I sometimes write about the tantrums B has. I remember saying in one post that the terrible two’s have finally arrived. The past two weeks have shown me that I was truly exaggerating because the word tantrum is not even big enough a word to describe what has gone on.
B is now 3 and he likes things to be a certain way. very much like J, his older sister, used to. He is an anxious child and lately, if he doesn’t feel like he has control over certain things (how his bedtime routine goes, how he dresses himself, how he eats) then he loses it. And by looses it I mean screams so loudly at the top of his lungs and is inconsolable. If you get near him he screams more, if you walk away he screams more. There is nothing you can do to stop it. The last two weeks have not been our normal routine. I left them 4 days early to come home from our vacation. Then I was busy with my grandmother in hospital then with the funeral. School was off. Things were not predictable and B doesn’t like that.
Yesterday it was that he didn’t want me to dress him he wanted to dress himself. I let him but he just sat there and didn’t want to get dressed. When I tried to dress him he threw his clothes around and cried and when I left him he just sat there naked on the cold floor of the bedroom. I tried everything I could think of to talk him into it without the situation escalating and without resorting to bribery. In the end I had to count it out. Either he starts getting dressed before I count to three or I dress him. So I got to three and he didn’t budge and I had to just grab him and do it.
He was so upset but in the end it had to be done. He kept trying to take off everything I put on but then he would also, I think unconsciously, help me put them on. So when I was putting his underwear on he lifted his bum off the bed so I can pull them up then tried to take them off. When we were done he was so upset and crying and all I could think of doing was giving him boring cuddle and it worked. It’s a technic I read on Kloppenmum’s amazingly helpful blog! I know now I have to go scour it to get more inspiration. The rest of the day was pretty much the same.
I couldn’t pick him up from school today but I heard him when he came into the house chatting away with his nanny. I called down from the top of the stairs to him and he flipped. He wanted to stand outside and close the door and stay outside by himself. Then he didn’t want to come upstairs to say hello. He screamed for me to “come down now!” which I of course didn’t. Both the nanny and I stayed calm and tried to calm him down without him thinking what he’s doing is ok. It just went on and on.
He wanted to go down to the basement on his own which is not ok. He then started shouting and screaming and Special K was sleeping so I tried to get him to be quiet. Again without giving in to anything he demanded. In the end I decided we would go straight to nap time and do lunch after because maybe he was just really over tired.
That did not go down well at all. He screamed so loudly my ears started ringing. The nanny carried him up the stairs and into his bedroom. She sat him on his bed and he was so angry he threw himself forward and hit his nose on the wooden foot of the bed. Blood gushed everywhere. He was hysterical at this point and angry at me for not coming down to him when he screamed for me so he didn’t want me to carry him. I did anyway. I took a good look at him to make sure his nose wasn’t broken. There was blood coming out both nostrils. Then I held onto him till he calmed down. It took a little time but his screaming and crying eventually subsided.
In situations like this I stay calm. I don’t freak out. In fact I move a little slower for some reason. It may be a good thing. As I held him waiting for him to settle it took everything in me not to burst out crying. Not only because he was hurt but because I realized just how tense our relationship had become the last two weeks. It was so bad that I don’t know what to do around him anymore. If he walks into the room and I say hi he flips. If I help him with something he flips. If everything is ok and there’s no drama he makes drama by throwing something or pushing his siblings. I don’t want to have this relationship with him!
I know this all sounds like bids for attention but it’s more than that. Kids don’t freak out for no reason. Something is seriously upsetting him. And that is what kills me. He is getting nothing out of this because for the last 4 days I decided to seriously make a hoopla about every good thing he does and totally ignore him when he’s being naughty. I say once to him “you can’t scream and shout around me I don’t like it” and I ignore him. Walk off, leave the room. This has made zero difference. Also his tantrums are uniform with everyone around him be it the nanny, my aunts, his siblings.
So I sat there on his bed, him with blood on his chin and hands and me with it on my shoulder and clothes and I felt miserable. I could only imagine how miserable he was. I know my son. I know he is angry and he’s not just being naughty. So why? I remember reading somewhere that children have tantrums sometimes because they can’t explain what they are feeling. So we, the adults need to give them the words. Or tell them what they are upset about so they know we know what’s wrong.
When he calmed down and I was cleaning the blood off his hands and chin I spoke to him calmly and he was listening intently. I told him how screaming and shouting isn’t good for him or anyone around him. And I asked him if he knew why he ended up hitting his nose and he said “because I am angry”. progress! And I asked him if he felt good now he said no. I said I don’t feel good either. I told him that he has to use his words. That if he is angry he has to say he’s angry and if he’s sad he has to say he’s sad.
This may sound silly to be talking to a 3 year old like this but consistency and repetition have always helped and they do listen! I know he’s not going to turn around and say “Oh! I get it now! I should be more verbal and explain how I am feeling instead of acting out!” But on some level I know I am getting through. I just have to keep saying it. I changed him and put him in bed where he immediately fell asleep.
I let him sleep till he woke by himself an hour and a half later. I was in the middle of helping S and J with homework. He walked in to the room very quiet and headed straight for my lap. He sat hugging me for a while and I continued what I was doing. Then the demands started again. I’m not sure what did it but he had another melt down. It wasn’t nearly as bad the earlier one but he was angry. He walked out and sat at the top of the stars making angry sounds. I left him for a while then he started walking down the stairs. So I walked over and sat on the top step.
“I don’t want to come up!” he shouted. I said “B, you’re angry right?” he looked up and me, wide eyes and said “yes”. “and you feel bad right? because I can’t get you dressed?” and he said “yes” so I said “please come up and sit beside me and we can fix the problem”. And he did! I don’t know if it’s a fluke or what it was but he was totally fine. We decided his nanny would get him dressed and when I finish helping with the homework we can play together and that worked out really well. The rest of the night was blissful!
I started this post last night but was too tired to finish it. Now I sit at my computer waiting for school to end and praying that he is in a better mood than he has been for the last couple of weeks. Or at least coping better. But at least now we have a new plan and God willing it will work!
Be consistent. I have had a mini meeting with everyone who is interacting with him daily and told them what the plan is.
Keep him informed. We are talking through what the events of the day will be (Wake, breakfast, school ,nap, play, dinner, bath, sleep). And give him a run down of what happened during the day before he sleeps so he can organise.
Echo his feelings. So if he’s having a meltdown because I didn’t pick him up for example I say “I know you’re angry and shouting because I didn’t pick you up right?” then I explain why I didn’t and we come up with an alternative or solution.
Slightly earlier bedtime. Because more sleep never hurts!
Any more ideas? I am open to them! Will update you all again in a couple of days. hopefully our new strategy will work!