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I’m a tantrum survivor. Sort of!

As I sat, white faced, close to tears, next to a pale, blotchy, hiccuping daughter, I tried to work out exactly why what just happened had happened. Believe it or not from that description, no major tragedy had befallen us, no near miss in the car, no death of a beloved pet, we still had all our limbs.

We’re usually so close but the tantrums can be hard to cope with.

No, all that had happened was that we had just survived a tantrum, not just any tantrum though, not a bit of foot stamping or the lying on the floor wailing business that small boy is so fond of. No, this was a full on screaming, punching, kicking, flailing, sobbing, ‘you’ve ruined my life’ kind of a tantrum. (Yes she really said that, she is five, I have no idea where she got it from!!)

I’m aware that I’m sounding dramatic, and maybe we both have a flair for it, she certainly picked her stage well, a packed square in the centre of a popular Italian town on market day. (We had a crowd around us at one point!) However, I did feel completely drained, emotionally battered and physically shaken up in the aftermath, as if we had both weathered the sort of storm that you see on the news.

We have only had a few of these thank goodness, but each time I feel as though my soul has been slightly pummeled. I end up wondering if it was my fault, if I could have done anything differently, whether I am a bad mother.

There are certain things that I think trigger these monumental melt downs, tiredness being the main offender. I also think that sugar is a contributor, and if there has been a change in routine it doesn’t help and over indulgence and spoiling when on holiday or around birthday time is pretty fatal.

But it is impossible to work out which combination of these will result in the tantrum, if at all, because sometimes she is whacked out on sugar after an exhausting party and is the sweetest little girl.

I wish I had the answers as to how to deal with it. I have tried lots of tactics, the most recent being offering a no-strings-attached cuddle, and then sorting things out and getting the requisite apology when it has all calmed down.

Sometimes it is impossible to get through to her though, when she is so far into it, reaching out to her is just not an option, especially if she is angry and lashing out. This is fairly rare thank goodness, and getting much less frequent as she gets older and I learn how to read the warning signs.

During this last one, I kept calm, remarkably calm, I stayed firm and didn’t back down, I’d told her we were leaving the market due to her behaviour, after having given her several chances to turn it round and her continuing down the same line, and I was determined to follow through with it, even when she started screaming as if she were being kidnapped and the crowd gathered!

I am slightly ashamed to admit that I resorted to threatening to cancel her birthday party and even pretended to write a text to the bouncy castle man to tell him it wasn’t needed! (I know I know but it was a desperate measures situation and I was feeling totally out of my depth and at a bit of a loss.)

I got her away eventually, and managed to find a less public place to sit, she raged on for a bit more, until eventually the rage burned out and we were both left sitting there like tornado survivors.

After it had passed, she was the sweetest little girl again. It was hard to imagine her ever being like that. She is not coping fantastically well with the whole idea of school. She misses me when she is there and feels frustrated that she has to go and we do fun things without her. Which I can completely understand.

She is also exhausted, everything new, so much to do, so much to learn, and I am relieved to say that this was at half term and we haven’t had any incidents anywhere near this scale since, but I know that friends are struggling as well, and now I realise how many of us are experiencing this, it does make me feel better to know that I’m not alone, not that I would wish it on anyone else but it’s nice to know there are others out there who know what it’s like to cling to that emotional life raft in a sea of screaming!

Especially as all the mums I know that are also going through it are wonderful, kind, caring people, and it helps me to see that if we are all in the same boat, maybe it is just that some children are more sensitive to big life changes then others, can’t cope with tiredness as easily, find their emotions harder to understand and manage, and it isn’t the reflection on my parenting that I have been beating myself up about in the aftermath of these tantrum tornados. She is a lovely girl usually, she isn’t badly behaved as a rule, we are nowhere near applying for a spot on a ‘send in a nanny and film us all melting down’ type of tv program, generally she is sweet, polite, funny, helpful, just ever so occasionally, something overtakes her that she has no control over.

So if you are a mama and any of this rings a bell with you you, give yourself a hug from me because it’s hideous and horrible but these days will pass and I’m sure that one day we will be sipping wine and laughing uproariously about how embarrassing it all was.

Just not yet!!

*Since writing this post, my daughter has been diagnosed with anxiety, a contributor to these tantrums. You can read more about our journey here and here.

Smiley crafty

Thankfully things are more like this between us…otherwise I wouldn’t want to get up in the morning! πŸ˜€





  1. November 18, 2015 / 9:02 pm

    It sounds to me as if you cope with these (thankfully rare) “super tantrums” really well. I think threatening to cancel her birthday party is a perfectly acceptable strategy. You asked her to calm down and gave her chanced to change her behaviour after all. I think you did brilliantly just to stay calm among all the onlookers! πŸ™‚

  2. November 19, 2015 / 11:25 am

    Oh you have made me smile! Thank you! I think the cancelled birthday one is a popular one going by response to this post!! She still hates going to school, not school when she’s there but she’s finding the social stuff difficult, friendships etc. I’m going to make her a simple ‘smile’ chart with all of the weekday morns on & a space for a face, if at the end of the week, she has more smiles then sad faces, she will get a small treat, probably in the form of some quality time with me. They certainly do pick their moments don’t they?! How old is your son?

    • November 29, 2015 / 11:54 am

      Sorry for delay in replying. My son is 6, he is in his 2nd year in school now. It’s called senior infants here in Ireland. He loves school, long may it last ☺️

      I’m liking it too, getting to know other mums and making connections.

      I do laugh though at the lengths we have to go to to get our kids to co-operate sometimes and the bribes .. Oh the bribes. Lol πŸ™‚

  3. November 20, 2015 / 10:57 pm

    I have 3 boys. My first was Almaty angelic all the time, we had a difficult time when he was around 4/5. Some big life upheavals and starting school etc. He struggled but we muddled on through.

    Now I have my 4 year old, who has Autisric Spectrum disorder and when he tantrums (which he sometimes does) and when he (melts down) it is horrendous. I go through all the feelings you go through too. The shame and embarressment. Meltdowns often end with tears and complete and utter brokenness on his behalf, they are the hardest to deal with.

    My youngest who is two and has well and truly hit the terrible twos, he knows how to put in a show! It’s hard work, but I too am realising that it is not me, but there are triggers like you said. I throughly enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for writing it x

  4. November 24, 2015 / 10:47 am

    awww she looks so sweet. πŸ™‚ saying that so do my 3 daughters in photos. you sounds like you deal so super well with her rare tantrums. my youngest has started the whole kicking and screaming bit and I think hers is the same tiredness. shes started full days from nursery at school straight to play group. so shes super tired. just trying to finish her potty training which is something she kicks off with when she tired.
    your doing such a super job. xx

    • November 25, 2015 / 8:31 pm

      Thank you so much! She is a sweetie generally, just struggles especially with tiredness, like you say, it’s a lot for them to take in. She is also asthmatic which doesn’t help as she gets so worked up. A stroppy potty trainer is a nightmare, good luck with it, it’s great when they finally crack it isn’t it. The end of nappies! Thanks for popping by and for your lovely comment. πŸ™‚

  5. cvnxena
    November 24, 2015 / 11:06 am

    I know that feeling – I don’t understand how they can go from these horrible screaming messes to “mummy do you want to play” ! great post – chin up πŸ™‚ #abitofeverything

    • November 25, 2015 / 8:32 pm

      Thank you, yes it’s quicker then the weather when they change isn’t it! Thank you for stopping by! πŸ™‚

  6. November 24, 2015 / 3:34 pm

    Plenty more where that came from before she’d done with you lol. My boy is autistic and has meltdowns so I feel your pain. Beautiful photograph. πŸ™‚ #abitofeverything

    • November 25, 2015 / 8:40 pm

      Nooooooo! Yes I’m fully expecting it to carry on a little longer! I have wondered if she could have a mild version of something like autism before, but have come to the conclusion that she is just really sensitive to change and lack of sleep. Thanks for popping by and for commenting! πŸ™‚

  7. November 24, 2015 / 8:08 pm

    My daughter (3 1/2) had a tantrum in a pub at the weekend about where she was going to sit. We had the laying on the floor, huffing and folding of arms so I ended up saying we’ll be going home if you don’t cheer up (we hadn’t eaten so I really didn’t want to go home either – a bit silly for me to say but I felt there was no other option). Fortunately it worked but one day she’ll call my bluff and then I’ll be stuck! Loved reading through this, it is nice to know that you are not alone. Sounded like you dealt with it really well too and survived! #abitofeverything

    • November 25, 2015 / 8:46 pm

      Oh that sounds so familiar! I always threaten things and then think, ‘Oh you idiot!!!’, as it’s something stupid like no more tv!! πŸ˜€ I’m glad my post helped you feel less alone, I can promise you that today alone there were about a billion tantrums across the country!!! πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading and your comment!

      • November 25, 2015 / 10:31 pm

        I know, I don’t know why I say things like that, they just pop out sometimes!!! Ooops x

  8. November 24, 2015 / 8:27 pm

    I found school unsettled my 5yo more than nursery did, I guess its quite a big change, every time they get into the school routine its the holidays again too. Even I struggle with those changes a throw a (slightly smaller) tantrum at times haha! Tantrums are exhausting though and it really can be hard to try and stay firm at times but it sounds like your doing great πŸ™‚ xx

  9. agentspitback
    November 25, 2015 / 12:24 pm

    Oh hon, you’re a great mother precisely because you stop to think and reflect on how you can do your best by your child. I feel for you because my youngest has terrible “physical” tantrums which makes me feel so guilty – am I not spending enough time with him? Am I not patient? But I’ve had to let go and understand that that’s how it is for now and he will outgrow it as he becomes better able to express and articulate his feelings. I have had just to grin and bear it too. I know that I might have to cancel playdates, shopping trips or whatever we have planned if he acts up. The first couple of times were so hard because we, as a family could be looking forward to it for such a long time but we just had to be firm and consistent. And he soon realised that we meant it. But sometimes, like you have said, you have to let your child just express it all out. Hugs to you, fellow tantrum survivor. I now AVOID the sugar aisle and toy section – prevention is always better or I set firm expectations/goals before each trip. PS I also have a direct line to Santa, so you can tell your daughter that you know someone who knows Santa! Thank you for linking up with #abitofeverything

    • November 25, 2015 / 9:18 pm

      Thanks for your lovely comment Agent S! It’s such a relief to know that others out there know what we’re going through and can emphasise even though I wouldn’t wish it on anyone! I think you have a wonderful way of looking at it and you’re completely right. It’s a stage and one day I will be looking back and thinking about these days and I won’t remember these bits, (unless I read back my posts!), I will just miss that she wants me at all!! Sniff! πŸ™‚ Thanks for your lovely in depth comment and thank you for hosting!xx

  10. November 25, 2015 / 7:47 pm

    Oh my goodness, I use threats constantly with my eldest tantrum offender! I’ve already been on the phone several times this week to cancel Father Christmas from coming!! I feel awful admitting this, but the kind of tantrums you described are becoming up to a 4-5 times daily occurrence in our house, and I don’t like how they are making me behave… I feel like I can’t take anymore by the end of the day, and most of the time I keep calm, and don’t respond in any way to the tantrum, but a couple of times recently, I’ve ended up just screaming back at him. Then I feel the most hideous guilt, that I can’t shake for days… I know it’s just another ‘phase,’ but so hard when you are living it isn’t it??!

    • November 25, 2015 / 9:10 pm

      Oh that sounds awful! It is unbelievably draining to be coping with it once in a blue moon, never mind that many times a day. Do you get any sort of a break? I often find if we both reach breaking point, we get trapped in a cycle where I can’t deal effectively with the tantrums as I’m so strung out. When that happens, I make sure I get some time to myself when possible. Even just an afternoon to read a magazine with a cup of tea, in peace and alone can recharge my mummy patience tank! Have you tried anything visual like a marble jar for him? Where he can get a real thrill from putting the marbles in the jar himself and earning your smiles? When they were younger, I used to make sure they were safe and then remove myself from the room, go upstairs or something where I could still hear but I could also take five minutes to compose myself. Although that is tough if they follow you. Have you tried doing something really unexpected when he starts, like singing and dancing humorously, to try and shock him out of it before it takes hold? I have shouted back a heck of a lot and always felt horrible, but we are only human. It soulds like you have got really stuck into a cycle and need something to shake it up a bit so you can create a new way of being together. I read a fab book called ‘love bombing’ when things were really bad. It is a way to reset your child’s ’emotional thermostat’. Sounds barmy but makes a lot of sense when you read it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  11. November 25, 2015 / 8:52 pm

    Oh that is so true, she reminds me far too much of myself, it’s so hard to argue with her because she has some really reasoned protests and I can really see her point a lot of the time! The annoying thing is that I still have to get her to school. Even when I agree that we’ll be having fun and it’s not fair! Our day has been ok thank you, not lovely but not hideous! πŸ™‚ Hope yours has been good too. xx

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