Trying to help my 3 year old with her temper and I'm worried I've screwed it all up :(

(26 Posts)
SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 01-Nov-16 19:53:04

DD is 3.5

We had the terrible twos and we are now in the fearsome threes (!). She can get very very angry indeed in a flash of lightning about tiny things (for example, today I gave her a gentle reminder that we needed to leave the house in 10 mins and she just lost it, screaming and raging at me etc, when if I had NOT reminded her and just said we were leaving when the time came, she would have been furious that her game had been interrupted in the middle).

My strategy during these incidents is to stay very calm, indeed I barely even speak until she has finished screaming, then when she has actually stopped screaming (and fallen to the floor crying, usually!) I offer her 'help to calm down' - this usually means a cuddle.

Once she is calm we then (briefly) speak about how it wasn't neccessary to have screamed like that, I remind her that she can TELL ME CALMLY whatever she wants to tell me and that I will listen, that kind of thing, and then we cuddle again and move on.

But it happens a lot. Triggers, of course, are tiredness and hunger, and feeling rushed, but obviously those things aren't all avoidable all the time no matter how hard I try.

The reason I am really upset with myself at the moment is that a few weeks ago I absolutely yelled at DH in front of DD, not something I usually do (I am historically not a patient or calm person myself but having DD has improved my patience about 100-fold, bizarrely). I was hormonal and exhausted and both DD and DH were pushing all my buttons, no excuse at all, I know. But I screamed at him almost out of nowhere about something silly he was doing sad and I know DD was very scared by that moment.

I did as much as I could do, immediately afterwards, to make it all OK. eg I apologised to DH in front of DD, I said again and again to her that I shouldn't have done it and I was sorry I had scared her.

But I am so worried that this incident has given her a blueprint for yelling being a way to get your point across.

Admittedly her temper has long pre-dated this incident, she hasn't been a chilled child since she was about a year old and is easily frustrated. I'm not even sure tbh that her screaming rages have got any worse since this incident, maybe a fraction.

I'm just worrying that I've screwed up by letting her see me lose it like that, not merely because I scared her totally unnesscarily but also because with her temper, the LAST thing she needs is to see that stuff modelled. In fact it's why I've made such huge efforts to be calmer and more patient myself, ever since I began to realise that she has a bit of a hair-trigger temper herself. One of us has to be the adult (!) and I'm very proud of my ability to be calm around her.

My own mum was a terrifying screamer and rager and would never apologise or try to resolve anything, just would scream and rant and rave (regularly) and I know how that felt.

Can anyone offer advice on how I can help DD with her own frustrations and temper (I know she's only 3 but I want to help her get building blocks in place as early as possible)?

Have I really messed this up?

Thanks for reading, this has turned out to be epic...

HardRockHallelujah Tue 01-Nov-16 20:00:19

Oh bless you, I know exactly how you feel. You are not like your Mum because you apologise and try to make it right and it's a rare occurrence. I lived with a parent with an awful temper too so I get your fear of turning into that. I'm sure you're over thinking this. We all lose it sometimes, I think you need to learn from it and move on. Be a little bit kinder to yourself.

Swirlingasong Tue 01-Nov-16 20:02:50

Honestly, it sounds like you're doing fine. It's such hard work with a three year old with a temper. You know that screaming is not great but the important thing is that you apologised and told your dd that what you did was not right. That in itself is a good example to set her - we all make mistakes, it's how we deal with that is important. You haven't mucked it up at all flowers

Strawberry90 Tue 01-Nov-16 20:03:59

You're totally overthinking it.

Your daughter sounds normal and so do you. Just keep trying and doing what you are doing.

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 01-Nov-16 20:06:50

Thanks HardRock that's nice of you.

I am over thinking it, I think.

But I did really scream at DH sad and absolutely out of nowhere and about basically nothing. I am not the least bit surprised DD was so shaken by it (she very visibly was).

It reminded me of the many many awful times my own mum would just lose it for whatever reason and start slamming plates around and scream until her face went red, and storm about saying all kinds of horrible and boundary-less things. Terrifying.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if DD has a short temper/is easily frustrated as that's a trait that runs through both our families (!) but I want her learned behaviour to try to overcome that. I know she's only 3 and many 3 year olds are easily frustrated too but I do worry about this.

She's such a sweet and basically 'well-behaved' little girl, she just gets very easily frustrated and is NOT a fan of the word 'no'...

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 01-Nov-16 20:09:27

wow, thanks everyone, I was totally expecting to be told that I needed to do things very very differently, I don't feel like much of a success as a mum at the moment sad

She just gets so angry with me so often about such tiny things. I suppose I don't mind if I think they're just 3 year old rages but I worry (over thinking!!!) that it's deeper than that iyswim.

She's very very verbal which helps but I think in a way maybe fools me into thinking she has more control over her emotions than she actually does?

I feel a bit like her punchbag a lot at the moment and it's hard.

minniebear Tue 01-Nov-16 20:18:59

You sound like me-i spend my life so desperate not to parent like my mother that if I make a mistake that reminds me of her I feel like I've completely failed and dwell on it for days!

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 01-Nov-16 20:25:38

minnibear, yep that's me blush I worry and worry away at the memory of it and beat myself up.

hmmmum Tue 01-Nov-16 20:30:02

The book "the highly sensitive child" might help... not that I'm sure she definitely is highly sensitive but she might be... Your problem is similar to one I'm having with my dd. She reacts very strongly to things and while on the whole I'm able to be calm and patient, sometimes I feel like I'm going to crack up if everything's getting to me. I also have a temper and a mother who was very angry/shouty and I too really don't want to be like that. I try to never yell at my kids and just to tell them off calmly if they do something wrong. But there's a couple times I haven't managed and have lost it and I always feel sick and guilty afterwards. As others have said, the important thing is that you apologise. Your dd also needs to see that it's ok to mess up and get things wrong once in a while as long as you say sorry and do your best to make things right again. Then you're modelling to her what to do when you do lose your temper - i.e. Say sorry.
I think it sounds like you're doing really great. 3 is a tough age I think, I remember lots of battles with dd at that age. I found at 4 it eased up a bit smile

SleightOfMind Tue 01-Nov-16 20:33:22

One of my twins, also 3, is similar and I feel your pain.
We've set up a 'calm sofa' in another room he can take himself off to and basically get a grip if we're at home. He gets worse if anyone so much looks at him, much less tries to cuddle or reassure.
He then either comes and finds us for a cuddle when he's ready or just carries on playing with his siblings as though nothing's happened.
I don't discuss it with him if he doesn't want to but I always ask him to apologise to whoever he's lost it with and maybe do something nice/helpful if he's been particularly rude.
This is helping hugely and things are getting much better. He's started going to the sofa before he's about to explode. He's also stopped getting shouty when we're out and about, which is great!
He's got a couple of teds, a blanket & some books there and everyone knows to leave him alone - on pain of being given an immediate chore!
Hang on in there, you're doing exactly the right thing. Your DD has seen that everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes but that shouting isn't the way to deal with it. Seeing you apologise is just what she needs.

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 01-Nov-16 20:39:57

thank you Sleight and hmmmum, those are great pieces of advice.

I will order that book right now!! She is very sensitive indeed tbh, easily upset by things as well as easily angered, gets incredibly upset if she does something 'wrong' (eg draws a picture she thinks isn't accurate enough) and also will sob her little heart out for example if she feels she's said something silly or that someone has misunderstood her.

She's a blooming whirlwind tbh. I was a similar child and my mum handled me pretty badly so I know there are good and bad ways to handle this kind of child. I didn't know there was a book!!!

the calming sofa is a great idea and oddly enough something I suggested to DD just this afternoon - I suggested that we think about designating a special place for her to go when she feels angry like that. She liked the idea so could be worth trying. I want to offer her practical suggestions for what to DO rather than just what NOT to do iyswim. I can see that she hates the outbursts and I also know (because she tells me) that she can't 'help' them as I don't even think she can see them coming a lot of the time. It's 0-60 in about a millisecond.

Swirlingasong Tue 01-Nov-16 20:45:48

Op, she sounds like my eldest a bit. Three was very, very difficult. It almost instantly improved at 4. What you said about being very verbal resonated. I definitely feel there is a big mis-match between the linguistic and emotional skills with dc1 and this was at its worst at about 3.5. It does fool you into thinking they can cope with more than they can and we also found that other adults would say things that dc1 would pick up on when no one expected them to, which also caused issues.

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 01-Nov-16 21:00:59

Thanks swirling, that's great to hear things improved at 4... here's hoping.

Just had a little look at some of the online Highly Sensitive stuff and done a little questionnaire and it's amazing how many of the traits are my DD to a t... empathetic, sensitive to smell (she will gag and sometimes throw up at certain smells), hates big changes in the sense that she will get veyr stressed out in advance even if she adapts fine in the end... iit's like she's being described from loads of the attributes!!

So thanks for that direction, hmmum, the book is ordered.

I spend so uch of my time wishing she could just occasionally be EASY about just one thing a day. But she is such a delight to be with WHEN she isn't tired/hungry/grumpy/anxious/bored/wanting everything exactly her way, that I feel bad about wishing away those parts of her personality.

shatteredstudentmum Tue 01-Nov-16 21:20:24

My ds is 10 now but very similar, I have a short fuse and my dm was prone tof screaming lots.

Have you looked at orange rhino? There is a website and Facebook page and have found it really helpful in understanding my ds and myself.
For what it's worth I think you're doing good job with what you've said here

intravenouscoffee Tue 01-Nov-16 21:29:59

You're doing a great job. One of my DC has a very firey temper which they inherited from me. I mostly manage to keep it in check but also use it as an example for my DC that anger can be managed and isn't something to be scared of.

I know with my child once they calm down from a proper rage they feel scared and overwhelmed and it helps them to know that everyone feels angry and that with practice they can learn to manage it.

Best of luck. 3 was a hellish age but I actually learned a lot about my DCs triggers and how to de-escalate as well as routinely talking about emotions with them which has been really helpful in the long run.

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Tue 01-Nov-16 21:45:36

intravenous thank you. I am learning I guess, now I come to think of it. For example we were out the other day with friends and their DD was getting in a stop about something but a short sharp threat from her mum that they would go home if she carried on WORKED. That would NEVER work on my DD. Quite the opposite. It would panic her and that would lead to more rage.

I think people must sometimes think I am too 'easy' on her when she is getting worked up/cross about things when we are out and about. But I KNOW that if, for example, I were to try to lay down any laws that might work on another child ('stop doing X or we will go home') and that look like really good, authoritative parenting, I would only stress her out more and lead to a huge explosion.

Frustratingly I know that her main triggers are usually tiredness or hunger but at the end of a long day of nursery there is nothing I can do about tiredness (I just try to build in down time as much as possible and don't rush her about doing too much) and she has a TERRIBLE habit of refusing to eat when she is excited/playing, then getting low blood sugar, which makes her cranky and even LESS likely to agree to eat a single bite of anything, and then we get more and more drama until she has a meltdown, screams, cries, I park her in front of the TV for a few moments to help calm her and she eats a little something and is fine.

I do think she is scared and overwhelmed by the rage attacks. I know she hates it when she has 'come at' me - fists raised, pushing me etc. I am very firm on that ('we DON'T push, EVER) etc, but in all honesty it's hard as I KNOW she doesn't mean it/can't help it in that moment. It's sort of a panicked thing a moment after she's screamed at me, she seems to feel that the only way out is is pish and shove iyswim. She always apologies herself very very quickly in tears after she has pushed or shoved me so I know she knows it's not OK but she seems incapable of managing it.

Traditional time-out methods (which aren't my style anyway) for 'violence' just don't seem appropriate here. She isn't eg hitting another child for taking a toy, or something like that. It's something else, and I find it hard to help her.

Strawberry90 Thu 03-Nov-16 05:08:30

I had some success with my own daughter who has traits like this by each time telling her to ask for a cuddle instead of shouting/crying/tantruming. She still does the tantruming but when I start trying to talk (sometimes shout tho i shouldn't) at her to reason her down she'll realise she can't stop herself and ask(cry) for a cuddle to help. Helps shorten the temper attacks. After she's calmed down we talk about things.
Try asking nursery to give her some more sleep/down time. Nursery is really hectic and I'd be pretty wound up if I had to spend all day there with no time on my own etc! (Not judging my Dd goes too).

Strawberry90 Thu 03-Nov-16 05:12:11

Oh and does she have a lovey toy? Also useful for giving to her when you can sense a rage coming on. Also when you pick her up from nursery don't speak to her on way home much - give her a chance to cool down and then when home feed straight away and then straight to bed. Tv time when she's tired will make things worse - keep house calm and quiet.

Strawberry90 Thu 03-Nov-16 05:15:51

Ps I know how you feel about feeling guilt about wishing that side of her away - I do that with my DS who is otherwise charming and a delight. She's good as gold at nursery and then I get all the tempers at home. My second is more chilled so it's def different children types and how sensitive they are.

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Thu 03-Nov-16 10:01:54

Thanks so much strawberry, all good avice. The cuddle thing is a great idea and I use it to some success as soon as the tantrum has passed but I haven't yet tried it at the onset. Might be worth a try.

She's only in sessional nursery so only 4 mornings a week and no longer naps at all but I do always build in a good chunk of down-time in the middle of our day after lunch etc, a few stories or a Disney movie etc. She sleeps 12 hours a night usually but if for any reason that ends up slightly shorter she really struggles the next day.

I am relieved to hear from so many of you that you have other children who are not this way as well as one who is, because I do worry that it's something I'm doing wrong a lot of the time. But I feel instinctivley that it's just her personality and that I just need to help her over time to get more control over it.

Horrible start to the day as I had to drop her at nursery in floods of tears today, I honestly don't know what the matter was, she just sobbed and sobbed at drop-off sad have to go and try and work now. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by her strong emotions! She's not a teenager yet! Was this supposed to happen so early??!

Thanks again

intravenouscoffee Thu 03-Nov-16 11:30:30

It's horrible when they're upset and you have to leave them. Hope you're okay.

It sounds like she's quite overwhelmed with her emotions, poor love.

Things that helped for us were having a really clear plan of the day (I printed out some photos of where we were going and we'd talk about them in the morning) as unpredictability was a trigger for us.

And our fabulous preschool support worker suggested 'time in' instead of time out. So when they were kicking off I'd remove my DC to their room but then sit with them until they calmed down. Don't get me wrong I hated it because by the time we'd got to that point they were pushing all of my buttons and I really wanted some space to calm down myself! But it really helped to de-escalate stuff.

I think my DC has very strong emotions that kicked in around the age of 3 (maybe hormones?) and they had no idea what was happening. So my initial attempts to treat it like misbehaviour didn't work at all and probably aggravated the situation.

See if you can have some time doing nice things with your DS and keep telling her that she's great. I also used to tell my DC when they were starting to come down from the tantrum that I loved them and nothing they could do would change that. That seemed to help.

flowers it's hard work.

SomeDayMyPrinceMightCome Thu 03-Nov-16 11:49:08

Thank you intravenous, that's so nice of you. Having a little cry here this morning, feel a bit overwhelmed.

Good idea about time in, good thinking thank you.

Yes I agree with you that it's not 'misbehaviour' and it doesn't help at all (in fact the opposite) to treat it like that. It does get me some funny looks though. But I know her, and I know she's a 'good' girl if that makes sense, I also know (and am happy to tell her to stop) when she is just being whiny and brattish for its own sake. She always repsonds instantly to that and will say sorry and stop doing whatever it is.

The meltdowns are far more visceral and are almost always about things that even she knows, afterwards, are tiny and don't matter.

Her emotions are SO high and so near the surface and I feel like I never get a break from it.

Silly as I only have the one!

intravenouscoffee Thu 03-Nov-16 12:30:56

It's really exhausting, you have my sympathies. You're doing all the right things, hang in there and it will get better. And a morning spent crying is fine - I frequently used to walk home from preschool wearing sunglasses so noone saw how upset I was after a morning of battling my own child! Take care.

Allfednonedead Fri 04-Nov-16 15:01:53

Harking back to your OP, I think you've done something very valuable there - showing that adults are not perfect, but then modelling how to manage the aftermath as an adult.
I have found the concept of 'emotional coaching' useful for this sort of thing.

Also, I have three DC, including twins - they have incredibly different personalities and tempers, and have done since birth. A quick temper is inherent - managing it can be taught!

Marzipanmodelling Wed 30-Nov-16 13:35:50

Thank you for writing your OP SomeDay, I am going through the same things and have a similar background with a shouty/quick tempered DM so am always conscious and worried my impatience etc has come through to my DS who is only 2, so he is unable to articulate any feelings or discuss them. He always retaliates if his brother hurts him initially, he's very physical everyday and often hurts/wrestles/pushes just in his play. He's only little so it doesn't have too much impact but I'm fed up and worried as I don't want it to become a way of expressing his feelings. The sofa is a good idea but he feels too young to do that yet, if anyone has any ideas for a younger child?

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