A question about a 3.5 year old tantrums/meltdowns

(10 Posts)
farfromtree Tue 03-Jun-14 18:57:24

We are experiencing fairly regular - daily? - tantrums with DS. Always over saying no to something, typically more episodes of Thomas or Bob, or an icecream/toy - usual stuff. We stand firm almost all the time, we see it through.

But tonight his meltdown was of new proportions. He went ballistic. Again stood firm. Refused him any bedtime stories because of it, which then sent him off on another meltdown, but felt it was important not to reward.

But in those moments where he is literally going red in face, screaming and shouting, having laboured breaths - what is it he wants from us? I know that's a strange question but I watch him and he goes ballistic; I walk away and he goes ballistic and i want to understand what it is he wants (apart from the obvious - to get his own way) from us?

I'm trying to work out how to 'contain him' when he's having them. The best way to handle him/what he wants.

I had a terrible tantrums as a child and catastrophise as an adult which a therapist once said was likely to do with how my parents didn't contain it.

Not sure making sense! If not, just ignore. TA

AndHarry Tue 03-Jun-14 20:17:29

I have a 4yo who sometimes has epic tantrums like this. I usually ignore them but it it gets to the stage where he's so beside himself that he can't even remember what he's tantruming about then I pick him up, give him a cuddle (if he isn't wriggling too much!) and talk gently but firmly, telling him that I know he feels cross because of X, I'm sorry he feels cross, would he like to do Y or Z (appropriate alternatives)? That usually works.

Paloma12 Tue 03-Jun-14 21:33:31

He doesn't know what he wants - he is beside himself. I would just try and keep calm and gentle (easier said than done, I know). He will feel reassured by the fact that the adults around him are in control of themselves, even if he doesn't show it. I just potter around when DD does it.

Smartiepants79 Tue 03-Jun-14 21:40:58

Yep, try and stay calm and controlled.
I tend to just continue on doing things I would normally be doing, sorting out her sister etc.
ignore it basically.
What does therapist mean by 'containing it'?
And PP is right, he doesn't know what he wants.
What he needs is consistent boundaries and calm responses. It is ok for him to be angry but he needs to slowly learn to handle it better.
All very easy to say I know......

Bearandcub Tue 03-Jun-14 21:42:30

Make it clear why you are saying no. What are the reasons?
Explain why he is being punished for bad behaviour, etc. Once the punishment has finished tell him why he was being punished again or why you said no. Tell him you love him and that is why you said/ did what you did. Comfort him. Distract him.

The distraction part is really letting you both move on from the matter.

outtheothersidefinally Tue 03-Jun-14 21:49:35

The Science of Parenting has great ideas on this. Search it on Amazon. A very worthwhile read. Gentle, objective, would make a great parenting course!

Nunyabiz Tue 03-Jun-14 22:00:20

So true what PP's said. He doesn't know what he wants or what will make him feel better. At that age they find processing emotions quite momentous. This is why everything seems just so catastrophic to them. DD (3) has meltdowns, not so much tantrums but she does tend to break down very quickly, it's heartbreaking to see. I will give you a little example and how I dealt with it if it might help.

This afternoon DH and I both picked her up from nursery. DH had to go to a meeting straight after so I explained to her in the car Daddy was going to a meeting, and mummy and her would go home and do some baking. I had anticipated she would get upset at the prospect of not going with DH. She immediately responded that no, she will go with Daddy and 'that's only fine mummy'. I knew that as soon as i confirmed to her that she would not be able to, she would get quite upset. Sure enough when I reiterated that she couldn't go with daddy because he had to meet some important people and concentrate very hard, but he would be home to read her a story, she completely melted down. Proper hyperventilating crying, tears, mouth wide open.

At this point I held her hand (she was in her car seat). I said I know it's hard. Sometimes we have to be patient and we can do other fun things while we wait. She continued to cry for a little while. I continued to hold her hand and just try to show her I care. She calmed down a bit after a little while and then i changed the subject to what she would like to help me cook and what we needed from the supermarket.

FixItUpChappie Tue 03-Jun-14 22:03:53

If I think mine has completely lost all control and reason I offer him comfort (a hug, his favorite stuffy, a pillow, I stay near, sit him on my lap) - I still don't give him his tv show or whatever but I hope I am conveying that I care and am still supportive of him.

farfromtree Wed 04-Jun-14 07:20:33

Thanks all. Really helpful. It's what I hope we try to do but fuck, it can be hard in the moment to get it all right

JimmyCorkhill Wed 04-Jun-14 07:38:39

My DD is 4. I always get flustered (usually just inwardly) when her tantrums are public why are they always public??!!! and feel like I have to do something straight away. But actually, not doing anything is always successful. We were at soft play yesterday and she had a meltdown because I said no to a toy from the vending machine thingy. I went to the baby area with DD2 and left DD1 on the floor wailing. Eventually she made her way to me (I always had her in view) for a cuddle and it was all over. I read in one parenting book that once they are in full tantrum mode then they can't stop themselves and you have to let it play out. The tantrum also scares them. We have had some beauties, real Exorcist style!

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