on my son’s face.

“Honey – did DJ just spit up?  He looks like he’s got something on his chin.”  “OH LORD – SHE’S FEEDING HIM COOKIES!!!!”

Talking to my daughter while daddy feeds the baby.
Talking to my daughter while daddy feeds the baby.

We arrived just in time to grab him, turn him upside down and heimlich/back bash a number of smiley-faced cookies out of his oxygen-starved body, and (amazingly) he was smiling again within about 10 seconds.  My wife’s motherly dragon’s breath almost turned on my poor daughter, but she luckily instead just took him in the other room to settle down while I had a little talk with my daughter to explain to her things like “babies don’t have teeth” and things like that.

Luckily we decided to go rational with her rather than yell at her, as it’s just not worth it to punish kids into submission.  The quote I was actually thinking of after this incident happened says a lot:

“Therefore you will find some of your worst cases, in Child Dianetics, those children whose self-determinism has initially been undermined because by lack of skill and parental intolerance they have at the age of two or three broken things or cried a little loudly, and been punished. The child goes into revolt, the Gestapo up there at the top doesn’t like to be revolted against.

“This is actually a totalitarian regime. There’s no court, there’s no justice for a child. He has no recourse to law. He goes against totalitarianism and he gets slapped flat. So he revolts again and he gets slapped flat. And he revolts again and he gets slapped flatter. By the time this is kept up–this Tone Scale I was drawing on the board last night–he finally gets broken down.

“Well, when he’s sufficiently broken down so he’s about the most dangerous character you could look at, down inside, why, then they say he has now been given social graces.”

from lecture Processing Children in Research & Discovery Volume 3
15 July 1950


We really would much rather our daughter continue to have a genuine love for her brother, and not do bad things because she understands why they’re bad.  Oh-so-much better than her not doing things because she knows she’ll get smacked.


10 thoughts on “Narrowly Averted Disaster – Or What to Do When Your Toddler Almost Kills Your 4-month-old

    1. Kelly – scary, yes. Though I think it honestly is much scarier if we didn’t handle our daughter correctly. She really, honestly was trying to be helpful and feed him, and had no intention at all of hurting him. If we had come around and gotten mad at her, spanked her, yelled at her, or whatever – she’d then have the confusion of being yelled at for trying to help her brother. She’d then not feed him in the future for fear of getting strangely punished, rather than being able to logically figure out that he just doesn’t have teeth yet. So, hopefully, logic can win in the end and we’ll just be left with a daughter who still loves & wants to help her brother.

      1. Hey Tad – this is awesome. So glad you guys handled it sanely and wrote about it! Thanks for posting this.

        1. Thanks!

          Oddly enough, I had to fish your comment out of my spam queue. There are a bunch of bots that have innovative ways of saying, “…thanks for posting this…” to get you to think their comments are real. Luckily I know you! 🙂

  1. Tad,

    I love this. Very good handling, for you and your wife!

    Is this your website? I love it!

    Adrian will be four months on June 21st. When was DJ born?

  2. Nice handling! We had a very similar incident when our 4 year old was trying to be sweet and share a treat she’d gotten–Sweet Tarts–with her infant sister. Poor girl, after she saw the panic on our faces, the choking, and what we had to do to the baby to get the Sweet Tart to pop out of her throat (banging on her upside down and all), she felt so bad and was in tears. No scolding needed! On the contrary, we had to help her out! As you said, they just want to help and aren’t educated enough to know better yet. So we educate!

    1. Thank goodness this was little smiley cookies and not sweet tarts or fizzy pops or something terrible like that. Like your munchkin, Mackenzie was pretty shaken up that she had potentially done something to her brother, and likewise she indeed was the one more in need of “handling” afterwards.

    1. Yes – we’re trying to reserve dragon’s breath for only those situations that really merit it — and those are only when she’s in full-on reactive meltdown and can’t be reasoned with. And even that is 99% due to no sleep / no food / or a big poop that needs to happen.

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