15 answers

Extreme Anger in 4 Year Old Boy?

Hi everyone, I desperately need advice. I have had another awful night with my 4 year old. I want to find out if other people's kids get this mad, or if it is totally NOT normal....
I gave my daughter her allowance of $5, and gave him $1, which we have done before with no issues. He immediately wanted to "trade" with her and we explained no, she is older and does more chores, so therefore she earns more. He started his usual yelling of "I don't want it then!" and "It's not fair!", so finally I told him if he complained one more time, I would take the dollar back. Well, he did, so I took it away from him. I turned around to put it away and somehow in his fury, he fell off the barstool. I mean, he was so out of control that he hurt himself. He probably hit his head on the wood floor, but I didn't see exactly how he landed.
So then, he was absolutely furious. He went to his room, slammed the door, and was sobbing uncontrollably, and every few minutes he would open the door and scream "I hate you" or "You're stupid!" My husband and I tried to to ignore this for about 15 minutes, but finally the time came to need to put him to bed. I went into his room, and because he was so upset, I tried to comfort him but he was flailing and trying to get me away from him. He wouldn't get undressed or go to bed. I tried to hug him, which then turned into restraining him because he was fighting me and doing everything he could to get away. I had to give up doing that because he was uncontrollable. I mean, this went on for 10-15 minutes. The previous night, he got mad because I wouldn't sing him one more song ( I always do 2 and he wanted 3). So then he kept yelling after I had turned off his light that i'm stupid and he hates me. His temper is more than I know how to deal with! Is this happening to other moms? He is a sweet and loving boy a lot of the time but when he gets upset, you better duck for cover. My husband and I have 2 older kids that were never THIS bad. We are consistent parents who back up what we say and also pick our battles, but nothing we are doing is preventing his meltdowns. How do you avoid a meltdown when it happens over something totally unreasonable anyway? Is he doomed to be on ADHD and anti-anxiety meds like my oldest son? Thanks in advance for any insight you can share......

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I need to clarify that the reason I tried to comfort him is that he hit his head fairly severely. Any other time I would not do that. Next time I will try to take charge more, but from prior experience sometimes it's best to leave him alone.....he is one of the stubbornest kids ever....

Featured Answers

I think you should talk to the pediatrician. His behavior sounds a lot like my nextdoor neighbor's son. He was diagnosed with Asberger's and a laundry list of food allergies. It could be mild autism. It could be that something in his diet is making his body freak out. Or it could just be emotional. Only the doctors will be able to tell you. Good luck.

More Answers

Quick, get a copy of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. The wisdom in this book will make it a resource you reach for again and again. It's my current favorite with my 4.5yo grandson. The techniques and ideas are mutually respectful, and they work.

I've recommended this book to several families with young kids, including a couple who were as emotional as yours, and they started getting results as soon as they started applying the steps suggested in each chapter.

The primary technique that calms my grandson when he's getting worked up over something he can't have is to empathize with him sincerely. As in "I hear that you really, really want another story tonight. I love stories too, and if your sleep wasn't so important, I'd read with you all night. Wouldn't that be fun? It's time for you to sleep now, and I need to get some work done so I can sleep, too. Tomorrow, let's talk about getting to bed earlier so we'll have time for three stories. Would you like that?"

Once a child knows you have taken his desires seriously before ruling them out, his sense of fairness has often been met, and he's able to change the channel and do something else. This is often a bit more challenging at the end of the day when tiredness is part of the equation, so sometimes a meltdown occurs anyway. But if his emotional needs have been addressed, the emotions are generally less intense.

For some immediate information on this, google Emotion Coaching and read why empathetic parenting is so effective. We're not talking about pushover parenting. This is authoritative but kind coaching, working with the reality of the child's feelings and needs.

2 moms found this helpful

I know as a parent it is hard to see what others can because we are so close to the situation. It does sound like you are trying to be consistent and fair, but I agree with one of the other posters that it sounds like it goes too far before it is stopped. I am so glad to hear you took the dollar back. But once he started to scream and cry afterwards I would have immediately enforced a time out of some punishment or consequence with his poor response to the choice he made. Trust me, my four year old daughter has a temper and is the most stubborn person you will meet. But if I don't nip the behaviors in the bud at the beginning she would also melt down like that too. You turned over your control when you let him create his scene, he chose to run, he chose his room and he chose when he was going to open the door and further break the rules by shouting. Things just got too out of control because you sympathized and felt bad because you knew your firmness of taking the dollar was a hard consequence. I can tell you too many mom's wouldn't have taken it because it is so hard on the parents to be that firm with your child. Don't take this as a failure because you did the right thing by enforcing rules! So congrats and huge pats on your back for what you have done, just take a step back and make sure that firmness transfers to eliminating all poor behaviors. All kids throw fits and they all respond well knowing the limits you enforce. Seriously though because there might be minor things that could have changed it is the firmness of one warning of the consequence and then enforcement (losing a toy, time on tv, going to bed early, time outs, ect). But their reaction to the consequence can certainly deem necessary a stricter consequence. It sounds like your older child never pushed things beyond the first consequence, but some kids like to push and push until they know you stop enforcing rules.

2 moms found this helpful

My son is almost 4 and he is not on ADHD medication, he has these types of tantrums as well, and he actually hurts himself, he hits and bites and things like that, to himself.
One mom in this site told me to get a blanket and hold him in the blanket, and rock him for a little while and I also whisper sh, sh, is ok, and at the beginning it took me over half an hour to calm him down and sometimes I couldn't because he like yours would fight and kick but I didnt give it up. Now it sometimes takes me only 5 mins, and its all ok.
I hope this works for you too. I know its hard and scary to see your kids like that.
Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful

My 4 1/2 year old son has a horrible temper too. Luckily it's not as bad as it used to be in the frequency department. Screaming, yelling insults, name calling, throwing toys, hitting, etc etc. I had to take out the majority of his toys from his room, take down his posters from the wall, and hold the door shut. I've also tried to restrain him and still do in some instances when he's completely inconsolable. Most of the time tho I just send him to his room, shut the door and walk away. As he gets older the tantrums aren't lasting as long (there for awhile it would be up to an hour at a time). I don't want to say it's "normal" behavior but I think it's within the realm of not completely uncommon. We had him tested for ADHD and Austism which he passed no problem - he's just a "spirited, challenging kid" according to the specialist. Keep your punishments consistent even if it seems like it's not working. My parent educator told me it could take up to 2000 times for a punishment to work - certainly not what I wanted to hear but as time passes and the punishments stay the same he knows what to expect and I think that's why the tantrums have eased up some. As they get older their vocabulary expands into some pretty intense, nasty stuff. I just act like it doesn't bother me so he usually lets up. I figure my non-chalant reaction will also help HIM later when another kid yells at him like that. I'm not saying that sometimes I don't lose it when he melts down, but it's never once worked to calm him down. So in learning to control his behavior I've also learned to control my reactions.

1 mom found this helpful

Ive always heard to ignore. you seem to do the right thing. and sometimes people just dont understand what you are going thru. good luck and God bless

1 mom found this helpful

Hi! I also have a four year old son and we've had some anger issues as well. If I say or do something he doesn't like he's threatened to pack up his trains and run away. As soon as he starts throwing a fit I make him pick a spot and take some time to calm down and if he doesn't pick a spot then its the naughty step. This usually works! It doesn't take long for him to quietly calm down and he's always apologetic afterwords. They just have to learn how to control their anger. I don't think drugs are the answer. You can't let him affect you, even when it's breaking your heart, you have to help him learn how to get control. However he is my first child and I am learning as I go. My second child is 6 weeks old and cries alot more than my son did. It can be frustrating and I've caught myself snapping at my son just for being noisy. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

My youngest was the same way. When he was four until he was six, we would have to deal with these unpredictable (and violent) outbursts/meltdowns. Then, he finally "outgrew" them. He can still be stubborn at times, but he has returned to his loveable, happy-go-lucky self! I was at my wits end because the outbursts would come out of nowhere. He would be happy one minute and then the next little item would set him off. Only being by himself and letting him calm down on his own worked. Now, he can be reasoned with and rarely gets upset at all. There is hope! Hang in there. Sometimes, their verbal skills, their reasoning skills, etc. have not caught up with their ability to deal with issues emotionally. Best wishes!

1 mom found this helpful

wow, he's really pushing a lot.....pushing your buttons, pushing his limits.....& it's time to put up a roadblock!

The trick to dealing with this.....is to be quicker than he is....when he triggers. You have to anticipate how he's going to explode & be the 1st one to jump in. I usually counsel the "1-2-3" method, but in your son's case....he gets the count of "1" ! You cannot allow him to escalate into a full tantrum.....because then you've both lost control.

I think by combining a lot of the responses here....I think you'll be able to regain control of this without meds. I truly believe that resorting to meds is not needed, & by using behavior modification, you will be able to achieve Peace within your home.

Soooo, several things are jumping out at me: the fact that you feel your older son is "doomed" since he's on meds. Is your younger son mimicing what he's seeing with his siblings?
Which then references me to one of the 1st things that jumped out....a lot of what your son is doing is truly behavior of a much older child! Not many 4y.o. comprehend the difference btwn $1 & $5 ! How does he know what that really represents? Most 4 y.o. are just happy to get $$$ ! Who's taught him this concept...that he's being treated unfairly?
Both of your examples took place "at night". What time is this happening? Is he staying up too late for his age group....in other words, is he overtired & no longer able to cope? This thought really ties in with the bedtime issues!

I'm not for restraining children, but I do like the poster's recommendation to use a blankie & hold your son. He may need that extra contact to prevent himself from harm & to teach him to self-soothe! My mom used to use a similar technique with my oldest son. When he was out of control or had hit someone, she would place him on her lap & hold him. She would tell him the "tar baby story" (sorry, don't remember the name!)....& as my son would struggle off her lap, she would capture another limb with the "tar". Finally, he would begin listening to the story....& he would become calm! Personally, I hated the thought of restraining him....but it worked & he learned to respect her, respect himself while learning a lesson of virtue!

Hope some of this helps you!

1 mom found this helpful

Sounds just like my 3 year old daughter, sigh.

I don't know if you are in the St Louis area but I would recommend Dr. Constantino. He is part of Washington University and the top researching psychiatrist in StL.

What it sounds like to me is your son is far enough across the ADD part of the spectrum to be in mild autism. By mild autism I mean he cannot read saocial ques not rainman.

The problem comes that normal children know when they have pushed mom and dad too far and they back off. They read their parents. Children with mild autism cannot read their parents so they just keep going and going.... Yes they are manipulating you but only because they don't have it in them to stop.

I have four kids my daughters are straight up ADD piece of cake! My oldest son is like my younger son but not as far over on the spectrum. He would lose his temper but could be taught self-control. My younger son has PDD, an autism spectrum disorder. He has had the tantrums you describe. He is eleven now and is finally grown to the point that no means no much like a normal two year old. So he loses his temper but when I don't give in he gives up in a couple minutes.

Doesn't sound like ADHD to me. It sounds more like border line Autism. Tends to happen to extremely bright children. Does he have "perfection" tendencies, also ?

A whole lot of us moms go through this - me included. Mine will scream, ball up his fists, lay on the floor with tears and snot everywhere and yell that I am not his best friend anymore. I usually pick his screaming little butt up and put him in his room and ignore him - then when he calms down I make him give me a hug. If he slams a door - he gets his bottom wacked once for each time he slammed it. He doesn't slam the door very much anymore. It is funny to watch him when he is really angry but can carefully close the door behind himself. I am trusting that he will outgrow this when he is better able to communicate his feelings.

This is the time when you play bad cop and good cop thing. I always use my partner.
If I'm the one who makes my daughter mad and crying and screaming uncontrollably, it's my husband's job to sooth her down. We would generally leave her 5 - 10 minutes to vent out her anger, and she would feel a bit tired. Then my husband would coax her, hug her, saying that we both love her, stressed that Mama still loves her, but what she did is not right, and try to explain in very soft and simple manner why she can't do what she did.
And vice versa.
I explained this process to my husband before I had a child, because I believe it works. You still tell her what she did is wrong, try to make her understand the consequence that she may not realize will happen, don't tell that the other person is bad or evil, and still make them feel loved instead of left out or worse, hated.
When my sister became a single parent, my elder brothers were there as 'replacement', and almost 15 years later, the twins turned out great. That's why I believe family should be close by.
I think what you did is right. You really can't compare each kids even if you brought them up the same way. They are different and handle things differently. It's up to us to teach them how to handle things right. Most kids can't think far, and unable to understand consequence of their doing.

I think you should talk to the pediatrician. His behavior sounds a lot like my nextdoor neighbor's son. He was diagnosed with Asberger's and a laundry list of food allergies. It could be mild autism. It could be that something in his diet is making his body freak out. Or it could just be emotional. Only the doctors will be able to tell you. Good luck.

Hi K.,

Think of other things that may contribute to his anger. One thing I noticed with my boys, is that when they are sleep deprived or go to bed too late, they get angry and frustrated foe everything. Also, check his routine and meals and his time outdoors. Little kids at this age needs a lot of time to run and vent. The key is being consistent and keep a nice routine to cover the kids' needs (meals, sleep, recreation, exercise, etc) Repetition and consistency is very important,believe me.
You may want to teach him words to express what he feels, draw faces with feelings and let him know what is to feel like that, then when he is having tantrums say: " his name, I know you are (sad, frustrated, angry....) but it is not nice to say ugly things to mommy"
The problem here, in my opinion is just a reaction to something whatever it is; it is not the allowance ....it is just having a tantrum.It is hard, I have a 4 year-old boy too, but you have to keep yourself calm and not being frustrated yourself, no yelling or get mad at him, show him the way to show feelings.
Tantrums are normal.
I don't understand why every time a kid specially a little one has tantrums, moms think they have a "behavioral or psychological problem" is NOT always the reason. By the way your kid is NOT "doomed to be on adhd meds". and he is NOT "bad"....but if you react in a bad way yourself, of course your kid will react in the same way. It is what you show to him, and remember do not label him.Labels have lots of power. RELAX.
Sometimes we, moms, have to change our tactics or discipline style. Kids are smart and they will do whatever they can to have what they want. I would suggest you that you, first, speak to your little one, sit down you two face to face and let him know what you expect from him in a vocabulary he can understand.
Good luck......just be patient and firm.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.