26 answers

Fit Throwing 3 Year Old.

My daughter is 3 1/2. (To be exact.) Lately she has been having a lot of meltdowns. Friday she threw an hour fit over a pair of underwear! I have done time-outs, tried to get on her level to talk to her calmly, ignored her, and even threw her in the shower once to snap her out of it. Nothing has worked. She just keeps screaming. She is the 4th of 5 children. Her little sister is 19 months. I know there are issuses about attention. I try everyday to spend time with her. Reading books, singing songs, little mom and child classes, etc. She is just very stubborn when she doesn't get her way. None of my other kids were like this, so I'm at a loss! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Ah the joys of toddlers....esp stubborn ones!! Before being able to answer I guess its more important to know what the battle was over. Was she not wanting to wear them at all or just not the pair you had picked out for her? Without knowing the specifics its difficult to give any advice. I tell everyone I know to watch supernanny. She has a ton of creative ideas on how to deal with children that age. I know from experience that luckily the fit throwing is something they grow out of, unfortunately the stubborness is not. :) Good luck

Dobson has a wonderful book Break the will but not the Spirit. I had a very strong-willed dtr and his suggestions really helped

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Your daughter has no power - 3 older siblings and mom are always bossing her around, of course she's going to fight for some control. So how do you share control? Easiest way is through Choices. Become a master of giving choices the Love & Logic way. Get the CD from the library "Avoiding Power struggles". Basically give her give her choices about all the little things in her life and you'll see amazing results.
do you want to put on shirt first or pants first
do you want the red sippy cup or green sippy cup
do you want to read a story before or after your bath
do you want to sing abcs or barney while I buckle you in the car seat

You decide what she needs to do, but give her choices on how she gets to do it. There are rules for choices:
1. give only 2 choices, give her 10 seconds to decide or you decide for her
2. Only give choices when both of you are happy (not upset or stressed)

More info in my Love & Logic Parenting classes. I have one starting on Friday night. It really gives a lot of good ideas to lower parenting stress. Check www.shellymoorman.com for details.

Remember to be empathetic, not angry, and you'll be fine!

2 moms found this helpful

i would send her somewhere to take a break. her room, a corner, where ever. tell her(even while she is screaming) "I will not talk to you until you have stopped screaming and crying. when you can talk to me like a big girl come and find me." then you really have to leave her alone(check on her from time to time of course) perhaps once she is not getting any attention from you for this behavior it will stop. plus she will learn how to get a handle on her emotions herself and come and talk through her feelings in a calm manner. then i would make sure to catch her being good and find some special time for just the two of you. wich it sounds like you are doing but may on a reg. basis. (like a story time just for her and you or she helps you set the tablefollowed by lots of praise for a job well done)GL, N.

1 mom found this helpful

I have so been where you are! I have 3 kids, the last 2 are girls.

I didn't take my oldest daughter anywhere from the ages of 18 months to about the age of 4 because I never knew when or where she would implode. The child had a scream that could shatter glass!

You seem to be very aware of your kids, but I have to ask the question...Is there a time of day or have you noticed if certain foods are eaten before a fit ensues?

With my daughter it turned out to be the almighty blood sugar drop. I started watching if and what she was eating, and whether or not she would have a tantrum. I started giving her small snacks all day and it is still working for keeping her mood in check (most of the time anyway, she is 14 now and some days there is just no hope!)

Whenever she had certain food (chicken nuggets believe it or not) she would come unglued on me within about an hour. So look for food sensitivities in strange places. I actually kept a journal so I could relate her fits to her diet. Also, look for allergens that might be around the house. My son is allergic to fabric softener. The docs never did figure this out, I just happened to run out one week so I did laundry without it, and his rashes went away.

The best part of this sort of temperment is she will be unstoppable with the sort of determination. She will become an amazing young woman that will have goals and meet them, and you'd better get out of her way if you don't want to get run over.

1 mom found this helpful

Hang in there.. Have you heard of Love and Logic? I read the book and found it teaches the parent how to take care of there sanity along with behaviors. Maybe this book would help you and your daughter. The approach helped my son and me when he was that age. He is 9 now. Good luck..

1 mom found this helpful

You know I NEVER had terrible twos with either of my kids but the second it turned to three and between three and five I can say it was harder! I know my son just now started pitching fits and he is almost four. It is just a power struggle type thing. My daughter started doing this about clothes, so before bedtime I let her choose between two things, she felt like she was empowered and when the morning came I reminded her it was her choice so she needs to get dressed with her choice. I have fits on occasion from her still about what coat she needs to wear per the weather and she is almost seven! I think for us it was giving her and my son control over some choices, however with things like coats I had to remind them that I cared enough about them to not want them to be cold. One morning, sounds bad, but I let her choose and she picked a wind breaker on a cold morning, all I heard about when she got home was how she froze during recess, but I made my point. Same with rain/snow boots as they cannot go out and play at recess without them, so if they chose not to wear them, so be it.
Try giving her small choices on things, like lunch and snacks. Have her help with her younger sister too. Make her feel big, in control and it helps building confidence. There is no magic, no matter how many books you read to completely rid yourself of fits/tantrums, it is kind of a way they get out their frustrations and part of childhood to some degree.

I would put her in time out when she pitches a fit, then tell her you will talk to her about what is making her upset when she calms down. When she calms down, gently ask her to explain what made her so upset, try to give her alternatives. I tell both of my kids I will gladly listen to your input or help you but not if you come to me in a tantrum.
They are starting to realize they do not get their way when they do pitch a fit and it isn't getting what they want that way so slowly but surely after reminding them they are getting less and less.
I had a battle with my six year old this morning, just telling her after a timer went off she needed to get ready for school, she got all huffy, threw down what she had in her hands and stormed off. I told her right then she was about to get her first warning of the day (she gets three and the third results in going to bed EARLY!), she smarted off and said she didn't care. So there was number two, she cried and walked all the way to school crying. I simply kissed her, hugged her told her to have a good day and I hate starting our day off sad. I told her I cared enough about her to want her to be ready for school so she isn't late and I am sorry she doesn't understand that. Then I reminded her that when she got home she was to take her shower and get in jammies and if there is a problem after school then she knows my rules and bedtime will be super early. I gave her another hug and sent her off to her class.
I hate mornings starting like this, ugh! After being consistent and sticking to my guns, which means a shower and jammies after school I am hoping she will get it. She needs to keep her mouth shut when I ask her to do something and just do it sometimes.
It isn't easy, but give her time, more choices, praise the good behavior and explain she will not get what she wants by her fits and be consistent. All children pitch fits, I think three is more the terrible threes! :)

1 mom found this helpful

I would have to put in my plug for "love and logic magic birth to 6 years" by Jim Fay and Charles Fay it has helped me a lot with helping my kids gain a pseudo sense of control over their worlds and I have learned to pick my battles and consequently we have less power struggles. When it is something that REALLY matters (like putting on your seatbelt) then you have clout since you have let them make choices about things all day and you can say "You've had lots of chances to make choices today now it's my turn and I need you to put on your seatbelt".
For the meldowns I would just put your daughter in her room on her bed every time and just say to her "when your ready to be sweet you can come out" and let he have time to cool down on her own and go about your business. If she comes out just gently put her back in over and over again (it takes a lot of energy at first but will improve as she learns that this is one battle that she will not win). When she's done offer her a hug and off you go. Hope that you find something that works.

1 mom found this helpful

My 7 year old was the same way when she was 3. She is my oldest so I don't think it has to do with her being the middle child because it sounds like you do one-on-one with her. I thought my daughter was going to be "the death of me", but I never gave in and stayed consistent. It took 20-30 times for her to learn lessons. I almost gave in several times, but then you have to start all over if you do that.

She would scream for up to an hour. I made her go to her room until she calmed down. I told her she could come out when she was sweet and could talk like a big girl. Then I would be able to talk to her letting her know that behavior isn't acceptable. It wouldn't do any good to talk to her before that because she didn't hear a word I said and it just made me even madder. If I needed to calm down myself, I would lock myself in my room because she wouldn't stay in her room most of the time and if I was too upset I didn't have the patience to keep taking her back. Holding her door shut didn't work either.

She understood when we talked afterwards, BUT it didn't stop her tantrums -- we had to do the whole process everytime. She didn't care about any of her consequences, like taking toys away, etc. So my Mom told me to try the "squirt bottle". I would squirt her when she started a tantrum (just once or twice), and she soon learned to stop very quickly when she saw the squirt bottle. I gave her a warning to stop or I would squirt her. It worked great!!! I even kept a travel size bottle in my purse for when we were out doing errands. That is really what worked for me. That is how they train cats, so it isn't a "mean" thing to do. I also always took a treat box with me into the store to contain her while I did errands.

I learned since then to just stop what I'm doing and hug her, and to give praise where and when it is needed. I stopped letting her upset me, and just looked for better ways to parent. I stopped yelling at her when she was in trouble so that she could learn that you don't have to yell.

I started giving her only 2 choices on things, when I told her NO to something else. (i.e. letting her choose what to wear out of her whole closet was very overwhelming to her, so I hung her clothes up high, and let her choose from 2 outfits that I chose that were appropriate for the activities for the day). I set a routine for her to know what to expect at certain times of the day (night routine - bath, read, prayers, short movie, etc.)

I took sugar away, and gave her healthy snacks. I just didn't buy it so the temptation wasn't there. I do believe diet has a lot to do with it. If I were to do it again, I would keep a diary of when her tantrums started.

Best wishes, D.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi R.,

When my 3 year old son gets out of hand and get down to his level, take him firmly by the arms, look him square in the eyes and use my strong voice telling him (in as few words as possible) what he needs to do or not do. I don't talk to him unless he is looking at me so I know he understands me and I repeat when he says to me. I do it every time, anywhere we are and if he gets too out of hand I take him outside asap.

It sounds like she's a middle child just trying to communicate. I would imagine it's difficult for you to communicate with 5 children especially girls. I think keeping consistency (time-outs, not giving in when she cries, etc) and setting realistic boundaries ( refusing to talk to her until she calms down) would help her. I think at that age kids are testing their boundaries ( as well as ours ) while trying to be independent and in control. She might be needing some control so in situations like helping out around the house with simple cleaning or being a helper to you (picking up toys or putting laundry in the washer ) might give her that independence she looking for. It really sounds like you trying to work with her which is awesome. Sometimes we just have to go with the flow and do what we can for that moment. If all else fails and your fed-up maybe put her in a room to vent by herself and tell her that you'll talk to her when she calms down. Spending a little time alone never hurt anyone.

good luck !

I'm big on reading and I found this book that I skimmed through and I thought it had some great information about toddlers and their behavior. It's called "The Happiest Toddler on the Block". They also make a DVD if reading sounds a little too overwhelming.


1 mom found this helpful

I woke up one day and realized my son was throwing fits left and right, pretty much anytime he did not get his way. I tried everything and was very sad. He too was 3 and 1/2. I had two daughters already who were great at every age. He decided to change everything I ever knew as a parent. Through much prayer, because I needed it, I feel God gave me the answer! I began to look into behavior issues and I was amazed at what I found. Through dietary changes(took him off all dairy and gluten products) and nutrional supplements added acidophilus regimen and other supplements. I have a new little boy and I am amazed at the change in him. It was beyond just an obedience issue for him, his little body was out of wack. I would not have believed it was possible until I experienced it. Just might be worth a shot trying it. Dianne Craft is where I found out about the nutritional info, she has a CD titled "The Biology of Behavior". Just google her name and see what you find. Hope it is helpful.

H., a mom who has been there.

1 mom found this helpful

Ya Know it is good to learn what works for each child by trial and error. What works for one doesn't always work for another. With my strong willed child I had to put her nose on the wall, or turn the time out chair around so she couldn't see anyone, but that only worked for a short time. A Christian counselor told me one time that if something comes out of their mouth that is not appropriate, sometimes you need to put it right back. I would NEVER suggest slapping a child in the face or head. BUT, I have thumped their lips to get their attention so they are hearing what I am saying or in the middle of the fit, swat the fatty part of their hindend. Sometimes just once is all it takes, but follow up with "that kind of behavior is NOT acceptable" I used words like that alot when my girls were little. Now they tell me those words or I hear them tell other little children. What kind of things really gets her attention? One of my daughters is a Nanny right now and she is very creative with how she gets his attention during a fit. She even asks him if he felt better after he is done, and then she asks him "How should we ask for what we want?" He responds very well to her. I also didn't allow them to scream at me, let her know that that behavior is not acceptable either. Also, NEVER do something when you are to the point of being angry. Deal with it while you are calm. This will teach her to act on her feelings and not react to her feelings. I hope this helps! K

somethign that usually worked for my oldest was anytime he acted up or threw a fit i took one of his favorite things and put it up somewhere high. keep the item in plain view so she can see it and know that she can't have it. explain that until she starts behaving the toy can't come down to play with her. she'll probably throw a fit about it the first few times, but like my son she'll probably realize you aren't kidding prety quickly and cut it out. don't limit the item to toys either, for my son it was often his favorite movie. hopefully this is helpful. good luck!

One thing I have tried with my 3 year old lately is talking in his ear. Today he threw a fit about going to preschool. I got down on his level and quietly talked to him about how his teachers and friends all like him there. He calmed down and took my hand and went in. I was surprised. It doesn't always happen, but I would keep trying that.

I would also check for physical things that are upsetting her - does she eat a lot of sugar, does she get enough sleep?

I would like to second or third, the Love and Logic books. They also have cds if you don't have time to read a book.
I also say consistency is a must! I think I am consistent, and then some time goes by and I realize that I am just giving in to things because they are whining and I don't want to hear it anymore! Then I go back to making a conscious effort to being consistent. Its my never ending struggle. But once established it does help. I have a very similar child who is not 4 1/2 and is finally starting to be somewhat agreeable. I like to think of her as very persistent. This Keeps me loving her positively.
Good luck

Dobson has a wonderful book Break the will but not the Spirit. I had a very strong-willed dtr and his suggestions really helped

Ah the joys of toddlers....esp stubborn ones!! Before being able to answer I guess its more important to know what the battle was over. Was she not wanting to wear them at all or just not the pair you had picked out for her? Without knowing the specifics its difficult to give any advice. I tell everyone I know to watch supernanny. She has a ton of creative ideas on how to deal with children that age. I know from experience that luckily the fit throwing is something they grow out of, unfortunately the stubborness is not. :) Good luck

I was having the same problem with my 2 year old. It seemed like NOTHING worked. We finally went and saw a parent coach/behaviroal health specialist. He told me that when I tell her no, that she can't have or do something, give her something she can have. It seems to be working. Also, he said that contact with other children (besides sybling) is very important. He suggested, since she does not go to daycare or have many "play dates" with other kids, that I put her in daycare for a couple hours a week. I have been taking her to the heights drop-in here in Billings to get some child interaction. She still has her moments, but this advice seemed to work wonders. Hope this helps. Jen

The best advice I ever got was to choose your battles. Was it worth it over underwear, or could you have let her win that one? I have a very strong willed girl as well, who is now a 14 year old fasion diva, and I had to learn when to give in. If it isn't life threatening and won't effect any long term life lessons, then decide if it is worth the battle!
R. O.

What works with my son (3 yr old) is a couple things depending on what the fit is about.

If it's about an item (i.e. movie, book, toy, etc.) I let him know that the longer he screams about it the long he will not be able to use/play with it, then start counting. The number I get to when he stops is the number of DAYS he can't have it.

However, when he does it in public he is given a spanking IN PUBLIC. I've only ever had to do this once (he was so embaressed) as now just telling him he's going to get one if he doesn't stop, stops him.

Good luck.

Seven kids later and I found a tool that works.....my video camera, My 6 year old has been pulling this for the last 2 years and then my know 4 year old started it, I ignored/time-outs ect,.. but he kept having them, so one day in the middle of one I pulled out the camera and recorded it, later that night we sat down and watched it, he was amazed by how bad he looked and sounded in it and when i asked if he got what he wanted in the end he said no, know any time he starts one I pull it out and he instantly stops. This worked on my know 4 year old DD, and I rarely get meltdowns from her, and I will use it with my 19 month old when he is older! I think it is a great tool cause they can see what is happening and then there is the benefit of being able to talk about other things they could of done instead. I don't know if it is realistic or not for you but it has worked for me. Good luck!

I also have a 2 year old almost 3 that is very controlling and likes everything her way. She is the 3rd of four children and we are going through the same thing. We pick out clothes and she continues to change them. I am now giving her two choices for most things and making sure that I am ok with whatever she picks and that is it. We are also continuing with naps or quiet time because I think some of our issues are being over tired. I think as moms we have to continue to be as consistent as possible, provide choices to give them control, and follow through with what we say. I know if I tell my daughter she is in time-out then I have to make sure she sits in the time out chair for the entire two minutes and I have to take the time to follow through or she will do whatever she can to get up. Remember your child is normal and you are not alone. Also, I remind myself that being stubborn can be a very good trait as children grow into adults. They are determined, know what they want, and usually succeed when they set their minds to something. Good Luck

I'm sorry, I do not have any fantastic ideas for you, but am looking forward to others' answers for when I get there myself! I do, however, have a question: I have seen the abbreviation "DH" in other posts, but don't know what it means. Can you define? Thanks!

I just finished a bible study with some friends. We studied the book, "Sheparding a child's heart". It has helped me to be effective and I noticed changes quickly. I wish I had this when my kids were infants. The book goes from infants to teens. It is not long, and is an easy read. I have 3 kids. 10, 8, 5.
Good Luck!

My best advice are 1 of 2 books: either "love and logic", or smart discipline". I'm not sure who the authors are right now, but you can get both at the library. I use smart discipline, myself, and it works fabulously. My son is almost 4 and this system has taken care of most of our problems. Check the books out and see what you think ;-) Good luck.

I used to babysit a little girl who was also very stubborn, and she would have fits over silly things and scream for prolonged amounts of time, at about that same age. I finally learned that if I ignored it, she would quit. But sometimes she would scream--loudly--for 25 minutes! If she started calming down, and I went to try to talk to her, she would start up again. I would have to wait until she was completely done before I went to her. I think she would get herself so worked up that she couldn't stop herself very well. She eventually outgrew it, but it was hard.

Your daughter probably does want attention, but it sounds like you are giving that to her. With 4 siblings, she has to learn that she has to share your time. I think ignoring the fits is probably your best bet. It's annoying, but just tune her out, and make sure she understands that her crying needs to be done in another room, away from other people.

I have been able to avoid a lot of temper fits by allowing my boys choices when I know there is a possibility of a blow up. I pick 3 shirts and let them pick one, or I allow them to pick their socks for the day...or both :-)

It seemed with my oldest child that this gave him some feeling of control and cut way back on the full blown, throw myself on the floor and cry for 30 minutes tantrums he was famous for.

Hopefully this helps!

I just recieved some wonderful advice for my son who is almost 2 and throwing tantrums now... one big hug. It sounds too simple to work, but I just traveled alone with him this past weekend (in a plane both ways) and the hugs kept my sanity. I would hug him for at least a minute (until he calmed down) and rub his shoulders- it made me calmer too! I think it releases endorphines and reassures them that everything is OK. Good Luck!

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