Help! My three and a half year old is throwing HORRIBLE tantrums!

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  1. kittythedreamer profile image75
    kittythedreamerposted 12 years ago

    Just recently my three and a half year old daughter (who by the way is absolutely beautiful and usually very sweet) has been lashing out when she is corrected or asked to do something. She spits, hits me (without me even touching her!), screams bloody murder and will rip her room apart (throwing toys etc.) if we isolate her to her bedroom. We've tried reasoning and being as calm as we can with her, we don't yell at her, and we've even tried lightly spanking her to pull her out of these tantrums but all of our methods never work. Once she's in her tantrum, there's no stopping until she cries herself out after about 30 minutes. It is so stressful on my husband and I right now...we just don't know what to do. Is she an angry child? Is she angry with us? I just want her to be her happy cute self again. Any ideas or suggestions?

    1. greatparenting profile image61
      greatparentingposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      She will grow out of it, I promise. Very few leave for college while throwing this sort of fit. It's frustrating for sure, but try very hard not to discipline her by spanking. That will only rile her up more. You'll want to do what you can to calm her and putting her in her room  is a good start. We once videotaped our three-year-old throwing a fit and showed it to her when she calmed down. She never did it again. Give it a try. If it doesn't work, just continue what you are doing and put on some loud music to calm yourself when she's screaming it out. Good luck. It will get better.

      1. cobrien profile image62
        cobrienposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        If a naturally sweet child suddenly starts lashing out at the age of 3 and a half, something is going on. She may be bullied, abused, or she may have ADHD. She may just be getting influenced by the wrong person. Find out what's going on and eliminate the problem and you will have your sweet kid back again.

      2. Alexandra Zikova profile image57
        Alexandra Zikovaposted 7 years agoin reply to this

        Looks like desperately tough situation. Maybe this article will help. … -tantrums/
        The described methods work for me, but am not sure they'll work the same in your situation. Maybe you can try and then tell us about the results.

      3. savvydating profile image90
        savvydatingposted 7 years agoin reply to this

        You might try the French parenting method. They have remarkably polite children---even toddlers. This was my method and I never had any tantrum problems. You might pick up a book like French Twist or Raising Bebe. The problem with American parents is that they are too coddling and they make everything into a bigger deal than it needs to be, whereas French parents don't reward bad behavior by giving it more attention than it is due. Pick up a book at the library, and you will see what I mean by French parenting. It works!

        1. SheilaMilne profile image94
          SheilaMilneposted 7 years agoin reply to this

          This is a four year old thread.  The child must be over 7 by now.

          1. savvydating profile image90
            savvydatingposted 7 years agoin reply to this

            Thanks. I didn't look at the date. Nevertheless, the books make for interesting reading.

          2. profile image53
            Lauren Marantoposted 7 years agoin reply to this

            It may be an old post, but some people are currently going through this and may like to have the information.

            1. savvydating profile image90
              savvydatingposted 7 years agoin reply to this

              How kind, Lauren. Thanks for reminding us about "new" parents  In any event, "French" parenting worked for me---although I did not know at the time that my method was shared by a nation. Lol,

      4. profile image0
        Matty Fernandezposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        I remember those horrible days with my children, I'm glad they are just a memory now. First, try not to stress about it, it is a stage that she will outgrow. Remember to continue to be firm with rules, maybe write them out and explain them to her when she is calm. Don't let her get her way to avoid the tantrums. Never allow her to hit you without severe consequences. When she does show bad behavior, follow through with the consequences you have set. When all is calm, help her reflect on her behavior. Make sure you are honest about how she makes you feel when her behavior is not good and emphasize your love for her. At her age is still hard to understand certain things, but I think that we all can make emotional connections and its something I did with my kids to help them understand that their behavior affected the whole family. Also, if you feel her behavior is simply not like her, maybe check with the doctor.

        1. Kathryn L Hill profile image75
          Kathryn L Hillposted 6 years agoin reply to this

          I'll never forget something that happened when I threw a tantrum as a very young child. My younger brother had broken a doll of mine and I was incensed! I had gone into a rage!! My parents calmed me down by showing me another doll: a Raggedy Ann! They lifted up her dress and underneath, there it was: A small heart printed onto her chest. They told me this was how she loved. Even though I was only three or so, I understood what they were telling me. I immediately forgave my little brother. I loved him. Love replaced the rage instantly.
          Smart parents if you ask me. (maybe desperate)

      5. yolisagibson profile image60
        yolisagibsonposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        I'm so sorry you're going through this. My son actually went through the exact same thing around the same age, but a little more violence. It lasted until he was 11, when we moved. I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist or a counselor, but I am a mother who has went through hell. He was diagnosed with ADHD at age 6, after everyone telling me it was just my parenting and nothing else. Now , at age 13, I am finally getting him tested for possibly being on the Autism Spectrum. I don't have any amazing advice other then talk to professionals and, if you feel it's right, see if there's other signs that would call for testing. It's hard at such a young age so youll probably just have to battle through for a few more years. I am also not advocating medication or any certain diagnosis. It could be a range of things - sexual abuse, high functioning autism, nutrition, or frustration with communication , or a variety of other issues. What I have learned (which is simple but easier said than done!) is that you follow your gut. Check your parenting styles. Do not let her abuse you in any way. Learn appropriate physical restraints if she starts physically lashing out. It may last 30 minutes or 3 hours. DO NOT give up. You can restrain your child and it will simply be restraint and nothing more - no spankin, etc. I am not downing or advocating spanking I just know some parents will rip you apart of you use the word "restraint" but I had to with my son - he was and is unusually strong. Keep a journal of when the tantrums happen and what happen right before that, how long it lasted, and what (if anything in particular) caused the tantrum to stop. What I do know is that reasoning, especially at that age, will not do you any good. Not to be harsh its just a fact. If she is anything like my son, when she is in that state she cannot see you or hear you. I hope you find the answers you need, I feel for you!

    2. areinholz profile image59
      areinholzposted 12 years ago

      Have you tried 123 magic? My sister found it useful to count with her children when they were real little. She still counts her 5 year old sometimes and she says that even though the 5 year old gets mad, she listens. Also, try talking to your pediatrician. They can tell you what is a "normal" temper tantrum and what is not normal and possibly needs to be checked into further. Good Luck!

      1. wordscribe43 profile image91
        wordscribe43posted 12 years agoin reply to this

        That book revolutionized our lives when our kids were young!  It's the best book ever, we tried SO many other methods, but nothing worked.  It's easy, you can use it anywhere and effective.

    3. oceansnsunsets profile image87
      oceansnsunsetsposted 12 years ago

      My son acted like this at the same age once, and we happened to be at the doctors office, as he was getting over the flu.  It was out of character.  The doctor diagnosed him with dehydration, and we needed to address that asap.  He was fine after that.  Not saying this is the case with your daughter, but something more internal may be going on.  Not necessarily behavioral, or needing to be corrected with discipline.

      Had we responded by discipline on my son, knowing what I know now, I would be devastated. sad  If its something that is just going on, or like a short stage she is growing through, it will pass.  I would take her to a doctor to rule out anything physical that may be going on.  Pediatricians have seen it all, and can give some great advice. 

      Our hardest years were the 3 year old years also, not twos, not teens... Isn't that interesting?  I hope she stops the tantrums, and try to work through it and rule out any possible allergies, etc.  Wishing you the best. smile

    4. leahlefler profile image96
      leahleflerposted 12 years ago

      Kittythedreamer, I'd definitely take her to a doc to check things out - she might have something physical going on, and not have the language to explain it.

      That being said, three was the hardest age for both of my children. My younger one wasn't quite as tough as my older one, but my older one would do what you are describing. He couldn't bring himself "down" from his tantrums. He was also a "runner" - when we'd go somewhere, he'd just take off. Very scary!

      Anyhow, we did strip down his bedroom to just his bed and dresser - so there were no toys or books he could destroy in his tantrums. He could take his bed apart, and when he was done with the tantrum, he'd have to help us put it back together again.

      We also learned to avoid some of his known triggers. He would throw tantrums if we had a sudden change in schedule (issues with transitions), so we tried to give him more warning of any changes that were coming ("we're leaving in 2 minutes," etc.). Turning off the TV made him go ballistic, so we simply didn't turn on the TV in the first place - he didn't watch cartoons for over a year. We even tried the Feingold system (removing artificial colors, etc) from his diet and saw some improvement - not sure if it was simply his maturity or the better food.

      The good news? He grew out of it. It took a while, but by the time he was 4 1/2 those marathon tantrums were a thing of the past. He still melts down once in a great while, but not more so than any other kid. Take heart! Three year olds become four year olds, and things become MUCH better between the ages of 4 and 5!

    5. mathair profile image59
      mathairposted 12 years ago

      Hi  Kittythedreamer. I agree with oceansnsunsets. Be on the look out for any signs of illness. Perhaps there is a childhood virus brewing.  However both of my daughters went through a bad phase of tantrums just after they turned 3. Some of this was due to the frustration of not being able to express their needs clearly enough. With my younger daughter it was because we were treatingher like a baby and not letting her do enough for herself.  We addressed this by giving her more one to one attention and giving her time to dress herself,set the table etx and it has worked wonders. Good luck and remember dont let her see that it is gettting to you. It wont last forever!

    6. Kathleen Cochran profile image78
      Kathleen Cochranposted 12 years ago

      As the mother of three and grandmother of two, I can assure you that this is typical behavior for a three year old.  The best advice I can give you is this: when the tantrum happens, remove the audience.  Put the child in her room, leave the store, whatever you have to do to remove an audience for her behavior.  When she has calmed down, ask her what she wants.  If it is something reasonable, tell her she can have it if she doesn't repeat the behavior.  If it is not reasonable, tell her no.  If the tantrum starts again, put her in her room again.
      The other writers are right.  Are there signs of illness?  Is she tired or hungry?  Is she off her regular schedule?  Does this happen at the same time every day?  It's pretty typical of threes to react to direction when they used to comply.  It's developmental.  But tantrums, especially hitting you, can't be tolerated.  It takes a lot of effort, but you are going to be glad when she's a teenager that you set boundaries when she was three.  Good luck.

    7. Daniel Carter profile image63
      Daniel Carterposted 12 years ago

      You should throw tantrums that are much bigger than your 3 year old's.
      It will get their attention.

      I promise.

      1. profile image0
        Home Girlposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        No sugary drinks!
        Rinse and repeat!
        None, ever.
        More walks outside. TV watching -  once a week. If tantrum happens - ignore! Stay calm, don't argue. As people said - it will go away, how soon - it's another story.

        1. kittythedreamer profile image75
          kittythedreamerposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          Thanks to everyone for your wonderful suggestions and words of encouragement. I will take them ALL into consideration. Blessings to you all, lovely ladies & gents!

          1. LookingForWalden profile image61
            LookingForWaldenposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            Just out of curiosity does she go to day care or preschool?

            1. kittythedreamer profile image75
              kittythedreamerposted 12 years agoin reply to this

              Yes, she goes to daycare 3 full days a week. The other two days she's with me at my work place.

    8. lonesomewanderer profile image60
      lonesomewandererposted 12 years ago

      I have 3years old daughter. I didn't know what is 1-2-3 magic untill now. Funny is my wife and me has doing it a whole time when our daughter go wild. We just count 1-3 and then she calms down by her self. When the number 2 come she stopped and ask what are doing, then we'll explain it that she doing something bad. But if that did'nt work we used punished chair.

    9. CASE1WORKER profile image63
      CASE1WORKERposted 12 years ago

      I never had any one of this , but would endorse the ideas of others along the line of seeing the doctor- maybe she has an ear ache? and avoiding high colours in food either natural or man made.
      You have my sympathy and I hope things become more peaceful soon

    10. S G Hupp profile image81
      S G Huppposted 12 years ago

      One of my girls at that age was more susceptible to stress (especially outside stress)than the others.  At that age they are really aware of what is going on around them but they may not process things very easily yet.  Wait until she's doing something OTHER than throwing a fit and chat her up a little.  Not in a MOM to baby way but just in a casual person to person way and don't mention anything about the new behavior.  I used to just ask my daughters random, harmless questions about their day, since they all went to preschool 3 days as well.  Questions like "did they have anything tasty for afternoon snack today? or "what was your favorite thing you did today?" Or "how did that outfit work out for you today?--was it comfy?" would sometimes lead to them telling me about some small change in their environment that I wasn't aware of.

    11. IzzyM profile image88
      IzzyMposted 12 years ago

      For an immediate relief, I found that picking the child up and hugging them tightly (it has to be tight as you need to restrict their movements), very quickly clams them down. Worth a try!
      Speak softly and soothingly to them at the same time.

    12. sassydee profile image70
      sassydeeposted 12 years ago

      has she had any changes lately or been around new individuals that act this way or maybe treat her mean? or maybe something is wrong with her maybe you should get her checked if she is three and all of sudden started acting in such a way that wasn't learned from home. does she take naps maybe she's just not getting enough sleep, kids do require lil naps because they are so active.  Have you tried just ignoring her completely when she acts this way? try not to confine her to her room just as soon as she acts like this just completely ignore her and when she calms down ask her why did she get so upset and respond to her when she is acting sweet instead of when she throws tantrums! Just don't let her see your frustrations either.  good luck and pray about it. oh and it would be great if you can keep me updated on her and how you resolved this problem if you do thanks!

    13. danajconnelly profile image61
      danajconnellyposted 12 years ago

      Id suggest employing the ABC's of Behavior Modification which I have written about.  As a specialist, I would first examine what is occuring right before the tantrum begins assessing whether its for attention seeking purposes or avoidance.  Based on your statement "when she is corrected" it seems to be avoidance, meaning she engages in the tantrum as a means to avoid what was expected of her.  Be mindful of how verbal you are in the midsts of the tantrum.  The more you try to talk her "out of it" the more you may be lending too much attention to the tantrum behavior. Also, be aware of praising her for being "good", in the times when she handles correction graciously, making a bigger deal out of the positive than the negative.

    14. Gatti profile image60
      Gattiposted 12 years ago

      Discipline her.  Next time she throws a tantrum ground her to her room for a week. Your child doesn't need "reasoning" you child needs to be disciplined.  You child is young she doesn't know how to behave or to properly reason about how her behaviors effect other so it's your job to teach her this.  You need to make it clear that you won't accept this kind of behavior and be firm.

      1. Dolores Monet profile image94
        Dolores Monetposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        You can't ground a 3 year old to their room for a week.

      2. donotfear profile image83
        donotfearposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Responding to the tantrum this way is going to send a message to the child that feeling angry is not okay. Anger is okay, but expressed negatively is not okay.  Yes, it's up to the parent to teach appropriate coping skills for the child. However, if she's destroying things, those things should be removed.  A child that has been happy and content for 3 years then suddenly begins going into such rages, has something wrong. Physically or emotionally.  Punishment won't help, I know from experience.

        Try looking for the "Teaching Family Model" of behavior modification. It works.

        1. Gatti profile image60
          Gattiposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          No, it teaches the child that angry out burst won't be accepted.  This "punishing children" is bad mentality is why this generation that is coming up is such crap.

          1. Aficionada profile image80
            Aficionadaposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            But your suggestion about grounding a three-year-old to her room for a week is also rubbish. Firmness is good. Limits are good. Clarity about boundaries is good. Consistency is good.

            But a three-year-old doesn't have the kind of mental or emotional development that is needed in order for a week's grounding to have the desired effect.  It is more likely to be counterproductive.

            How many children do you have, and what ages are they?

            1. Gatti profile image60
              Gattiposted 12 years agoin reply to this

              The cognitive ability of a three year old is more than developed past the point for the child to get a lesson from a ground.

              Having children doesn't magically make you a psychologist that under stands the cognitive development of humans.  In my path to be a doctor I have taken classes in psychology among other subjects.  I understand the cognitive, motor and physical development.

              1. Aficionada profile image80
                Aficionadaposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                Perhaps your understanding of grounding differs from mine.  Based on what I understand a grounding to mean, that form of discipline is not appropriate before the age of approximately six or seven, and even then for a reasonable amount of time.  A week?  for a three-year-old?  Just sitting in her room, doing nothing?  A three-year-old never just sits, doing nothing - never - unless they are sick. 

                Remember, one of the behaviors that was mentioned for the child in the OP was "ripping her room apart" - throwing toys, etc.  So, what are you wanting the three-year-old to do in her room for a week?  Are the toys in there with her, where she can continue to throw them around?  (If they are not, what does the child do for those 168 hours?) Were you recommending that she be in the room alone?  Look at IzzyM's comment above.  There are safety issues to consider here.

                The aspect of mental development that applies to the three-year-old actually is memory.  Children of course can remember remarkable things, but it's not always what we expect or want.  If the child doesn't have the memory to associate the punishment with the "crime" then the punishment will be ineffective.  Even with older children, the most effective discipline occurs close to the time of the incident and is a logical consequence of the action - such as the parent putting away toys that are thrown around or the child receiving a time-out (vastly different from grounding).

                Quite true, and I totally agree.  I have known some parents of large families who didn't seem to understand much about their children's developmental stages.  But having children does (not-so-magically) put the parent in the position of being able to observe firsthand all those facts and theories that you read about in college and medical school, etc., and helps to provide a real-life perspective to round out the scholarly knowledge shared in classes.

                And in my path to being a well-rounded human being, I have done a lot of personal reading and study on medical matters; I have a sister who is a retired MD and a son MD who is in the first year of his residency.  So, does that make me capable of being a good doctor?  Of course not. 

                Tangential study is not the same as hands-on, round-the-clock study and experience.  I realize that you have taken classes that shed light on a child's development and abilities, but your suggestion certainly did not have the ring of someone who has any actual experience with three-year-olds, and that was the reason for my question.  The fact that you did not answer directly provided the answer I suspected.

                I hope pediatrics is not your specialty.  But if it is, I hope that you can have the grace and humility to understand that you still have many things to learn, just as we all do.

      3. IzzyM profile image88
        IzzyMposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        You going to sit in there with her? No-one would leave a 3 year old out of sight unless she is sleeping!

    15. rebekahELLE profile image85
      rebekahELLEposted 12 years ago

      I see this was posted two months ago. Is she still behaving the same way? 

      While tantrums are not out of the ordinary for the 3's, spitting at you and ripping her room apart is somewhat extreme, in my opinion. I've worked with this age group for many years. And I'm a parent. This is attention-getting behavior and she's trying to see what her boundaries are. She's waving a flag, take time to assess it.

      3's are all about independence. They are no longer babies and don't want to be treated like one. They are attempting to understand their place in the family. She has to know what her boundaries are. Spitting and hitting you is not acceptable. When she is not throwing a tantrum, let her know what she can do if she's upset.
      And tell her what her consequences are if she does spit on you or hit you, etc. Put her toys away if she's throwing them. They come back when she understands they are not for throwing. Spanking will not instruct her as to the proper behavior. It sends all the wrong messages to a 3 year old. She knows spitting is going to make you mad. So, don't get mad. Simply take away a privilege and be consistent until it stops. Sometimes training a 3 year old is like training a dog. You have to instruct, be loving and firm. I have a few different hubs about parenting, discipline, how to deal with angry kids, etc.

      I would check her diet and make sure she's getting enough sleep.  Is she on a routine at home?  Also check with her teachers and ask about her behavior in the classroom. Ask about their discipline policy.

      Good luck. The 3's can be challenging, but also a year of tremendous growth and discovering her world.

      1. Aficionada profile image80
        Aficionadaposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Possibly the best post in this thread.  ++1

        But I also endorse the idea of checking into the possible physical causes (dehydration, allergies, etc.).

        Also, during preschool years, there seem to be personality shifts at roughly six-month intervals.  One writer (I forget who, it's been so long since I read it) suggested that a child spends six months learning something new, then another six months integrating it into their life; during the integration period, some of the older skills may fall apart for awhile.  It's a very rough guide, but it may be a helpful way to understand the child's behavior; and it doesn't excuse inexcusable behavior.

        I also like leahlefler's post from the original iteration of the thread.

      2. kittythedreamer profile image75
        kittythedreamerposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        She is almost 4 years old now and the tantrums have stopped. She still gets mad every once in awhile, but usually snaps out of it quickly. Thanks so much for all of your wonderful responses.

    16. profile image52
      Faby9posted 12 years ago

      Try to use the mirror technique whenever she is throwing tamtrums.  It has always worked out for me as a parent of two children. I acted out the tamtrum!!! is like playing to be an actor with them and you will wonder how it will work they even laught or may be ashame of her behavior.. is like looking in a mirror when you dont look so well,  and you say something to yourself like ohhhh.... I better brush my hair look so ugly..


    17. IzzyM profile image88
      IzzyMposted 12 years ago

      I agree with everyone here about being firm, teaching boundaries etc, but I think the first thing to do is look at her total food and drink intake, to see if something there is causing an allergic reaction.
      It's almost like she is hyperactive and you'd be looking out things for caffeine based products or E food colorings, both of which can cause behavioural changes.

      I remember when my son was little, just a mouthful of Coca-cola set him off, and he'd be bouncing off the walls for the next hour!

      1. danajconnelly profile image61
        danajconnellyposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        I completely identify with the Coca-Cola defense.  I dont keep sodas or juices in the household but when my son has it at a party he literally begins speaking in tongues about the most random things. However, he is still pleasant and entertaining, characteristics that are not associated with tantrums. But yes, I do notice behavioral issues in children that survive on a great deal of processed foods.

    18. Kathryn L Hill profile image75
      Kathryn L Hillposted 7 years ago

      A child is being constructed by forces of nature within his being. We must understand how the child builds himself.  What are his requirements for physical and psychic growth?

      If he is throwing tantrums, his needs are not being met. 

      Read Dr. Maria Montessori who was a scientist as far as children. She observed them in the light of truth and reality. Secret of Childhood, Discovery of the Child and The Absorbent Mind are books she wrote to reveal what she discovered regarding the true nature of children. By reading her books you will discover the needs of every child according to the dictates of nature guiding their development.

    19. Donna Suthard profile image60
      Donna Suthardposted 6 years ago

      I worked in a Daycare In Bloomington Indiana and I observed a very effective method that our daycare director chose to use with a screaming two year old named Michele! She brought Michele to the office and sat and held her, telling her firmly but kindly, that she could not return to activities until she stopped screaming and kicking.  It took over a hour the first time, after the second time having, a tantrum, she was released after 10 minutes.. Never again did she have a tantrum..  A parent came up with the solution that whenever her son bit children he had to bite into a lemon slice, which was high in Vitamin C and would not hurt him, she was a social worker, and it only took one bite of a lemon to cure her son from biting children! There was no anger or putting down an angry child.. Calmness works miracles!


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    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)