Fussy Baby program eases toddler's violent 45-minute tantrums and brings calm to a family

Fussy Baby Ray.jpg

When Ray wanted juice, the 2-year-old would throw a cup at his mother's face. The toddler also would climb on top of chairs, pour syrup all over the floor, break plates, grab knives out of the dishwasher and walk out of the house if the door wasn't locked.

His mom, Kaia Balthazor, was beyond frustrated.

"For almost a year we had no chairs by the kitchen table," she explained. "He would use them to get on the table or push them over to get on the countertop. He would grab things, like brown sugar, and dump it out all over the floor. He made the biggest mess you could ever see in your life."

And when Ray had a meltdown, it took a long time for him to calm down.

"It could be 45 minutes of him screaming, hitting, and punching," Kaia said. "One time we went to the grocery store. He was running, and I was trying to get him. We had to go through the check out, and he was punching and biting me. It was the worst experience. For me, I'm just trying to get out as fast as possible. My instinct was to get to my car and leave, but we had to get groceries."

Ray's constant demand for attention left Kaia feeling stressed out.

"I never had time to relax or take it down," she explained as she sat on the couch in her living room. "I felt like I was constantly scolding him, and that's not good for anybody."

Kaia spoke with her pediatrician, who referred her to Oakland Family Services' Fussy Baby program. Fussy Baby provides an infant family specialist who meets with families at their home weekly or bi-weekly to implement strategies that comfort the child and reduce stress for both the child and parents.

Pamela Coleman-Gay, Fussy Baby infant and family specialist, said one of the first things she worked on with Kaia was setting boundaries and using a different discipline approach.

"Ray doesn't like to hear the word 'No' so we went with a more positive discipline," she said. "He is now more included than demanded of. Mom will ask him, 'Where do your feet belong? How do we use our hands? Where do you sit when you eat? Do you throw an apple on the floor or sit and eat it?'"

The program has made a world of difference for not only Ray and Kaia but the whole family. Kaia is married to Ryan, and they also have two daughters: Maddie, 8, and Ellie, 6.

"Before our life revolved around Ray," Kaia said. "We never would go out to eat dinner. We use to all go to the grocery store together and had to stop doing that, nobody wanted to go. My husband started taking the girls out to get things as a family as much as he could.

"Now I have a better understanding of where Ray is coming from versus guessing. It's easier to anticipate his needs. I've gained the skills to get him to calm down during a tantrum with less trouble. It's not a 45-minute ordeal and he's not hitting and punching people."

With the help of the Fussy Baby program, Ray is on his way to a brighter future. Kaia said she would recommend the program to parents.

"Fussy Baby gives you a better understanding of your child and ideas and ways to help and make life easier for you and your child so you have a smoother time at home," she said.