I knew my toddler was growing up when she starting recognizing brand-name stores like Walmart. I was impressed that she was learning to visually classify the world around her.

After dropping off  her brother and sister to school in the morning, and a trip to the  gym, Walmart became a part of the daily routine.

My almost three-year-old got used to the idea that we would end up at one of these mega stores where just about anything from Frozen to My Little Pony would continuously flash before her marveling eyes.

Since she is the baby–my last–I would often buy her a little something at the check out line. I was trying to make it simple and small, reminding myself all-the-while–that there was NO WAY I was spoiling her.

And then something happened that seemed rather sweet at first.

She asked to go to Walmart while sitting in her high chair slurping pieces of spaghetti. Then she asked again in a matter-of-fact way, bright and early, at the playground.

Finally, the dark doom that is a tantrum occurred. It was an exasperating stop-drop-and-roll incident with uncontrollable tears, screams, and kicks. In short, it was a full fledged-horror show producing many gasps and glares from on-lookers.

“I want a diarrheaaaaa with a key chain (her way of saying diary), she screamed.

Whoa! It hit me; I created this. I had constructed the perfect, spoiled monster toddler. Like Pavlov, I had successfully trained  my daughter to respond to the stimuli I had created.

What was I to do? I started off by taking away the stimulus by not making my usual pit stops to any store. Did I really need  back up paper towels? Nah, I could do without it.

I began telling my toddler that it wasn’t her birthday or a special holiday. At first, of course, she didn’t get it.

Over time, and a lot of classical conditioning, she started understanding that a new toy would NOT be part of her daily routine.

With weeks of prompting, she learned to say:

“No more toys, it’s not my birthday, and I already have so many toys at home.

When she would occasionally slip back into her toddler tantrums, I would have to remind her that Elsa, Ana, and Olaf were waiting for her in her crib.

The only way this process would work,I found, was to remain extremely consistent.  Any wavering was a definite setback.  I couldn’t give in one day and expect she would adhere to the rules the next day.  After all, my behavior was training her behavior.

Over time, I had successfully reversed my Pavlovian-trained child.

I am hopeful that the spoiling has been undone, and  I will not experience another full-blown public tantrum (at least, until Frozen 2 comes out).

I’ve learned that it can be pretty darn easy to be swindled by a two-year-old. Sweet cheeks and doting eyes can reel you in faster than a used car sales man. But don’t let all that cuteness fool you otherwise you will have created the perfect spoiled monster, I mean toddler.

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