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what do you do with frustration tantrums?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

My just turned 6 year old is getting out of control with tantrums.  (He also cannot seem to follow the simplest directions, but thats another topic).  Anyway...  he cannot handle ANY frustration whatsoever...  and I don't know how to help it.  We ended up screaming at each other today and I just ...  I don't know.


He has quiet time every day (it used to be naptime, now he plays quietly in his room while i get his brothers to sleep).  I usually either give him something to do, or let him pick something to bring with him...today was gears.  He was happy for about 30 sec, then screaming out for me.  I called back to him that I had just started getting his brother to sleep and would be in as soon as I could...he got louder.  Then he started pounding on his door and throwing his toys around.  I tried to keep cool, but I lost it...stormed to his room and took away all things he'd thrown at the door, screamed for him to be quiet and shut the door again.  I calmed down after 30 sec, knowing that wasn't how i wanted to leave things and went back in...it literally took me 15 minutes to get him to calm down.  All because 2 of his gears wouldn't go together the right way (the gears were still in the hall... )  I tried explaining, hugging, etc...  it takes FOREVER and nothing really works well.


I don't want to keep him from being frustrated, but really....  how do I help him cope with it AND keep my sanity?

(I've tried reading that book about the spirited child? by mary something... and none of the descriptions really fit him...  )

post #2 of 16

lurk.gif Similar to our situation with our daughter but no throwing just major upsets that can last a whole day once her mood is ruined.

post #3 of 16

Alright let's address you first. Next time you reach that intense feeling turn the other direction and walk away. Let your kiddo freak out in his room and throw his toys for a few minutes while you go somewhere and find your center, take deep breaths, scream, hit a wall or have a glass of wine. Then when you are ready come back. It will help if he sees that you are handling your emotions. Start by getting onto his level and calmly ask him why he is so upset and what you can do to help. If he tells you that he is mad with his gears then pick up the gears and ask if he would like you to help him with them. If he does not want help and he is still upset take him to a change of venue and give him a completely new path. For example when my daughter Lil (three who has some epic meltdowns) was really upset about not being able to dress her doll without help , we left her doll and the living room, went to the dining room and colored. When she came back to the living room I showed her how to clothe her doll again. Sometimes she doesn't want to leave her toy that she is upset about so we take it with us and have it help us color, etc. The most important thing is you and your mentality going into this. Most people find it helpful if they are in a good mental state before they tackle any issue and issues with children are no different.  I hope this helps and please know that we have all been there you are connected to all of the mothers that have gone through or are going through this now.



post #4 of 16

Oh my goodness, we have had major tantrums with my 3-year-old lately. I have a book called the Science of Parenting that talks a lot about the brain chemistry (and promotes cosleeping, not letting baby cry, etc). It says there are two types of tantrums - distress tantrums, when a child's fear, rage or separation systems are activated, and Little Nero tantrums, where a child is trying to contol/manipulate. (It sounds like your son has the first - he's genuinely frustrated and hurting that he can't make his toy work). With the first, the child needs extra love and attention, and it says to avoid time-outs or separation. Instead, recognize their emotion and help them deal with it. So you might give him a hug and say, 'it sounds like you're frustrated that your gears aren't working. i would love to help you with that just as soon as i get baby brother to sleep. why don't you look at the book while you're waiting?' With the other kind if tantrum, it says to ignore.


I will say that the first approach doesn't always work at diffusing the tantrum if I don't get it right away. Sometimes my daughter is just too wound up, or she doesn't want a hug or anything. In those cases (which are frequent), if she won't accept a hug, I'll say, 'Ok, I'm so sorry that you're upset right now and I will be glad to help you calm down if you let me. Since you're not, you need to go in your room until you feel calm and ready to play nicely.' This is our version of time-out (which we don't call time-out anymore). A lot of times, if she gets upset or does something she know she shouldn't, she'll run there herself, and after a few minutes she's either settled down and will ask "I'm calm now. Can I come play?" Or else she just plays happily in her room and the storm has passed. I hope this is helpful to you.


Also, if you want a laugh about the struggles of parenting, check out my blog - http://ladynamedcarlos.blogspot.com/


Good luck mama!


post #5 of 16

And yes, ditto what Jessi said - you have to fin your own calm first! And believe me, i know how hard that can be sometimes!

post #6 of 16

My husband and I really like "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" by Dr. Harvey Karp.  We just watched the movie a few weeks again and it has really helped us deal with our son's emotional outbursts (he's only 1, so there aren't many).  I mostly use the techniques when he's getting his diaper changed, which causes a lot of frustration and crying for him.


Its worth checking out!!

post #7 of 16

Deleted b/c I dont like the idea that this thread is on Facebook.


(if they meant there is a similar thread on facebook right now, then I am sorry I deleted)

Edited by beenmum - 5/23/11 at 5:31pm
post #8 of 16

I used to be a pre-kindergarten teacher, which is a a bit younger than your little guy, but we had a few kiddos that would get frustrated and say "I can't" to just about everything and few crazy tantrum throwers. One rule that I had was that they needed to try to do it first (whatever "it" was) and if they still needed help, I would help them. Also, if they got angry/frustrated with something, they needed to "walk away" and take a a break or go sit down and get control of their bodies so that we could figure it out once they were chilled out. Sometimes you can use a timer OR if you check in with them after a few minutes and if they are still freaking out, tell them that you can see they are still upset, so you will be back in a few minutes to see if they are ready. You can also ask them if they are ready for help and if they scream at you (even if they scream YES!) CALMLY say, "Well, it doesn't sound like you are ready since you are screaming at me, so I'll be back in a few minutes" OR you can tell them to come get you when they are calm and not screaming anymore if you need to walk away and leave them in their room. This puts the ball in their court and it is now up to them to calm down so they can get what they want/need. If my students were whining or crying, I would tell them that I cannot listening to them/understand them and I needed to hear their regular, calm voice so that I could help them. And of course there is the old "Take 5 deep breaths" or "Count to 20", etc. and then tell me what the problem is. As far as trashing his room and throwing toys, calmly and in a matter-of-fact manner let him know that he will need to clean up all of the mess before [fill in the  blank- ex. watch TV, before you will help with what he needed, before playing, or whatever desired activity that is important to him] If this sparks another tantrum, remind him that it is his choice and he needs to make good choice so that he can do what he wants to do. It is up to him! This helps remove some of the power struggle b/c you are putting him in charge of what happens next. "If" and "Then" statements are also helpful b/c you are letting them know the limit/expectation and then the consequence (good or bad). "If you do [blank] then [blank] is what is going to happen. This serves as the 1 warning and then if they do it again, then you follow through immediately with what you said you were going to do. No need to yell or get mad, just gently remind them that you told them what was going to happen if they kept doing [blank] and they made the bad choice, so now [blank] is happening AND that next time you hope they will make a better choice. You mentioned taking toys which COULD work "If you throw toys, I am going to take them away", but in this volatile situation, you may not want to use that strategy here. He is trying to get a response and attention from you, so you need to try your best not to feed into it. BUT once he comes to you calm and asking for help, praise the heck out of him for getting control of his body, emotions, etc. "I can understand you/help you so much better when you are not yelling" "I am glad to help you when you are calm" You want to really reinforce the good behavior and give positive attention and minimize the attention he gets from bad behavior.


As for you, one of my professors in college said, "If you get mad or start yelling, you have lost control [of yourself, the situation, etc]." That has really stuck with me over the years. Remember, you are the parent and you are the adult. You do not want to get sucked into a power struggle or argument with a child. Try to keep your cool...at least on the outside:-)  If you don't want tantrums from your child, you have to model appropriate ways to handle frustration and anger. (Easier said than done- BELIEVE ME I KNOW!)  Also, you need to ask yourself, do tantrums get him what he wants? If they work, even sometimes, this reinforces that tantrums = getting what I want/need. I know sometimes parents think they need to "choose their battles" BUT if your child is testing limits or is having a problem with tantrums, you have got to follow through and stick to your guns otherwise you are undermining your own authority. They need to know you mean what you say and say what you mean...EVERY TIME! If you give in sometimes, they are going to test every time to see if they are going to get lucky once again. They will not trust or believe what you say if you are not consistent and if you make empty threats or if "no" actually means "yes" sometimes. I don't know if this is off topic, but just thought I would throw this out there in case it is a related issue for you :-) 


A great resource is "Setting Limits with your Strong Willed Child: Eliminating Conflict by Establishing Clear, Firm, and Respectful Boundaries"



Good luck! Hope my response wasn't too long winded and that you find some of it helpful :-)



post #9 of 16

 P.S. Also, if you are trying to change things up, like using the "If" "Then", things may get worse before they get better esp if you were not always consistent with follow through before b/c they are going to see if the tantrum will make you give in as it maybe did in the past. They will push back as you try to make changes, but when they realize this is how is going to be, the negative behaviors SHOULD start to subside :-)

post #10 of 16

Note: This thread is FEATURED ON FACEBOOK.

post #11 of 16

Pollen counts are sky high and I've had some issues w/my youngest dd lately.  Patience, patience, and bee pollen, or Claritin.

post #12 of 16

normal. age appropriate. right on the money. 


one word. hormonal changes.


prepuberty which can start at around 5. the misnomer is puberty is all about the usual signs. nope. prepuberty starts this way. temper tantrums. and then within a year or so you will see body odor if you havent seen it at all.


it is a hard, HARD time for our children. i've seen not just my dd but her friends just reduced to a ball of screaming tears which i've never seen before at that age.


like my dd said 'mama its almost like another person is inside me. i know i dont want to behave that way, but i just cant seem to be able to stop myself.'


look at this as your first training for teenager hood.


work on yourself to handle this phase and take good care of yourself so you have the strength to cope.


give them what they need because they are trying REALLY hard to deal with their emotions. sometimes dd needed me right there to help her cope. sometimes she had to do it alone.


a big lesson i have learnt and am learning as my dd grows older. this is the begining of our children trying to figure out their own way. they dont need our 'help' to try and fix things and make things better. they want to figure it out themselves. and you have to give them the space to do so. by letting them have the tantrum. giving them the space to express themselves and letting them know mama is there.


the way you can help your son is not by teaching him to behave. no. but by following the 3 golden rules which are as important as ever.


1. Enough rest

2. Not hungry

3. Enough physical activity and the kind of stimulation they need (for instance dd needs crowds to energize. if she doesnt get enough interaction time - she suffers).


see this as the last hurrah of childhood. your son - your baby as you know him now will soon be gone forever. instead he will be replaced suddenly by this mature well behaved child. and physically he will change. yikes. dd's friends suddenly looked so much older and so much matured at 7.


i did not stop dd doing anything unless she was a danger to herself or to others. so she went back to hitting me and i just sat silently and allowed her. she would be mortified later. that was her last hitting ever.


at around 7-8 comes the huge psychological jump of conscience. ur son is going thru the stage that comes right before this.


remember right before they begin BIG jumps what a terror they were? 



post #13 of 16
Originally Posted by meemee View Post

normal. age appropriate. right on the money. 


one word. hormonal changes.


prepuberty which can start at around 5. the misnomer is puberty is all about the usual signs. nope. prepuberty starts this way. temper tantrums. and then within a year or so you will see body odor if you havent seen it at all.


it is a hard, HARD time for our children. i've seen not just my dd but her friends just reduced to a ball of screaming tears which i've never seen before at that age.


I don't think I buy that. I've been a teacher (and/or consultant) for over 20 years. That hasn't been my experience at all.

post #14 of 16
Originally Posted by Polliwog View Post

I don't think I buy that. I've been a teacher (and/or consultant) for over 20 years. That hasn't been my experience at all.

as a teacher you would never see this side of my child in your class - or most of her friends and classmates. at the most if you were her kind of teacher you'd see her tears. never a tantrum. but as a parent chatting in a playgroup we'd all be discussing coping skills. 


i remember 14 years ago when dd was just a dream, learning about prepuberty as one of my friends went thru it with her dd. and discovering the first signs being deep emotional turmoil aka intense tantrums and then BO. 


its pretty common where i am. perhaps there's something in the water here. most of dd's 3rd grade class is using deodorant and many have started breast buds. a couple have even body hair and one is actually shaving. her mom shaves for her because she wont trust her dd with a razor quite yet. 


post #15 of 16

I think it's BS. I have done a lot of reading- parenting, pedagogical, etc and I've never heard about pre-puberty starting at five.

post #16 of 16

well as a wise mama once said here - just coz you havent experienced it, doesnt mean it does not exist. there are quite a few mamas who have come to the same conclusion here. 


perhaps you know it as a different term. that could be true. or maybe it hasnt gotten a label yet. and yes prepuberty starting at 5 is a little early. it usually happens around 6 or 7. that is more normal.


that is if you define prepuberty as great emotional turmoil - kinda like pmsing with extreme emotions and huge frustration (hormone change); and body odor. 


it makes sense with my dd coz she went thru emotional turmoil at 5, BO at 6, conscience at 7, breast buds at 8 and i wont be surprised if she starts her periods at 10 or 11 coz that's when my mom and i started. 


so yes - no one starts breast buds (i dont have a son so i am not that sure about their pre-pub stuff) at 5 because that's what we define puberty as. if it did then it would be called precocious puberty because it is too early to start bb. 


however hormonal changes do happen before they hit their conscience development phase at 7-8. 


and yes you are right. there is not enough info about prepuberty online. when my dd hit it i freaked out and couldnt find info. however i got them from moms IRL whose children had gone thru dd's stage. in fact some of the kids (age 16-17) remember that time in their life and they said it was worse than hitting the teens. it was their advice, their explanation that helped me help myself deal with dd - in a gentle empathetic way. instead of screaming and disciplining as i wanted to do. those kids taught me to see my dd thru compassionate eyes rather than angry eyes. 



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