4 Year Old Temper Tantrums

Updated on October 06, 2011
H.A. asks from San Francisco, CA
8 answers

Hi there,

Has anyone else's daughter turned into a nightmare at 4 years old? Our sweet little girl has turned into such a beast, just around her 4th birthday! We are shocked that she has started hitting us, screaming and crying several times a day over absolutely nothing, saying "no" to everything we ask of her, completely losing control and having horrible tantrums that last for 30 minutes to an hour as she spirals out of control. She's behaving fine at school (same school for 3 years) and was a peach until a month ago. 

She loves school, has fun with her friends, is getting plenty of sleep (most nights) and exercise, and eats a very healthy diet. We've asked her what's going on (lovingly and patiently, in many different ways), have had her draw her feelings, have tried punishments for specific behavior and taken away things of value to her. NOTHING is working, it's just getting worse! Everyone we ask says it's just a phase, but it's been about a month and we are at our whit's end. She's never behaved like this before so we feel like we don't know what to do to get her back on track. We want to help her, but also her behavior has been so unacceptable that we have completely lost our patience with her.

Thanks for any suggestions or words of wisdom!

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answers from San Diego on

Ah. My daughter, sweet, loving, turned four and it seemed like that day she regressed to a two-year-old. For her, it was a two month phase, misbehavior directed at me. I really wonder about some sort of regression at this age. She, too, went to the same school for three years prior, but with this milestone, maybe there is some anxiety about growing up, more expectation,etc.

We talked about how our days were going and if she behaved like x then y would happen. She's a smarty, so we talked like this at a calm time and I would follow through every time so she was able to predict the consequences. I gave her a ton of attention when she was feeling loving and set firm boundaries when, well, not.

Keep the consistency, as you are. Give us an update if things progress or change.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

My aunt told me that when her kids would "lose it", she would calmly send them to their room and tell them when they were done, they were welcome to come back out.

It gave the child space to have their tantrum and also the opportunity to learn how to pull themselves together. They got to control over how long it took. Sometimes she would find they fell asleep, other times they would spend a few minutes alone then come back downstairs.

Rudeness was treated in the same manner except there was a discussion about the behavior when they came back downstairs.

You'll be surprised how quickly tantrums end when there is no audience.



answers from San Antonio on

wow I remember when my son did the 'turn' at that age. I tried time out, didn't work, I did a lot of other things like taking toys away etc. One day though he took this tantrum so bad he was yelling and throwing himself on the floor i didn't know what to do. So...clothes in all, kicking and screaming I put him in the tub and turned on the cold shower....never had a tantrum since and he is 7 now and when he gets in a tisy all i have to say is one word. SHOWER?. and it ends. Funny how things sometime stick because after i say the word, he knows he has been bad and will apologize and I only ever did it once.



answers from Phoenix on

Discipline her every time with 100% consistency. Put her in a corner or timeout spot and ignore her for 4 minutes. Then when she's calm, talk to her about what is expected and remind her not to throw fits. Answering your question helps me because I need a reminder but be consistent myself. Good luck!



answers from San Francisco on

My Son had the same thing happen to him....but I figured it out (in our case anyhow). Even though my son was eating a very healthy diet, he had developed a sensitivity to wheat/gluten. Even though he had enough sleep, he was often exhausted, combative, non-compliant on every turn, screaming, crying, and miserable. He had joint and bone aches, which I chalked up to "growing pains", except he wasn't growing. He had stomach aches, headaches. Sometimes I feared he was developing Manic-depressive order. Now he is a pretty happy guy and reasonably compliant as much as any child and SMILES. He runs and plays and has fun.
Your child may have a food allergy. Children are just not this miserable naturally. Go to the doctor, try elimination diets. Wheat takes about 10 days to leave the system. I don't know about dairy, eggs or any of the other allergens. Good Luck!



answers from San Francisco on

Could be just a phase but talk to the teachers/caregivers to see if anyone elses notices any changes, as childrens behaviours are all about their feelings just like any of us. When things are hard we act out and especially so to the people who lpve us most as they are the safest. Make sure nothing has happened that has been hard on her to avoid punishing her. It could be anything from someone being mean or teasing at preschool to someone inappropriately talking to her or anything. Be patient and listen to her and especially listen to her playing, if anything has happened it usually comes put through play, she will have one doll do to another doll what may have been done to upset her. I work in early education and 8 times out of 10 when a Childs behaviour suddenly takes a turn for the worse something is going on. Inconsistent punishment makes it worse and violent punishment or imprisoning a child only teaches them that they cannot trust you with their feelings and although the behaviour may stop it is only because of fear Or resignation. Hopefully it is just a phase and your being thrown for a loop and not being consistent (because you haven't had to deal with this before) and it's exasperating the situation is all it is. All the best.



answers from San Francisco on

I'm sorry I don't have time to scan through other answers for replication, but have you looked into changing her diet? My 4yo is very stable, unless she has had more than her norm of simple carbs (meaning sugar). I can literally tell when there is a bday party at preschool because she looses her ability to make the right choice. The closest thing to sugar she has at home is 70% chocolate on occasion. Otherwise we get by with whole grains and fruits, fresh or dried.
There are also certain common food dyes that others have linked to this kind of behavior in kids. I have become a bit obsessed with the issue when dd1 was born, so we went as natural and organic (and soy free, to avoid horrors like premature puberty) as our budget and my time allows. It's harder to switch to that mode once your kid has sampled undiluted juice, candy or (shudder) soda, and you have to be careful to male sure she doesn't associate the diet switch with bad behavior and learn to rely on sugary foods as mood boosters later in life (like most of us do), but I firmly believe that reducing simple carbs improves a child's ability to function. Good luck!


answers from Williamsport on

Lots of 4 year olds will do this, so I don't think it's anything too sinister. Especially if she's only doing it to you and not others. If you remove all possibility of any medical factor, and you want to be firm enough as well as loving enough, you can stop the tantrums this way: Back to Basics Discipline by Janet Campbell Matson. Scan it first on Amazon to see if you agree with the perspective. Good work handling this after only a month-you don't want it to cement itself! She has full self control at this age and can turn it around quickly if you are effective.

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