Seeking Advice on Temper Tantrums with My 3 Year Old

Updated on December 28, 2010
J.G. asks from College Station, TX
41 answers

Hello. I feel like I am desperate to have to post this, but I am hoping someone out there can help me. My daughter will be 3 years old in exactly one month. She is a very strong willed child with a short temperament. She has had this type of temperament from day one. She was never an easy baby. Every little thing would upset her, it seemed. As she has gotten older, things have gotten better, yet she is still really short tempered. She knows what she wants and doesn't want anyone telling her no. My husband and I are very consistent with our discipline. We never ever give into her tantrums. Yet she is having temper tantrums almost daily. It's crazy. The littlest thing can set her off. I'm just not sure what to do about it. I feel like I have tried everything. We never NEVER ever NEVER give in to her tantrums, so that is why I just don't understand why she keeps doing this. When she has one I usually just calmly place her in her room and tell her she needs to calm down and that when she calms down she can come out. She can scream for about 10-15 minutes before finally calming down. I talk to her and explain to her that we do not scream and cry and she always tells me she understands, etc.etc. So what's going on?? She is an only child and gets plenty of one on one attention, so I don't think she is simply doing this for attention. I know that she understands what we talk about and "how" to behave, because sometimes when she plays with her dolls she disciplines them and tells them the same things that I tell her. She mostly has these tantrums at home. She's never really had them in public places, like stores or restaurants. However she has done this at other people's houses. It's so embarrassing. I just don't know what to do. She has been doing this off and on since she was 18 months old. She goes through spells of not really doing it for a while, then she will start having tantrums several times a day for weeks. I really am at my wits end with how to handle them now. Am I doing the right thing by placing her in her room and ignoring the behavior until she calms down and then talking to her about it? It just doesn't seem to be working because she keeps doing it. Please help!

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So What Happened?

I just want to thank you all for responding to my desperate plea for help. I received all kinds of feedback. Some advice was very useful. So far, things have gotten better, and I think for a couple of reasons. #1 reason... prayer. When my daughter was born someone gave me the book Power of a Praying Parent. All I can say is, "it works". #2 reason... change. That is changing ME, not trying to change her. By starting to change myself I have also helped to change my daughter's behavior. After much soul searching, I realize that I am not the best at controlling my own temper, so why should I really be surprised that my 3 year old has a problem controlling hers. Children imitate behavior. By changing my own behavior I am showing her to stay calm even when she's frustrated. It's a work in progress, but already we are seeing improvements. Thanks again for all of your advice, most of all your kind words and support. I think this little online community is great.

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T.B.

answers from Little Rock on

My daughter has had the same problem. She will be 7 and I finally got help after switching for 4 different doctors. They have diagnosed her with Bipolar and put her on medication and my life is finally normal. It was so bad me and my husband couldnt spend any alone time together because everyone refused to watch her because she had such and attitude. I love it now she has been on the medication for about 2 weeks and we already had a break. I hope this helps anyone out there who is having problems.

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L.H.

answers from San Antonio on

Hi J.,
I have some friends with strong-willed children and they found that Dr. James Dobson's book "The Strong Willed Child" offered them some insight on how to handle these type of children. Perhaps giving it a read might help.

Good luck,
L.

K.C.

answers from Fayetteville on

Someone suggested to me that I physically hold my child on my lap until he is done throwing his fit. Then talk about it. Seems to have worked for my friend and I don't think we've had another fit since we tried it.

Good luck!!

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M.B.

answers from San Antonio on

First, repeat this and write it down if you have to every day: I am a good mother.
Second, many of the people who have responded suggested noting what was happening when the tantrum errupted. That is crucial.
Third, list and analyze.
A- hunger/low blood sugar
B- Hyper stimulated by sugar/sugar withdrawal
C- Overstimulated environment - sensory overload.
D- Control of own environment, related to C.
There are 2 main factors here. The first, is your daughter's behavior. Watch carefully what is happening. Write it down. If hunger/low blood sugar schedule and follow a regular nutritious feeding routine, just like when she was an infant. Don't wait for her to tell you she's hungry - big mistake.
Second, are there certain foods/colorings/additives that are consumed before the behavior..consistently. If so, cut them from EVERYONE's diet.
Third, write down just what is going on in the house. If the t.v. is on, the dogs barking, the doorbell ringing, the phone ringing/you talking, loud play, etc all going on, it is too much.

I have two children. One with special needs, one without. They both require 2 exact opposite methods of parenting and discipline. It drives me nuts, but if we don't use 2 methods congruently, we have monster children and a house of chaos. The 123 Magic book is good, so is Dobson's. However, sane adults do not reason with a child in the middle of a temper tantrum. If in a position to keep walking away until she calms down and comes to you, do it. If it is not safe to do so, pick her up and place her in a room you have designated as the temper tantrum room..kitchen, bath, wherever - stay nearby enough to supervise without being a target. We have told one of our children that the bathroom at home is where he can go and make rude noises, scream, yell, laugh, hit a pillow, pitch a fit etc. Whatever behavior he wants that is not self injurous that we have designated as unacceptable social behavior is just fine there. That is his safe place. We have worked with an exceptional family therapist and occupational therapist, regarding sensory issues and the child's efforts to control the overwhelming input that is driving that child nuts, and how we manage behavior and our response. Showing emotion feeds the adverse behavior, and gives a response instead of feeding the desire to demonstrate positive behavior for parental approval. Catch your child being good, and lavish wonderful attention: you are playing so nicely, I love how gently you are petting the dog, wow - nice waiting, asking, holding hands, crossing the street etc etc. At this stage, you cannot have enough positive reinforcement for your child to catch on that good behavior gets you things you want, or didn't know you wanted. Not bribes, but loving feedback. And when you come upon a child/person who is being ugly, when you are no longer within earshot of that person/child, mention to yours how difficult it must have been for that person having a hard time to get control of her/hisself and do what she/he needed to do/get/want etc. Even at 3, they catch on if there are no significant medical issues going on. One last thing that we recently started was using Soccer Penalty/Warning cards. Yellow is the visual warning - we show the card and say yellow, this is the warning, the behavior is unacceptable. That is the only chance. If it continues, we go to red. Immediately. There is no second yellow. We go sit in the kitchen on the floor (the chairs are too comfortable, no toys, noone else to play with etc). When my child (applies to both of them) is done screaming, being rude etc, and can take a deep breath and tell me in a normal voice that they are ready, we then have penance and punishment...getting a cloth and wiping 3 16x16 floor tiles down with warm water to clean them, washing a window etc - something that benefits the whole family, and an apology. If they disrupt the family/the peace, there is a punshiment and penance. It has worked.
Remember something else. As your children grow, boys vs girls respond differently. When mad, girls talk things out. Boys, get a rush of overwhelming adrenaline and cannot talk things out. They need a strong physical activity to release the adrenaline and cortisol, to get their physical response under control, then they can talk. So, if boys are in your family, get a basketball hoop (whether or not they are athleticaly inclined) or a boxing bag or something like that, let them vent their frustration and anger, and then try to talk with them. With girls, let them settle down, tears dry, and then let them talk, tell them you understand they must have been frustrated/hurt etc, and that you love them. Physical kind supportive contact can never be discounted for boys or girls. Last, emotional overreaction gets them the attention good or bad that they want. Stop the emotional reaction and resond in a controled normal voice (as long as not about to jump from the bed with a steak knife pretending to be X-Man or something silly like that)and you will get the reaction you want - but it can take a while. Bet you in 3 weeks or less, though, that things will be a little more calm and happy in your home.

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D.J.

answers from Houston on

J., my prayers are with you and your family. My advice is very simple. PRAY. Stormie Omartian has an excellent book called "Power of a Praying Parent". You and your husband should pray together and agree on the healing/delivering power of the Lord for your child. Our Lord is the greatest physician of all time. I have seen great wonders and miracles in the lives of my own children because I cover them in prayers.

May God bless you and keep you.

www.stormieomartian.com

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J.C.

answers from Houston on

J.,
I feel your pain. My son who is 8 now used to throw tantrums in what sounds like the way your daughter does. I had tried the time out *like you with sending to her room until she calms down and can come out*. I had tried the *stay in your room and when you calm down, I will let you out*. I've yelled, I've screamed, I've had a time out chair, a *put your nose on the wall*, and even a spanking. What has worked most for me, is throwing a curve ball. Yes, you are doing right with being consistent, but after doing all those things that didn't really work, I figured that I should try something I hadn't tried before. If I found myself yelling, I'd get that serious look and lower my voice to the point that he had to stop in order just to hear my words. I would get eye to eye, and remind him that I will not tollerate that behavior and that his behavior hurts me. I would put him where I could see him, but not look directly at him, but when the whole thing blew over, I would get him and bring him to where I was and in that nicer softer voice, have him tell me what it was that he did to get into trouble. Etc.
I'm sure you get the jist.
I hope you get many responses and that there is an end to the tantrums.
*your hair will be back in place soon I'm sure*
JC

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A.

answers from Waco on

Hi J.,
First off from everything I have heard this behavior is reserved for the most trusted and loved,Mom & Dad so it sort of a compliment she knows you love her and she trusts you completely.

I think terrible twos start earlier than two and last till about three and a half.
This is the time your daughter is learning about independence, rules and just how far she can push and she'll keep testing the rules.
I have used magic 123, you can find it on the web.
Basically, when you see your daughter starting to throw a tantrum you interview by
explaining that whatever she is doing is unexceptable(you may not scream it hurts my ears ) if you can figure out what is making her scream you can validate the emotion and negate the bad behavior. (I know you want ice cream ,you may not have ice cream for breakfast,) offer acceptable choices if she continues then you offer a negative consequence to her behavior time out,ect.. screaming will not change you choices,you have till I count to 3 to stop screaming counting 1,2,3 if you continue you will sit time out ,go to your room etc..
This allows her to understand that her behavior impacts her choices, offering her alternatives and letting her know she has been heard makes her feel more in control.
I hope this helps. ~A.~

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K.I.

answers from San Antonio on

J.,

Before I had my son, who is three, I was strongly against spanking. I have experienced a fair share of tantrums from him and at points have definately lost my temper and laid a spanking on his butt. It has never worked for him. When he throws the tantrum I usually just try to go about my routine, not ignore him but treat him as if he werent having the tantrum, sometimes it shortens it but most of the time it just doesnt do anything at all. I think that tantrums are just something that is going to happen. Unless there is a medical reason for why she is doing this, I think you are doing the right thing. Taking into account for your daughters strong will and independent personality maybe you should try doing activities where she is in charge. This may give her the opportunity to express her personality without driving you crazy. Also do not be embaressed if it happens in public or at peoples houses, no matter how much other people want you to think their children are perfect and never misbehave, ALL children do these kind of thing.

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D.B.

answers from Houston on

J.:
It sounds like you're doing everything right. Just make sure that your child gets enough sleep and is napping on a regular basis. Also make sure that she eats meals and healthy snacks at regular intervals so that she's never starving. My daughter used to have terrible tantrums, but most of them happened when she was over hungry because we were out of the house and couldn't get back in time for our regular lunches or dinners. Actually because of my daughter's tantrums, I wrote a book several years ago called, "The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum (Clarion Books), available on Amazon. It's the story of a child who has an awful tantrum. Kids like it a lot and it sets the stage for discussions about expressing emotions.

Good luck,
D. Blumenthal
(And keep in mind that eventually your child will outgrow the behavior!)

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L.

answers from Longview on

Jana,
I think you are absolutely doing the right thing by placing her in her room! She must be shown that her tantrums are not gaining attention. Now that she is 3 and you are seeing that she is understanding that her tantrums are not appropriate, the discipline may need to increase. As much as we hate to punish our children, taking priveledges away each time we loose our temper may make the punishment a little more severe. She may have just become accustom to her punishment, and it could not be effective anymore. You are doing a wonderful thing by showing not only her, but other parents that giving in is not the way. Talk to her doctor as well, sometimes children can be very irretable due to lack of vietamins and minerals. I will keep you in my prayers, and pray for god to place his hand of peace and calmness over the wonderful gift he gave you.

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K.R.

answers from New Orleans on

try to keep track of when she throws her trantrums. is it when you are preoccupied and she wants your attention? is it when she is bored? my advice is just to notice if their is any pattern to her behavior. if not, then its probably just part of a 3 year olds frustration. they can get aggravated when they are in conflict with something about themself. meaning, she is so eager to lern and be a "big girl" that her age and knowledge or lack of gets in the way. my daughter changed dramatically when she turned 4. she calmed down alot and listened more just within a few months time. don't stress out over it, sometimes kids will be kids but she won't always act like that especially since you said you never give in which is the biggest step. good luck! --K.

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C.

answers from San Antonio on

J., I too have had difficulties and occasionally still have difficulties with my daughter and her explosive behavior. I read a book recently that really helped me out alot in becoming more tuned into my own rigidity, which fed into hers, and more proactively attuned to my childs behaviors leading up to "melt down" point. The book is the explosive child, by Dr. Ross Greene. Must have item for you it sounds like. I also read the Challenging Child, by Dr. Stanley Greenspan, which was helpful. It really sounds like you are making similar mistakes to my own, kind of focusing on your behaviors post tantrum rather than your behaviors pre. Focusing on the latter can really assist you in if not completely eliminating tantrum at least diminishing the strength of them. You are a really good parent for admitting you need help and getting it for your daughter. hang in there. . . C.

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B.B.

answers from Little Rock on

Just wanted to send a virtual hug [J.]. I know how you feel. My son is almost 4 and has always been very temperamental. He had intense colic for his first 4 mos. and I've read that colicky babies are often a little more difficult for the long haul. I was a colic baby, myself, and I remained far more difficult, willful and such, than my younger brother. Some of it may be the stressful relationship, but I've also learned that babies are just different: some are easier, some are more difficult. Temperament may really be partly genetic.

But, since we can't change our child's genes, there are some environmental factors to consider. There's lots to tell, so I'll itemize! :)

SLEEP AND TIREDNESS:
Like some of the other responses, I've discovered that his sleep habits or tiredness definitely can impact his temperment. One mystery involved for me, was learning that he doesn't always fit a schedule. On some days, he needs more or less sleep, or needs to nap earlier or later in the day. I wasn't always making the connection between his attitude and tiredness if it seemed too early for his usual nap. And if I waited too long, he'd then be overtired, making going to sleep all the more difficult for him, insta-tantrum.

BLOOD SUGAR:
One wise woman once told me: "Feed him peanut butter when he does that." :) What she meant was, when their blood sugar dips, they can act like little tyrant nutcases, and a spoon of peanut butter, with its fat and protein content can work like magic. It's definitely worked for much of my son's fit-pitching. I've discovered: he just needs a snack! Again, somedays he needs more or less food, and at different times, so depending on a strict meal and snack schedule can be a recipe for disaster.

[NEGATIVE] ATTENTION/COMFORT:
The third pattern I've noticed involves his need for attention or comforting. Somedays, just like for adults, he seems to just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, a little grumpy and prone to irritation. On those days, it pays to give a little extra comfort and attention, _before_ the tantrums set in, or at least after one has blown over. I try not to time the extra attention with any ill-behavior so he doesn't make a connection that he's rewarded for it.

I tend to do as you mentioned: send him to his room to calm down. I've tried ignoring him completely but he's one stubborn fellow and can go on and on with it, building up both of our frustrations throughout the day. So, sending to his room to calm down is better for us, and sometimes he, too, will go in there and screech for 10-15min, though that seems to be reducing with time. Now, after he's calmed down, I try to offer some quite together play, like reading stories, or playing a board game together. I'll offer a snack or meal, and eat with him, watch some tv together and cuddle. This sort of thing has worked wonders for redirecting a bad day, calming his temperament, and reducing tantrums.

BOREDOM:
Thankfully, he doesn't do it much in public, which is another indicator to me that it could be a boredom thing... he has lots to keep his attention in a bright, busy supermarket... and he has face to face close proximity interaction with me from sitting in the cart and conversing together. At home, if I get busy doing other things for long periods, I think he sometimes just gets plain bored and hungry for my attention, which is totally natural for a small child. I think it's a mechanism built in to them to keep us on our toes! Therein lies the key to the mystery of "negative attention"! haha

I'm a full time student, so it's easy for me to get my head stuck in homework or housework and leave him puttering about the house on his own. And the past 6 months or so, he's reached a point of maturity where he really does enjoy a lot of solitary play, building blocks, colouring, pretend games with his toys. So, I don't feel I must give him constant attention, but setting aside short periods of regular one on one together play time throughout the day has made a big difference for the better.

CABIN FEVER AND OUTDOOR PLAY:
I can also see a big difference in getting him outside for some play and running around in fresh, open air. Just like adults, kids can get "cabin fever." Going to a playground, or even just to the back yard can help diffuse some of that pent up toddler energy and help calm them down for the day.

TV:
What he's watching on TV affects him, too... some of his favorite shows, though perfectly educational, can be pretty very lively and wind him up. If he's having a day prone to tantrum or bad attitude, I'll either turn off the tv altogether or will limit his tv time to calmer shows and movies, like Oswald or Caillou. Turning off the tv can cause a big fit, but within about 10 minutes, I'll hear him playing quietly and creatively in his room, happy as a lark.

SUGAR:
Oh, and finally: sugar. If he eats much sugar, he is usually no fun to be around, grumpy, demanding, irritable. Yuck. So, I try to avoid sugary snacks and instead feed his sweet tooth with fruit, smoothies, and fruit yogurts. Fruit on the Bottom is the least sugary, it seems, without resorting to stuff like aspartame and splenda, but you can also use plain yogurt mixed with fresh fruit mashed up with a smidgen of honey, fructose, or all fruit jam.

Good luck! It's hard and frustrating, I know... and it seems no single tactic works all the time perfectly, but these are the tools in my kit that have helped out a lot.

B.

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R.M.

answers from Houston on

Dear J.,

Aaah, I feel your pain! My first child was incredibly strong willed and persistent - oh how he brought me to my knees! We have been blessed the most by "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp. He really goes deeper than other 'discipline' books out there. Beyond just changing behavior -- but effecting the heart. That changed our family so much for the better.

I can also recommend two wonderful child psychologists. They are personal friends of ours, and have such a gentle way with children (they also have two young children). They are Tom & Jill Stevens - I've posted their info in the past on Mamasource, so I'm sure it's out there.

Parenting has been such a blessing to us because it has taught us so much about our relationship with God -- He sure puts up with so much from us as well. Hang in there, this season will pass!

Blessings,
R.

Supporting you as you nurture your family.
www.NurturedFamily.com

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M.

answers from Houston on

J., I'm no expert but I've read up on a lot of childhood things. It may partially be a habit of hers or she's doing this for more attention. Since you probably know very well that tantrums are a norm for toddlers, and even though you're giving her plenty of attention, maybe try to give her less attention. What I mean is maybe you can try to totally ignore her when she is having the tantrums, not even putting her to her room for time-out. Negative attention is still getting your attention. Don't talk to her, look at her, or pay any verbal/nonverbal attention to her...of course stay close enough so you can still keep an eye on her. Do the no facial expression game. Pretend she's not in the room until she calms down, and then immediately praise her, maybe overly praise her at first, for being calm. Hope this helps!!!!

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M.

answers from Houston on

Dear J.,
I know you already have a lot of book recommendations, and will probably get more - and I'm no exception. :) I have also had my share of issues with a strong-willed child, and have read many parenting and advice books. The one that made the most difference, hands down, was "The Five Love Languages". It's marketed as a marriage book, and helps you to understand your spouse's needs for communication of love - but I was also able to apply it to my son. I cannot believe how it has helped. It's hard for me to respond to him the way he needs, b/c of my own love language, but getting past my own limitations has improved our relationship enormously. And has improved his behavior more than I can say.

And as always - keep in mind that every rough patch with kids is temporary. The new things that come along may end up being just as frustrating, but at least they'll be new challenges! :)

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C.A.

answers from Houston on

There could be several things going on. Have you gotten her a physical with blood work. Make sure you have her thyroid levels tested. If they are low, she could be pediatric bipolar or some other emotional disorder. She could have sensory integration issuses. In your web browser, type in Sensory integration dysfunction. Then pick a web site, any web site and see if you can see anything there that might answer your questions. If you decide to have her evaluated, I know a great therapist for that. Let me know. Have you read Dobson's Strong willed child? Did she have any birth trauma? Have you considered a child psychologist to help her and you learn to deal with the problems? I can give you a referral for that as well. Start with the medical, then you can work on what else it might or might not be. Feel free to email me if you need to.
C.
[email protected]____.com

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J.L.

answers from Baton Rouge on

J.,
I think what you are doing is the right thing. I know you are very frustrated, but try seeking a psychologist for a few sessions. Most social workers are covered under insurance as well. I know it sounds extreme, but what's the worst thing that could happen.
Also try telling her when she experiences a tantrum that she will get the "opposite of what she wants!!" when she behaves this way.
Try talking to her in private away from everyone.
Ignoring the unacceptable behavior is the best thing you can do. Stay firm and don't give in.
Good luck!!
jen

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J.H.

answers from Little Rock on

Get Dare To Discipline and The Strong Willed Child, both by Dr. James Dobson. Get a highlighter and use it generously. Leave the books out for quick reference as well. We must pray for help but God also expects us to do our part to change things. Remember James 2:16. I have 3 children (2 boys, one girl) and only found out about these books at the birth of my second child. My experience with my first son would have been so different if I had this knowledge at that time. The next two have been a joy. Not that they haven't had tantrums and the normal problems. The difference is that knowledge has empowered me to be confident and consistent in my discpline and has given me the ability to be patient as well.

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M.T.

answers from San Antonio on

Hi J. ,
I also have a very strong willed three year old . And I can only tell you that I understand where you are coming from He has been a little Mr temper since day one .All I can advice youto do is to keep what you are doing . Be consistent, as you have been . With temperamental children it's ultimately all about who win's the power struggle . My son screams to , from the top of his lungs , and that in public places where he knows he will draw everyones attention and put me on the spot. When he has temper tantrums I give him a hug and tell him that mommy loves him and I explain shortly to him why his behavior is unacceptable . I don't go into lenghtly explenations because then Mr Temper is under the impression that he needs to plead his case .I understand your desperation , but all I can tell you is that I have learned to take it all with a sense of humor. Haha , that's how I keep sane . Often enough after he is done doing his thing and he says sorry , I reenact his tantrums in a silly way and we both end up laughing about it . I hope this helps . Good luck

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D.

answers from Houston on

I have found the following books extremely helpful: "On Becoming Child Wise" By Gary Ezzo, M.A. and Robert Buchnam,M.D.
and James Dobson's "The Complete Book of Baby and Child Care"---These books have been so "on" when it comes to getting the results you want--you just have to be willing to hear and apply the techniques. They do work. These books are available at Barnes and Nobles and probably any large book retailer. Strong-willed children are nothing new--be encouraged but seek expert advice from those with a proven record of success. Your child may have a medical reason for her behavior such as autism etc. or it may be behavioral but these books should offer a real solution. Have you talked to your pediatrician?

My children a Boy (8) and girl (5) tried this but it was quickly nipped with a stearn voice and the promise of a spanking if the behavior continued. My children are not perfect but well behaved enough to continually get compliments when we are out in public and to correct wrong behavior quickly. I do not believe you can reason with a 2 or 3 year old--your actions must be swift and consistent. I tried that counting jazz--my kids counted with me!--So I didn't try that again until they were older. I talk to my children a lot to explain things to them and what the consequences for their actions will be so that they are given a chance to change their behavior--after a couple of opportunities they receive and invite to their room or a spanking whatever the situation warrants. As they have gotten older the need to do either has lessened and my children are no more violent than anyone else's kids---in fact I had to tell them not to allow other children to be violent towards them! It appears that your child is attempting to control you and the atmosphere and largely succeeding. Run out and get these books fast--if you have to choose between the two get "On Becoming Child Wise"--it should be a shower gift for all expecting parents. And by the way---there is nothing wrong with spanking--done correctly it works!!!

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I.C.

answers from Houston on

Hello! I really understand what u're going thru I have a 2yr old daughter that is going thru the same thing at first my husband and I were putting her on time out on a chair and that worked for a minute, than it stop, now what we do is place her on a corner against the wall for 3 minutes she hates that...it seems to be working, we don't agree with spanking a kid is just teaching them it's ok to resolve problems with violance,maybe if you try that it could work.Good Luck!

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M.M.

answers from San Antonio on

I can totally relate. More than likely your daughter is testing you. Trying to see when you will give in. One thing is for sure, don't put her in her room. Her room has all of her favorite things and comforts. What's been working for me is placing my daughter in Time out in a corner of a room where there is nothing but a chair for her to sit on and that's it. Kids have stronger wills than you think, and she'll keep testing you and your husband. My daughter's tantrums have decreased, but she's still learning that I will not give in and she has a choice, behave or TO. Once they begin school they need to know boundaries, and by you not giving in, you are already establishing one, so don't get discouraged.

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S.M.

answers from San Antonio on

Dear J.,

I am going through exactly the same thing right now my daughter just turned 3. When you were describing your daughter I felt like you were decribing mine except for the fact that we also have a 6 month old son. Please let me know if anything works. I also feel like I am going crazy. I love my little girl so much and am at my wits end. So I could really use some support from someone who understands what I'm going through right now.

S.

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W.P.

answers from Houston on

Dear J.:
Have you considered a swift swatting? Not the kind that hurts, but the kind that shows her who's boss? I would then place her in her room immediately and leave - without explanations. You can talk AFTER the tantrum. Fortunately, my boy never really did that, but when he argued with me to the point of being obnoxious I would do the same, even in a public place. Just do it within 2 seconds of whatever the offensive action was. Today my boy sees other kids throw a tantrum, and he is proud that he did not act like that. I hadn't swatted him in years, because it corrects behavior pretty fast. Again, the effect lies in the decided speed in which the correction follows the action, not the intensity of the swat! You'll have to be cop, judge and executioner in one without hesitation and use this only for serious flaws like tantrum, extreme cockiness or very unsafe behavior. Oh, and I never do this if the child honestly reports something bad (e.g., broken window), so the trust is not endangered.

Hope this helps a little.

Regards,
W.
(father of 8-y.o. boy)

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J.P.

answers from Houston on

Hello J.,

I apologize for not having the advice you desperately need. I only write because I want you to know that you are not alone.

My son is a week away from becoming two years old. His behavior has been very similar to your daughter's since he was nine months old. He was very laid back and extremely calm before then. We thought he would be just like his ten year old sister when she was a baby. We raised them the exact same way and he turned out to be the opposite. We gave our two year old the exact love and attention that his older sister received yet they are so different. We are also very persistent and consistent with him. It seems you have too. This I know, is important in teaching them that we will not tolerate bad behavior. Still, he has the same fits and outbursts. If you receive any information that seems to help you please forward to me.

The only absolute difference my children have had was their first two years. Her first two years she was in a normal environment. Unlike my son, he's been with a friend of mine who has 3 young children who taunt and tease him daily. They are just reaching the age where they should know better but my efforts to ask their mother and children to NOT tease him haven't changed. Now, I'll never know if that is the complete reason he's become this way. I can't deny that I've recognized how he acts at her house compared to how he acts at my house when there is no one challenging him. So my suggestion is maybe to observe or dig into the specifics of where your daughter stays while you are work. See what kind of reactions she's having to develope. Just a suggestion - of course.

Good luck J. and continue to love and support her - no matter what! We absolutely can not give up on our bundles of joy.
-J.

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C.

answers from Houston on

Hi J.:

My first thought.....who is taking care of her while you are working? My next thought is get her to a reputable pediatrician. Friends of ours had the similar scenario with their son. Long story short, their doctor put him on medication. I don't remember what he was diagnosed with, but his temper had stressed her out beyond belief. There may be a more serious issue below the surface of the tantrums. You and your husband are great with the consistency of the discipline.

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A.Y.

answers from Houston on

J., so many people have written you. I hope you have felt the love and support of so many mothers. I almost didn't write, but I felt I should share my story too just in case it might help, because you never know.
My husband and I are struggling with our 2-year son with tantrums and VERY strong-willed behavior. NO discipline techniques have worked. NONE. And like you said, we were consistent and NEVER gave in. We recently talked to a Clinical Psychologist about it and got an interesting perspective. We talked to her about what we felt was our disciplinary failures and concern for his behavior. Our son would seemingly just go out of control with energy and many sometimes it turned into temper tantrumsm too. Especially now that he's older. She suggested that he may be hyper-sensitive to his surroundings. Being sensitive to all senses, getting overwhelmed with all goings on. Some children just do. One possible explanation is that they are very bright children and therefore have past their emotional intelligence and don't know how to process all the information that their sensitive sensors collect. For example, TV, music, other children playing, dishes clanking, yard machinery, too many toys, video games - anything that effects them. As an experiment one day, my husband and I were talking at a low tone and the TV was on Maisy (a very low key cartoon) on a low volume. Nothing else was going on or was "on" and yet he started winding up and going "whacko" (doing things against the rules - throwing things, tantrums etc), unable or unwilling to follow our discipline etc. So I turned off the TV and waited. 5 minutes later he was calming, behaving and back to playing quietly. I WAS IN SHOCK. For some unknown reason it was driving him nuts. The doctor's advice was that anytime we see him starting to wind up and get out of control, look around and "bring things down a level". Perhaps that would work for you too.
The other part we talked to her about was the discipline. She has 4 adult professional children and used the "natural consequences" theory on all 4. I can't sware by it yet, but I have bought the book she suggested, and she swares by it. The theory is that you let the natural consequence of his/her actions do the work for you rather you be the bad guy and get worn down emotionally. I'm not sure but am going to read it and give it a try since my child laughs in the face of hand swats, diaper spanks, real spankings, 1-2-3, timeouts, in your room, in the corner, no more toys --- you name it. You wouldn't believe it without seeing it....my boy is a trip. He'll either be a CIA agent or the next best serial bank robber. just kidding. Just too smart, stubborn and independent for his own good. If you are also interested in this book, we can read it together! I just ordered it on Amazon used really cheap. It is called Raising a Responsible Child by Gottman, John.
I guess I've talked your ear off. I wish you the best. And please feel free to email me directly if you'd like to talk more. Maybe our kids could make each other get into line! :-)
A.,
[email protected]____.com
good luck to you and yours!

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T.M.

answers from Houston on

Hello, I would like to tell you I have had the same situation with my son who is also 3. I could honestly tell you this little guy gave me problems from the minute I got pregnant with him. However there is good news, it gets better. Gabriel does everything on his own terms and time. I noticed a difference in his behavior when I put him in a Mothers day out program. The first few months were not good, but they kept working with him on how to express himself when he gets angry or upset and he is now doing very well. He will be 4 in November and is a totally different kid now. I think he was born into the terrible two's and overstayed his time in those two's as well, but thankfully he is doing so good now. He does have his occasional outburst with getting angry and throwing a fit still but he is learning to control it and express it in other ways. The MDO girls would always reassure me it would be ok to leave him there even when he was screaming and crying. I felt so embarresed but they would also reassure me that it was ok. Sometimes I guess the structure that they get from another place besides home is good for them as well as having the child hear from other people besides mom and dad that crying and screaming does not help you get your way. Good luck to you....by the way I dont know what side of town you are on but the MDO I used is called Houston's First Church of the Nazarene (off of BW8 and West Rd.)

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C.B.

answers from San Antonio on

J.,

I would suggest getting the advice of a professional. It could be a chemical imbalance or something behavioral. A trained professional could do an evaluation. This way you could rule out a more serious condition.

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B.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

it sounds like you are doing everything right. we have the same problem. go to the bookstore and buy the book "the out of sync child" and see if it rings any bells for you. it did for us. good luck, and hang in there. you have a "difficult to raise" child. normal rules will not apply. also, i have heard that leaving them alone during a tantrum can be scary. ive heard to sit with them til they calm down.

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D.

answers from Shreveport on

Our daughter was and is the same way, she is now seven, the only time she throws her fits are when she wants to spend the night with grandma and its not possible, late at night, etc.
One of things my husband does is redirect her with something constructive that she likes, read a book, etc.Distract her anyway you can, sometimes this works, Its really hard to control those totaly until shes around 5. Spanking, does not work with these tantrums, the biggest thing is for her to know , she can not get her way, there also has to be a privledge taken, tv etc....it will take some time.

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L.

answers from New Orleans on

Ditto with the book "Childwise." I started with "Babywise" -- really makes for pleasant kids. Its just the age. Good luck!

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D.F.

answers from San Antonio on

Hi J.,

You have received alot of good and different advice. I agree wtih Courtney when she says all children are different in personality and to not be embarrassed when your child has a tantrum. Easier said than done, I know, because I feel embarrassed , too, sometimes.

Courtney mentioned, and I do this with my own 2 1/2 year old, is to try to figure out if its an anger tantrum or a frustration tantrum. I agree that you shouldn't just tolerate misbehavior from children, and yet still not all tantrums are just their way of 'misbehaving', so I found I could eliminate at least most of the tantrums that are due to some sort of frustration. Dr. Brazleton (a pediatrician and author) also recommended facing my child away from me and having her sit in my lap. Then he says to tell her "I'll help you through your Mad". He explains that this shows your empathy, and it helps her calm down so she can better learn how to express her feelings. I tried it for our daughter, and it works a lot of the time. She calms down, and then lets me redirect her to something else, no longer 'demanding' that she needs the thing she initially wanted. She uses her words alot more, so it could be also a developmental thing, as she's frustrated trying to communicate.

My daughter also throws tantrums when she misses lunch or dinner or a snack in between those times. Low blood sugar? That is our guess. Could that have anything to do with at least some of her tantrums? Maybe you could look into it, or maybe I am way off base. We noticed that if we were too hurried and forgot to stop at 12 to eat lunch, she'd get really fussy and throw a huge tantrum.

Again, use whatever works for you, and good luck >:)

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V.G.

answers from Baton Rouge on

Heres a book I just finished reading...

Making children mind without losing yours / Kevin Leman

Get it from the library or better yet buy it to keep for other occations as he grows older.

V.

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L.M.

answers from San Antonio on

J.,

What Margaret B said is very good advice and if I had that advice when my 3 kids threw a tantrum (now keep in mind I did and do not believe in spanking unless the child is going to hurt themselves or someone else). What worked for me as well as my mother was taking ice water and throwing it in their face. Now I know that is sounds mean and cruel. But I never had another tantrum to deal with after I did that. Nothing else worked for me at the time.

L.

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A.V.

answers from Beaumont on

I have a three year old son that is the same way. He throws a tantrum whenever I tell him no or if he has to go to bed, ect. ect. He hits me and yells at me and he has pretty much done this since I can remember. When he was a baby he was pretty calm. But once he started walking and talking then it all went down hill. I do the same thing that you and your husband do. We send him to his room and he yells and screams but then he comes out and tells me that he is sorry and won't be mean again. I just think that it is his temparment. I don't think anything is wrong with them I just think that they are just strong willed. They know what they want and they don't want to hear no. But we just have to stick with it and let them know that we are not going to step down. I know what you are going through and just stay strong. Good Luck and remember with a strong willed child you need to take time out for yourself.

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A.S.

answers from San Antonio on

have you talked to the pediatrition? It sounds to me like you are doing everything you can right.

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G.S.

answers from Fayetteville on

J., I have some serious discipline issues with my children, 8 years old and 5 years old. My biggest problem is staying consistent and it sounds like you and your husband are great at that so I think this will help you. I had an Ozark Guidance Therapist and an elementary school principal refer me to this. It is 1-2-3 Magic - Parenting book or VHS. It is written by Dr. Thomas Phelan. I bought the book at Barnes & Noble, but you can also order online at www.parentmagic.com. When I started using the program, it was difficult at first but as long as I could keep my patience, it got better and better. The mistake I made is that when things got better, I forgot to continue using it and now things are as hard as ever, but I am still using some of it and am trying to get consistent with it again. The program is supposed to work for ages 2-12. I hope you will try this. Good Luck!!

S.C.

answers from College Station on

I have 2 children. My first was an easy baby and is 8 now and very little issues. My second child has been strong willed from day one too. She is very different and we have had to discipline her differently too. A spanking sometimes helps as it does get her attention, but usually I take away something from her room as that is where her valuables are. She is not the type of child that responds well to virtual punisment, like you can't go to the park tomorrow or you can't play with so and so. She needs immediate consequences. She is 4 but this may have worked when she was 3 if I'd tried it. She will throw the biggest tantrum when I take away things but after she has it for about 4 or 5 min. I walk back in and talk calmly to her and ask her if we can try again, be friends...whatever words help her to calm down. If I just left her in there until she calmed down she would be a nervous wreck. I keep checking on her until she is ready to calm down and she knows I will help her. I don't think she is old enough to calm herself completely, especially after me taking away a prized toy. She has to earn it back with good behavior. It can be pretty immediate or it can take til the next day, however you decide. I have done this for only a few days and already she is obeying and behaving better. I don't want to break her spirit but I do expect certain behavior. It'll be pretty loud and chaotic at first. You sound like you are doing your best, good luck, and keep trying.

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J.

answers from Baton Rouge on

Hi J.,
I have a three year old son, an only child. I have attended school since he was 6 months old and my husband is in the medical profession, so he has a full workload. I attended school two days or three days a week depending on the semester. My son has never stayed with anyone besides us or my mother. SO, he definitely gets attention (maybe too much).
HOWEVER, he started temper tantrums right before he turned one. We went to therapy (occupational and speech). He scared the speech therapist. He would freak out and scream and bang his head or flop anywhere he could. He walked around with egg shaped bruises all of the time. I was a nervous wreck, feeling that I failed him. We tried everything. Finally, the only thing that worked consistently, was telling him to go to his room. He has to walk there himself and close the door. He can't come out until he stops screaming (usually lasts no longer than 2 minutes). This took a while but he stopped fits at home and started them in stores when he wanted a Thomas the Tank Engine or whatever. People would stare and I was so horribly embarrassed. I would tell him that he needed to go to his room when we got home and eventually he figured it out. He stopped banging his head or flopping completely. What people don't see is that he is the mildest mannered child outside of the fits. Currently, he has not had a tantrum in sometime. Except for yesterday, which was his first day of school. The teacher said both today and yesterday he screamed for about 5 minutes and then played really well all day. I hope this helps, if nothing more than knowing that people stared at me too. Good luck with everything.

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