Surviving the life of a "High Needs" child & parent.

Tag Archives: Tantrum

The Habanero has always been dramatic in his fits and is easily upset. A while back he started occasionally sending himself into a coughing tantrum when he was mad about something and I didn’t think much of it. Sometimes the coughs would lead to him spitting up, but most the time we have been able to calm him down before it gets to that point.

Last week in our car rides he started shoving his fingers down his throat (and other objects) to make himself gag which eventually leads to him puking. As you can imagine, this behavior is very frustrating in the car because there’s really nothing I can do to stop it besides telling him not to do it which of course he doesn’t listen to.

I thought maybe it was just normal for a kid to put their fingers in their mouth and gag themselves all this time, so I really haven’t thought much about it. In talking to some other people I’m realizing that this behavior of his really seems to be more about attention than anything else. There is little in the way of advice online for this that I can find and everything I’ve read says to interfere with the behavior by stopping the child physically from doing it and tell them not to, but as you can imagine that’s pretty hard to do when I’m driving.

For a while now I’ve been hoping that this coughing/gagging himself thing was just a phase that he would eventually grow out of as I’ve seen others say this about their children. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon without some sort of intervention and it’s probably going to get worse as we get closer to the age of 2. Getting tired of cleaning the car seat…

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Recently I’ve been thinking A LOT about tantrums, because the frequency of them occurring in my house is increasing significantly. I’ve looked around on the web a little reading suggestions on how to deal with them. Oddly enough I think this is something that was completely glossed over in my Early Childhood Education courses I took. I remember how strange it was when the advice was given during class that you are not to restraint a child who is acting violently, unless you have been certified to do so and have good reason that they are endangering themselves and others.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) as a parent you are allowed much more freedom to make mistakes than teachers are with little consequence (mistakingly perceived) from others. Obviously a significant amount of damage can be done to a child from their parent in ways that we may not even consider in the moment of madness.

I see kids all the time throwing tantrums in public and usually try to ignore them, but can’t help to often notice parents saying “Use your words.” or just allowing their kid to beat on them as they try to carry them out of the public eye. I have to wonder why the kid thinks it’s okay to continue to beat on the parent physically and I’ve come to the conclusion that this physical response of a child is not really a learned behavior, so much as a innate behavior to frustration.

Prior to being a parent, I would think, “Man what a little brat” when I would witness a kid wailing on their parent… until my kid started doing it. Right around a year and half it started that when the Habanero was frustrated he would windmill his arms and smack me or whoever else was close enough to let them know he was frustrated. The first time it happened, my instinct was to try and hold him and hug him to calm him down. I quickly learned this was probably one of the worst options for a response I could have chosen.

After several attempts to “love my child through the tantrum” I got tired of being beat on and realized the only way to stop the tantrum in it’s tracks was to do something my child was not expecting me to do. So, I started pushing the Habanero away from me when he’d start a windmill tantrum and I’ll never forget the look of shock and dismay on his face the first time he came over to me hit me and I pushed him back and he fell on his bum. Clearly it wasn’t something he wasn’t expecting me to do – and given that I’ve never really expressed my dominance over him physically well… ever since he was born he didn’t know what to do with it. The tantrum stopped and he just looked at me like I was a horrible mother, “Why did you do that?!” I’m sure was running through his little head.

It was then that it occurred to me how much child can get so wrapped up in their passion they don’t even realize what they are doing. This realization was somewhat enlightening because it helped me also conclude that my actions during a tantrum are not hardly even noticed by my child unless they interfere with his ability to express his emotion. Even as an adult I know how hard it can be to stop a moment of frustration without being interrupted by something unexpected in my environment. My husband will attest to the fact that when I decide to get mad about something I’ll just keep going on and on and on… and I’m inclined to think that maybe I didn’t ever really learn how to deal with my emotions very well when growing up myself.

I’m sure someone somewhere would consider it child abuse to push your kid hard enough they fall on their butt so as to set a boundary. Maybe it’s not the right answer. I know this is just the beginning of a long life of testing boundaries, but arguably the most difficult time to deal with it since you can’t really effectively communicate with your child until they can speak. However, even if they could say exactly why they are mad, would it really matter? As an adult wouldn’t it be patronizing to hear “use your words” every time you got mad at something? I think it’s more important to let a kid express their frustration as long as it doesn’t endanger anyone else, and let them know that in their frustration its not acceptable to harm anyone around.

A while back when biting started, I recall reading that it wasn’t good to bite your kid back because you are just perpetuating the violence by teaching them it’s okay to continue. I suppose physical aggression is something I really should have addressed back then, but I really didn’t know what to do. I shouldn’t bite back, but how do you communicate a boundary to a child that can’t talk? I resolved to show the Habanero how much he hurt me the few times he had bitten me, albeit dramatically. What else can you really do? I’m happy to report that these days when I get called about a biting incident in the classroom it’s usually my kid getting bitten.


As I mentioned in my prior post, we try to avoid going out to eat as much as possible these days because the little man sees it as an invitation to act like a holy terror. Really, I should have known better… but every time we go out I hope for the best and cross my fingers that the Habanero will behave. I tend to think even though I’d like to avoid going out in public so I don’t have to deal with the hassle it’s still important for him to learn how to act in public and he’s not going to do that home.

In any case the other night we decided to throw caution to the wind and venture out for some Mexican because I didn’t feel like cooking. When you have kid, you typically get seated at restaurants well away from the other patrons and tonight was no exception. We were given a table near the only other family in the place who had two kids.

It’s always interesting to see how other parents, “parent” while you’re out in public. Before having children this is something I never would have paid any attention to, but now it’s a source of entertainment. Now, I don’t know about you but when I’m out and “people watching” I try not to be rude and stare, but I still glance over from time to time to check out what’s going on especially when there is a lot of noise going on.

Anyways, I’ve gone on long enough so I’ll try to get to the point. One of the children sitting at the table probably not much older than the Habanero was being a pill. Both of the children with the couple were girls, which I found kind of surprising because well usually it’s little boys misbehaving in public. I’ve always heard that girls are easier until they become teens, but I’m sure it depends on the kid. The family’s youngest was insisting on sitting in her parents lap while they were trying to eat, of course they were trying to pacify her and keep her quiet (she was quite vocal) while they finished their food. I took only slight notice of the commotion a few booths down out of the corner of my eye but saw parents trying to manhandle the girl to sit in her spot on the table.

When she realized she was getting nowhere she squirmed out of the seat and ran to the booth across from the family and proceeded to climb all over it like a monkey. No surface was safe until mom got up and wrangled her back to the table at which point tantrum commenced. Mom decided she had enough, and took both girls to the bathroom immediately after. Upon returning, dad got left at the table and mom took the kids to the car with her – obviously embarrassed by her kid’s behavior.

Between the tantrum and the trip the bathroom another couple wandered in and was seated across the aisle from us. Throughout the commotion our little guy was happily munching on chips and somewhat oblivious to what all had happened. The second our food arrived, it no longer became acceptable for him to sit in his high chair and he began standing up and trying to get out. For a while he was happy to sit at the booth next to dad, but that was short lived. He slid down to the nasty floor under the table and started crawling around. Dad was content to let him – but of course mom wasn’t. I picked him up, put him back in his seat and tried to get him to eat which he pretty much refused. Crying between bites of bean and rice he didn’t miss a tear.

He kept trying to stand and get out, and every time I sat him down and told him he had to wait to get up. This wasn’t an acceptable answer I guess because it just made the Habanero more vocal and he started with an all out fit. All the while, the couple across from us was watching our battle of wills – and not even inconspicuously. They were outright staring at us. I wanted to turn to them and ask if they were enjoying the show but I chose to ignore their stares and focus on the little man in hopes to try and get my point across.

You know how you can just tell what someone is thinking sometimes? This couple obviously was annoyed by our kid’s antics, he was crying and being a complete brat and you know what? I didn’t care. You could tell they were waiting for us to scoop him up and rush out of the restaurant like most parents but I wasn’t so inclined. I did find myself getting annoyed at the time it took the check to reach our table, but in the mean time I let the Habanero have his fit and tried to sternly tell him he needed to stop acting that way and he had to wait to get up. I’m not really sure what’s up with people these days but it seems like it’s almost expected that when a child is making a scene the parents are supposed to rush their child out of the situation rather than attempt to correct the problem right then and there.

Sure I was embarrassed by how my kid was acting, but I don’t think it’s right for other people to expect me to remove him so as not to disturb their meal. Maybe I’m rude for taking this stance, but I just don’t agree with reactionary parenting. It’s frustrating to be stared at, waiting for your check and having a child in all out tantrum mode but I know that in the future if my kid learns that all he has to do is act bad when he wants to get out of a situation I’ll be shooting myself in the foot. I guess that’s why I don’t understand when I see so many parents reacting to their children this way. I think this must be an American parenting tactic because it seems to fit with why American children require so much attention in comparison to others… or so I’ve read.