My three and a half year old has massive fits. Well, she’s three and nine months – so if I’m being honest, she’s pushing four. Her tantrums are so major that she’ll thrash around for a half hour, become inconsolable and virtually shut off from the rest of the world. Here’s an example: this past weekend in Laguna Beach, after freaking out over not-sure-what, I turned around and she was laying on the sidewalk, face down, with her arms stretched out. I was shocked that someone from Umami Burger didn’t call Child Services. Yes, we’ve identified her triggers: hungry and tired. She might even have low blood sugar like me – not that I’m making excuses. I’ve tried “preventative snacking” (as my husband and I like to call it,) letting her nap as needed, and keeping her on routine. The problem is, once the smallest thing riles her up, she gets set off – and then she’s gone for good. Until she’s back, that is. And when I say, “back,” I mean, back to being the sweetest angel on Earth. Precious and delicious and loving and snuggly. And can even articulate why she melted in the first place.

The other day I asked my husband if he thought she could be schizophrenic. He told me that schizos have paranoid delusions. OK, no. I googled “insane tantrums” and got something like “Mood Disorder,” but that seems like a stretch in diagnoses in general. I asked her teachers if there were any red flags. They said no – she is a perfect dream and great listener to boot. I called my pediatrician to ask if I should get her evaluated. She said there’s nothing wrong with her. “She’s just a really intense person who doesn’t do well off-routine.” So there’s no new wave diet for this? I’ll happily eliminate gluten, soy and refined sugar – I hate that stuff anyway. But it wouldn’t change anything. It’s confirmed: she is a normal, “passionate, spirited” and yes, “intense” child.

I also know what you’re “supposed” to do: reflect back on how she is feeling in the moment and if she continues to go berserk, tell her you are putting her in a safe place until she calms down. “When you are in a calmer place, I’ll be right here for you,” I should say. Keep the door closed – hold it if you have to – until she starts to simmer down and then give positive reinforcement for her doing so. Then effing reflect back again.

So I’ve done and not much has changed. It seems as if she just needs to let it run its course until she exorcises her demons. And then my beautiful child returns and I become obsessed with her again. Please sir, can I have another.

Last week, we tried a “Behavioral Modification” chart with stars and a very cool, hand-made “No More Fits For Me” poster. After twenty stars she would get this Parisian doll that she covets as much as I covet this green Balenciaga jacket. I actually HATE the idea that I am bribing her to behave well for a material item…but for now, desperate times call for desperate measures. Well, it doesn’t matter anyway because tonight she ripped off the stars and told me “the game is over.” I was warned by an early childhood development guru that smart kids may not give a crap about stars.

So now we’re back to preventative snacking and such. My psychic in London told me she’d grow out of this phase and will work in the justice system or something like that. Sounds cool. Because even I know that a child with passion, intensity and a strong spirit doesn’t need stars to eventually be a super star.



About Zoe Schaeffer

Zoe Schaeffer is a New Yorker who moved to Los Angeles in 2004. She began her career in the style industry by assisting designer Anna Sui and then working as a beauty editor at Mademoiselle and Self. In LA, she became the fashion and beauty writer for Los Angeles Magazine, and wrote for Vitals and In Style. Most recently, she co-owned LA based boutique, Presse and e-commerce site,, which was written up in Vogue, W, International Herald tribune, among others. After her second daughter was born, she launched the style blog for baby and home, Macaroon Original and is currently a freelance writer for fashion, beauty and home. She lives in LA with her husband and daughters, Gemma and Rafi.


  1. Lorayne Gothard says:

    It is amazing how kindness that doesn’t result in screaming really calms down a child having a fit!! I think the chart is a great idea. She is learning self control and that behaviors have consequences good and bad.

  2. Laura Dorman says:

    I would really look in to the theory of low blood sugar it can be very hard to diagnose in kids because they all are so different and process food differently and wont sit still for a long glucose tolerance test.She might be just fine but your her mom and you know if there is something wrong with her if you feel strongly that something is truly wrong then keep searching for answers don’t let the doctor tell you ” oh its nothing” or “she will grow out of it” they don’t live with her they don’t know her like you do. I know this may sound scary but you may just need to seek out another doctor or go to a socialist at the local children’s hospital.

  3. Tara McGhee says:

    Have you looked into Autism? Just a thought. My son would have major fits like you’re talking about. You also mentioned that if anything out of routine a fit can happen. This is a classic trait of autism. It’s probably not…. but if it were, it’s not a death sentence. It could be very mild with just a few sensory issues to deal with. I wish you and yours the best, hang in there 😉

  4. Does she happen to have Asthma? My daughter was the same way, as time went on things got worse and worse. By 6 years old she would literally beat her head on the tub screaming. She began having horrific nightmares, seizures and uncontrollable anger outbursts. Anytime she wasn’t having a “moment” she was the sweetest thing ever. Eventually her medication stopped her heart, by the grace of God she was revived. I began juicing and feeding her raw food. She is now 2 years raw and hasn’t had any anger, seizures or even a mild asthma reaction since. She is completely healed. If your daughter does have asthma you may want to look into that.

Leave a Reply