or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Gentle Discipline › Help!! I am losing patience with my 4 1/2 year olds drama
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Help!! I am losing patience with my 4 1/2 year olds drama

post #1 of 86
Thread Starter 

My son will be 5 in January. He was a sweet, caring, thoughtful, energetic little man. He also loses his little mind over almost anything that does not go his way. He screams and cries at the top of his lungs, lays down on the floor and carries on and on and on. I have tried coaching him through it: take a deep breath, relax, use your words, etc. I have walked away because it literally makes my ears throb. I have even been taking him to his room so that he can be in a quiet place to calm down and regroup (which actually seems to work pretty well in calming him down). But, i am looking for coping mechanisms. Now, he only does this at home. It isn't something that happens at school. Here is an example of what happened this morning. I'm half awake and he is requesting waffles for breakfast while he watches his favorite tv show (i know that isn't ideal but that is another thread). Apparently, today he wanted just one without syrup. I didn't hear that part. I gave him two with syrup and he fell apart. All was wrong in his world. I am so losing my patience with this and my husband is completely done with it.

Any suggestions?

post #2 of 86

Honestly, my first suggestion, before anything else, would be to change what he gets for breakfast.  If my dd has a breakfast based on grains, let along with syrup, her behavior is bad all day.  If she has a breakfast based on protein, like eggs, her behavior is remarkably better, all the way to and including bedtime.  It just sets her up right for the day.  But your ds sounds very much like how my dd behaved before I switched from cereal to eggs for breakfast.  Diet makes a really huge impact on behavior.

post #3 of 86

Say:  "Sorry, but I didn't hear you.  It isn't the end of the world, so eat your waffles or not."  Walk away.  Stay away.  41/2 is old enough for some semblance of self control, and going on and cooking more syrupless waffles simply reinforces that having a screaming fit gets results.  He will eventually stop screaming.  Turn off the lights and TV as you leave the room. 

 

When he is done pitching a fit, tell him that you will entertain changes in food, but only if he asks you in a respectful manner.

 

Who is the parent, after all?  If you didn't know more than he does, you wouldn't be in charge.  So.....

post #4 of 86

I would simply say "well here are your waffles. Eat them or don't." And I would disengage.

 

I can understand turning off the TV but the lights? Why make an upset kid sit in the dark? Turning off the lights is punitive. I don't think there is anything wrong with helping him handle disappointment within the framework of realizing that food is often an easy way for a child to have some control over his environment.

 

I also agree with Mamazee that I too would offer an egg instead of a high sugar start to the day. I think we all do better with a more protein rich breakfast.

post #5 of 86
Thread Starter 

I guess i'm looking for preventative measures cause trust me, i do all of those things. i have tried everything. i absolutely do not give into fits, the more he screams the more i dig into not giving him what he is screaming about. clearly, the consequence of not getting what he wants does not seem to be getting through to him. and usually he has peanut butter toast and a banana for breakfast. waffles is occasional.

post #6 of 86

Don't think you can prevent the fit-pitching except by making it totally non-productive.  Then it eventually extinguishes itself.

post #7 of 86

Some of that is normal for that age, but if you think its over-the-top and occurs multiple times daily, you might try reading "The Explosive Child." Some children have more than average difficulty in being flexible, in adjusting to things not being exactly like the picture in their head, and have very low tolerance for frustration. The book can help you formulate a plan for dealing with the behaviors - its more than just a simple matter of not giving in to tantrums. Its also typical for these children to be able to hold it together at school but not at home - this does not indicate that he has self-control over the meltdowns or that he can simply choose to stop behaving as he does.

post #8 of 86

It sounds to me like he continues to scream because he doesn't feel heard, especially if you are turning off the TV (why do this?  what does it have to do with the issue at hand?) or leaving the room. When he begins to get upset, can you "translate" his screams for him by making empathy guesses:  "Oh, you sound really sad!  Are you upset because you didn't get what you wanted?  It sounds like you're disappointed that your breakfast wasn't the way you were expecting.  It can be really disappointing when we think we're going to get something and it doesn't happen.  Do you want to tell me what you'd like me to do differently next time?"  I'm not saying that you have to bring him a new breakfast or do over whatever was done wrong.  But you can let him know that you hear his disappointment and would like him to let you know how it could be better next time.  

 

I don't think this is unreasonable behavior for a 4.5yo.  Strong emotions are hard to control and express in a constructive way at any age--when someone makes you really mad, it's hard not to raise your voice or use hurtful words.  It's hard to instead be vulnerable and admit to being hurt. 

 

My son is just about a month older than yours, and we deal with this sort of situation all the time.   They're still young, still learning how to navigate in a world where they often don't have power or choice!  The only difference is, my son doesn't need to escalate his behavior because rather than seeing it as a power struggle or thinking of him as being manipulative, I make sure I've heard clearly what the upset is about, and give him the tools to express himself in a different way.

 

I see a lot of PPs have advised not "giving in" to the tantrum.  In my experience, this only makes a stressful situation worse.  Basically you're telling an upset child that you don't care about what they're crying about, that their feelings and needs are less important than your need to "control" your child's behavior.  I don't see my methods as "giving in."  I see them as working together to meet everyone's needs so we can all be less stressed and have a better time of it.

 

If we model compassion and understanding, they WILL get it someday.

post #9 of 86
Thread Starter 

lizajane, i do try to talk with him about it but it still escalates the situation. and when he is calm i try to talk to him about it and he tries to get out of it. i did talk with him about what happened this morning, this afternoon. i do think you are right with the not feeling heard part. he often will say "you didn't let me talk", i mean cry, which is frustrating in itself because he won't let me talk! but then when i do stop and ask what he wants to say he says he can't say it anymore. which is frustrating. i'm trying but it doesn't seem to be helping.

post #10 of 86

Maybe focus more on hearing him, rather than on talking with him about it?  Sometimes when I want to have a talk with my son at a time when emotions aren't running so high, he thinks he's "in trouble."  When I asked him once what that means, he said "You're going to talk and talk."  So, he thinks a talk is being in trouble and thus doesn't want to participate.

 

I start by asking him if he's worried he's going to be in trouble, and reassuring him that he's not; that I want to talk because I love him and want us to be able to understand one another. I bring the subject up in a way that lets him know I'm firmly on his side.  For instance, "You were so sad this morning when I brought your breakfast and it wasn't the way you wanted it.  Do you want to tell me about it?"  Or, "I want to be sure we can get your breakfast right tomorrow.  Is there anything I should know before I start making it?"  That way the ball is in his court, so to speak.  He gets to "go first" and let out everything he has festering or express needs that are still unmet.  Once you've reflected back to him what you heard and made sure you heard him correctly, you could ask him if he's ready to hear how you feel about it.  If he's not, respect that and ask again if there's something more he wants to say. 

 

When it's your turn, focus on needs and feelings.  "I felt so frustrated this morning because I wanted to help you but I didn't know how.  I feel yucky when I'm being yelled at.  When I hear yelling I want to cover my ears--and then I feel sad because I can't hear you and help make things better.  Now that you've told me what was wrong, I'd like to try again tomorrow because I want everyone in the family to get their needs met if possible."

 

Of course this isn't a magic bullet or an instant cure.  Like anything we do with our kids, it takes time for them to get it and be able to implement it themselves.  As I said in my earlier post, if we can model compassion we will eventually see it in our children too.  If we refuse to hear their requests because they're not expressed the way we want them to be, we're modeling that trying to express your needs will only cause others to isolate you and withdraw their love--and it will never teach them what we really want them to learn.

post #11 of 86

 

Quote:

I would simply say "well here are your waffles. Eat them or don't." And I would disengage.

 

 

 

 This.  I have a 5 yo DD who will get upset over things and refuse to tell me why.  We'll be going along just fine, and all of a sudden she's huffing and sighing and slamming things around and scowling at me, but getting her to verbalize what is wrong is nearly impossible (and trust me, this kid is capable of a HIGH level of verbalization when she feels like it).  Any perceived injustice and there she goes. 

 

What has worked well for us is to just stop providing an audience for the drama.   If she starts huffing and sighing and won't tell me what is wrong, I calmly say, "Okay, well I'm here when you're ready to talk about it." and busy myself elsewhere.  If she starts to tantrum, she goes to her room with the door shut until she can be calm again.  If she comes out before then, I return her to her bedroom, close the door, and walk away.  Sometimes I have to do this a few times before she'll stay.  I find it helpful in this instance to make sure I am occupied in something else and that she is not deterring me, for example if I was doing the dishes, I put her back in her room, wordlessly, and walk back toward the dishes, even if I have to turn around halfway to the sink and return her to her room.  Even standing outside her closed door is engagement with this child.  She'll stay in her room and scream for a while, then she'll come out and ask for a hug, which is her 'olive branch'.  We have a cuddle.  Sometimes she'll tell me what the problem was.  Sometimes she won't. 

post #12 of 86

your son sounds a lot like my almost 5 (in december) year old dd.  i also vote to disengage and leave the room or "help" him to his room to calm down.  not having an audience is very important to dd.  also, we talk a lot about her bahvior after the fact. so, i know that for her, she just has very strong emotions that she really struggles to control. but she also knows that it is inappropriate to yell/scream/carry on like she does. and a lot of this is also as a pp said - not having the maturity and ability to verbalize the feelings/issues and feeling very very strong emotions

 

the biggest thing that has helped has been really making sure she is sleeping enough.  when she is well rested, she can handle the ups and downs of every day better.  when she is tired, watch out world.  it hasn't totally extinguished it, but it does help a lot.

 

also, if it is something that i know before hand will set her off (like dinner plans changing when she was excited about them) i will talk her through it.  it does often help.  otherwise, if it is something i didn't catch (like the waffles) i will just disengage and later talk about ways she could have asked respectfully and explaining that i didn't hear her and that it was not respectful for her to treat me that way. 

 

we also spend a lot of time talking about different ideas that are the foundation of her being upset.  for example - sometimes she will flip out about not having the pink "thing" that she wants. we have talked about how having a certain color doesn't mean anything about who you are or what you like, it just means you got stuck with the blue fork or the orange paper.  Or if she is upset because the clothes she wants to wear aren't clean that day, we have talked about how sometimes you don't get to wear your favorite clothes, you jsut have to wear what is clean or seasonally appropriate - and that it doesn't mean anything about you personally, it just means that your pink leggings were dirty adn your brown ones were clean.  of course, we have talked about these things after the fact, but now we have talked about it so much that when i see that look in her eye i can start reminding her about those concepts adn she calms down.

 

i read part of the explosive child, i found it helpful, and it helped me come up with those strategies i talked about above.  the main focus of the book is to discuss strategies with your child once they are calm to be used the next time they are freaking out.   

post #13 of 86
Thread Starter 

hereis another example. let's say i am talking on the phone with my husband and he and i are wrapping up 'cause hubby has a meeting to go to and i say "ok goodbye" and i hang up at the very same moment he asks to talk to his dad. then he realizes i hung up and freaks out. even if it is a simple fix, like, i can call him back, no big deal. but he still carries on and on and on.

post #14 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by kindacrunchy View Post

hereis another example. let's say i am talking on the phone with my husband and he and i are wrapping up 'cause hubby has a meeting to go to and i say "ok goodbye" and i hang up at the very same moment he asks to talk to his dad. then he realizes i hung up and freaks out. even if it is a simple fix, like, i can call him back, no big deal. but he still carries on and on and on.


Slow down the process and start with empathy, without going into reassurances that it's a simple fix.  If you're telling him that you can call back, that it's a simple fix, that once he calms down you'll dial--then you're not hearing his upset.  In fact you're basically telling him that his feelings aren't valid at all.  Give ONLY empathy, until he feels heard: "OH NO!  You really wanted to talk to Papa, and I hung up before you got to!  That's so disappointing!"  Repeat some version of this until he calms down.  There's no need to "fix" the problem until he's sure you heard him!  Once he's calm, you can ask if he'd like to hear some solutions--or if you think he's ready, simply say that you're willing to call back if he'd still like a chance to talk.

 

Of course, if this is a common scene you could avoid it by asking, before you hang up, if DS would like to talk with his dad.  Or check in with DS before you even call, so you can let DH know that when you're done DS would like to talk.

post #15 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzzylogic View Post

Don't think you can prevent the fit-pitching except by making it totally non-productive.  Then it eventually extinguishes itself.



I agree completely.

 

Get the Tv out of the picture and try some protein in the morning, too. My son is much better if he's had eggs or oatmeal than plain bread-y things.

post #16 of 86


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by philomom View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzzylogic View Post

Don't think you can prevent the fit-pitching except by making it totally non-productive.  Then it eventually extinguishes itself.



I agree completely.

I have to say, this doesn't fit with my vision of AP.  This sounds like CIO for the older set, and doesn't feel gentle to me.  The basic idea is the same as CIO: ignore the crying and it will eventually stop.  Sure, but at what cost?  It isn't teaching the child a better way to communicate, it's only teaching them that their needs will not be met unless they're expressed in a way that meets adult approval.  The child may be "demanding" a new waffle, but the adult is also demanding that the child speak in a certain way.  The adult is doing exactly what they're asking the child NOT to do!  I think the only way to get them to speak the way you'd like is to model it, yes, over and over again.
 

post #17 of 86

nak

 

my dd1 is 5 in april.  she is dramatic too sometimes.  i tend to state fact (you asked for waffles, i made waffles) and then be available but disengaged until she calms down.  her dad (xp), sits and talks and empathises and tries to solve/fix/augment.  she is WAY more resilient around me.  obviously she's only one child, not every child.  

 

I'm pretty sure the harm of CIO results from the baby being unable to find you, unable to communicate its need and unable to do anything to help itself.  the same definitely cannot be said for my 4yo!  and tbh i don't want her to realise i will listen for 50mins how heartbroken she was that i cut her toast into squares rather than triangles, i want her to realise it's a very minor thing in the grand scheme, and eat her toast.  

 

when something serious happens i will talk for longer, it's not like i dismiss every time she's upset as drama, but i think my response SHOWS her perspective.  Your toast is the wrong shape?  oh well.  you're missing your non-resident father?  I'm sorry, you'll see him tomorrow, you want to phone him?  Your relative died?  Yeah that's terrible, and we're all feeling it to some degree, want to hug and revisit the topic as often as necessary?

 

ymmv, i guess it depends on whether one feels one's kids are looking for external guidance on scales of hardship and perspective or just a relentlessly empathic person to hear their every ill as if all were equally tragic.

post #18 of 86

Making the tantrum non-productive doesnt' have to mean basically CIO for the older set.  You can disengage in a respectful and gentle way.  "You didn't want syrup on your waffles.  What should we do about that?"  *tantrum*  "OK, well let me know when you decide whether you just want that waffle or a new one without syrup."  And then don't get involved with the tantrum.  We don't always help tantrums by staying involved, and we can feed the emotional state by getting upset too.  I really think in a lot of cases it's best to just disengage, not abandon but not get emotionally involved and invested in it.  Just let the tantrum go.

post #19 of 86

Okay.  I have a different tack.

 

I find that DD1 screams and has fits when:

 

1.  She is very hungry.  I.e. before she's eaten.  The best thing I can do is have a healthy snack ready for her when she wakes.  I'm up first but can you leave some nuts and dried fruits out for him to get when he wakes?

 

2.  She has to pee but either doesn't know it, or is ignoring it.  :irked  Honestly, there's not a lot I can do about that, except making sure that I treat lightly before the morning pee, or if I know she probably has to go, LOL.  I might suggest it, like, "Hey, why don't you take baby pee and go pee and then we'll have this snack..."

 

3.  She is very tired.  Then, my disengagement with the fit goes like this:  "You just sound exhausted.  I'm taking you to bed for your own good."  Yes, she still has a fit but she usually falls asleep for a nap or night very quickly if she's *that* tired.

 

Ignoring fits in my house doesn't "work" because she follows me around and tries to escalate things if I totally ignore her.  :shrug  I guess other kids didn't think of that?  I don't know.  I always wonder what disengagement looks like with normal people.  With me, it looks like a locked door.  If she starts trying to disrespect my body or our property, I tell her she needs to leave and I do lock the door if she doesn't stay out until calm.

 

I don't think these totally prevent tantrums but they lessen them and then at least I feel like I'm being composed, that there are consequences she can learn from (you don't do that to people and stay in the same room with them), and yet, I am not being unreasonable.  Which is what I want.

post #20 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by lizajane30 View Post


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by philomom View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzzylogic View Post

Don't think you can prevent the fit-pitching except by making it totally non-productive.  Then it eventually extinguishes itself.



I agree completely.

I have to say, this doesn't fit with my vision of AP.  This sounds like CIO for the older set, and doesn't feel gentle to me.  The basic idea is the same as CIO: ignore the crying and it will eventually stop.  Sure, but at what cost?  It isn't teaching the child a better way to communicate, it's only teaching them that their needs will not be met unless they're expressed in a way that meets adult approval.  The child may be "demanding" a new waffle, but the adult is also demanding that the child speak in a certain way.  The adult is doing exactly what they're asking the child NOT to do!  I think the only way to get them to speak the way you'd like is to model it, yes, over and over again.
 



Her son has turned into a little tyrant and you want her to "baby" him some more? No wonder AP parents get bad raps!

She is doing no one a favor by encouraging him to act this way.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Gentle Discipline
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Gentle Discipline › Help!! I am losing patience with my 4 1/2 year olds drama