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Please help- What am I doing wrong?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

DD is 2.5 and very sensitive. She is very determined, and I just don't know what I'm doing wrong.  I feel like I can't take her anywhere anymore fo fear of her tantrums.  I stopped taking her to the grocery store months ago because she would throw fits when she wanted to walk rather than ride in the cart, or when it was time to leave after riding (or not riding) the mechanical horse at the entrance.  She screams, hits and flails her body and it is embarrassing and it hurts.  Today we went for her WCV at the peds and on the way out she wanted to stop to play with the toys but the office was closing, I explained to her that we had to leave because everyone was going home but she insisted.  I had to carry her screaming from the office and into the hall where she lay down on the floor and kicked, screamed and cried.  There are other offices in the building so I encouraged her in a calm voice to stand up and walk with me.  She screamed and screamed and finally I had to take her by the hand and walk with her--more or less pulling her.  I hated every second.  I ended up walking firmly with her to the car and putting her in and closing the door as she screamed.  I sat and waited in the driver's seat until she settled and climbed into her seat.  


What am I doing wrong?  I am mortified at these screaming fits and feel like such a failure as a mama.  These episodes reduce me to tears and I just don't know what to do anymore.  I try to talk her through what we will do at each step, but I feel like she has my number and I'm totally ineffective at parenting her.  Please help.








post #2 of 9

Even the most experienced and knowledgable parent can have lots of moments like that. Please try not to blame yourself. Maybe she is getting sick? I read a lot about how young children are emotional because their "higher order" brain/thinking isn't developed yet but I didn't really get it until I thought about it this way: Emotions are defense mechanisms: fight or flight is necessary for survival, so we complex humans must develop these abilities first, before we can spend energy on developing cognitive functioning, or our cave dwelling ancestors might not have made it out of toddlerhood.


A couple of basics that you're probably already doing but just in case:


Try to avoid situations in which she becomes tired or hungry. When they are hungry or tired that tiny bit of cognitive control goes by the way side and all that's left is the pure, raw, emotion which they need to get out/express. 

Tell her ahead of time what to expect. In this case you wouldn't have known that she wanted to play when the office was closing but in other cases you might be able to prevent some drama this way.

Give her a 3 minute, 1 minute and 30 second warning before saying its time to change activities

Try to turn situations into jokes--very hard for some of us. My DH is great at it. For examples see Playful Parenting book.


A new thing I just learned from The Science of Parenting (or something): when they are emotional, try to activate the "seeking" part of their brain--pic their curiosity with some sort of question (it has to be a good one to get my son out of his fits). This really seems to halt the drama and distract him and head him in a different direction.

But remember: this is typical toddler behavior. It happens to all of us. It's not you. It will end. It probably won't be much more than a year at this level. {hugs}



post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks mama!  I needed that.  I just feel like a parenting failure even though I know some tantrums are normal.  I feel like one of **those** parents when she does this in public.  The thing is, I KNEW it would happen when she decided she wanted to play with the toys.  I tried explaining to her that it's time to go.  I read playful parenting a long time back and could benefit from reading it again.  My DH is a very playful parent, but it doesn't come as natural to me.  It is more his personality naturally and less so mine.  I guess my strengths are elsewhere. shrug.gif


My question is, in a situation where it is not an option to stay and play, what is the best response from me?  We have encountered this before where it is just time to go for one reason or another, but she refuses (even after setting her up with explanations of what is about to happen)  It could be a major fit before the car or getting in the carseat, etc.. 

It happens so frequently that I feel like I must be dealing with it in an ineffective way, etc.

post #4 of 9

This is just what it's like to have a child that age.  I remember being upset by it too at the start.  But it's just how things are, IME.  I have carried screaming children into carseats more times than I care to remember.  


IME the best approach is one request and then to take the lead.  Give her an option to come with you and if she won't then she'll have to be carried.  I think too much negotiation just makes things worse.

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by D_McG View Post

  I think too much negotiation just makes things worse.

Thanks.  I'm wondering if my explanations make it worse too. (???) 

post #6 of 9

You just have to be firm.  It's hard, but if it's time to go, it's time to go, temper or no temper.  She's pushing boundaries because she's exploring her world (and her mother's sanity).  It'll pass, deep breath!  I've dealt with this SOOOOO many times in the 5 years I looked after a friends' kids almost every weekday (started with just 1, ended up with 3 by the end of 5 years!).  As she gets older, natural consequence will kick in (for example, my friend's 3.5 year old took her really expensive eyeliner and drew *ALL* over the walls before school one day, and on the day they drive through Tim Hortons and get a hot chocolate and 2 timbits, natural consequence was that she had to help clean it up and it meant they ran out of time for Timmies and so she didn't get her special treat).  Sometimes you just have to throw them over your shoulder and stuff them in the car and wait until they finish screaming it out.  


I agree with the snack/tiredness though!  It doesn't JUST apply to kids either, my DW is like that (I always carry a snack and revise our schedule if she's been up all night).  ;)


Good luck!!  Remember that this too shall pass!!!

post #7 of 9

These things happen. In fact, my DS1 (just 2) threw a kicking screaming sobbing tantrum yesterday as we were leaving a school office after enrolling DD. He wanted that darn fishie book in the worst way! I ended up having to carry him out to the car, strap him in and drive home with him still sobbing. Sometimes, that just happens. I think at this age they are just too little to reason with, they want what they want and don't really understand why they can't have it and all the explanations in the world don't really get the message through. Its not concrete enough to them and the more upset they get, the less they are going to be able to understand.


Sometimes, you have to just pick 'em up, carry 'em out and sympathize. I gave DS1 lots of love, told him I understood, offered substitutes (that were readily rejected), but did what had to be done. 


I don't think you are doing anything wrong. Its just the age and the stage that these kiddos are at! Try not to get too upset about them yourself. I know the more it happens the more wearing it becomes on us parents but I know that for me, it helps me to remember that DS1 is barely out of babyhood, he's upset and has little control over how to manage his emotions. When I look at it from the "he's sad" standpoint, its easier to maintain equalibrium in myself and sympathize.


Hang in there, like a pp said, this too shall pass!!

post #8 of 9

What worked with my daughter is calmly saying, " I cannot understand you when you talk like that/your voice isn't calm.  When you can speak to me in a calm voice I can help you.". Also worked with whining.  Best of luck!

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks mamas!  The support really helps.  You are right 3xmama--she is just a baby.  Even though I tell myself that often, I think sometimes I almost forget as she seems to be growing so fast to me and her verbal skills are growing soo fast too. I think that perhaps I am also over-sensitive to it now--I am very emotional this pregnancy--I never was when pg with DD, and I've had some issues so I'm not supposed to carry her--I think I get extra worried when she  acts out because of my limitations now.


It is very reassuring to hear responses from each of you--Thank you all for taking the time to respond! 



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