3 Year Old Saying "Iam Sad" ALL the Time

Updated on March 14, 2011
C.W. asks from Topeka, KS
9 answers

Hey ladies,

So my daughter is almost 3 and everytime she's upset and throwing a fit she only says "but iam so sad!" And she melts down. She won't explain why she is upset, its just always "but iam so sad!" And I ask her calmly "why are you so sad" or "whats making you so sad" but when I ask over and over again I get a little frustrated when she won't talk to me about it. I don't want to dimiss her feelings and I want her to feel like she can explain her emotions to me without holding it in. Anyone else ever have this problem?

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answers from San Francisco on

You are asking too much for a 3 year old to explain her feelings. She can't.

Just mirror what you believe her emotions to be. " Yes, it is sad when you can't have a candy", (or whatever the situation is). That usually helps calm the meltdown somewhat.

Other than that, I wouldn't worry about it. A 3 year old throwing fits is common enough.

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answers from Charlotte on

She is trying to talk to you about her frustration, C.. She doesn't have the words to say what she wants to say, so this works for her. Don't try to read more into it than that.

Give her time to grow up some regarding her ability to communicate. Meanwhile, kids this age DO melt down.

If you are giving her a lot of attention for her meltdowns because of this thing with her saying she's sad, then you are exacerbating it. You can do a lot to prevent meltdowns, like making sure she is fed and rested before taking her out, giving her time to transition from activity to activity ("In 5 minutes we're going to clean up the toys for lunch time"), giving her two choices ("Would you like to pick up the toys first or put away the clothes first?"), etc. These things can help, and you can figure out other triggers too.

But the truth of it is, you shouldn't dote over her when she's acting this way. Put her in her room if she's having a meltdown and let her get over it. Tell her she can be with you when she isn't acting like this. Later, let her talk if she wants to. Stop trying to put words in her mouth about her "sadness". You don't want her to end up having a "victim mentality".

Good luck,

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

It's seems normal to me for the age that she is, my DD is 3.5 and while she's been able to tell us for a while WHAT she is feeling - she's sad, she's angry, etc. - it is beyond her capabilities to tell us why. Sometimes if I suggest different reasons why, she can tell me yes or no. If it's something she's having a meltdown over (the play date has to end, or I'm saying no to something she wants to do, whatever), I will tell her that I know she is sad because of XYZ, or I can see that she is frustrated. And sometimes I know she is probably doing and saying a lot of things because it grabs our attention and gets it focused on her. I am sure that as they get older, their abilities to explain the "why" behind what they are feeling will get better, but I know even older kids can't always know why they have the feelings they have without an adult being able to talk to them and gently suss it out.

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answers from Honolulu on

It is GOOD... that she is expressing herself.
At this age however, the emotions, are not fully developed yet and are still developing.
At this age, they are NOT articulate about it nor rocket-scientists about their feelings.
But the fact that your girl CAN say how she feels, is good.
As she gets older... she can then gain more ability, to be more specific.

I taught my kids about feelings and the names for it, from 2 years old. Over time they got more succinct, about it.
My son at 3 years old, could tell me the difference between him feeling 'grumpy' or 'irritated' or 'frustrated.' For example.
If he was sad... I praised him for telling me. Sometimes he didn't have a reason. Just like adults. That's fine. But I would validate him and just let him know I am there for him. And I would also teach him problem-solving... together with him. Because, a wee child cannot do that by themselves. So you guide them, on it.
If for example, my son was 'sad' about something, I would ask him "Do you want Mommy to help? Or do you just want to sit here and relax for a moment?
Or, if his toy was broken or something, he was sad. Then we would talk about it, together. And if I could fix it, then 'we' would.

Don't expect, your girl, to articulate her feelings, precisely and don't show her that you get frustrated. She CANNOT tell you, and 'explain' it.
Some 5-6 year olds, cannot do that either.
So keep your expectations, age appropriate.

Just teach her about feelings and the names for it.
In time like a rock collecting moss, a child will get more succinct and articulate about it.

Again, some adults can't even explain their feelings, so a 3 year old, may not do that either.
But teach her.... and guide her.

all the best,

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I think this is a fairly normal stage in development. At three, kids have enough language, grasp on time and emotional understanding to state a feeling, but not necessarily to explain it's origins or "process".

I'd suggest getting and/or making a feelings chart so that she can add to her emotional vocabulary. You can even play games, "Let's make angry faces. Let's make silly faces. Let's make proud faces. Let's make calm faces, etc."

I also suggest you might try to fill in the blanks for her. For example, "When I took your plate away you started frowning and you began crying. I can tell you feel sad and frustrated." Or, "I see you feel angry because you threw yourself on the floor. It's okay to feel angry but it's not okay to throw fits because you could get hurt or hurt someone else." Etc.

Try also to remember that she is probably not trying to dismiss you or not communicate. She simply doesn't have the tools to do so yet. Not your fault and not hers, just a stage in her development.

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answers from Portland on

Many toddlers just can't explain a feeling. The cause and effect may be too subtle for their life experience, or their vocabularies.

My grandson is a very sensitive boy and can get pretty blue at times. His parents and I have always made a point of validating his feelings. It dawned on me at one point that we made a bigger effort to validate his downers, and took his uppers for granted. So when he needed some tenderness, he'd go "down" to get his strokes.

Now I have trained myself to comment appreciatively on his good moods, and (surprise!) he spends more time there.

If that doesn't work for your daughter, it's not impossible that she's experiencing depression. Depression can be a genetic predisposition, and it can also result from a chemically toxic influence for some children (I'm chemically sensitive myself, and exposures can do a number on my moods and ability to cope.)

You might try eliminating all household chemicals for a few weeks (many of them are truly toxic, anyway), cleaning with baking soda or white vinegar, using free and clear detergent, skipping the (truly awful) fabric softeners, and avoiding artificial colors and preservatives in the foods she eats. You might be surprised at how much these are affecting her.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Yeah, you have to fish for the answer ... are you sad because mommy said no juice? are you sad because your dolly is wearing purple? are you sad because the puppy is taking a nap? After a year of the are you sad because game my 4yr old can now tell me why he is sad ... I do not have to fish for the answer as much ... but in my experience you you have to help them find the words around this age, especially with mine who has a speech delay.

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answers from Modesto on

You need to say "I am so sad too, because....blahdeeblah"... then ask her why is she so sad. She probably just doesnt have the words. She's probably mad, not sad, anyway. Role play with her, its the best way to get them to talk. Be 3 yourself, she will like that.

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answers from St. Louis on

Hi C.,
I think that at that age repeat words and still do not understand actually what it means. My kid used to do that and sometimes still does it because he heard a word from me, someone else or somehow and he just repeats it, and include it in his vocabulary.
As other mom says, show to her what the word "sad" means (probably you did it before)and give her examples. She will get it easily!
On another hand, when your little one is actually sad, hug her and ask her how you can help her, and make her laugh.....
Have a nice day!