Rudey's Room

Dealing with Temper Tantrums

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you have chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”

-Eckhart Tolle


The microwave clock says 7:41 a.m.

Tick Tock.

I’m finishing my morning business – Neti-pot rinse, teeth brush, bags finalized.

S and I must be walking out the door at 7:48 pile, en route to our schools, so I can roll into my school just before the bells rings at 8:30.

I’ve timed it. And then cushioned in ten minutes for toddler friction.

S is in her bedroom putting the finishing touches on her outfit. We had prepared, picking out a different outfit the night before. But this morning … the tights/shirt ensemble did not vibe with her mojo. So, she was working on another one. No problem. I’ve allotted time for that. I try not to hurry her. I don’t want to start her on a hurried path. Plus, she can be a live wire when pressed.

I pop into her room and notice she is all but ready … sans socks. I quickly (too quickly?) grab two pair of socks out of her drawer and offer a choice (light pink or hot pink).

After a moment’s hesitation she grabs the light pink pair, and pulls them on.

“Nooooo. Too high,” she whines. (Ah oh, we’re moving into touchy territory … these are comfy Gap socks, come-on). 

I try to help her – manipulating the height of her pants and socks several times. The clock is ticking, so I’m without a doubt moving too fast for her liking. She wants nothing of it, and proceeds to loose it in a classic preschooler fashion.

I WANT MY DOG SOCKS, she barks.

I take her bait and begin to reason: “Those are dirty right now. I will wash them, and you can wear them tomorrow.”

I WANT MY DOG SOCKS, she rages, ignoring my logic and increasing the volume. She’s without a doubt waking the hell out of our upstairs (single) neighbor.

My happy-go-lucky girl is in the middle of an emotional storm.

About freakin’ socks.

At the most inopportune time, of course. I’m going to be freakin’ late for school.

“You can wear these socks,” I offer the leftover socks.

She glares at me like I planted coal in her Christmas stocking, and starts hurling nasty, “It’s all your fault, maaaaaaaahhhhmmy. It’s your fault. You did this to me.”

Stress drives me precariously close to the cliff. Why is my child screaming at me? We have three minutes to spare and am a 16-ounce cup of Jo short on patience.

I aching to scream: Just put on the freakin’ socks. It’s just socks, for God’s sake. We’ve got to go. We’re going to be late. I hate being late. I have to punch a clock at 8:30. Seriously. go. Go!

Instead, I muster an ounce of Zen-calm. Thank you 1, 2, 3 Magic. “S, that’s yelling. That doesn’t work for me. Make a different choice. Mommy is going in the kitchen.”

I fast tracked it to the kitchen for a mommy time-out … in the corner, by the coffee pot. I raise my fists, and flip off the air to release the this-is-mental, are you effing kidding me, energy.

Meanwhile her rant continues down the hallway, louder. “It’s your fault, mama! I want my dog socks! I want daaaaaaaddy!”

I take several slugs out of my mug, wishing it contained something stronger. I exhale my frustration and take several deep, deep, really deep, breaths. I collect myself and proceed down the hallway to her bedroom.

She is glaring at me, still fitting on the ground. I crouch to her level and grasp her arm, “Honey, you’re mad.”

“I’m not mad,” she says through clenched teeth.

“What can mommy do?” I hold a white flag up, aiming to end the tantrum.

“I want my dog socks,” she cries.

“I know, but your dog socks have pee pee on them. I will wash them, and you can wear them tomorrow.”

I reach into her sock drawer and pull out some frog socks. “How about these?” I am praying these do the trick.

She puts her hands on her hips, “Hmmmph.”

She stomps. She is still really angry, but less so – not tantruming. It’s an opening for me to put her socks and shoes on.

“Too itchy. No mama, these are too itchy.”

Good Lord, here we go again. 

I scramble to grab our bags, and turn on the alarm. The alarm will force her out the front door.

She stomps, barks and cries as I shuffle her out the door: “I want my dog socks! I want my DOG SOCKS! I WANT MY DOG SOCKS!”

“Too bad,” I break. I give her the look and raise my voice to match hers, “You don’t have a choice right now. Let’s go. We’re leaving.”

She collapses into a pile of anger and tears.

I keep walking. My pulse is racing and I’m crying inside. I really hate when I resort to yelling.

I’m a teacher – I have way more tools than yelling. And yet, sometimes … sometimes when pushed too far, I yell.

I march onward toward the garage. It’s painful, but I know she’ll follow and that once in the car, the thunderstorm would pass, grâce à music. I will turn up the volume on the music, and she’ll recede.

This time the universe is working with us and, “We will Rock You” comes on within two minutes. She is into it. Let’s be honest, who isn’t.

We rock together, and then it is all good.

Once at school, I open her door and give her a big hug. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

“Me too, mommy. I’m sorry.”

“You were really mad,” I acknowledge.

“No, I was sad,” she clarifies. “I want my dog socks.”

What are your tried-and-true solutions to avoid meltdown ville?

‘Cause no one really wants to be there …

For us, music does the trick. My hubs plays the guitar to calm/transition the girls and I turn everything into a song (just ask my students).

P.S. A good read on how to deal with meltdowns.

Ciao for now.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project! To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Messy, Beautiful Warriors

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