When tantrums are more like a car crash

As we discussed in the two previous videos on tantrums, they can be a little bit like traffic jams: irritating and sometimes unavoidable, but a part of life that we can recover from pretty quickly with some patience and good humor.

But what about when your child’s tantrums are more like a major car crash? What about if your child is injuring themselves or you? What about if your child has multiple tantrums that last a more than 25 minutes for many days in a row? What about if your child seems to tantrum for the smallest (or no reason)?

If you’ve used the strategies we talked about last week, then this is when you need to seek outside help. I’ll review the most important things to do in the moment. And I’ll give you some options of whom to talk to and where to look.

Strategy reminders first. If your child is having a tantrum -- especially if it’s a big scary one, it means that they are out of control. And it means that you have to be in control. Meaning, you have to try to stay calm.

No amount of reasoning, talking, arguing, yelling or stomping around is going to fix things in the moment.

Remember to breathe.

Then, you’ll be able to keep your child and yourself safe. Remove things in the environment that are breakable; step out of reach if they are trying to hurt you; if necessary, take your child to a room where they can explode in the way that they need to in that moment; if your child wants to run off to a different room, let them.

Keep them safe, and keep yourself safe, but allow them enough space to work through their big feelings.

There may be times when you need to literally hold on to your child in order to keep them safe -- but only if they are small enough to do so without you hurting yourself. Sometimes the deep pressure of a bear hug can help calm a child down. And sometimes it makes things worse. You might have to experiment with your child in order to know what will work and what won’t.

Get through it and then GET HELP.

Start with your pediatrician. They may have a list of referrals for you.

But, if your pediatrician doesn’t offer a solution, follow your intuition! Tantrums should be annoying, not scary or dangerous. If you don’t get what you need from your pediatrician, seek out one of these professionals yourself:

  1. A developmental pediatrician. A developmental pediatrician is someone who is trained in pediatric medicine AND in physical, social-emotional and behavioral development of children. They can help figure out why your child is behaving the way they do.

  2. Child psychiatrist. A child psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in who specializes in diagnosing and treating behavioral and thought disorders in children.

  3. Child psychologist. A child psychologist is not a medical doctor (and so, does not prescribe medication), but also specializes in diagnosing and treating behavioral and thought disorders in children.

  4. A behavioral specialist. This person might also be a psychologist, psychiatrist, pediatrician or a BCBA (certified behaviorist). They are trained to analyze why a child behaves in the way they do and propose solutions.

It can feel really scary to reach out for help.

It can feel like asking for help is making your child’s difficulties more real.

But trust yourself! Your child needs you to do the thinking for them. They need you to step up for them.

Behaviors like big scary tantrums tend to get worse if they’re not treated. Set yourself and your child up for success by seeking help early so that everyone can course-correct before the the car really goes off the road.

SpeechKids helps parents and young children through difficult times. We are here for you. Give us a call.