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3yo tantrums - did we handle this really badly?

(23 Posts)
CatsRidingRollercoasters Sat 15-Apr-17 18:36:48

I have dd3 and ds1. Dd is very bright and an absolute joy most of the time. Since turning 3 (3 months ago) she's started having horrendous tantrums. Really really bad and long lasting. E.g. lying on the floor in the supermarket for 25 mins and arching her back, screaming, kicking, punching me if I try to lift her. This is especially difficult if I'm on my own with the 2 of them and have ds in the buggy. Dd is tall for her age and surprisingly strong foe someone who hates vegetables and all sources of protein!

She will repeat the same phrase again and again for over an hour sometimes. When she's in an agitated, tantruming state there is no getting through to her. Distraction doesn't work. All I can do is hold her tightly in my arms and repeatedly acknowledge whatever has upset her it maybe sing quietly until she wears herself out screaming calms down.

This happens most days at least once. When it doesn't happen there are often times when she's clearly close to a tantrum and we intervene to prevent it when we can.

Our routine is like clockwork. She is happy and well loved and gets plenty of 1:1 attention from us both.

Tonight she had a tantrum in the bath because she wanted to have her teeth brushed with her old toothbrush. We threw it away a few days ago and she has a new brush which she chose. The tantrum carried on after bath. I was trying to get her into her pjs while dh sorted ds. She was hysterical - screaming at the top of her lungs. She scratched my arm and kicked me really hard - it bloody hurt. It sounds ridiculous but I just couldn't get her pyjama top on.

I lost my rag and told her I wasn't going to be kicked and screamed at. She would have to go to bed with no pyjama top on and no story. Dh took her upstairs, put her in bed and shut the door.

She calmed down immediately and is not calling out that she's calm now and ready for her bedtime story.

It's breaking my heart but I feel that she needs to understand that this is a consequence. Are we being too harsh though?

I might be over thinking this I know.

Do the tantrums sound normal? Whenever they happen in public people look so shocked.

CatsRidingRollercoasters Sat 15-Apr-17 19:54:54


BlueDaBaDee Sat 15-Apr-17 20:06:20

I think if she's calmed down, get her to apologise and read her a story. I couldn't bear my baby going to sleep after I had just lost my rag with her without giving her a hug and letting her know it's all forgiven and forgotten.

The tantrums do sound extreme and difficult though and I haven't got much advice re them but I'm hoping somebody comes along with some good techniques for you. I'll be watching as my DD is just about to turn 2 and is definitely showing signs of tantrums to come. wine for you.

Doje Sat 15-Apr-17 20:13:41

It's tough, but I would stick to my guns on the no story. She has to understand there are consequences and she can't manipulate you.

However - my threenager is very similar at the moment, and I'm not sure I'm doing a good job of managing the tantrums / being a mum to him, so I don't know if my advice is good!

Leebee11 Sat 15-Apr-17 20:13:57

I'm in the same boat, my baby turned 3 back in February I had my next little baby girl early March and my first born has turned in to a devil child but only really with me. She smacks me shouts in my face then the next minute she's my gorgeous lovely little girl again.we use the naughty step she doesn't like it and try and always do what we say.

MudCity Sat 15-Apr-17 20:17:11

I think you dealt with it brilliantly. You probably shocked her as she would not have expected you to react in that way....and that has been enough to calm her.

You are absolutely right not to tolerate being scratched and kicked. The best thing you could have done is walked away and that is what you did. Tomorrow is another day.

Do not be hard on yourself. Your DD is safe and loved. You reached your absolute limit and your reaction is totally appropriate and justified.

Mummysrcrazy1 Sat 15-Apr-17 20:18:24

You seem to be doing pretty much all you can do, maybe she is just testing boundaries, when my ds has a meltdown I try distract him before he starts getting to worked up, easier said than done I know. Is she like this with both you and your partner? as you said she seemed to calm down when your OH took her to her bedroom. In most family's children seem to play 1 parent off against the other its a classic case of good cop versus bad cop.
Have you tried the naughty step? I know it can be very difficult when your out in public and your LO has a meltdown, you feel everyone is staring at u and judging u. Try ignore the bad behavior as much as possible and reward the good. Make a big deal out of little things ie.. I bet your such a big girl now how about you find 2 bananas for me and put them in my trolley otherwise mummy will forget but I bet you can remember...
It's all trial and error hope this helps

Rosieroundabouts Sat 15-Apr-17 20:21:45

Sorry no advice but watching this thread- this sounds exactly like my almost 4 year old. Very prolonged loud tantrums and just doesn't care where she is, and repeats the same words again and again, it's exhausting.
So just to say you're not alone!!

Dangermouse80 Sat 15-Apr-17 20:30:17

Think you did the right thing. They push to see what the boundaries are, and respond to knowing what the limit is. My almost 4 year old went through a similar phase a year ago. We simply removed him to his room till he calmed down and said sorry. The phase soon passed, stick to it 😀

FATEdestiny Sat 15-Apr-17 20:34:27

told her I wasn't going to be kicked and screamed at. She would have to go to bed with no pyjama top on and no story. Dh took her upstairs, put her in bed and shut the door... She calmed down immediately

You didn't give any warning.

You didnt give a get-out option.

It's done now, you cannot change it. But yes, I would have read the story.

I would have also given a warning: You will not be kicked and screamed at. If she dies this once more she will be put in her room to calm down

If she did it again, consequence (to her room) with a make-friends get-out clause: If you calm down and are sorry, I will read you a story

Then leave her there. She either screams until asleep. Or she calm a down, you give her a minute or two to reflect then expect remorse. And make friends and read a story.

Playitagainsam Sat 15-Apr-17 20:57:54

That's such a tough situation, when they really hurt you it's so hard not to lose your rag. And I do think they need to know when they've really crossed a line. It is absolutely not on to kick or hit, no matter how cross they are.
I think I would have done exactly the same as you, and no doubt felt exactly the same guilt. But you didn't handle it badly, you did the best you could under extreme provocation. She knows she is well loved and one night will not undo that. As another poster has said, tomorrow is another day. Yes, in hindsight, giving the 'get out' option might have been a good idea, maybe try that next time. But don't beat yourself up, 3 year olds can be utter devils sometimes, you did the best you could. She knows you love her, be kind to yourself.

hollygolipo Sat 15-Apr-17 21:05:27

Hug but no story imo - that way she feels loved but there's a consequence. Don't beat yourself up - she will have forgotten long before you!

Trb17 Sat 15-Apr-17 21:48:28

My only advice is that if you say something, stick to it. Don't say no story then back down. They soon learn you don't mean what you say and that way trouble lies. Go in, explain to her what she did wrong and that no story is the consequence.

Trb17 Sat 15-Apr-17 21:49:55

... and tell her you love her but didn't like what she did.

CatsRidingRollercoasters Sat 15-Apr-17 21:52:54

Thank you all! Feeling much better now after some wine and Netflix smile

In the end dh went back in after 10 mins. She was completely calm by then. He put her pj top on her and gave her a hug. No story though but she was fine when she fell asleep.

Argh! They put us through our paces these toddlers! I'm reassured to read that others are having similar behaviour with their little ones.

She has tantrums equally for me and dh, but never for the childminder, preschool etc, so I suppose she is able to control it to some extent. Hopefully this phase will be short lived! I have various Easter activities planned for tomorrow - what could possibly go wrong? grin

missyB1 Sat 15-Apr-17 21:55:09

I always gave a clear warning "if you carry on screaming/ fighting me I will put you in your room by yourself" then be prepared to do that.
Personally I think your dd showed she can control the tantrum and was able to stop pretty quickly when it suited her!
Ask for an apology, tell her firmly that future behaviour like that will result in a similar consequence, and read her the story with a hug and kiss.

comeagainforbigfudge Sat 15-Apr-17 22:04:33

You need this book for bed time stories. We have it, and it describes a day not too dissimilar to yours but with the very important "sorry" at the end.

I don't much more to add other than gin? Or rum? Or chocolate? <not very helpful but it tastes good>

Hope tomorrow is a better day for you all flowers

minipie Sun 16-Apr-17 21:12:39

I note it was bedtime... do the tantrums tend to happen when she's tired? Or hungry?

Semaphorically Sun 16-Apr-17 21:36:13

It sounds fairly normal to me. DD is quite intense as well, in addition to being very independent so she hates being told what to do.

Quite often we use enforced boredom to defuse things - "fine, we'll just wait until you're ready to do xyz. You can't go anywhere, or do anything else, we'll just wait here until you're ready, because <insert reason why this is a reasonable thing to expect her to do now>". Once she's wound up often all we can do is wait for her to calm down though. Forcing her just makes her furious, so we try to avoid that if we can.

I think you're right to refuse to accept being hit. It's a line that DD knows will always lead to a time out to think about why hitting isn't ok (we don't give a warning for hitting, it's just straight to sanction because she already knows the rule).

I agree with FATE about the get out - "if you apologise then we can read the book", we find that works really well to get her to engage back with us so we can talk about what happened. We try to talk to her about her emotions once she's calmed down, about how it's ok to be angry and frustrated and it's ok to think mummy is being unfair, but it's never ok to hit when you feel like that.

Good luck! Three is even more tiring than two thus far for us, you have my sympathy!

Aquamarine1029 Sun 16-Apr-17 22:40:14

You handled it just fine. She needs to know, with no uncertainty, that YOU are the boss and you will not be manipulated by her tantrums.

WombOfOnesOwn Mon 17-Apr-17 19:52:19

Yeah, what this tells me is that your daughter's everyday tantruming is about NOT having limits imposed. You let her continue flailing on a floor for 25 minutes, or sing to her while she repeats a phrase for an hour? Sounds like some mega attention! She doesn't know whether it's good or bad attention, she just wants to be in charge and the centre of attention for everyone around.

Suddenly when she's in a less stimulating environment without an audience, she can control herself. This means when she's repeating a phrase endlessly while you comfort her, she COULD regain control. Your previous actions, while well-intentioned, have actually been making it more difficult for your child to learn to control her actions.

You need to stop paying attention and providing a rapt audience for these tantrums -- as you've seen, she'll calm herself down soon enough. Odds are, she'll have a couple of mega meltdowns to try to convince you to handle it differently ... but after that, you should see her start to make forward progress in being able to calm herself down.

It's the same way that a 6-12 month old baby often needs a chance to learn to self-soothe -- these are skills your daughter needs to learn, and there's no time like the present to teach them.

buckyou Mon 17-Apr-17 21:08:40

My daughter is much younger (not 2 yet), so I don't really know what I'm talking about. But, I was taking a softly softly approach like it sounds you were but my daughters behaviour was just getting worse!

Now if she starts showing off / having a tantrum she gets warned that she will go to her room and if she doesn't stop she goes to her room. Only for a minute or so but she normally calms down straight away were as before she would get more and more wound up. I warn quite early as more effective before she completely loses the plot.

I know they are little but they need to understand what is acceptable behaviour and by not having boundaries, they will just carry on and make everyone miserable. I really don't understand this 'cuddling through a tantrum' theory. Why would they not do it if they know they will get cuddled??

CatsRidingRollercoasters Mon 17-Apr-17 23:24:00

Thanks for all your comments and ideas! comeagain - brilliant suggestion on the book, thank you. Ordered it on Prime and it's great. I read it with dd tonight and had a really good chat with her about it.

I think I might have explained myself a bit badly. I'm really not a softly softly parent. I'm a seasoned teacher and although the children I teach are older I am always very clear and straight talking with my dc. Their behaviour is mostly excellent and I am shit hot on manners, routine etc.

The cuddling or singing till she calms thing is sometimes what I have to do to keep her safe if we are out somewhere. If she kicks off in the car then it might be so distracting that I have to park up, but she will stay strapped in. If we're home, she'll get acknowledged, given the opportunity to calm down, and ignored. We use time out which works well as long as she's not completely hysterical. Her room is safe - furniture tethered etc, so she can safely let loose in there and it can take as long as it takes.

If we're out though it's a different matter altogether. If I'm in a supermarket and have ds in the buggy and dd kicks off, what can I do? Shouting at her doesn't work (and would scare ds). Talking to her doesn't work. If I walk away from her she'll bolt in the other direction. She could get hurt, lost, etc. I need to keep her safe so I have to hold on to her, and squeezing her stops her from hitting and kicking me.

It happened on a bus recently. She would have been off running around a busy, moving bus if I hadn't held on to her. But if I just hold on to her and don't try to calm her, she'll start to panic at being restrained. It's bloody difficult.

Still, today and yesterday were great and tantrum free!

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