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Giving in to tantrums

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  • Giving in to tantrums

    I didn't know if this should be here or in "Respond with Sensitivity".

    My son is going through a tough stage right now. He knows exactly what he wants, is very determined to get it and when he doesn't throws a tantrum. He's 14 months old right now. I try to create a yes environment, but it's very difficult because he wants whatever he can't have and obviously I can't eliminate everything he cant' have. Today he wanted to go in the bathroom, but the door was closed because we don't want him playing in the toilet. When we wouldn't let him in he cried and threw a fit. I worked very hard at trying to distract him which would work for a few minutes and then he would go back to the bathroom. I was wanting to just let him in the bathroom and just keep him out of the toilet, because it wasn't that big of a deal if he was in there, but DH said we can't let him bully us. Well I don't think he was bullying us or manipulating us, I know that he just really wanted in the bathroom and was genuinely upset that he couldn't go in there. I don't want him to think that what he wants isn't important especially when we're not talking about something that is dangerous, but once he had started such a tantrum I didn't think I should give in. Will giving in teach him that having a fit will get him what he wants? I just can't stand to see him upset and hear him cry. Remember, I'm talking about things that aren't dangerous to him.

  • #2
    Hi! Oh yes, been there! I always think that tantrums arent something to be too afraid of. Sure, we have had some doozies where I seriously question what I am doing... but dont we all!

    I like to think of it as strong emotions that have to get out rather than manipulation. You cannot always give your child what they want, its just the way the world is. If you have a rule about playing in the toilet then stick to it. We acknowledge his feelings and then offer support if it is wanted. So in the bathroom door situation we would say "I know you want to get into the bathroom. I understand that its frustrating. We do not play in the bathroom" Then when the tantrum starts we will offer a hug, if it is not wanted then we stay with him and make it clear that we are available when he is ready. There is nothing wrong with being upset and we want him to know that those strong emotions are not something that we as his parents get upset about. In saying that if we see a possible tantrum coming we will try and deflect and move around it before it becomes a problem.... but you cannot always do that.

    So in other words we have definate no go areas. There is no compromise and if a tantrum starts because of that then we understand that its so frustrating to be little and we will be there for him when he needs us. For everything else we compromise as much as we can (within safety boundaries of course) and let him make his own choices within those safe boundaries.

    I recommend this book if you are interested. Found a copy at our local library.

    We all have moments where it gets on top of us. This is a HARD age. It does get easier when they are more verbal and you can talk about things a bit more. We found that using sign language during this stage was a great way to get around DS feeling so out of control. He was better able to tell us what he wanted.



    • #3
      there's an API article inside this Journal issue called Decoding Tantrums that may help.

      As far as "giving in". Pretend your husband makes a decision that you don't agree with. You give him your perspective, properly present your side, and convince him that there's another way to go. He changes his mind. Did he just 'give in' to you? No, he was persuaded to make a new decision when presented with better facts.

      Sometimes that's what toddlers are doing when they have tantrums, although they don't have the skill to calmly persuade, and we can't expect that of them. Changing your mind shows that you value his feelings, understand his perspective, and (oh yes!) sometimes make poor decisions, too. So, rather than looking at it as 'giving in', look at it as 'working together' to meet EVERYONE's needs, yours for safety, and his for exploration.


      • #4
        Originally posted by connerleesmom View Post
        DH said we can't let him bully us. ... but once he had started such a tantrum I didn't think I should give in. Will giving in teach him that having a fit will get him what he wants?
        This is SUCH a common belief among parents. And a cause of so much hurt in the world.

        I just can't stand to see him upset and hear him cry. Remember, I'm talking about things that aren't dangerous to him.
        Listen to your instincts. It doesn't feel good because it is wrong. This is a conditional belief put on you by our society. It's not right.

        I found relief from these types of beliefs that were holding me back in books. I would recommend Attached at the Heart, Unconditional Parenting, and Playful Parenting. All helped me view children, behavior, and my relationship from a more realistic and less socially-constructed way.

        Best of luck to you in your search for truth!


        • #5
          Why does he want into the bathroom? That would be my first question. Does he want to play with water? If so, give him an outlet for that. Is he just curious about bathroom stuff, then let him go in when you or dh has to use it anyway. But, I don't believe in relenting to tantrums. With my 4 kids, I have learned that it does tend to lead to MORE tantrums. They find it is an appropriate and effective way to express their emotions.

          We tend to, first, find out the motivator, and that is HARD at that young an age, but not impossible. THEN, we focus on giving them an outlet for that desire. My son likes to cover himself in peanut butter, don't ask, he just does. But, we found that he also likes to play in the mud. I think it's sensory. So if we don't fuss about him taking a mud bath in the back yard occasionally, our peanut butter tends to be left for sandwiches.

          We also try to sympathize with him. "Honey, I know, it's difficult being a kid. Sometimes you don't get to do the things you want. Then we teach, "You are so angry, can you show mommy an angry face" and then demonstrate. Teaching them an appropriate way to express themselves that is age appropriate, is our ultimate goal. So we focus on getting them to the place where they can learn, which tends for us, to be the calm immediately after the storm.

          I hope this helps some. But alot of these things, you just have to get through.

          I will say that this specific rule, I don't agree with. Making the potty a bad place that he is not allowed to go may backfire on you in a couple of years. Just saying, if he isn't allowed in there now, you are going to have to get him over his "oops, I'm breaking the rules" before you can even focus on, "pee and poo go in the potty". Instead, I would get one of those toilet seat locks.


          • #6
            Actually, he's in the bathroom all the time. He comes in there with me when I use the bathroom and the door isn't always shut, but lately he's been putting things in the toilrt plus he is totally fixated with having the soap and last time I let him have the soap he put it in his mouth and then rubbed it in his eyes which really stung, so I don't let him have the soap anymore. Last night DH had just given him his bath and I don't think he wanted to be done, but the tub was drained and his bath was done, so we shut the door. Today he wanted me to turn the music on, but DH and I were watching TV, so I was thinking should I turn on the music or do it after the show we're watching and before I could even decide DS was throwing a royal fit. So then of course DH is again saying we can't turn it on now, which I'm not sure I agree with, but that's what I'm wondering about because I want to let DS know that I understand what he wants, but I don't want him to throw tantrums all the time. I know they're normal, but right now he's going through such a whiny, crying tantrum throwing stage and it's driving me crazy. It will be nice when he can understand and communicate better.

            I appreciate everyone's responses. They are varied in opinions though. I just need to do a combination of changing my mind and letting him have what he wants when it's no big deal and sticking to my guns when I think it's important. I'm definitely not a strict, never bend kind of mama, but I'm starting to wonder if that's why he's throwing the tantrums, but I'm actually thinking it's more just a normal thing for him to do because he doesn't understand why he can't do and have everything he wants. I think I'm going to go back to being more flexible, it feels more natural to me.

            Thanks for the book recommendations. I was already planning on getting Attached at the Heart, and was thinking about Uncoditional Parenting. I think I will get Adventures in Gentle Discipline, that sounds like a good one. PaxMama, where is the article you were suggesting?


            • #7
              if you click on my words above "Decoding Tantrums" it will takeyou there. it may take a minute or so to load.

              hang in there! tantrums ARE normal, they're going to happen, and are even necessary for development, especially at this age.


              • #8
                Have you looked at ways to avoid the tantrums? I mean a tantrum over music, why not have a cd player in his room, then he can have music while you watch your show. If his room is too far away (our kids are right off the living room) then headphones. He'd learn quickly that to hear his music he needs to listen through them, so once again, it takes some time to teach it, but once they've got it, they've got it. Do you have DVR or TIVO? I would never be able to watch a show if it weren't for DVR so I can record the show I want to watch and see it after the kids are asleep or napping. Something like that, I try to put myself in their shoes. What if I want to listen to music and dh wants to watch a football game? I either go to a different room, or use headphones. So I give the kids those same options.

                Oh, and now knowing why he wanted back into the bathroom, I would have taken him in there and let him see that the water had gone bye bye. Then, if what he really wanted was a bath toy, let him take that with him.

                At a year old, he understands something like 70% of what you say, he just can't say it back. So talk to him, explain things to him. "Honey, I know you like the bath, but the water has already gone away. Did you want a toy you were playing with?"

                Also, remember that crying and a tantrum are two different things. A tantrum usually means kicking, screaming, and less tears. Crying, which is how most tantrums start is the sad face, with tears. During crying is when we explain, or try to communicate. During the tantrum is when we usually give them space to be mad. Big feelings happen, and they have to learn to deal with them. DH doesn't walk around trying to avoid getting me mad when the bills come and we have less money than we expected. I have to learn to deal with that. I have to learn the proper ways to express that anger. So do our children.


                • #9
                  He's definitely throwing tantrums more than crying. He does the kind of "fake crying" where there are no tears, and sometimes stamps his feet. I just feel bad because I try to create a yes environment, but it still seems like he constantly wants what he can't have. If I give him a bottle of lotion or shampoo, etc. (things he used to love to play with) he now wants it open and if I don't open it he gets upset. I don't open bottles because he squeezes the contents out and puts it in his mouth or I'm afraid he'll get it in his eyes. He wanted to play with a closed pocketknife, so I let him and he knew it did more. He wanted me to take the blades out and I obviously couldn't do that, so that made him mad. These aren't always full blown tantrums sometimes he just cries for a minute. I guess I just can't handle seeing him disappointed and I hate to tell him no. I realize he has to learn that life isn't fair, but it seems like he shouldn't have to learn that yet.

                  He's just a very curious baby and he knows exactly what he wants and he gets frustrated and disappointed when he can't have it. So is it okay to just stand by and watch the tantrum happen? Like Petie says he's mad and seems to need his space. He doesn't want to be held and anything I say to him gets drowned out by his screaming. Distraction works sometimes, so I guess I should keep trying that, but if distraction doesn't work is it okay to just let him "cry" and just stay by him? I guess I just need to reassured that it's okay and it doesn't make me a bad mama!

                  Thanks for the article PaxMama.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by connerleesmom View Post
                    I'm definitely not a strict, never bend kind of mama, but I'm starting to wonder if that's why he's throwing the tantrums, but I'm actually thinking it's more just a normal thing for him to do because he doesn't understand why he can't do and have everything he wants. I think I'm going to go back to being more flexible, it feels more natural to me.
                    I see my daughter's tantrums as a way to communicate. When I decide to do something for her, I do it out of joy and willingness, not as a response to the tantrum. But sometimes she is really trying hard to tell me something and that is the only way she knows how. So if the tantrum is because I said no to something, I am more than willing to rethink it and whether it's that important. If it's not, I tell her something like, "Oh, I see what you mean. I agree with you now." If what I said to no to is important, I empathize with her and offer my loving presence. Sometimes, I've said, I just can't let you do that because I don't think it's safe. What can I do to help you? And she'll say "I want you, Mama." and I'll hold her and love her and then we go on after she's healed from this upset.

                    I've been using this approach for 1 1/2 years now, and tantrums are few and far between in our house. Most of the time now, she's able to ask and discuss calmly, whether the answer is yes or no. I believe it's because she trusts that I will listen and be fair and love her no matter what.

                    I never withdraw my love or support for my child, and I work really hard to show her the respect I would want from someone if they were disagreeing with me.