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AIBU?

SIL thinks DS's tantrums are not normal

130 replies

Annaritanna · 19/07/2022 15:55

DS is 3 years old (since June).
He is intelligent, active, curious but he is also very stubborn and constantly pushing boundaries and misbehaving.

I read a lot of books and tried to implement a lot of gentle solutions. I try to be consistent but also caring and open to listen and understand.

But he is starting now to have a lot of tantrums. More or less everyday. He does better when he is with me, with DH it is a bit crazy.

Tantrums can last several minutes, with non stop screaming and crying. tantrums are always "issue related". Meaning that he consistently cries for a specific thing from start to finish.


Daycare thinks he is doing fine and with a normal development, but today he was out with DH and SIL and he had a big tantrum, and SIL suggested they are not normal anymore at 3 years old - and we should speak with a specialist.

AIBU to think tantrums could be also part of normal development? Or do you think something is strange?

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Am I being unreasonable?

AIBU

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karmakameleon · 19/07/2022 16:43

N4ish · 19/07/2022 16:40

All the 'just ignore' them comments - does that really work? It's a very young child overwhelmed with the emotions they're feeling and expressing them loudly!

Obviously you don't give them the ice cream, the blue cup, the sweets or whatever else it is they're screaming for but I don't think treating tantrums as just bad behaviour is effective. If a 8 or 9 year old was still having regular tantrums I'd think something was wrong but the poster's child is very young.

Exactly, poor kid is probably overwhelmed and has no idea how to deal with his emotions. A cuddle seems to help him calm down so what’s the harm? He’s only three.

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DaisyArtichoke7 · 19/07/2022 16:44

You are doing well don’t worry. You just need to acknowledge your son’s feelings and name them.

“Oh you wanted the blue cup but we left it at home? I know how much you like that cup so you feel frustrated and sad. That’s ok. (And repeat).”

I will admit that it feels very silly at first (especially in front of other people) but it really really works. I have been there. I wouldn’t tell him off just be understanding and calmly say to him how angry / frustrated / sad / happy or whatever he must be.

Your husband will need to learn this technique. He will probably only do so when he sees that it works for you.

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Annaritanna · 19/07/2022 16:44

You have a good point regarding having the same approach. But honestly DH approach is clearly not working, and he is not willing to use mine.
I will ask him to at least ignore without reacting to the tantrum. and i will try to be less cuddly and see how it goes.

My cuddling method was actually working great until few weeks ago. Tantrums were very short and far far apart (like once a month).

But now it is getting suddenly worse and worse. Thing that probably triggered SIL comment.

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Tanfastic · 19/07/2022 16:45

If it makes you feel any better my ds had horrendous tantrums until he was about 6. I honestly was so worried, we tried everything. People used to tell me it wasn't normal as well.

Then he just grew out of it. He's is the most lovely 14 year old now, so calm and placid.

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TinaTubster · 19/07/2022 16:48

It’s hard to say without seeing the nature of the tantrums. Could be normal kid stuff or your sil could be correct

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Frezia · 19/07/2022 16:49

Has anything happened lately, any change in his life or routine? Something that may seem insignificant to grown ups but to a small child it may be disruptive.

Your way of dealing with it sounds great btw. We teach our children empathy and emotional regulation by modelling it, like everything else.

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Twooforjoy · 19/07/2022 16:49

Annaritanna · 19/07/2022 16:10

Well, tantrums triggers are always new ones but here from the last few days:

He wanted the blue cup but we forgot it at grandma place
He wanted a t shirt which was in the washing machine
He wanted an ice cream but it was time for lunch
He was playing with another kid and the other kid took DS chair and did not want to give back

My daughter would tantrum over things just like these also. As she is bigger now she is very tuned in to (but not obsessive) about things happening on time, order of the day, agendas, practicalities etc.

her tantrums were epic at 3!! And they didn’t improve until well into 4. It was a total shock to me. But she is a total sweetheart now, and she’s an incredibly polite 8 yo. Your child doesn’t sound remotely unusual. You are handling the tantrums a lot better than I did!

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DisappearingGirl · 19/07/2022 16:50

I think it's fairly normal tbh, at least for some kids - my DD2 is quite headstrong and I'm sure she was having fairly regular tantrums at 4 and up!

I'd normally say it's best to be consistent between parents but I'm not sure how much it really matters if DH doesn't do exactly the same as you. As long as DH isn't being cruel or escalating things, I don't know if it matters if he's not doing the same level of placating as you. I'm not sure tantrums are something you have to solve - it's more like riding them out until they mature a bit!!

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Miriam101 · 19/07/2022 16:50

Has she ever met at 3 year old before?

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florafoxtrot · 19/07/2022 16:50

I'll answer your original question rather than attacking you. Yes I'd say quite normal, my daughter still has such tantrums (she's 3) and so do my nephews of a similar age.

You are doing all the right things.

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Coffeaddict · 19/07/2022 16:55

N4ish · 19/07/2022 16:40

All the 'just ignore' them comments - does that really work? It's a very young child overwhelmed with the emotions they're feeling and expressing them loudly!

Obviously you don't give them the ice cream, the blue cup, the sweets or whatever else it is they're screaming for but I don't think treating tantrums as just bad behaviour is effective. If a 8 or 9 year old was still having regular tantrums I'd think something was wrong but the poster's child is very young.

Yes it does work. My 2 year old now very rarely has tantrums and when he does I calmly ask him to talk in his nice voice so I can understand, he calms down very quickly.
If he's upset he can have a cuddle but no way does he get what he wants and he doesn't get attention from them.

Also 3 is not a very young child, they are aware of different environments and he doesn't do this at nursery, so may still be doing it at home to get a response. Indulging the behaviour can make it worse at times. A new approach of disengaging a bit may help the child learn how to regulate their own emotions, a key skill which kids need to learn.

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UWhatNow · 19/07/2022 16:57

This reply has been deleted

This has been deleted by MNHQ for breaking our Talk Guidelines.

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HuffleWoof · 19/07/2022 17:04

Star giving him 2 options rather than an open ended thing.

'which of these 2 cups do you want? Red or pink? You get to pick out of these 2 and if you can't mummy will do it for you.

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carefullycourageous · 19/07/2022 17:05

Annaritanna · 19/07/2022 16:11

After the tantrum, when he is calm, i try to explain to him why he could not have what he wanted. I define timelines for when (if possible) he can have it. And i tell him that it is better to explain with words instead of crying.

This is not age appropriate in my opinion. I am quite a hippy parent, definitely gentle by the standards of MN, but I used to just say 'oh I know, it is so frustrating, shall we go and look at the <whatever>' as they can't understand much in the moment.

What is your DH doing?

Your SIL sounds annoying though.

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Cognacsoft · 19/07/2022 17:08

Your ds sounds like a normal 3 year old to me. I would tell sil that when you want her advice you’ll ask for it.

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CandidaAlbicans78 · 19/07/2022 17:08

Not all children are the same! My youngest actually ended up having a CT scan ( he had skull surgery as a baby so behaviour was followed up) because his tantrums were hideous until about 5 (although less frequent as he got older). I still wonder if he may be PDA, but on the whole he is a sweet and kind kid. At 3/4 I described him as Jeckyll and Hyde, his face would darken and he would not come out of these episodes for ages. He just had to work it out and gentle presence was the only way to help him.

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EV117 · 19/07/2022 17:14

When he has a tantrums normally i sit down on the floor to be at eye level and i just hug him. I normally do not speak until he is done.

I don’t see how this is helpful really. You’re just affirming his reaction and his anger by doing that, and it’s not warranted. This might be why the tantrums are so frequent - you’ve basically shown him it’s acceptable. I

After the tantrum, when he is calm, i try to explain to him why he could not have what he wanted. I define timelines for when (if possible) he can have it. And i tell him that it is better to explain with words instead of crying.

This is all a lot to process for a three year old and after all the hugging it will fall on deaf ears. It’s ok to cry if you’re upset about something - shouting and screaming and aiming your anger at others, i.e. throwing a tantrum, is not. Kids do it of course, that’s natural, hence why they need to be taught it’s not ok. I don’t think you are teaching him that at all.

I think if he tantrums, leave him alone. Tell him you will talk to him and hug him when he is calm. Then hug him when he is calm. A three year old is old enough to calm themselves down.

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Immaterialatthispoint · 19/07/2022 17:16

It might be normal for your child bjf probably not normal for every child. Definitely would be abnormal for mine.

I also don’t understand how cuddling helps.

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EV117 · 19/07/2022 17:18

DH is not implementing the same method and the tantrums just excalates like crazy every time.

How do your approaches differ?

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PattyMelt · 19/07/2022 17:19

What is your Dh's approach that you say doesn't work?
I never cuddled a temper tantrum like many here I ignored it. Then if they were still moaning/crying on the floor for long I'd ask "are you done yet" They usually were. There was no post mortem either.
all mine had outgrown it well before three.

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Rishiscreditcard · 19/07/2022 17:26

Your method of dealing with tantrums sounds spot on to me. There's no point trying to punish or reason with a child at the end of their tether. That doesn't mean that you give them what they're asking for, just means you're helping your son to dial down the high emotional level he's at when he's tantruming.

Time outs and punishments for tantrums only escalate things as you've seen in the methods your DH is using. If nursery aren't expressing any concerns I would ignore what your SIL is saying.

Agree with N4ish on this. Children feel emotions they don't know how to handle - punishing them for those emotions doesn't give them the tools they need to learn to handle them. 3 or nearly 4 years old is still very young and he is only doing it where he feels most safe (home) and handling himself well at nursery.


I agree with all of the above points. There is no point trying to reason with a child in the middle of tantrums. Their brain is being flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone.

Also, it is not good practice to ignore as the child will only feel more vulnerable and unaccepted by the parent which will lead to anxious feelings and possibly behaviours.

The OP is right inmho to offer full acceptance to her child. BUT... OP I think it might be a good idea to help your son use his words by articulating the feelings for him, rather than simply cuddling. Eg saying "you feel angry because I said you couldn't have another ice-cream" or "I can see you're feeling sad that you left your cup behind". Then saying it's ok to feel that way but we use our words / we don't shout or whatever. Eventually the idea is he will learn to articulate his own feelings instead of tantrumming.

The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Phillippa Perry outlines this approach, and Big Little Feelings on Instagram is worth a follow.

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Putonyourshoes · 19/07/2022 17:26

It makes me feel quite sad to see how many people would just ignore a small child who is clearly distressed. A three year old can’t comprehend why they can’t have their favourite blue cup, or that their best t shirt is in the washing machine. They’re entitled to be sad/angry about things. This isn’t to say that you should give in to every demand but giving a hug or using distraction instead of completely ignoring them is much, much kinder.

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ChateauxNeufDePoop · 19/07/2022 17:28

Annaritanna · 19/07/2022 16:44

You have a good point regarding having the same approach. But honestly DH approach is clearly not working, and he is not willing to use mine.
I will ask him to at least ignore without reacting to the tantrum. and i will try to be less cuddly and see how it goes.

My cuddling method was actually working great until few weeks ago. Tantrums were very short and far far apart (like once a month).

But now it is getting suddenly worse and worse. Thing that probably triggered SIL comment.

But it's debateable whether your approach is working in a big picture way. You have a great way to stop the tantrum but from your posts the tantrums seem fairly regular. It's without question you need a joined up approach as you will do about many things over the years but is he trying to implement something longer term by being a bit "harsher" than you?

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GeekyThings · 19/07/2022 17:31

I don't think you can say that your husband's approach isn't working and yours is, because you only really see his methods when you're together, which means your son knows you're there and he's probably playing on that by being worse than he would perhaps be if you weren't there. Maybe not completely deliberately, but most kids play one parent off against the other at various points, from a younger age than most people think!

I think your method probably worked for you up until he realised that you're going to do it every time he tantrums; so now he tantrums to get you to do it, which is probably to an extent why it's escalated. It's probably also escalated because you and your OH are dealing with him completely differently, and that never usually works because it's confusing for the child. I think you probably need to sit down with your OH and discuss a compromise that you can both stick to and do consistently.

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Putonyourshoes · 19/07/2022 17:32

MolliciousIntent · 19/07/2022 16:20

Yeah I would not be giving cuddles for any of that. I'd be explaining firmly why it wasn't happening, and then I'd ignore it. I might say, just once, that he should come for a cuddle when he'd calmed down, but I would not be rewarding kicking off like that with attention and affection.

To a 3 year old, what we see as minor inconvenience, can feel devastating to them. He wants a t shirt but it’s in the washing machine, he doesn’t understand the concept of the clothing needing to be washed and dried before he can wear it again.
To add perspective, you have a favourite dress that you intended to wear to an important event, on the day of the event you go to fetch the dress and it has vanished from your wardrobe - how would you feel? If someone “explained firmly” that the dress was gone, would this help you to understand how or why the dress had vanished? If you became frustrated or upset and when you tried to tell someone about this they simply ignored you, how would you feel?
Three year olds are just little people struggling to make sense of the world.

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