My eight-year-old has violent tantrums and I am scared about the future

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

Millie has always been feisty. She started having temper tantrums well before the 'terrible twos' kicked in; asserting herself with a stern expression and the stamp of her foot. 

Even back then, I knew that there was something different about the tantrums she was having. Her older sister, Rose, had tantrums, but they always blew over quickly with a distraction or a well-timed cuddle. But Millie's tantrums were on a totally different scale. 

By the time Mille was 3 her tantrums were becoming a daily battle. The smallest thing could provoke her rage; the dress she wanted to wear was in the wash, I wouldn't let her have a biscuit for breakfast – it would have been funny if the ensuing tantrums hadn't gone on for hours. 

 As she grew, her tantrums became more violent. She would lunge at me with her nails out like an angry kitten. She would kick and hit. I wowed that I would never, ever hit her back – it was a promise that pushed my reflexes to the limit. 

Now she is eight and should be past the temper tantrum stage. But although Millie's tantrums are less frequent, when they come they are relentless. 

There have been times that she has tried to throw a kitchen bench at me and now that she is stronger, her feet and fists have left visible burses on my arms and legs. 

Anyone that knows Millie would be shocked to learn about this dark side of her. She is a kind, caring and funny little girl. She is a deep thinker, constantly amazing me with her insights and observations about the world. She is my baby girl and I love her with everything I've got. 

When the rage boils up it's like she has been possessed. In the aftermath of one tantrum I asked her what had been going on in her head. She told me that it felt like being at the bottom of the ocean. "I just can't get back to the surface," she said. 

Last year I took Millie to a child psychologist to talk about the tantrums and find some solutions, for her sake as well as mine. After a few sessions we had some good strategies under our belts and I saw a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. 


Then last weekend Millie had the worst tantrum yet. In the heat of her rage she tried to push me down the stairs, ripped artwork from the walls and packed a bag, yelling that she hated me and wanted to get as far away from me as possible. 

I tried to stay calm and reason with her, but the shutters had come down – my Millie was in another place. I was terrified that she might actually get out the house – she is strong and even stronger when she is in the midst of a tantrum. I quietly asked Rose to lock the front door. 

I knew that I had to help her calm down. I wrestled her to the floor and held on tight while she thrashed her arms and legs trying to get away. She dug her nails into my arms. She screamed in my ear. I sobbed into hers. 

It was my primal wails that brought her back to me. The fog of rage cleared and Mille lay crying in my arms. The tantrum had gone on for over an hour. The trigger? I said no to an ice-cream. 

In the days that followed Millie and I talked about her tantrums and what we can do to avoid them escalating further. We have some new strategies to try, including having more one-to-one time. 

But I'm scared about the future. Genuinely scared. One day in the not so distant future she will be taller and stronger than me. She could do a lot of damage to herself and to me in the heat of the moment. 

My baby girl is the sweetest child I know. I desperately hope that the two of us can navigate our way through this and come out the other side.