Mom finds solution to toddler's tantrums through Oakland Family Services' Fussy Baby Program

Fussy Baby Edith and Pierre-Thomas Chopin1.jpg

For Edith Chopin, simple things like picking her kindergartner up from school had become very stressful. Every time she left the house, her 2-year-old son, Pierre-Thomas, would have an uncontrollable meltdown.

"He would be kicking and screaming and the only way I could bring him was to carry him under my arm because I did not want him to hurt anyone," she recalled. "When we got there, he would be on the ground screaming and flailing for 20 minutes to a half hour."

The single mom didn't have anyone who could stay with Pierre-Thomas and his twin sister, Amelie-Charlotte, while she picked up her son, Louis-Donald, from school. All of her family lives in France, where she left in 2008 to come to Michigan for work.

Edith began to notice a change in Pierre-Thomas' behavior after he turned 2 years old. Little things would set him off — like wearing a green pair of gloves instead of a red pair. The tantrums increased to three to four daily, and Edith found herself occasionally having to lay a blanket down on the floor to prevent Pierre-Thomas from hurting himself as he rolled around on the ground.

"I couldn't find a way to calm him down," she said. "He was way over the top, and he would be completely lost. I could not talk to him. I felt stressed and felt like he could not be happy. Then I was concerned there might be more to it. I was trying to remain calm, but it was difficult. I wanted to find a solution."

Edith found her solution through Oakland Family Services' Fussy Baby program, which she learned about while Pierre-Thomas and Amelie-Charlotte were receiving speech services through the agency's Early On program. Fussy Baby provides an infant family specialist who meets with families at their homes weekly or bi-weekly to implement strategies that comfort the child and reduce stress for both the child and parents.

Pam Coleman-Gay, infant and family specialist at Oakland Family Services, remembers the first time she arrived at Edith's Rochester Hills home. She could hear Pierre-Thomas screaming from the driveway.

"He was fast to react to situations and easily frustrated," she said.

Pam worked with Edith on positive discipline approaches and redirection. She noticed Pierre-Thomas needed more independence from his twin sister and suggested they sleep in separate rooms. She also worked with Edith on giving her son more advance notice to help with transitions and making sure he understood her expectations.

"She started to make her expectations clear — No you can't run across the parking lot, if you do, you will have to go in the stroller," Pam explained. "He didn't like that. He was then starting to understand there are boundaries. Kids are more secure and feel better when there are boundaries."

Edith said what really helped her the most was learning how to diffuse a situation first, and then offering options.

"After Fussy Baby, my life is much calmer," Edith said. "We have a better idea of what to expect. We don't expect as many times a day for him to blow up, and I expect he is going to be fine now. I was a bit worried about his future and now I am definitely less worried. He is basically normal  —  a little intense, but that is ok."