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My 6 year old dd periodically has tantrums of epic proportions and I need advice about how to handle it.....warning, it's a long one....

(29 Posts)
Earlybird Sun 19-Aug-07 04:35:44

Tonight's hysterics came from a party invite. We've recently moved (to another country), and dd was invited to a sleepover birthday party with 6 other little girls. Before I'd had a chance to consider the invite, dd said she wanted to go for awhile, but didn't want to sleep over. That seemed a good solution, because we don't really know this other child or her parents (they live a 5 minute walk away, but we've only seen them/spent time with them twice).

However, before the party tonight, dd changed her mind and decided she wanted to sleepover. I told her 'no', that she could go to the party for awhile, but that I'd come back later to collect her. Cue extended crying/begging/pleading/cheeky comments. (Maybe I should have told her she couldn't go at all with that behaviour?) Anyway, I told her I wasn't going to change my mind (didn't say I wasn't comfortable because we don't really know the family/the child, because that's the kind of comment you don't want repeated because it could easily cause offense/be taken out of context).

Anyway, she went to the party and I came back to collect her - just as planned. She was having fun, and didn't want to leave, so completely fell apart. Crying, sobbing, running away, etc - a repeat of her pre-party behaviour, but with the added bonus of an audience. At one point, I wondered if I was going to have to physically remove her. I looked like the meanest mum ever, and I'm sure the hostess was wondering why I didn't just let her stay. (It probably would have been OK, but on principal, I didn't think I could 'reward' dd's tantrum by giving in.)

I don't feel I handled the situation well, but don't know what I could have done differently. She cannot get away with that behaviour because I can't/won't tolerate it everytime she doesn't get to do what she wants. Should there be further consequences tomorrow to let her know her behaviour was completely unacceptable? Could I have done anything differently to defuse the situation, or stop it from escalating?

Any advice for a Mum who is exhausted and feels out of her depth much appreciated.

alipiggie Sun 19-Aug-07 04:47:58

Earlybird. Sorry you had such a hard time. Had a similar incident with DS1 (51/2) today at a party we were at because he was fighting over a stupid toy (admittedly another boy snatched it off him but heck). The toy went in time out and he had a total meltdown and yes the "audience" were loving it. I actually removed him from earshot and explained that he needed to calm down and actually left him on his own in my friend's Eurovan (totally safe as we were up a mountain and not a road - before I get jumped on for that one ). He finally calmed down and came out in time for the birthday cake.

I do wonder if they're entering a new "emotional" developmental phase hence having such incredible reactions. It could be her way of reacting to moving and feeling insecure in her life. Just stay calm with them and if possible remove them to another room and ask her to calm and then explain what you had originally planned again.

I think you handled it fine. I totally sympathise with you though - it's blooming hard isn't it. Sorry shall stop as this is way to long.

Earlybird Sun 19-Aug-07 05:07:27

It is hard ali, though sounds as if your strategy worked well with your ds.

I took dd twice into another room to chat/let her calm down (fully aware that I don't know this family well enough to be 'invading' other rooms of their house), but she kept repeating 'I'm staying, I'm staying' and trying to run away/back to the other girls.

It may be the move/a new phase of development, but I think she is just a very strong willed little person who can't bear it when she doesn't get to do something she really wants - especially if she can't see the logic.

Oh, and she sobbed loudly/complained bitterly/shrieked the entire way home, so probably the whole neighbourhood heard us...

alipiggie Sun 19-Aug-07 05:11:55

Oh that's the best bit when you have the LOUD sobbing and howling isn't it. I had the "BUT IT"S NOT FAIR" and "I DON'T WANT A TIME OUT". LOL. He ho. DS2 can be even worse but he's 4 and is also going through huge adjustments at the moment. My H and I are recently separated and this has definitely affected the boys in more ways than one. I do normally give a consequence for the "bad choice" that they make i.e fighting or not listening to Mummy and normally it's loss of a something they like for the next day - computer time/dvd etc. May seem harsh but bad choices obviously have to be highlighted and I highly praise good choices and they even get small "rewards".

But boy some days I swear I could headbutt the wall with sheer frustration .

shouldbe Sun 19-Aug-07 08:27:31

I think you both handle your children very well. It's so difficult to deal with tantrums in older children, especially once you have the added factor of an audience!
My dd is the same when it comes to tantrums, unfortuatly. She has the ability to have huge tantrums on a semi-regular basis. She can keep them up for ages if required! It's exhausting.
I try to talk to her about what is acceptable (esp as she's 6 and has perfectly good language skills - no need to scream and shout to get her point across) and I give her warnings about the consequences (loss of a toy/time in her room etc) if I can feel a meltdown brewing, sometimes this works, other times she goes for it anyway...
She's always been prone to tantrums and is a very strong willed child. She's lovely a lot of the time but if she's tired and emotional or just having a bad day we know we have to tread carefully...

Earlybird Sun 19-Aug-07 15:22:44

She's up this morning like nothing happened last night (though she did ask why she slept in her clothes instead of pajamas). I feel like a truck hit me.

As I said earlier, it's when she can't see the logic of things that she falls apart. And as much as I explain to her, there are times when she simply needs to do as she's told.

There will be a conversation later today about consequences of that sort of behaviour - though I'm undecided exactly what the consequences should be. I don't like punishing her, but as much as I know she was disappointed, that behaviour was completely and utterly unacceptable.

<deep sigh> Parenting is hard. My head hurts.

sandyballs Sun 19-Aug-07 15:33:32

Not much advice unfortunately but lots of sympathy as I also have a DD who is 6 and very similar - hot-headed and strong willed and it's very very wearing. I vaguely remember another thread where we both posted on this.

I shall be watching this thread with interest for tips on how to deal with them.

One thing I have discovered with my DD is that I have to explain, down to the very minutest of detail, exactly what is going to happen/will happen and that does seem to help. She is incredibly 'literal' about everything and seems to need to get everything sorted in her head to avoid an explosion of temper/attitude/rage.

KTNoo Sun 19-Aug-07 15:36:30

This is all very reassuring to me! My dd (just 6) sounds very similar. She has always been strong-willed and if you back her into a corner she just digs her heels in. She has a temper she finds hard to control. When she's calm she is usually a perfectly reasonable person but when she loses it she says lots of things she (hopefully!) doesn't mean, usually related to hating me and wanting to leave home. I've become gradually better at knowing how to deal with her - the best approach seems to be to remove her from the room to calm down. Then we talk once she's calm, and she apologises if necessary. Sometime I have to physically remove her, which is getting harder as she gets stronger. Sometimes however she almost puts herself in time out which shows she is getting some awareness of her own emotions. I've always taken the approach that she's allowed to be angry but not be rude to people and we try to find ways of expressing anger. Do you think she's still too young to control her temper at all or do you think I should be expecting her to resolve things by talking more now? What does everyone think?

KTNoo Sun 19-Aug-07 15:39:53

Forgot to say, sandyballs - we also have to explain everything in advance to dd. We try to encourage flexibility in small ways, like crossing the road in a different place! I'm so used to preparing her that I automatically do the same with ds (4), but he couldn't care less and isn't listening to me anyway....

sandyballs Sun 19-Aug-07 15:44:59

I'm not sure if she's too young at 6 to control her temper, maybe. I do think it scares them a bit that they can experience such rage, so maybe it is uncontrollable.

I don't have much of a temper at all so it is all a bit alien to me. Same with Dh. Her sister (also 6) is usually quite chilled too, and very reasonable, so this whirl wind girl amongst us is quite a shock.

Interesting that your DD also needs great explanation/details about everything. Is she worse during these school holidays? My Dd is, she definitely prefers/needs the routine and consistency of school.

Earlybird Sun 19-Aug-07 16:02:22

Ok KTNoo and sandyballs - it is reassuring to know others are experiencing this too, and that my child is not necessarily destined to be featured on 'Brat Camp' in 10 year's time!

I think there are elements of truth in what you all suggest. DD is also quite verbal and literal. But, not everything can be predicted, and sometimes things change (including my opinion on things). I try not to be inconsistent, and think I usually manage. I explain things to her because I want her to understand, and want to treat her with respect. But, I don't want to treat a 6 year old as an adult/equal. She's a child and ultimately what I say is how it's going to be.

I sometimes wonder if I have given her too much input/control so that when there is a decision she doesn't like/understand, she simply can't accept it, tries to use any tactic possible to change the decision (crying, cheekiness, etc) which lets me know more than ever I must stand firm. She then falls apart and all hell breaks loose.

I think you're also right about learning to manage her feelings/temper. These tantrums seem to escalate and take on a life of their own.

What do you do when your child is mid-tantrum? Last night, it seemed that whatever I said, inflamed the situation further. So, I simply sat with dd until she wore herself out and then said goodnight. She hasn't even mentioned it this morning....

KTNoo Sun 19-Aug-07 16:06:26

I think she has had more outbursts during the holidays. I could put it down to tiredness (we've been travelling quite a bit visiting family and she's had some late nights) and less structured stimulation. Who knows. We're away from home at the moment and she's exploding at her brother a lot - I think she's fed up of him being the only other child to play with. I don't know - the holidays are supposed to be good for kids vegging a bit, but roll on school imo....

sandyballs Sun 19-Aug-07 16:15:48

I think you have the right idea mid-tantrum Earlybird. I have tried to talk/reason with my DD at this stage and it just aggravates it all and probably prolongs it.

I also don't think its unusual that she hasn't mentioned it this morning and has just carried on as normal. My DD would be the same, even 5-10 minutes later, let alone a whole night. I don't really see any benefit of bringing it up again. I can understand that you/I might wish to refer to it to make them understand how horrible it was and how unacceptable but I'm not sure how much of that they will take it after the event, it all needs to be at the time IMO.

Jeez, this parenting lark is so hard

KTNoo Sun 19-Aug-07 16:16:00

Earlybird, I can't talk to either of my children when they're mid-tantrum. dd usually calms down eventually once removed from the room. This doesn't work with ds - if I put him in another room he just wrecks everything in sight. I usually hold him on my lap until he calms down. He doesn't like this but it does work as he knows I'll "release" him once he stops screaming. I don't think I could do this with dd anymore - she's too big. We only talk after they're calm.

My dh was a similar child and is now a very strong-minded adult! I know it's a good thing long-term that dd has a strong character, but like you said, she has to know I'm the adult here. I'm constantly trying to find the perfect way to let her know she's not going to control me, without squashing her personality in the process. Ideas anyone?!

Earlybird Sun 19-Aug-07 16:24:12

Sandyballs - you wouldn't have a discussion and/or consequences as a result of that spectacular display? You'd just carry on today as normal?

Part of me agrees with you because I want to move on and not dredge it up on a new day. Clearly we couldn't have that conversation last night as she was completely hysterical/irrational.

Maybe it's another one of those things I need to spell out in advance. One of those 'the next time something like that happens, here's what the consequences will be' rather than a retroactive punishment.

CarGirl Sun 19-Aug-07 16:30:24

I have found with my emotionally immature 5 year old that sympathising with her a la "Talk so kids will listen" style does nip it in the bud.

Eg sat on Dumbo ride at end of day at theme park dd starts screaming "I want to do on the log flume" so hysterical etc dh takes her off the ride - this continues full blown until rest of us get of the ride.

I say "You're really upset you wanted to go on the log flume but you forgot and it's now to late"

dd "yes - still wailing but much calmer"

me "shall we write it down that next time we come you want to go on the log flume"

dd "yes, on a big note" - much happier and back in control!


So in theory - your dd kicks off about wanting to stayover you could say

"you've changed your mind you think it's going to be great fun and you want to stay over"

"you think it's unfair that you can't"


blah blah blah

but it seems to help calm it quicker???

sandyballs Sun 19-Aug-07 16:30:55

Earlybird - your particular situation is obviously difficult because she fell asleep straight afterwards/during the tantrum from the sounds of it. I perhaps would have mentioned it briefly this morning to see what she would say, how much she remembered.

It's hard between deciding to move on/a new day and all that and making them realise what they have done and how they have made you feel. That is also a big part of it, how they have made you feel. My DD definitely lacks empathy which I feel should be apparent at 6.5.

KTNoo - it is an adavantage to have a strong personality as an adult and that is what I try to remember when dealing with DD, but very hard as a child. I don't think DD will be made to do anything as a teen/adult, she definitely won't be a follower, easily led which I suppose we should be grateful for

sandyballs Sun 19-Aug-07 16:32:52

Cargirl - that has definitely worked for my DD in the past, i just keep forgetting to go through the whole rigmarole! Probably easier in the long run though then a full blown tantrum. The taking back control bit is defintely apt.

KTNoo Sun 19-Aug-07 16:39:21

Yes, sandyballs, my dd is most definitely a leader not a follower. DH was no trouble as a teenager (although horrendous until about age 11 apparently) so here's hoping.

Car girl - this approach sounds very good. I think I do some of this anyway but must get that book. The control thing is exactly right - we always have to find a way for dd to come out of the corner she's backed herself into, without her feeling that she's lost face in any way.

I was such a quiet passive child my children were a real shock. This is all very helpful to me - thank you!

Earlybird Sun 19-Aug-07 18:53:37

Cargirl - I've heard so much about that book so maybe it could help. I've tried the repeating back/empathising strategy, but have not been so effective at helping her find an acceptable alternative solution that will save face, and soothe/calm her (like the writing it down for next time strategy you used).

I spoke to her about last night, and told her 'next time' there would be consequences, so she is aware that type of behaviour will 'cost' her in future.

I always feel so shattered after those sorts of altercations. It almost feels like an alternative version of being hungover.

HonoriaGlossop Sun 19-Aug-07 19:14:08

You poor thing earlybird, that can't have been nice to deal with!

I wonder if it will be easier on your dd if you make these choices simpler. more stark for her? For example, a sleepover party is a sleepover; simple as that. It would be 50/50 for any child if they would leave happily as arranged, once they were there and feeling safe and enjoying themselves....so it was asking alot of her. I know she suggested it, but then at six she isn't able to realise the ramifications of her choice.

So in future maybe you could make choices simpler for her; yes, or no, rather than 'try it' or 'go for a while'. Maybe she needs the simplicity of that so she can deal with things more easily. Possibly the move to another country makes ALL change harder to cope with for a bit, specially if you are away from your new home at the moment?

I think you dealt with her heroically, BTW and I salute your patience!

CarGirl Sun 19-Aug-07 19:19:48

I would recommend the book it is very good at getting you to see it from their point of view which also helps it also has lots of different strategies to use on them!

Earlybird Mon 20-Aug-07 01:23:27

Cargirl - I think there is a book purchase on my horizon as coping strategies are definitely what I need in these tricky situations.

Honoria - thanks for your encouraging words. Stark choices might indeed be the way to go, because it seems flareups often occur when there are slightly more complex decisions to be made, or even where initially I feel ambivalent.

BTW - as I said, at one point last night it looked as if I might have to physically remove dd. When she didn't seem to be hearing me, I took her by the arm and pulled her (not roughly). She immediately howled loudly and said 'Mum, you're hurting me'. I was mortified, and you should have seen the expressions on the faces of the three other adults. What an impression to make on our new neighbours. <sigh again>

hana Mon 20-Aug-07 01:29:32

earlybird, this could be my almost 6 year old daughter as well. She has such a temper and rage when she's in a full blown temper. I've bought that book, really really need to refer to it on a regular basis. It's exhausting....
sounds like you're doing all the right things, at least things that I would have done too

CarGirl Mon 20-Aug-07 10:24:28

just to add I regularly "fail" to handle dd's tantrums effectively it's such hard work, she is so compliant for everyone else they think we have it easy but they don't ever witness the screaming rages/kicking etc etc and tbh she doesn't seem to be growing out of it

<<sigh>> she doesn't cope with change or new or anything really, I think she's going to find life quite hard indeed.

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