Original Member Question: Actually our 4. 5yo is usually pretty good and I can usually pinpoint the cause of her tantrums to lack of sleep or hunger (or a longer day at school). But, two examples: the other day she threw a fit because I wouldn’t let her eat the pancake that fell on the floor and I offered her a new fresh one. She said the teacher says you can just blow on it. Another day she threw a tantrum because we ran out of whipped cream to put on top. Both times the tantrums made her late for school and were complete with lots of screaming, pouting, evil glares etc. and no attempt to calmly reason with her was successful. In the first scenario I ended up throwing the pancake away which made her get even more worked up. In the second scenario she eventually ate her pancakes without the whipped cream.

Member Response: My son is about the same age (almost 5) and has meltdowns about music (wanting to hear a particular song, play a song for his class before we leave his daycare using Alexa dot thing etc) I’ve just said to him, I know you want to do that and it upsets you that you can’t have it/do what you want. Sometimes we have to accept that we don’t get what we want, you’re allowed to not like it.
If there’s a time we need to meet or I’m running out of patience for his antics like stalling I say. I expect you to finish what you’re doing (saying the specific thing he is doing), it be in the car/get to the sink to brush your teeth etc by the time I get to 3 and start slowly counting it out. I don’t even add a threat just that it’s a non-negotiable expectation he needs to meet. So far so good. Songs help too. Story bots has a song for everything. Apple Music is my bff these days! Ha!

Rachel’s Response: The frustrations of IRRATIONAL behavior!!! I bet we could all write such a crazy book by sharing those stories, couldn’t we?!

But since we’re talking about what’s CAUSING behavior, we really do need to think about why she might seem so “illogical.”

So let’s talk about a.) why she might have gotten so upset about the pancake and b.) why you couldn’t get her out of that tantrum.

a.) Why might she have gotten so upset about the pancake? It’s the same reason we act “disproportionately” to a situation we feel like we have withdrawal after withdrawal after withdrawal in our lives… and then something doesn’t go the way we want/expect it to and we freak out.

So often, kids have in their mind how something will go, and over and over, it doesn’t go the way they want/expect. We tell them they can’t have this or do that, we tell them to stop doing what they want or start doing something they don’t want to do.. and eventually, all of those “withdrawals” add up. And then she wanted a pancake, and maybe she wanted that pancake because she was hungry and it looked good, and she was TIRED of things not going the way she wanted… and she melted down.

We do the same thing, honestly, when we’ve had a day where one thing after another didn’t go the way we hoped/planned.

It’s not logical. It’s Yuck, and unfortunately calm reasoning doesn’t work because Yuck is one language and logic is another.

Which brings me to b.) When someone is in Yuck, it’s very hard to get them out of it. Honestly, since Yuck is really just our fight or flight response, it’s really feeling safe that gets them out of Yuck. And when we don’t understand them — and we are focusing on how illogical they’re being — they just get more upset.

And their emotions are so big because it’s not just that one event they’re responding to, but ALL of the times they didn’t get their way and they had zero control over it…

Again, this is something we do too. We’ve held something in all day, and it comes out in our big feelings, and the last thing we want is for someone to imply that we’re acting “crazy,” or calmly tell us why we need to listen to THEM. We want someone to get us, and after a little while, we do calm down.

(Please know that I’m not saying you’ll always have time for this. I’m just saying that ultimately this is what calms them down more quickly.)