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So yes, he's my second child, but my first was the world's most reasonable toddler, so I really have no experience with this.

The minute ds2 wants something that he can't have, he goes into immediate meltdown mode. There is no opportunity for me to even explain, or try to redirect, or anything. I try to say yes as much as possible, and there is definitely room for improvement on my part, but there are times when the answer really is no. And the problem isn't simply that he's having a tantrum, but that the tantrum involves pulling on me to the point of falling over. Like tonight: I was cooking dinner, and at a particularly critical moment ds2 comes over and asks to go for a "towel ride" (it's this thing dh does with them - wraps them in a towel and carries them around). I started to tell him that I couldn't do it right then but that I would as soon as I was done, but I didn't even get that far before he was screaming and crying and pulling on my leg and my pants and my arm. I'm trying to deal with boiling water and he's going nuts. He won't listen to any "come help me with dinner" type of distraction, or even that I will give him the ride but not at that moment.

And just to be up front, I am not okay with the whole "drop everything, turn off dinner and give him a ride" kind of thing. That's great if it works for other people, but it doesn't work for me. Plus, the dinner thing is really just one example. Sometimes I just can't give him what he wants. But OH MY GOD he just totally loses it.

I don't know what to do. I empathize, I try to be supportive, but there are times when I just can't be in it with him while he rides it out (which is why I probably couldn't do what we wanted in the first place). This is going on all day long and I am exhausted.
 

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My 3.5 year old does this sometimes, she goes through phases. In fact, sometimes she begins having a tantrum before she has even asked me anything. I think some of the time when she does this, she's just tired and completely irrational. Other times, when it seems to happen all the time, I think it has to do with developmental spurts. It really is frustrating. She has very strong feelings, a strong desire for autonomy, really wants to be a big kid (says so all the time), and is acutely aware of how small and relatively powerless she is. It's hard to be little. She isn't always able to modulate her emotions, and she doesn't always have an easy time communicating her feelings without melting down.

I have 3 kids, and definitely there are times when I can't just stop what I'm doing or change our plans to do what she's just asked to do. There are times when, say, pancakes are about to burn and I can't even really stop immediately for hugs/whatever (not that she'd take hugs or listen to anything I say if she's melting down). So I try to prevent the meltdown by saying "yes I can, in one minute" or "yes, as soon as I finish this I can do that," instead of "not right now." She tends to respond to this better. I also try to get her busy with something before I get that involved in something, or I try to involve her in whatever I'm going to be doing, or I try to prepare her ("In a few minutes we're going here," "I'm going to be on the phone for a few minutes," "I'm going to start cooking in 5 minutes, so in 5 minutes we have to be done playing"). But if she starts melting down, so long as she's safe I often just say "I hear that you're angry/sad/frustrated. As soon as you calm down/I put this down/I'm done, we can talk." Usually, even if I'm not busy, that's all I can do when she's melting down. If I really can't stop, by the time she's interested in my helping her calm down or talking or hugs I've already either finished what I'm doing or gotten to a point where I can stop and attend to her. And since we are in the same room when this happens, and she'll follow me wherever I go, I'll repeat (if needed) "I'm here for you, we'll talk when you're calm/as soon as I put this down/whatever." Sometimes she flips (well, not anymore since school is out) when we go to pick up dd from school, despite my attempts to prevent a meltdown. In this case it's "I hear that you're angry, you want to choose to stay. I understand. Dd needs us to pick her up, she'll be scared if we're late." And we go. And she cries. And I listen while we go to the car, and while I'm driving, and when we get home we talk about it and hug. Sometimes all I can do is muddle through as best I can in the moment, and I think that by staying calm and just letting her have her feelings I help her learn that she can survive disappointment and manage her strong emotions. She learns other ways of expressing her emotions by watching/listening to us say "I hear that you're angry/whatever" or later "you were angry because you wanted this but that happened." And she is a very happy child, she doesn't seem to be ruined by our sometimes just letting her have her feelings and not doing anything other than what I just described, and as time goes on she shows that she is learning how to handle it better when things don't go her way.

Once in awhile being really silly in these moments sort of snaps her out of it. I'm not super talented in that area, though.

It helps to make sure she gets plenty of sleep and all that, it helps to have something on hand for her to do at known trouble times, and it helps to remember that it's a phase and she'll outgrow it. It also helps to get a break myself.
 

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Everything Sledg said...

I also like Harvey Karp's ideas about teaching a child to "wait." During the time when you CAN immediately respond to his request, ask him to wait, starting out with just a few seconds and building up from there.

So, "Can I have a towel ride?"

"Sure! Just a second." Look up at the ceiling and tap your teeth with a pencil or something. Count to three to yourself. "Thanks for waiting, let's play!"

Then when he's comfortable with that, move to actually getting up and walking away then coming right back. "Okay, let's do it!"
 

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yep, i agree with previous posters. when my 3 year old (or 5 1/2 year old for that matter) acts out like this....it's due to just being overtired. there is no room for rationalization at all, unfortunately. i just ride out the storm with love and keep in perspective that this is not worth me having a tantrum over too. the next day (or closest moment that occurs) which offers a calmer time to discuss their outburst.....we simply discuss their feelings and mine. i am not always this calm and collected, but with meltdowns....there doesn't seem to be much choice unfortunately because my kids don't seem to be able to help themselves when it is an overtired meltdown. worst case scenario, i will put my kids in their room until they are calm enough to at least rationalize a little and simply calm down to where they aren't freaking out totally.
 
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