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Tantrums, tears & judgey looks on the school run

(25 Posts)
birdsnotbees Tue 25-Mar-14 21:40:00

I'm at my wit's end with DD (3). Every morning on the school run she has a tantrum. It has been going on since September. We take her brother (6) to school. This morning she kicked off as soon as we left the house, refused to walk, refused to be picked up, hit me repeatedly when I tried to move her and in the end all I could do was push her (gently) with the palm of my hand to get her to the school gates.

Whereupon she got hysterical at the (small) front door of the school, and no one could get past her and I couldn't move her (she hits, wriggles and goes "dead" and I can't pick her up due to a horrible back problem). I had to take DS inside and ask him to go to his classroom alone, which made him cry. Went back out and managed to coax her in, parents and kids bottlenecking behind her.

Whereupon she has another massive kicking off by the second, internal door - and no one could get past her AGAIN. In the end I had to dump all our millions of bags on the floor and drag her bodily into the school office. The head teacher came out, the ladies in the office came out, and all the while I was getting evils from the judgey bastard parents who give me the same evil stares EVERY morning because she is usually kicking off about something and they assume that I am utterly shit and some sort of maternal monster. In the end I burst into tears.

I am such a crap parent. I don't need anyone telling me. I used to be so smug, too, when I had one kid who was and is well-behaved and never tantrumed. Then I had DD, who is a ball of weird anger and has been since a tiny baby, who screams for you, arms outstretched, like you're abandoning her, and then as soon as you go to her, punches you in the face and fights you to get off.

To the judgey parents saying things like "aw, has mummy left you here on your own?", that DOES NOT HELP. I have not left her; she won't come inside. To the judgey parents giving me evils - I am at my wit's end, I love my DD so very, very much but she does this every morning and I have been on the verge of tears all day, because I do love her, and I hate seeing her so upset and the worst thing is I can't seem to stop her doing it.

If you have got this far, thanks for reading. DH is being crap and thinks we should "lay down the law", whereas I know that won't help. She's a little girl who needs something but I don't know what. So I'm feeling a bit lonely and sad and needed to vent, and really am dreading seeing the parents tomorrow who have made it oh-so clear that they think this is all my fault.

elfycat Tue 25-Mar-14 22:00:16

Judgy parents can f off. it was merely luck of the draw on who gets an easier child.

She's 3. She sounds like my 3 year old. My 5yo was never this bad and the school run is something to be dreaded. I'm considering paying for an extra hour or so on her 'free hours' days at nursery so that I can drop her off on the way there, and pick her up afterwards. And I have other things to do with the money.

You are not a crap parent. You are trying to deal with a lively 3 year old/ your older DC/ your own emotions. It's not your fault, you just have a lively one and it's good when they're lively and interested in something, but not so much when you just want an easy few minutes.

Mine kicks off at the evening school run more than the morning. I know it's because she's tired and hasn't entirely given up on the idea of afternoon naps. I'm getting another buggy next week as part of my strap her down so she's trapped solution. Is there something about the mornings that are making her fractious? Maybe a slight sleep/ waking time shift or a bit more or less time in the morning waking routine (so if you get her up and then hurry wake her 10 mins earlier, or if she's an early waker change the getting ready time).

I also find a stern talk about my expectations can have a 0.5% effect on better behavior. Not sure it's worth my breath, but I try.

Please have a virtual supportive and sympathetic smile to take with you tomorrow morning. It's really not you, and it's not her either. I think it's very hard to be 3 for some of them.

birdsnotbees Tue 25-Mar-14 22:00:26


birdsnotbees Tue 25-Mar-14 22:07:31

Thanks Elfy. I think it's hard for her, too - when she finally calms down she's usually in bits, which is what I find so hard, as I then have to hand her over to her (luckily brilliant and much loved) childminder when all I want to do is hug her.

Am going to try and tweak the routine again - I've made it better (she used to tantrum from breakfast onwards; now it's just from the point we leave the house) but it's not enough. This is why DH thinks we should lay down the law but honestly that approach just makes her worse, she's so stubborn.

I just wish the judging would stop. Quite a few parents in my son's class now blank me - started the academic year all friendly and smiley and now won't even say hello. I know I usually have a face like thunder and a small child pretending I have abandoned her at my ankles, I do get that, but honestly - on my day off they'd find me and DD at a nearby cafe not ten minutes after drop-off, cuddling and having a giggle. They never see that though.

ShoeWhore Tue 25-Mar-14 22:09:19

You have my sympathies - ds2 used to do this on every afternoon school run. I used to strap him into the double pram and go as fast as I could with him wailing the whole way and trying to put his feet on the floor to stop us moving.

Most of the other parents were really nice about it though. I'm sure there must be some sympathetic mums on your playground too. I know I wouldn't think badly of you.

Just thought: do you have a buggy? Could you give her the choice: she either walks nicely or has to go in the pushchair? Ds3 would have rather have poked his eyes out with sticks than go in the pushchair at that age (I sometimes wheeled it along empty when we were at the worst tantrumming stage - I had too many small children to keep an eye on to have one free range and kicking off grin )

You're not a bad mum, she's just being 3.

sausagefortea Tue 25-Mar-14 22:09:59

brew and cake

Ignore any judgemental looks. I bet most people just feel sympathy for you in a 'we've all been there' way.....I know that's what I think. And if they haven't, well, well done them for their perfect parenting (or more likely child blessed with chilled out compliant genes!).

There's a mum on my school run whose DC went through a prolonged phase of screaming and having a tantrum in the pushchair or on scooter or walking. I only ever sent mental positive vibes her way and thought how well she handled it.

And your dd.....she's just being 3. The thing about phases is that they pass.....albeit it with giving you a few more grey hairs along the way! You don't sound a crap parent at sound very loving!

ShoeWhore Tue 25-Mar-14 22:12:43

Laying down the law never worked with ds2 either. How about distracting her or making the school run feel like a game? Is that more effective?

Do you know what it is she objects to so much?

Wolfiefan Tue 25-Mar-14 22:18:02

Another one who doesn't think you sound at all crap.
If I saw you I'd look at you. Not to judge. To offer you sympathy and understanding. Kids tantrum! It isn't our fault!!
Can you use a pushchair? (As someone with a bad back I'd say it's easier to push a child who is strapped in rather than a shouty, wriggly tantrum monster! And yes I have two kids who could, at times, be called this!)

Iwillorderthefood Tue 25-Mar-14 22:20:31

Poor you, I think a buggy would be good even as a threat, the same as a previous poster, walk nicely, or go in the buggy. You may may need to fight to get her in the buggy. Three year olds do not worry if the attention they get is negative or positive and what she has been doing is getting loads lf attention when she refuses to go in the school entrance. Try and take that attention away either by using the tactic above, or if this does not sit right with you, some other way. Good luck hope you get a suggestion on here that helps.

afussyphase Tue 25-Mar-14 22:22:34

I hear you, though my 3yo isn't quite that bad. For mine, though, she really kicks off when something is the priority (in your case getting DS to school) and that priority isn't HER or something she can control. My DD kicks off when I read with DD1, on the school run, when we have to rush to collect DD1 (so we can't delay and play with things, look at things, stay on the tube longer because she is playing with something).
I had some progress with it when I told DD2 that she was my helper and had to help me get DD1 on time, help me get to school, etc. Also she is now (fingers crossed) growing out of it. But for you, it sounds like dropping DD off at nursery before the school run, and picking her up afterwards on the way home if at all possible, is a good option; maybe tell her if she can help you get DS into the school on time, she can have a sticker/prize/whatever. Then it might be something she feels she is controlling more. I feel your pain though.

LadyCybilCrawley Tue 25-Mar-14 22:51:16

I could be reading this wrongly but this doesn't sound like push chair would fix it

It sounds like she has separation anxiety and doesn't want to go to the child minder and this starts on the way to school because she knows what is coming next

Assuming all is well at child minders, perhaps investigating ways to help her separate from you will help

I got a stuffed toy she loved, sprayed it with my perfume, slept on it for a week so it smelt like me and then used it to transition - perhaps she could carry it on the way to school? The power of your smell/scent can be very reassuring for her

missorinoco Tue 25-Mar-14 23:04:56

You are at the wrong school. If you were here they would say they had seen it all before with the little orinocos.

I have started rehearsing with my 3 y.o. what he will get if he doesn't whine/scream on the school run (a marble for the marble jar). When he starts I count to three and remind him that if I get to three he won't get X. It has worked 50% of the time so far.

I also use the buggy, mainly because I can use the threat if you don't do X I will put you in the buggy and strap you in. The strap-you-in threat does the trick most of the time. You just need to be prepared to strap them in the first time they play up and smile sweetly or snarl (depending on your mood) at other parents.

Two more years til school starts.

Stripytop Tue 25-Mar-14 23:30:04

You have my total sympathy and support as I had 2 like this. One or the other tantrumming at various stages of the school run despite everything I tried. People do judge, but not everyone does. You will get through it, and at some point it will be some other poor mothers turn.

The only thing that ever worked for me was, and still is, tons of patience, love, cuddles, acknowledging how they felt, and to completely and absolutely ignore the 'bad' behaviour.

Also, give yourself loads of time. Factor in the 20 min tantrum and let her have it; just let her burn herself out. Be late for school. Can you arrange to be late for work for a few days, or flex your time?

All this is so hard to do when you have the time pressures of work and school. I actually left my job as I was so stressed, but with hindsight, once I had decided to tackle it the way I did, it really didn't take long to resolve and i did return to work.

We still can have terrible mornings, but I can almost always attribute them to me 'rushing' the children or prioritising housework over them. When this happens I have to remember to slow it all down and take the pressure off. I still leave the house 20 mins earlier than we really need to, just out of habit, but it means we can deal with any crisis, or just have a run around the playground if we're early.

You will find your own way and it will get easier. You're a good mum.

AcrossthePond55 Wed 26-Mar-14 01:38:12

Is there any way you could take her to the child minder before dropping your son off at school?

As far as your DH goes, why don't you suggest that HE do the school run for a week and see how it goes.

have4goneinsane Wed 26-Mar-14 03:12:00

sending you sympathy, there are mums who still don't talk to me 4 years on - their loss!

if you are worried that this is more than 'average' three year old tantrums and distress then do go and see someone - if only someone had told me that DD1's 3hr tantrums were not 'average' she would have got a lot more help a lot earlier, as it was everyone said "they all do that" and I believed them sad

On the practical side I would go for the buggy and strapping her in for a while - maybe don't even give her a choice for a while, you can then get her to school with less stress and can give your son some attention - we used to sing silly songs on the way to school and it did help.

I also unashamedly use the 'piggy carry' when necessary - literally tuck her under one arm like a piggy (complete with the squealing sound effects!). Had to carry DD1 out of our local sports complex like that wearing only her underpants one day at a similar age!

Can you go into school at the end of the rush so that she isn't blocking anyone's way? Takes some of the drama out of the situation and will help you be calmer, or drop her at the childminder before you drop DS at school? - that way the trip is about taking her to the childminder rather than being about DS (or could the CM meet you in the playground just before school?)

Keep tweaking, I have carried on tweaking and tweaking over the years!

NinjaLeprechaun Wed 26-Mar-14 03:21:34

If they think you're a shit parent I can only imagine what they'd think of me. My daughter had school-morning tantrums until she was eleven. Which, in retrospect, probably doesn't make you feel better. Just remember that any parent who's getting judgy about the tantrums has never parented our daughters - they probably wouldn't manage half as well. So fuck'em. wink

And, if it does help, she was getting herself to school - on time - by the time she was twelve. A little bit of emotional maturity and, admittedly, ADHD meds helped a lot.

GemmaPomPom Wed 26-Mar-14 03:24:23

If it were me, I would keep her in the buggy.

Chottie Wed 26-Mar-14 04:25:26

Dear OP, there is some really good advice on this thread and you find something that works.

Please ignore the judgey looks, I am sure that people are not judging you. I don't do the school run anymore, but do see LOs tantruming in shops and bus etc. and as a bystander I rarely get the feeling that other people are judging...

FrozenCherries Wed 26-Mar-14 05:11:28

Ignore the judgy looks. They have no clue and would do a far worse job of mothering uiur dd than you are. WhTever the reason for your DD's tantrums and resistance, some sort of anxiety may be underlying it. Understanding this helped me to be more relaxed with myself (knowing that 'laying down the law' wouldn't work) and helped to fend off judgy looks and comments. It also made me look for other ways to calm him. I too found a soft toy he liked and used a favourite smell (lavender for him) on it helped him. Just don't lose it en route.
You've had lots of supportive comments here. Try to imagine us standing around you next time you go on the school run.

Stripytop Wed 26-Mar-14 09:23:19

How did you get on today Birds? There was a mum today at our school wrestling with a screaming toddler who "just wanna go HOME!!!". I gave what I really hope was a supportive smile and thought of you.

Bumpsadaisie Wed 26-Mar-14 11:00:12

Bless you. Please don't think it is all your fault. There is a huge range of behaviours in children, some of them are easyish at three and some of them are more challenging.

I don't know that I have any practical ideas to help but thought you might find my experience sheds some light on what is going on.

I notice that my own son (2.5) displays odd behaviours in connection with the school run. Not as dramatic as your DD, but he rides his balance bike to school confidently and happy as larry behind his elder sister (who's in Reception) having been happy as larry all morning. You'd think he was the sunniest most confident outgoing boy in the world. However often when we go into school his behaviour often suddenly changes, he starts whining, asking for his dummy constantly, asking to be picked up, all markers that he is feeling stressed and anxious.

My take on it is that he really doesn't like all the noise and the big kids and also that he absolutely hates leaving his big sister (to whom he is very attached). I have realised I could often be a bit blasé too about him whilst in school because I'd be focussed on saying goodbye to DD and sorting out DD with everything she needs, handing in all the bits of paper and whatnots of school life.

Some mornings in the week too the next step is to go on to his grandparents, where I leave him for the day which he is usually OK with but still I notice he can be a bit quiet about it. When we pick his sister up in the evenings and they come home and potter about the house playing together he is SO happy and content, like everything is "right" again. To be honest in DS's ideal world he would spend 24/7 with me and DD and DH and never be apart from any of us for a microsecond. He is very very sensitive to separations.

Now I have realised this about DS I have tried to change some things to help him a bit. I talk about school and I say OK when we get there I am going to hold your hand or I am going to pick you up so you can see. And I tell him DD is going to give him a kiss goodbye. I have even said are you sad to say goodbye to DD, yes it is sad isn't it but we will see her later after school. This kind of talk has helped a bit. You can't alter the separation but you can give voice to their feelings for them, which they can't do.

As you are aware they are acting out what they feel so your DD is feeling very anxious about drop off. Could you start talking to her about it and giving words to her feelings for her? Eg are you feeling a bit sad about going to school, hold my hand I will look after you, we will see your brother later? That sort of thing.

Its tempting to think Oh she is just being naughty and either come down on her like a ton of bricks as your DH suggests or try some softer version of behaviour modification e.g. reward charts for being a "good girl" in the mornings.

But I think the most effective way would be if you could help her communicate what is really going on and show her that it is OK to talk about difficult feelings. You have said this yourself, "she's a little girl who needs something but I don't know what" which shows what a good mother you are and how switched on you are and in tune with your DD.

The temptation is to downplay their feelings of anxiety e.g. "Oh don't be sad that mummy is going now - the childminder is taking you the FARM today won't that be GREAT". Of course they will be fine and love the farm, but it is often more helpful to them if can you say "of course you are sad because mummy is going now. I'll miss you too. And we will be together again after lunch so I will see you then." Its hard to do that though, as it means we have to get in touch with our own sadness about leaving then too and try not to gloss over what is really going on, which, in a nutshell, is "we two are very attached to each other, and we are sad to be parted from one another!"

Good luck. Your DD isn't a devil child, she is a very sensitive little girl, so sod the judgers (if there are any) smile thanks

birdsnotbees Wed 26-Mar-14 20:36:48

Thanks so much everyone, and sorry for not posting again until now. There's some really good advice and I appreciate it; I also appreciate people telling me I am not a crap mum. I do feel it, a lot. I love her so very much and just want her not to be so upset so often.

I think with my DD is that her default setting is CROSS, properly cross - it takes very little for her to be completely in a rage - and she's been like that since she was a dot. Slowly, gradually, she is learning to moderate that anger (she was a nightmare baby; DH and I almost split up) but thinking about it, and in particular what someone said up thread, I think she is quick to pick up on my mood. I hate being late, I really stress about getting DS to school on time (even though we always are), and I think perhaps she picks up on this and goes off on one. Does that sound possible?

She is also slightly addicted to attention (positive and negative), which doesn't help. So I think if I give us more time to get to school and speak to DS's teacher and say "you know what, we are doing our best but sometimes we will be late as we have to deal with DD", it'll take the pressure off me, and the pressure off her.

Schools were on strike today so we had a more or less tantrum-free morning... will be testing out our new approach tomorrow, and putting on my brave/happy face too... oh god.

birdsnotbees Wed 26-Mar-14 20:38:24

Stripytop that was a very kind thing to do, and I know if someone had given me a supportive smile I would have been very, very grateful!

Stripytop Thu 27-Mar-14 09:25:52

Birds, your dd sounds just like mine. I have often noticed how I can, unwittingly, set the mood for the rest of the house. Even for dh! When I'm narky or stressed, everyone seems to be. It doesn't always apply the other way round though

Good luck with your new strategy, it sounds like a good one. Just keep counting to ten thousand smile

OhSoVintage Thu 27-Mar-14 10:09:31

I still struggle with tantrums with my 7 year old. This morning I turned sound of music down in the car as it was too loud (after 3 months of it on repeat!!!!! ) She screamed so I turned it off and stuck my ground, she then screamed all the way to school. Wouldn't be too bad normally but I have an ear infection which dd was well aware of!
She cried and said sorry once we got to school hummm!

DD1 was never behaved like this and I admit to being quite smug with my impeccably behaved confident daughter. I have certainly bought them up the same.

I hate smug parents, I'm really lucky as we are quite tight at dd's school so most people understand but there are defiantly a few that look down when things are not going quite to plan and I take comfort in the fact they are usually the same parents that have perfect children, well off husbands and have had perfect lives with minimal worries. I would like to see how they would cope smile

Is it possible she doesn't like the crowds? I know our school corridor is packed in the morning and dd hates it. I now wait in the car until 50% of parents have come out so its a little less stressful for dd.

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