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First Real Temper Tantrum and I'm Scared

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  • First Real Temper Tantrum and I'm Scared

    My almost 17 month old DD has had a tough week. I was sick all week and she was cooped up in the house much more than usual. Capping it off today was what can only be described as her first real temper tantrum. She refused to be put in her carseat today. She screamed her head off, twisted, clung to me and did just about anything that she could to avoid being strapped in. I had told her we were going out. She knows the word and sign for car so I don't think the trip was a surprise. In the past she may have fussed a tiny bit but a little cracker or other treat always got us over the bump. She escalated so fast and furiously today that I was afraid to give her a cracker for fear she'd choke. I have no idea what prompted the outpouring and I think she forgot after a while too but just kept screaming. I finally got her calmed a bit by nursing and calmed her again after strapping her in by blowing bubbles.

    I know I'm not supposed to take her behavior personally but I admit to being a little spooked by the volume and depth of this tantrum. DD has a flair for the dramatic but this was really off the charts. I kept my cool with her but inside, I was pretty flustered.

    Were you thrown by your child's tantrums? What advice do you have if she has another one tomorrow? Thank you!

  • #2
    Oh, boy, this sounds so much like our first tantrum. Except ours was at 8 months and really caught me by surprise! I was not expecting one at that age at all. None since then have seemed nearly as bad.

    In our first one, she was screaming so bad that I considered taking her to the emergency room! She kept signing milk and I kept offering but she did not want to nurse. Finally, I asked Dad to get her a bottle of expressed milk, which she otherwise NEVER would take in my presence, and that is what ultimately calmed her down. Talk about taking it personally!

    I've found the advice that tantrums are normal, developmentally appropriate ways to express emotions is so helpful. My role is not to stop or prevent the tantrum. It is to try to figure out what will best soothe her, whether that be by expressing what I think she is feeling or waiting quietly and reconnecting when she is ready. It's just hard for these little ones to express these emotions that many adults can't handle very well, so it's really an opportunity to help them develop the emotional health I think we are all hoping our children will have!


    • #3
      Oh my yes, it really does through you off. Our first major meltdown was in Costco (I think) when I was with a friend. I did the best I could to help calm him down; I didn't show much reaction or emotion with the purpose of really being where he was instead of where I was mentally and if he's really upset, I try to be very calm. We went to a quiet part of the store to settle down and once he was done, it was okay. We may have nursed a bit in the Beco then I put him on the back. He was still very restless and not too happy, so we paid and left quickly.

      So, ideas are to soothe them to the best of your ability or distract them. If they really don't want to do something, like brush their teeth, you as the parent decide if it is really that important to battle over or if you want to let their feelings be heard. When it comes to outings and car seats, well, sometimes you have to go regardless and they have to be safe, so these are non-negotiable for us. We also give snacks as a distraction because I've noticed sometimes it's hunger or thirst.

      I'll also try to connect like "You are really mad you can't go outside and play. It's raining and that makes you very mad! You want to go outside. Hey, why don't we color and go outside when the rain stops?" Sometimes connection works very well, especially now that he's starting to get a bit older. I find you can start to compromise a bit more. Other times, it doesn't work at all.

      Liam's got to be very violent at times and nothing would help him. I don't mean he was hitting me, but the full body flails, kicks, and random head movements can really hurt! Sometimes, I just have to walk away and let him know I'm here when he's ready. In this time, while he's melting down, I just don't pay much attention to his tantrum. He usually rejoins me quickly and then we try to talk and reconnect about what just happened.

      If you haven't yet, I highly recommend reading Connection Parenting. I believe we have a copy of this within our local group Library. If not, I think I may have it somewhere around here too. I also got some ideas from the Happiest Toddler on the Block, but they didn't work as well for us as others I know.


      • #4
        Hello. Yes, it is very difficult when your formerly compliant or gently independent child expresses strong emotion. I find it helpful to imagine all the possible things that might be going on in their head. (the seat belt was hot, ouch, don't put me in there, I really don't want to go, why is she making me...and then all the frustration from their point of view...why dosn't mommy seam to understand? Why is this happening...Ooh I am ssooo upset AHHHHHH!) From our point of view it is an irrational fit, from theirs it is their feelings being devalued. Some people I know give their child space in that mood, but still remain available. Others sit near to offer cuddles when ready. Of course tactics differ depending on if you are in public or private, in a rush etc. I think its important to still be responsive emotionaly even if the strength of the emotions are powerful.

        Our culture really encourages us to downplay strong emotions, positive or negative, so I understand why none of us really know what to do with them. Maybe giving her words "you are feeling angry" "you are feeling frustrated" will help build her emotional vocabulary for later events.
        Hang in there!


        • #5
          I am really enjoying reading these threads as I am soaking up lots of information for the future! I have a question though (& maybe this needs to be a new thread).

          I have noticed many of you use a way of communicating that acknowledges their feelings, then moves on to explain why they can't do or can't have or etc. the thing they want and the reason they are upset. My friend uses this method for her two daughters and I think it works very well. Example: I know you are upset that you can't get out of your carseat right now, but we are driving home and it is unsafe for you to not be in your carseat when we are driving in the car. Once we are home, you can get out.

          Okay, my question though is that I try to never assume someone's feelings. This is something that has gotten me into a lot of trouble with friends, coworkers, etc. If I assume I know how someone feels, often I am wrong and it ends up being a mess because I adjust my approach or actions based on how I assume they are feeling.

          I use nonconfrontational speech a lot in my life and work environment. Things like, it seems that you are upset by this thing I did, can you help me understand why this upsets you? etc.

          It seems like (see, there I go using it again!) those of you who are discussing using this "acknowledement technique" are acknowleding that the child is upset, but to me it feels like something I would never do because it's making an assumption about their feelings. For me, I would never say something like "I know you are mad, but..." because how do I know they are actually "mad" maybe they are just frustrated or some other emotion that seems similar.

          My question for all of you is: Is there a reason you are using this type of language with the children? I knew their senses of emotion aren't as well developed as an adult, so is it on purpose? What does anyone think of saying something like "It seems to me you are upset about being in your carseat, we cannot take you out of your carseat right now because....." etc.

          Sorry if this should be another thread. I am happy to start a new one if that is the case!

          Thank you and I love this site soooooooo much!


          • #6
            For me, I would never say something like "I know you are mad, but..."
            I know what you mean about this issue, and I think only preverbal or early worded children would benefit from the description being "put on them" as it is. As children get older and with my hubby, I do try to ask, instead of assume. "Are you angry?" Are you upset that I put your dress-up box away?" Etc
            A simpler observation style approach (as in NVC) would bypass that a bit to. "I see you jumping and running, I hear you yelling."
            With the very young I think it is helpful to learn a descriptive term for anything object or abstract. Even if you modeled later when you were angry "I am feeling angry" does that mean your child would truly understand the concept of one feeling or another. Of course you could still ask at any age regardless. We assume babies are feeling emotions and respond to them, so I guess by extension are hopefully connected enough to at least get close to what they are feeling as toddlers. Empathetic skill is what I mean, I guess.

            I just reread your post--
            it seems that you are upset
            you said to your coworker. Did you assume she was upset? And I am also assuming we know our children better then our coworkers!
            Last edited by naomifrederickmd; 06-16-2008, 11:40 AM.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Bikil View Post
              Okay, my question though is that I try to never assume someone's feelings.

              My question for all of you is: Is there a reason you are using this type of language with the children? I knew their senses of emotion aren't as well developed as an adult, so is it on purpose?
              you make a very good point. assuming another's feelings is dangerous territory, but that is something we try not to do w/this language. it's called Non-Violent Communication (NVC by Marshall Rosenberg so there is a definitive method w/this style.

              the true goal is to 1) validate feelings in order to 2) meet needs. the purpose of speaking to a toddler or infant this way is to express our own empathy for them and to help them understand that there are words for their feelings. then, as the child ages, the language becomes more complex. you may simply use "angry" for a toddler, but as they become older, you'd get more specific w/words like "frustrated", "irritated", etc. but starting it at such a young age primes both them and you to get into the habit and to get in touch w/your feelings.

              feelings are complex, are rarely isolated, and have many layers. so during a tantrum, a toddler could be feeling many feelings: anger, distrust, hurt, fear, exhaustion--all at the same time. if the anger is obvious, you just start w/one feeling. your toddler isn't going to say, "i'm not angry, i'm frustrated!" it's the acknowledgment of upset that's important, and then to move on to meeting the need behind the feeling. "i see that you're angry because it's time to go home. you wanted to play longer. let's continue this game at home."

              when my oldest was 4, we made a feelings book. we took 9 different pictures of faces that he made then labeled them w/words. each face had four different words. so for "angry" we had angry, aggravated, cranky, frustrated. he's an emotionally gifted child. he came up w/his own feeling words. "Happysad" is his word for when he feels both. he understands that he can have conflicting feelings. so this method really helps children increase their emotional sensitivity.

              does this make sense?

              weren't you going to start a NVC thread or am i thinking of someone else?


              • #8

                I've found labelling my son's negative feelings to be very unsuccessful. If I say something like:

                "You are really mad you can't go outside and play. It's raining and that makes you very mad! You want to go outside.

                He gets REALLY upset. I've tried varying the way I say things but I can't seem label any of his negative feelings without making the situation worse. Anyone else have this problem?

                I have concluded that it is just a personality issue with my son and what is recommended and works for most does not work for us in this situation.

                My son had what I thought was pretty intense tantrums. He would scream at the top of his lungs for up to 45 minutes. And I mean scream, his volume remained at almost the same level the entire time. I do not know how it was physically possible for him to maintain this level. I think his tantrums went on so long because he got "stuck" in them and couldn't stop himself. Finally after trying many things I discovered that the first 10 minutes were about whatever incident had occured to set him off but the last 20 minutes we're just him unable to stop himself. If I waited about ten minutes he would then let me scoop him up onto my lap and if I didn't talk about the incident (which would just keep him fired up) he would slowly go from screaming to sobbing.

                I am slowly finding ways to deal with his feelings without talking about them directly. Though, I still try to talk directly about them I continue to not be very successful.



                • #9
                  Thank you for all of your feedback. I've chilled a little. Today was a fun day. We had some "normal" meltdowns but no biggies. I remember being so angry at Dr. Sears when Mariska was a new baby. She was so darn fussy the first few months and I kept reading the AP books that said if you do x,y,z, you will be able to anticipate your baby's needs and it implied, they would cry less. I did x,y,z but I certainly had a lot of tears. I feel the same way now. I guess I thought the signs and Happiest Toddler advice would be a talisman for tantrums too. I reread some of the Sears material (I forgave him lol!) and it was a good reminder that ALL toddlers have some tantrums.

                  I definitely need to read some of the Alfie Kohn, Connection Parenting and NVC materials. I have been thinking a lot about my language and I have a guilty confession... I was surprised how ugly my communication is with my dog sometimes. Sounds silly but Mariska's first word was "Brigid", our dog's name. She heard it yelled so many times! She also knows "sit!" because she hears that yelled out all the time too.

                  I haven't had much luck with the Happiest Toddler tips from the video either. I plan on reading the book to see if that helps.

                  Thank you again for all of your posts. It is good to see old and new friends online!



                  • #10
                    Originally posted by naomifrederickmd View Post
                    Did you assume she was upset? And I am also assuming we know our children better then our coworkers!
                    There is definitely an assumption on my part that they might be upset, but the language gives them an opportunity to tell me they are not upset and also helps them realize that whether they are actually upset or not, their behavior is making them seem upset.

                    so there is a definitive method w/this style.
                    by PaxMama

                    I REALLY need to read this book. I've been watching all of your discussions all this time & it really seems like something I would do well to read!

                    I was surprised how ugly my communication is with my dog sometimes.
                    By mariskamom

                    I realized this about our cats. We've started practicing AP with our cats now because we don't want our daughter to pick up our bad habits. I never realized how much we sometimes yell @ our cats until she was born. Luckily, she's only 4 months old & we're already changing our behavior. We use please & thank you w/ them now to model good behavior & try to figure out what their needs are so we can fulfill them so they won't be "bad." I really want to make sure our daughter's first words aren't "Dammit Loki!"