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When Tantrums Take Over

Anyone who has kids has experienced the dreaded tantrum. I don’t think any parent has ever been blessed with a child who hasn’t had at least one...right?

My three year old really is a very well behaved kid. She has a stubborn streak and likes to pick on her older sister (she gets it from her dad :P), but all-in-all, she is a very good girl. She didn’t begin having tantrums until she was late into two years old and as she’s progressed into three this past year, they seem to have intensified. Her tantrums aren’t very often (thank goodness), but when they strike, it’s like a complete Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation.

It’ll start out totally normal:

“How was your day at school today, Willa?” 

“Good. I played. I drew you, Mom!”

“Aww, that’s so sweet baby. I want to see your drawing! What else did you do?”

Then something will dawn on her, or something will not be going her way, and it begins.

“…where’s my fairy doll? MY FAIRY DOLL IS STILL AT SCHOOL. SHE’S IN MY CUBBY!”

“Oh no! We will have to remember to get her tomorrow morning when we drop you off. It’s okay, sweetie, she isn’t going anywhere. I promise, we will get her.”

“I WANT MY FAIRY DOLL!  I WANT HER! I WANT HER!”

And it goes on and on until she’s literally saying the same thing over and over again through yelling at the top of her lungs/crying her eyes out. If it’s really bad she will jump up and down, even in public where other people are witnessing her tantrum in all its glory. Where normally she is shy around strangers, she has no shame.

Actual photo of Willa, mid-tantrum.

When she has these tantrums, I feel like I don’t even know my own kid. It’s like the tantrum takes over her entire personality and there’s nothing she can do about it. My sweet, silly, well behaved, good listener becomes an ugly green monster, thrashing around, roaring. She seems to have zero control over herself.

I’m all about being consistent and trying to deal with these situations in the same way every time. I’ve read articles and parenting books about tantrums and I know it’s not ever going to help by yelling back at her or trying to reason with her. The problem is, sometimes I can’t always keep it together. Sometimes I do yell.

Sometimes I have cried right along with her. And sometimes, I’m as cool as a cucumber, sitting back allowing the storm to pass. It all depends on my mood, what I’ve dealt with that day, what time of day it is (she’s been known to wake up in the middle of the night demanding “a toy” and losing her mind about it, not using her words at all, and screaming until you figure out what she’s upset about), and if I saw the tantrum coming or was totally blindsided by it. Sometimes I will give in partially to what she is upset about because I know it will remedy the situation. Other times, I’ve tried time out (which does NOT work with this child). I have tried ignoring her completely. I’ve tried smothering her with love and hugs and kisses. Sometimes I have to just let it run its course until she’s tires herself out.

In those moments when I wasn’t the calm, cool and collected mom, I feel like I was a bad mom. I feel like I let her down. I’m supposed to be able to deal with it, make her feel loved and heard, but still discipline her for choosing to act that way when she is old enough now to know good vs. bad behavior. I wish I could say I’ve now mastered her tantrums and I am able to swoop in and nip it in the bud like BA supermom, but I can’t.

I’m still learning and trying to take each tantrum’s resolution as a learning experience for the next until she finally outgrows them. I know she will outgrow them. I helped raise her older sister. She had three-year-old tantrums as well, but she was a different kid with a different personality, and she is also my stepdaughter. If you’re a step-parent, you know it’s just different parenting as a stepmom vs. birth mom. I wasn’t there her entire life and there are just certain walls you hit as a step-parent that don’t exist when it’s your child who is with you every single day. Step-parenting is a whole other blog post in and of itself.

I am all about feedback and all about constructive criticism. GIVE IT!

What has worked for other moms in the past is helpful for me. Tell me your tips, tricks, and secrets. Or just let me down and tell me there is no hope (haha). Either way, give me your two cents, ’cause tantrums suck and they’re draining and exasperating, but I love my kid and I want to be the best mom I can be for her, even when she’s losing her you know what about a blue plate instead of a pink one.

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