The Upside Down Tantrum

by doodaddy on October 16, 2008

There’s an up side to a tantrum, right? You think?


It’s the hair, right?

Tell me it’s not just bad parenting that dumped me into a 45-minute long kickboxing spar with Boo.

Assure me that the screaming, the attacks, the inconsolable crying — that all means that Boo is developing normally, or maybe even that she’s showing aptitude for executive power or judo or, hell, floristry.

Convince me that I handled it right — even though I tried a different approach every five minutes. I comforted, ignored, cooled with a damp cloth. I did my Karp firm and loud and I whispered. I stayed in the room. I left. I came back. I wound up sitting next to a spitting-mad Boo on her bed, keeping her from hurting herself or me, but not really doing much else.

Agree with me that not offering a bribe was the right plan. Even though a Sesame Street podcast or a cookie might have curtailed the hour-long fit that left both poor Boo and her dad confused and exhausted, console me with the hypothesis that having come through a hardcore tantrum by herself, without sugar or distraction or promises of future manna, Boo has gained some self-sufficiency.

Do it. Tell me Boo is emotionally complex, or going through a sleep schedule change, or needs to eat more wheat grass. Seriously — any theory that removes the weight from my shoulders, spit it out.

And if you do all that — if you convince and point out and wheedle and persuade me, if you agree with what I want to believe — well that’ll make one of you.

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tagged as , in behavior,crying,exhaustion,failure ·

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

GoaldeeBug October 16, 2008 at 4:59 am

You ABSOLUTELY did the right thing! You and Boo both won in this tiny war and that is a rare thing in parenthood. Most times only one will emerge the victor (if anyone).

You won by not backing down by using bribery and made a point that it didn’t matter how long it went on for, you would stand fast. You taught her a lesson without it requiring serious consequences. You were there for her every step of the way, offering her support and comfort, but let her work it out herself.

She also won as she eventually got through this without any humiliation or emotional bruises. She learned a lesson by being left alone to work it out for herself. You just taught her accountability, negotiation skills (or what NOT to do in negotiations) and hopefully, respect.

Good job! (Have you seen Hancock yet? Heh)


Michele Shores October 16, 2008 at 9:38 am

My Sarah threw a lot of tantrums. She was the sweetest kid but when she would throw down in public people would actually think I was beating her. She did this some off and on until she was 4-5. After that we have some screaming fits once in a blue moon but one stern look or a threatening to get into trouble she stops. 6 is so great! With all parenting there are challenges. I can tell you your second one will most likely be laid back and completely different from boo. Hannah is and I love it. If she has a tantrum it may last two seconds. Hang in there. It does get better.


Michele Shores October 16, 2008 at 9:44 am

The key is to not back down. I think when you are consistent and stick to your guns they pick up on it and it does get easier. Sarah screamed for 2 hours one time after I had Hannah. I let her too just to prove a point. She refused to not get dressed for preschool so I said ok fine but no cartoons. She screamed and cried. After two hours of her realizing I was not going to back down, she stopped. I got her dressed and she wanted to go onto preschool. She was four. Since she was starting kindergarten the next year she needed to know that not going to school is not an option unless you are sick.

I knew she got it when she said, “mommy, if I scream and cry, I don’t get what I want.” So profound from a four year old. She knew her behavior would result in a consequence. I cried with her because you hate to see your child like that but she is strong willed sometimes and I had to show her that mommy was not backing down. We do not get rewarded for in appropriate behavior.

You will get through this. Congrats!


The Other Dawn October 16, 2008 at 11:43 am

Dude. I am so totally with you on the tantrum thing, with Funk. Sometimes it really is her, daring me to back down. And she needs to see me NOT back down– that’s what she’s looking for. The more she can count on me to be firm, but soft, the less she’s doing it. It would be SO MUCH easier in the moment to just roll over, but I don’t plan to roll over when she’s 16 and wants a 2am curfew, so I can’t start now.

I just wasn’t prepared for her rage– Noise had tantrums, but not the scary scream-fests that Funk has. Every kid is so different. When she tantrums, it is like watching a house on fire, and I think it scares us both. It makes it way harder to stick to my “no” than it ever was with Noise.


Jenny October 16, 2008 at 3:25 pm

It was great not to bribe her, but I don’t think changing tactics is a good idea. With children, consistency is often best. Choose a reaction and stick with it, and she’s less likely to think she can break you.

Personally, I like to just sit on the floor when my 2 year old is having a tantrum. That way I’m near him if he decides he wants to stop screaming and cuddle instead, but I’m not actively doing anything to make him stop. These days, he almost always gives in immediately and crawls into my lap for cuddles.


doodaddy October 16, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Hey, thanks — I really appreciate all the positive feedback and suggestions. There’s something about tantrums that just bring out the “hopeless wretch” in me!


Kyddryn October 16, 2008 at 9:48 pm

The Evil Genius has been known to scream loud enough to make the neighbors think I’m peeling off his toenails with rusty, lemon-juice coated pliers before soaking his feet in carbolic acid.


He gets angry. He used to do it wherever I was in the house, but I would haul him to his room and dump him there. When he came out, I did it again. Sometimes he’d throw toys at the door. I confiscated them for a month. He would slam the door. I would lock it. Sometimes he would forget why he was angry and just keep on because he couldn’t help it, angry for anger’s sake. I didn’t say a word, and I didn’t allow him to wrench me into his fugue state. I just responded to his actions and escalations as calmly consistently as I could – even when I wanted to stuff him down a rabbit hole or throw him into a tub full of ice water.

He learned that screaming, flailing, hitting, biting, crying, the tricks of the tantrum trade, made no difference – Mommy is a heartless, unrelenting wench.

Once or twice, I lost my cool and administered a spanking, or told him he was being an ass, or told him I was throwing away all his toys. Not proud moments. I wish I could take them back. I hope he won’t remember them.

Now, when he’s angry, he removes himself from the source. Sometimes he can calm himself down, sometimes he needs to yell and flail…but he goes to his room to do it (or, at someone else’s house, he finds an unoccupied room). Eventually, he will emerge and talk to me about why he was angry. It may take hours, but I leave him to his process. Often, while he is processing, I consider the merits of a stiff drink…but I only consider.

They fight us when they think it will be effective. They fight us when they can’t find the words or actions to express their disappointment, anger, hurt, or bewilderment. They fight us when they are hopped up on sugar, wired, coming down, or feel like they are being denied a choice, control, the ability to live the life they want.

No fear…you’ll both learn how to weather these storms until she gets the hang of her emotional self. And then the teen years begin…

Shade and Sweetwater,
K (If I ever learn to give a short answer, I’m certain the world will rejoice!)


Jerri Ann October 18, 2008 at 2:12 pm

There is an easy one answer to this….it was a full moon this week. That one full moon caused all kinds of havoc at my house including the local “chef” (as in cooks meth) to come into my yard (by which he would have normally be shot before he reached the porch if we had seen him coming) and demanded to know why I was writing about him on the “internets or whatever that thing is”.

I explained that I haven’t written about him specifically as I don’t call people by names and if he had a guilty conscious, then this…this was not my problem. He said I could either fix it or he would one….

I fully suspect my house to burn down the next I”m away from home and my mom is as well…when he knows there’s no one around. And, by that, I mean, I checked my insurance policy the next day and I’ve been hoarding pictures in backing up computer photos on CD’s, burning them and putting them in fire proof case. I truly to expect something to happen…he might stop with just busting out the windows on our cars, we shall see, but he is that crazy….and it was a full moon.


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