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I CAN'T COPE - 2.5year old tantrums are lasting nearly 3 hours

(23 Posts)
artyjoe Mon 09-Jul-07 10:32:53

My beautiful daughter has left the building it would seem. She has always been strong willed and prone to the odd trantrum, but I'm talking one every two weeks or so...this has changed in the last 3 weeks.

IF the wind blows in the wrong direction she absolutely loses the plot. This morning she was painting a picture and started painting her hands instead and I said 'don't do that sweetheart', and she started a melt down that lasted just over 2.5 hours...I ended up crying my eyes out (a first since she was born)but she just stood in front of me stamping her feet screaming her lungs out. I can't begin to tell you how absolutely horrific these tantrums are, to the point mum is saying I must take her to the doctor for tests as she's not normal...of course that isn't going to happen as I don't think there is anything 'wrong' with her as such, but I just don't know what to do. These are happening two or three times a day at the moment...but me and hubby went away for the weekend to get away from it all and left an aunty and granny in charge and she slept through the night (which she doesn't do with us) and never once had a tantrum, not once, she was an angel.

I know it is a battle of wits and she's trying to control us, but I don't actually know how to stop it. Today was unusual in that I cried myself, but normally I walk away from her and pick up a magazine and let her get on with it...did this on Friday and it lasted over 90 minutes.

She is an angel at nursrey (2 days a week) and play group, basically with anyone, but me and hubby are lucky to get an hour of her being good before she deteriorates.

We have sticker charts which work some of hte time, but if we threaten to tak any stickers off, she removes them herself. If we say she wont' be able to have her favourite teddy, she goes and brings it to tv, she turns it off herself...she's like a teenager at the age of 2.5.

Is this just a phase? Is this the terrible twos? Should I take her to a psychologist? Should I get committed?

Any ideas?


carocaro Mon 09-Jul-07 10:40:02

ignore her, as long as she is not doing herself or you any harm. move the stickers out the way, a tantrum is like fire and attention from you is like petrol being poured on it. DS1 now 5 was like this at the same age and ignoring really worked and he was the an angel and Granny's house and they know they can get away with a lot more with us. When he kicked off in public, I took him to one side and told him to stop or else we would go home and many times we did, I felt like a complete cow taking him away from the swings etc but it worked and he got the message pronto. It if last 2 hours, so be it, she will soon get the message and they should reduce in time, and remember ignore her completely, sing to yourself and look like you are having a great time without her. DS would come round and be sorry and need some TLC hugs, a little turning point in the tantrum which turned from frury to sobbing and needing some mummy reassurance. It's hard, I have a 5 month old and not looking forward to this stage one bit!

mytwopenceworth Mon 09-Jul-07 10:43:27

remove yourself. No audience. Walk out of the room. See what she does. I don't know how child-safe your house is, if she could hurt herself (seriously hurt I mean, not banging herself about in temper kind of hurt) but if it is safe, make sure she can't get to you.

She is only 2.5, still a baby. She's frustrated and she's trying to control her environment. All of this is normal.

These things take time. It could take a good few months of you consistantly not reacting before she stops. You need to give it more time.

Ignore ignore ignore tantrums. It is the ONLY way.

If you can distract when you spot the warning signs of a tantrum, even better, but if it happens, it has to be ignore all the way. No pandering, and no sweetheart, darling etc. Brisk. Calm. Firm.

Or you can do what I sometimes did and laugh. Say come on, you can scream louder than that. Do that thing where you keep putting your hand over their mouth to create a waawaa sound. Sing, loudly. Scream along with them. Dance. Me and dh did some really daft things when our house was a branch of TantrumsRUs. It's amazing how suddenly bursting into a loud and tuneless rendition of Morning Has Broken can stop a child in its tracks!

KTNoo Mon 09-Jul-07 11:33:51

Oh you poor thing artyjoe. It sounds like you have a determined little person in your DD. I have 3 of these myself and just keep telling myself it's a good thing when they're adults. With 2 of mine the tantrums definitely peaked around 2.5 - 3 (my DD3 is only 16 months so the best is yet to come!) and are now dwindling with DS who is just 4. Sounds like you're doing the right thing in ignoring - I know it's so hard especially in public. I always felt like it's so unfair when other people's children seem so calm and don't seem to need such firm control. But believe me, if you give in to her she'll just have a bigger tantrum next time. I see one of my friends who goes and cooks a different meal if her DD whinges at the one she's been given, to the extent that now the little darling demands ice cream at every meal!

Don't know if this is worth anything, but sometimes we have a bad few weeks for no apparent reason, then things improve again.
Good Luck to you.

artyjoe Mon 09-Jul-07 11:41:55

We do the ignoring, walk away immediately after warning her, normally to another room...but the tantrums are increasing in length rather than decreasing: Fridays was 90 minutes, todays was 140 mins.

We have tried distracting but it definitely doesn't work with her tantrums.

I have tried turning my music up and singing along but she will stay where she is and scream and scream and stamp and throw herself on the floor.

I'm a bit concerned that someone will call social services to be honest as she is so loud it's awful.

I normally sit down and read a magazine and pretend I can't hear her, I'm normally in the lounge and she's in the kitchen...


KTNoo Mon 09-Jul-07 12:02:02

I think distracting only works before they really get into the swing of it. Apparently there's a moment at which distraction works best and I think I'm getting better at spotting when they're about to kick off and suddenly remembering that it must be snack time!

mytwopenceworth Mon 09-Jul-07 12:13:46

You just need to continue to ignore her. If it is just your normal toddler tantrum then she is frustrated - let her express her rage! and she is trying to manipulate you - don't let her.

So the old "I am sorry you are upset/I can hear you are upset, but X is not going to happen/but you can't do X. I will talk to you when you calm down" and no further attempts to communicate really does work best.

There is no way to deal with tantrums that avoids you feeling awful, sadly. Tis the nature of the beast!

Biglips Mon 09-Jul-07 12:20:26

i know its horrible BUT you GOT to ignore her and carry on like nothing had changed. My dd started her tantrums when she was 11 months old..i was in a shock as didnt think they have the tantrums that from day one, i put her in her playpen as she used to throw things around too and ive always ignored and let her carry on going into one or otherwise i wud've of blew my head off!!... Now she is 2.8 yrs old and very rare have a tantrum...but when she have one...she have a BIG one! .

The more you ask whats wrong or stop it!...the bigger the tantrums - im afraid.

IGNORE is the best option....and always will be! my advice but its not nice at the same time

choosyfloosy Mon 09-Jul-07 12:23:37

Much much sympathy. No advice at all.

except to say that if they happen in public, 99% of all parents in the vicinity are reliving their own children's tantrums and sending you warm, supportive vibes!

HonoriaGlossop Mon 09-Jul-07 12:45:14

I agree with the advice on here. And I agree that sometimes tantrums can be so extreme that you start to think your child is a raving lunatic who cannot be normal - been there!

You are doing exactly the right thing - continue to ignore. I agree it's worth saying at the outset to her that until she can talk to you properly you can't hear her or something along those lines; then ignore. You can't do any more, you can't stop her - only she can do that. So don't agonise, you are already doing all you can. She will learn that they get her nowhere and she will mature and cope better - so it's all time limited. It won't be like this forever.

Be ready with cuddles when she is ready but don't go over it with her - move on.

HonoriaGlossop Mon 09-Jul-07 12:47:00

oh and you are not alone in the frequency of them - while in our house tantrums were a now and then occurrence (but extreme when they happened) the poor family next door have daily, twice daily tantrums to deal with - so loud that we can hear the little girl through the walls! Everyone knows what kids are like; don't let it worry you.

Furball Mon 09-Jul-07 12:55:58

oh happy memories! NOT. Ds was like this, blooming awful,

Rule number 1, if you say something stick to it. Change your mind and you are doomed for the next time.

What I did was (and this sounds really nasty, but it was the only thing that worked) was to put on some headphones , then say oh thats better and sit down with a cup of tea and MN or a magazine and completely ignore until they calm down, they then think that you can't hear. I would occasionally lift off one ear of the headphones and say, I'll take them off when you have calmed down and put them back on again. No reaction, nothing. Great way of skiving! When they have calmed down take off the headphones and have a nice kiss and cuddle and reassure them that you love them. Eventually they do get the hint.

EscapeFrom Mon 09-Jul-07 12:56:22

when she starts screaming at you, pick her up, deposit her in her bedroom, and turn your back on her in the doorway. If she carries on, shut the door. get your face out of her sight - she is watching your reaction when she does this. Taking her to her bedroom takes her out of the situation that is upsetting her. Leave some nice toys in there, but do leave her to it because she won't stop until you truly are not around listening or hearing it.

also, have you checked her diet for additives recently? some are known for causing tantrums.

She is normal but she is obviously (I am sorry to be blunt) playing you and daddy like a flute. As will most two year olds if they get half a chance.

smugmumofboys Mon 09-Jul-07 12:57:01

Ds1 (nearly 5)was like this for ages so you have my full sympathies. His were also 'extreme' - 5 screaming, raging tantrums before lunchtime almost every day. I really did think it was me tbh. I got really peed off with trying to discuss it with rl friends (hadn't discovered MN then) who just rolled their eyes and said " oh they all have their moments don't they?". No. This wasn't a 'moment'. It was every effing day! Even ignoring didn't help hugely. Then he started school and just calmed down. Hopefully you won't have to wait that long!!

My lowest point was last summer on the eurotunnel train when DS1 was having a corker and a woman from another car got out and said, "excuse me, but some of us are trying to have a rest. I haven't even heard you tell him to shut up yet." WTF!!!

Sorry to waffle on but it will get better. Ignore, ignore, ignore!

HonoriaGlossop Mon 09-Jul-07 14:09:35

at that woman smugmum!

Actually I agree with escapefrom about the bedroom thing; it reminded me that the only time ds would eventually calm from a real humdinger was in his room. It wasn't as a punishment - just that if he could even SEE me I was the focus for his anger and that fed the tantrum. He too could have gone on for hours but in his room with nothing to feed his anger he would calm sooner; after an initial burst of anger that I dared leave him alone.

heepie Mon 09-Jul-07 19:15:48

I am going through the same with my dd also 2.5. She is known at all the playgroups. People are always telling me she's going to be an actress. When we are out it is guaranteed that she will be the only or main child screaming and crying. She is high maintenance and has been from birth. I am trying a number of things.

Firstly I came across this about behaviour modification for children with ADD/ADHD and found it really helpful. I don't think she has ADD/ADHD by the way but you can apply the advice to any difficult child.

Secondly, I ask all people I know with adult children I admire, how they did it. I have found that strong discipline is usually the answer and this would involve smacking. If that's not for you then it's not for you.

I watch DD constantly to make a quick move when things are going wrong. If she screams and I know why I talk about the problem (over or between screams). Usually if she can agree she's screaming because she dropped something for example, she will stop. If I don't know what it is I try my best to find out, then discuss it. I try to tell her that if she wants something she must ask in a nice way because I don't understand screaming, if she drops something, she must pick it up, not scream etc... If I cannot speak to her because she's too wound up I take her to her room and tell her to stay there until she calms down. She doesn't ever so I make big noises on the way to her room so she knows I'm on my way and she usually stops. Then we discuss what happens. When I say discuss, I do most of the talking.

If the screaming does not stop and she is just screaming because she likes the sound of it and I know it is going to go on and on and on I tell her I'm counting to ten and if she hasn't stopped screaming she will get a smack. She almost always will stop. On the odd occassion she does get a smack, I think it is preferable to 90/140 minutes of screaming, for all parties.

Also, I'm told that behaviour generally doesn't improve until about 3.5! Good luck.

heepie Mon 09-Jul-07 20:37:00

Just thought of something else that works really well. When she is demanding something that I do not want to give her, ie water for her tea set to play with inside/chocolates ..., I turn it into a game and say ok and hand her imaginary ones, then we have a game of spilling pretend water/eating pretend chocolates ... Otherwise saying no chocolates/no water inside would lead to scenes like you're experiencing.

heepie Mon 09-Jul-07 20:41:07

And, I forgot to mention. If she begins to have a tantrum for absolutely no good reason, I leave the room quickly. I'm sure that leaves her wondering whether I noticed because she rarely goes for it then. The quicker the better.

HonoriaGlossop Tue 10-Jul-07 16:50:04

heepie has some really good strategies there obviously learned the hard way! I just wanted to say that in my view it's better for your long term and profound relationship with your child if you don't resort to the short cut of smacking.

It could be a short cut as Heepie describes but I just wanted to say don't feel you have to try this (as heepie says if it's not for you, then it's not) I personally didn't believe that I had the right to smack; I would let my son calm in other ways as I felt that him wailing for a while was preferable to me hitting him; just didn't want that as part of our relationship.

I think that just accepting that your child has to feel these strong emotions as a healthy part of their emotional development and they need tatrums to help them learn how to govern their emotions. They need to have them and you don't need to panic and think you have to smack to stop them. They won't harm her or you though obviously they're not pleasant.

oh and my ds is now five and has no tantrums at all and has just been commended at the end of his year at school for being the child with the most impeccable manners he's a gem and that has not come about through strong discipline or smacking; but from having realistic expectations of him that are age appropriate, from clear boundaries and consistency and from role modelling how I want him to behave. Doubtless he will challenge me in other ways and I'm not saying I am perfect I'm just saying why I think you're best advised to not smack.

Pannacotta Tue 10-Jul-07 16:55:24

Not much to add that is different from the other posts, but I did find the chapter on toddlers and tantrums in the Libby Purves book "How not to be the perfect mother" very good.
One thing I remember she suggests is turning the taps on hard, app this can stop a tantrum in its tracks. Havent tried it but perhaps worth a go...

makemineaginandtonic Tue 10-Jul-07 19:19:24

Furball, I've just had the worst day and reading your post about the "headphone technique" really cheered me up. Can I wear them all day??

Pannacotta Tue 10-Jul-07 21:50:16

Loving the idea of headphones, may have to buy some specially!

Heated Tue 10-Jul-07 22:08:03

I think there's different triggers for tantrums.

Sometimes it's enough to day to my ds "I know you do" sympathetically and give him a cuddle. Doesn't mean he's going to get what he wants mind, just that he wants the sympathy! Or I'll say "tell/show me what's wrong", listen and then do something else, like reading a book. Other times, he just is plain naughty & he can cry at the drop of a hat so depending on the severity, he is ignored or has time out in the hall (what some would call a naughty corner). I don't harp on about the bad behaviour but rather than saying what I don't want, I say what I do.

We certainly haven't got it perfect, he has tantrums a lot less now but when he does they are humdingers!

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