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6 yr old and "tantrums"

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I apologize in advance if this is long! DH and I are a little worried about our big guy and are looking for guidance on how to deal with his emotions. In a nutshell, our 6 yr old throws fits at the drop of a hat. We feel that we respect his emotional needs, are calm and thoughtful parents (most of the time at least!), do our best to offer a loving home, etc. But he's having a hard time.


He was always a very "chill" child and rarely challenged us in any way until he was about 5. Since then he's been explosively emotional. The fits (I don't know what else to call them) usually involve him screaming, crying, refusing to talk, etc. They usually last about 10 minutes and I can tell that he's making himself cry. I feel awful saying that because I know that he's genuinely upset, but it feels like he's doing it for attention. They happen quite often, sometimes several times a day. For instance he'll get upset when: he doesn't get his breakfast immediately in the morning, I ask him to help carry in his backpack from the car, he isn't served what he likes for dinner (trust me, I always make sure he has a good option for dinner), I tell him TV or computer time is over (even with warning), I ask him to pee before we leave the house... the list goes on and on. He also gets upset often with his brother, but I think that's normal. It's more the other situations that I'm worried about.


As of now, we deal with them by first trying to talk with him (usually a mistake) and then we either ignore it or send him to his room (or just upstairs) because he's being disruptive to the family, which we explain to him. I've gotten advice all over the board from friends and family. Some say it's just a phase, and that we should ignore it. Some think we should give him time-outs. I guess we do a combo of the two because we don't know what else to do. After he's calmed down we try to talk with him which usually goes well. It's just that he HATES any kind of discipline or general responsibility within the family home.


We've thought about his sleep patterns and his diet and if that has anything to do with this. He usually gets a good night's rest. However he's a very picky eater and I wonder if his diet is contributing to this-- maybe he's too "drained". This week DH and I decided to give him eggs and toast for breakfast every morning to see if that helps. I've thought about school being an issue (he's in public 1st). He absolutely loves it and is beaming when I pick him up. But maybe it's tiring for him. I check in with him often about how school is going and he nothing but great things to say. He's happy, he has friends, he likes his teacher, etc.


So I guess I'm asking how other mamas would deal with the fits. Am I doing something wrong? Is this just a phase? I don't really know where to go from here. I feel like he's shut down to me recently and I don't know how to get beyond it.

post #2 of 9

We've always had a high needs child but now dd is also going thru screaming fits. She is just under 6. I think it has to do with a lot of firsts. Full time school, hunger which is from not being in the habit of eating her food independently (we get most or 1/2 of it back), tiredness, not using the bathroom enough at school and therfore not drinking enough water, dh got laid off and it could be some of the initial stress of that... She was getting check marks for doing any or all of the above that she didn't do at school. When she had filled her chart with more checks than eks she got a prize. But her being well fed has the most success rate.

post #3 of 9

Gosh, I could have written that about my 4.5 year old...not to compare the two as they are very different ages, but it sounded exactly like DS...


And I've been wondering about diet too.  I tend to get pretty squirrely without enough protein - I'm wondering if we need to find ways to incorporate more at home for him as well since I can't depend on him eating well at day care.  He just picks and chooses what he likes to eat, mostly the fruit and vegetable portion and not much else...


We've been trying to tackle the fits the same way you are, but it doesn't seem to help here either.  greensad.gif

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

I hope this is just a phase for all of our LOs! We did a sticker chart for awhile for dinnertime for both kids and that worked pretty well. I'm not sure how to incorporate a sticker chart into our daily life though. DH and I have talked about how our kids need more responsibility and have to feel like they're taking part in the family and maybe that will offset what I see as entitled attitudes. I'm also wary to "reward" behavior that I see as pretty basic expectations when you live with a family-- like he should know that he has to help me carry in his stuff from the car after school because that's how it's been for awhile. But I think I need to be more even with my expectations of him. Maybe having him fix his own breakfast? But that seems like a lot to ask because he's a zombie in the morning. The only responsibilities my kids currently have is to clean up their toys after dinner, clear their own plates, and  welp, that's it I think! I don't want to overload them with chores though because they're young. But maybe adding in some would help? I think it might be a shocker for my kids when this new baby comes as mommy and/or daddy will no longer be able to focus on only them, and I'd like to make the transition as smooth as possible for them.


I think about how I was as a child-- also pretty emotional. But it was more inner turmoil I guess. I'll have to ask my mom how she remembers me being (did I throw fits like this often?). I know that DS1 and I are similar, we are a little complicated. DS2 is actually more "challenging" in that he's super mischievous and is usually bouncing off the wall-- but his emotions are simpler if that makes sense. He might get upset but gets over it quickly, and is more likely to help me do stuff when I ask him to.

post #5 of 9

I have to add that the latest is I am trying to not criticize anyone in the family for their shortcomings, slip ups etc. There are several events happening in a day that I look at as negative but if I try not to look at in negative light it means I have only one choice and that is to get her to eat or do whatever without complaining. When she comes back from school she is ravenous. It's a nightmare to get her to finish her unfinished food. There are always loud screams but once she eats she completely changes. Not complaining helps her as she just responds better. It's not easy; it's WIP.

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm glad the food thing has worked for you guys, Neera. I'm going to try to be super vigilant about DS1's diet and see if that helps. But today he started the day off with a good breakfast (eggs and bagel), had his usually lunch at school (also healthy and filling) and after school had healthy snacks as well (no sugar of any kind) and yet he threw a 20 minute tantrum. Even in front of his friend who was over for a playdate. I'm getting to the point where I might explore therapy options for him. Am I over-reacting? I thought I'd call his school tomorrow to see if a school counselor is an option.

post #7 of 9
My older daughter had tantrums at 6, but she didn't just start having them when she was older, she was just still having them. She did get past them on her own. I guess it seems different to me with it starting at an older age for tantrums. Have there been any large life changes for him? I see you're expecting but it sounds like this started before that. Have you moved? Or maybe it's about school? I'd wonder if something started causing him anxiety.

My general feeling about tantrums is that you should not get involved in them or really do anything, but just not give into them and act like they are of no consequence and not worth the effort of the tantrum. But remain available and give love after the tantrum is done. I do wonder though with these not starting until 5 if there's some anxiety or something. I think you could probably wait a bit longer and see if he gets past it, but OTOH I don't think there's anything wrong with looking into it more with a therapist or the school counselor either.
post #8 of 9

it is a phase. it is a phase i like to call first sign of puberty. the emotional maturity. hang in there. its a deeply painful and confusing time for them. the teenagers who remember this time have told me its been the hardest time in their life, worse than being teenagers. 


it was really hard for dd too. yeah all those golden rules apply - including upping the protein, but bottom line was you just had to let them go through this phase. and when they come out of it - woah they are so mature.


i kinda kept it loose. took good care of myself to survive it. didnt discipline dd too much. never while she was in the middle of it. drew boundaries that needed to be drawn but mostly i didnt try to make her stop. and was more sympathetic to her tantrums. 


remember just coz he is this way that sweet boy is gone. no that's not true. as the first hormone changes settle so will your child. 


but its also a time for you to start reviewing your own parenting and defining what your hills to die on are. what kind of parent you want to be. and really is everything about punishment. 


you will see this cycle repeat itself. my 10 year old just got over of her phases and doing much better now. till the next one. in our family completely removing punishment and more empathy was the key. but she had to go through that phase. 

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

mamazee, we actually did move into a new house a few months ago, and he also started at a new school! But since he's been so happy with both changes (larger house to run around in, a school and teacher he loves and has made friends at) I guess I discounted them. But they were still changes and I should remind myself of that.


meemee, thank you, that's exactly what I needed to hear. Because we're pretty lax with discipline we've just been ignoring it and/or handling it gently, but I second guessed myself because it's just SO INTENSE and I wondered if I was being too blase about it. I haven't yet gotten a change to ask my mom about how she handled my emotions when I was a kid, but from what I remember, she did what it sounds like you did/are doing. And I snapped out of it pretty quickly-- my mom often says I was a teenager when I was 6/7 and then by the time I was actually a teenager I was almost eerily mature.

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