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Tantrums and traumas

(6 Posts)
traddad Mon 29-Nov-10 11:30:15

I'm concerned about the behaviour of my six year old daughter.

When she is at school, or playing with friends, she seems to be very well behaved, and she usually gives a very positive impression to the people she meets.

But at home, she can sometimes be an absolute demon. She will wail and scream if things are not absolutely to her liking, or if she cannot get assistance with play activities because (for example) we parents are currently dealing with one of our other children. She sometimes says horrible things, like wishing family members were dead, or (last night) that she would report Mummy and Daddy to the police, and get us taken away, just because we insisted she go to bed at her usual time.

Last summer, she ruined our family holiday by screaming and crying for hours nearly every day because she didn't always get to dictate what activities we did that day. Punishment often has little effect, because as we impose punishments, she escalates her bad behaviour, for example by picking up nearby objects, and starting to throw them, or by kicking at the glass plates in our front door, forcing us to intervene.

She is not like this all the time - on some days she is as good as gold and a pleasure to be with, but there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason to her tantrums - sometimes they occur on the same days when she has had presents bought for her, or has been taken out somewhere as a treat.

This behaviour causes friction between my wife and I, because I am appalled by these episodes, and feel that we need to do everything we can as parents to prevent them from happening. My wife, though, seems to accept this behaviour from our daughter far more than I do, and whilst agreeing that it is unpleasant, chooses to emphasise the days on which our daughter is well behaved. Even after extreme bouts of bad behaviour, my wife seems ready to immediately forgive our daughter and forget, whereas I feel that there should be some lasting consequences, to provide a disincentive to act like this in future.

We have an older son, and he does not behave in this way at all, but his younger sister's behaviour has driven a wedge between them, and we are likely going to have to move him into a different room soon because of it.

I would like to know whether forum members have any experience of this sort of thing, and if so, how you dealt with it.

SkyBluePearl Mon 29-Nov-10 12:28:51

I have no answers really. Just wondering if she needs a bit more one on one time with mum and dad? Positive daily attention and fun whilst playing board games, cooking cakes, playing together, doing artie things etc?

Also is it worth looking at anger management stratagies for children - i think there maybe a few books on amazon.

I do think punishments shuld be given quickly/meaningfully after the event and then a fresh start made afterwards.

Also have you tried reward charts? I expect so.

Can you move her to her her bedroom/quiet room to enable life to carry on as normal while she has her paddy?

Is it worth kindly talking to her about what you can all do to avoid and deal with the episodes. It might be that she has other underlying worries?

traddad Mon 29-Nov-10 13:23:48

Hello SkyBluePearl,

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

We do often move her to her bedroom when she's really bad and try and carry on, but that creates problems too, because she often hurls all the toys and bedding and things around there, and it creates a huge mess, which needs sorting out afterwards. Sometimes she voluntarily cleans it up afterwards herself, which is nice, but obviously I'd prefer it didn't happen in the first place.

I've tried calmly talking to her when she's having a good day, and have asked why she has these episodes, and she typically just grins at me and says "because you don't do what I want". She seems to find it hard to accept she's one of three children, and we have to divide attention between all of them.

It's also difficult when we try to get her to play games, because she hates to lose, and sometimes has a tantrum when she has even a suspicion that she might be starting to lose in a game.

She really enjoys making things and doing arty things, but her aims and ambitions often extend beyond her ability, and then she requires adult assistance. If she doesn't get it immediately, the second she needs it, she'll often throw a tantrum, even if she's had total attention for hours prior to that.

I've also asked her why she seems to behaves well at school, and not at home, and she typically says "because they have worse punishments than you do". I'm not sure that's true, but she seems to feel there's a big difference between what's acceptable at home and at school.

Reward charts work to a certain extent, but the effect is usually only temporary, and when the novelty wears off, she goes back to her usual behaviour. If you then tell her that she won't get a reward if she behaves badly, she just says 'I don't care. I don't want it anyway".

When she has one of these episodes, she seems almost possessed, and yet when it has all blown over, she will sometimes trot downstairs, cuddle up to us on the sofa, like nothing has happened, and perhaps be good for the rest of the evening.

I understand the idea of making a fresh start, but I guess I'm starting to despair that after so many fresh starts, things haven't really changed. My wife prefers to 'manage' the episodes, and try to make them as short as possible, whilst I feel (hope?) that there ought to be some sort of way of preventing them entirely.

I worry that if this sort of behaviour isn't sorted out, it will mar her adult life, because I can't imagine other people being as tolerant with it as we are.

couldtryharder Mon 29-Nov-10 14:57:52

I totally hear you traddad as your dd sounds much like my own. Her temper can be uncontrolable and can make for a miserable day for all if she's in one of those moods. She is 5 now and the past 3 years of her tantrums have been difficult. She has various triggers, some not her fault (younger brother winding her up) but others that come from her - like yours the losing a game, actual or possible, not getting her own way, being told no to anything, seatbelt wearing, but worst of all as it's everyday is getting dressed. It all hurts, it's all wrinkly, it's horrible, why did I buy it (coz you chose it, tried it on and assured me that you were comfortable and happy in it). Screaming, shouting, flailing. If we try to reason with her calmly, she says she doesn't care, if we are angry and shouting at her it makes her worse (of course, but sometimes we crack), ignoring it is possible but extreamly difficult when you are trying to get out of the door to school/nursery/work on time. Punishment sometimes works, but not always. SkyBlue will testify to the long thread that came from my post about my daughter's behaviour and subsequent punishment on Saturday. FYI not being allowed to go to best friend's party at the weekend didn't deter dd from a huge tant this morning over clothes (that she has worn before without so much as a peep) even when I re-explained how unfair it was on her and her friend to have not gone to the party.

I don't have any anwers for you traddad, I'm sorry. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone in having a child who find it difficult to control their emotions/temper. It is so hard to know what to do for the best and I'll be following your thread in the hope that I can learn something from it.

traddad Mon 29-Nov-10 16:10:18

Hello couldtryharder!

Thanks for your reply.

Our daughters do indeed sound quite similar. We have also had episodes with clothes, where suddenly clothes that were fine before were now not suitable. Sometimes we've managed to trace it back to comments that friends have made at school, but at other times there seems no rational explanation.

Our daughter's tantrums started at about 3, and we've had to cope with them for over three years now. She was as good as gold before that, and initially we assumed it was just a natural phase - our older son went through a short phase like that about the same age, but soon grew out of it. However, our daughter has (so far) not grown out of it at all, and her temper only seems to get worse as she gets older.

Even the party thing is similar - we ended up not letting her have a birthday party with her friends this year, because of her extremely poor behaviour during our summer holiday. Even the threat of not being able to celebrate her birthday with her friends didn't seem to be able to deter her from behaving badly during the holiday, though, and she still spoiled it with her relentless complaining, screaming and tantrums. When she is in one of those moods, it really seems as though she cannot control herself, and no form of rational argument or appeal is likely to succeed.

It's so strange, because whenever we meet teachers, or formerly nursery staff, they all complement us on how well behaved and helpful our daughter is, and they don't seem to see any of the sort of behaviour that we do at home. When someone upsets her at school, she seems to calmly tell the teacher, who sorts it out. At home, if her brother or sister upsets her, it's a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions, and she works herself up into an incandescent rage, screams and shouts, and sometimes even tries to hurt them.

Another problem is that we have a younger daughter, just two years old, and she really looks up to her older sister. I've noticed in the last few weeks that she's started copying her sister's phrases, and now regularly says things like "I hate you!" if something happens she doesn't like. I really don't want our middle child's bad behaviour to influence our youngest, because then we will have two to cope with at the same time, and family life will be horrible.

My wife seems to feel the problem lies with our daughter being unable to control her emotions, and that we have to be tolerant and help her learn to cope. It puzzles me, though, how she manages to control them when she's out of the house, and yet they seem to overwhelm her when she's with us. I fear that we may just be encouraging the bad behaviour by being so tolerant and understanding. Looking at how she behaves now, it concerns me greatly how she might behave by the time she becomes a teenager. I remember seeing an episode of one of those 'boot camp' US shows once, which seemed full of kids from nice middle class backgrounds, whose parents had never managed to get on top of their children's behaviour.

couldtryharder Mon 29-Nov-10 19:56:03

Like your daughter, out of the home environment (school, nursery, clubs) she is a warm, funny, friendly child who everyone loves. Nobody outside family and close friends have seen the extend of the temper she has. I can't understand why she can control herself out of the house, esp at school where things will definately not always go her way, but not in the house. I have been told that this is a good thing as you knows where social boundaries are, but it doesn't help us as a family. Like wise we've had very stressful holidays and like wise we worry for what this means for the teenage years. But most of all I feel like we are failing her as parents by not helping/fixing/coping with it.

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