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My 5 year old son has recently got into the habit of getting into these incredibly annoying tantrums. They start when he doesn't get his way and can often rumble on over a couple of hours. They usually peak at bedtime.

When it occurs he doesn't do anything. He lays on the floor and says "nothing" when you ask him to do something. After a while mixes this up with raspberry-blowing spitting and saying the word "poo".

I start off being over nice, attempting to coax him out of his tantrum. I make some jokes to try to get him to smile. I offer to help him do things. Ask if he wants to pick a bedtime story etc.

This practically never works.

I then get frustrated and shout. This usually lasts about 10 seconds. He cries and says he doesn't like me.

I become calm again but I have a child who won't go to bed. At this point I put him to bed. I pull him up. I then hold his hand and steer (encouragingly pull) him towards the bathroom, I ask him to do everything that is expected off him. He doesn't. I sit him on the toilet. I wash his hands. I gently edge him towards his bedroom and get him into his pyjamas while he continues to say "nothing".

During this process he protests a little bit but I am not aggressive. He isn't being dragged along the floor. He doesn't like it but does reluctantly comply. He does edge a foot up about 3cm from the floor so I can slide on his pj's etc.

I hate doing this final step. It isn't right but if I don't, if I leave him outside his room he will sit there and start saying words he knows he is not allowed to say. We once left him for 45 minutes and he laid there contently running through the list of things he is not allowed to do.

What am I supposed to do? We have taken away his treats the next day but doesn't seem to do anything.

Has anyone else dealt with this behaviour? Does anyone have any advice? Just want to add. 70% of the time he is well behaved. 25% of the time he is a bit silly. This is like 5% of the time where he seems to get into the mindset where he doesn't want to comply with anything and wants to try to press to buttons.

  • Welcome to Parenting.SE. When you say he says "nothing" -- is that actually the word he's saying, or is he not talking? :) – Acire Oct 29 '15 at 20:57
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    Is he getting your attention the whole time he is like that? Have you tried ignoring him as soon as he starts the tantrum? – YviDe Oct 30 '15 at 11:40
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    You are describing the concequence but you aren't explaining very much why he does this. Have you talked to him about it when he is happy? Have you tried letting him know you understand him and know exactly why he is doing this? Have you tried finding solution together? "They start when he doesn't get his way" doesn't say much of the why. – the_lotus Oct 30 '15 at 15:06
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One possible method to try is to do the complete opposite that you do at the moment.

I start off being over nice, attempting to coax him out of his tantrum. I make some jokes to try to get him to smile. I offer to help him do things. Ask if he wants to pick a bedtime story etc

Do nothing. Tell him "if you need me, I'm here" and give him some time to calm down and not have to interact with you on top of the feelings he is having. Yes, I get that you are saying it's his bedtime, but if you have time to joke with him, and shout at him and drag him around, there's time for him to try and calm himself down for half an hour. Think about how you feel yourself when you are annoyed with someone - does having that someone talk to you the whole time and then start shouting at you help? Even if the other person is right, I at least prefer to get a break and get over my own annoyance in peace.

The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible, Potegal said, was to get the child past the peaks of anger. Once the child was past being angry, what was left was sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger, the scientists said, was to do nothing. Of course, that isn't easy for parents or caregivers to do

NPR story

Original research from the scientist cited there: Screaming, Yelling, Whining and Crying: Categorical and intensity differences in Vocal Expressions of Anger and Sadness in Children's Tantrums

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Sometimes you just need to let him have his fit because what he is trying to do is get on your nerves and a lot of times get your attention. You can also send him to a spot in the house for discipline. Like sending him to put his nose in the corner.

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