More Than Just A Tantrum

I don’t know if it’s because I’m half way into my detox or just the situation itself, but today I almost thought I was going to lose it.

Today was a usual Thursday, one of our favourite days of the week because it’s Playgroup day. Not only is it a great opportunity for Elliott to have a play but it’s also a great opportunity for me to fit in some much-needed adult conversations with the Mums.

Playgroup went well, Elliott had a great time as usual and was a happy little chappy when we got in the car. I’d usually go straight home for him to have lunch before his sleep but I had to quickly duck into the shopping centre to pick up some stamps from the post office and then go to the bank to deposit some money.

We got as far as the stamps and then it all went downhill.

Outside the Post Office there is a merry go round which takes $2 coins. Elliott kept pointing at it and wanted to go on, so I let him (without putting any money in). He kept pointing to the coin slot persistently, not taking no for an answer. I still hadn’t gone to the bank. I waited patiently and let him sit there, constantly saying that I didn’t have any money to put into the merry go round.

After chasing him around the merry go round, I finally got a hold of him, picked him up and walked towards the bank. Well, there was no way on earth I was going to take this screaming child into the quiet bank, so I sat on the bench hoping he’d settle down. He got out of my embrace and ran over to the merry go round again.

And then I went through the whole process of saying no again and this time explaining that the merry go round was broken. No matter what I said, nothing was going to make him happy, but I wasn’t going to cave in and put the money in the machine. I’m was getting quite agitated but focused on keeping calm and I just stood and waited.

I ended up foregoing the bank visit, picked up Elliott and carried him to the car. This is when the tantrum started which then quickly escalated into an extreme meltdown, unlike any meltdown I’d ever seen him have.

He screamed, he cried, he tried jumping out of my arms, he kept hitting me in the face and then would lie on the dirty car park floor next to the car.

I picked him up and tried putting him in his car seat to no avail. He was arching his back, kicking and hitting so much that it was impossible. I tried again, but his resistance was too strong and I didn’t want to hurt him. He jumped out of his seat and lay on the floor of the car.

I went around to the other side to hug him but he moved to the other side of the car. I tried to console him and hug him but he would keep hitting me, screaming and crying, tears rolling down his face. All this over a merry go round?

Twenty minutes had passed and he still wouldn’t let me put him in the seat, I did lose it at one point, I snapped because of the stress that had built up over the 20 minutes.  I realised what I had done and I tried to hug him but it didn’t work,  the hitting still continued and none of my handling of his behaviour was working, I’d say, ‘that hurts Mummy’ or ‘we don’t hit’ or ‘that’s naughty’, but it just wasn’t helping.  I was starting to get worried and concerned for him, I’d never seen a meltdown so intense before and over such a little thing. He was distraught.

Finally, with a lot of effort, I got him into his car seat so we could go home. It continued when we got home, on the garage floor, once we were up in the kitchen he escaped through the pet door and went down the stairs to under the house where he lay in a long cardboard box. I tried consoling him and telling him it’s ok, I managed to pick him up to take him upstairs. It still continued.

At this point, the meltdown had gone on for 45 minutes and he was still crying, sobbing, tears rolling and he was very sweaty and had truly worn himself out.

It was during the last 15 minutes that he finally let me cuddle him and rock him. I told him everything was OK, that I loved him and I started singing to him to settle him. He finally relaxed his body, put his head on my shoulder and fell asleep. I put him down in his bed, covered him with a sheet and gave him is blankey toy. It was over and he was peaceful.

There are normal tantrums and there are meltdowns and this was the king of meltdowns.

I don’t know whether to worry or just take this as a one off and accept it as an aspect of a toddler’s mind who still cannot talk and communicate properly yet. I just wish sometimes that I could help him more and understand what it is he wants or how he feels. I think the whole communication barrier is one of the toughest parts of being a parent (and probably a child).

Have you experienced any major meltdowns like this one with your children? How did it make you feel?

Image by Prawny on

Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva is the Editor and Owner of The Multitasking Woman. She always has her fingers in many different pies but wouldn't have it any other way. Eva is a freelance writer, a social media manager, a Mum to her six-year-old son, one-year-old daughter, six chickens and Benny the dog and wife to Mr G. They all live happily in their little worker's cottage in Ipswich, Queensland, Australia.
Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

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  1. Bec | Mumma Tells
    June 13, 2014 / 7:45 am

    Oh Eva. I feel for you both. I think you’re right in acknowledging the communication barrier. It’s tough, isn’t it? Toddlers can be so darn determined. The little things to us are their big things. I think you handled the situation beautifully for what it’s worth.

  2. Annaleis Topham
    June 13, 2014 / 12:27 pm

    Don’t be hard on yourself. Sounds like you handled things well. Maybe no quick trips after playgroup for a little while. I would only worry if it happens more than this once. I’m a Mum with a child on the spectrum so major meltdowns were a part of our life…touchwood we are managing them much better. But my daughters who aren’t on the spectrum have reacted this way once or twice when tired, unwell and unable to communicate what they wanted. Lots of reassurance for a couple of days will be all he needs. Hugs to you both xx

  3. June 13, 2014 / 4:41 pm

    Such a frustrating age and stage isn’t it? Nothing we do or say can make them calm down, my 2.5yo is having less of these but it’s not easy especially in public. So I hope you’re going okay with detox, last day today right?? How do you feel?

  4. June 13, 2014 / 6:47 pm

    If it was a once off, I’d take it as a once off. If it is regular behaviour, meltdowns aren’t normal, but you know that. That is why you’re sharing. A piece of advice I was given early in our diagnosis journey, was to look at what he ‘not’ doing, rather than what he ‘is’ doing. I hope this helps. It is hard to communicate meaning in this little box, especially when I am as tired as I am right now. Just know this above everything else, you love your child and know what is best for him. ANS you are doing the best you can with the resources you have. Big hugs xS

  5. June 13, 2014 / 6:51 pm

    Focusing on triggers is great! I’m curious to how you are going on all of this months later. xS

  6. June 13, 2014 / 8:19 pm

    It’s going OK Sarah. I’m finding the focusing on the triggers hard because it can just come straight out of the blue, he can be perfectly happy and then BAM, it happens.

  7. The Plumbette
    June 13, 2014 / 8:49 pm

    Gee your patient and you kept your cool well. I would have snapped much earlier. I dislike tantrums and my Esther has had meltdowns usually at midnight and hubby and I have been trying to work out why she would have them. It came down to eating too much sugar and too much screen time we figured. It’s hard when they’re little and can’t tell you what is wrong. I think this sounds like a once off if it hasn’t happened before.

  8. June 13, 2014 / 8:56 pm

    Thanks Bec, yes it’s really tough. Elliott actually had mild hearing loss for a while and had his adenoids removed last year so I’ve been well aware that his speech will be behind, but oh does it make it hard.

  9. June 13, 2014 / 8:57 pm

    Thanks Annaleis. It’s strange because he was so happy at playgroup and afterwards which is why I thought it’d be ok. He’s had meltdowns like this before, but not this bad. It’s likely that he was tired because he slept well afterwards. x

  10. June 13, 2014 / 9:07 pm

    So frustrating Emily, everything seems so complicated! Now he’s decided that he doesn’t want to wear jumpers too, just trying to put one on him sets him off! Detox is nearly done, day two and day three were easier for me than day one. Feeling much clearer and not as tired as I was.

  11. June 13, 2014 / 9:09 pm

    It’s happened before, him having meltdowns, but not of this magnitude. Yes, that makes perfect sense Sarah and is something that I’ve started to look at. He has delayed speech, but I also put this down to the fact that he had mild hearing loss for a while and then had his adenoids removed in October, so I have expected the delay but I’m just not sure how long for. Thanks so much for your support. x

  12. June 13, 2014 / 9:10 pm

    Hmmm, yes I was sort of patient and there were a couple of times when I did lose my cool, but had to quickly snap myself back into line. Sugar could have been the issue as we’d just come from playgroup with plenty of sweet snacks that were shared. It has happened before, but not of this magnitude so it’s something I’ll monitor and deal with as best I can.

  13. Kaz @ MeltingMoments
    June 13, 2014 / 9:21 pm

    Wow. What a doosy! Poor darling. It’s hard seeing them so upset.

  14. June 13, 2014 / 11:03 pm

    ohh Eva I feel for you. My youngest son threw major fits all the time at that age. In fact I stopped taking him along when I had to do errands. I just couldn’t cope with the mega tantrums. That son is now a fine young adult making his way in the world. It tends to get better once they develop some language skills.

  15. Malinda
    June 14, 2014 / 1:51 pm

    I hope it is just a one off for you, it sounds like a horrible experience for you both. You seemed to handle it very calmly though, well done to you!

  16. June 15, 2014 / 5:43 pm

    Oh Eva, I’m so sorry to read about this. What an exhausting and stressful experience for you. 45 minutes is such a long time to be in a high-intensity situation like that. It sounds like you handled it really well though. I think the main thing is not to give in and to stick to your guns. He’ll know next time when you say he can’t go on the merry-go-round that when mummy says no, it means no. I don’t really remember if my son (now 9) had tantrums or not. I think I have blocked a lot of that kind of thing out of my memory! I do know that as much as possible, I avoided doing errands with him when he was in the age group of 2-4 years. I think my daughter will be a tantrum thrower though. She’s 15 months atm and is already displaying the signs … she’s as good as gold when she’s happy, but if she’s can’t have exactly what she wants, look out!

  17. June 15, 2014 / 10:55 pm

    I can really identify with this Eva. Your are an amazing and dedicated Mama and you did all you could. My oldest boys has had many many meltdowns like this. Most of the time I can now recognise that there is something else going on. Like he has an ear infection his behaviour goes way off and we now always know when he is brewing something. Also just tiredness and sometimes hunger can make them loose it. You just have to let them go for a bit to scream and cry until they are ready for cuddles. Poor little baba.

  18. June 16, 2014 / 9:49 am

    It occurred to me last night as I drifted off to sleep (I’m worrying about you and you’re on my thoughts a bit), that my post is written about a five year old. You are writing about a two year old. It is not fair to compare your two year olds to my five year olds. My five year old is demonstrating behaviour expected of a two year old, this is why it is not normal. I don’t wish to give you another excuse (because I found in my journey, that we are very capable of coming up with enough by ourselves), but I did what to point this out to you. Big hugs. I hope your weekend went better. xS

  19. June 21, 2014 / 7:26 am

    Oh, have I ever. I have tears in my eyes just from reading this. All I can say, it does get better! I realised with mine, it was the communication thing. So I would asks him yes or no answer questions to try and help us both understand what was upsetting him. Once I was able to ask the right question, ‘oh, you are angry with Mummy because…’ he then began to calm down, relieved to be understood. It is so tough. On them AND on you. Hang in there!