Is Your Child Top Of The Strops?

Note: Very shallow depth of field. A mixed race (caucasian and African American) 2 year old girl is angry and holds her hand up as she cries.
Note: Very shallow depth of field. A mixed race (caucasian and African American) 2 year old girl is angry and holds her hand up as she cries.

We all know that from the age of two onwards, most children spend their time ranting and raving like Shane McGowan at last orders. Irrational tantrums are all too familiar for beleaguered parents of toddlers.

"I remember a meltdown because grapes had been removed from the stalk," sighs mother of one, Shelagh. "Also strawberries cut the wrong way and not being allowed to sit indefinitely in a Sainsbury's bag for life."

"My daughter Imogen cried and screeched at full volume all the way back from swimming yesterday afternoon because she wanted a curry," says Jessica. "Now she's crying because Daddy won't open a chocolate coin for her. It is a REAL COIN."

But here's the bad news. Unfortunately the strops don't stop when they get older. In fact, they just get a bit more...complicated. Take the legendary after school strop. They come out of five hours of intense activity and plop miserably back into your life, looking like a wet weekend in Bognor and moaning about wanting sweets. Not so much as a hello.

Then there's the dramatic, existentialist 'the world is against me'/'you've ruined my life' strop, which can be set off by anything from a scratchy collar to a slightly bruised banana.

"My child cut up some paper and took umbrage because I couldn't uncut it for him. Then he wrecked my jigsaw," says Kate, obviously still traumatised.


It also seems that pre-teen self-consciousness can be a powerful trigger for some mega huffs. My seven-year-old once went into a funk because his puffa jacket was too puffy. In fact, boys seem extremely sensitive and prone to strops about their appearance.


"Picture the scene," says Lauren. "Day 1 at High School, 7.30am. My son yells: 'I haven't even got a coat. How could you do this to me? I NEED A COAT!' Cue frantic dash to 24 hour Asda where I buy a new coat. Son marches proudly through school gates only to reappear seconds later. He hurls the coat back into the car, yelling 'NO ONE. IS. WEARING. A. COAT'.

"Absolute huff from my five-year-old about the idea of getting his hair cut," says Ella. "'I DONT LIKE FOOTBALL AND I DON'T WANT TO LOOK LIKE A FOOTBALLER.' We were just trying to cut his fringe. To be honest, he looks like Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones."

Sometimes, though, kids are just moody and irrational, full stop, especially when puberty comes knocking. A car crash of hormones, events, fatigue, negative thoughts, anxiety and oversensitivity converge to create bedlam.

But it's only human. Can any of us truly say that we've never had a nervous breakdown over something that (in retrospect) seems trivial and silly? Only last week I got really upset because my husband defied my wishes and bought a plant.

The thing is, though, adults know that moody meltdowns are not to be indulged. Somehow you've got to get yourself out of them – go for a walk, read a book, eat cake, watch Homes under the Hammer. But often kids don't have the ability to govern their emotion, or even know what's causing it. And that's when they're unintentionally hilarious.

So how do you deal with it? Anna, mother of a teen and an eight-year-old, says the key is to bung them full of carbs, even when they're old enough to rustle up a snack for themselves.

"I find that stroppiness often equates to hunger or dehydration. This is obvious when they are toddlers but somehow when they are listening to rap music and demanding beer, it's harder to remember that they need sandwiches and milk. I administer a bagel and a drink before I try any other strategies."

"Apparently (according to child psychologists), we should take the post school strop as a compliment," says determined-to-be-positive Frances, mother of three boys. "Our children have had hours of a very strict environment and they can just relax and kick back when they see us. I personally shovel food in and allow an hour of free time before I ask anything of them. It works 80."

"My main tactic is 'ignore, ignore, ignore',"says Lucy, mother of two teenage girls. "Or there's the leaving home option (me). If I look REALLY sad for a couple of hours, they get REALLY worried. I'm a very good actress."

But sometimes there are some strops that are too funny and baffling to fix. You just have to go along with them, then secretly laugh about them later.

Jenna recalls fondly: "We noticed a squirrel eating our plants again and my husband chased it away and came back inside saying how annoying squirrels were and how he hates them. My daughter stormed out. We went to investigate. She was sobbing and yelling: 'Don't say horrible things about squirrels!'"

What's the funniest and most baffling reason your child has thrown a strop?