by Lori Dwyer on February 20, 2013 · 12 comments

My son is screaming, his voice hoarse and occasionally choked with sobs. He’s kicking the door, punching it, grabbing the handle with such determined ferocity I have trouble holding it closed.

It’s upsetting, of course- it’s always distressing to see your child in such an intense emotional state. But truly, after gritting my teeth and enacting small punishments over my son’s smart, smug, smirking harassment of both his sister and I all… freaking…. day, this kind of meltdown only serves to p*ss me off.

I think the worst of it is the verbalising, the great gulping shuddering sentences that inflame pyres of matriarchal pity and protection that are, at this stage, more rooted in my biology than any genuine sympathy . “Pllllleeeeassee Mummy, please!! I n–n–n–n–n–eeeeeed a t–t–issssssssssssssuuuuue. Please Mummy!! I love you!! I’m sorry, I’m very sorry!! I’ll be good, I promise, just LET ME OOOOOOUUUUUUUTTTTTTT!!!”

There’s nothing like being on the very sharp verge of losing your temper with a just-turned-five-year-old to make you feel like a totally awesome, fully grown, responsible and competent adult. Despite knowing that you’re ‘doing the right thing’, that you are ‘doing the best for them’… Squatting in your hallway, holding your son’s bedroom door knob tightly shut from the outside with both hands and all your weight (when did he get so strong?!), silent tears rolling down your face and pooling at your collarbone while your little boy screams at you that you are “NAUGHTY!! And I don’t LIKE you!!!” (And recently it’s graduated a step up to “I HATE YOU!!” and I try not to let it get to me, because I remember saying the same thing as a child, out of pure spite).

“Mumma?” says my Bumpy girl, all worry and concern etched on her pretty face. “Are you OK, Mumma? Is Chop OK?” She frowns. “You should let him out, Mummy, he’s sorry!!”

I momentarily laugh and smile, a sunshine spike through continual rainy tears. “I’m OK, baby” I whisper to her, the concerto of her brothers screams still rising on the opposite side of the cheap wooden door that doesn’t feel fragile against his anger yet, but no doubt would in years to come. “Chop’s OK, too. But he has been naughty today, and he is not allowed to hit you…”

Poor kid has a massive welt, about the size of a five year old boys hand-print, on her upper arm. And already she’s campaigning for the release of the perpetrator. I worry about my girl, sometimes… Possible UN ambassador. Possible international espionage expert, all pretty smiles and gorgeous blue eyes. “He’s got…” I glance at my phone, the stopwatch ticking over bright fat luminescent numbers– “another 90 seconds, then he can come out and we’ll talk about it. OK, baby girl?”

The Bump nods seriously and meanders herself back to the lounge room to chatter with her Barbies (”They don’t like me!!” She runs to me crying a few days ago now, “They don’t want to play with me!!”; “Who, hunny…?” I’m thinking she’s actually probably talking about the cats, not letting her dress them in bonnets and baby bibs as she is inclined to do. “My… my… my…. Barbies!!!!” She is devastated, heartbroken, her feelings clearly quite hurt. I don’t know at to make of that, either.)

The next ninety seconds feel long and I breathe in, out, insides turning to ice so I don’t lose it, so I don’t freak out and start screaming right back at him. Because I’ve done that before- I think most of us have. And it helps nothing at all, just complicates everything with guilt and fear and feeling-like-Parent-Of-The-Year-ness.

From inside the room, I hear my son’s screaming begin to slow and lose its desperation. My own breath becomes deeper as his evens out towards hiccuping tears, still hitching with occasional “I’m s-s-s-s-s-o-o-o-o-orrrry-y-y Mummy!!”

And it’s over, thank goodness. It’s over and I open his door and I cuddle him and we talk, we discuss all the things that are relevant and how we ended up here, both of us crying, the whole house distressed, in the first place.

As much as I adore my little boy, I hate this- I hate the screaming. It gets to me in places I don’t even understand. It would be so much easier to just give in, just let it go. Because short of taping the child’s mouth shut, I’m never exactly sure what to do in this situation.

Except grit my teeth, hold on tight to the doorknob… and don’t let go.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa Mitchell February 22, 2013 at 11:18 am

Oh Sweetie, you’re right. We’ve all been there. And I still think there is nothing worse than this in parenting. Nothing hurts more. Well, nearly nothing.

And like you, no matter the crime – both of my boys will advocate, plead and even reprimand me to have the other released.
Melissa Mitchell recently posted…Oscar and Reeva and Stella Young’s theory.My Profile


Marie February 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I’m a nanny/childcare worker of 14 years…and I’m not used to screaming. None of my coworkers are used to it either. There is something about a child’s scream you can never tune out no matter how much you hear it. It fries your nerves. But you have to at least look like you are ignoring it. You can’t let them see it gets to you, or they try it on 10 times worse. Afterwards, have a chocolate. Or vodka, whatever works. But don’t let them see you crack even for a second!!!


Anne February 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm

I’ve so been there…. Little boy is now 7 and he is just beginning to mature and it appears he now really has found his coping skills for those moments where he would ordinarily just throw a bender of a tantrum. As we did exactly what you are doing he has learned to find his calm…. it’s not a solution in and of itself. I had to have those discussion with him when he was calm to help him understand the love I have for him and find a voice he could use to share with me his episodic upset. I would even tease him a bit “Okay you… what did you do with my son! Get out of here and bring him back!!!” I had to leave many a store and at times cancel plans (one day I agreed to take he and a friend to a play area…. I took the friend but not him. Thankfully we had a way to accomplish this). The key is consistency in some regards to the message I give him… I can’t throw a tantrum either and I need to let him know it’s not going to work (however that can be conveyed). Good job to you! ((((Hugs))) as you make your way through this jungle of little boy emotion.


Kylie February 21, 2013 at 8:10 am

It’s heart breaking and hard – I’ve been there too – the pleading, the begging, the slowing down of
time. But my now 10 year old still loves me, is learning (still) to control his temper and no longer
needs me or his father to hold the door shut.
As for the bump – don’t worry. It’s a sibling thing I’ve decided. She often defends her brother even when he has been the one to hurt her. In fact I’ve had her yell at me for being mean to him when he’s just hurt her – confuses me and reassures me all at the same time. Regardless of what happens they will always have each other’s backs!


Miss Pink February 20, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Being a parent is hands down the toughest thing you will ever do in my opinion. It is frustrating, and overwhelming and deprivating all whilst being the most beautiful and remarkable thing.
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Sapphyre February 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I believe there is an alternative to the time-out which involves holding the screaming child firmly but calmly until they calm down. Reminds me of the story of Janet holding onto Tam-Lin to save him from the faeries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tam_Lin


Tracy February 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm

You are doing the right thing…the right thing for you and chop, it may not be right for others…but for now it is for you.
Been there done it with my now masters 15,10 and 7. And would do it again, not only for their sanity/and safety, but for mine.


Sapphyre February 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I’ll back you up. You are doing the right thing. Sometimes the right thing doesn’t feel good {hugs}


Kirsty Forbes February 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Ohhh babe. I hear you. I sooooo hear you!!!!!!! I get the “I hate you” or “You’re ruining my life” or “this is the worst day EVER” or “you’re not my BEST friend” lol I have to laugh right now. Cause if I didn’t I would cry. I have, in recent times, come to the conclusion that 4/5 year olds are PURE evil lol I like you, have sat in the hallway, holding the door closed while she kicked it, and yelled and screamed and carried on. Hugs babe. This parenting gig sucks arse sometimes <3


Woah Molly! February 20, 2013 at 11:48 am

God, I wouldn’t have the first fucking clue about how to cope in this situation – but I think you are doing it right. Sticking to your guns, holding that door closed. Your kids will learn to respect you if you do follow through. They will be better for it.

I see kids walking all over their parents and I see others who are petrified of their parents and I know there has to be a middle ground somewhere. This kind of thing feels like that middle. Tough, but caring. A good balance.

I was so relieved when you got to the part with the cuddles and the talks afterwards, though. I hope Chop takes it easy on the girls of the house today.

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K February 20, 2013 at 10:03 am

Oh Lori, I hear you.

I have 3 kids and my eldest does this too. When it is the ‘animal-like’ screaming and thrashing about, the only thing I can do is lock her in her room.

It breaks my heart when I finally open the door, and I always think how scary it must be for her to be that out of control and unable to cope with such extreme emotions.



Carohutchison February 20, 2013 at 9:43 am

I know exactly what you’re saying. I spent 20 mins last night holding a door shut on the shed with my four and a half year old’s screaming to get out. He shares a room with his brother and sister and had spent a good half hour yelling then wacking his sister. The shed is the ultimate in time out for our kids, though I don’t know if any lessons are actually learnt, it’s more about removing him from hurting anyone else. Dramas all caused by us asking him to eat a cherry tomato.
Hugs to you. Xxx


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