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coping with violent tantrums 20 month old

(14 Posts)
choochootrain1 Thu 05-Jun-14 16:09:48


I have a usually delightful happy 20 month old son. He used to tap his forehead to the floor and stick his bum in the air to show us he was annoyed about something which was quite funny but in the last few months this has progressed into headbutting anything hard/wooden/my face and now hitting things, including my face sometimes too.

The HV's and friends advice has been to ignore him and he will self regulate so I tried the walking away and giving no attention to it at all. But he didn't seem to be able to calm down and stop regardless, like he was in a rage he just needed to see out so then I progressed to strapping him in his buggy (i figure it's safer than the multiple bruises to his head he was giving himself) and then I walk away and pay it no attention until he calms down enough to be distracted.

Yesterday though he gave me a near black eye, to the point I was embarrassed to go out in case the neighbours thought I was a beaten wife and also he had screamed so loud and for so long, i'm sure they must think I'm abusing him or something. He managed to scream for 2 hours straight the other night, pushing me away every time I tried to calm him/comfort him and then fell asleep but woke up and screamed for another hour in the morning!

When I told the HV about this she said the same thing of "walk way, ignore the behaviour"...that's just not working now, and it's getting worse.

The tantrums are often over having his teeth brushed/nappy changed/or meal times ending.... he rarely loses his temper over something like sharing a toy or moving on to another activity or even going home from the park and he only loses his temper with me or his dad. When he loses it though it's like a rage he is out of control of?

There's been no major upheaval or trauma in his life, and in every other way he's perfectly normal and healthy?

I guess I need to implement some sort of way to tackle this behaviour, any tips???

ExBrightonBell Thu 05-Jun-14 17:00:26

It does sound a little like you are too close to him physically when he is doing this. A few bruises are not the end of the world, and you could try putting cushions around him when he's in the middle of a tantrum.

For example, the black eye - were you holding him or trying to cuddle him?

choochootrain1 Thu 05-Jun-14 17:12:26


thanks for replying. I was lifting him out of the bath when it happened...he didn't want to get out, the water had drained...? I don't think cushions would make any difference, he looks for something to bash his head on iykwim? he'll walk to the hardwood floor/cupboard/cot/table edge...

I agree with you that a few bruises are not the end of the world...but he's smacking his head very hard over and over? he just doesn't seem to be self regulating...he'll continue through the pain if not removed? It makes me feel an awful mum when he has a black and blue forehead? I keep ringing the health visitor as she said to alert her if he's bruised in case anyone thought I was hurting him there would be a note of it, but it must do some damage to just allow him to get on with it??

ExBrightonBell Thu 05-Jun-14 17:15:42

Ah ok. How verbal is he, and how is his understanding of what you're saying?

choochootrain1 Thu 05-Jun-14 17:23:17

He's pretty good for his age I think verbally, we have about 5 new words each day and he can do 2 or 3 word sentences. He def understands what I'm saying but he ignores me... "lie down, we need to change your nappy" he'll respond with "stinky bum bum" and laugh but then refuse to lie down and have it changed, until I pick him up and put him on the mat, then the rage happens... I'm going to try potty training him and that might get rid of that issue but we'll still have the drama of meal times ending, teeth brushing, getting creamed and dressed etc...

ExBrightonBell Thu 05-Jun-14 17:31:03

My ds is about the same age and also pretty good verbally. I find I have to do a lot of warning about what's going to happen next, with repetition etc until it sinks in as a concept. For things like nappy changes, I ask him to help me get stuff ready and go mad for praise when he does. I also get him to hold things for me when I'm changing him, again going mad for praise when he does. I also sing like a loon smile Anything to distract basically.

When he hits out during a tantrum, is it deliberately to hit you or is he just flailing and catching you accidentally?

choochootrain1 Thu 05-Jun-14 17:39:05

its very deliberate...sometimes like he's warning me first by hitting objects and then finally giving me a whack in the face because I still haven't changed my mind about him needing to do something...

Getting him to help get things ready is a good idea, I'll def ask him to do that, he does enjoy helping around the house so I guess it would involve him more than me just grabbing his bag and getting on with it....

I have let him watch bob the builder on my phone before and it's worked but I don't like him playing with it or want him to get used to that (as I cant afford a new one!)

TwirlyCat Thu 05-Jun-14 20:37:43

My dd goes through phases of not wanting nappy changes. I have found that if I pretend to do Dolly's nappy then teddy etc she'll actually come over to me and watch and laugh then is more agreeable for me to do her nappy. Same with teeth brushing except she has a tooth brush and does her toys, then we do hers. Might be worth a try if you haven't already?

Sorry I haven't got any good ideas for when tantruming has started. I usually take her to see the cats/look out the window/into the garden but it sounds like your DS would be too worked up for that.

ExBrightonBell Thu 05-Jun-14 21:15:59

My ds also gets a bit prone to hitting (and occasionally biting blush). I make a big thing all the time about gentle hands, and no hitting anything, objects, toys or people. Rather than saying "don't hit" I say "gentle hands" instead, or "we don't hit" etc.

I also make sure he has lots of opportunity to do things like banging drums, or other activities that involve lots of physicality to try and divert some of that energy.

Don't know if any of that would help, but my ds does seem to be getting there mostly and there is definitely a lot less hitting than there used to be.

Gab3478 Thu 05-Jun-14 22:35:38

I agree with the whole getting them to help with stuff stops tantrums mostly. My Dd is a couple of months younger than yours but we used to have the most almighty crying screaming tantrums over stuff she didn't want ie, nappy changes, shoes on etc. even if I told her again and again what was about to happen. I have recently tried getting her more involved, for example nappys, I now ask her to get the nappy out, get the cream out, hold the nappy while I'm changing her, put the nappy in the bin after it is bagged etc. for putting shoes on I ask her to go and get them...that sort of thing. She has been SO much better with things now that she is heavily involved in all the processes (even though it all takes bloody ages now but I will take that over the tantrums!). Plus she is so chuffed with herself now she knows what to do her face is a little picture smile

crispyporkbelly Thu 05-Jun-14 22:41:03

It can be really scary for a toddler when they're having an extreme tantrum as the emotion is very full on. I wouldn't ever walk away and leave them alone while having it as they need you there.
Try sitting nearby silently, maybe stroke his back if he lets you, if not just be near.

There's a great article on this somewhere but also if you read The Happiest Toddler on the Block it gives excellent advice which really works. Good luck

NinjaLeprechaun Fri 06-Jun-14 06:17:45

Have you tried physically restraining him? It's not as evil as it sounds. You tell him that if he can't control his hands then you're going to have to do it for him, and you wrap your arms around him and hold him to your body with his arms pinned to his sides. Just tight enough so he can't move, of course, you don't want to actually hurt him.
When toddlers tantrum they are usually literally out of control, and having somebody do it for them actually makes them feel better. This method turns into a proper cuddle as soon as they start to calm down.
It might be a 'measure of last resort' sort of thing, and you'll probably still pick up a few bruises here and there, but it actually does work.

choochootrain1 Fri 06-Jun-14 11:55:29

Hi thanks for the replies. some food for thought and ideas to try. I did try getting him involved in the nappy change and getting dressed this morning but it didn't work...he tantrummed and is now sleeping in his cot as he's exhausted himself. I'll persevere with that though, perhaps he was just too tired this morning.

I like the cuddle restraint method but have never been able to continue it through until he actually stops as he seems to get even more worked up by it and just desperate to escape, maybe i'm giving up/in too easily.

I shall try and teach him "gentle hands" today for sure. If I teach it to him when he's not upset perhaps he'll understand it if I remind him of it during a strop...

Also will keep up with trying to distract, but yes doesn't really happen with him once one has started until he calms down

I could do with reading a good book on toddlers at the moment I think. Will look up the one mentioned! After watching Supernanny I'm starting to wonder about trying time out but I sort of expect he'd manage the time out no problem, but still not cooperate afterwards with whatever it was he went to time-out for :-/

ExBrightonBell Fri 06-Jun-14 13:54:40

I got a book called "Toddler Calm" from my local library and I found it to be very helpful. It's a completely different approach to the Super Nanny/naughty step approach so it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

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