15 answers

6 Year Old Throwing Temper Tantrums

I feel like a hostage to my 6 year old boy. He has had ongoing behavior problems. Recently, I lost my job and have been around him a lot more. He goes to the boys and girls club for 5 hours a day and otherwise he's with me. He screams in the morning. He screams at night. He throws things. He hits. He runs outside screaming. He throws a tantrum because he isn't getting the food he wants. He's throwing a tantrum because he can't eat whenever he wants. He throws a tantrum because he's being punished for throwing a tantrum. I can't take him anywhere, because he throws tantrums in the store. I can't go anywhere and leave him with anybody, because nobody will watch him because of his tantrums, they are afraid he will hurt their children. This morning we had plans to go to the museum. He threw a tantrum because I asked him to change into pants because it is raining. I know I am more strict than the day cares or schools, but this is ridiculous. My daughter adjusted. Grumbled, but adjusted. I have a set of chores that need to be done every morning before they can have free time. Brush their teeth, get dressed, pick up their rooms and feed their pets. At 6 and 8 this seems reasonable to me. Then they go to the boys and girls club from 10-3:30. 3:30-5 is free time. We eat dinner, they help me clean up. Then free time until 8 at which time they get ready for bed. Every day we work on the garden and they take turns helping me. For the last two weeks free time has been screaming time. temper tantrums and time outs. Love and Logic has always helped me in the past, but I feel like I'm about ready to break.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Get tough. Time to let him know his behavior is not acceptable and he gets nothing if he continues. You won't talk to him unless/until he can calm down and talk in a normal voice.

Explain no one will want to be his friend if he continues hitting. Explain that if he doesn't use free time when it comes around that's tough and all he gets.

Post a house rules poster up. Explain consequences. explain the naughty chair when they violate the rules. be consistent. Have a rewards program for good behavior. If you make plans to go somewhere, explain it gets cut short if he starts making a scene. Explain it limits where you can go if he can't act properly, like around museums.

And in the fall when new programming comes around, tune in to Supernanny on ABC. No kidding; the show is incredible and my kids are all out of the house!

More Answers

Hello M., You are looking at this from the point of your son being the only problem. I also was in your shoes with my first born. Your son is wanting your attention! And negative attention is still attention. He doesn't get enough when he is being good, so he has learned to get it being bad. This cannot change until YOU change YOUR methods by never giving in to a tantram. Don't pay any attention to him when he is being bad, don't talk to him, or even look at him. Simply walk away, go to another room, or even step outside. This will get worst before it gets better. The the key here is to look for when he is being good and shower him with attention then. Cause and effect. There are no bad kids, just kids who do bad things! Your son is just a little boy, but you are the adult, so it is up to you to change this. I'm not coming down hard on you, just trying to open your eyes. I've been in your shoes. I know how you are feeling right now, and it doesn't feel good. Not to mention the stress of losing your job. I also raised my 3 children with no help from my ex. There is a book that I read until it fell apart when my kids were young. How To Make Children Mind, Without Losing Yours. By Kevin Leman. It was a life saver for me. You will have to work very hard in order to turn this around, but it will be well worth the effort. And anybody else who watches your son will have to stay consistent with the same method. Also pay attention to how much sleep he is getting, as some kids need more that others. The relationship between my oldest and I, became very close as a result of my change. She is 26 now, and we are very close friends. That is priceless! Not to mention that I am very involved in her sons life. Fell free to keep in touch if you need any advice. I am willing to help you if I can.

Hey M.,
Just a thought... At 6 yrs old my kids were big on having choices. They are were getting older and wanting independance. I told them if they wanted to be treated like a "big kid" then they must act like a big kid. Helping around the house etc. I made them pick and choose the things they ate and wanted to do, made it seem like they were the ones in control. Like... would you like beans, corn or carrots for dinner?... what would you like to do today?the movies, museum or the park. It seemed to them like they got to choose. BUT they had to take turns choosing. If there was an issue, they acted out, they were sent to their rooms to compose themselves. Which usually took about 15-20 mins. Good Luck!
L. B.

My 5.5 year old is generally very mild mannered. We have been seeing more "fits" lately...generally b/c he is overly tired. I send him to his room. He stays there until he calms down and can behave. He will eat what we are having...and if he whines/crys/or acts out I send him to his room. Usually within 20 minutes he comes back down calm.

I would keep sending him to his room. He is old enough to know better.

M. ~
You have alot of advice already, and I'm sure alot to think about.
I was a single parent to a child with ADHD, and learned that I needed to pick my battles. And yes, I spanked ... at times. We also did time-outs, groundings, whatever depending on the situation.
One thing I would say is to let him learn some lessons....don't fight if he wants to wear shorts and it's a little chilly...let him. Maybe take along a pair of pants, but don't let him know, and let him realize for himself that you were right, he should have changed. My friend did this with her son this past fall ~ her son wanted to wear his light jacket, she wanted the winter one, she let him wear the lighter one, and the next day he was happy for the heavier one.
It sounds like your home has a good, consistent schedule, which is important for children, especially when they have behavior issues. I would talk to your pediatrician, maybe he should be tested...it can't hurt to see.
good luck!

Do not give in! You are not asking your children to do too much by having chores in the morning and sharing working in in the garden in the evening.

You are the adult and his tantrums are having the exact effect he wants. He's wearing you down. He's making you question yourself. Do not give in!

His behavior is not going to change as long as he thinks there's a chance he'll get his way. He'll keep "ratching it up!" Tell him, what you expect and you won't give in. Tell him you really wanted to take him to the museum, but because of his behavior you can't go. Remind him the event has to be a pleasant experience for you too, otherwise, you won't do that event again. You have to willing to stick with whatever you say. If he embarrasses you in the grocery store, tell him he won't come to the grocery store with you again and work it out! He has to know you mean business and YOU, not him, are in charge.

What does he value? TV? Time alone? Juice? Games? Whatever it is, I'd take it away until he improves. My son is 4. He loves to be read to. He had so many "red" days at daycare, I took away his books and he had to earn them back one by one. Every time he had a green day he got to pick one book to return to his room. Worked like a charm, after a few tantrums.

Taking away his juice and milk and giving him water for the rest of the day use to work. Now, he likes water and tells me it "makes him strong." So, I had to move on an find something else he valued.

Another suggestion, is let the tantrum go. STAY CALM! Once it's over, he'll want something. Tell him, "After a tantrum like that you don't get what you want." He'll throw another tantrum and wear himself out. He'll ask for something. Tell him, "No, after a tantrum like that, you do't get what you want." This is hard, hard, hard to do and you can't really be under a time constraint for this approach to work in the short run.

This is not easy! It will take time, in the middle of a 30-40 minute tantrum, it will seem like FOREVER.

Look for small improvements, like having a 35 minute tantrum instead of a 40 minute tantrum.

Be strong, my friend. You will thank yourself a year from now. Yes, I said a year! Sorry this is so long. I'm very passionate about behavior.

I have the same experience with my 5 year old. Actualy I have been going through this with him since he learned to crawl. Things have gotten alot better but the early years were horrible.
I was constantly busy trying to keep him out of things. I actually had to practice taking my kids places so that I could get over the terror and helplessness I felt when they tried to make me look like an idiot in public. And I'm not a person who is easily frightened. They still act out in public but I don't let them upset me anymore. I have learned to try and get the situation under control as soon as I see it flaring up. Also, I've learned that with new negative behaviors you got to correct them immediately because the next time it happens is too late.

I took my son to a behavioral therapist once at a suggestion of a friend. It was a waste of time because she told me to do things that I have already tried like time out's (how original I would have never thought of that). Then she asked me to make my next appointment without my son! I guess she thought I was the one who needed therapy.
Seeking outside help can be a great stress reliever because at least you have someone else to talk to about the problems. But, I think that in the end no one knows your child better than you and you are the best person to judge what will effect his behavior. You just have to sit down and think about it.

Hi M.,

I see you are a single Mom, too. Do the kids have any contact with their father? How long has it been since he's been gone from the home? You son may be acting out because he craves an adult male role model. I had some issues with my boys after my ex left, too. Therapy definitely helped them and me a lot. If this is going on for an extended period of time then i would consult a professional. Maybe there is something physical bothering him that he can't explain. Maybe he needs a little bit of anger management. Only you know your son and can make that type of decision. You mentioned that no one will watch him because of his tantrums. Does he have any other "differences" from what you think should be a "normal" child? Is it possible he has a developmental delay somewhere? If you have any questions there then I would suggest you contact your school district and ask them for an evaluation. The school will do one for free where the doctor or therapist will charge you depending on your insurance. Adjustments like you've described can take time but it should be getting better, not going on and on. In the meantime, try to over-praise the things he does right (thank you for listening the first time - good job getting your room picked up, etc.) even the smallest things need praise to try and turn him around. I'm happy to chat more if you'd like. Above all, remember you WILL make it through this. It's just a matter of when.


My two cents worth...;)
It sounds like you run a well rounded home. I think making sure the kids have responsibility is an excellent and necessary thing! And not something you should compromise with becuase of tantrums.
It sounds to me like there may be an underlying issue with your son. My stepson is 12...so it has been a while, and I don't remember exactly how 6 year olds are.
But, have you sat him down and talked with him? Asked him how he is doing...and what he may be frustrated or upset with? He may be able to verbalize it...he may need help.
On another note..do you play in to his tantrums? Or do you "ignore" them? I know they say with kids and tantrums...they are like performers. The more they don't have an audience...the less they will keep "performing".
Maybe finding another outlet for his frustration would help...but yeah...I have no idea how to do that!
Good luck dear and keep at it.

Hi M. - 6-years-old does seem pretty old to be having temper tantrums. You mentionned that your son had behaviour problems - has he had any therapy or anything like that. Have you spoken to your pediatrician. It sounds like he may need some help. I would say, however, that it does sound like you run a very regimented home, with the times of the day broken down into free time, chores etc. Sorry, but it does sound a bit like an army and your little one is already out for five and a half hours a day. Home really should be a lot more relaxing. Picking up their room first thing in the morning - seems tough. Could you not help him more in the morning and just be altogether a bit softer. How much do you expect him to help with clearing up dinner. Bringing his plate over would be plenty. I know I am a pretty soft mom, but all I can say is that my six-year-old is extremely happy and hasn't had a tantrum for about three years. I think you might still need professional help with your guy but try loosening up at home to see if it helps to make him happier. Best of luck - Alison

Hi M.,
I went thru this back in February when I lost my job with my 5 year old. I found it difficult to adjust to the loss of my job. This just added stress in my household because I was used to going to work for 10 hours a day and coming home doing our routine and starting over the next day. Well, if I was stressed then my 5 year old was feeling stress as well because I removed her routine as well. We all had to adjust and start new daily routines. At the same time she had to adjust to me working from home with a new home business so we could continue to pay our bills. I just set a schedule and we all adjusted after a short period of time. She still has outbursts at times, but I think that is normal ~ she's just testing the "water".

Some thoughts.
1. He has a very fully busy day...have you considered giving him time to 'chill out' when he gets home from the boys and girls club? He may be acting out because he is tired.

2. My now 7yr old was very much like your son...over the top blown out of control temper tantrums from the tiniest things. He was diagnosed with Severe ADHD at 6, but treating that didn't stop the tantrums. A month before turning 7 he was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. Looking at him through that microscope explained everything. The inflexibility, the refusal to eat certain foods, the temper tantrums etc.

3. You being a single Mom I'm sure you are stressed out. What are you doing for YOU?

Get tough. Time to let him know his behavior is not acceptable and he gets nothing if he continues. You won't talk to him unless/until he can calm down and talk in a normal voice.

Explain no one will want to be his friend if he continues hitting. Explain that if he doesn't use free time when it comes around that's tough and all he gets.

Post a house rules poster up. Explain consequences. explain the naughty chair when they violate the rules. be consistent. Have a rewards program for good behavior. If you make plans to go somewhere, explain it gets cut short if he starts making a scene. Explain it limits where you can go if he can't act properly, like around museums.

And in the fall when new programming comes around, tune in to Supernanny on ABC. No kidding; the show is incredible and my kids are all out of the house!

Hi M.
The first thing I thought of was my girlfriends son who's sensitive to corn. They took him off all corn. And could see a total difference in about 3 days. He gets very wound up, and can't control himself.

I've read that you can become addicted almost to the foods were sensitive to. A lack of what ever enzyme can cause an increase of protons, the end result being an opiate like effect. Or that's what they find in cases of autism, so I bet it could happen outside that spectrum. I love food fun facts.

My family and I all found we have gluten sensitivities, and that has a vast range of effects between my husband and I. Our poor kid has all our reactions, behavioral as well.

I hope he just grows out of it. I tell my 6 yo this behavior is not appropriate, she could do this or that instead to express her feelings. There also old enough to start a journal, where they could look back later and decide if they over reacted. And what they could have done/said instead.

Good luck to us all! A. H

It sounds to me like you are doing a great job! I think your son is just testing the boundaries. Hold on to what you know and trust yourself. You will get through this!


You are doing everything right, and he still is having behavioral problems. Do you think it might be time to seek professional help from a dr. or therapist? When I read your post, it doesn't sound like a discipline problem to me, but perhaps these are symptoms of something else that a qualified professional can recognize. When he is at the boy's club are there problems there? You might want to talk to them to see how he gets along there,obtain as much informatin from them as you can; maybe there is something going on there that is provoking him. The fact that other's don't want to watch your son because they are concerned that he will hurt their children means that he can't control himself, and they can't control him either. That warrants further investigation. You will get to the root of this, hang in there and push forward!

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