16 answers

3 Year Old Throws a Tantrum When He Doesn't Get His Way

My son gets so angry when he doesn't get his way. It doesn't matter what the reason is. It could be not having "enough" crackers in his bowl or having to get dressed in the morning. He throws a tantrum by kicking and screaming. We've tried putting him in time out (which he doesn't stay),putting him in his room until he calms down and can come out and apologize, or by sitting him down and trying to calm him down by talking to him. What else should we try? Any suggestions would be appreciated!

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When my 13 yr old was three he would do the same thing, it was rather amusing to walk away and go into another room, because it didn't take him long to realise he didn't have anybody paying attention to him. He'd get up off the floor and find me. I'd just leave again. When we were in a store and he'd throw himself on the floor I'd walk around the corner and watch him from around the end of the aisle. That usually put and end to the fit because he thought I'd left him. I never tried to talk to him because it didn't do any good. I didn't feel I needed to explain myself to my children and I still don't. As my mother used to tell us. "Because I said so!"

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I would sit him in time out. If he doesn't stay, keep putting him back until he does. It will be a battle for a while but he will stay. You have to be more stubborn than he is. Then the next five things he asks for you turn him down and remind him that he threw a tissy and that is why he doesn't get his way. So if he would like a cup of milk you say, "I am sorry but you can't have a cup of milk. You can have water because you threw a fit." If he begins to play with with a truck you say, " I am sorry you can't have that truck, you will have to play with something else because you threw a fit." If he begins to pitch another fit put him in time out and begin again. This gives him a chance to practice the behavior you want from him, It shows him your the boss, and it gives instant consequences for his behavior. Once I have mine tamed then I explain that somethings are an "OH Well" and we don't get upset about those things. We also have, "looking days" at the store. That means that I am not buying you anything but you are welcome to look. This way they already know what I expect from them in the store. If they beg or begin to fuss, I walk out of the toy department and declare looking over. The big thing is that you don't have to remind them each time of rules. You tell them what you expect and then if you don't get it you go straight to the consequence. Once they begin the poor behavior, tell them that behavior is not allowed and give them the consequence. Most people give them a million warnings and that just allows the behavior to grow right before you eyes. Good luck! Just remember. It isn't fun when they are three and throwing tantrums but it really isn't fun when they are six and still doing it. It is easier to take care of it now.

1 mom found this helpful

When my 13 yr old was three he would do the same thing, it was rather amusing to walk away and go into another room, because it didn't take him long to realise he didn't have anybody paying attention to him. He'd get up off the floor and find me. I'd just leave again. When we were in a store and he'd throw himself on the floor I'd walk around the corner and watch him from around the end of the aisle. That usually put and end to the fit because he thought I'd left him. I never tried to talk to him because it didn't do any good. I didn't feel I needed to explain myself to my children and I still don't. As my mother used to tell us. "Because I said so!"

Ignore him. Walk away without saying a word and let him have his tantrum. He'll stop when he no longer has an audience.

We all know 3 year olds are prone to tantrums, but your description sounds a lot like my adopted twins. We have finally found a strategy that works for our family, by realizing that odd as it sounds, there is always a reason behind "unreasonable" behavior. Is your 3-year-old jealous of the 9-month-old? Is he exposed to violent TV or video games? Does he have a food allergy that is stressing him out? (my nephew at age 2 went from angry and hateful to a sweet kid on the Feingold diet)

In the case of our twins, the adoption itself, although it happened when they were newborns, was a serious trauma that they are still healing from. What kids like this need is more compassion, patience (though it sometimes seems impossible), and being heard; not more stress such as time outs (we tried those, too, with zero results and only increased stress for everyone). Being heard is especially important to kids like my daughter, who want to be in control, and insist that things be done their way or they have a fit.

I recommend the following resources to deal with children who seem particularly angry or impossible to please.

http://www.postinstitute.com/
http://www.beyondconsequences.com/index.html
http://www.coaching-forlife.com/
http://www.cnvc.org/
http://www.feingold.org/ **(this is just one of many diets, it may or may not be right for your child; please consult a physician or natural healer)

Good luck, and peace to you and your family!

A little about me:
My spouse and I have been married 8 years, and we adopted our 4 1/2 year old boy-and-girl twins shortly after their birth.

K., I agree whole-heartedly with the advice to ignore him and walk away when he's throwing a tantrum. Tantrums are typically a way of obtaining attention, even if they don't get the child what he or she wants. If everyone walks away and ignores him (don't say anything to him, don't appear to be checking on him, etc), he'll stop when he realizes that no one is paying him any attention. Keep doing it. When he stops the tantrum and comes to you, ask him to use words to tell you what he wants. Each time he's finished, ask him to calmly explain what he wants and it will reinforce verbalizing his wants rather than throwing a fit. It takes time, but eventually the behavior does decrease and disappear.

2 things work best for me: (At my house, we call them the Terrible 2's, and Tyrannical 3's ) ;)

1.Explain to him the reason for the decision...
"no, you can only have a few crackers....it's almost lunch time" Then ignore him...walk away from him when he's throwing his fit and don't acknowledge him until he's calmed down. It's hard, but effective.

2. Give him a choice. " You can either have 4 crackers, or you may have an apple" Now that my youngest is 5...the choice has become, "you can either have 4 crackers, or 0 crackers.....you decide.

Good luck!

Hmm, sounds like a typical 3 year old! They call them the terrible 2's, but I think the 3's are worse! My son who is also 3 has begun to throw tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants, or is asked to do something he doesn't want to do. I have found the easiest thing is to ignore and walk away until the fit is done. It helps me remain calm and also enforces that my son will not get my attention until he is calm as well. Good luck to you, and remember, this is a phase and this too shall pass.

I would stay as calm as you can and let him throw his fit. Ignore him to the best of your ability and tell him that the amount of crackers he gets is what he gets. If he chooses to be angry, then he doesn't need the crackers. He has a right to be mad-but the way he is expressing himself is inappropriate. I know that sounds like a lot to tell a 3 year old, but they are smarter than you know. I have a home childcare business and the sooner they know that you can't be pushed or bothered by their tantrums, they are more receptive to just saying. I wanted more crackers. Then they are okay with you telling them-if you eat all of those I will get you more if you ask nicely. Then it's not such a big deal. There are a lot of times when a child is throwing a tantrum when I will turn away from them, fold my arms, and close my eyes. Then they know that I am not giving them one bit of attention. I don't respond until they settle down and start to verbalize their feelings. It's a tough road especially if you have a strong one. You need to prove that you are stronger. Stay stong!!

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