Tantrums ??

Updated on August 10, 2009
M.P. asks from Orlando, FL
10 answers

Moms-I'm desperate for help. My son is 2yrs 3mos old. He is a mild mannered boy but is particular about some things. He and his 5 year old sister have always gotten along fabulously and we considered ourselves lucky. In the last few weeks, he's been having what I'd call major meltdowns over the littlest things. He may be fine and go with the flow for 2-3 days and then he'll completely lose it if my husband wants to drive my car or if a toy won't do what he wants it to do. It breaks my heart and infuriates me at the same time. He screams as if he's being tortured and cries until he hyperventilates. We've tried putting him in his room until he can calm down but that seems to just fuel the fire. We've tried ignoring him and the behavior but he screams until he's hoarse and sounds like he'll throw up. When we try to go near him, he screams louder and pushes us away. I'm afraid he'll somehow hurt himself. He's in daycare and has been since he was a baby. We've asked them about this and he has not had 1 of these episodes at school. They can't even believe that it's the same child. It does seem to start when we pick him up and get him and his sister together. I'm not sure if this is jealousy. None of the actual fits seem to have anything to do with her but he does get upset at school if she tries to hug my husband or I when we get her. He's acting the way I'd expect him to if he hadn't gotten any sleep and couldn't tolerate things going any way other than his way. He doesn't even seem angry. It seems as if he can't process his emotions. Am I describing a textbook tantrum? I'm not sure if I should have him seen by our pediatrician or if this is completely normal?? We didn't experience anything like this with our daughter. She'd get upset, but we could always talk to her and reason with her. Please help before I lose my mind...

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answers from Tampa on

Completely normal developmental stage Mama! He's learning he has choices over things and now he wants to exert those choices with every thing and doesn't understand why he can't. I have an almost 2 year old (21 mos.) and man can the tears flow and the angry little man come out when he doesn't get his way. The important thing for you is to give him a safe place to go where he can calm down. Do this consistantly and it will get much better. And do NOT react to it. He is terrified he's out of control and if you show him it scares you, or makes you angry well it just exaserbates things. So stay calm, take him to his safe place and when he's calm give him a hug tell him you love him and he should be proud he calmed himself down. Then move on with whatever you wanted him to do or distract him with something else. You're doing a great job!

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answers from Orlando on

I was almost worried that he may be showing early signs of bipolar disorder, BUT since it's not happening at school, that means it's not completely random and it's not something chemical, in my opinion. More than likely, at school they have a very tight routine-- first they play outside, then they line up and come in for circle time, they wash up before lunch, etc, etc, etc... The day there is very predictable, which helps to keep a toddler feeling safe. Remember when he was a baby and would drop things off of the high chair over and over and over again? He was testing to see cause and effect and how the world works-- just because it fell to the floor last time, will it do the same thing again?? Toddlers love to have the same books read over and over again and the same songs and the same DVDs played. They need to have some "order" to the world because there are sooo many things they can't control. Your best bet is to adopt a new policy to give him as many choices as you possibly can. No, he can't chose not to let your husband drive your car-- the idea is not to let him control the entire family, but to give him the illusion that there are many things in his world that he CAN control. He may not have the choice whether or not it's bath time, but he can choose bubbles or no bubbles, or which toy to bring with him today. The best thing you can do for him right now is try to keep his life as predictable as possible, give him choices when ever you can, and give him advnace notice when things are changing from what he is used to, including notice for transitoins (let's let the water out of the tub and as soon as it's all gone you will get out of the tub-- as opposed to just popping it on him suddenly that it's time to get out)

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answers from Tampa on

I totally agree with the first response, as doing those things has worked wonders with my now 2.5 year old. Because of our work and school schedules, a perfect routine is difficult for us, but giving advance notice before transitioning to a new activity is the single most effective thing I have ever tried. When I tell him, "okay, in a few minutes we are going to put our shoes on and get in the car to go to the store", he says, "okay, mommy." And I usually give a few reminders every minute or so, so when I finally ask him to come get his shoes on, it is no problem. And, he can choose which shoes he wants to wear (even if they don't match his clothing!).

He does sometimes still throw a tantrum, but he is always very tired when he does (missed a nap, woke up too early in the morning, etc.), so I know why he's doing it.

Oh, I should say that my family situation is quite similar to the one you describe: he has also been in daycare since he was a baby where he does not have such tantrums, we are working (and grad schooling) parents, he's a generally mild-mannered, good-natured kid, and he has a 5-year old big sister and they get along very well and usually play well together. My son has never gotten close to hyperventilating, but he did make horrible faces and say mean things like "go away!" or "I don't like you!"

Gook luck. I hope these things help!


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answers from Tampa on

This is all great advice! I am going through the same type of tantrums with my 2.5 y.o., and it's only with me, not my husband, and not the daycare. I tried doing time-outs for unacceptable behavior, but he just screamed to the point of throwing up and was just inconsolable at that point. Some things that have worked are (as the others said) letting him know when we are going to do things and what we are going to do ahead of time. I usually start the day before if it is a big departure from our routine. I also try to make it into an adventure. (We're going to go to the store later...I wonder if we can find the broccoli...) Finally, he'll grow out of it. He's adjusting, he's learning.



answers from Tampa on

it may be jealousy or feeling left out or a number of things first i would make sure nothing is going wrong at day care i have known of some bad things happening in those places not saying all is bad we know better but some do go wrong.you may want to switch schools.you'd be suprised at what goes on in some of those.i have heard some horror stories and sad stories.and it could be he needs medical help.i would get to the bottom of this.it may suprise you.lots of luck and may god bless you and the little one.C.



answers from Tampa on

Our almost 2 year old has been doing this sometimes, as well. We have used time outs, and I had read somewhere that the length of the time out in minutes should be equal to the age. When he starts the uncontrollable crying, etc, we will put him in his crib (he hasn't learned to climb out yet, fortunately!) and in 2 minutes, go to get him. He never stops crying while he's in there, but when we go to get him, he calms down and then seems much more reasonable. I am not sure how long you've been putting him in his room, so I don't know if it will work for you or not. I think they are still too young to do long time outs, or to understand that you will go get him when he stops. Perhaps he's getting more upset because you've left him. I know our son seems to cry louder during his time outs, but it's amazing how quickly he'll calm down when we pick him up. BTW, our son never does this at daycare, either. He just tests the limits at home !



answers from Miami on

The "terrible two's" come around every time our hormones adjust. Think teenage years, post partum, menopause (and men go through femalepause, too...) He's spending a day in school with other kids distracting him from his missing parents. This freaks him out emotionally...How else can he express his anger and upset other than scream and cry?
Yes, talk to your pediatrician; but don't go for the meds. They are so quick to prescribe drugs. You can go to your health food store and ask about "rescue remedy" (though it has alchohol as a base...which may not be so bad in such a small amount) or ask about another herbal remedy that you can administer that will help relax his stress. Maybe some Chammomile tea...
You'll get through it. Take some chammomile tea yourself.



answers from Tampa on

Being away from you all day may be stressful for him - both my boys would be horrible when I picked them up from school - they were "model" students (their teachers could never believe they could act that way either) and they saved all the good stuff for me and my husband when they got home.

Since he sounds like he's the type that will "behave" at day care/school, you might have to deal with getting all of the emotion that he has to let go of from being "good" all day because he's not able to do what he may like or want to do. My kids always seemed "happy" at pre-school/school, but they still felt very controlled there, which caused a sort of eruption when they got in the car or got home (and not infrequently they took it out on eachother).

Just try not to be judgmental and let him go through what he needs to to let it out. Or you could try indirectly to try to get him to tell you what he's feeling (that's hard to do at 2). My younger son needed some time by himself after pre-school because he was overstimulated by being with so many kids all day. We learned to give him quiet time (not punishment) sometimes by himself and sometimes with me.

My older son always "misbehaved" when he had a problem at school or with a friend, and he is usually easy going, so it made it easy to tell (still does) when something is wrong. I can usually talk about other stuff and then eventually he tells me what's wrong. He's always been able to do this, even when he was little, but my other son is 5 and he still has trouble explaining why he's mad.

Good luck and hang in there - it gets better as they learn how to tell you what's bothering them (at 2 he might not even know why he feels the way he does).


answers from Tallahassee on

Melanie - My middle daughter had bad tantrams. Of course we all have a different perspective on the word "bad". But I would just put her in her room and close the door until she calmed down - NO WAIVERING. She would just sit there and scream, once she did it for an hour. Yes she hurt her throat, yes she was exhausted, yes she was coughing, however, I would listen for abnormal sounds (crashing etc) but she never did anything destructive. I believe she actually brought some tiny capillaries to the surface of the skin on her cheeks 1 time. (can't be sure that is what it was). She was about 2.5 at the time. What ever you do DO NOT GET ANGRY - they are usually frustrated or mad and cannot express themselves verbally so they just let it all out in the place they feel safest - at home. I have 3 children and I did not want her affecting the other 2 so she had to stay by herself until she was done. I spoke calmly to her and put her in her room. Now she is 11 and making honor roll consistantly, she has a sweet spirit, she has been baptized, she is very understanding of others, now on the other hand, she is very untidy - her room is horrible.

Stick with a plan - they get it in the end. God bless

M. F



answers from Tampa on

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