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I'm at the end of my tether - please help

(18 Posts)
FlashingRudolphNose Fri 17-Dec-04 10:59:16

I've got three children aged 5,4 and 21 months. The youngest is having lengthy tantrums on a daily basis, caused by nothing at all. Today she screamed for 15 minutes when I got her out of bed and she screamed for 45 mins (yes really) while we went supermarket shopping and drove home. Her tantrums are wrecking our home life - my other two children have/had what I would call "normal" tantrums but the little one's are in a different league entirely. I feel constantly on the verge of tears and quite often have to go in a different room for my own sanity. I always ignore her tantrums as far as possible but when you're out and about, it's very difficult.

I really don't know what to do. If anyone has any suggestions I'd be so grateful.

ragtaggle Fri 17-Dec-04 11:05:10

No advice, I'm afraid. Just wanted to offer my sympathy - it sounds like you are having a really hard time. I came across this post after writing a piece under the Ruth Kelly section about how much harder it is to be a stay at home mum than to work. This proves my point about how hard it is and how relentless it can be. I hope someone can offer you some good advice. I feel for you.

FlashingRudolphNose Fri 17-Dec-04 11:25:26

Thank you ragtaggle - I think it's getting me down so much because I can't escape from it (bar shutting myself in the loo which just makes it slightly quieter. I know most bad behaviours are a phase, but this is a particularly destructive one...

Jimjambells Fri 17-Dec-04 11:29:21

Do you know what sets her off? Are supermarkets particular flashpoints for example? Do you think she is particularly sensitive to anything?

Much synpathy anyway- my 5 year old autistic son is going through a very obsessive stage at the moment. Screamed for 50 minutes yesterday over ???? something to do with something outside- not sure what. It's something I find quite difficult to handle as he isn't safe to be left when he's like that and whilst 20 minutes doesn't bother me (can switch off for that long) 40 minutes does and I end up losing my temper (completely unhelpful). All I can do really is levae the room for short periods (take ds2 with me so he doesn't get attacked) count to 10, or 30 if its really bad ad then go back in.

Otherwise when we're going through a bad patch we try and avoid the flashpoints. For example I just don't take him to Tescos now as he's so obsessive about seeing certain things that he always ends up screaming. (TBH I don't take him to any supermarkets now thinking about it- but the screaming in tescos meant that one went first). Not always possible- for example coming indoors will always set off screaming at the moment as he wants to sniff every car on the street and I won't let him- but if something can be avoided that will trigger him then I do tend to avoid it (as another example if someone goes to see him in his room after he's gone to bed then they have to lie down with him - briefly - 30 seconds will do- or there'll be screaming for ages- 30 seconds lying down is easier so we indulge him!)

Not sure at 21 months how much she will understand but another thing that helps us is a countdown - so I'll say to him "countdown then finished" "10, 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 finished". That can work quite well. I know he's a lot older but his language has been assessed as being at a 12-18 month level so you may find it works with your dd.

The other thing I find that helps after a day of it (when not 38 weeks pregnant grrrr) is a large glass of red wine! Could have done with one after yesterday but settled with a cuddle with ds1 once he'd camed down then stretching out on the sofa counting braxton hicks!

coppertop Fri 17-Dec-04 11:41:11

Lots of sympathy here. Ds2 is 22 months and could scream for England. Lots of hurling himself on to the floor (including concrete paths) and wrecking the house.

Sometimes the reasons for tantrums just aren't obvious. Could you try keeping a tantrum diary for the next few days to see if there is a pattern? Write down exactly what was happening just before it started, even if it seems completely trivial and unimportant. She may be a sensitive little soul who has problems dealing with the bright lights and noise of shopping. It may be that she doesn't like moving on from one activity to the next, eg going from her bed to getting dressed etc or going from the car/bus to the supermarket and back again. Keeping notes may help find the trigger.

When it gets too much with ds2 I just make the place as safe as I can (we've had too many cups, plates and toys smashed this year already!) and shut the door. It's sometimes the only thing that stops me from either joining him in his screams or losing my sanity altogether.

PaRumPumPumScum Fri 17-Dec-04 11:42:35

Sympathy FRN and jimjams. I've blocked out the horror of this stage so have no real advice but I hope things improve for you both soon.

wickedwinterwitch Fri 17-Dec-04 11:56:44

God, poor you. Does distraction work? Is it attention she wants? Sorry if that sounds silly, I'm just trying to think of anything that might help/be the cause - I remember lack of attention from me being the cause of some major melt downs from my son, although I think he was older than this. Can you shop online? Or go in the evening or get your dh to do it? Supermarkets trips are often hideous with children I know. Agree with Jimjams about the large glass of wine. During the day, have you tried Teletubbies? Or baby Mozart? Both seem to have a magical effect on littlies. I hope you find something that works. Much sympathy.

Jimjambells Fri 17-Dec-04 12:00:46

Some good ideas about triggers from coppertop. Especially about switching between activities. Another thing that will set ds1 off is not being allowed to finsh what he's started, or to be asked to finish something without warning. So for example I would never ask him to leave the TV when Andy Pandy is on as he just can't do it. But I might warn him during the course of the programme "Andy Pandy, then TV off then bath" (and we have to watch the credits). Being told what is about to happen can help avoid him losing it.

We know certain triggers (well lots of them) and really do avoid them. So for example in our house no-one puts ds1's coat on until we are all ready to leave the house and have everything we need. Putting coat on = going out and there's no point trying to get him to understand waiting.

FlashingRudolphNose Fri 17-Dec-04 12:20:12

Thanks for your responses - yes she definitely has some triggers, supermarket shopping being one of them, so I normally shop online, but this was my one pre Christmas shop which I just had to do . Another trigger is getting in and out of the car - we have multiple pickups and dropoffs so this is unavoidable. It makes every car journey a nerve janglingly hellish experience.

But you're right, what she really wants to do is either sit on my lap all day or be carried around, neither of which is possible. I like your idea of a tantrum diary, CT, it might make it clearer what's setting her off (although one trigger just seems to be waking up in the morning ffs!).

mckenzie Fri 17-Dec-04 20:06:04

could you perhaps take her to a cranial osteopath, give her the benefit of the doubt perhaps that maybe something isn't quite right? and then if they check her out and give you a big thumbs up it might help you to be stronger knowing that they really are just tantrums and not something else (I have no idea what the 'something else' could be mind you).

shrub Fri 17-Dec-04 20:44:33

if all else fails and you have to go the supermarket then maybe let this be the only time in the week that she gets treats ie. have a couple of lollies ready for her to suck all the way round/choc buttons or if you prefer healthy option - french bread stick to chew on or a whole bunch of grapes. sometimes you just have to do what ever gets you through the day!
jimjambells wonderful advice about preparing them for each part of the day - they understand so much so just keep talking to her about whats happening or whats going to happen after so and so etc. another thing i heard last week on fern and phil was a woman they interviewed who had lost her voice when her children were younger and still can only speak in a whisper - she explained how it had had a dramatic effect on the temperaments of her children and how calm and peaceful life has become. also my ds1's teacher advocates mirroring the behaviour you want them to copy and the crucial thing is when you lose it to try and model the perfect reaction so you teach her how to manage her emotions. maybe anticipate danger times if you can and be prepared when she becomes overwhelmed - box of raisins handy/juice/bubbles to blow/pocket torch to distract her or explain that when you get home you are going to have playtime in the bath with lots of jugs/containers etc. (found this the best stress relief for my ds1 when he was younger sometimes having 3 a day !) playdoh, make popcorn. with getting in and out of carseat - do you have in the front? if not and your car does not have a passenger airbag it maybe worth it - they can see more including you and that may give her reassurance? or one of those stick on steering wheel things (if thats her bag!) or story/singing tapes if you can endure so she might cope in the car? and when you have to get her in and out of the car say: 'lets find your big brother/sister (name) and keep her interested in the walk from the car to the school with saying where's ........ come and help mummy find......! i have 2 ds's at the mo and expecting a third in april so can only imagine what juggling 3 can be like. hope things calm down soon - mckenzie' s advice about cranial osteopath maybe worth considering - we did this for our ds1 and it had amazing results - he completely surrendered to this complete stranger and fell asleeep during treatment then went home and fell asleep for 4 hours! i shall stop now as i am rambling........

Gobbledigoose Fri 17-Dec-04 20:53:19

FRN - hiya hun. I'm in total sympathy - my ds's are 3.5, 2 and 3 months and my 2 yr old (25 months) is a nightmare at the moment and sounds exactly like your dd. It's def her age I think - there was a thread the other day where someone else posted a question like yours and everyone piled on to join the 'terrible twos club'!

I find it really hard to work out the triggers for ds2 as well - sometimes it's a mystery to me. On Monday morning he quite happily helped to make his cereal, quite happily skipped to the table to eat, quite happily got up on his chair, I put the bowl down in front of him and before I knew it he was off on one! I kid you not, this was at 8am and it was 9.15 before it ended. Then it stopped for about 10 mins and kicked off again! I was in tears before 9am that day and the whole day just went from bad to worse as I was stuck in all day with the 3 of them (piece of piss for us SAHM though eh?).

Anyway - I really do find that ignoring is the best tactic, or sometimes if I cuddle him he will calm down but other times that just inflames him more so it's very hit and miss. The last few days, I've made a concerted effort to slow down round the house so rather than saying 'hang on a minute I'll just do this', I stop to give him that full on attention for those 5 mins if at all possible. I'll let him sit on my lap for a bit and then he'll have had enough, get down to play and I get on with something again (usually loading the washing machine or tumbler - you know how it is!).

He really doesn't lack attention at all - I'm always doing his jigsaws with him (he's obsessed) and reading books, talking to him, practicing counting etc, but if he wants attention, he wants it now!

He is also quite sensitive so say if he and ds1 are running from the kitchen to the lounge, if ds1 overtakes him he freaks out! Or if he wants to get in the car first and I don't realise so put ds1 in first....loads of bizarre things!

I've rambled long enough but basically, it sounds to me that what you are doing is right and it's just not practical to drop everything to do things for them all the time, and I'm sure it's a phase (groan!) that she'll grow out of.

DS1 never stropped in this way - ds2 just has a different personality!

Gobbledigoose Fri 17-Dec-04 20:55:37

Oh yes, I agree with the lollies in the supermarket too. TBH, when it comes to something as stressful as trying to shop with a toddler that doesn't want to, I couldn't give a s**t about what the textbooks say or what other people thing - if a bag of buttons keeps him schtum, then he gets them!

Jimjambells Sat 18-Dec-04 05:35:12

gobbledigoose- one of our biggest triggers is from ds1's complete inability to wait. I am going to have to teach waiting (there is a set way to do it involving symbols etc), actually I was going to have to teach waiting, but I think his new school will do a lot of that for me (hoorah) and we can just use their technique. A lot of your ds's triggers sound as if it might come down to not being able to wait. SO far because we have completely failed to teach waiting (just haven;t had the energy to do it even though I know a system would make our lives so much easier) I tend to take the always thinking ahead approach- for everything. DS1 always gets in the car first (otherwise he's in the road)- if I have to get ds2 out of the car first I tell ds1 repeatedly "mummy is taking ds2 inside then I am getting ds1" over and over again until it happens. That saves a lot of tantrums.

Repeating what is going to happen (especially if it is something different) has been a particularly useful technique. I remember the first time I used this was when ds1 was about 2, I realised I had to take him back to the car and then go supermarket shopping rather than get into the car and drive home. The week previously this had kicked off a huge tantrum, so this time I just said over and over "going back to the car, but not going home, shopping first then home" or something like that (thats a bit long- simpler is better) over and over again as we walked to the car. He was fine. That sort of warning has just been built into our daily routine, and its only when I forget to do it that I realise how effective it is.

Things like traffic lights can be a problem if they take too long to change, but counting can help. He starts on the school bus in January so am hoping they will sort that one out for me as well

Agree about supermarkets. DS2 whinges his way round (and he's just a standard 2 year old- nothing major tantrum wise with him) unless he gets a comic when he's good as gold. If I want an easy life and I'm taking him then he gets the comic. Unfortunately ds1 isn't remotely interested in comics or even toys, he's too busy screaming because he wants to look at the blasted sink behind the meat counter! So he just doesn't go!

FlashingRudolphNose Sat 18-Dec-04 09:20:20

I'm so grateful for these suggestions. It's amazing how different each of your children can be - you think you've got it sussed and then along comes another one to surprise you! I'd never really had to use bribery for the oldest two but you're right, if it makes my life easier for those things that we just have to do (and hers as well - who wants to scream for 45 mins??), then it's got to be worth it.

fostermum Sat 18-Dec-04 10:13:13

my grandaughter does that,she will be playing nicely then just start screaming,a horrible ear piercing scream for no reason that any one can see she is 22 months old has been doing it for a few weeks nothing stops her!it lasts about 20 mins then she stops and carrys on with what she was doing as if nothing had happened, docs all say she fine and cant see reasomn forit

Loobie Sat 18-Dec-04 19:51:47

Rudolph just out of curiosity your first 2 arent boys by any chance are they?? I also have 3 ,the first 2 are boys then there's dd who's just turned 2 and is a life of hell all onto her own.Now i almost feel sorry for men if little girls continue into women in the same manner LOL.
The boys were and still are so mild mannered even ds 1 who is autistic,but what on earth is this thing they have given me and called it my daughter i wish someone could enlighten me.

FlashingRudolphNose Tue 21-Dec-04 10:54:56

Just wanted to come back and report. I've tried to talk her through each stage of what we're doing and even at 21 months, she seems to grasp it and it seems to be helping (have managed to avert a couple of tantrums). I have also put a couple of lollies in my bag for those unforseen emergencies . I did take her to the doctors and they could find nothing wrong but a visit to the cranial osteopath can't do any harm so I'll try that as well after Christmas.

So many thanks to all for your suggestions .

Loobie - boy first then two girls - they are a different species aren't they??

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