Advice on Tantrums

Updated on March 08, 2010
H.S. asks from Carthage, MO
12 answers

I am a mother of twin boys who will be 4 in may. One of them is quiet and well mannered , the other is stubborn and full of energy!! Disciplining him is the hardest thing me and my husband have run into!! Even for being parent's of multiples!!! Our son will throw a tantrum about everything!!! We have tried numerous punishments but nothing seems to be working!! Me and my husband are consistant with discipline, but it just doesn't fase him. What can me and my husband do? I want to get a handle on this before my son begins preschool!! Please Help!!!

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answers from St. Louis on

Options worked for us as well. My 3 year old daughter was having tantrums a lot too, and my friends told me that I needed to give her more control over some things in her life. (She is an only child, and I am very overprotective.) So I backed off the hovering and started giving her choices on things and more independence to try things on her own, and it worked immediately. The other thing that worked was taking away privileges if she still threw a tantrum. We go by the 1-2-3 Magic book, and that also really helped us in discipline. We count her on the behavior we want her to stop only (not to to do something) and give her till the count of 3. It is essentially her warning. Then if she doesn't comply, she gets either a time out or she loses her TV time, toy, etc. Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

Ignore the tantrum. After you clearly explain to him about the situation (whatever it might be...why he can't have candy, why he can't run around naked, etc.) then stop responding to all pestering questions ("but whyyyyyyy?") and ignore the tantrum. I know how difficult this is to do. But I promise you it will work if you are consistent. Don't get angry or show any reaction. Pretend you don't even notice. Believe it or not, even negative punishments are reinforcing his behavior -- they just don't work. This isn't going to change overnight, but maintain your consistency.

In the meantime, go out of your way to praise the positive behaviors when they occur. Give him a sticker or a stamp when he does something without the fighting. Try to lavish him with positive attention during the good times.

The good news is...he'll probably never act like this at preschool. Only at home with you or his Dad. This is healthy and normal. I think you'll be surprised how much better behaved he will be at school. And try not to take it personally! It means he is 100% assured by your love and he knows he will never lose your love.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Our oldest was like that for a while. Something that worked for us was to give him options (that we chose to give him). For example, he would freak out if we just gave him an outfit. But if we gave him two outfits to choose from, he would choose one (sometimes pants from one and a shirt from another). I also let him choose the shoes that he wants, even if they don't match. (His favorite is a bright yellow pair of rain boots. It works for me!)

I also let him choose what to have for meals, within reason. Pasta or sandwich? Cereal or oatmeal? Once he had control over some things, it was a lot easier for him to be more accepting when he was not able to control other things.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Wichita on

I have to laugh at people that say "ignore the tantrum". I'm not one of those people that can ignore screaming and throwing toys around. My 4 year old son has a HORRIBLE temper and the loudest scream on the planet. This was happening up to 6 times a day and I thought I was going to lose my mind. But after reading a lot of books (The Strong Willed Child, Your Spirited Child to name a few) I came up with a few solutions that PRAISE GOD seem to be working! First - yes the choices thru-out the day help some. Second - when I see him starting to get worked up I right away tell him he has 2 choices (do what I say and this happens or do what you want and this happens - never more than 2). If he goes ahead and has his fit he spends that time in his room away from the rest of our tender ears and he can come out when he's done screaming. He nearly always apologizes without being prompted. And third - and this is the clencher that has worked for the last 5 days - I put a chart on the fridge with a toy he's been wanting for awhile. If he makes it thru blocks of time thru the day without screaming (not saying he can't get mad and yell or stomp or whatever - just NO SCREAMING) he gets a sticker. So from waking to after breakfast, breakfast to lunch, lunch to after school (I'm in cahoots with his teacher on this), school to supper and supper to bed. If there are no screaming episodes then he gets the sticker. If he fills up a row he gets a treat like ice scream or small candy bar or something like that. When he fills up the entire sheet he gets the toy sitting on top of the fridge. This has worked like a DREAM and I can barely believe it! Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

A young child's life is pretty constantly managed, and often abruptly manipulated, limited and controlled by parents and caretakers, schedules and circumstances.

Some children can accept all this management without too much distress. Some find it incredibly frustrating. Too much frustration (which the child did not choose to feel) quite logically results in either tantrums or withdrawal. In the case of tantrums, parents may believe it necessary to add an additional frustrating layer of discipline, which usually translates as "punishment."

You don't say what kind of situations result in your son's blowups, but since that behavior seldom occurs without some situation that provokes it, can I assume that he is often reacting to your requests, demands, rules and restrictions?

If that's the case, can you consider life from his perspective? There may be ways you can reduce the conflict and clashes by simplifying his days, planning ahead when you need to meet a schedule, giving him advance notice when he'll need to let go of an activity he's enjoying, participate cheerfully with him when you want him to complete a task (probably won't take any more time than dealing with a tantrum), and keep as much humor and fun in your days as possible (this will enrich your parenting experience, too!).

Going on 4, he's old enough for you to talk to him about the purpose of / need for discipline. Explain that if he can control some of his own behavior, he'll get to avoid punishments, time-outs, and a lot of frustration. Point out that you will make every effort to make his life easier and happier, and that you need the same effort from him. You probably already do that, but he'll also need a specific time period to actually experience the truth of it.

Ask him what would make his life easier (his answers might even surprise you if you help him narrow and refine his answer.) Tell him one thing that would make your life easier. Ask him to try it for just two or three hours and see how much better all of you feel. If he connects with that, celebrate even a couple hours' improvement by doing something with him that he'll just love.

You will probably be pleasantly surprised. Kids are remarkably perceptive, and even though impulsivity is the norm and self-control is hard to come by at this age, short periods of mutual cooperation and appreciation are possible. It can almost become a game, and games are very appealing to children. (Do allow for the fact that your twins are still very, very young, and will not have much sustained self-control for quite a few years yet.)

Except for those occasional kids who are truly challenged by emotional disorders, children truly do want to be happy. Even the most negative behavior is actually a mistaken strategy to find greater happiness.

But kids need help understanding that, and often need better alternatives modeled by someone with more experience with life – like a loving parent. Almost every child can be drawn slowly into patterns that will make the whole family happier. This requires awareness and attention by the adults in his life, and sometimes retraining of habits even the best-intentioned parents can so easily fall into.

Good luck! I predict a more peaceful family in your near future.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

WOW! I have twin 4 year old boys, and they sound just like yours. AJ is sweet, listens well and follows direction. Eli doesn't throw tantrums like your little one, but he doesn't listen to a word you say, he does the opposite.

I have 3 boys total and the best way I've found to get through to Eli is to let the other 2 get privileges and not him. Rewarding good behavior. It could be simple like letting the other two ride to the grocery store with me. I'll tell Eli, "you didn't listen well today, you have to stay home". Or I'll let the other two help me cook and tell Eli, "you can help me next time if you have a good day".

For Eli, this is worse than any punishment. He loves to help and go places and do things. It took a few time for him to realize that his brothers were getting to to stuff because they listen and he had to stay home or not participate because he doesn't listen. It works for him. I'll tell them all at the beginning of the week that whoever has a good week will get to go shopping with me and pick out something for dinner. Throughout the week I keep reminding him and he does better.

I sympathize with you and,despite the tantrums, try to appreciate their individual personalities.Despite the fact that Eli thinks he's an adult and can do whatever he wants, I wouldn't change his independence for the world :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I agree with Mom LK! The basic advice I've gotten about tantrums is ignore it (negative attention is still attention) and find ways throughout the day to praise good behavior. Keeping an eye out for problems like ADD is wise, but many kids w/o such conditions throw tantrums. Talking with him about what would make him feel less frustrated might help too. If he's feeling out of control, increase the choices he has, but always present him with good choices. For example, instead of "you have to brush your teeth" try "do you want to brush your teeth before or after we read tonight?" Etc...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Joplin on

I know this will sound just wrong, but I swear if you try it and stick with it, it may take a while but you will see a change ( I speak from experiance and trust me I was skeptical as well) you have to ignore the tantrums...and I mean ignore entirely, don't comment, don't react, no eye contact...act as if nothing is going on and don't even refrence it later. If he sees that it isn't going to get a reaction he will soon realize it isn't working. Tantrums are one of two things, either wanting attention ( even if it is negative attention) or not being able to communicate his needs, and I would venture a guess that at age 4 he can communicate his needs fairly well. You need to give him extra attention in a positive way, and I am by no means saying you don't now, but I am sure with multiples it is difficult. He needs some special one on one time...all kids do. Lots of luck = ) Following through is tough but worth it.



answers from St. Louis on

Dear H.,

2 things:
when he goes into on of his tantrums - DO NOT PAY ANY ATTENTION
Give you attention to those other children who are behaving and being good
PRAISE them for being good in front of him and he will soon learn that having a tantraum will NOT get him the attention he desires but being good would.
2nd when he gets loud you must speak softer or at least stay at normal tone levels. Tell him in a normal tone that you will talk to him when he is calmed down. No matter what he does you must keep that normal tone. when you get excited, angry and loud - he knows he has your attention. Again, you only want to give him praise attention, when he does the least little thing right or talks in a normal, acceptable tone.

At first you will have to really look for the right, acceptable thing - when you see it, praise him for it .

basically remember praise the good - ignor the bad, unless of course someone is in dager of being hurt or injured, then you really must assert your parental authority and make it very clear that behavior is wrong, unacceptable and must change.

As a Hhealth and Wellness Advisor I will also look at their diet and nutritional supplement program. I have been hearing a lot of good testimonies from a product called 'Mighty Smart'. It has not only helped with the brain function and better grades but also with the general behavior of the child, himself. Think about it...IF the child can think better, they will act better. for mure information on the Mighty Smart chews

I have been a Health & Wellness Advisor for 16 years and with the help of Shaklee Products I have helped many families to go green and live better.

Sincerely, S. R.



answers from Denver on

This is something that we brought up to our pediatrician regarding our 4 year old daughter and he referred to to a child psychologist. We were that desperate! None of the tips and advice we got were helping--ignoring, rewarding good behavior, time outs etc. We were consistent with discipline and never gave in to her demands when she threw a tantrum. But nothing we did seemed to prevent the next episode. She was diagnosed with ADHD. ADHD kids have a very low frustration tolerance so anything little that goes wrong can send them over the edge. Don't panic. I am not trying to say he is ADHD. I just think the more info parents have the better. Severe and frequent tantrums were out first cue. Good luck!



answers from St. Louis on

A friend of mine had a similar experience and she relied on the book The Strong-willed Child. I've never read it myself but she said it saved their family's sanity. :)


answers from Wichita on

The second he starts to throw a tantrum, pick him up or take him by the hand and put him in time out, alone, in a boring place like the laundry room or some other space that is no fun to look at. No toys nothing. Don't speak, don't threaten him and don't start counting, (one, two etc.). Make him understand that you have zero tolerance for it and if it takes all day, he will not leave the timeout until he is calm and quiet. I don't put my kids in one for a set amount of minutes. What I have told them is that if they throw a fit or do something wrong on purpose, they will have a timeout until they are calm, nice and can apologize. I have 5 children and believe me, it works. The key is not to react emotionally to their tantrum. They will realize that they are only hurting themselves. If you are in a store and he does this, don't reward him with a treat just to shut him up. When I see someone at the store do that it drives me crazy. Kids are very smart and will key in on your buttons and will push them to get their way. Don't cave in. Also, DO NOT compare him to his sibling. Don't say things like "look how nice ____ is being, why can't you act nice like him/her". Stuff like that. It will only make it worse and cause the siblings to form issues with each other. I have a 4 yr old girl and she's a tantrum thrower but she is very quickly changing her attitude because she doesn't like being in the timeout place. Good luck to you and it will get better if you stick to it.

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