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The dreaded "battle of wills"

my 2 and a half year old is exhibiting these kinds of tantrums lately. and, just like my 4 and a half year old when she went thru this phase, she's nearly impossible to control during these battles. even the look in her eye is different. when my oldest when thru it at age 3, i thought at first she had behavioral issues, because of that rage-like attitude that came out of her and the same crazed look. however i learned later that these were actually "normal" for some kids and the phase passes. well, it did pass with my oldest and now my middle daughter is starting it. she is generally a very happy, sweet and sensative child, and a pretty damn good listener, except for when this "monster" comes out of her. whatever the battle is about, i can't talk to her, reason with her, or anything. it's like a storm that i have to wait out - and it does eventually pass. but during the storm it's terrible. today she hurt herself trying to "win the battle". i tried everything, i even tapped her leg for kicking me, and got no reaction out of her. she was just determined to get her way. finally, i left her alone, and looked the other way while she flipped out, and maybe 10 minutes later she ran up to me and gave me a hug.

if you have a child that's strong willed and goes through these moments, what do you do during them? just let them be or do you have a method of intervening that actually works? please let this phase pass soon! =/


Asked by tnm786 at 11:22 AM on May. 24, 2011 in General Parenting

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Answers (11)
  • I send her to her room. Once she is calm, she can come out. It is for getting attention and she does not get it that way. If she acts properly, she will get attention.

    We are going thru this with my 4 year old now...again, ugh!

    Answer by Jademom07 at 11:25 AM on May. 24, 2011

  • My son who is 3-1/2 is very strong willed, I put him in his room during these type of fits.. otherwise they always ended up 2 times longer and he ended up hurting himself more the more you tried to help or calm him down..

    Answer by maxsmom11807 at 11:25 AM on May. 24, 2011

  • My oldest has autism and he can have meltdowns from hell- screaming, slamming things, potty mouth.... and what I do when he has a meltdeown is I tell him he needs to calm down. He will go to his room or the bathroom and be by himself. I also have learned that when he is like this he is unreasonable and you can't talk to him or it makes him even worse. So I let him alone to work on his self-calming techniques and cool down. When he is calm again we talk about it, find out what caused the meltdown and see what can be done to change things.

    Answer by MizLee at 11:36 AM on May. 24, 2011

  • my dd would get mad and start yelling (she didn't get physical, but would raise hell vocally). I calmly put her in time out for 3 minutes. wn't say a word, just do it. I put her in a high chair for time outs, or into her room with the gate up but door open. and when the three minutes were up I would go over to her, as her is she's ready to calm down and apologize. If yes, then we hug, and she goes back toplaying, if no, then I added another minute.

    Answer by xxhazeldovexx at 11:47 AM on May. 24, 2011

  • **sensitive

    Comment by tnm786 (original poster) at 11:22 AM on May. 24, 2011

  • I don't think this is necessarily a "method of intervening" but it's my approach to parenting. I think some tantrums are about a need for crying (in other words, a child's need to off-load intense feelings about something: frustration, anger, grief about things that can't be changed/disappointments) & others are more about crying for a need. In the latter situation, it's often something avoidable, but the way the interaction "went down" led to the rage about it. i.e., I think power struggles are avoidable....understandable & natural to fall into, for sure, but still avoidable (rather than "inevitable.") Those tend to be situations in which the parent response unintentionally caused the tantrum. When I recognize that I am in a power struggle, it's not some big bad thing I've done but more like opportunities missed, too much stress. But I can see what went wrong. (My twins are 2 1/2, btw.)
    Anyway, my approach or "method" is to

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:18 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • (cont) practice a habit of reflective listening with my kids. This is especially natural (the default, really) for me when they are simply telling me things. I just notice what they care about telling me & reflect it back to them. It takes more conscious intent for me to respond this way when it is a request, though. I am getting better about it, but if I am not aware, I tend to revert to a default of responding to the request, engaging it on the level of whether or not it "can" or "can't" happen, or if I can/will grant it or not. (That's not reflecting, btw! lol) If I am granting it, then cool. But if I'm not, the protest begins (as you might expect!) And then a struggle ensues, because as a thoughtful & caring mama, I tend not to arbitrarily deprive/frustrate my kiddos, so I'm not just "being mean" if I say no. Next step (if I'm not conscious) is likely to explain or reason w/ them, to show why it can't happen (ex: it's not

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:28 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • (cont) safe, or I literally can't do it right then because of some limitation--I'm hurrying to grate cheese to add to a sauce that's almost done, which takes both my hands, and I can't/won't pick him up right then, etc.) So I may be patient & kind & earnest and of course it's all reasonable & completely valid, but the whole emphasis of the interaction is establishing & defending MY validity, how I'm not just "being mean" & it makes sense. But this just gets the toddler more frustrated & frenzied. If it escalates to a full-blown tantrum at this point, I would call it Type Two ("crying for a need--anger/protest" rather than Type One "a need for crying--emotional release"), "crying for a need" is essentially crying for a reason, a reason I gave & that he's protesting with legitimate anger. This was avoidable.
    If I had been more conscious/connected in the moment, I could've heard his request & reflected it to him, which validates

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:36 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • (cont) it for him right away. Whether or not I will end up granting or denying a request, I can validate it from the start with my acknowledgment. This is a way of accepting what a child wants/wishes/desires (and "requests" or "demands"), regardless of whether I can or will grant it. If I simply respond with my denial & all the (valid) reasons for it, it is a negation. My attempts to show how "reasonable" my limit is only further the negation, & imply that anyone who doesn't "get it" (since it is so fair & understandable) is actually wrong to be protesting. Their upset implies that I am wrong or something, but I'm a sympathetic character, & some limits are legit (so obviously I'm not wrong!) But the more we point out & try to gently persuade, the more we are saying THEY are wrong for wanting whatever it is.
    If I manage to reflect the request/desire instead of engaging its validity via the issue of yes/no, I can avoid negating.

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:08 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • (cont) And that means I haven't sent him a message of wrongness to protest, or "defend against" by struggling & screaming. This does not ensure that there are no big feelings around the issue of not getting the request, or being put off. But it DOES mean that those "big feelings" will be a Type One kind of situation, a time for letting out the feelings of disappointment, anger, grief around a loss or an answer he didn't like. This is a need for crying, just to let it out, a release (this is necessary, important, & healthy.) He's not protesting his validity, he's letting sadness & upset pass through him. My response to this is to give my presence & accept his feelings, validating how they make sense.
    A decent percentage of the time in my experience, reflective listening that validates the wish/request is sufficient, in that there are no big feelings or grief at not having it granted. This has been enlightening to me to realize

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:15 PM on May. 24, 2011