My 6yo Throws an Epic Tantrum. Again.

Does anyone else find that their kid manages to ruin most special occasions with some horrific behavior?

Please say it isn’t just me. Please?

Normally my kids, though they aren’t easy going and can be pretty high-maintenance, are decently behaved. Pretty average kids in that respect.

Except on an anniversary, minor holiday, or birthday. Not their own birthday, mind you. Other people’s birthdays. And not on Christmas or any occasion with gifts they will be receiving. They know not to eff that up with bad behavior.

But seriously. It’s like they save their very worst tantrums for days that are supposed to be joyous or fun occasions for someone who isn’t them. Which makes them sound like brats.

I don’t think my kids are brats. I mean, I’m pretty sure they’re not. But why do they do this?

Take yesterday. It was Hubs’ birthday. We didn’t have any major plans. Hubs just wanted to hang out with his friends and relax.

Sadly, I was feeling like crap. Monthly hormone fun. Greaaaat timing. But, nothing that some drugs and a short nap couldn’t help. So Hubs was going to take the girls to the pool and I was going to lie down.

Hubs told Anne, our 6yo, that since Mommy needed to rest, he couldn’t go in the deep end of the pool with her. He and Anne would have to stay in the shallow end with Gracie, our 3yo.

And that, for some reason, sent Anne over the edge.

She had an epic tantrum that lasted an hour and a half.

I had to sit and listen to her freak out instead of napping and getting myself to feel better for Hubs’ evening birthday festivities. Which led to me yelling at Anne and of course feeling horrible afterwards.

And you know what really sucks as a parent? Once the tantrum was over, Anne bounced right back. Me? Not so much.

Anne was happily eating a snack and playing with her friends five minutes after her epic freakout – while I angerily endured my hormone-induced exhaustion and discomfort that a nap really could have helped.

I felt totally worn out and defeated. I was mad at myself for losing my cool and yelling at Anne when she was tantruming. I said some stuff I shouldn’t have said. I was pissed at her. I was pissed at me.

It took me some time and a beer with friends to bounce back. I put on my big-girl pants and pulled it together. But it wasn’t easy.

I am not sure what to do about these tantrums. Anne has been having them since she was four. They are far less frequent now. But when she does freak out, there is no reaching her.

She cries, screams, hyperventilates. I try to hold her. Doesn’t work. I ignore her. Doesn’t work. She goes on and on and ON for 30 – 60 minutes. Yesterday’s 1.5 hours was a new record.

I do think these tantrums will eventually go away. But for crying out loud, the kid is going into first grade! When’s it going to stop? And why do these tantrums happen on my or Hubs’ birthday, our anniversary, or other low-key occasion on which we’d really just like to have a nice, normal day?

Do you deal with high-maintenance kids who have epic tantrums for apparently no reason? What do you do?



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12 Replies to “My 6yo Throws an Epic Tantrum. Again.”

  1. Um, yeah, bad news. My daughter is going into third grade this fall and is still known to throw the epic tantrum occasionally. I just keep thinking to myself, what the hell? This cannot be normal. Apparently, it is. I try not to picture her as an adult, sitting at her desk at work and suddenly breaking into the cry/scream because something didn’t go her way… God, I hope she outgrows this crap before I lose my sanity!

  2. Here’s my take. As she gets older, she’ll grow out of them. I think the best thing to is to keep your cool and not give into her fits of rage. Try to talk to her calmly while labeling the emotion you think she’s feeling. For example, “I know you’re really angry and frustrated that you can’t swim in the deep end. I get that. I get angry, too. But crying and screaming isn’t going to change anything. In fact, it will only make matters worse.” Assuming that doesn’t calm her down, just ignore her. But at least you put a name to what she was feeling. You tell her it’s unacceptable. And you don’t reward her for her behavior. That’s what I try to do with my youngest. But at the end of the day, you just have to do what feels right to you. I’m sure you handled it the best way you could. We’ve all lost our cool with our kids. We all want the answers. But there are no hard and fast answers to raising our kids. I know when I get really angry with my kids, I say things I wish i could take back. I think it’s human nature.

  3. I’m with The Healthy Mom. Make sure you’ve communicated clearly (you shouldn’t have to say something more than twice) and then ignore. And I mean hard core ignore. No eye-contact. No talking. It may mean you leave wherever you are or put her in her room or something, but it’ll help you feel more relaxed and it’ll give her less of a response to the behavior.

    And no, you’re not alone. Hugs.

  4. I argee with all of the above, plus one thing: epic tantrums are no place for mom on the hormone days. No wonder you said things to her that you didn’t mean. Your husband was on duty, you stay out of it. That halves the audience and hopefully brings it to an end faster. Sure, it sucks for him that it’s his birthday, but, you know, didn’t you have to change diapers and breast feed on your birthday? Bake a cake for him later to make up for it. Or, you know, something else….

  5. As much as I want to believe it will get better, unfortunately I am in the hopeless camp waiting for that to happen myself. I have a 5 1/2 yr old (will be 6 in October) who has legitimate sensory issues and who throws the most EPIC tantrums you’ve ever seen. Like for hours on end. As you said, in the throes of one, there’s no consoling her, no talking to her, nothing. it just goes until it ends. Our worst one went for 6 hours straight. I’m surprised I am not a raging alcoholic by now actually!!! We’ve done therapy, we’ve seen a neurologist, etc and they all say the same (unfulfilling) thing: “She’ll eventually outgrow this.” That is the LEAST helpful thing you could hear as a parent because during them, you can barely focus on getting out of the moment, let alone happily waiting for them to eventually subside.
    Anyway, just wanted to raise my hand and say “Hey, I can relate!!” : )

  6. One of my children is strong-willed also. It’s like an ever changing thing. When he was 2, the tantrums happened at least once or twice a week (usually in a public place including kicking, screaming, not breathing) and always lasted over 30 minutes. So we started working with him on techniques to calm himself down once he got old enough to understand what we were trying to teach him. He is almost 4 now. They are not gone, but tantrums have decreased from 1-2 per week to only about 1 a month or less. We had to vary our approach somewhat over time but one thing we always held steady…if we are in a public place and he throws a tantrum…the activity he is doing which he likes…stops immediately and we leave. So the public tantrums have all together stopped because he knows if he gets loud, we leave, immediately. The ones at home are much harder to work through and require creative thinking. Here is a posting I made about one of his tantrums recently:

    Best of luck to you on it, it really takes a LOT of patience to deal with it and keep a level head.

  7. I am hesitating to weigh in here because in all honesty, I am afraid you will all look at me and say “HORRIBLE mom!” but our oldest son was a challenge from day one (he’s now 17, a wonderful kid, so yes, they do grow out of the tantrums!) He was/is very headstrong and in the early years (4,5,6,7,8) it was a real challenge to deal with because he is also very, very smart. He passed right over my husband and went on to challenge me for control of the household. Needless to say, we had some real scenes. One day, when I was at the end of my rope, I dumped a glass of cold water on his head and what do you know, it startled him into silence. Of course, the glass of water didn’t last long (it wasn’t enough) and when things got out of hand, we would put in him a cold shower, clothes and all. I would make him stand there for a few minutes and could literally watch him come back to his senses, calming down to the point where I could talk with him. At this point, I would turn the water to warm, strip him out of clothes, dry him off and we could then talk it out.

    I come from a not so great background myself, so anger was the first place I would go when scenes would start up, and it was something I desperately did not want to pass onto my kids. I KNOW how badly words can hurt, so this solution worked for me … it shut the tantrum down, got us to the point where we could talk about what was wrong and a better way to handle it, and quite honestly, I did get a little satisfaction in hearing the initial scream as the cold water hit his body… I knew I wasn’t hurting him but I was showing him who was in charge. Was this a regular thing? Not at all. It happened maybe 6 to 8 times in four years, but I think knowing it was an option helped both of us, especially when I asked him if a shower would help him calm down. Funny, but he always said no … :>)

    Something I’ve done with our daughter when she hit the lovely 12/13 year mark was take her outside and make her run … down the street, to the corner and back, three or four times. If she has enough breath left to scream at me, she’s not done running. We’ve done this in both rain and sun. I find the more I put the responsibility and results of the tantrums on the kids, the calmer and more capable of dealing with the situation I feel.

    So this is my 2 cents worth. It DOES get easier and they DO grow out of behaviors, but it is a matter of you getting through them. Walk away if you need to — a lack of audience may make a difference. Do you have a really good friend or neighbor? You might ask if that person would do you the tremendous favor of coming over to simply be in the house when a tantrum starts up so you can go for a walk or a cup of coffee; your absence, and the presence of someone new, may make a difference. Just remember you are not alone and it is okay to ask for help — other people do get it!

  8. My 9yr old had one today. The thing that works for us is, when he (or his 7yr old brother) starts having a tantrum, we send him to his room. The key is, HE decides when he gets to come out. He has to stay in his room until he is done crying, has calmed down, and is ready to be a pleasant person. When he has accomplished these three things, he is free to join the rest of civilization. Until then, he has to stay in his room, with the door shut. Sometimes it’s takes two minutes, sometimes an hour. I’ve even gone to check on him only to find that he’s happily reading or playing with his toys. And a lot of times, I find my 7yr old sound asleep!

  9. JD, seriously, you are so not alone in this! My six year old son gets really mad. It relates directly to being tired and hungry. But also, he is just going to be more emotional than the others. We make him go to his room to cool down (and frankly so we can cool down, too) or just walk away and don’t give him the attention.

    Sorry you had such a tough day. I hope it helps to know that we all go through it.

  10. I’m still figuring out how to deal with tantrums effectively. My son at 4 1/2 lets loose often. Almost anything will make him burst out. My solution lately is to confine him to his room until he calms down. The deal is that he has to finish crying and be happy before he can come out. Since he would try to get out long before that point, I have a lock on the outside of the door. Once he settles down, I can go in and we talk about what is upsetting him. He is much more reasonable at that point. I doubt the neighbors appreciate his screams and door-banging but as long as I ignore it, he eventually settles down. I’m just happy my girls haven’t begun tantrums yet, though I can see it coming with my 3 year old.

    I know the stress of them and feel your pain. Hormone days make it so much harder to deal with tantrums, don’t they?

  11. The best thing I ever, ever read in a parenting book (Your Baby and Child by Penelope Leach) was to never let a tantrum change your behavior in any way. If you were going to go to the park before, go afterward. If there wasn’t going to be candy before, don’t let there be candy after. And then when my oldest was two years old I had an epiphany: I could witness the tantrum without being IN the tantrum with him. His tantrums used to tie me in knots– I felt his pain, my pain, his anger, my anger. My Mom usually responded to my strong emotions with anger, and I found myself doing the same thing and hating myself for it. But one thing I’d spent years working on in therapy was that it was ok for me to have negative emotions (like anger or sadness); I had a moment of clarity where I realized I could let him have his feelings without taking them on. Learning to detach and witness during a tantrum saved my ass as a parent. OK, you’re pissed. That’s alright. Understandable even. Want a hug? No. OK, you can cry, stomp, throw pillows, draw scribbles, yell in your room and let me know when your ready to try again. It’s ok for you to be angry/sad/frustrated; I am not, so I’ll go over here and wait. My oldest never wanted to be held during a tantrum, but my youngest does– either way, I try to remember that the tantrum is not about me, it doesn’t say anything about my parenting any more than a hurricane does.

    My five year old still flips out sometimes, but it’s usually over in a matter of minutes. My very strong willed 19 month old has had a couple of tantrums so far, but they haven’t lasted too long–so far comfort and distract works for her, but she’s still young. The only thing that makes it longer with my son is when I or my husband make the mistake of trying to make it stop. When is the last time someone telling you to calm down did anything but piss you off?

  12. no, this is NOT normal behavior for a 9-year-old. ‘tantruming’ (ESPECIALLY at school) can be a sign of serious mental illness or autism spectrum disorder. your child needs to see a psychologist/psychiatrist.

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