4-1/2 Year Old Throwing Out of Control Tantrums

Updated on May 08, 2010
F. asks from San Antonio, TX
22 answers

Help! I thought my daughter (only girl of 4) had finally outgrown tantrums. She has been doing really well for the past six months. We have had a lot of success nipping the tantrums in the bud, stopping them before she gets really upset and redirecting her to more constructive behavior. Then, about 6 weeks ago, the tantrums came back, worse than ever. She has had 3 now where she has been completely out of control, screaming, kicking, refusing to walk, going rigid, etc. All three have started in public places over very small things. The first started b/c I wouldn't let her push a grocery cart, the second b/c I wouldn't let her have something in a cart she was sitting in and the third b/c she didn't want to apologize to a friend whom she had hit in the face with her arm in the process of playing. All three times, I chose to remove her from the public scene, but since I had all or some of my other kids with me, it took a few minutes to execute that plan. All three times, she continued to scream and be completely unreasonable and out of control the whole way home and even after we got there. I don't know what to do with her when she gets like this. None of my boys have ever acted this way (2 are older, one 13 mos. younger). It is almost frightening how crazed she gets. I am not one to get embarassed by her behavior, but I don't have a lot of patience for it. She has not had any major changes in her routine or her life lately. Do any of you have kids that have done or do these kinds of things? How do you react? Have you had success in calming your children? How do you discipline for this kind of thing? Right now it usually ends with her in her bed, crying until she finally falls asleep.... I have a call into the pediatrician too b/c I just can't believe this is "normal" for a child who is almost 5. Any helpful hints would be greatly appreciated! TIA, a stressed mom!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much for you wonderful words of wisdom and support. Many of you had great ideas that I will try out if necessary. So far, no more tantrums! It was also nice to hear that I am not the only one struggling with this issue. I think that is the most reassuring thing about Mamasource. Thanks again, moms!

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E.N.

answers from El Paso on

Well, my son is 5 and has been actin gas though he is three like his brother. While I was at my moms we started something new to help out. We seperated them by age. The 5 year old gets to do things the youngest does not while the youngest gets to do things the oldest can no longer do because he is not a baby any longer. When the oldest decided to act like a baby, we took away a big boy priveledge and put him in a corner or sent him to his room with the added phrase baby -(their name). It was not done in a mean manner and it worked within the day. You said you have a younger one and an older one. Try to do this with them. that way she will understand that she can not act like a baby and can not have her way. If she throws a fit in the store again, tell her that babies do not get anything from the store. Only good girls that act nice in the store and ask politely for things.

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B.C.

answers from Beaumont on

My mom had this problem with me when I was little. What she finally did to break me of it was to throw a fit herself. Sounds funny I know but it worked with me. I've had several nieces and nephew that would do the tantrum thing as well. I took my mom's advice and got down in the floor and started imitating them. Worked like a charm. Once niece got up and immediately ran to my step-daughter. Later that week at her grandmother's house she started to throw another fit and all I had to do was sit on the floor and she immediately stopped. Her mom had tried everything and nothing worked. Told her my trick and she had to do it once - no problems since.

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C.H.

answers from Houston on

Hi F.,
Your daughter is normal. Often their desires are just to challenge you, whatever you offer, they want to disagree. She is learning to be independent of you. You already are aware of many methods of discipline. What I'd like to suggest trying is telling her while she is good humored that you love her and want to help her when she tries to tell you something. You will try your best to understand. During many stages the child understands more that is said than what she is able to verbalize. Because she is so intense she cannot gather her thoughts and feels like you won't understand, so zooms straight to the tantrum. When she First begins to act up, say "I will help you. Show me. No screaming. Tell me again." Keep your voice even and loud enough for her to hear. Do not shout to rise above her volume. If she continues or escalates, walk away or move her to pitch the fit in her room. It helps if you know for instance that she is frustrated that she can't make the toy work, or tries to reach something and can't. Before she goes wild, speak the words for her that you imagine she is wanting to say but hasn't yet learned how to identify. "You are frustrated that you cannot push the grocery cart. I'll help you." "That is not the book you want. I'll help you find the one you want. Tell me." "I know you didn't mean to hit your friend with your arm. It was an accident. Tell her you are sorry because you didn't mean to hit her. You were just playing." That tactic explains to her that you know she didn't intend to hurt her friend, that she is not in trouble--it was an accident. This calls for you to be a mindreader, a saint or a cop sometimes one right after another. Once they see you are trying to help/understand, Some of the tantrums are diffused. Sometimes it is as simple as "I know you want to use a knife. No. That is not safe. NO." "I know you are angry because you want the cookie. You must eat dinner first." A teacher gave me this simple advice which stopped my DD from spinning like a pinwheel at top volume on the floor wherever we were. I no longer felt the desire to hide under the concrete in shame or drag her to the bathroom for a spanking. In time her vocabulary skills will catch up to what she is wanting to say. Tantrum=frustration.

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A.J.

answers from Houston on

My son started doing them again when he turned 5. I asked the pediatrician and she said that he was probably starving for attention since my other son was born. I started to be more conscious of the time I was spending with him. The doctor also suggested doing things with him just by himself (without little brother) and so every Friday, my husband and I take turns on doing things with him. With your family being that much bigger, it may not be possible....but just keep a mental note and see if maybe she is feeling left out. The doc also suggested that before you go into the store, you mention that tantrums are not acceptable and if she does it, then she will suffer the consequence. For my son, it was timeout in the car (he really hates that!) He does not like to be quiet! But, yes, I also had to leave with a screaming child out the door....and yes, it's embarrasing....but, once my son started these tantrums, there was no stopping him. So, with those 2 things: spending more time with him and warning before going in the store, he only did it one more time.

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L.B.

answers from Corpus Christi on

There could be a medical problem. Please be sure and talk more with your Dr. If this is the problem there are ways to deal with it. Good luck.

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S.M.

answers from Austin on

Hi, F..
I don't think this is abnormal, at all. (At least, I HOPE not!) My daughter, who will be 5 in October, still does this on occasion. What you wrote sounds EXACTLY like my child. I don't have much in the way of help, because you do the same things I do, and I think they're the right things--remove her from the situation, don't let her embarass you, etc. I think that these kinds of tantrums happen because she's just terribly frustrated. I have reasons why I say NO to something she wants, and she doesn't understand, and bingo! Tantrum. One thing we do when the tantrum is over is ask her if it made anything change. Like, we'll say, "Did you kicking and screaming make me change my mind?" and she'll have to say no, and sometimes that helps, because I can reminder her when I see frustration building. Anyway, I'm sorry you're going through this, too, and I'm sorry I didn't have any big solutions, but I really think you're doing the right thing, and we'll both just have to wait for the girls to outgrow them. (Can't be fast enough for me!)
Stef

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K.M.

answers from Houston on

Hi F.,

This is a long shot, but I had a friend tell me her daughter had tantrums until they stopped giving her milk. No milk, no tantrums. The doctor did not believe it, and so the mom reintroduced milk. The tantrums returned, and that was the last time they gave her milk. We were discussing this because my daughter also was allergic to milk, and even now at 17 years old we have to be very careful to use either soy or no lactose milk. It may be worth a try. i know it sounds quite strange, but our bodies are all different, and it may not be just bad behaviour. All the best, K.

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K.B.

answers from San Antonio on

Try looking up information on the internet about Sensory Integration Disorder and see if the symptoms sound familiar to your family. If so - an occupational therapist can teach her how to self - calm which is what she is not able to do. My son has it and is doing sooooo much better now that we know what it is and how to help him. By the way - I suffer from it to and it is not fun to deal with when you don't have the tools to enable you to self calm in the middle of an episode (that's what we call them). Good luck!

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D.M.

answers from Houston on

I'm so very late on this, so I'm sure you've gotten a lot of great responses so far... We just walk away from our son when he does this. He's looking for an audience, so when we take it away, he acts right. Even in a public place, we will walk away while still staying where we can see him. If we're at home, we pick him up & take him to his room, close the door, and tell him he can come out when he's done. By trying to calm him/her, you are just reinforcing the behavior.

My hubby & I are reading this great book- Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Dr. Kevin Levine (I think that's right- he's the same one who wrote about Birth order). It's a really great book, which has been helping my hubby a lot (& me in the process) b/c he is very permissive, so I have to be "the bad guy" in disciplining our son.

Best of luck to you! Just remember- this too shall pass.

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D.B.

answers from Beaumont on

My daughter is now 9 but when she was about 2 she started "trying" tantrums on for size. She learned real fast that they were ineffective and quit. She just doesn't do it anymore.

What I did was to ignore her. If we were at home I would tell her to take it to her room because I didn't want to see her or hear her. I didn't try to stop the tantrum, I didn't try to calm her I just ignored her. That way she didn't get attention, she didn't get what she wanted and she learned real fast that tantrums just don't work.

If we were in a public place like the grocery store or wal-mart I never left. I would tell her... "go ahead and look ridiculous all you want. You're still not going to get what you want you're just going to make yourself sick and giver yourself a headache" and then I would ignore her. It only took a couple of times before again, she realized it wasn't working and it wasn't worth it.

I used the same technique to stop baby talking and whining as well. Just be strong and not give in to her demands and part of that means not giving her attention of ANY kind. Not gentle, loving attention and not angry attention. Just ignore her. At home it's especially easy cause you can step right over her and go on about your business. It's not easy but hopefully she'll get the message and it will stop. Good luck!

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L.D.

answers from San Antonio on

Hi Tia,
My 4 year old daughter also works herself up so badly over little things, like who gets into the car first. She is more emotional than my other girls in general, so I think it's just a phase she's going through. (Maybe she'll have a kinder puberty?? I can hope.)

When mine starts jumping, scratching & throwing herself down or onto me, I usually just take her to her room - kicking & screaming - and toss her on her bed. She has to stay there until she can calm down. I try to get her to take deep breaths, but she usually can't. I truly can't calm her down... but after 30-60 minutes she's cried & kicked it out of her system; then she just wants some hugs. I think it's a little bit of overtiredness, a little bit of hormones, a little bit of sibling rivalry (she's the middle child).

She hasn't had a major episode in public that I can recall just now, but I've been known to leave my grocery cart and walk out of the store with a kid flung over my shoulder. :) "Leaving" them in the aisle (peeking to make sure they're safe) also has worked well for me in the past.

My best advice to you is to use a flat, matter-of-fact voice when talking to her during her tantrums. The quieter the better. It may force her to calm down enough to hear what you're saying. Just tell her you don't appreciate the way she's acting (or you're disappointed, or whatever you choose to say) and explain what's going to happen next (you're going to leave the store, she's going to her room, etc.) Then just do it. The voice part is so important but very tricky to remember when you're out of patience!!!

Good luck :)

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B.T.

answers from Austin on

Hi F.,

My 5 year old daughter started doing this last year in March. It actually began with a prolonged headache/fever last spring. Once she was better after a week of nonstop headache/high fever, the demonic tantrums began. We went all summer with this insane behavior...little things setting her off, sometimes out of the blue and I didn't know what set her off. She was extrememly loud, aggressive and could at times be dangerous to herself. We noticed that once the tantrum was done, she was so exhausted that she would seem to just stare into space and not hear anything we said to her, sometimes taking an unaccustomed nap. Yes, we resorted to spanking and yelling quite often. No results. I finally said enough was enough and asked the pedi for help....NO help there. I was told to stop being over-reactive, she was just being manipulative with me. A mom knows when something's wrong with her child and I knew this behavior was so abnormal for my normally sweet angelic little girl. I fortunately have a dad that works with traumatic brain injury patients (he's a counselor). I broke down and told him I was afraid we may be hurting her and not helping her with these "tantrums". He really watched her for a while and listened to my reports of her behavior. Once he had a few days of hard data to work with he told me to call a pedi neurologist because she appeared to be having Absence Seizures often every day. I got her in for a neuro consult and found out she has Epilepsy and her type of seizures are called Absence Seizure Disorder. We got her on the right meds and after 2 months her seizures were under control and we had our sweet little girl back!
She's been seizure-free since this past Christmas morning!! However, as she grows older and approaches the beginning of kindergarten, we're seeing some attitude and behavior changes and tantrums again, but on a much smaller scale....fully attributed to anxiety over the start of school. :) She'll be fine once she starts and makes some friends!
Sorry to have taken so long, just wanted to cover my daughter's whole story so in case anything sounded familiar to you, you could reach out for the appropriate help too.
Hopefully your little girl is just going through a "hormonal" period like little girls all seem to do. with much love and patience, you will all get through this difficult period.
God Bless,
B.

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S.W.

answers from Austin on

Hi F.,
Wow, I know this can be unnerving especially when you have other children who are in the picture.
Have you tried Redirecting Children's Behaviour? It worked wonders when our 4 year old girl was 2 1/2 to 3 and was throwing nuclear meltdowns at the slightest thing that did not go her way several times a week. Best of luck and Blessings, S.

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M.P.

answers from Austin on

That was a major surprise of motherhood for me - the terrible 5s! I had no idea that 5 could be as hard as 2. My first bumped thru this with only a few problems, but my second was almost like a 2 year old again for about a year during that 4 1/2 - 5 1/2 year old phase. My second child is much more emotional and sensitive that the older and it seemed that many situations would set him off. The best thing I could find was the separate him from the situation and put him in a quiet place to calm down. I would put him in his room (often with him screaming for up to an hour) and tell him once he was ready to be fun again we would love for him to come play with us again, but if he did not want to be fun, he needed to be by himself. Eventually this all passes and he is now a loving and sweet 7 year old ~ so hang in there!
M.

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C.W.

answers from San Antonio on

http://www.parentmagic.com/ Call your local library and see if they have this video. It can't hurt to try it and has been successful for me as well as other moms. Blesings your way!

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K.C.

answers from Houston on

I have a neice that has pulled this quite a few times. Its not fun. My neice has even left bruses on my sister with the fits she use to throw. The only way my sister was able to handle them was throw herself on her so she didnt hurt any other people with her fits. My neice on the other hand when aroud me only tried this maybe 3 times with me. Its hard to say but shes only doing this to get your attention. (make sure you take her for testing to make sure she doesnt have any physo. problems that is the root of the problem) I one day out of frustration with her second fit throw my full drink on her...lol..IT WORKED!!! It caught her by suprise and she didnt know what to do but the fit stopped right in their tracks. Yes after the shock wore off she cried alittle but I explained that I was not going to have her act like that and if she ever acted like that again around me then she will have to deal with what she got...I didnt have any more problems out of her for a while.....third time was just as funny...we was at a store and she started throwing a fit again about something and there goes my drink again... after the suprise affect and all the bystanders I made her clean up the mess by herself.
She has had this problem for several years and now she is 9. I havent had a problem with her since she was 6. My sister couldnt ever see herself throw her drink on her so she had to deal with it until she was 9 when my neice finally grew out of it on her own....at least we think for now.
Really you dont have to go throw a drink on her you just need to shock her do something that is unexpected each time she starts to have her little fit. And if it works do it again and again until it quits working and find something else one day she will learn that you are not going to deal with her fits.

Good luck.

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N.P.

answers from Austin on

Did you ever find anything helpful? I have a 4 year old daughter who does this. It seems to happen in cycles (she will go a long time without any then have 3 in a week) and almost seem like seizures they get so bad. At first I dismissed them as over the top temper tantrums, but she seems too old now. If you ever found anything it would be really helpful. Thanks!
[email protected]____.com

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L.C.

answers from Austin on

Hi F.,

I thought long and hard about how I would deal with tantrums because I was just like your little girl. In addition to the usual tantrum behavior I would bang my head on the floor or wall or whatever made the most impact. When my son was about 18 months old she started exhibiting some of the same behaviors and then again around 4. Rather than trying to diffuse the situation I would encourage him. A little reverse psychology really worked with him. If we were in a public place and he would start having a tantrum I would say " Oh come on you can do better than that. You need to kick harder. Is that all you've got?" I would even pull other shoppers over and say" What do you think about this fit? I think he could do much better don't you?" This worked for us because he wanted to have control of the situation. I took that control away and his tantrums were deflated. In addition to reacting to he tantrums this way, I would also point out when other children where misbehaving in public and say "look at that child over there. I am so glad you don't behave that way. Their parents must be really sad that their child is acting that way. I am so happy that you are so well behaved." After employing these techniques for a while my children would point out other kids and say to me "mommy look at that kid over there. They are being so rude. Aren't you glad we don't act that way?" And I would yes I am so proud of you.

I hope this is helpful. Good luck.

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L.H.

answers from Killeen on

hi F.
calling the pediatrican is a great start ask if they think a child counsler would be of some help also ,,when my oldest did it once in a store i left him on the floor and hide from him a few isles over it scared him he never did it again
good luck L.

A.G.

answers from Houston on

When she throws these tantrums do you EVER give in? Is she punished for acting out like this?

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K.B.

answers from Houston on

Hi F.-

I think starting with your pediatrician is the right thing to do. There are so many things it could be including her just testing you and being overly dramatic about it. Before you see your pediatrician try to sit down and think about your daughters behavior in different situations so that you can give your pediatrician a complete picture and include anything that you have seen her do that you don't think is quite "normal" for her age. Does she only throw tantrums with you or will she do it to anyone when she doesn't get her way? Do her tantrums seem to happen when she is overstimulated or can they happen anytime, anywhere? Does she have friends, is she able to socialize and play with other kids?

Good Luck,
K.

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V.L.

answers from Houston on

Does she get enough one on one time with you? Try taking her out just the two of you all and try bringing it up in the conversation and maybe you can find out what is bothering her. If she all of a sudden starts acting like this something might be bothering her. I see she is the only girl. Is she feeling left out? Maybe you need to reinforce her girly side and spend some girl time together??? Most kids do this for attention. Good luck!!

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