Need Discipline Ideas for Screaming 3 Year Old

Updated on December 01, 2009
J.D. asks from Fort Wayne, IN
12 answers

My 3 year old has started these screaming fits. They happen once or twice everyday! For example last night, we had three guests at our house. After dinner, it was bath time, well he wanted to play and not take a bath. I told him that he could play after bath. That answer did not suit him. I had to carry him to the bathroom kicking and screaming. I tried to talk to him, but he just screams louder. When he finally did calm down he apologized to everyone for screaming. This morning we have already had two fits. He wanted to go to the basement play room, when I told him we would go later, he screamed "Iwant to go Right Now." I try to tell him why we cant go "right now" and that he will get to go later, but he just won't stop screaming to even hear what I am saying. I don't know why he does this. I always stand firm to what I say and never give in. But, I guess the real question is what kind of discipline works on this screaming. I mean the loudest blood curdling scream you can imagine. I just want to be able to talk to him without us both wanting to pull our hair out. Any ideas?

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answers from Toledo on

The best thing I can think of is giving him two choices. He might feel that he has no option. Kids like to feel in control of their own situation. Try saying something like Would you like to take a bath now or first thing in the morning. Or do you want to play with this toy for 5 minutes or go to bed now. Try it and see if it helps.

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answers from Dayton on

My son is 3 and has recently started this also. What I have do is give him a warning and a chance to calm down, and if he doesn't I remove him from the room. If he is in the room with me, I take him to another room and tell him he can come out when he has calmed down. If he leaves the room still screaming, then I walk him right back into that room. When he calms down, we talk about why he was mad and then we talk about using his words and what words he can use instead.

Because I stand firm, also, I feel that a lot of the time it isn't just because he is mad, but because he is "punishing" me for not giving him his way. It is just a form of manipulation. The important point that I am trying to make to my son is that I will not be "punished" because he is angry. He can tell me. We can talk about his feelings and his choices. But there won't be a day it's okay to scream at your mommy.

Hope this helps.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Wayne on

Yes! STOP TRYING TO ARGUE AND REASON WITH A 3 YEAR OLD! I just wanted to put that in caps because it's really a simple answer, so wanted to get your attention. When you say no and your child starts to scream, leave the room. If he follows you, tell him to go to his room. If he doesn't go to his room, pick him up, but not affectionately, more like stand behind him, wrap your arm around to his stomach and pick him up. Put him in his room and say "you can come out when you're done crying". If you have to say it loudly, then say it loudly so he can hear, and then shut the door. If he tries to come out, be there on the other side holding the door shut. It will get worse before it gets better. He will scream way worse then ever before, but it's because he wants to get his way and he has to put every bit of effort into getting it before he gives up. BUT, the great thing is, he WILL stop. As soon as he stops, and I mean right away, open the door and say "oh good, you're finished, why don't you go play now?" If he starts crying when you open the door, say "oh, I thought you were finished, you can come out when you're done crying" and repeat this until he's let go of his tantrum. Do this every single time and you'll have a tantrum free kid before the weekend. Now, during times when you're out in public, don't let embarrassment keep you from enforcing that you don't allow tantrums. If you're out and he begins throwing one. Lean over him and say "When you're finished, catch up with me". Then walk away. I'm not saying let him out of your sight, I used to stop and read things on the ends of aisles so I didn't get far, but I wouldn't start reading them until I was a couple away. If you're in a spot where you wouldn't be able to walk more than 10 feet, pick him up from behind, and move him to the end of the aisle where you'll have more room to walk. Eventually, he WILL realize that mommy is going to leave him there and he WILL go running to you. This took about 10 minutes the time I did this with my son, but when I did this, and I'm not kidding, he never threw another tantrum! As far as the ones at home that he tried to pull, if I remember, there were 3 total before he realized he wasn't getting anywhere with me. The reason kids throw tantrums is A) to get their way or B) to get their mom to pay attention to the behavior. So, even though all you're doing is trying to explain to him the reasons "why" he can't do something, the simple fact is that he doesn't care "why" he can't do something. He just wants to do it. 3 year olds can't reason, so stop arguing with him, and I really hope this helps and you stick with it because it really works. Many of my friends have tried this very thing and I've never had anyone who stayed consistent with it come back and say it didn't work. If done right, it can't NOT work. Also, after you have the tantrums under control out in public, if he starts crying over anything, just stop the cart and say "tell me when you're done" Then start reading labels on what you're standing next to, and he'll get bored really quickly and stop so you guys can keep going. And at home, once the tantrums are under control, all you have to do is say "Go to your room when he starts crying over something that is unacceptable". Since he already learned that mommy will force him to go to his room, he will go willingly by himself. Another great thing is to set a timer and teach him at this point that when he hears the timer he is allowed to come back out. It's always always always good to set a timer because as stupid as this sounds, I would sometimes forget my son or daughter were sent to their rooms! I'm not ditzy, just busy, and there were many times when a timer wasn't set, that I would get into doing dishes or something and 15-20 minutes later realize my kids were still in their rooms!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lafayette on

I would explain to him when he not in the midst of a screaming fit that when he screams, my ears hurt and when my ears hurt, I cannot hear him. So from now on, I will put him in a room by himself so that he can calm down. When he can quit screaming, then I can hear him and we can communicate better. You have to be consistent in removing him each time he screams to a quiet place to calm down. When he realizes that screaming does not get him what he wants, he will stop it.

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answers from Cleveland on

I have a son who is now 4 almost 5. My son is a spirited child. When I say spirited I mean that he operates slightly diffrent than other kids. His temperment is not so easy going. He especially hates transitions. I have learned skills to help me be a better parent. I got lots of advise from other parents including time outs, spanking, removal of cherished items. I tried all of them even spanking one time. Here was the problem. When my son was so upset like this he was on full overload. He couldn't hear me. He was not rational. The one spanking I gave didn't help. Not even a little. It made it worse. I recommend reading "Raising Your Spirited Child". In the meantime, try to give your child warnings before transitions. Like we have to go take a bath in 15,10,5 minutes. This will make him feel it is a choice. And just start the warnings 15 minutes early. Like going into the playroom if the answer is no than be consistant but fun. For example say we can't go play until we eat, brush our teeth, etc. Maybe make it a race. Break out paper and stickers and make a chart. I know sounds crazy but could leave you with a quiet smooth breakfast without a lot of work. Finally when he starts to scream don't let him be disrespectful. Try to work with his personality and make it fun. If this attempt fails do not argue or keep trying to explain. You are the mom and just say you seem overloaded, and if you can just sit and hold him a minute. If not he is thrashing around or you have to get ready to leave for an appointment give him a time out in his room. Check him every little while and let him know you love him. Once he calms down let him out and hug hime and talk it through.



answers from Indianapolis on

For your sanity, I would find a safe location with NO distractions and IMMEDIATELY upon the first note of the scream, deposit him there and remind him that he cannot get up until he is ready to be quiet.
He is testing you.
Talking won't accomplish anything.
If he gets up, put him back.
Your 7 month old babies demand a lot of your attention, and this is his way of getting some for himself.
This is a hard adjustment for him.
Use your consistency to let him know that the screaming is NOT acceptable (he already knows it, since he apologized to your guests), but it is a question of your sanity.



answers from Indianapolis on

You need to CONSTANTLY talk about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. He is NOT too young! Talk about alternative behaviors. Yes, give him choice....either play AFTER bath, or not at all. IF there is screaming and throwing a fit.....NOT AT ALL! DO NOT give in!! When you give in, this lets him think your words are not to be taken seriously. EVEN IF IT'S INCONVENIENT......DON'T give in!

Tell him you'll respond to him, answer him or whatever, WHEN he talks in an appropriate, softer, voice. It may take a few times, but he WILL get it, if you stick to it.

Life is about choices.......doing, thinking, feeling, etc. What needs to happen is that he learns....and he is NOT too young....that you DO it because it's the right thing to do REGARDLESS of how you feel or what you want.

When these skills are taught at a young age, there are FAR FAR less problems as they grow older. Teach them to THINK so that they can respond appropriately.

There is also a book called RAISING RESPECTFUL CHILDREN that you might want to look into. Respect is something that is earned, but also TAUGHT.



answers from Columbus on

This sounds soooo familiar. We've gone through the same thing with our 3.5 yr old daughter. Try the book 1-2-3 Magic. It was recommended by a few people, including a fiend who is a preschool age counselor. It worked really well for us and is very easy. It will get better, don't worry!



answers from Columbus on

I haven't dealt with this yet - but know that anything is possible. I agree with Lisa. I think if it were just me and my boys at home and my oldest son did this I would walk away and busy myself in another part of the house. If others were here I would put him in his room and shut the door. Of course, I would say "NO MORE" or "Enough" but there really isn't a chance for conversing with a hysterical child until the hysteria calms down. He is just learning communication and he has to learn that this form of communication does not work. My 2 year old saw this behavior from a neighbor boy the same age. He tried it a couple of times and I always tell him that we don't do that in our family.

Best wishes - it truly is an adventure! I never knew being a parent and stay at home mom would be the hardest job I ever had - but I'm not complaining :)



answers from Toledo on

my son was alittle older, but I laughed at him and told him to hold on so I could get my camera because it was funny and I wanted to scrapbook it. he never did it again!



answers from Fort Wayne on

I think you have the best answer previous to mine. I would try to ignore him first and then follow the previous lady.



answers from Indianapolis on

We, too, have a three year-old doing similar things. He wants everything his way and right now. I don't have a good answe for you other than to establish yourself as the authoritative figure. All I've read says that kids at this age are exerting their independence and pushing to see how much slack they have. We fight some battles and relent on others.

Probably the best thing to do is to walk away and let him have his fits about the trivial things (playing in the basement). When he doesn't get his way, he'll learn it's not effective. As for the bath, that's non-negotiable for us. We work all day, and there are some thingsthat are going to be on our schedule no matter if he and his sister like it.

Good luck. If you get any good pointers, please pass them along.

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