Wednesday, December 09, 2009


OK, someone tell me how to handle a tantruming three year old. Please. Because I have NO. FRIGGIN. CLUE.

As a Montessori mom, I use the 'choices' approach to help stave off about 50% of the tantrums. But some days Sadie has already escalated well out of the realm of reasonable discussion.

So I remove her from the situation if I can. Try to talk about using a calm body and kind words. But sometimes she's already over that, too.

So she kicks, screams, scratches, tears things apart, throws things, etc. And if we get to that point, well, it's going to be at least 20 minutes before she can calm herself.

A friend was here today and witnessed what transpires first hand. Sadie hit her daughter in the head with a toy, several times. When I called her over to speak to me, she refused to budge. I went to her, knelt to her level and said, "we do not hit our friends with toys, it hurts." To which she replied, "I know" and made a face. I replied, "if we hurt our friends it makes them sad, so we need to apologize to help them feel better. We don't want to hurt our friends, do we?" To which she replied, "yes I do. She's stupid." Stupid, you see, is the worst word she knows... at least at this point. It's like a curse word in our home.

So I gave a choice, we could go over and apologize to the friend and play nicely, or we could go sit down and calm down. And the screaming began. Not a "wah" but a high pitched, ear pearcing scream. I told her that "screaming is not nice, it hurts my ears, it hurts all of our ears. You need to use your words so that we understand what you want to tell us." Yeah, no effect. So another choice was given, stop screaming and use words to talk to me about how she was feeling, or go upstairs. And a hit flew. And I scooped her up, went upstairs to her room and put her on the bed.

Again the conversation about using words. She's kicking, screaming, throwing things, so obviously, no more conversing at this point. I tell her that if she continues to throw things, I will have to hold her until she calms so she doesn't break anything or hurt herself or me. It escalates. I hold her. She bites, screams. Twenty minutes pass. No dice. I put her down several times during that time, each time to get assaulted. At this point I'm wondering if my friend has left. I wouldn't blame her if she had.

Sadie calms enough, finally, to say she wants to go downstairs. I say sure, if she can use a calm body and quiet voice. She starts down the stairs, and the wails start up before we're half way down. Full blown crying again at the bottom of the stairs. Again, the choice to remain calm downstairs, or go back up. She chooses screaming. We go back up.

During this, my friend is downstairs. She's pregnant, otherwise I would have hooked her up to an IV of alcohol to help with the pain being inflicted by Sadie's wails (mentally and physically). I ask her in frustration if she has any ideas. She said sure, put her in the room and walk out. Let her tear it up. Then she has to clean it up after. Take out any special items you do not want broken. And so, at wits end, I do that. And I close the door, go to the other side, and sit against it so she can not get out. She breaks a part of the door banging and wailing. I sit and cry. My friend leaves. 40 more minutes pass. Finally she calms.

So, my question. How the heck do you deal with a kid like this? How do you a) keep it from escalating to that level and b) calm a child once he/she is a full blown tantrum? I've searched the internet, and books, and asked some friends of toddlers. They give me advice on avoiding the situation, but not one resource can tell me how to deal with it once it happens.

I'm beginning to wonder if there's a behavioral problem. My friend today admitted she'd never seen anything like this. I tell people all the time about the difficulties, but few have witnessed the full blown Sadie Tantrum. I need Nanny 911!!!!


  1. I know it sounds cheesy, but I swear by Love & Logic parenting. In a very very basic nutshell, it says for tantrums: (1) stay very very calm; (2) don't attempt to interact until they're calm; (3) put them in their room with the door shut until they are done.

    I have found it to work like magic! I have the book I can send your way if you're interested. Good luck with whatever you chose!


  2. I agree with Josie.

    Also, sometimes, you just get beyond words....words just end up escalating it. The choice at that point is "to calm down or go to you room alone" . If screaming continues....well...she has made the choice. cause and effect. I have this issue from time to time with Sydney. She will just scream and there is no reasoning with up to her room she goes. I close her gate, I and will not stay to witness her tantrum (this can reinforce the tantrum b/c she is still getting attention---just negative attention). Once she is calm, then we talk.

    I hope this helps. No that you are not alone in your issues.

    Christy Davis

  3. Scott6:02 PM

    I swear by beatings. No really, as much as the Montesorri approach is easier, sometimes a good spanking is in order. I do try to timeout and removal of liberties, corporal punishment is a great behavior modifier.

  4. I must say that I have tried the techniques that Josie described, and I swear it works. Andre is now 19 months old. All I have to say now is - "do you want to go to your room?" in a tone he now knows he's going to be in trouble, and he stops. I have to be very quick in making my mind about him going to his room because I'm afraid he might think I'm bluffing! He hasn't had any tantrum lately in the shops yet, but I'm sure more are its way. For now, I try to go out with him when he's likely to behave until he hopefully grows out of that phase. Sometimes I think he needs a good cry anyway, so I let him have that time to himself unril he's settled down.

  5. Sorry. I have no advice. I have no kids. When my nieces and nephews get like that, it's easy for me to pass them back off to mom and dad. :-) Just think. Years from now, you will look back on these incidences and smile.