Temper Redux-ion

Over the last week or two, Sophie’s temper tantrums seemed to be getting worse. The final straw was on Friday, when she begged me to take her to work. I had to leave, and sadly) bolted the door when I left. It seemed like Sophie was in some big power struggle with us – was it because Maggie was in the picture?

We received all sorts of advice – you can’t give in to her, she’ll just walk all over you after this, etc. We were told that we had been giving her “too many choices” and that we had to limit the options we gave her to two at a time. We were also told to ignore her tantrums – they would work themselves out, and by responding to her tantrums you would be giving her the power.

It took Betsy (aka SuperMom)to discover what really worked. Saturday afternoon we had a doozy – we were getting ready to change her diaper, and Sophie broke down. “No diaper change! No new diaper!” We told her she had to get her diaper changed, and it was full of “potty”, but it was no use. “No diaper!” With this, it happened. She stripped off her pants and diaper, and stood there as naked as the day she was born. We couldn’t get anything on her, and we thought anything could happen at any moment. She could vomit, pee, spit fire, and who knows what else.

Betsy took the chance, and grabbed her, and held her. She talked Sophie down like a police negotiator with a jumper. After about five minutes, we wrapped a towel around her. After ten, she agreed to wear her diaper. After fifteen, all was well. It was masterful. I was really impressed, especially since our little hellion was impossible just a few minutes before.

After this, I started to think – what was it that Betsy did that made the difference? I didn’t know if I could go through all that she did to bring Sophie down, but maybe I could deal with the tantrum while it was a category 1 or 2, before it was Sophie Tsunami. I had an idea, and thought I would try it the next time around, which I suspected wouldn’t be too much later.

On Sunday, I was getting the two kids ready to go out. We had been in the house all day, and we were all bouncing off the walls. I had Maggie on my lap, and told Sophie to get her shoes. And it happened.

“No go out! No Shoes! No shoes!”

I breathed deeply. It was time.

“Sophie, come over here. Come, sit on my lap. Let’s sit here for a minute.”

That was it. It worked. By just stopping and holding her, I was able to prevent the tantrum. I was shocked and awed. For the past few weeks we had been reacting to Sophie’s tantrums by getting into “battle mode”, ready to handle whatever Sophie threw at us. The truth was, we needed to do the exact opposite – embrace the tantrum, and hold Sophie until she was settled down.

I thought about how this happened, and have my own theory: So much of what we’ve done with Sophie has been to help her to become independent, or to support her while she tried to be independent. At some points, she must feel too independent, and that she needs to feel more centered, or more connected to us. Despite being able to communicate a lot of what she wants (she’ll tell us that she’s tired, hungry, hurt, etc), she couldn’t figure out why she feels the way she feels, and just breaks down.

At least that’s what my opinion is, based on my complete lack of education in psychology.

The good news is that we’ve both started reacting to her Category 1 tantrums in this way, and it’s made all the difference. No more breakdowns, no more “Sophie Tsunami”, no more running around without diapers on.

Well, that last part isn’t true. But that’s for another day.

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  1. Neal and Betsy,

    I read your blog every once in a while so I can keep up with the Patrick family. I came across this book the other day that Sophie might like. It’s called ‘When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry…’

    Here’s the link:


    Betsy, it sounds like you have your hands full! Send hugs to Sophie from Ted and a special hello to Maggie!


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