Toddler tantrums/ behaviour that push me to the limits

(33 Posts)
memum Mon 06-Dec-04 18:26:17

Can anyone else relate to those horrible ugly feelings of red rage that suddenly flash before you when your child manages to reach to the very limits of your patience? I hope I am not alone. It appears to be something few people discuss over tea and biscuits at mother and toddler group - so I hope I can find comrades here!

My 20 month old toddler is testing me to the limit. He throws mighty tantrums. I can barely control him as he thrashes about like a wild animal - literally. He hits me in the face, his legs collapse beneath him like a rag doll, he throws himself onto all surfaces - concrete/corners of furniture/wet muddy grass verges etc. He also manages to try to escape at least once a week. Today he took advantage of someone leaving the gate open at the toddler group and disappeared. Last week he pushed opened our porch door and ran over the road out of sight. A police helicopter was contacted to take up the search - though I did actually find him 4 mins later. I almost had a heart attack in the street however and ended up being consoled by an elderly neighbour - (whilst my son proceeded to dismantle her living room)

Anyway, to top it all off I am 8 months pregnant. I feel physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I try to remain calm and patient, but feel like I no longer have any control over him. Quite often I end up phoning my poor husband (who works in London - 1 hr and and half journey away)in floods of tears, and he then comes home to try to pick up the pieces.

But what scares me - during the midst of some of his tantrums, is this feeling of rage that just bubbles up within me and I'm frightened with the horrid angry thoughts that dash through my mind directed towards my son. I love him so much yet he can sometimes provoke in me a murderous rage which leaves me feeling guilty and numb. It is a blind rage - if you know what I mean (not red mist but just where I feel like my thoughts ar eall over the shop)- and after I'm left racking my brains - 'did I do anything wrong?' 'Did I manhandle him? hurt him?' Actually I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder so thats why I always doubt but still - I can't think straight. I feel like I could easily have lost control and it scares me!
I love him and yet sometimes I feel like strangling him!? Is this normal? I feel so guilty even saying it. I'm ashamed of these feelings but they seem so primal I just can't stop them. I know we can't always be perfect mums but I never thought a small child could make me so angry.

lulupop Mon 06-Dec-04 18:49:15

Not much time sweetheart but just want to say you are completely normal, this is par for the course and I and most of my friends have gone through the same thing.

20 months is a v hard age as they can't tell you what their problem is but they can certainly let you know if there is one! One of my good friends is going through the same thing right now and just yday was in tears in the kitchen at my ds's birthday partry. her ds is just 2 and really testing her right now. this time last yr I was in the same boat - pg and v upset with ds. a yr on he's great with his baby sister and a totally changed boy!

Really have to dash but sending you lots of hugs and sympathy - it will get better

coppertop Mon 06-Dec-04 19:01:57

It certainly sounds normal to me. Ds2 is 22 months old and gets absolutely furious. He throws stuff across the room: crockery, toys, furniture - the lot. I love him dearly but there are still days when I could quite happily throttle him. I've also considered the possibility of sending him to dh's office via a courier and letting dh deal with him.

I know that ds2 can't help it (he's autistic like his older brother) but it really doesn't make it any easier to turn a blind eye. I have days when I am in absolute despair and could quite happily leave him on someone else's doorstep. You're definitely not alone.

MrsBigDrumsADrumming Mon 06-Dec-04 19:17:01

You're most definitely not alone and it's perfectly normal to fell tested to the extreme. I'm always surprised how so many toddlers make it into adulthood... mine included!

DD will be 3 in a couple of weeks and since she's been vocal has even worse ways of driving me absolutely insane as she is the most defiant toddler ever (and yes I know... everybody thinks their kid's the worst ). I've had days where I simply had to walk out of the room or else...

Like today was day from hell... ds (3 months) snotting, coughing and throwing up with a good dose of crying. dd being more wingey than usual as feeling 'neglected' due to special attention to baby. DH came home in foul mood because work was cr*p with a negative patience level when it comes to wingeying dd... and of course there's the heating breaking down and the car suddenly sounding like a tractor and my mum telling me that she wants to go on holiday with us next year (horror). I'm soooooo tired and fed up that I would rather just walk out the door right now...

So you see... perfectly normal and not so unusual.

Hope this helps cheer you up a bit

Jimjambells Mon 06-Dec-04 20:28:07

Walk away when you feel like that.

I have an autistic 5 year old and a soon to be 3 year old. I can usually switch off from the 3 year old whinging, or can reason with him to some extent (or bargain with or bribe), but when ds1 goes into one - and doesn't understand that he is going too far I come very close to losing it. Yes I get feelings of rage - and it is like a red mist- and providing he is more or less safe I walk away (taking ds2 with me- otherwise he'll get attacked). If he isn't safe (headbanging the window or something) then I remove him to a safer environment then walk away (although prefer not to do this as it can get very physical- and he's a pretty big 5 year old- can easily pull me over). I find that counting, or even doing something like going to the loo/cleaning my teeth etc is enough to get me able to go back and deal with him calmly.

Have many synpathies with the pregnancy bit - I'm due in less than 4 weeks and it is much harder to deal with him at the moment (haven't got the physical strength to manage him when he kicks off for starters). yesterday he was kicking me over and over in the stomach and face (I was cleaning up a drink he'd kicked over)-laughing as he did it- and yes I very nearly lost it. Complete red mist came down. Luckily dh was home so I was able to just walk away and tell him to take over.

paolosgirl Mon 06-Dec-04 20:53:46

I really sympathise - I've been there, and tbh, ds at 7 still has his moments. His started about 18 months, and I became pregnant 3 months later with dd. I can't even begin to describe how horrendous it was. He didn't throw tantrums, so much as went into uncontrollable rages many many times a day. He destroyed furntiure, toys, hit/kicked dh and I, and dd when she arrived - and much much more. It was all day, every day, over the most trivial matter. Walking away(!) was not an option - he simply would not let me, and I resorted to holding the door handle shut on his room, and listened to the sounds of his room being destroyed.
I did all the parentcraft classes I could, I sought help from the HV and family centre (no real help), I was on AD's, and finally last year, a kindly GP referred us to the child psychology dept. They did an assessment, and he was found to be at the 'extreme end of normal'.
He is now growing out of that stage, so it will get better, but I would say from experience, that if you are at your wits end, try and get some help. It's no good people telling you to walk away, because that just adds to the guilt. Re the feelings you have for your son - again, I understand. There were times when I really didn't like him, even questionned whether I loved him, and was so close on occasions to harming him (stopped in time, thank goodness).
You're not alone. Best wishes....

Jimjambells Mon 06-Dec-04 21:05:08

There are times when you have to let the room be destroyed though and walk away (or at least I do- otherwise I would hit him- and yes I do hold the door handle shut- and count to 10 - just to give me time to calm down again). If I have to stay to keep him safe I try and emotionally detach myself from it and watch actually emotionless. I can't reason with him (non verbal), can't shout at him (he thinks its funny and carries on). Distraction can help if he's aware enough to be able to be distracted (distraction is very good tool actually- can really defuse a situation and calm it down quickly- go in sideways rather than head on- use it a lot with the NT 2 year old as well and works like a dream with him).

memum Mon 06-Dec-04 21:05:47

To everyone that has sent me a message -

I received a message on another thread (I copied this to the 'parenting' section from 'feeling low' section!) - and the person that sent the message, although I'm sure was well meaning, actually made me feel as if I was some kind of psychotic and I've been upset ever since.

However, I feel better reading your messages as it appears I am not a freak of nature and my feelings are normal!
Thank you all so much for your support and for making me feel more at ease with, being me - It seems that these extreme emotions that children bring out in us - both good and bad, is part of the rich tapestry of motherhood!! I will take all your advice and tales to bed tonight and remind myself that I am not alone!

paolosgirl Mon 06-Dec-04 21:09:13

The room was destoyed on many occasions - as in plaster dented, doors kicked in, chests of drawers thrown over etc etc. All this from a toddler! It can be incredibly hard living with it day in, day out, and little or no support.

shrub Mon 06-Dec-04 21:39:21

really sympathise - is there a way you can make your life easier? is the toddler group more stressful than beneficial? if so don't feel guilty and don't go until you feel you have the energy .could you shop online? you should try and be as kind to yourself as possible, you must be so tired and when we're tired anything can happen! when my ds1 went through this phase i used water at every opportunity - whether it was a bath (sometimes 3 times a day with lavender or chamomile!) a bowl of water with jugs, cups, whisk, water wheel, puddles outside or swimming. i found it really helped calm him down and got him to focus all that energy eventually making him sleepy. other things that have helped were playdoh to pummel and marbles (you can get extra large ones and a marble run). also found talking him though it, giving the emotions a name so he can begin to articulate and speak them as he gets a bit older. i found he did understood more than i realised so i began to prepare him for each day - say what you are going to do, accept that everything will take loads of time as they are at that independent stage and want to do everything themselves. if you have to leave early or a tantrum is imminent - explain in short sentences why you are doing something and hopefully using a positive at the end ie 'we need to go home now as mummy is tired - we can make some popcorn when we get back'.its so difficult not to take it personally when they do lose it, especially in public with tutting pensioners and other parents that think their quiet child is the result of superior parenting skills! does he still have a nap? if not i found the complete series of the clangers or bagpuss keeps my 18 month old enthralled (must be all the squeaky mice) and there is your chance for sleep. it does get better - i'm expecting my third in april. hold on for the good stuff, especially when they first tell you they love you

Jimjambells Mon 06-Dec-04 21:42:19

memum- yesterday after being kicked in my rather large very pregnant stomach and kicked in the head I sat on the stairs and sobbed becasue I felt so guilty about the rage I was feeling (and really wanting to act on!). DH came and sat with me and pointed out that it's a very very normal reaction- especially when pregnant- to want to protect yourself/baby etc. I was really pleased he was there to tell me it was normal otherwise I would have been beating myself up about it all night. You will find your own way of coping with the feelings, and not acting on them - and then you just need to live with the guilt (that's the hard bit). FWIW every professional we have seen has told me that we manage his behaviour well, that we do all the right things, that we cope very well and social services have said that we do need respite (no sign of it yet though!). But even having that professional backing, that we are doing the right things in difficult circumstances I still spend half my life feeling guilty because of the rage I've felt during an incident.

Even today getting in the front door I almost lost my temper (took to just muttering under my breath) as ds1 was going through some elaborate routine in between desperately trying to sniff every single bloody car in the street (a new one). I had to actually grab him and wrestle him into the house as he was trying to run out into the road (half cursing him and half cursing me for not having him in a harness so he would be easier to manage). I find that anything physical tends to make me angry. As soon as we were in the house we I was able to calm things down and then we sat and had a lovely cuddle for half an hour. Truth be told though 5 hours later I still feel guilty that I was muttering on the street and feeling cross and having to physically mandhandle him into the house- and I have to remind myself that I had to do that as there was no choice- running wildy out into the street would have been more likely to result in a trip to casualty than what I did. The guilt is very normal though- and very unfair- it's how you act that's important- not what you are experiencing underneath.

ONe other thing that can help is to defuse the situations before they happen as much as possible. I won't be walking him from the car to the house without his harness on again as I can't get hold when he runs- if he'd had his harness on today the situation wouldn't have arisen iyswim. Don't feel bad though- I recognise your description of your feelings very well.

Gobbledigoose Mon 06-Dec-04 21:56:14

Memum - it's just that age I'm afraid (although of course they can be difficult at any age). I'm struggling with my 25 month old at the moment (and also got a 3.5 yr old and 3 month old!) - he is just uncontrollable and I can't work him out half the time. He strops over the slightest tiny thing and I'm afraid I do end up really shouting. Like others have said, he throws himself on the floor goes all floppy or wacks me in the face if I try and pick him up and console him - he's just inconsolable so I have to walk or away or wallop him I'm afraid (obviously I walk away and get on with something else!).

You are most definitely not alone either in your child's behaviour or your feelings but it sounds as though you are handling it absolutely the best way you can and after all, you haven't lashed out at him and you are doing no harm.

It's possible that added to 'that age' (where they do often get frustrated when they are trying so hard to verbally communicate but just can't quite yet), he is aware of an upcoming big change (baby) so perhaps be a little sensitive to that. I do wonder whether the arrival of ds3 in August has exacerbated ds2's outburts as ds1 never had such tantrums.

HTH, good lucky with the new baby!

shrub Mon 06-Dec-04 22:10:28

another thought - have you tried cranial osteopathy or massage? found both reallly helped calm him down. the osteopath treated me too as he believes mother and child are still 'attached' for the first three years and they mirror our own behaviour and anxieties -(looking back i was a typical over anxious first time mum.could you take the weekend off ?- ask your dh to visit grandparents for the weekend or take him out for at least the day? i dream of going on a retreat or even a b& b down the road would do, i would sleep all day and they could leave me lovely meals outside the door - a hotel for knackered mothers, there is a definate gap in the market!!

ellasmum1 Mon 06-Dec-04 22:19:45

memum don't worry.Only those who you really love can drive you to that kind of rage.Toddlers really test us to our limits.My daughter is 21 mths and can drive me nuts,especially when i'm a bit hormonal,and of course you are entitled to be extremely hormonal at the moment!!!
I remember the rage and pure hate i felt for my tiny daughter when she was only 4 wks old.She cried for about 16 hrs a day with colic and sometimes i really screamed at her.I remember leaving her in another room in the house and phoning my mum,terrified i would hurt her!
rest assured that if you,like me are so aware of these feelings and have posted this message,you are coping brilliantly.Alot of people i know said they went through periods of time where they really felt they did not like their toddler at all.xxxx

Alized Mon 06-Dec-04 22:33:58

Know how you feel. Mine likes to show me up when we are out. Likes to have loads of temper tantrums. Its really hard I find I get loads of condesending looks, I've had loads of coments about his behaviour. And when I left him I got aright telling off from this little old woman in front of everyone. I always feel I never do the right thing.

Tamz77 Tue 07-Dec-04 22:15:59

I am always so grateful when mums post this kind of message because I experience the same thing with my 16 month old, while every other mother in the world looks cool and calm and an absolute well of infinite patience. My baby headbutts me when he is annoyed, which I can't stand, he nearly knocked two of my teeth out the other day. Also I am a single parent and I find it really frustrating when he won't 'allow' me even a few minutes of not giving him undivided attention. I am currently trying to redecorate my bathroom and it's taken me 2 weeks - and counting - because every time I pick up a paintbrush he starts screaming. Same with washing up, writing Christmas cards, cheques, any type of housework, etc.

A good book to read is Adrienne Rich's 'Of Woman Born'; don't bother if you can't stomach feminist texts, it was written in the 70s but I still find it relevant and comforting that I'm not the only mother in the world who finds her baby, at various intervals, either boring, hateful, or just supremely irritating.

Also Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's 'Mother Nature' (pretty long) which covers a lot more than this but gives a good biological and social history of motherhood, how it has 'evolved' - I find a wider perspective can really help.

HTH xx

spikeycat Wed 08-Dec-04 08:51:03

Thank god someone else asked this question as I have been thinking the same thing. At times my DS1 drives me to distraction, and I shout at him. Then when I pop him to bed at night and he says "love mummy" and nighty nite I feel sooooo guilty and such a terrible mother. I also obsess about how I would remember all those shouts if he ever got unwell or anything happened to him - touch wood nothing will.

I think that its just a testing age, when they undestand so much language but often can't communicate what they want. Or, in my case, he wants sweets constantly - and communicates that v well

tootle Wed 08-Dec-04 10:00:48

I agree, no-one ever talks about this and you are left wondering "Am I normal?" "Does everyone lose their temper like this?"

It's frightening isn't it, when you calm down and realise how much you let this little person wind you up. I also find that my temperament is dependent on the time of the month and what my hormones are doing. There's a few particular days of the month when I don't deal well with my daughter. There's something inside me, which I am sure 99.99% of us mothers have, which stops me from raising my hand and thrashing her. I feel comforted by the knowledge that is there, but the thoughts still race through my head.

During those worst moments I find myself slamming doors or throwing things like a mad woman (in a room away from my dd) just to get out my rage. Walking away really is the best advice and like someone else suggested, doing a task, like going to the toilet or brushing your teeth, does help to break that train of thought and you are more able to go back to your child in a controlled manner.

I hope you're feeling better now. If you really do think your son's beahviour is more trying than other children's his age, or you do think you would ever act on your thoughts, then I am sure there is some organisation or person out there that you could contact for help. Good luck

mishiclaus Wed 08-Dec-04 18:36:35

hi i have just posted a similair thread i have a dds who is 13 nearly 14mths and i am also 12wks pg and my ds has taken to having horrendous tantrums over past few weeks where he throws himself on floor backwards so his head hits floor etc...i know its frustration but i just cant cope he has taken to slapping me aswell...even though he has never been slapped or sean ayone be slapped....it is so frustrating and sometimes it does take all my strength not to ewither scream at him or lash out as he has also started to throw things...and as someone else said being pg u r trying to look after 2 in a way...i am just hoping this phase will pass

so u r not alone

MrsBigDrumsADrumming Wed 08-Dec-04 19:09:36

mishi - dd also went beserk when I got pregnant... I think they can feel something's up and just go on instinct. She did the head banging thing when she was about 18 months old. I think it's because the first thing they learn is that we're VERY careful with their heads when they're little, so know it will illicit a reaction. I have to admit that I once did not stop dd slamming her head against the wall , but would ya believe it... since then she was only faking it when I was around. I know it's a terrible thing to let your child hurt itself, but I was at the end of my tether and had tried anything from holding her, distracting her, taking her away from the situation etc.

flippedmylid Wed 08-Dec-04 20:04:23

Memum - I am fretting in case it was my post that upset you - really hope it wasnt - definitely think you are normal! - i certainly am - well most of the time

memum Mon 13-Dec-04 14:31:28

Dear flippedmylid,

No it was not you that upset me! Your words were actually a great help to me - it was someone else who, like I say, I'm sure did not mean to - I'm very sensitive at present being pregnant etc!!!

Hope you are well flippedmylid, and thank you also to everyone that has written a message. It means alot to me.

louisse28 Fri 21-Jan-05 21:36:38

My little boy doesn't thrash himself around on the carpet, he throws thing's at you, or moves them FORCEABLY across the room to let you know that he is NOT HAPPY!! He is 21 months, and seems to have quite a temper on him. If he plays up too much I just put him in his inflatable chair and ignore him. He soon gets up and strokes my face as his way of saying sorry. I then give in and cover him in kisses, cos I am weak!!!

chela Fri 27-Jul-07 05:57:28

I am a working mom. I work 40hrs/week. My inlaws take care of my little girl, she's 17months. She's a happy kid but when I arrive home and go to hug her, she doesn't reciprocate, she's angry & resents it. After constant encouragement, she comes around & plays with me.
At night she sleeps with us, but does not like me hugging her; she starts sobbing if I try to touch her & moves close to her daddy. Initially I did not take much notice of it, but its driving me crazy. I get very depressed & feel full of guilt, should
I quit my job, spend more time with her... will that change her attitude? what should I do?

KayleighKaya Wed 10-Nov-10 11:19:06

OMG some of these posts nearly made me cry. Im a single mum and when my son was about 2 he went through this and i wondered how id carry on. I didnt have much help, just friends as my mum lives a long way off. i would end every day crying and i would spend most of hte time shouting at him. i never hit him but i got close and had to go in another room as i didnt want to show a little boy that violence gets things sorted. hes fine now and thats all i can say, they usually grow out of it.

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