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Handling melodramatic meltdowns

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hi all, I am new to the forum, and SO happy to have found such a great group. My husband and I are big believers in gentle discipline, but we are having our first tricky patch with our recently turned 4 year old daughter.


My daughter up until this point has been absolute bliss. She was an easy baby, an easy toddler, and is  now a mostly easy preschooler. Two weeks ago, she finally gave up her afternoon nap, which I'm sure is playing a role in things.


Recently, I have seen a big attitude shift. My daughter will shout or scream tyrannical demands at us, right in our faces. She is also starting up with mini tantrums that are 100% manufactured drama. If we ask her something, or tell her something she doesn't want to hear, she immediately begins whining, turning into a floppy pancake and will start screaming. This type of behavior is for everything, no matter how small the issue. I have noticed that on occasions when my husband and I have caved to the drama, the tears and screaming immediately stop, and she's happy as a clam. This is what leads me to believe she is not genuinely upset, but rather manipulating us with her "rudey attitudey"!


For my part, I will get down on her level, validate her feelings, and ask her to help come up with compromises or alternative ideas when appropriate. Rather than engage me, she will scream or blow a raspberry in my face.


Today, I had enough of it. She raspberried in my face, and I calmly sat her down and explained to her that the behavior was unacceptable. That we are family, and should always treat each other kindly, even when we feel upset. I did not yell or shame her, but I can't help but feel like I lectured her.


How do you handle overt rudeness or manufactured drama for the sake of manipulation? I'm working extra hard to stay away from punitive forms of discipline, but girlfriend has me doubting just how I should address the mayhem!

post #2 of 5
Hello, I love this forum as well...a treasure:)
I have only a 21 mo, so no practical experience. I was just curious as to why would you think she " manipulates " you? Why would she do that you think?

Since you mention naps, have you observee the timings of these " bad mood " periods?
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Truthfully I think the naps are a pretty large part of it. Her worst times are in the afternoon, when she would normally be resting. She does still act out in the mornings as well, but the afternoons are definitely her worst time. I try to keep our afternoons free and relaxing, so no errand running or enrichment classes or playdates, at least not until she has fully adjusted to her new schedule.


I suspect the manipulation because of how swiftly her tears dried up during the times we have caved in to her demands. She has quite a bit of free reign with us, and her voice is always heard when we are discussing plans, so its not as if she has to insert herself forcefully into adult conversations, we focus on making most conversations a family affair. Adults only conversations are reserved for after bedtime. She has also begun some "sneaky" behavior. The other morning, she was in my room with a butter knife and her rubber duck. I asked her what she needed the knife for, and she immediately threw it under my bed, whipped around to me and said "Nothing!" I explained that she never needed to hide anything from me, that I was just curious. It turned out she had jammed a doll earring into the water drain hole in the duck and was planning to cut the duck open to get it out. We managed to get the earring out without any duck damage, and we applauded her for trying to come up with a solution for the problem. We also explained to her that if she has a problem that requires tools to fix, she should come to us so we could help in case she needed it. So again, its not as if we reprimand her or insist that she take a back seat, so honestly I'm not understanding why she feels the need to drum up alligator tears to get her way. And not all of her tantrums are manufactured drama, many of them are in fact based on genuine feelings of frustration and anger. Those are the easy ones to deal with! The ones I'm struggling with are the ones that seem like she's just looking for an excuse to scream demands, call us names or tell us we are stupid. Or my new favorite, when she calls us "idiots".


Its a very confusing time for us as parents right now. We want her to understand that screaming and being rude to us is not acceptable, but we also want to make sure she feels acknowledged and valued. I'm hoping someone has BTDT, and can give me some advice for how they handled it!

post #4 of 5

I think I have been saying this alot on this board the last few days, but I tell my kids frequently, "I'm a people, too."  I envision them as big adults talking to me like that, and I know what I'd do.  And if we're lucky, it'd be gentle.  At the very least I would tell them to get out of my house, or, if they weren't in my house, I'd walk right out of their abusing life.


But, these are children.  And, obviously, my reaction to an adult is neither appropriate, nor necessary.  The part that is still a take away, imo, is that I don't have to be talked to that way.  I truly believe I am teaching my children how to respect themselves when I demand respect for my person.  I don't want them to allow anyone else to treat them like that either.


So, I simply don't allow disrespect to me.  Anger, and tension in relationships happen, but it's not a healthy relationship when both parties can't come back together and make amends.  I work very hard to teach my children tools to manage their anger, but don't allow blow ups and tantrums and manipulation to get it.  Only respect works around here.  We do, also, talk about how fake tears are like lying, and the Boy Who Cried Wolf is a great story for that. 


Please understand that I am not advocating an authoritarian stance.  I do not ask my children to be blindly repsectful of my authority, but simply of ME, as a person.  I am worth it, and so are they.

post #5 of 5

There's a reason they call it the "f you fours".  This age is about discovering and exercising the power of words.  You'll likely be called "stupid" and hear "I hate you", etc.  It takes a lot of time and rephrasing for them to understand which words and phrases are appropriate for a situation and which are "too strong".


I absolutely agree with Just1More that we mamas are just as deserving of respect as anyone else in the family.  I don't for one minute think it goes beyond gentle discipline to explain why a child's behaviour is inappropriate/disrespectful, or to make sure the behaviour doesn't continue, by walking away, redirecting the child, explaining, etc.  We have done (and continue to do) a LOT of work on re-phrasing where, if one of the kids asks for something rudely, we give a better way of asking.  Now I can just say "re-phrase" or "do-over" and they'll try again politely.

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