raging tantrums, I am starting to panic that something is really wrong.

(29 Posts)
hellymelly Mon 10-Jun-13 18:24:37

DD2 just turned 6. Older dd was a big tantrummer at the same age, but they were brief in duration and in hindsight (didn't feel like it at the time) easy to handle, though exhausting. DD2 went through a bad patch last year, unhappy and worn out in reception, huge explosive tantrums every day after school and lots of night terrors, I posted at the time, got lots of really thoughtful and helpful advice. I changed tack, and stayed very calm and kind through even the worst rages and they stopped. She went back to school into year one, happier, no issues really, until about 6 weeks ago. She was getting more clingy of me, and she has always been pretty clingy, and hard to get to sleep. The tiredness seemed to trigger night terrors, which have been horrendous, shouting, screaming "help",biting, kicking etc. Then the day tantrums returned, and they are much the same, she will kick, bite, punch and pinch, she screams "help" over and over again, she even shouts "Daddy is hurting me". (We had talked to her about not shouting "help" unless she really needed help, and that people might think her Daddy was hurting her, after incidents where DH was alone with her and her sister and trying to get her into her car seat and a kindly old bloke came to check what was happening. V. embarrassing and upsetting for DH who is a very gentle and patient Dad.) She seemed to take it seriously, but all that happened is that now she shouts "help"etc at every opportunity .
Through all this she has been a model child at school. But then last week I took her in, DH usually does this but he was away, and she screamed the place down when I left, again shouting "Help". Some night terror free nights over the weekend, so she has caught up on a bit of sleep, but today when we picked her up from school, she looked worried. I asked her if she was ok and she lay on the pavement, screamed "help" over and over again, kicked me, shouted at DH who walked back into school to get her teacher, ( we were worried we looked like abductors tbh). Head came out and teacher and head took her back in, where she screamed, kicked, punched me in the face by accident, and roared at DH to "GO AWAY DADDY". Her (lovely) teacher and the head, plus other staff talked to her and then quite suddenly the rage subsided and she was ok, went for a wee walk about the playground and calmed down.
The rages are so extreme and so violent I am at a loss as to what to do. We have been kind, we have been firm, we have confiscated toys, we have had reward schemes, I even smacked her at one point when she tried to run out of the door into the road in a rage. I am very stressed and upset, we can't do anything as a family or go out to lunch with friends etc as we live in fear of a meltdown. She can see the worry in my face if she is on the edge of one and that seems to make her worse, even though I really try and look calm. (That was what happened earlier) . hunger and needing the loo seem the biggest triggers, if that strikes a bell with anyone? My big worry is that DH has an uncle with a serious mental illness and the rages are so extreme I am worried about that , I am also starting to wonder about physical things. We are going to take her to the GP, but I think we also need some proper advice, we can't go on like this, with an hour or two of screaming almost every night and then more explosions in the day.
It has been a stressful year for our family, with illness and bereavement, I don't know if that is a factor, but it has come on again so suddenly. Sorry this is long. I am so upset and embarrassed about the one earlier, and don't know what to do next. I really feel at the end of my tether and like a terrible parent.

3littlefrogs Mon 10-Jun-13 18:30:22

I am sure the illness and bereavement haven't helped.

Ask the school to arrange family counselling for you, speak to your GP.

This needs to be tackled now, and you need proper help. Honestly, it is clear you are worried, and it would not be helpful to reassure you that this is something you can deal with alone. You do need help, and there is no shame in that.

Your GP and the school are in a position to find help for you, and it is probably a good thing the head has witnessed the behaviour.

So sorry you are going through this.

hellymelly Mon 10-Jun-13 21:43:31

Thank you. When not in a rage she is a darling little girl, very funny, very sensitive, chatty ,super- bright, loving. She is a bit wary of some of the children in her class, but has several friends of both sexes that she plays with most days. Teacher says she is happy. The school looked really shocked which hasn't helped how I'm feeling. DD is upset about it, but other than saying her day at school had been fine she wouldn't discuss it further. Over the past week (after a major meltdown in front of my friend, where she pinched my arms so badly she left bruises) I have talked it over with her, saying "I don't think you want to be like this, it isn't getting you anything nice" she agreed and when I said we would try and help her she said "I do really want help Mummy, I don't like being like this". sad. She agrees to try hard to stop it before it gets to an out-of-control level, but in reality she goes to total rage very quickly and seeing her kick out at her teacher, who she loves, was terrible. Both DH and I had tears in our eyes as it was so awful to see her like that. On the floor screaming and flailing.

hellymelly Mon 10-Jun-13 22:32:04

Wanted to add that it is like a switch flicks on for the rage and off again when she calms down, she does build up to it, and calm down, but both those stages are quite fast. The rage/tantrum/out of control phase can last up to an hour and a half. Today it was about 15 minutes, but it felt like an hour and a half...

SimLondon Mon 10-Jun-13 23:46:58

I think you should talk to your GP - also try and make sure that she gws enough sleep and a healthy diet

pleiadianpony Tue 11-Jun-13 00:30:07

Please don't worry about mental health issues at this point. Children develop and change quickly.

Although this is obviously distressing, please don't panic or worry about the long term. There is a 'key' to this and when you find it you'll be able to begin to help her manage her frustrations.

From what you have said, her triggers appear to be transitions, between home and school, getting in the car, unusual situations.

She has most probably experienced some insecurity if your family have had multiple stresses and bereavements to cope with.

This insecurity can induce anger and ambivalence towards you and her dad if at times you have found it hard to be available while dealing with stress and bereavement. This results in lashing out, anger, frustration and wanting 'help' and having the conflicting emotion of needing mum / dad but at the same time, pushing you both away.

My advice would be to regress for a while. build a simple and predictable routine as far as possible and explain, step by step, what is going to be happening, breaking things down.

'We are going to get in the car and go to xxxx when we get there we will see xxxx'

Establish a nurturing bedtime routine. Special pajamas, soft light, stories, small milky drink, hugs and kisses, back to beby basics for a while.

Go and feed the ducks, play in the park, do 'baby type' things for a while.

When she is tantruming, reflect her emotions back to her 'you look really angry' 'you look sad' you look frightened' You don't have to explore these but acknowledging that you recognize these can help her identify that these are feelings and not a 'way of being' and move on more quickly.

FOCUS on Positives! Anything happy, enjoyable, fun, loving, warm is great. Children are really resilient and can bounce back from all sorts of challenges. Children are working out the world around them and will ponder, worry, ask questions, get upset, frustrated. It's all normal and part of development. They need us to just anchor them and be a 'secure base' for them to come back too while they are exploring.

See how you get on.

Please don't be hard on yourselves, you are having a rough time at the moment and it sounds like you are doing all you can to find solutions. Sounds like you and DH could do with sticking your feet up for a break too!

There are lots of places out there that can help if it's still difficult to solve. Use your GP if you need to. There are organisations that can help.

hellymelly Tue 11-Jun-13 12:00:58

pleiadian pony, that is all really helpful thanks for taking the time to write such a long post. Some of those things I have tried, I do prepare her for things like needing to end play, getting into the car, explaining why we need to do something or how the day needs to pan out. She seems fine with unusual situations, that doesn't tend to be a trigger, although she doesn't like to (for example) go on a little holiday as a surprise (she did enjoy that in the past but wouldn't now). She likes to plan and pack all her teddies etc. She is flexible about some things and not others, it often depends on the time of day and how hungry she is. I do really try and focus on the positive and ignore the bad, but the level of violence is the thing that is scaring me.
It really struck a cord the needing/wanting us and pushing us away. Anger is her default setting for anything she finds frightening, and has been since birth . My Dad died last year, a month or two prior to that I had a nasty fall and passed out (she saw this) and was taken away in an ambulance, and a month after losing my father I had a bad kidney infection and was really unwell (allergic reaction to the antibiotics, again ambulance etc) .It took me a good two months to recover and at the same time I was grief stricken about Dad. My mother at the time had also had a bad fall and has been in hospital for months, she has had to move to a care home where she is unhappy and all that has been v. stressful. My Aunt died just before all the tantrums re-emerged, and DD had a complete meltdown after the funeral although she was fine through the service and had seemed able to cope with it. I think this has all been such a lot for her to take on, we have tried to keep her routine as normal as possible. I co-sleep, she is still in next to me at night and we have a bath/story/snuggle to sleep routine always.
I did try in the past reflecting her feelings back, but for some reason that completely enrages her, and will often trigger a meltdown if I do it when she is on the edge of one. She hates to be vulnerable, and has built a tough veneer for coping with school, when in reality she is very over sensitive and feels everything deeply. She is also very very stubborn and will never back down ever, which doesn't help.
Her sister is completely fed up and embarrassed by the tantrums, and so they are quarrelling more too.
The other thing is that she is a very dignified child, and hates anything that offends her dignity, so it is a horrible irony that she ends up losing control on such an epic scale.
The back to a younger stage is interesting, I am going to take that on board, that is a really good idea . I wondered if she needed more responsibility, to boost her sense of herself? but maybe the opposite is the answer. (someone with an angry small child had suggested getting a pet for her as that had worked wonders for them). Or perhaps both. Just writing down all the stuff of the last year (and there have been other stresses on us too) has made me a bit shocked at just how much she has had to take on.

dukester Wed 12-Jun-13 13:07:40

Have you tried doing nothing when she has a tantrum and just carrying on with what your doing circumstances permitting she is safe etc I have done this in the street supermarket etc Then providing support/ discussion once the tantrum is over. Sometimes the more you do feeds the situation regardless of the approach. I have the queen of tantrums and she used to have night terrors too. It worked for me obviously i wouldnt do it for a night terror though.

Saltire Wed 12-Jun-13 13:17:34

I'm sorry I have nothing to add that could be helpful. I am reading this thread with interest though as I childmind a 6 year old who could be your child. You have described him to a tee.
His mum is in tears mostdays when she drops him off. It is like someone flicks a switch one minut he's fine, next complete meltdown.
I know how difficult I find them and I have this child for no more than 2.5 hours a day so I can only imagine what it must be like for all of you all the time

CabbageHead Wed 12-Jun-13 13:38:20

Can you role play her feelings thru a soft toy? So that she doesnt feel so vulnerable herself, but teddy might be able to express her worries for her..

I dont think she has mental health problems, she could have health probs or food intolerances a possibility? I get really cranky if i dont eat because of low blood sugar so she may need to be checked out for something like that.. Is she eating low GI foods for example, that keep her blood levels more even...

Also please have a look at website fedup.com.au which has lots of stories from parents that had tantrumming kids only to figure out they were intolerant to a colour or other food additive... Amazing success stories..

Kids def pick up on your stress ... Ive heard lots of positive comments about book 'raising your spirited child' in how to address and communicate anger etc.. 6 yr olds in girls i reckon is the worst age, ( then again at 14!!) i think they a easily overwhelmed. Routine and consistency help, but sounds like you are doing everything you can to help her.

It also sounds like she maybe venting out her frustration of the day when she gets home in a 'safe' environment.. She might take everything in at school esp if she is sensitive, find it all overwhelming, then not know how to process it? When my DS was a little baby he was easily overwhelmed by overstimulation, and after a few hours playing at grandma and granddads, he would come back and be extreme in his behaviour for rest of day and following day, he just couldnt cope with all the stimulation ove there and had to get it out somehow..

Would big activities help after school like a trampoline where she could get out lots of energy and help to diffuse her a bit? Maybe you could all run around the house screaming for 10minutes and make it not so much pressure for her to try and contain her feelings, actions... Dont feel bad, you are doing a great job, its such a hard age...

hellymelly Wed 12-Jun-13 14:35:09

cabbage- yes yes, you've hit on things well, I think she does bottle everything up at school only to vent it all when she is with me again.School has made her much less trusting and friendly with new children, she is quite wary now until she knows a child is kind. So I can tell she's been finding that tricky in class. My older DD is intolerant of colourings and I think there could be a blood sugar dip issue. I have never thought of using a cuddly toy to act out feelings and I am going to try that with her. Also running round the house sounds like a great fun stress release, I think she would LOVE that! What a brilliant idea.
Am v. grateful for all posts, its so helpful to get other angles on it, as we are so stuck in the middle. I have just got the spirited child book here to read, and I have also bought the Oliver James book "love bombing" and have read some this morning, I am going to try it asap as I think it will help both of us to get away and break the pattern a bit.
Interesting too that 6 is mentioned, as she is the age now that DD1 was when she was having a lot of tantrums. (she was very miserable in school though, so had a clear "reason" which made it more bearable.
I hadn't worried about the family mental health issues, until I googled "rages in child" and child psychiatric issues seemed to be writ large! Which suddenly panicked me. We are taking her to the GP but I am also going to try the love bombing and things suggested here on the thread. Thanks for the help and support, it is helping me feel less alone in this.

coronalover Wed 12-Jun-13 14:36:32

I'm so sorry your family is having such a tough time.
You mentioned that reflecting her feelings back at her made her more angry. You could try doing it through numbers instead: ask her how cross she's feeling on a scale of 1-10, maybe draw it out with happy/sad faces so that she can express herself in an alternative way? She may be less defensive about it this way especially as she's said she doesn't like being this way and so really doesn't want to become a 10 on the crossness scale
HTH

hellymelly Wed 12-Jun-13 18:18:09

I felt a bit more positive after reading the thread, I've been so kind and cheerful all evening, while she's been very grumpy and tricky. Now she is in the kitchen, clinging to the back of a chair, and screaming (literally) "I need help, call a policeman, someone call a policeman" and although she is shouting for me when I go into the kitchen she shouts "I hate you, you are a stupid idiot, you are the stupidest Mummy in the world". I am trying to stay calm and friendly but I feel devasted tbh. Now she's shouting "I am dying", we have had to go round to next door to tell them it is just a tantrum. It all started when the tomato ketchup went on her plate the wrong way. sad

sara11272 Wed 12-Jun-13 22:12:47

HelllyMelly, I've read your thread and you could be describing my DTD. She's 4 but very similar in lots of ways at the moment - huge tantrums that can stem from literally nothing (the ketchup thing made me smile! - 'not enough milk' in her cereal bowl is a favourite one here).

It's horrible and I know exactly what you're going through. Our big thing at the moment is getting dressed and getting out to school - her clothes are ITCHY, her shoes are TOO TIGHT, her socks are STUPID!!

There's nothing wrong with any of these things; she doesn't have sensitive skin or anything else like that; some days her clothes go on fine, other days they cause a total meltdown. Some days it can be because she has too much toothpaste on her brush...or it's too sunny...or something.

I don't really have any advice; there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason for her tantrums, although I agree with you and other posters that lack of food or sleep can definitely be a factor, and I'm interested in the food intolerance suggestion.

It's definitely wilful, which I find more difficult than accepting that she just loses control, iyswim - we have tried putting her cuddly toys on the fridge as a punishment, and when I say to her 'Are you going to be good tomorrow so you can get rabbit/tiger/bear back?', instead of being contrite and saying 'yes' she tends to say 'I don't know...' - which suggests to me that she knows what she's doing and is choosing to behave like that, rather than losing it completely and being out of control, which is how I've always thought of a tantrum.

I also try and stay calm and disassociate myself, but it is very hard when you're having to carry a screaming, wriggling child to school with no shoes and socks on! I also sometimes think people must assume I'm abducting or hurting her. Luckily we live in a small road where we know most people, and they now seem to know that there will be a screaming banshee passing at about 8.30 each morning...

On the plus side, her brother and sister are always super-good when she is having a meltdown (I think they've realised quite quickly that Mummy will lose it if faced with more than one hideously-behaved child at a time!!)

I'm hoping this is just a phase and will pass (quickly) - sorry not to have any advice but I sympathise totally and hope it helps to know you're not alone. smile

Swishyswashy Thu 13-Jun-13 14:03:36

I also wanted to say that my eldest can be really similar and I also have a sister who was a complete nightmare as a child- regularly made my (calm, strong, level- headed) mother cry. She used to have a really violent temper at home and had enormous meltdowns and was exceptionally strong- willed, but like your daughter was also very well behaved at school. I just wanted to reassure you, because she is a normal, lovely, bright successful adult now and was actually a very easy teenager.

I have no advice, apart from keep doing what you are doing. Try to keep calm and as someone else said, don't be too hard on yourself. It's a massive challenge but you should feel proud that you are doing a great job as her mother under these circumstances. Keep telling her you love her and take each day as it comes. It's so demoralizing and upsetting, but I am sure that your daughter has nothing wrong, she is just a very challenging child sometimes. Keep going and please try to feel like you are doing a good job- it is so hard!

SweetPea99 Thu 13-Jun-13 15:00:19

Have you tried focussing on the physical basics? My daughter (nearly 4) regresses to tantrumming when she is really tired, and it can go on for weeks if she has a virus or something. I actually took her to the doctor after Christmas and said 'she's had a cold for ages, and her behaviour is just horrible'. They gave her antibiotics, and she was fine by the end of the course - a different child. The night terrors you describe could be the cause of all the daytime tantrums - she may be unable to function when she is tired. If anyone has any ideas to resolve night terrors, I think you should focus on that and try to get her back to a good night's sleep.
PS After all you have been through this year, and the broken nights, you must be exhausted as well. How about early nights for your whole household for a few weeks?!!

hellymelly Thu 13-Jun-13 17:46:20

DH had a chat with the GP yesterday (without dd, so as not to worry her). She suggested running some blood tests, but I think our chances of getting dd to have blood taken are somewhat slim!
I do think tiredness is a big factor, the night terrors have eased up this past week but before that we had 5 solid weeks of them, which has left her chronically sleep deprived. She also had a virus at the start of it all re-emerging.
Swishywashy I was a bit teary eyed at your post! Very heartening to hear that your sister was an easy teenager and is a happy well balanced adult.

pleiadianpony Thu 13-Jun-13 22:34:19

Hi hellymelly. It sounds like you are working really really hard to tackle this. Speaking to the GP sounds like a plan too. You could ask for a referral to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. DONT let the name of the service worry you! It is a multi - tier service so as well as supporting children with mental health issues, they also work with children who are going through difficulties phases and behaviours. I would gently recommend that you start encouraging her to sleep in her own bed. I know this contradicts the 'babying' but establishing clear physical boundaries will hopefully be a bit easier for you to put down other boundaries, such as no hitting, kicking etc.

Maybe a bit of both...responsibility and independence as well as babying? I am interested that you said that the reflecting back frustrates her more. How about trying the opposite. Reinforcing how well she is managing? Babying being on your terms. ? I really hope you find a way through. I don't want to bombard you with advice as I am not an expert at all! You will know your little girl better than anyone and what works and what doesn't work and seeing the wood for the trees will come from listening to different people, taking what you want and leaving the rest.

Sorry to hear about the difficult losses and illnesses. What a lot to go through..... Have you had a chance to talk though those at all? It may help to find someone to talk to?

HotheadPaisan Thu 13-Jun-13 22:50:38

Have a look at PDA strategies too, she might respond to those.

hellymelly Thu 13-Jun-13 23:05:08

The GP didn't suggest a referral at this stage, but DH did say to her that we would come back if things weren't improving. We are trying to work out a way of getting her to have a blood test, mainly as I am probably coeliac (can't be tested as I don't eat gluten). And DD does exhibit some possible coeliac symptoms, so that could be a factor.
I have tried very gently and only occasionally (when fed up with getting squashed) to encourage the Dds into their own beds but to no avail. DD2 gets really upset if I even mention it, and much more clingy. They do have a bedroom but they never sleep in it! Most of the time I am quite happy to co-sleep, most of the people I know who co-slept with older children say they happily moved out sometime between 8 and 11 of their own accord, so I take the line that having done it for so long I may as well not force them out now.
re the reflecting back, yes I think that reinforcing how well she is doing would work better. Any sort of discourse when she is in full flood with anger tends to annoy her though. Staying quiet unless asked a question seems to calm her slightly faster, but is hard to sustain without a saintly personality...
She is very much a "bottle it all up" temperment- our much loved old dog died a year ago, the beginning of our annus horribillis, and at the time she pretended not to care, but she is the one who now still mentions him, and today came home with little cut out figures, of mellydog, his bed, his brush, his dish, all tiny and coloured in, so I know she often thinks of him. She really tries not to show any vulnerable feelings since starting school. Yet she is really super sensitive and very easily hurt or frightened.

hellymelly Thu 13-Jun-13 23:07:55

Oh- and no, I haven't talked to anyone about stuff. I feel I am still really grieving my Father, but that it is at a normal manageable level. I do have physical things going on that are made worse by stress, so I know I am too stressed in general though.

ExcuseTypos Thu 13-Jun-13 23:28:32

I would definaltey talk to the school. They should have counselling services they can refer you to.

I'm really sorry about the bereavements. I may be completely wrong but maybe she is frightened someone else is going to die?

We lost a couple of close relatives when dd was around the age of 5. Dd was extremely worried I was going to die too. In the end she was so distressed and obsessed about it that I had to tell her I wasn't going to die until i was very very old. I know I didnt know if that was true but I think some children need that cast iron reassurance.

pleiadianpony Fri 14-Jun-13 09:05:49

She sounds like a lovely lovely child. Children are very very aware of EVERYTHING that goes on around them and the theme of loss that has surrounded your family will be something that she will be affected by.

Perhaps the bottling up is a trait you both share? We are absolutely rubbish at managing grief and loss in our culture (I'm assuming you are british?!) Grief is really important and allowing it and giving it a place in our lives where it can be allowed and comfortably made a part of our lives is not encouraged. This is really sad.

I get a sense of you all being in a bit of a pressure cooker and although it doesn't sound like it's going to blow, everyone in it is seeking ways to release some of the stress.

Your DD is resilient and processing her feelings by getting angry and shouting. She has also played through some of her grief by making the cutouts of your dog. This is a sure sign of some good mental health!! She is playing and creative!

I really hope you can find a bit of time for your own stress and grief. Focus on yourself for a while, get a massage or spa day if you can afford it, perhaps contact someone for some bereavement support. even if you only go once. Cruse are good. Allow yourself this if you can just the act of doing something for yourself and affirming your own needs will help. I am sure your daughter will be absolutely fine. You love her. She is getting her needs met and will eventually pass through this stage. Children are really resilient. Things only really go wrong when there are unmet needs on a long term basis. Even then they can bounce back. Look after yourself and i'm sure the rest will fall into place.

AllDirections Fri 14-Jun-13 09:24:48

DD3 who is also 6 was just like your DD OP until I started giving her omega 3. I use the Halibo vitamin capsules with omega 3 in them. They're orange or blackcurrant flavour so they're palatable.

I can feel my anxiety levels increasing just thinking about my DDs behaviour when she doesn't take the vitamins. There is no comparison between her behaviour when she does take them and when she doesn't. One is a normal child who has her moments, the other is a screaming, aggressive monster. I stopped giving her them a few months ago just to check that she still needs them. NEVER. AGAIN.

They might not work with every child but since they're harmless you might as well try. It took 6 weeks before there was a constant change in behaviour but other people started noticing after 4 weeks.

Soupa Fri 14-Jun-13 09:32:21

One of my ds was similar, huge terrifying rages with physical aggression and much malice. His normal state was super mature, sensitive, fabulous.

As he got older it all just melted away. I well remember the post google terror, step away and remember thesis within normal for sensitive kids after a tough year. See gp but only to tick all boxes, she is still little and six can be very hard for sensitive kids.

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