My son is 19 months and I feel like normally a pretty “easy” kid. He sleeps well, travels well and plays well with other kids. But lately he has been having just massive tantrums that go on for like an hour. He doesn’t hurt himself or us, he just screams, stomps and will sometimes throw a toy or food. He doesn’t want to be left alone, but then won’t want to be held. He usually can’t be distracted by a toy or new activity. Sometimes it’s set off by something (like he doesn’t want to eat) and sometimes it seems it’s for no reason. It can escalate so quickly. He just screams. My strategy has been to try and figure out the issue, but when that inevitably fails (there’s almost never a tangible issue I can find), I ignore. And then my heart breaks because I’m ignoring my screaming child and I start to feel even worse. It only seems to be at home. He rarely is unhappy while we’re out. The only thing that calms him is the pacifier which we leave in his crib for sleep so we rarely use that option.
He has pretty normal speech development, although I’m sure he’s still frustrated that he can’t explain exactly what’s wrong. He sleeps great (11-12hours/night and a 1.5-3hour nap). I know of course there will be toddler anger and frustration, but an hour or more tantrum just seems crazy. I feel like a failure and that I can’t even do my one job: to make him happy! Any advice?
pear / 1593 posts
He’s pretty young. Sounds pretty normal to me for a child wanting to express their frustrations.
Ignoring tantrums never worked for my kids. They would scream that long - strong willed - so I have some compromise between ignore and comforting once they are ready for it at that age.
nectarine / 2987 posts
This won't help as much with the tantrums, but it might help with your feelings...I teach this age and a honestly think the biggest mistake parents make is believing that their job is to make their child happy. You can't make anyone feel anything. You could take two children on an identical exciting outing to a special place, and depending on their choices, one could have a delightful day and one a miserable time. So you aren't failing at anything! Your job is to teach your child about their feelings. This is a great age to start labeling them to lay the framework for when he is older: "you feel frustrated/angry/sad. It is ok to feel frustrated/angry/sad, but it is not ok to scream. I will hold you/give you space to keep you safe until your body is calm. Mommy is going to take deep breaths to stay calm too. When your body is quiet we will play/go outside /have a snack."
persimmon / 1079 posts
@annem1990: Sounds normal to me. My son is going through his and he’s almost 24 months. I’ve found that he’s trying to communicate and express his feelings. I’ve taught him to say help please and to show me what he wants. I also validate his feelings and speak calmly. If it’s a tantrum because I asked him to do something then I ignore it and respond after he’s calmed down. It’s helped so far! He throws things and I put him in timeout especially if he keeps doing it. It takes time and just being consistent.
apricot / 444 posts
@runnerd: @MrsSRS: @cake2017: Thank you all for responding. It makes me feel less alone. I think the huge issue is that I can't identify what's actually wrong. He's mad or frustrated, but I can't figure out why. Like this morning, he began screaming as soon as he woke up. He didn't want his milk, he didn't want me to hold him, but he didn't want to be alone either. He didn't want to read a book, he didn't want to hold a favorite stuffed animal. He just screams "No!" over and over. For an hour. I can't even validate what he's upset about because nothing had even happened yet.
I'm learning that there's a difference between a tantrum and a meltdown. I know how to handle tantrums (like when he can't have a toy he wants or can't watch TV). I can validate those feelings, let him cry it out and redirect to something else. He can get over that really quickly. It's these random outbursts where there doesn't seem to be a trigger that kill me. I don't know how to help when I don't know why he's sad. I don't know whether to just hold him and let him flail and cry, or just sit him on the floor and let him cry it out. Neither seem to make a difference.
nectarine / 2987 posts
Sounds like you're doing great. It's so hard. I think if holding versus giving him space doesn't make a difference for him then do whichever one doesn't drain your own battery.
pomegranate / 3983 posts
I hesitate to post but I hope this is helpful. I don't want to be harsh but I don't think a tantrum that lasts an hour is normal...like I know it's a really, really difficult age before they can talk well, but still I would try to do some investigation. See if you can notice what happened before. I'm thinking like things he ate, last time went to the bathroom, something like that. We had something similar happen with one of my LOs, and it happened twice about a month apart. But after the second time I realized he had eaten a bunch of strawberries beforehand (not immediately but actually the night before), and must have had a tummy ache. He was around the same age as your LO at the time, so could say some words but not verbalize what he was feeling. This was sort of the beginning of us realizing there were some sensory issues (but ones that we've managed really well through diet/lifestyle changes).
apricot / 444 posts
@Baby Boy Mom: Thanks for your insight! I did a lot self-reflection yesterday and realized my expectations are perhaps too high. I think I continue to escalate even when his emotions are high. Or maybe he was just feeling yucky. Maybe I’m wrong and someone can chime in:
- When he woke up yesterday he was a little sad about having to put his pacifier back in his bed. This is normal and we can usually just give him a stuffed animal to hold and that gets him excited. I didn’t do that yesterday. So he was a little sad (but not escalating or tantruming yet). I changed his diaper and asked him to throw it away (which he does at every diaper change). He did not want to. He’ll occasionally try and distract, but in the end we always make sure he does. Well because he was a little sad, asking him to throw away the diaper and insisting on it before he could touch a toy was probably too much. I probably should’ve redirected for just a few minutes to calm him down and then just had him do it a few minutes later.
Then after that 30min power struggle he was still pretty sad (although he did eventually throw it away) so I made him some breakfast. He didn’t want to eat the eggs and pushed them off his plate. We always say you need to put your food back on your plate before you get down, but since he was already worked up this just made it worse. Again, I wouldn’t let him get down until he had finished that job. Hence the long tantrum.
I think I’m so afraid of “giving in” and teaching him that he can cry his way out of finishing something into doing whatever he wants. I think the situation could’ve been easily diffused early on if I had just acknowledged his feelings of not wanting to throw away the diaper, giving him a few minutes to do something else to calm down and then go back to it. Maybe I’m wrong? I think I’m terrified of raising a kid who is defiant that I’m forcing too much too quick. He’s perfectly capable of doing a few things to “help,” but I also need to be aware of his emotions and choose when to have these completed.
Does this sound right? Am I giving into him? Am I being to tough? Ugh parenting is hard!
nectarine / 2972 posts
@annem1990: I honestly think that your kid is too young to be having these kinds of power struggles with. At that age I encourage doing these things like throwing diapers away but I’m not going to make a power struggle out of it if they don’t want to do it.
I also think that hour long tantrums can be totally normal depending on the kid. My first LO rarely threw a tantrum. My second, OMG he’s almost three and is the king of tantrums. He has endurance too! Ignoring does not work for him, he will just escalate and cry indefinitely.
Has your child always been more on the difficult side or are the tantrums a recent development?
apricot / 444 posts
@Purpledaisy: No he’s super “easy.” He’s always listened when we tell him not to do something, always been great with other kids and in general really goes with the flow. He’s great in public situations and really catches on to social cues. So I think I’m just expecting too much of him. He’s been throwing every diaper away and cleaning up his food for months so to me it should be “easy.” I think I need to readjust my expectations because I know he cant be “perfect” all the time. I used to teach K-2nd and saw so many defiant kids I think it scared me into thinking he has to act a certain way from an early age to nip that in the bud. I need to remember: he’s only 1! My husband has an easier time seeing that and I think I need to work on my own feelings surrounding behavior. I’m so scared of the future that I perhaps push things he’s not ready for.
pomegranate / 3983 posts
@annem1990: Yeah in the case you described I would definitely diffuse the situation. I have definitely softened over the years though....ground rules are important but I won't fight with a toddler, it's not worth my sanity. For my kids, I am very strict about matters of safety, somewhat strict with our house rules, less strict about other random things...it's sort of a sliding scale. In a few months communication will be much easier...try to just do what makes your life easier for now.
pineapple / 12566 posts
One of the best things I’ve learned on HB is that you can ignore toddler tantrums. My older LO basically never had tantrums, so I was shocked and appalled when LO2, who is otherwise very sweet and cuddly, would throw herself on the floor and kick and scream when she was a toddler. I struggled for awhile trying to make it stop and comfort her, but after reading about other people’s experiences here, I started to ignore. I would tell her she could cry all she wanted and when she was done she could come to me and get a hug. It worked! She’s 5 now and doesn’t tantrum anymore but when she does have an occasional meltdown, I do the same thing. Let her cry and then she comes to me when she’s ready and I will console and comfort her.
nectarine / 2987 posts
My favorite way to make sure something gets done without escalating is to do it hand over hand. So if you want him to throw away the diaper but it's going to be an issue try "do you want to throw it away all by yourself?" Then wait a few seconds, then say "no? Ok, I will help you" Then put your hand over his and toss it in the trash together then go "yay all done!" And move on. You got the job done and didn't get stuck in the moment.
persimmon / 1281 posts
I highly recommend the Janet Lansbury podcasts. They are fairly short so you can listen on a drive or at lunch. Super helpful when it comes to toddlers crazy behaviors.