12 answers

4-Year-old Having INTENSE Screaming Fits

In the last few weeks, my 4-year-old son has been having really, really intense screaming fits to get his way. For example, he wanted one more book the other evening and when I said no, he proceeded to scream, at the top of his lungs, "ONE MORE BOOK! ONE MORE BOOK" for over 45 (!) minutes. It was unbelievable. He starts to kick and scream "GET AWAY FROM ME" when my husband and I try to go near him during these fits. He's done this 3 times in the last two weeks over relatively minor incidents. He's always been a fairly intense child but this really seems to have reached a new level. I'm worried that this is not normal and don't know what to do about it. Nothing has changed recently in our house that I can see might have set this off and we've never caved and given in to the screaming so he certainly hasn't learned that this technique works. Our way of dealing with this so far has been to pick him up, put him in his room and tell him he can come out when he stops screaming.

Has anyone else experienced this? If so, how did you deal with it and how long did this phase last? My biggest concern is that is something is wrong with my son and I don't know how to help him. It seems to me that a "happy" kid wouldn't act this way.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

My son did the same thing at 4 (forget the terrible two's!) We got a chore board to put on the refrigerator where he could earn stars for good behavior and earn X's for poor behaviors. Every time he started a tantrum he would get lots of X's and he did not like it. He loved earning stars, though, and he began to shape his behavior accordingly. At the end of the week we add up starts against X's. If he has more stars he earns a treat. If he has more x's he loses a toy. This put him in charge of his destiny and it worked really well. The first week was rough--lots and lots of X's--but he got the hang of it pretty quickly. The key was us staying on him and setting clear boundaries.
Good luck!
J.

More Answers

My 4 year old does this too. Not all the time, and we never cave to them, but it does happen occasionally. Just keep not caving. He's at an age where he is exploring boundaries and seeing if he can get his way this way. He is also at an age where he doesn't know how to control the intense emotions he is feeling. Try to give him some coping mechanisms (take deep breaths, use words to say how he feels, etc.). Feel assured that your son is normal.

Welcome to my world. I have one very intense son - I basically ignore him when he gets like that. then my just turned 4 yo daughter has her hysterical moments. Fortunately my other son's are more limited in nature, but he's also become a demon child from time to time. I think they push their limits, see what will make you tick, and they are very bright creatures who remember everything. If you give in once, it's so much harder the next time to push back. Good luck to you. I'm sure your son is normal and testing you right now.

In response to your situation about a screaming 4 year old son; I have a son who did the same thing, only he was two years old at the time. My pediatrician advised me to isolate him in a room that he was not comfortable in (I used the dining room because it had hard wood floors and the door would lock.) I told him the same thing that you told your son; when you are done screaming, you may come out. I thought it was safe and yet he was not used to being in that room alone, he did not like it. It took three times of doing this to stop the behavior and the third time he banged his head on the floor until it bled. We had to go to the hospital and get stiches. Believe me, It scared me to death that a child would go to that length to get attention. I called the Doctor and he told me that he knew it wouldn't happen again. It seemed harsh to me because I wanted to pick him up and I did not do it. The doctor told me it ususally takes 3 times and it did and I can tell you, in my opinion, it had nothing to do with him being unhappy. If your son is telling you that he wants one more book and for you to get away; he already has decided that he makes the decisions, not you. I think this type of behavior is common in very bright and intelligent children, because they have figured out how to get the best of their parents in a not so good way. My son is an adult now and he is very respectful and a very nice person, in my opinion. I hope this has helped you.

I had twins that would wake each other up...and then me. Crib tents are the solution. They actually liked them and felt cosy.

My youngest did something similar -- intense fits -- for a while at age four. She had never gone through the "terrible twos" like the others had. My only suggestion is that when he's coming down from the fit, give him lots of love. The children are not doing this on purpose, and cannot control it. They feel just as terrible as you do. So pet him and kiss him afterwards, and say things like, "It's so difficult being four." The love that he gets from you will be important.

I do what you do and send my son to his room. A friend though had a different idea. Her son had to stand facing the wall, a corner works best and then he could scream all he wanted. What happens is the sound goes back in their face and they can hear how loud they are and how umcomfortable it is on the ear drum. It solved the problem for her. I may have to go that route because while my son will go to his room to scream, he puts his face up to the crack under the door and screams out. He comes by his stuborness honestly.

Trust me its just a phase hes going through. Stick to your ground and no matter what do not give into him. Hes testing his limits, every child gets to that point sometime around this age. My daughter thats almost 4 is at that stage too. When my oldest still has meltdowns and gets really angry over being told no I just let him be in his room and walk away. The last thing I do with him is try to talk to him more, it just makes it worse for some reason. Once your son is calmed down maybe then try talking to him. Sometimes its taken my kids 15-30 minutes to snap out of it. They will stop it when they are ready, but would suggest not ever giving into 1 fit. They will learn very quickly to get what they want and to repeat it that way. Be firm, and have structure to this... It will work in time, trust me. :)

You would probably really appreciate the book "How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk." It's simple and an easy read, but the info in that book has helped me diffuse a million tantrums with my children, and keep us all from getting angry and worked up. I can't recommend it highly enough--it's in paperback and is probably at your public library. Hang in there!

All my kids are intense, and I've gone through this kind of thing with two of the three. My oldest has, for the most part, grown out of it (she'll still have sobbing fits for a long time when things get too intense and one last thing seems to overwhelm her).

My middle child didn't really scream. He shut down - flopped on the floor and became totally unresponsive. He has had challenges with coping with emotions all along. In first grade his teacher suggested that it was everything from aspergers to a seizure disorder (I've talked with the doc and it's neither!) He is emotionally really immature. I just have had to take it one day at a time. Usually when he shuts down, I make sure he's in a safe place and then I ignore him and go on with my life. When he's ready, he gets up and joins us again. He's been getting better, so lately (the last 6 months or so) I've been able to encourage him to "be a big boy," or to impose consequences - "you need to get up and do this or you can't play computer today" and it's been working. But for a long time it didn't and I just had to leave him alone. The more attention you put into a behavior the more it is likely to happen. So when your son has a screaming fit, I would close him in his room (been there, done that too) and leave him until he is ready to calm down. It's okay to check on him but don't give him a lot of attention while he's screaming. Do give him the attention when he is calming down. You also may be able to talk with him when things are calm and help him come up with other strategies of dealing with his frustration. (He won't be able to implement them on his own at first, but keep working through the process).

There's a good chance he will grow out of this. My son is 8 1/2 and, although he is still emotionally behind other kids his age, has made HUGE improvements, especially once I realized he wasn't trying to be naughty and I just had to treat him a little differently than I did my other kids. Focus on giving your son what he needs right now, and don't worry about being "fair" between him and your daughter; give them each what they need and that is more fair than treating them the same.

If he is still having challenges the next time you see the doctor (before he goes to Kindergarten), discuss it with the doctor. Give him specific examples of what happens and get his input on what to do next.

Hang in there! It's hard to see the other side when your in the middle of it, but as he gets older you'll be able to see that you did the right thing. Focus on what he's good at, and enjoy the ride :)

You might check out this website: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/articles.html

They had good info there, and a different take on screaming fits. Basically, they feel like your kids have emotions that they don't have the ability to verbally process, and things like screaming fits, our laughing fits allow them to get those emotions out and processed--so that they aren't hanging onto them any longer. I found the articles helpful. My DD gets like that, and if I hang out and let her know I can listen and make her feel loved, it is like I have a different, happy kid the rest of the day.

Good LUck.

M.

keep putting him in his room if he'll stay there. it keeps the rest of the family safe. is your son starting preschool? did your husband begin a new job? my son sometimes behaves this way when there is a change he is worried about. it helps for me to take a few minutes during a calm time of the day to ask him if there's anything worrying him or just to ask him how he's feeling. i'm usually surprised by something i had not realized was a concern, or even by something i thought was a concern for him that really isn't. talking like this regularly seems to keep him calmer because his frustrations don't build so much. good luck!

My son did the same thing at 4 (forget the terrible two's!) We got a chore board to put on the refrigerator where he could earn stars for good behavior and earn X's for poor behaviors. Every time he started a tantrum he would get lots of X's and he did not like it. He loved earning stars, though, and he began to shape his behavior accordingly. At the end of the week we add up starts against X's. If he has more stars he earns a treat. If he has more x's he loses a toy. This put him in charge of his destiny and it worked really well. The first week was rough--lots and lots of X's--but he got the hang of it pretty quickly. The key was us staying on him and setting clear boundaries.
Good luck!
J.

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