Almost 2.5 Severe Tantrumming-Help!

Updated on September 08, 2010
E.M. asks from Boulder, CO
14 answers

My daughter will be 2.5 next month. The past few days she has been even more difficult than your typical terrible two. She is screaming for 20 mins to half an hour at a time over every little thing. Right now she is up screaming in her crib because my husband brushed her teeth--most tantrums occur when she doesn't get what she wants or can't do what she wants--so don't overanalyze the toothbrushing incident as sensory--it's a power struggle. It's been at least 25 mins of hardcore, top of the lungs, ear splitting screams. She says she doesn't want me to leave but when I try to pick her up, she throws herself down and screams go away. I thought maybe she needed Tylenol for molars or something but she won't take it--screams "no" when I offer it and screams "I want it" when I take it away. My husband is having a very hard time with it--I do too but I can hold it together. He is starting to say things like she needs to be spanked. Spanking will happen over my dead body. Our older daughter did this too and received an early ADHD diagnosis. I can't even remember how I coped except that I think I lost my cool with #1 more often because I thought she was just being bad and I'm feeling more understanding of the rocky emotional state that both my daughters seem to have. What do I do? Just ride it out? Nothing seems to work. :(
Expecting surprise baby #3 in March and feeling very nervous about having two explosive older children. Setting firm boundaries, being consistent etc. isn't parenting advice that is going to help this situation. I do all of that and she is beyond reasoning with or punishing/rewarding when she is melting down. She just stopped screaming. PHEW. Poor baby. :(
P.S. She is pretty verbally advanced: Exact words to me today regarding her playmate "She wasn't very nice to me. She was pretty crabby."
She is EXTREMELY social, outgoing and athletic and brave. Just like big sis. Sigh. And exhausting.

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So What Happened?

Thanks ladies. I don't think this is quite as serious as environmental toxicity or sensory issues. If you read the first line I wrote "The past few days she has been..." so it's not like this is every day. I am pretty sure it was just the long and busy holiday weekend. When my kids are overstimulated or at a BBQ they pretty much refuse to eat. She was much better the next day when I fed her dinner earlier rather than waiting for daddy to get home. If she continues to meltdown that severely on a daily/regular basis, I will take her for an eval but right now it's looking like a case of a strong personality combined with hunger, exhaustion, and the terrible twos! :)

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answers from Washington DC on

I want to ditto the mom who asked if she were hungry. My 15 yo is very cranky while hungry and we learned early on that if we feed her protein, not carbs, she is on a much more even keel.
She does sound just like my daughter, the boss of the world. We joke, S can't join the military because you can't walk in as General.

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answers from Detroit on

Sounds like my daughter, who just turned 3 a month ago - she's been a real sassy-pants the past few days. Doesn't want Dad to do anything for her - "Mommy do it!" Whining. Bossing me around - "No, sit in THAT chair! Blow bubbles with me! Do puzzle with me!" Pitching a hissy fit when she doesn't get her way. Being very stubborn and persistent and not backing down. It's especially difficult because I can't do everything she wants me to do - even if I could, I wouldn't because I don't want to reward her for her bossy behavior. I had to work 2 back-to-back overnight shifts this weekend and sleep during the day so Dad was in charge and she always wants Mom to do everything.

She is also extremely social, outgoing, athletic and into everything all the time. She seems to only want to do something for 3 to 5 minutes before she changes her mind and wants something else. All I've heard the past week from her is "I need..." As in, I need to play with Play-doh. I need to go play outside. I need a pen and paper to draw. She's wearing me out. She starts pre-school twice a week in a couple of weeks and for me, it can't come fast enough.

I don't know if she is ADHD or not - it's too soon and only time will tell once she is older and has to go to school beyond preschool. I do know that when we've done Mom and Tot type classes, and now she's just started gymnastics, I have to spend a lot of time and energy redirecting her because often she wants to do anything besides what the teacher is having the kids do, and everything else all at once.

I was just reading "Love and Logic" because of all the other moms on here who have recommended it. In the section about tantrums, they say it's perfectly okay for them to have tantrums - the key is having them do them away from you. It's all about having an audience for them sometimes and you simply let them know that if they are going to behave like that, they can do it in their room. Then they can flip out all they want, you just don't have to hear it or be witness to it. Then they might decide they are not getting the attention they want this way and eventually calm down. They also say that tantrums at this age are normal and in a way are a good sign because it means the child's spirit has not been broken (not that it makes it any easier!)

I know it can be tempting to give a spanking, because I've been there, but on the occasions when I have (and I can count them on one hand, no pun intended), it hasn't worked, and to be honest, it was more because of how frustrated I felt that she was not listening to me. So if she is in full melt-down mode, I doubt a spanking is going to fix anything.

Hang in there, I feel for you... :)

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answers from Los Angeles on

About DH w/his spanking thought . . . .
ask him how he thinks that will help.
Will the spanking stop the noise-making?
Or create more noise-making?

I'm guessing his thought about spanking
wasn't about teaching DD anything useful
as it was about relieving his frustration or irritation.

About DD's frustration . . . .
it sounds like she's able to make herself understood when she's in a together, non-upset state of mind. So, the difficulty is just when she's upset, she loses her ability to articulate what's bothering her.
So do I. Even still.

I don't know if this is the answer but, perhaps worth a try.
Next time she starts to get into a tantrum state,
try holding her snugly in your lap.
Sing or croon and speak quietly, soothingly to her.
Rock her.

Let us know if that helps.

Gma S.

About the tooth-brushing . . . . maybe daddy brushes too hard?
Is she OK when you brush her teeth?

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answers from Honolulu on

Maybe... especially for your Hubby, he can join a support group for parents of ADHD kids etc.
Some kind of support group.. would be real beneficial.

The thing is... if there is a behavioral/developmental issue with this child... then your Husband lashing out on that child is NOT going to change your child. It will make it worse... because it is about your Husband retaliating against the child... not 'helping' the child.

Both my kids, are very verbal and highly expressive and advanced as well and very articulate for their ages. BUT, they don't act that way.
I would... Speak to your Pediatrician... so that, your daughter can be helped in the most pertinent way... and assessed perhaps.
There are Early Childhood Intervention programs (usually for kids up until 3 years old), that are FREE... for any developmental concern. Try contacting them or asking your Pediatrician for their phone number etc.
Each state, has one.

Before this child is stigmatized due to her tantrums etc., and disliked for it... I would, seek out help from the Early Intervention program and ask your Ped. and see what rational and logical steps can be taken... to help this child... before it gets worse.
Once a parent is at a loss of what to do, or cannot keep frustration contained... then outside professional help is needed.
Whether that is a Support Group or in addition to other assessments etc.

But... spanking like your Husband says... will NOT make it better. It will NOT make your daughter better. It will just be him taking his frustrations out on his child. It is retaliatory. And, mean.

Next: is she napping? She needs to. She seems real over-tired and over-stimulated.... thus she cannot calm herself down.
Also, some kids are real mega fussy when hungry or their blood-sugar levels drop. My daughter tends to be that way. So... maybe your daughter needs a snack?
Also, maybe she is sensory sensitive??? My daughter, has a hair-line issue with that too. But I know her... so, I can help her manage it. And she has outgrown many of it as she got older.
Just some ideas.

all the best,

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answers from Denver on

Julie took the words right out of my mouth. ADHD symptoms are commonly caused by food and environmental sensitivities. The most common are anything with artificial color, artificial flavor, MSG, and chemical preservatives. A lot of cleaning products can also cause it. Also, food allergies can manifest in behavioral issues. The most common food allergens are dairy, gluten (wheat, spelt, rye, barley), soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shell fish, and eggs. Other symptoms of food allergies include diarrhea or constipation (defined by not having a bowel movement AT LEAST once a day), puffy or dark circles under the eyes, any type of rash, post-nasal drip, swollen tonsils with no clear reason, frequent ear infections, and sneezing. Both my children have chemical and food sensitivities so I am a bit of an expert on this--I also used to work with kids with ADHD for a living. Changing their diet makes a huge difference! Happy to discuss this with you further if you have questions.
Good luck!

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answers from Boise on

This might help:

Magensium citrate 200-250 mg (lower the dose a little if she gets the runs)

vit B complex liquid drops under her tongue daily. in the morning, not after 1pm or it can lead to sleeplessness.

Both of these will support the nervous system and can calm down nerves.

Does the child eat a high calcium diet? Lots of milk, cheese, yogurt, etc? This can contribute to aggitation because calcium excites the nerves. Magnesium is a channel gate blocker which blocks the nerve from being fired- hence, relaxed nerves. Magnesium also keeps adrenaline down.

Water supports nerves (nerves run on HYDRO electricity) so intake must be adequate. When the body has low water reserves it goes into survival tactics and shunts water away from the colon, nerves, stomache, skin and lungs and re-directs it to the brain which MUST retain a certain amount of water. Hence aggitation, anger, headaches, nausea, etc will occur.
Keep juices/milks to an absolute minimum (they do not hydrate) and make sure water is plentiful.

I agree with another poster to separate her completely from anyone when she starts this behavior and close the door. As long as a child is pitching a fit, she doesnt get any of my attention- it just feeds it. Tell her she is making the CHOICE to push people away from her by her actions. All actions have consequences and in life, if you behave that way in public (or around others) they will soon leave you to yourself! No one wants to be around that. although there could be some aggitation from dehydration or what have you, I would not empathize with that behavior. Not poor baby, POOR MOMMY AND DADDY!!!!!

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answers from Denver on

Not that I have any advice, but I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone! :)
I, too, have an exhausting child. Not a 'bad' kid, just constantly on the go. And meltdowns are a common occurrence around here. I used to laugh at the people who would say to leave him in his crib/room until he was all cried out. He was NEVER all cried out! :)

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answers from Houston on

This goes on here too with mine around the same age! It can really wear you out!

I got this book by D, Sears, and it is a goldmine of onformation on tantrums (and specifically no spanking, so your hubby will learn alot from that chapter!)

The Discipline Book: How to Have a Better-Behaved Child From Birth to Age Ten

some greats tips are on his website as well (alot are geared towards dads);

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from San Francisco on

Hopefully baby #3 won't be strong-willed. Most people get a lucky break and at least one of their kids is pretty mellow.

All I can suggest is: ignore the tantrums. Let her scream for 20 minutes in her room, if that's what makes her happy. Hopefully your walls aren't too thin.

What did you do with the ADHD diagnosis?



answers from Great Falls on

I'd have to agree with the moms who suggested possibly environmental toxicity. I've known some parents to just switch everyday household products to greener, and non-caustic, and also changing the diet of their child and/or family. I've noticed a great change in my children ever since switching to a store that believes in non-caustic cleaners and safer products for the home and family. They aren't as sick, nor do they act up as often as they used to.

It's my belief ADHD is just being thrown out there to explain the unexplainable. Not only that, but older children and even adults are faking ADHD to get the medication.

I know you'll find an answer here. There are a lot of mommies out there looking to help one another!




answers from Fort Collins on

My daughter does a little of this too... especially the part about wanting two opposing things simultaneously. I usually allow her to scream herself out... either in a different room from me or in my arms or my husband's arms depending on how well I'm holding it together myself and what else is going on. My husband tends to be better at finding a distraction that will break through the madness, but sometimes he's at a loss as well.

There was a lot more of this shortly after her sister was born, and when we've had guests staying in the house. I can't offer much more than to do the right thing for her despite what she's demanding, show her a lot of love when she's calm, and build as much extra time as you can into your day for awhile. Age will help! For my daughter the other thing that she seemed to find around the time that these super-tantrums calmed down was a hiding place (corner of a closet) where she could go and just be sad if that was how she felt. It took me awhile to figure out that she wanted to be left alone for a little while, but would be pretty happy to be missed and searched for after some time had passed.



answers from Chicago on

You may want to look into food colorings, artificial flavorings, etc. as a possible issue with your daughter. She could also have an environmental or chemical intolerance that causes the tantrums. It's not uncommon.



answers from Denver on

Sounds possibly like control issues to me- do you give her choices?

A great book that helped me a ton is "Happiest Toddler on the Block".

Sometimes it helps to get down to their eye level, and "mimick" (not mock) the emotion they're displaying. Replay the emotional content to her- in an upset tone with facial expression to match "Karli is upset because Linda is not being nice today. It makes Karli very unhappy" etc- when she sees you're understanding and comiserating with her experience, likely she will clam down. Then the "parent tone" steps in and helps with a solution.

Good luck- I know these are trying years-

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