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Please help - at end of tether with toddler tantrums/hitting/breath holding

(6 Posts)
hattyyellow Thu 18-Aug-11 16:33:03

Would appreciate any ideas or help!

I know tantrums are common but feel like DD3's tantrums are just impossible to deal with.

She is a very determined and independent little girl (2.9 months). She started walking very early and talking and I think she is frustrated at not being able to do everything her older siblings can.

For the last year she has been having the most awful tantrums. Pretty much every day, sometimes 3-4 times a day. Often I don't get a chance to actually provide any interaction that I could change in the way i handle things as her tantrum will begin as soon as I walk into her room in the morning. She will want to open the door if i've opened it or she will want to pick up a different toy or want me to pick up a different toy. It's not even 7am, I haven't even had caffeine yet and she's already screaming and kicking me.

She is also prone to breath holding which I find terrifying. She will get so mad over a tiny little thing, after being happy playing with us/siblings/by herself for a while and she will pass out - turning blue and sometimes convulsing. The doctor keeps reassuring me this is perfectly normal but I hate it, hate it -seeing my 2 year old lying limp and turning blue on the floor.

She can be a fantastic little girl, kind and funny and full of life. But she will flip without warning so often that it's impacting on the rest of us. Her siblings try and be patient but we'll often end up snapping at them as they try and ask something while we're trying to stop her kicking and throwing things.

And DH and I keep falling out as I try and go off to do something and he's struggling to pull her off me - we try and stay calm but after a while we can tend to start suggesting blame on each other.

We're getting to the point where we are restricting massively where we take the DC, particularly if one of us is by ourselves. I can't safely look after the older two (both under 7) somewhere public if she decides to have a huge screaming kicking breath holding fit. I dread going to birthday parties as all the other parents sit with their children calmly on their knee while she's screaming and kicking and shouting at other adults.

Our strategy, as much as we have one, is just to keep calm and try to ignore it/try to distract her. To walk away when she's really losing it and we feel like we can't cope, but ensure we can see she's safe. I try to make sure she has regular meals and sleeps, but she's been dropping her lunchtime sleep on and off for months so often doesn't settle well during the day.

I mentioned this to the doctor who said it's normal toddler behaviour but is it? I don't know any more. Friends are consoling and say their toddlers have tantrums too but the frequency and volume seem so much less.

She attends a childminder 2 shortish days per week which she hates going to at the moment - but we can't afford for me not to work on those days and I do think it's a friendly and pleasant environment with just a couple of very peaceful other children whose mums i know. i've started to question also whether she would be happier if I didn't work but that's such a difficult financial path to follow I just don't think it's possible.

So any help or advice would be so incredibly appreciated. Sorry for the long essay!

RhYthM137 Thu 18-Aug-11 17:13:16

Hey, this is very scarey for you! But don't let her smell your fear, it will be another source of control for her.

I think your approach with calm & distracting etc is the only way until this phase passes, but add in plenty of reinforcing encouragement of any good stuff she does and that will give her chance to have another reaction she can bring about from you, but in a good way. Children always want to control adults' reactions and and they'll do it any way that works, whether that be with good behaviour or bad.

You could also try making occasional references, maybe to her older siblings (without banging on, or she'll smell a rat) about how when she's a big and sensible, just like them, she won't do this anymore. Act like it's a given that she'll soon no longer be doing this, rather than putting the pressure on by saying you must stop etc and don't discuss your fears in earshot of her (they always eavesdrop) - that way when she's ready to drop the habit, she'll feel she's doing it on her terms. It's hard to trust, but there's often a delayed reaction with children, because they always want more control than they can handle. It's a power struggle and you have to be two steps ahead.

Sorry, you probably already know all this, but I think consistency is the only way. Hope you get on alright. x

PS I wouldn't say 2 short days away from you does any harm. If she doesn't have these episodes in the nursery, then that's another clue that it's a power over you thing.

hattyyellow Thu 18-Aug-11 17:16:27

No that's really helpful - thank you so much! Having written it all down have realised how much it has stressed me and all of us out - having a therapeutic weep!

I will really try that tip about saying how she can be more like her older siblings when she is a big girl - that's a really nice way of getting her to feel more like the big ones in a positive way.

RhYthM137 Thu 18-Aug-11 17:27:09

Ahh, nothing like a good old weep to clear the energies!

Glad you like the tip, they listen much harder when they're being talked about, but when you talk to them (especially re discipline) they shut off. It makes the big ones feel special too, so double Brucie!

You're right, writing stuff down really helps too, you look back and see so much more.

Enjoy your children! x

OriginalPoster Thu 18-Aug-11 17:37:29

Sorry you are having such a hard time. Breath holding is normal for the age, but scary to see. I think you are handling it well, but here are some strategies that worked for us.

Avoiding going out is counterproductive, you need to carry on with family life.

Try taking her out on her own with the main aim of the outing to handle the tantrum. When she starts, ignore completely, no eye contact or cajoling. Remember most onlookers are not that bothered by tantrums in public, she's the right age for it, it's part of normal life, like barking dogs or crying babies.

If she starts stropping when you first go into her room in the morning just say shhh and walk out. Wait until she goes quiet and walk in with a smile.

If she strops at home, get all of the family to walk out of the room. Have a code word for the other dcs, eg 'game over' so they know what to do without her getting any further attention. Talk loudly about something else, eg what's for dinner, what are you doing next. When the audience has left the room she will lose any emotional feedback she us getting.

All these will produce a worse reaction at first, but then she will start to see that all fun stops when she starts kicking off.

Finally, we had one dc like this, I seriously thought he was delinquent or disturbed until he got to 3 ish. He then morphed into a lovely boy with no problems at all.

Good luck. smile

hattyyellow Sun 21-Aug-11 20:47:25

Thank you so much, this is all really reassuring - particularly to hear that she might grow out of it one day! I know I should be thinking "this too shall pass" but I'm really struggling to do this at the moment. I will try all these techniques.

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