Sunday, 20 January 2013

When hell freezes over - an uncontrollable strop

Okay so hell might be a bit of an overstatement but after several hours of nonstop tantrums and trauma I’m sure you’ll allow me a little poetic licence. 

Somewhat unusually for me this blog post centres around one specific event. It all started when, as a result of the significant snow, my boyfriend and I found ourselves walking to school to collect the two children. It’s not a short walk but it’s doable and with the level of snow the car wasn't an option. I was actually looking forward to the excitement of getting the kids and having some snow fun on the way home. (I am snorting to myself as I write this – contempt for my naivety.)

Anyway, our plan to make the journey fun for all was to first walk to the nearest shop that sold sweets and buy two lots of sweets per child. One for on the way home and one for once we got home. A tactic designed to provide incentive and distraction. So after collecting both children and explaining the plan we all set off from school. Ellie was chatty and excited. I heard lots about her day and lots about the impact of the snow at school. We were smiling…lots. Sadly however within minutes we hit the shop and here began the nightmare which started as a trickle and ended up a huge torrent.

Once inside the shop Ellie was struggling to decide what to have and eventually picked up three things. She was very clearly told that she had to choose and by the time the rest of us had chosen and she hadn't  I started to limit the time available. “One more minute Ellie!’ Ellie initially chose, but then at the point of us being served at the checkout changed her mind. After not insignificant fuss she handed the new item over and one item was selected at random to put back. Ellie immediately began crying and yelling ‘I want all three’. This was my first jaw dropping moment – have I spoiled my daughter so much that she really thought it was okay to have a fit over not having THREE lots of sweets! Apparently being told no and explaining that she was already getting two, so be grateful, wasn't sufficient and the tears rolled.

We were now stood outside the shop and I knew instantly that it was the moment – that moment when Ellie will go one of two ways. She will either manage to calm down and move on, or it will become a major uncontrollable strop where she grows horns. Sadly, my explanations and attempts at distraction failed miserably and Ellie moved swiftly down the path to an uncontrollable strop.

Uncontrollable strop: ‘The inability to calm down or breathe. An irresistible need to hit, hiss and snarl at your mummy. If outside of the house this generally results in everyone looking at you with sheer pity.’

The above definition nicely sums up the remaining 20 minute walk home. Ellie’s staying power is impressive, as quite frankly is my commitment to being her mum because I didn't just leave her in the snow. (Seriously – it didn't really cross my mind!) The other key element of our journey was the snot and tears now pouring down Ellie’s face which I did manage to care enough about to periodically wipe away.

Inevitably, during this delight of a journey we managed to bump into numerous people who stared, smiled, looked with pity and in one case even commented “doesn't she like snow?’ I could not resist the reply of ‘no it’s not the snow, she doesn't like that she can only have 2 sweets from the shop, not three’. To her credit the woman smiled, looked at Ellie and said ‘well we can’t have everything we want can we?!’ Nice try lady – but once she blows…she blows. I very much doubt Ellie even heard her.

Suffices to say that during this walk I decided that when we got home Ellie would be doing time out in her bedroom and she wouldn't be getting any sweets at all. A fair conclusion to the entire event and one which I had hoped would make the point and end the situation.

As we arrived home I took her wet clothes off and took her to her room. I got her into fresh clothes and Ellie…well…continued to cry. She had by this point stopped hissing at me at least and finally, just as the others got in from their more leisurely walk, she finally stopped crying and screaming.

Once things had calmed (i.e. Ellie and mostly of course I mean me) I went up to her room to talk about what had happened. As I started to talk to Ellie I hit the second jaw stopping moment of the day. The conversation went something like this:

Me - ‘So Ellie, you know why you've been in your room’
Ellie - ‘no’
Me - ‘are you serious?!’
Ellie – no answer
Me - ‘I’ll leave you to have a think then’ (I personally think that was a pretty calm response for someone who’s child seems to have instantly forgotten screaming, hissing, crying and hitting them for about 40 minutes in total!)

After a few minutes more, I went back upstairs and we tried the whole conversation again. This time it went more along the lines I might have expected. We eventually listed all the things she’d done wrong and she apologised. Even now though I’m not sure she quite understood why sometimes you just can’t have everything you want and you can’t go having a hissy fit about it. I guess time will tell and I’ll keep you posted.

Thankfully it was by this stage dinner time and this was very quickly followed by bedtime. The next day Ellie woke in a considerably better mood and we had a great day with four of us in the snow. In some ways I feel a bit mean outing my daughters tantrum in my blog, but I’m fairly sure she’s not the only one who does these things? I’d love to know how others experience this stuff and how they handle it, so please do get in touch either via twitter @sharonmsmyth or by using the comments below.


  1. I recently write a post about my daughter, Izzy's tantrums which have really only just started (she's nearly 2). I think you just have to stick to your guns, stay calm and be reasonable. Sounds like you did all that. I thought it'd get easier as she gets older but I suppose being older means she can argue even more! It is so upsetting sometimes when you have an idea of how something will go and your child's behaviour totally ruins it :-(

  2. Hi entertainingizzy - If it helps it's definitely less frequent than it used to be, but I guess I'd assumed such meltdowns would be gone by this age. It reminds me she's still very little.

  3. btw - i couldn't agree more about how disappointing it is when your idea of what's going to happen is totally ruined! Crest fallen!