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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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DixonD · 19/07/2022 18:39

I got through tantrums by ignoring them. Or pre-empting them and avoiding the trigger.

3 year olds cannot regulate their emotions and they certainly cannot describe their feelings with words. They don’t know what the feelings are most of the time.

I’m generally a “gentle parenting” sort, but I don’t follow any books or gurus. I just do what feels right and it works. Arguing with children gets you nowhere, especially when you have a stubborn one. Thankfully, my daughter has met her stubbornness match with me.

When she was a toddler I did used to explain to her why something she had done was not desirable behaviour. It sinks in, eventually, but I certainly would not have expected her to communicate such things back to me.

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glittereyelash · 19/07/2022 18:43

My son used to have horrible tantrums and meltdowns. I found the best way to avoid them was having a consistent routine, giving him choices, and making sure he knew what to expect when we were going places. When a tantrum happened I'd move him to a quiet place and be present but not interact and wait for the behaviours to stop. I tried give alternatives when he went through a phase of throwing things we had a box of soft toys he was allowed to throw when he was having trouble sharing we played games together where he had to share and he would get a small reward afterwards. It was really tough for a while as his meltdowns could last over an hour but he only has tantrums now when he's overwhelmed in new places.

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declutteringmymind · 19/07/2022 18:50

I think you might be accidentally rewarding his tantrums with love and attention. He gets upset over something trivial. He throws a tantrum and you reward him with your undivided attention and cuddles. Of course he'll do that more.

I suggest the naught step method.

Put him on and walk away and ignore for a set period. Then have a conversation.

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Putonyourshoes · 19/07/2022 18:55

EV117 · 19/07/2022 18:08

Stated in OP that he only turned 3 in June. He doesn’t need to learn to deal with his emotions alone at 3 years old, or ever in fact.

A temper tantrum is not just a display of emotions though - it’s a boundary pushing exercise. The extent of the tears and screaming is not indicative of the level of distress. A child may want a particular cup that is unavailable, get tearful and cry. Another might be in the same situation and start screaming blue murder about it. They are both equally distressed - one is pushing boundaries. A three year old is old enough to learn that feeling sad over a cup is of course ok, so is crying, but screaming aggressively over a cup is not.

The OP hasn’t said the child is screaming aggressively, you’ve added that yourself.

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Silverbirch2 · 19/07/2022 18:58

Sounds like you are rewarding his tantrum. So no tantrum everything carrys on but tantrum means you drop to his level for hugs. I wouldnt be suprised if the tantrums increase. At 3 I wouldnt be expecting aa many tantrums as you describe. I'm quite firm so no hugs for screaming over a cup at 3! What about when hes at nursery/school he has no coping mechanism when he has to share or not get his own way.

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isadoradancing123 · 19/07/2022 19:01

You absolutely do not need to sit on floor and cuddle, explain and leave it, you are making him worse

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Putonyourshoes · 19/07/2022 19:06

Annaritanna · 19/07/2022 16:03

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.
If we cannot stay where we are, we go to a different room/area and I do the same.

Like this he normally calm himself within few minutes. Sometimes it takes only few seconds but sometimes longer.

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

I think most people are missing this part.
OP says with her methods of dealing with the tantrums they are usually over within a few minutes.
Shes also previously said that nursery have raised no issues.
This conversation has arisen but the tantrums escalating when in the care of DH. But because people are so quick to dismiss the ideas of a gentle approach to parenting they’ve jumped in to criticise the OP.

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Annaritanna · 19/07/2022 19:09

Thanks a lot for all your answers!
I do not cuddle him and drop everything as soon as he needs something or complain a bit. We normally go through differente steps 😁 first step is give him a choice. Second step is distraction. Third step is counting 1 to 10. When we reach "the point of non return", then i use the cuddle method.

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georgarina · 19/07/2022 19:10

He might be having tantrums because he likes the positive attention. Maybe if he is left a bit to get over it himself it will lose its appeal.

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Annaritanna · 19/07/2022 19:13

A lot of good tips on this thread!

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Annaritanna · 19/07/2022 19:17

Also, yes we had few changes in the last period.
9 months ago DD arrived.
3 months ago i went back to work after Mat Leave. DH reduced working time and looks after DC 1 day per week

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ISpyNoPlumPie · 19/07/2022 20:04

Loving all these parenting gurus who think love, affection and hugs are rewards that children try to manipulate from their parents.

OP - I think you’re doing great. Consistency is important. Tantrums get better in time. I’ve found it really does help if you put things into words for them when they are overwhelmed - my 3 (almost 4yo) now says things back to me that I used to say to him when he was younger (“I’m sad because it’s not my turn” “sharing is hard” etc.).

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rosemarysageandthyme · 19/07/2022 20:05

Oh yeah, the threes are tough. He's only just three so it's normal. IME

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FreudayNight · 19/07/2022 20:07

Franca123 · 19/07/2022 16:16

If my 3 year old had a tantrum because he couldn't have an ice cream, he wouldn't be getting cuddles and attention from me. He'd get a short sharp warning and then ignored. I've not got time nor energy to be dealing with all that. Strikes me the most important thing is getting on the same page as the Dad. You have to present a united front.

Indeed, perhaps her husband could stop the withdrawal of affection method. It’s nasty.

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LizzieSiddal · 19/07/2022 20:10

OP whatever you take form this thread it’s important you and DH have a chat and come up with a consistent way to deal with the tantrums.
Plus ignore SIL, your DS is entirely normal!

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Sparklybutold · 19/07/2022 20:16

@Annaritanna

From.what you're said I think.you are demonstrating incredibly empathic responses to your son. It may help to look up therapeutic parenting which I think may compliment your parenting style. However I think other posters have picked up on two important themes. First, the importance for you and your DH to present a united front. Second, the importance of including boundaries in some instances, so sometimes that may require a short sharp ‘enough’ at the right time. However, that doesn't mean you still can't be present, just not the cuddles, you're near, but not cuddly. He will soon start to pick up the subtle differences to your responses.

Also your SIL is talking nonsense. He's 3 and it is perfectly normal for him to.be having tantrums. His frontal lobe is still developing and his actions are controlled primarily by his instinctual brain - he wants, he gets, the in between step is still being shaped by how you respond.

You sound like a loving parent who is keen to demonstrate empathic responses towards your child. Keep going and just smile and ignore your SIL comments.

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Sparklybutold · 19/07/2022 20:20

@coffeeaddict and countless others

The idea that ignoring works I feel is overlooking the deeper consequences. By not responding to your children appropriately means they learn to internalize which can lead to problems later on. Lots of research on therapeutic parenting and the impact of varying attachment styles which has been shown to have a huge impact for psychological and physical health later on.

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withgraceinmyheart · 19/07/2022 20:22

I used a similar cuddle method to your description, and it worked well. The only thing I would say is that sometimes doing their hands and sitting back a bit can help so they can copy your breathing. Maybe some specific breathing techniques that you can practise when he’s calm then remind him off ‘in the moment’. Stuff like, pretending you’re trying to blow a cloud away, or imagining you’re the ocean going in and out. That’s helps as they get older because they can use it when you’re not there as well, and he might start to do then on his own first and be able to stop the meltdown before it starts. Mine all
do that now they’re a bit

Ignore other peoples comments. If preschool aren’t concerned then no need for you to be at this stage.

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wherearebeefandonioncrisps · 19/07/2022 20:29

I never reacted to tantrums. You cannot reason with such a young child whose having a tantrum.
Cuddling them confirms to them that they'll get the attention they need to get what they want.
It'll pass. Be firm.

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BirthThoughts · 19/07/2022 20:33

It's not about the blue cup, is it?

He's got a new sister who is now at a difficult age for older siblings to adjust to - ie she is no longer a nice little lump who sleeps a lot, instead she is moving and getting into his stuff. His caregiving arrangements have changed and you aren't about as much.

You're doing great. It's totally possible to validate emotions without communicating to him a sense that what his emotions are being triggered by are genuine disasters.

Parental attention shouldn't be a "reward" or something to be withdrawn as a punishment, it should just be standard. Indeed, when my eldest (same age) has similar bouts of difficult behaviour I often find that leaning in and ensuring we have quality one on one time together helps a lot.

You might find Janet Lansbury's podcasts speak to your approach.

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Frezia · 19/07/2022 20:44

Annaritanna · 19/07/2022 19:17

Also, yes we had few changes in the last period.
9 months ago DD arrived.
3 months ago i went back to work after Mat Leave. DH reduced working time and looks after DC 1 day per week

That's quite a lot for a barely three year old, and would be even for an older child. His world has shifted and he's trying to deal with it. I don't think you need to change anything in your approach, you sound very empathetic and supportive. It sounds primarily like DH needs to get used to the new set up and find more patience. But mostly I think you just need to wait it out.

Please don't listen to posters who advocate withdrawing affection, that's terribly unkind to a toddler who is going through big changes. He's not trying to manipulate you. He's trying to communicate his feelings. You can have boundaries set whilst also practicing gentle discipline and parenting. I found this site quite helpful for that approach: www.ahaparenting.com/

This book is also great for better understanding of the toddler brain:

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind amzn.eu/dpA1Et0?tag=mumsnet&ascsubtag=mnforum-21

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itsgettingweird · 19/07/2022 20:47

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

Pretty normal reasons for a 3yo to tantrum.

You need to find "cutted up pear" in classics.

Different children respond differently to ways to get them out of a tantrum.

Some need hugging silently and some need to be walked away from.

As long as they don't get what they want from it they'll get there eventually.

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itsgettingweird · 19/07/2022 20:49

And tbh if it's got worse the past few days I'd assume it's down to the heat and probably not sleeping well due to it.

I've probably avoided a tantrum or 2 myself the last few days Grin

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Delphinium20 · 19/07/2022 20:56

Every kid is different. I have 2 DDs. DD2 had tantrums from 2-4, where I would simply not say much and make sure she didn't bang her head on something sharp/hard. Once she was calm, she'd often be able to verbalize what her need was - or I was able to figure it out (almost always hungry or tired). DD1 NEVER had a tantrum, but always used her words, which could lead to serious bossiness.

Jump ahead a decade, both are pretty great humans...DD1 is a gifted orator/writer and can persuade anyone of anything. DD2 is an amazing athlete. When DD2 gets frustrated and can't find the perfect argument, her coping is to take a run and come back with a reasoned opinion once she's feeling calm. So they both grew up and learned adult ways to deal w/ frustration based on their personalities...looking back, I'm not surprised in the least that DD2 had a physical response to frustration as a toddler while DD1 had a verbal response.

You sound like you're doing great... ignore SIL (does she have kids?) and work on getting husband to get on the same page.

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Holly60 · 19/07/2022 21:01

KweenieBeanz · 19/07/2022 18:07

Lol at the people going on about big emotions etc.....this is a child throwing a strop because they wanted a blue cup, it's not some deep seated emotional need. All they need to learn here is that having a tantrum is not an appropriate response to not getting what you want, and that you won't get attention if you do! They also don't need their feelings 'validated', sorry but no it's not reasonable to be demanding a particular colour cup so I'm not going to hug a toddler as if they have a right to be super upset over the colour of their cup, way to make them think they are justified in kicking off!

Oh bless you. So, basically, it's now advised that we try to see things from a toddler's perspective. So of course to an adult not having the right coloured cup is trivial and it would be completely inappropriate to have a tantrum over it.

However obviously to a toddler different things are really important - otherwise we'd just have mini adults walking around which would be weird.

So to a toddler having the right coloured cup can be the most important thing to them in a particular moment - and that is developmentally appropriate at this age.

Tantrums equally are not about 2/3 year olds being naughty, it is a method of communication.

It used to to be thought that telling a child off or even ignoring was the best way of teaching a child to regulate their behaviour. However now there is more of a focus on validating the big feelings children have and not assigning adult thinking to 3 year old. Helping young children feel heard, and understood helps build self esteem. It also models how to regulate emotion effectively and how to self sooth in future. Recognising, yes im upset, I have a right to be upset and can articulate why, but I can also be comforted and soothed until I feel better.

You might think it's fair to differentiate between things you think a toddler 'should' be upset about and what is silly, but a toddler won't make that distinction. It's important to meet all big negative feelings with the same empathy and compassion. That way the child grows up with emotional literacy.

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