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I'm new to tantrums...HELP! :(

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

My DS is 18.5 months and in the past couple of weeks has just ramped up the tantrums to an unbelievable frequency and intensity. I'm totally lost as to how to handle it. Before, I was dedicated to meeting all his needs, AP style, but now I find myself feeling used and manipulated while "giving in" to his tantrums. 


I try avoiding his triggers and this works sometimes. I've upped the number and frequency of his snacks and this seems to help sometimes. I've pushed his nap earlier and tried to make it longer- maybe this helps, I dunno. As for helping ME get a handle on things- I need more sleep and to not have DS attached to me all night- so we are nightweaning as soon as he gets over a cold he's had for a while. I'm not a patient person and I frustrate easily, but since DS was born I've really worked on this and I *thought* I had this aspect of my personality under control. But this is a whole new level of frustration that I find really tough. I need more time away from DS and DH and I are working on this as well. I know this is a part of the issue.


His triggers are weird things- if he sees the guitar he NEEDS me or dad to play it for him and will freak if we don't. He can't play with his ride-on car anymore because sometimes (unpredictably) he will just freak out sitting on it and want us to push (backbreaking, bending over) or pull it (it's almost broken from a rope we attached to the steering wheel) instead of using it himself. Same with his pull toys. KEYS...omg the f-ing keys. If he sees them he wants them but it's impossible to hide them when we are going into and out of the house/car. The mop and broom- he sees them and he NEEDS to have them and drag them around the house, leaving them in gross places like his bed. Ugh. And other things like that.


Other tantrums, like when he is frustrated with something he can't do or things like that, I can handle- I help him out and calm him down and that's ok I can deal with those.

My problem is, I'm not sure if I should ignore the "I want" tantrums (even Dr. Sears recommends this) or what. I'm not sure I CAN ignore it- the crying drives me insane and makes me soooo irritated.  How do I handle the really irrational stuff and when he  wants things he can't have. I feel like giving in is just teaching him that tantrums get him what he wants. And I end up resenting him and feeling manipulated and used. I try the whole "validation and identifying his feelings"- you know saying "You want the keys but you can't them. You're angry." etc- but this does NOT work to calm him down. If anything, it makes it worse.


Some background- DS just exploded verbally in the past couple of months and can say short sentences and understands pretty much everything we say. He is really, really bright- can spell and read some words, knows his alphabet, can count from 1 to the 50s, he loves reading books. I stay home with him, he still breastfeeds a lot, he eats alot. We don't do junk foods at all. He's always been a pretty crappy sleeper.  


Anyway, please...ANY words of advice or wisdom here. I'm losing my sh*t. lol.gif I've ordered a bunch of books on toddler stuff- The Emotional Toddler, Playful Parenting, How to talk so kids will listen...some others I can't remember. But they haven't arrived yet.


HELP ME before I run screaming into the desert and never come back! winky.gif

post #2 of 9


This sounds so familiar!  We've recently sort of figured out what works for us, so I'll do my best to help.
These were the two articles that helped me finally get a handle on dealing with tantrums:
The second comments on the first.  One of the things that really helped is knowing that there are points where a tantrum just can't be stopped immediately, so I've gone from feeling like I'm failing every second that I'm not able to calm him down to feeling like I'm really helping him build emotional intelligence every time he has a tantrum.  That helps keep me calm, because I feel like I'm doing something productive.
My experience has been that ignoring tantrums doesn't help.  It doesn't teach them anything other than that you have the power to ignore their very real feelings, and you can help a kid work through the tantrum without giving into the "I want" part of it, so as long as you're giving your child plenty of positive attention at other times, being there for them during the tantrum isn't reinforcing the tantrums.  It sounds like your son is verbal enough now that putting in the effort to give him the words for his feelings over and over and over again will eventually pay off.  I know you said that validating his feelings doesn't calm him down.  I think we used to have that happen, but what I've found is that I have to really lay the empathy on thick, and do it A LOT, before it sinks in.  I sit there and hold him loosely on my lap through the anger phase of the tantrum, and I repeat things like, "It's sooooooooo saaaaaaaad.  We had to leave before you wanted to.  It's really saaaaaaaaad when you have to leave something fun."  Or whatever I come up with, over and over until it sounds really stupid I've said it so many times.  And often it will set him off crying harder, but only temporarily.  It seems like he needs to hear it all at least five or six times before he really hears what I'm saying when he's in that state.  This seems to speed along the anger portion a bit.  Once the anger recedes, I'll go through the incident and what I observed about his feelings in detail.  That pretty much always gets him to a calm point where his crying will quiet down and he'll ask to nurse, and then he's over it after a minute of comfort nursing.
Since I started doing this, he's had FAR fewer tantrums.  It's been really amazing.  It may be that your son is still a month or two off from this really working, since I had success with this tactic right after mine turned two, but I really recommend to keep trying it, because once you hit that language explosion they understand so much more every day, it's crazy.
Another aspect to consider--and you've probably heard this--is that every time you set up a conflict by saying "no" to something, you give your child the opportunity to build a habit of resisting you.  I think at about that age, my son really started focusing in on the WANTS too.  What I finally figured out was that I was just setting us up for conflict by allowing there to be things that I knew he'd WANT out around the house that I wouldn't let him have.  If I were you, I'd do things like putting the guitar away, hiding the mop and broom and waiting until he goes to bed when possible to use them, etc., until this stage passes.  Sometimes it's inconvenient, but often it ends up being less inconvenient when you factor in avoiding a tantrum (or avoiding having to stand there next to the open front door so he can put the key in and out of the lock).  With my son wanting me to push him in his toy car, I would push him as long as I could, warning him that my back hurt, and then stop when I needed to and explain a few times why I couldn't do more.  Six months later, he'll usually accept it when I tell him he can't have or do something as long as I give him a reason, so avoiding having to say "no" hasn't led him to not be able to handle it.
Also, I read an article--I can't remember where--that talked about saying no to something with a "yes" vibe.  Honoring the desire behind the request while still being firm about not actually doing it.  Basically something like, "Oh yeah, it's that cool?  It would be fun to play with that.   But it's made out of glass and very breakable and if it broke, it might hurt the baby...let's leave it on this shelf, but I'll hold it up and you can look at it with your eyes."  A similar technique is the "saying yes in imagination" in this blog post:  http://joyfultoddlers.com/2011/05/stop-dont-and-no/   I've used that one to great success a few times as well.  Actually, a number of other posts on that blog would be really helpful for you as well.  I've learned a ton from her practical examples.
I hope that helps some.  Needless to say, all of that is a lot easier to actually do when you've had enough sleep, something I don't manage as often as I should....
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for such a detailed reply! 

Unfortunately, I can't follow the first two links- they don't seem to work. But the last one to the joyful toddler site worked- what a GREAT site! I pored over it last night.

We had a much better morning today- I've discovered he's much better when we are OUTSIDE...so that's where we'll be as much as possible! We spent 3 hours in a park this morning and came back for lunch and nap. If I have gotten enough stuff done while he naps, I think I'll drag him back out again! Whatever works. He's happy=I'm happy! 

I'll give the rest of your tips another try to. I don't think this phase is likely to end soon so I better get used to it and develop some good strategies to cope.

post #4 of 9

Oops, here are the links!






The blog the second link is from has also been a great resource lately.


I'm glad to hear things have been better!  I remember discovering the same thing about my son and going outside last year when we had our first go around with tantrums.

post #5 of 9

Hi there!  My DS first started throwing tantrums around 12MO.  Sometimes I can pinpoint why other times I can't.  What I have learned is to completely ignore him. 

At first I made the mistake of holding him, then trying to talk to him but that just make matters worse.  What I do now is say in a very stern voice "We do not have

temper tantrums." I completely ignore him even if he's banging his head.  That has completely reduced him times to minutes versus hours.  What's really important

is that once the tantrum subsides comfort your LO.  Give hugs and kisses and thank yous!  My DS is now 17MO and occasionally throws tantrums but nothing

in comparison to before. 

post #6 of 9

Funnily enough (or not, really), I came onto the Toddler forum tonight because of this exact issue with our 22 month old.  His tantrum stuff is remarkable--we had a playdate today and the other mom even looked at him and said "Wow."


He screams at a high pitch to the point that I have worried what they neighbors will think, and sometimes throws himself down on the floor.  We get maybe four of these a day.


I actually heard that NPR tantrum piece when it came out a few months ago.  It was good, but directed more at older kids (I think ages 3-4).

I just spoke with a friend who has a 4 year old and she said her son maybe had 10 tantrums in his life.  I have to admit it makes me wonder what I'm doing "wrong," but I would counter that with saying that children just do have varying personalities, just like adults.  Her kid will happily sit through a formal, sit-down, two+ hour dinner and has done for a couple of years.  It makes my head spin to think of the differences.


I, too, need more time away from him and the house, and we're working on that.


I try to avoid saying "no" because that sometimes sends him off.  What I will say is "yes, you can have that later."  This works occasionally.


Though I know it NEVER helps him stop, I yell back sometimes.  What works is to ignore or distract.  I also sometimes get in another room for a minute or two (he literally will stand on the other side of the door, so I do know he is safe even though I can't see him.


It's pretty awful.

post #7 of 9

Oh wow, so glad to have stumbled upon this thread.  I seriously don't know what happened to my sweet daughter, but she has turned into some kind of crazy screaming monster!  We have had to leave 2 play dates in the last week because her tantrums get so bad, and I just don't know how to deal with them!  Bedtime and mealtimes are awful, and she is flat out refusing any food other than yoghurt or milk.  Telling her she can't have something leads to an immediate tantrum, and she has begun to hit and throw things.  Ugh!!!  I will definitely check out these links, and try out some of the new ideas starting tomorrow.  I do a pretty good job on the outside of keeping my cool, but I am screaming along with her on the inside lol!  We were at a super bowl party yesterday and she was having a tantrum and one woman was like "oh, she must be tired" and I replied...ummm nope, she's 2.  Yuck!!!  

post #8 of 9
Originally Posted by expat-mama View Post

My DS is 18.5 months can spell and read some words, knows his alphabet, can count from 1 to the 50s, he loves reading books.


Whoa, expat-mama.  I just re-read your post and caught that.  Uh, you have a mega-smart cookie on your hands.  I mean, like, really. 


post #9 of 9

I know all kids have tantrums, but experience/friends/family/etc. have confirmed that our son is way more intense than 'normal.'  This makes him super endearing to others (he is usually intensely charming).  You know that poem;  Little girl with a curl?  'when she was good, she was very, very good, and when she was bad, she was horrid.'   This is him.  He saves the really good, cute stuff for other people.  We get the 'horrid.'


Something I noticed with DS was that he has always been a very sensitive kid; stuff that other kids we knew could brush off he couldn't.   He was colicy as a baby which  morphed into this sensitivity.  He can become overstimulated quickly.   He also had a memory that blows me away, but will cause tantrums sometimes because he remembers how we did something a week ago, and suddenly freak out if we don't't do it the same way (meanwhile, I wouldn't even remember doing it...)  He would just become overwhelmed and frustrated.


Ditto on the idea of saying 'no' with a yes statement.  Totally buys time, if anything; often he doesn't quite get what has happened and that he got a 'no' before it is too late and I have time to redirect.   We also use timers for anything I think will be a trigger, so instead of 'OK, it's bed time' its 'OK, bedtime is soon.  Do you want to go to bed in 2 minutes or 3 minutes?'  (or leave the park, or set the table, or put toys away, etc.).  That way he has some time to get used to the idea and some feeling of control.  This seems to help a lot, also.   We are big on routines in our house and I write our daily schedule during breakfast, and he can generally handle changes if we prep him in advance. 


IF we can catch the tantrum early, DH has taught DS to take deep breaths to keep from getting so angry.  This helps, but meant watching him very closely.  Now that he has learned this, I can usually get him to do it and calm down a little more into that freak-out, but sometimes it is too late.    DS HAS been developing some skills at controlling his emotions lately.  Now he is 3.5 and it is slowly getting better. 


For us, being with him during the tantrum made it worse; it just added to the stimulation that was overwhelming him.  If I tried holding him or being near him I just got punched in the face (which, naturally, escalated the situation.  My patience has its limits).  We have a dim, quiet spot in the hall that DS used to go to when he tantrums like this.  Once he is slightly calmer, I can usually go to him and help him calm down.   Now he goes to his room. Sometimes he throws things, but usually calms to playing with his toys.  Sometimes I can go in and start reading a story and he will be intrigued (I pick and chose based on the intensity, though.  Sometimes I get punched in the face).  Now he will ask to be left alone - sometimes politely, sometimes less.


It does get better!!!  The book that helped us the most was Love and Logic Parenting for Early Childhood.  There is a website, but I didn't find it as useful as the book (more like a sales pitch for the series).  What was most helpful was tips for preventing the tantrum (like offering choices, etc.).  You can't prevent them all, emotions are overwhelming for little ones, but fewer is better!


Edited by jes h - 2/7/12 at 11:05am
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