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Hysterical tantrums


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#1 erindiv

Posted 21 December 2012 - 12:08 AM

(Obviously don't mean hysterical as in funny.)

Long, so bear with me please.

DD has been having tantrums since she was a year old. As your typical 1-2 year old she had the usual screaming angry "I want!" or "I don't want!" tantrums, which have continued into her third year.

But lately (last 2-3 months) she has just been out of control. If she is told she can't do/have something she goes into a screaming fit. She bangs her head, throws things, hits me, bites me, spits at me, hits her brother, kicks walls, slams doors... you name it, she does it. This can be over something as big as not wanting to go to bed, or something as small as me telling her I can't get her a drink right now as I'm changing DS's nappy, but I'll get it in a minute.

I'm going CRAZY. I don't know what to do. Rewards don't work. Time out doesn't work. I don't smack because she reacts to even just a swat on the hand with violent punches and slaps. If I ignore her she throws things at me or destroys toys, or chases me and attacks me (biting, hitting, kicking).

Another worrying element to her tantrums is a new kind of tantrum she has developed. This happens at least once a day. Basically it starts out as a regular tantrum with the raised voice and so on. Then she demands a cuddle. If she's tantruming because I'm busy (bathing DS, changing his nappy, whatever) I say I will cuddle her in a minute, I just have to finish this, I'm sorry.  She instantly has a meltdown and starts screaming. And I don't mean angry screaming. I mean hysterical, high pitched, deafening screaming that, honestly, makes it sound like she is being tortured. Imagine a siren of ascending screams, each about a second long. She hyperventilates and sometimes even retches.

Sometimes I can't cuddle her because as soon as I do she thrashes and claws at me or just nags me to have what she originally wanted, and when I say no, this is when she goes into her meltdown.

She will grab my hand, try to climb up my legs, or if I'm sitting down she will climb onto my lap and continue to demand what she wanted (typical tantrum). If I try to cuddle her to calm her down she usually dissolves into hysterical sobs for several minutes. If I truly cannot cuddle her, she throws herself down and thrashes and screams until she is retching.

Honestly, a lot of the time when she does it I just have to walk away. I'm dealing with upwards of a dozen tantrums before we even get to lunchtime, EVERY DAY, and when they are about literally every single thing I ask her to do or refuse to allow her, my temper gets short. So when I feel myself getting angry I tell her to calm down and I will be back in a minute. I go to my room, shut the door and take a moment to myself (obviously not if DS is around and could get caught up in the tantrum). DD will then stand at the baby gate in the hallway and scream "Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!" hysterically for a few minutes. She then quiets down to just saying "Mummy,", then after a few more minutes she walks away and goes back to what she was doing before the tantrum. But the second I emerge from my room she's at me for whatever she wanted, and another tantrum begins instantly.

Distraction does not work. It usually goes something like this:

DD: I want ice cream.
Me: Not right now, maybe later. Let's go draw a picture!
DD: No picture! Ice cream!
Me: Ooh, what's that?
DD: Stop, Mummy! (tantrum begins as she is now aware she is not getting what she wants).

It is wearing very, very thin. Sometimes she tantrums like this in public or around friends. Today she went into a meltdown multiple times because a young relative (4yo) wanted to play. DD usually loves playing with this girl but for some reason she went crazy as soon as this young girl said "Let's go do xyz." DD started screaming for me, climbed onto my lap and just sat there saying "Mummy.  Mummy. Muuuuummyyy." In a two note, endless whine. It was like a tic she just couldn't stop; even though I was cuddling her she just kept repeating in over and over.

Later, I tried to escort her inside to draw pictures with her friend (which she usually loves) but she went into meltdown again and just went limp from the hand I was holding, screaming and sobbing and shrieking "Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!" over and over. I ws trying to calm her down, just saying "DD, listen, DD, it's okay, don't cry, calm down, take a deep breath," But she just kept crying "Mummy! Mummy!" over the top of me.  Soon after, she was happily drawing pictures but that was only because she wandered inside with her friend and the door was closed by someone else, so she was stuck in there. Instead of crying to be let out she happily sat down and drew.

I don't know what more to try. I have looked up so many methods for dealing with tantrums but I can't find anything about this utter hysteria. I just can't calm her down when she gets like that. She just says "Mummy" over and over.

I can't even talk to anyone. As soon as I get on the phone or try to have a conversation with anyone she butts right in with "Mummy. Mummy. Mummy." I ask her what, and she just responds with "Ummmm..." and silence. I resume the conversation and she gets extremely agitated, whining "Mummy. Mummy! Mummy!" I ask what is it, and she cries "Mummy!" Cue tantrum.


The only conclusion I have so far come to is that she gets spoiled at her father's house (we have been separated for a year and a half). She goes there every second weekend and her behaviour is at it's worst right after she comes home and, strangely, right before she is due to go back there. When we were together he did give in to her every whim so I suspect this behaviour may have continued. XP has admitted he spoils her and "she gets away with a bit." She is the only girl there (apart from her grandmother) so apparently she gets treated like a princess.


I have anxiety and depression myself but this developed when I was a pre-teen after the death of a family member. I wonder if she has inherited this.

Also worth mentioning is the fact I believe her father has an undiagnosed 'something'. He shows all the signs of having ASD (as does his father) which I was begging him to be checked for the whole time we were together as I wanted to be sure for my kids' sake, but he refused, because, in his words "I'm not a [r-word]".  I did try to tell him that having ASD is not a 'bad' thing, but he always had it in his mind that if he admitted something was wrong then people would tease him about it and all his friends would abandon him. I'm not saying he is on the spectrum but he did show all signs of it, so I'm wondering if something like this could explain DD's behaviour? Is there a genetic connection? Just speculation and possibly meaningless but I don't know sad.gif

I don't give in to tantrums. DD gets plenty of attention and love. She gets lots of one-on-one time when DS is asleep. She adores her little brother and plays with him all the time. She is not spoiled at home. She's an extremely picky eater, to the point I'm often concerned that she will end up malnourished. I avoid giving her sugary foods. She only drinks milk and water.

She gets extremely frustrated with her toys and this leads to huge tantrums too. She refuses help when I offer to help make a toy work. Lately she simply says "I can't" to any request I make (from "Close the door, please," to "Time to pick up your books), then tantrums. She is ALWAYS asking for something, usually something she knows she cannot have (chocolate, lollies, my phone, iPad). Sometimes things I have never let her have.

It is now at the point where I am hugely relieved when I drop them off to their father every second weekend. I used to only have to retreat in desperation to my bedroom once a day, or less. Now I find myself needing to take 'time out' several times a day because I simply cannot calm her down and she is driving me crazy.


I'm sorry this has been so long but please, if you have any advice, I welcome it. I'm desperate, frustrated, angry and miserable.

#2 IShallWearMidnight

Posted 21 December 2012 - 02:17 AM

It sounds like she is having real trouble communicating and regulating her emotions. Have you heard of emotion coaching? Its basically teaching children the words for what they are feeling, and vaildating those emotions, so they can learn to self regulate. for example:
DD: I want ice cream
Mum : Not right now, we are drawing pictures
DD: meltdown
Mum : I can see that you are feeling cross. Are you cross because you want an icecream? Im sorry that you are cross, but its not time for icecream, we are drawing pictures.

We also practice 'faces' of emotions, such as cross, happy, sad, scared, lonely and surprised. DD will actually say now "Im sorry youre cross mummy, smile and make a happy face instead please"

I also remind DD to use her words and tell me what she wants/how she is feeling, and that I cant understand whinging. We have 'time in' where DD will sit on our laps until she calms down. She also likes to leave the room until she is able to talk properly, and will come back in and say "I was cross because you wont play playdoh, but I went to calm down. Can we please xyz instead?'

We model these behaviours, and Im forever telling her how I feel, and why.

#3 gabbigirl

Posted 21 December 2012 - 05:38 AM

Erindiv, I have a tantrum thrower so know the stress it can impose on a family.  Can I kindly suggest however that your daughters tantrums appear to be quite extreme and need some medical/ professional attention. It seems that you already know that...... I sought help with my daughters  tantrums, and they were milder than what you have described. But as a kind poster pointed out to me, when my child's behaviour was having serious impacts on my mental health, I needed to seek help...good luck.

Ps love some of trishaliscous ideas, the validating emotions has really worked for us ...

Edited by gabbigirl, 21 December 2012 - 05:39 AM.


#4 librablonde

Posted 21 December 2012 - 07:21 AM

OP, I think you need to book a paed appointment. That would be a good starting point in case she needs further assessments. I feel your pain as I have a similar situation right now with DS1. The hard part is that it may take ages to find what approach will work for your DD, OP. I've done Time-In's  and Time Out's with DS and we have a feelings chart stuck on our fridge and use that questioning and language with him: none of that has ever made a scrap of difference to his behaviour. But stuff like that works brilliantly for other kids, it's just a case of trial and error and mostly consistency (which I can imagine is very difficult with shared care).

I have no words of wisdom, I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone in this.

#5 Natttmumm

Posted 21 December 2012 - 09:22 AM

We get hysterical meltdowns from DD2 who is 3 on average about once a day but they can last a long time.

I posted yesterday about it and people offered the advice to calm her down first. so this morning she decided to throw a full blown tantrum because DH put vegemite on her toast not cheese. She lost it!!

I got down to her level and said to her "i can see you are really upset about your toast" "sit with mummy for a few minutes to calm down and we can work it out". She immediately stopped and cuddled me and said sorry. We then calmly asked her what she wanted on her toast and made a new one which she helped make. After she calmed down I explained to her that its not accetable to scream like that and I showed her a nice way to ask for the toast.

My reaction to her previous meltdowns would have been to out her in her room and she would loose it for hours making everyone so upset.

Thats all the advice I have - i do know how you feel as DD1 was also explosive with tantrums and it really made life hard for us for a few years. by 4 she stopped except for a few bad days here and there

#6 Luvmy4

Posted 21 December 2012 - 09:59 AM

she sounds exactly like my niece who was eventually diagnosed with ASD. The extreme meltdowns are very draining on everyone (& I only dealt with it a few days a week) The change in my niece has been awesome with the coffect help.
It may or may not be anything but don't wait. See your gp for a referral to a developmental paed

#7 alwayshappy

Posted 22 December 2012 - 10:40 AM

My son is similar and he's nearly six.  His challenges are around not dealing with disappointment, anger, sadness... even happiness, in an age-appropriate way.  Extreme aggression is one of the behaviours we see regularly.  We also get tantrums where he is out of control - hits at people, smashes things, runs away.... it is very demanding and wears you down.  You have my sympathy.

We have only just started to seek more expert support.  We had a paediatricians appointment (which suggested ODD but no pervasive developmental delay) but we have also persued Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service here in Victoria.  They are just about to begin working with him.  ASD has been mentioned to us but it doesn't seem to quite fit with his behaviours or responses.

We have tried a range of intervention techniques with limited success. It is very difficult to get to the root cause of some of these behaviours, especially when they can be on the extreme's of 'normal' behaviour while the child is younger, but if they dont resolve, then become problematic.

I second those posters who have suggested a developmental paediatric assessment as a start.  I'm sure that will shed some light.  Document as much as you can about her behaviour so you can hand that information to any professionals you might come into contact with.  I'm curious to know whether her behaviour is the same in all settings.  This might give you a clue.  Has she tried to hurt your son, or can she self-regulate if she needs to?  Keep as much information as possible and do not see her as targetting YOU - it's not personal, she's just not able to regulate yet.

All the best, but get the ball rolling now.

#8 Rubyduck

Posted 22 December 2012 - 11:03 AM

I don't have a lot of experience with tantrums but I had a close friend whose child sounded similar to your dd and somehow ended up in speech therapy, there was no obvious speech issues but the therapist helped teach the child how to communicate without the hysteria and tantrums. This was a free service with a GP referral that ran for 6 months my friend then had a second referral to continue for another 12 months. I'm not sure if they still do this but might be worth talking to your gp/pead about similar program's.

#9 Rubyduck

Posted 22 December 2012 - 11:08 AM

Sorry forgot to add that it worked extremely well for my friends child, the child in questions tantrums were above and beyond anything I had ever seen or heard and honestly almost scary to watch or be around, nowadays you would be none the wiser to just how vicious things used to be with that child.

#10 trebambinibelli

Posted 22 December 2012 - 11:27 AM

OP, tantrums are incredibly stressful, especially those OTT ones.  Go with your instincts.  My instinct was to seek help.  I knew my DS had really OTT tantrums but kept being told it was fine.  Once they started to increase with age - similar to your DD's ones - he was diagnosed with GDD and anxiety disorder.  Now that he has reached 5.5yo he has been diagnosed with ADHD Inattentive.  Emotional regulation and appropriate expression of frustration and anger should be improving with age, not worsening.  Otherwise this points to an emotional developmental delay or issue.  It could just be a developmental delay and she'll catch up or it could be more serious than that.  A GP's referral to a paed, especially a developmental paed, is a great start.  But please follow your instincts, if you are rebuffed and you still think there is a concern, continue to pursue it.

In terms of your actions and reactions, it sounds like to me you doing all the right things.  Emotional coaching as Trish suggested is good too.  Is your DD very visual?  I found that visuals helped my DS to understand.  It's very difficult for them to rationalise and hear what you're saying, including emotional coaching, once a child is in a full blown tantrum.  Good luck.

#11 Zephie Chugger

Posted 22 December 2012 - 11:38 AM

We ending up buying kimochis to help with teaching  our foster kids emotional feeling ,a lot of FK have had anxiety disorder etc or just developmental delay.

Good Luck


http://www.kimochis.com.au/index.php?MMID=3287&SMID=3327

#12 brindle

Posted 22 December 2012 - 11:44 AM

Yes. I have experienced similar.

Please look at her food (www.fedup.com.au) and also get some other help (doctor, psych).

Proof in the pudding for me is my 3 year olds behaviour the past 3week. He has improved amazingly over the past few months with changes to his diet. But the past week has been filled with candy canes, lollies, iced gingerbread. He had his kinder break-up party on Wed... and the change is impossible to miss. Cross, defiant, tantrums, problems with sleep.

We are seeing a psych at the moment too. It has been great.

Good luck. It's hard, but the beautiful child is in there!




#13 erindiv

Posted 22 December 2012 - 05:16 PM

alwayshappy - She is the same in all settings, gets to the clingy hysterical point quicker in public though. The worst she has done to DS is push him over when he came up to her as she was tantruming, which I think might have just been more of a "Get out of my space," thing.


Thanks everyone for the advice. Not sure where to start to get to a developmental paed, though.. do I just get a GP's referral? How much does something like that cost (I'm on a pension)?

Obviously will get help no matter what the cost but just want to know how prepared I need to be.

#14 Rubyduck

Posted 22 December 2012 - 10:54 PM

A referral from a gp to a local pead and being on a pension should be free (was for me) your gp should have a list of peads so you can request one who might specialise in developmental/behavioural  issues. The speech therapy is also free with a referral from a gp and pension card. The problem will probably be waiting times at this time of year but I do suggest getting to the gp and getting as many referrals for anything you think might be helpful and getting your name on those waiting lists.
I also agree with the diet thing my son has ADHD and I noticed huge improvement with changing his diet and fish oil tablets, different thing I know but simple things can help its just a trial and error thing.
Goodluck I hope you find the help you need original.gif

#15 JustinsMumplus1

Posted 26 December 2012 - 09:32 PM

Hi OP, i sorry you are going through this. Totally agree with PP if it affecting your mental health you def need to seek help.....this is me too.

I have PND and have a very diff son, I ended up getting a referral from GP and saw a private psychologist, but also enquired about the child and adolescent mental health services, we got accepted in CAHMS and have been attending sessions there under Medicare.

My son also has tantrums, and doesn't follow normal discipline techniques. He has an anixiety disorder which we are now trying to understand.

My DS likes to be in and have control, when things are not in his control he has a tantrum, so I need to recognise this and try to intervene before...very hard.

To me your DD sounds like my son, it sounds like something is going on in the back ground that needs to be reviewed, I would look into cahms in your area, see the GP and get a referral.

I have also started ready a very good book, I have read many to try and help me help him, thid one hit the nail on the head for me it is called Becoming a Better Parent by Maurice Balson.....it has helped me to understand how my son always wants power over me and what I can to stop him pushing my buttons.

Pls know you are not alone and there are lots if Mum with string willed children, congratulations for seeking help.

Good luck

Take care





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