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Toddler temper tantrums please help

594 Views 9 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  annarosa
I'm not sure if this is the right area to be posting this in, so if its not- Mods please feel free to move this.
So yesterday I am at Books A Million with my DS and he's into EVERYTHING, he's in what I affectionately term DEMON mode. He gets this look on his face and starts what feels like intentionally getting into everything he's not supposed to. He looks at me and then goes about getting into everything. So I am holding him because he is tearing everything apart and he gets Furious and jams his hand into my left eye. I have a very high pain tolerance but with the blinding, seering pain that accompanied it I almost dropped him. Not intentionally, but the pain was Aweful. I went in the bathroom and tried to look at my eye which I couldn't even open and ended up having to go home. I get home and a few hours later it is 100x worse at this point ended up having to go to the ER. A friend watched DS so I didn't have to sit with him in the ER and have him spazzing. I ended up with a severe corneal abrasion. Ok, so now with that said and done my issue is he has ugly temper tantrums and I end up on the receiving end. He gets upset and hits and scratches me and bangs his head etc etc. He's slammed his head into my face during a temper tantrum and made my nose bleed from the force. So what I am wanting to know is using gentle discipline how can I stop these tantrums or lessen them or something. I'm at a loss.
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What sets him off? Why is he throwing the tantrum in the first place? What is your idea of GD? What have you tried? The reason I ask is because I think we all have our ideas of what GD is...and it can be rather broad from person to person, though we all have the same goal in the end. The reality is, there isn't one method that works for every child, so you have to take from GD what you can, and find what works for your child, and what doesn't. I think I'm probably more on the "hard" side when it comes to parenting. I simply don't tolerate certain behaviors, and I have established very firm boundaries with my son where I feel they are needed. One of those boundaries are in regards to violence. When he was much younger, and starting to express his frustration in a physical manner, I quenched it immediately. I didn't hit him, but if he kicked, I held his leg down until he agreed to stop...if he went for it again, I held his leg down until he agreed to stop. Same with a swinging arm....I would catch it in mid swing and hold on until he agreed to stop. People might cringe when I say this, but I told him that I'm much stronger than he is, and more stubborn, and that I was willing to hold his leg/arm down as long as I had to, in order to get him to understand that people don't like to be kicked/hit. I allow my son to be emotional, but I don't allow him to be physical.
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Honestly I don't let my dd down at stores 99% of the time. She is in a mei tai on my back. Period. For the tantrums, I have found that it works best if I just make sure she's safe and mostly give her space. I stay close by (but out of range) and check in with her often and talk to her now and then.

good luck!

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I think its really, really important that you take care of both your child AND yourself. If I were you, the first thing I would be very sure of is that he is not close enough to me to hurt me during a tantrum. At home, that is relatively easy -- you just move several steps away. In public, I know that it is harder. You may need to figure out how to anticipate a tantrum and move to the car or someplace out of the way and safe before you attempt to deal with the situation.

Your child is the exact same age as mine! Same birthday and everything. If you are shopping in a place like a bookstore, will he stay in a stroller? I can't carry mine in a sling anymore, but she loves the stroller so that helps. If not, I think I would probably have decided that the bookstore trip was over the minute child wouldn't hold my hand or stay with me. In public, its all about heading things off before they get to the point where someone gets hurt! Not giving in, just knowing when to call it quits or find a snack or someplace they can run and play.

For tantrums at home, I try to calm DD down at the beginning ("I understand you are mad/upset/frustrated/whatever fits because of whatever happened, but I need you to calm down so I can help. take a deep breath. Use a pleasant voice, now, what do you need?") If that doesn't work, then I simply ignore the tantrum. I say "I will be more than happy to help when you calm down" and then I walk away. Not too far, but far enough that I can't be hurt and I don't look like I'm paying attention to DD. Whe she stops screaming, then I will go back and figure out the next step.

But, I believe that 3 is old enough to start learning that screaming/ crying/ hitting is not an appropriate way to express yourself, regardless of circumstances. I know that several others here don't agree, so you should hear several different thoughts on this.
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My son hasn't actually hurt me in that way, but he does hit and kick quite a bit. If he doesn't initially respond to a hug to calm down (this stopped working around age 2) then I give him space and leave him alone. I really have to, because nothing else works. Though I have no issue with gentely holding the hurting limbs. Obviously you can't leave him alone in a store. I don't touch grown up places with a 1000 foot pole if we're within like, two hours of lunch or nap time. I'm just not that brave. Probably not the best way to live, but that's just what I do.

edited to say I really agree with this:
I think I would probably have decided that the bookstore trip was over the minute child wouldn't hold my hand or stay with me. In public, its all about heading things off before they get to the point where someone gets hurt! Not giving in, just knowing when to call it quits or find a snack or someplace they can run and play.

On the few occasions we've had trouble in public, I can look back and see that I should have left sooner. I know that's hard, because you don't have to drag them around hungry and tired to get a tantrum or anything. It can happen so fast. But that's what I do.
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My DS has some pretty aweful headbanging gits for example, if I let him hang his head he would have mass bruises. Out of desperation I listened to everyone and they said to walk away when he starts the head banging tantrum. So I did (this is a few months ago) and he had the absolute worst bruises of any he's ever had. Usually when I am out and about I wear him in my maya wrap on my back, however when I went out yesterday I forgot it. He doesn't like the stroller so I almost never use it, he is so difficult to figure out when he is going to start throwing his tantrums. Most cases it is over nothing. We will be out and everything is going smooth and out of nowhere he'll get mad about something and throw a fit. His big thing is number one he is a BIG drama King, two he hates to be confined in any way shape or form and three he loves to test the limits. He will do anything he can to test them. It's really hard to explain how he is, you would really need to be around him to see what he does and how he does it to completely understand. This is sooooo frustrating.
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First off I'd examine his "life" to rule out an organic cause check his diet his exposure to TV and medication ect.


Originally Posted by Hazelnut
I don't touch grown up places with a 1000 foot pole if we're within like, two hours of lunch or nap time. I'm just not that brave. Probably not the best way to live, but that's just what I do.
I'm right there with you.....I'm sure my IRL friends all thought I was nuts when from 6 months, probably until about 22 months old, I limited my "out and about" errand time to:
-No more than 2 different stores on any outing
-No more than 2 hours' duration for any outing
-Never arriving home within an hour before lunch/nap time, or dinner time
-Always bring a snack and some water, even if he just ate. Usually something like mandarin oranges or a cheese stick, nothing major.

The thing was, I knew that that would be disastrous for him AND for me, and that's no fun for anyone. I never really had to deal with tantrums in public (in fact, I've only had 2, and both were my fault because I pushed it and didn't follow my own rules). Sure, some weeks we went out every day to get things done, but I figured it was a small price to pay to not drag around a miserable kid and create a miserable mom, too.

Now, at 26 months, my only rules are:
-He can walk to wherever we're going from the parking lot, but then needs to go in a stroller or cart as soon as we get there. Otherwise if I let him walk even for a minute in the store, he'll flip out if I try to put him in the cart/stroller - but if we walk hand in hand to the store, and then go right to the cart/stroller, he's fine. I know, it's bizarre, but that's just the way he is.
-No outings that would overlap/interrupt nap time, or put us back home closer than 15 min before his nap time.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you're finding this is happening a lot, you may just need to rethink the structure of your outings for a time period. Yeah, it might be a drag and a bit of an inconvenience, but I bet it would be better than what you went through the other day (and big hugs to you for that, that must have been SO painful). My DS is also an "explorer", and I know his limits, so I just don't push them. I know that he'll outgrow this and be able to walk along side me at some point, and we test it out once every so often, but we're just not there yet.

As far as the injuries, and at-home tantrums, I think it is important for you to protect yourself, so that if he's totally wound up and thrashing I don't see a problem with stopping him from hurting you, whether it's gently holding his arms to prevent him from lashing out or even walking out of his whacking range and talking to him soothingly until he calms down. I don't think you should be a "punching bag" in the name of GD, that sends the wrong message. I read that he really banged himself up when you did walk away once, so maybe you could set up a soft area for him and if he gets out of control, put him there so he can't hurt himself and then get yourself safe or something? ITA with the other posters that said that it's fine for them to have tantrums, but that you can teach and guide them to appropriate ways to express the frustration. Teaching them that the emotions are OK, but that hurting other people (including mommy) isn't, seems totally reasonable to me.

I hope you feel better soon.
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I think it's best to ignore tantrums when it is happening. Kids don't hear you in the midst of a meltdown, so reasoning or calming probably won't work and may even escalate the tantrum. This is definitely easier to do at home. Walk away and ignore it. When it's over, I'm there for hugs or whatever comfort they need. I always talk to my girls AFTER the tantrum at a quiet time. Especially for hitting or kicking. I would say something like, "You hit me before when you were having a tantrum. It's ok for you to be angry, but it's not ok to hit."

In public, we leave. I would put my dd in the car and go home. Any books we had picked out would be left behind. Later, if she was upset about not getting her book, I would say something similar to the above. "You hit and we had to leave. It's ok to be angry, but you may not hit me."
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I have a couple of questions - what is setting these tantrums off ? you said he has a certain look on his face - is he hungry/tired/bored/needing a change of scene ??

it seems that you had an anticipation of what was about to happen - could you have headed it off - with a drink/a small snack/ a song/a cuddle/going outside for some air ???

my general advice would be to catch the mood earlier and DO something positive to change it before he gets so frustrated that he is hitting you/going beserk in the store - sounds to me that he really needed some help earlier from you to get him out of a big downward plunge .............
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