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Once my 5 year old loses it, I can't get things back under control

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
How do you rein things in before they get out of control? DD just freaked out for about 20 minutes because I would not get her a black permanent marker to draw with. She just screams in my face over and over "I want a black marker!!!!I want a black marker!!!!!!ARRRRRRGGGGGGG!!" and fake cries as well.

We went through 3 alternative markers, I marched her into her room 2 x and she came back out 2 x just to melt down again because she couldn't let it go. I just put her back in her room for the third time and I keep telling her that we "don'ts scream and cry to get what we want." which is what I think she does. She just screams louder and louder in my face and it is SO HARD for me not to really lose my temper.

I feel like 5 is big for this. Maybe she is just immature. I am very nice in the beginning, when I have to explain that we don't have/she can't have something that she wants. I get less nice the longer she screams in my face.

I have been really on her diet the last few weeks, making sure it is low sugar and high in protein and good fats and that seems to really help but I can't get her to eat once she melts down like this, and she had just had some cheese shortly before the meltdown.

My mom yelled at me and was very scary on occasion--I don't want to be like that, but I just can't get her to calm down and listen, and I can't get her to leave me alone either. I would appreciate any advice in how to get over this because I hate it.

PS-in the time that I wrote this she came back out of her room and is now happily working on her project using glitter glue instead. All sunshine and light now.
post #2 of 43
My 3.5 y.o. girl is like this. Food is definitely a trigger for her. If her blood sugar gets low, and something sets her off, it's "goodbye senses". There's no talking to her, there's nothing we can do. If we try to pick her up, she tries to rip our eyes out! She shrieks and screams like crazy. After a while, she calms down and is, like you said Sunshine and Light.

For us, she's had these kinds of screaming episodes since she was a little baby. It's really hard not to yell back, or hold her tight when she hits (to hold her arms or legs so she doesn't keep hitting/kicking). We just try to talk to her, but most times it does no good, we just have to wait for it to pass. So she'll writhe around on the floor and scream scream scream, or come and hit us.

We try the "just lay on your bed for a little bit until you calm down" but then she thinks we're giving her a time out and she hates that. Such a strong-willed little thing!

I also don't want to be like my mom, I can remember her being mad at us, and I really don' t want to be that way with my sweet little girl! [takes deep breath]
post #3 of 43
My almost 5 year old is going through an emotionally fragile phase right now. She gets upset easier and more intensely lately. The anger part is already getting a bit better. We usually just talk very quietly, getting quieter when she gets louder. We still sympathize that she's angry or sad, but I have said "it's ok to be angry but it's not ok to act mean because you're angry". I also suggest that my DD might want to go to her room until she's calmer. Sometimes she goes off by herself when she's angry, on her own. We've never 'made' her do anything for being angry or 'sent' her to her room.

It's probably just a phase with your DD too. Kids seem to go through periods of being more emotional at least once a year. This time last year it was a spurt of independence and then a couple of months of bossiness. It's probably from hormonal and brain chemistry changes that occur as children develop.
post #4 of 43
Thread Starter 
I don't know--she was a very, very easy baby and then as soon as she turned 3 she started having major tantrums and I feel like two years later I still have not figured out how best to handle them. It is really almost impossible for me to stay calm and speak gently to her during them--I can take it for the first five minutes and then I just melt down too. And I'm sure that's just fuel for the fire, but I just don't know how to stop it all. I went outside to walk the dog today, to just walk away from it and not engage, and she came out and screamed in the driveway.
post #5 of 43
I don't have advice but I am happy to see that other parents go through the same thing. My 5 yo still loses it regularly. I also think its a blood sugar issue but it used to be compounded by chronic sleep problems.

I still don't know how to handle it to "make it go away" other than waiting it out and not freaking back on her.
post #6 of 43
Have you read Kids, Parents and Power Struggles by Mary Kurcinka? I find her books really useful. I've read her Raising Your Spirited Child too. If you've been going through 2 years of tantrums without discovering how to help your DD work through them maybe you need a different approach. The book is focuses on temperament and also getting at the real underlying emotional causes of conflict and misbehavior. Both books really helped me understand my child. I've found the books at two libraries.

One small thing that helps me is to remember not to take misbehavior personally, not to let behavior that is normal annoy me too much. It's so much easier to not let normal baby behavior annoy us than it is to not let normal toddler and child behavior annoy us.
post #7 of 43
Thread Starter 
I read the Kurcinka Power Struggles book and my biggest take home was that she is very process oriented--we have a much smoother time if I tell her mid-task "we're leaving in a bit so what do you need to do to finish your project?" and then help her. There was a bit of that going on yesterday--she was working on a project for her dad (a green glitter glue heart stuck to constructon paper for his office) and she needed black permanent marker. I didn't have one and no subs are acceptable.

What else did you get out of the Kurcinka? I do feel like I've been doing the same things for two years and it's not helping. It's like her cue of "I've gone too far!" is so far beyond what I can handle, if that makes sense. I'm not sure this is normal behavior at five.
post #8 of 43
My opinion on tantrums is that they have them until they've learned a few things through them, largely two things: unconditional love, and futility. At 5, I'm guessing she knows that people keep loving pepole while they're angry (which is a more complex idea than it appears on the surface), but I would try to remain empathatic and loving through her tantrums anyway. It's scary for kids who don't know that because when they're angry, they aren't actively feeling loving, and they don't necessarily understand that they really do still love us when they feel so upset. Again, at 5, that might very well not be the problem, which is probably why a lot of kids stop having tantrums before that age. But the other half is that she needs to learn the concept of futility, that some things don't go how we'd like them to go regardless of how much we wish they would, regardless of how much we fuss, regardless of how much our parents wish they would. So really all you can do is wait out the tantrum, empathize with her (I wish black permament black markers were OK to draw with) and then give her love when she's done with her tantrum and help her see that everything is OK even when you don't get the black marker you want. Trying to find other markers or fix the problem doesn't help her if the issue is that she hasn't learned that some things are futile and not fixable. Not all kids are finished with tantrums at 3 or 4. 5 is within the realm of normal.
post #9 of 43
Originally Posted by madskye View Post
she had just had some cheese shortly before the meltdown.
Although this behavior can be normal, I do know a child who goes into incredible rages when eating dairy products, gluten, or other allergens.
post #10 of 43
No advice but a LOT of sympathy. I too had an fairly easy baby and a nightmare time ages 3-5. It got a little better for awhile, but at 7.5 it's now really bad for us. I'm reading The Explosive Child right now and I think she has a lot of inflexible-explosive traits. Am ready to call a child psychologist or play therapist. My child just does not switch gears or transition well at all.

Anyway, the book is helping me see that she might not necessarily be well in control of things by the time it escalates to tantrum and no amount of punishment/reward will change that. Author makes a comparison that to being playing professional basketball. Like even if he got the salary (reward) that wouldn't make him capable of playing at that level.
post #11 of 43
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the replies.

Part of me feels like she just needs to make a jump in maturity but the other part of me worries if I don't get through to her somehow this will just get worse. Ellien, does the Explosive Child give you any advice on how to get through the tantrum or not so much? My patience just feels depleted at this point and there are days when I just start yelling back and I know that's just dumb.

Mamazee, I think you are right that she needs to understand futility. Her BFF gets it. Whenever they play together she'll say "You get what you get and you don't get upset!" and then they both laugh.
post #12 of 43

My 5 yo is the exact same way. I don't see any other 5yos acting this way so I worry about it. I'm glad you posted this.
post #13 of 43
Originally Posted by madskye View Post
Ellien, does the Explosive Child give you any advice on how to get through the tantrum or not so much? My patience just feels depleted at this point and there are days when I just start yelling back and I know that's just dumb.
I'm only through the first 4-5 chapters, but I think it's long on prevention rather than what to do during.

I SO understand. I feel SO triggered when she starts screaming and melting down. Like I've created a monster and what will she be like as a teenager. The noise level and the screaming just prevents ME from thinking clearly about what to do. Then I get angered and I'm essentially melting down. It's like I can hold it together for a little while, but not as her tantrum escalates.

What I can say about the book is it advocated that these kinds of kids ALREADY know the tantrum is futile and they are ALREADY motivated not to have them, but lack "executive functioning" in figuring out what to do in the midst of frustration. So rewards/punishments (additional motivation) aren't helpful in these kinds of children. If they could do better, they WOULD be doing better, but this is all they got at the moment.

At least I can reframe the problem instead of feeling like I've created a monster who will only get worse. I don't know - I'm at the point now where I feel like it's my fault for being too lenient and giving her too many choices but the book author really sees it differently. My child IS hard to transition, and she can get fixated on an idea and she does have the beginnings of some other obsessions (saves EVERYTHING - gum wrappers, paper scraps, toy packaging, and wants to bring a LOT of things with her to school or anywhere else).
post #14 of 43
Thread Starter 
My DH seems better able to defuse the tantrums than I can. He tells her to take deep breaths and TALK to him. I never remember to do that, because I am too reactionary.

Ok, that is what I am going to try this afternoon (she's been melting down after school pretty regularly). I am going to ask her to breathe and try to figure out a solution together to whatever comes up.

Wish me luck.
post #15 of 43
good luck. My DH is better with her than I am, too, during a tantrum. I think he can muster a LOT more empathy than me.
post #16 of 43


Edited by cotopaxi - 3/19/11 at 8:08pm
post #17 of 43
I feel like 5 is big for this. Maybe she is just immature. I am very nice in the beginning, when I have to explain that we don't have/she can't have something that she wants. I get less nice the longer she screams in my face. >>>>

It sounds like the problem is you don't like her reaction. Even at 5 kids can still lose it sometimes even as they get older too. If you can't keep calm when she screams in your face than move. Tell her you'll be back after you've done some "time out" for yourself. Remind yourself she is not out to get you and needs love and help even when she's tantruming-it's hard but well worth it in the end.
post #18 of 43
Thanks to all of the mamas who have written here-it is so helpful just to know that others are dealing with similar issues.

DD is 5.5 and she does tantrum as well. If it isn't the tantruming, it is sassiness or hitting her brother (20months). Now he has taken to hitting, which is so heartbreaking to me at this age but he sees it so I think it's normal. Our standard "We don't hit/No hit, Give love" is repeated many times a day now with both children!

I have been concerned with DD's aggressive disrespectfulnes in the home. Our values as a family are: Love, Respect, Teamwork, Order and Freedom. We try to be really intentional with her by having a good structure at home (not rigid, but something she can plan on), good nutrition, fresh air, etc. I really need to have more empathy with her when she does these behaviors b/c I feel so frustrated and beaten down that I just want to walk away and know that she needs attention at that point!

Also, we have recently found out that DS has several food allergies so we will be getting DD tested within the year. We want to rule that out so we can focus on what is true.

Thanks again for all of your good thoughts! I am savoring an hour in a quiet house and it is wonderful!!!!

post #19 of 43
Seriously, Heather, we've got parallel families... just add the infant to ours. Do you think she's tired from kindy? I know that it's been a tough adjustment for us (thus, no return email from me this past week!), and even though Lu says she's not tired, I know she is. And, yes, DH is a better tantrum defuser than I am.

I don't know what to say. Just commiseration.
post #20 of 43
My 5yo doesn't tantrum. I say that not to give my suggestion more weight, but to explain that my situation is different. I do know that when she gets tired, she gets very emotional. A tiny thing will set her off and she will cry and cry and cry tears of total sadness. A recovery is almost impossible. Prevention is key.

BUT, another thing that has helped her tremendously is to talk about it at other times. We talk about things I notice in her, and I remind her of examples. So, when I know she's tired, I remind her that it will be easier to cry, and it's just because she's tired. So, we should probably wait to do x until morning when she'll be more up for it.

We've had discussions like that about other things, and a little reminder is all she usually needs now. I can just say, like before we start an activity, "I know that we haven't had lunch yet, and you are probably feeling hungry. It's probably going to be harder to be nice to your brother while we do x. Do you think you can do it, or should we wait until later?"

Since your dd seems to meltdown often, I would talk about ways to handle conflict, etc, and then put the ball in her court. I would tell her how her screaming makes me feel, and I would set some boundaries for myself. I would give her a heads-up and a reminder before we started an activity, and ask her if she's up for it. If she isn't, we'd move on. If she says she IS, then the consequence for rage would be putting whatever it is away. No amount of screaming and tears would change my mind. The lesson would NOT be "you get stuff taken away if you throw a fit", but "I love you too much to let you be so upset about this. You were not ready, so we need to try another day." Heavily emphasized.

My goal is to teach her to work with herself. We all have boundaries, and we all need to know when to pull in the reins.
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