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Tantrume or something else?

Today my husband w as playing with our 18 month old flying him like an air plane then doing a crash landing on the bed, always ends with giggles, not wanting to leave our 3 year old out he grabs her and she FREAKS out! She started screaming, he realized she wasnt having fun so he put her back on the bed, then her little face turned red and screamed loud and long looking directly at him for about a minute. He then picked her up and held her close trying to console her, but she began to scream for mommy like she was in some sort of trouble or rant for no reason at all...the entire time i was watching all this in this tantrume taken to the next level or is there something elese going on with our 3 year old??? We were at one point getting a devorce, but saught counciling and have a healthier happier marrage then EVER before. Our kids have reflected that lately, they have been so happy and content, we dont understand why she would be lashing out like this or if this is simply tantrume taken extreme...she is also very tired, and im sure that could contribute to some of this...what should we do?

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Asked by srbaby7 at 3:59 PM on Jun. 17, 2011 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 3 (20 Credits)
Answers (8)
  • your poor husband :( Three year olds are nearly impossible to read lol Based on the info you've given I want to say tantrum, but really hard to say. Does she do this every time he touches her it was an isolated incident? If its isolated, i'd chalk it up to a tantrum, but if its every single time he touches her I'd seek help for her. GL momma

    Answer by yesmaam at 4:03 PM on Jun. 17, 2011

  • By playing airplane, did he take her hand and ankle and swing her around? My guess is that he dislocated her elbow, without realizing it. It would have been very painful and the reason for her screaming. A child's elbow dislocates easily, and swinging a child around is the major cause. Sometimes it goes back in on it's own, as it must have in your daughter's situation. When he put her down on the bed it might have snapped back in. Sometimes it's quite obvious that a child's arm is hurting, and a trip to the pediatrician is necessary. My four children dislocated their elbows so often, I learned how to pop it back in myself. I'd suggest sitting down with your daughter and talking to her. Maybe she can remember what happened, maybe not. Is she totally afraid of your spouse now? Or will she let him cuddle her and read to her. If she is completely afraid of him, I'd suggest abuse. Otherwise, find another game to play.

    Answer by LoreleiSieja at 9:35 PM on Jun. 17, 2011

  • Well, I didn't think of a dislocated joint (our version of "airplane" doesn't involve swinging the child around; more like holding them up supporting the torso & "flying" them by dipping up & down) but that could be it, depending.
    My first thought was that it was severely startling to her. She wasn't expecting it when he grabbed her, and she had a startle response. The intense discomfort of the vulnerable feeling would almost immediately trigger a less-threatening outward-directed emotion: anger, upset. It's the common human experience of feeling angry at someone who scared you deeply, because the fear/vulnerability is so uncomfortable. (Like getting mad with a child who ran into the street, or a teen who kept you up all night worrying.) The tendency to dissociate from painful feelings is very strong; we're triggered to direct the heat of the emotion outward at someone else (this is what all blame/anger/criticism/annoyance

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:05 AM on Jun. 18, 2011

  • (cont)
    is--a quick & handy way to escape feeling something more personal & threatening, by "projecting" the stuff outward.)
    The startle reflex triggers feelings of helplessness, being in danger, extreme vulnerability. Intense & unpleasant. When your husband realized she was distressed and tried to console her (a thoughtful, well-meaning response), it may have upset her even more because comfort/soothing can be experienced as a negation--an attempt to get someone to change their feelings (before they're ready), or a minimization or denial ("It's okay, there's nothing to be upset about, shhhh.") It is like resisting her reality, or trying to talk her out of her feelings, implying they are not valid. When we try to do what it takes to "get them to stop," even out of caring feelings, these attempts to comfort or distract can trigger counter-resistance, because they feel our need to stop/fix it as resisting their expression. So....

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:10 AM on Jun. 18, 2011

  • (cont)
    This can help you to understand her behavior as a "signal," or as happening for a reason. (Even when you don't know the reason for sure, knowing that there IS a reason can help you to orient to the child, rather than focusing on behavior as a "problem.")

    One of the key elements that promotes optimal brain wiring/formation of neural pathways is parental attunement, or accurate understanding of the child. This is when a child experiences herself as seen for who she is, and accepted. An attuned response to extreme upset is simply to acknowledge the upset. Calm, connected acknowledgment implies acceptance & "allowing," (since you aren't struggling against the child, trying to comfort, reassure, distract, etc.) She experiences herself & her reactions as "okay," which means she can get on with moving through them/processing them (rather than getting stuck insisting on them.) This is one form of reflective listening.

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:40 AM on Jun. 18, 2011

  • (cont)
    So instead of "it's okay" or other comforting words, providing serious & accepting acknowledgment of what you are seeing/hearing from her would be the attuned/reflective response. As simple as, "Oh, you really didn't like that" or "It seems like that was really upsetting!" This sees & acknowledges her feelings, and gives simple acceptance. You allow them, rather than coaxing, reassuring or explaining.
    Usually when kids get MORE frenzied in response to our gentle & caring explanations, when we reasonably & kindly point out details of a situation, etc, it's because they feel invalidated or negated in some way. (Usually our explaining & reasonableness is more about validating OURSELVES, explaining why something can't happen or how we didn't mean something, and it's experienced as a suggestion that THEIR feelings don't make sense, or they "shouldn't" feel that way in light of this--"see how unreasonable it is to be upset?")

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:51 AM on Jun. 18, 2011

  • sorry to reply again...
    I was just remembering a time in the car when we were playing an audiobook for the kids and I was sort of lost in thought, but I guess my husband was listening to the story (a witch was talking) because all of the sudden he (my husband) busted out with this witchy cackle. I wasn't expecting it OR tuned in (in order to contextualize it easily in the moment), and so I didn't experience it as "him adding witchy sound effects"; it was more like this very jarring, ugly-sounding, scary & out-of-the-blue thing.
    It was a simple matter of my startle reflex getting triggered, activating fear along the primitive stem of "lizard brain" (the emotional-reaction seat of fight/freeze/flight response.) In the moment after I registered this sound, I felt all this anger & annoyance toward him. "What kind of person would DO that?" He simply was WRONG! This was how quickly I dissociated from the vulnerable feelings, to

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:08 AM on Jun. 18, 2011

  • anger, judgment &blame. I didn't even NOTICE the discomfort of feeling afraid or uncertain; I simply felt IRRITATED and CRITICAL, and he was just WRONG!
    Now, I know about emotional dissociation & routinely take my outward-focused feelings as a signal that I'm feeling something ELSE (and trying to avoid experiencing it) inside, so I noted my irritation and didn't act on it (other than the irritated glare I shot his way in the first moments.) But it still took awhile (probably because the "startle" reflex is so primitive) for me to connect to what had gone on, beyond just "knowing."
    I mention this struggle because I have waaay more of a pre-frontal cortex online than your daughter. Her neural pathways connected with empathy, emotional self-regulation, impulse control, logic, etc. still are forming. Reactivity under stress is NORMAL! The good news: attuned responsiveness in these times SUPPORTS optimal brain development.

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:28 AM on Jun. 18, 2011

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