Reader question: toddlers and glasses and tantrums

This question comes from Tobi, mom of Z – the cute little Ethiopian girl with Cortical Visual Impairment.  -Ann Z

I have a question that I’m wondering if others struggle with, and if so, what they do about it.  My daughter is now 3 1/2 and is finally tolerating her glasses very well.  In fact, she often asks for them first thing in the morning and becomes annoyed when we take them off for bed.  This is great.  What isn’t so great is that her glasses have become an emotional weapon of sorts.  Here’s what I mean:  when she gets frustrated or mad at something, she yanks her own glasses off and throws them down on the ground.  Sometimes she will even kick or stomp on them!

She has some developmental delays, and so this kind of behavior is fairly consistent with her developmental age, which is about 2 1/2.  When I give them back to her, after she appears a bit calmer, she freaks out again, only the second time around she will cry and say her glasses are off, she needs her glasses.  Again, I give them to her, and she whips them across the room.  I say “glasses all done, we don’t throw glasses” or something to that effect, and she goes bonkers — “I need my glasses!  I no see!”

So my question is, how do parents deal with glasses and temper tantrums.  Is it cruel to withhold the glasses until the kid calms down?  (I’m inclined to say that’s not cruel, that’s just drawing a line.)  What about saying:  “If you don’t treat them well, I will take away your glasses” – when she really doesn’t understand this consequences thing yet?  It’s so painful to watch her in one of these tantrums, and then without her glasses things really go from bad to worse.   I feel I’m being manipulated, but I have no idea how to stop this cycle.

5 responses to “Reader question: toddlers and glasses and tantrums

  1. Zoe used to do this. Then, one day, she threw them out of the stroller and I didn’t notice. When she got home, they were gone and she freaked out. I did eventually manage to find them and she hasn’t done it again.


  2. Oh, we have this issue! Less often as he gets older, Bennett is now 4 but if he’s especially angry he will take off his glasses and smash them against the wall, step on them, twist them until they snap. (We use to go through a lot of glasses, not so much now.)

    During a fit Bennett accidently broke his glasses and hurt himself, cutting his face right by his eye when he threw himself on the ground. I’m sure he cannot remember that but if he’s angry and takes his glasses off we immediately take them away and remind him we won’t want him OR his glasses to be hurt. Then we try to sit down and stay near him so he doesn’t run off without being able to see and hurt himself accidently. As soon as he’s calming down, even if he’s not completely calm, we offer his glasses back. I know being without his glasses makes him feel disoriented so I want to give them back as quickly as we safely can.

    So for us, holding the glasses until he’s ready to have them back and staying very close so he doesn’t get hurt trying to run around without glasses is our game plan. He knows he cannot see without them and we try to stay calm and assure him we’re keeping the glasses safe for him until he’s ready for them back.

    Sometimes he’ll start to wind up and be yelling and we’ll say, “Hand me your glasses if you are going to throw a fit!” and he’ll stop screaming! He doesn’t want to give up his glasses so he’ll start deep breathing and say, “I calm.” I don’t ask for his glasses as a threat but it seems to be a good sign for him that he needs to talk to us instead of throwing a tantrum. It also gives me hope that this is a stage we’ll be able to work through… we are seeing progress and I know tantrums are a standard part of the toddler/preschooler stage of development. He’s our third out of five children – we’re becoming well acquainted with fits. 🙂


  3. This used to be extremely common for us as well. As Aubrie gets older it has gotten much better. She really doesn’t do it anymore when she gets mad. It was definitely her anger release when she had major tantrums. She would mainly throw them on the floor or step on them. I would hold her glasses until she was all done & then she could have them back. Now she wants them off if she throws a fit b/c she doesn’t like her tears to get on them. She wants us to wipe her “cries” off her glasses.


  4. Wow. It is so comforting for me to read these stories. We had a hard week with Z – she had a massive seizure a few days ago and spent a couple of days/nights at the hospital. She really went crazy in there, and there were lots of glasses/tantrum incidents. So I have really been feeling defeated – but this morning, reading these comments, I feel much better. Sounds like not only is this something others have dealt with, but there’s also hope for improvement with age and more maturity.
    But please keep these stories coming – right now I need all the help I can get!


  5. Sam is almost 4 now (when did that happen?) and has been wearing glasses for over a year. He still throws them we he’s mad or having a tantrum. We just pick them up and hold onto them until he calms down. I don’t think it is cruel, either. If it were a toy, the toy would be in time out. I’m not going to keep his glasses for the rest of the day like I would a toy, but he’s also not going to be allowed to break them just because he’s mad so they get a little mini time out until he’s calm again.


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