Needing help with alternative outlets for aggression during a tantrum - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 06-14-2014, 08:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Needing help with alternative outlets for aggression during a tantrum

Hello,

I have a 2 1/2 (soon to be 3 in October) son. 95% of the time he is the most sweet, caring, empathetic child in the world; but when he goes into a meltdown it is MAJOR. A lot of times he will hit me, himself, the wall, start stretching out his face or tearing his clothes off.
It seems to me he is just incredibly frustrated/angry/feeling out of control, but does not yet have the skills to verbalize these feelings.
I have been trying to brainstorm some ideas for safer ways to get the aggression out. He has this pop up tent he likes to spend time in so I was thinking of making that the tantrum tent and filling it with pillows and beanbags he can punch or throw around, and pieces of paper to tear up.
My first question is does anyone use this method and find it helpful?
My second question is other than the ideas I suggested can anyone offer any other anger outlets that have worked for you?
If a major meltdown occurs during the day often we'll just take a walk/jog to the playground in our neighborhood; but unfortunately the majority of his tantrums happen at night.

Thanks in advance!

Julia
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#2 of 8 Old 06-15-2014, 07:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JuliaNoelle84 View Post
Hello,

I have a 2 1/2 (soon to be 3 in October) son. 95% of the time he is the most sweet, caring, empathetic child in the world; but when he goes into a meltdown it is MAJOR. A lot of times he will hit me, himself, the wall, start stretching out his face or tearing his clothes off.
It seems to me he is just incredibly frustrated/angry/feeling out of control, but does not yet have the skills to verbalize these feelings.
I have been trying to brainstorm some ideas for safer ways to get the aggression out. He has this pop up tent he likes to spend time in so I was thinking of making that the tantrum tent and filling it with pillows and beanbags he can punch or throw around, and pieces of paper to tear up.
My first question is does anyone use this method and find it helpful?
My second question is other than the ideas I suggested can anyone offer any other anger outlets that have worked for you?
If a major meltdown occurs during the day often we'll just take a walk/jog to the playground in our neighborhood; but unfortunately the majority of his tantrums happen at night.

Thanks in advance!

Julia
Hello Julia,

I'm a new member too.

Well, since no one has replied yet, I am going to give it a shot. So, what triggers his tantrums?
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#3 of 8 Old 06-16-2014, 05:59 AM
 
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Is what he is doing truly harmful in the short run?

If it's all harmless in the short run, then I recommend that you look away and walk away the moment the tantrum starts. If you feel the need to monitor, watch out of the corner of your eye. When the tantrum abates or is over, go back and give him positive attention. And give him positive attention when he is not tanturming.

When you start this ignoring, the tantrums might get worse and more variable for a day or two, but then they will start getting noticeably better and be mostly gone after two weeks.

If he the tantrums are too harmful to ignore, then you can play a pretend game where he does pretend "good" tantrums for you that are harmless, you give him positive attention in response to executing these "good" tantrums, and after the habit is established you can start ignoring these so that they will fade away in a couple of weeks.

The tent thing is a bit more elaborate than you need, and it will be counterproductive if there are battles of will over him staying in the tent.
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#4 of 8 Old 06-16-2014, 12:32 PM
 
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I showed my daughter very early that she could be in control of her personal experience of the world. I would hug and sympathize and then leave her alone for a time, in cycles. We had a large baby-safe room with gates so that I could come "visit" during her "down times." I would enter, engage, play, hug, and then leave for a pretty long duration. The point from my perspective was that she needed to learn which behaviors engage others and which do not. Tantrums did not engage others; I would leave her with hugs and a big smile, telling her that it was time for her to spend time getting to enjoy being with herself, and then let her work it out. After an initial storm she would soon be playing quietly with toys or asleep. After awhile I would wake her or ask her to show me what she had been doing *important!* thereby reinforcing the validity of her independent & constructive solution to her emotional situation. The tantrum at this age could be anything from attention-seeking to a difficult bowel movement to sleepiness to who-knows.
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Last edited by pumabearclan; 06-16-2014 at 05:16 PM.
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#5 of 8 Old 06-24-2014, 12:58 AM
 
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After dealing with the adult effects of a toddler who was left to himself to deal with rages (which included banging his head against the floor repeatedly)-- ie- my husband, who has rage issues and emotional intelligence issues that go WAY BACK to his Scandinavian mother's disregard for the need to sympathize or teach about emotions--

I strongly urge all mothers to offer empathy rather than IGNORE a violent temper tantrum...
A child who is at the beck of storm tossed passions needs help sorting out their emotions--
they can vent and then distract themselves but until they are old enough to do something constructive like write it out or draw a picture, they are not LEARNING about their emotions by being left alone...

Toddlers need us to help them and guide them... And navigate the inner woods growing wildly, that is their sense of themselves in relation to the world-- and to us...

Harvey Karp's book about toddlers is similar to my idea about this-- though he goes a bit farther, and says you should offer empathy and sympathy in a Neanderthalish tone, since your toddler is basically a Neanderthal!

I like your idea of the "safe place"... when my son was trying to scratch his own eyes out I held his hands gently and soothingly said "No no, don't hurt yourself, we don't hurt ourselves"

Teaching your child to take his rage out on objects isn't necessarily the best approach... My husband was taught that as a child and now he continues to destroy things. Luckily he is finally seeking treatment and learning to feel ok.

A key part of his treatment is to learn the ability to differentiate between the upsetting event and his own view of himself inside. Something to remember, is that a toddler doesn't have a solid sense of self yet... so if something is disappointing, it could feel like the whole world is ending and they are getting swallowed up in that black hole of disappointment!
If you can be there for them, you can be their rock and help them learn to not get swallowed in their emotions, but give them labels.

Calming down exercises can be good too--- like teaching them to take deep breaths.
Thich That Nanh says every person should have a private place to go, and a little bell. To ring and listen to the pure sound.
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#6 of 8 Old 06-24-2014, 01:00 AM
 
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P.S. I tried the empathy method with my daughter-
who also had violent temper tantrums as a preschooler-
and now as a teen, she writes me multi-page detailed letters when she is mad.
They are practically legal briefs. Though she does include my perspective as well, a little bit!
And she hardly EVER yells, much less hurts herself.

Which is better than me-- I need to perfect my not-yelling technique!
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#7 of 8 Old 07-10-2014, 07:17 AM
 
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pumabearclan, thanks for sharing your methods! I somehow agree with sereneimago. I don't think I would be able to deal with my LO's rage outbursts like you suggest.
I would feel like I am ignoring her when she is in need for help. Please advise.
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#8 of 8 Old 07-10-2014, 09:09 AM
 
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Hi MeltCandy, all I can say about my recommendation is that it came from my parenting concept which is that my job was to teach my daughter to be an autonomous adult, step-by-step. So every intervention, direction, correction, and encouragement I gave was to both teach and demonstrate how she can take care of herself: emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially, intellectually. How she can know herself and be motivated to find and make in life what makes her feel whole. So the whole point was that if she needed to vent, "alone" is the place for it, if she wanted to talk, words and calm demeanor are best for getting your point across.

I didn't feel that my daughter's tantrums were demonstrations of need - if the "tantrum" was actually because she was sick or sad due to having her feelings hurt and such then I didn't see that as a "tantrum" but as an age-appropriate coping mechanism and I tried to help solve whatever the problem was. What I considered tantrums were antisocial expressions. So the time alone was not just dumping her off in isolation because 1) we had already talked about and demonstrated prosocial and personally soothing constructive ways of dealing with frustration, anger, and exhaustion through lessons learned in books, talking about situations she experienced in daycare, and my reinforcements in play ("what should we draw today? draw our feelings, or our favorite things, or draw a story?") so she already had a sense of what resources were available in the room and from within to help her to redirect her feelings & behavior; 2) If she called for me and wanted a hug or wanted to talk we did, I didn't ignore her, but I would leave if she just called me to yell or hit; 3) I checked on her every 10-40 minutes depending on how upset she was, checking more often if she was really very upset and less if she was just whining-upset and I didn't hear any more crying or yelling.

Regarding overtired, she eventually (5-6 yrs) would tell me that she was going to go take a "quiet time" and would voluntarily read, play or sleep in her room (the baby-safe room); this was several times a week. Sometimes I would ask to join her and sleep or read too. So I considered this to be a step in the right direction, toward self-regulation, which was my goal.

We did learn about dealing with emotions many times a day, most effective when she wasn't emotional, of course. We used the arts and children's books a lot for this. Something I always have done is to talk about how I am feeling and draw out the family members about how they are feeling so that we are all improving skills in that area and feeling that the family is a good place to find help with this.

My daughter never tried to hurt herself and her tantrums weren't very frequent. If that had been the case then maybe I would have used a different approach.

EDIT: rereading the original post I see that the OP's child is hurting himself. I should have been more careful in reading the post before giving my experience since we didn't have incidents of self-harm during tantrums.

Last edited by pumabearclan; 07-10-2014 at 09:47 AM.
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