First full on toddler tantrum - what should we have done?!

(36 Posts)
wishingforwillpower Sat 04-Jan-14 21:25:04

At the park, kicking a ball about with DS who loves nothing more. After a while he was clearly getting tired and we were all getting cold. Put the ball under the buggy and strapped DS in, albeit with the usual resistance and tears which we have seen many times before. Normally he calms down pretty quickly or is easily distracted... Not this time. He screamed and made his whole body rigid all the was to the supermarket, about five minutes walk away. We chatted away in comforting voices to him, made his favourite animal noise etc. No sign of calming down. The same all round the supermarket, made worse by the fact that he saw an escalator which he loves. All the while screaming "BALL" and lurching about. By then I felt awful, really distressed and also sweating with the shame of the looks of judgement we were attracting... Still no sign of calming down, now about 15 minutes later. In the end I couldn't take it any more, I really thought he would be sick and so I took him out of his buggy to try and comfort him - nothing worked, singing, distraction, cuddles and I ended up carrying him home sobbing while my DH pushed the buggy.

The rest of the evening dragged by as he was tired and fractious as I'm sure he felt dreadful, and I felt awful too. I know this probably doesn't sound like a big deal but we haven't had a tantrum like this before and I just wondered if anyone has any advice about how we could have handled it differently? Obviously we couldnt just go back to the park and play ball again,and has made me never want to play ball in the park ever again if this is what happens when it's time to go home! I hated seeing him so distressed, and would love to feel a bit more prepared for next time....

FlossieTreadlight Sat 04-Jan-14 21:31:05

Watching with interest as we had our first today as well. At home (thank fuck) but in front of visitors.

TwattyBojangles Sat 04-Jan-14 21:33:42

Was he overtired when you went out? That could account for such a huge tantrum on the way home.

I find that a promise of something else fun to do can make them leave with a lot less resistance (eg, if we put the football away now we can go to the shops and go on the escalator), encourage dc to get involved with going home, ask them to put ball away, do they want to walk or go in pushchair.

It sounds like you handled the situation as best you could, as often by that point there is nothing much else you can do to make it better. For the future prevention may be better than cure.

Thurlow Sat 04-Jan-14 21:41:40

It sounds like you handled it well. The only thing I know - not an expert on this at all, we're also on our first few ones! - is to try and spot when they've lost control and no longer know why they're upset, which upsets them even more. Then they can't stop and calm themselves down and you sometimes have to offer some quite serious distraction to calm them down and cheer them up.

I deal with them in one of these ways
1) ignore
2) distract
3) offer a cuddle until he calms down
4) pick up carry him away from the scene (judgey people) and wait for calm to set in.
5) bribery

Iwillorderthefood Sat 04-Jan-14 21:49:42

It sounds to me as if you need to start giving him a bit of warning before he leaves, maybe five more minutes, and count it down or perhaps 10 more kicks if the ball and we are going to leave. What I am trying to say is that he did not realise it was time to go home, and so threw a great big tantrum because if it. As previous posters said he was probably tired too.

Try to manage expectations at all times and choose your battles, if what he wants will not matter much give in, when it is a matter of safety or perhaps you need to be somewhere else, stick to your guns.

I found with my two that as their language developed the tantrums became fewer.

Thurlow Sat 04-Jan-14 21:53:53

It is all a learning curve. I picked the wrong battle the other day over dinner when realistically toddler was eating well anyway. The tantrum was spectacular. You just learn, look back and think what you might have managed differently, and try that next time.

Shakey1500 Sat 04-Jan-14 21:58:30

Pick your battles was, singularly THE best bit of advice I was given when DS was a toddler. It clicked with me and made so much easier.

I know that's not much use now and also, there really was little else you could do today. I agree that giving him a heads up/ target of what's going to happen may help. Then he will have a target of sorts and be aware that the activity will end soon etc.

Susyb30 Sat 04-Jan-14 21:58:59

I think you handled the situation amazingly well! We'v had similar situations and if you are out in public it can be so embarrassing..you did the right thing in the fact you both kept your cool, my dh and I have got so stressed out with thedreaded supermarket shop that staff see us coming and give us sympathetic looks haha. Oh and this might make you feel better. .the very first time our ds had a full blown tantrum I was so utterly shocked at his screaming and rigidity I thought he was having some kind of seizure! Phoned An ambulance (yes I know) and even tho paramedics thought I was overreacting I insisted on going to hosp..by the time we were halfway to hosp my ds was clapping hands and blowing raspberries. .oops. yes we were mortified and decided to keep our little ambulance ride a secret :-)

500internalerror Sat 04-Jan-14 22:07:16

I know it's sometimes unavoidable, but its best to go straight home after a nice time. I know your ds was already mid tantrum, but it does spoil their memories of a lovely time if its tainted with errands on the way home! Could you have shopped first? Or one person went home one went to the supermarket?

It does sound like going home was unexpected for your ds; always remember how frustrating it must be to not know what you're doing from one minute to the next - you were planning in your head, but ds didn't know that. Xx

500internalerror Sat 04-Jan-14 22:08:57

Just a thought..... Are you sure he just didnt want to hold the ball in the buggy? It sounds a bit like that when you read the op back.

Cluelessat30 Sat 04-Jan-14 22:24:30

Omg, never give a toddler a ball in a supermarket!! smile

Goldmandra Sat 04-Jan-14 23:05:51

You did the right thing by not going back to try and do what he wanted to shut him up.

You helped him calm down by giving him a cuddle and carrying him.

Next time you'll know to give him more warning but be aware that it might not help.

Don't interpret the looks you got as judgement. Most people were probably feeling empathy.

It will happen again but, as long as you handle it in the same way every time, it won't go on forever.

MrsCaptainReynolds Sat 04-Jan-14 23:15:58

We seem to avoid tantrums (or diffuse them) by:

Picking our battles i.e. no getting into conflict unless it actually matters
Distraction
Giving clear warnings and signposting e.g. If we know he won't want to leave/ stop playing with a toy, we'll repeatedly tells him we're going soon but he can play for 5 more minutes first. He gets "first" and "then".

Amazingly sometimes mid tantrum he can be reasoned with but chosing when this will work is a bit of a gamble. We were at the zoo last week and he was screaming over being put in the buggy, and going all rigid. Had this for a few minutes and I decided just to tell him to stop -got down face-to-face and said (firmly but not shouting), "DS you need to stop that screaming right now. It's loud and scaring the animals. That's not nice. We're going to walk with the buggy for 5 mins then you can get out ok. No more screaming now." To my amazement he stopped and repeated "screaming scares animals".

MrsCaptainReynolds Sat 04-Jan-14 23:17:08

(Should add, I gave him and kiss and cuddle and thanked him after, still stunned but hoping to reinforce!)

sykadelic15 Sat 04-Jan-14 23:33:53

I think the first time I would have reacted like you did.

With the benefit of hindsight I would probably find a bench or seat in the park, turn the stroller towards me and let him cry it out while rocking it back and forth until he calmed down.

If he hadn't calmed down 10 minutes or so later I would have taken him straight home.

Once he was calm I would have offered a cuddle.

If that didn't work I'd try again!

Iwillorderthefood Sat 04-Jan-14 23:39:13

As others have said sometimes nothing helps. Anybody who tuts, has probably never been in that situation, just ignore it, others will give looks of sympathy.

Wolfiefan Sat 04-Jan-14 23:42:35

How old is he?
I would calmly explain what was happening and why.
Try distraction.
Then ignore. Continue to ignore. Ignore some more!
Cuddle after.

TheCrumpetQueen Sun 05-Jan-14 07:47:08

I think if he was tired and reacting like that after the park I would've headed straight home and got dp to go supermarket.

wishingforwillpower Sun 05-Jan-14 08:24:19

Thanks everyone! You've all been so helpful, was really ready to be told what a terrible mum I had been by keeping him in his buggy... That makes absolute sense that we should have given him more warning and also maybe something 'next'. I tried that this morning when he found the iPad and wanted to play his favourite app - started giving him warnings and told him we could play in the sink next which he loves. He is 20 months btw so communication still not great although I think his understanding is quite good.
Susyb I love your story!! And can totally understand, I really thought DS must have some sort of physical pain to be reacting the way he was.
It's all a learning curve isn't it? Hopefully I'll get better at responding and not beating myself up for the rest of the day!

ChoudeBruxelles Sun 05-Jan-14 08:32:21

I probably would have just gone home and gone to the supermarket another time.

NorthEasterlyGale Sun 05-Jan-14 17:18:05

One more thing to chuck in the mix - any chance he was hungry after all the running about? I know a snack wouldn't have avoided the tantrum but maybe combined with warnings / a count down to getting in the buggy and then a snack as you popped him in might help ensure that hunger isn't adding to his woe? I know I'm a grouch when I'm hungry though so might just be projecting grin

HearMyRoar Sun 05-Jan-14 19:53:02

I was just going to say food! But north beat me to it so I will second the suggestion. I always, always take snacks when we go out. Running around in the park in the cold is tiring and a tired hungry toddler is a recipe for a tantrum ime. Giving a snack also is something nice to do instead of playing and keeps them occupied while you pop them in the buggy and get going.

wishingforwillpower Sun 05-Jan-14 20:04:13

Snack is a good call - that was actually another disastrous element to the tantrum as I only had rice cakes and my DH thought I had packed a biscuit so said to DS "how about a bic?!" Only to then have to offer him a second-rate-in-comparison rice cake which infuriated him further...
All day we have been giving warnings before finishing something or leaving and telling him what's next and it really helps! I think I seriously underestimated how much he could understand of what we say to him. So glad I posted!

mawbroon Sun 05-Jan-14 21:58:44

Pretty much every tantrum either of mine had was halted immediately by offering breastfeeding. I have no idea if you are feeding your toddler, but if not, something similar like cuddling might help, but do it straight away, not after 10 mins or whatever. It's not "giving in" - they still never got whatever it was they were tantrumming about.

I never understood the advice to ignore tantrums. It can be very frightening for a child to be out of control like they are when tantrumming, and they need reassurance, not ignoring IME.

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