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Shouting, defying, horrible behaviour from a 3.5 years old. In desperate need of advice please. Sorry for a long post

(32 Posts)
hereagain99 Wed 20-Feb-13 13:53:43

DD is 3.5 years old. For the last 2 months her behaviour has gone worse by the day. For the last 3 weeks we are having screaming tantrums lasting between 45minutes to an hours an average of twice a day sometimes even three times. It can start from a simple request to go for a wee before going to sleep or by just getting NO as an answer for something that she has asked and it was not possible for her to have. We do pick our battles although at the moment everything seems to be a battle.

We have created a chart with the house rules which we have chosen together and she participated in decorating the chart. We hoped that maybe by seeing the house rule chart that she would follow them but it has not worked. We have been confiscating toys when being warned that her behaviour is not acceptable and she could only get them back when we have family meetings and if her behaviour has been good. We have explained her which behaviour is acceptable and which one isn't so she can understand what we are talking about. We have used putting her in her room and telling her that she can leave her room once she has calmed down but this hasn't worked. We have told her that we don't like the way she talks to us and that makes us feel sad and it hasn't worked either. We have created a feeling chart where she can tell us how she feels by sticking a emotion card inside a sun, this hasn't worked either. We have also given her warnings that if she didn't change her behaviour she wouldn't watch telly.

Her behaviour in pre-school is excellent, when she is in other people's care they always say that she behaves fantastically well so it seems that all this anger is in the house only and with us.

I am separated from her dad and we live with my DP. It also seems that her behaviour with her dad is excellent and never has any of these outbursts.

When we ask her why she is doing it she always shouts that she doesn't know which it would be expected because of her age. So now the question. Does any of you know how to deal with this please? We believe that we have tried averything we know and nothing has worked. At the moment she has been screaming, shouting and crying for the last 44 minutes. I have sat with her hugging her to see if she would calm down and she kept scratching me and pinching me but didn't try to get out. I was sitting on the floor and she was sitting on my lap and I was hugging her.

DP and I are desperate for new ideas of what to do with her. We are both very angry at the moment and we dob't feel like doing anything with her. Yesterday we went to an activity so we could spend some time together doing nice things and at the end we had to come back home because she started one of her outburts.

We are at the point of thinking that we may need professional help as we are completely unable to change the situation. Any ideas much welcome. Thanks

mariamenendez Thu 25-Apr-13 20:04:44

right I've ordered it.
I did flip her across the back of the head with a wet flannel the other day, half in jest, half annoyed, because she was being so lippy at dinner time, and she burst out laughing, so then I did, and we had a very funny wet flannel fight which completely diffused the situation, so maybe this book is the answer...
it's got to be better than the continual fighting at the moment

MaryRobinson Thu 25-Apr-13 19:18:28

Yes yes to Playful Parenting it is a fabulous book.

mariamenendez Thu 25-Apr-13 17:27:41

Thanks flossy. You are right it is about control.
What about when they are refusing to do something you need them to do, like brush teeth, or go to bed, etc? I give her the choice to do it herself, but if she refuses after several chances then I do it myself ( ie brush her teeth while she's resisting etc, which doesn't seem right, but I don't want to spend 2 hours waiting for her to be in the right mood). This always causes a rage, but again, I don't want to be a prisoner to her moods, and not let her get her own way.
I do try and stay calm when I do this though.

flossymuldoon Thu 25-Apr-13 16:35:18

My DS is 3.5. He is adopted and quite controlling so we constantly have to take control back which more often than not is what started the tantrum. What works for us is:

I stay calm and refuse to argue. So if he's tantrumming for something i say no. He shouts. I say no again and tell him that i'm not going to argue anymore.

I don't say anything then once his shouting starts to subside i tell him to come and sit on my knee. As long as i wait until the anger has subsided, he does and i just hug him until he's back to normal.

It is quite important to let them tantrum though as that is how they learn the regulate their emotions but i know it's bloody hard. The first major one that happened left us all completely drained!!!

I can also recommend Playful Parenting book

mariamenendez Thu 25-Apr-13 15:54:12

are you still having problems with your dd? Is it getting better?
I'm asking because my 3.8 dd's tantrums have escalated insanely. Anything can tip her over, mostly at the beginning and end of day. They do happen mostly when she's exhausted, but I don't know how to manage her. I've tried 'lovebombing' her (giving her love and cuddles to calm her down); sticker chart/reward schemes (but she never gets anywhere with them because she can't control herself when she's in a rage - she now gets a sticker if she manages not to smash her room up when she's in a rage!); walking away (but she runs after me and screams and holds on to my leg); and getting cross and putting her in her room. I have to hold the door shut, as she'll scream and try to pull the door off the hinges, then she strips herself, strips her bed, and smashes the room up, all the while screaming at me. I stay on the other side and tell her calmly to sit on the bed, then I'll come in, but it takes forever and I hate hearing her like this, it can't be good for her.
Conversely, I also can't give in to her rages and demands, her spitting at me in the face when I ask her to brush her teeth, or come upstairs, basic routine tasks etc.
She also wakes up at 5, and screams at us to get out of bed, nothing will calm her down.
When she smashes up her room I confiscate everything she has damaged or thrown on the floor, but it doesn't seem to bother her, she can play with an old bit of string for hours. When I confiscated her special teddy she did get extremely upset, but that just turned into a massive tantrum, although I did hold out and 'win' in the end.
It just feels like nothing I'm doing works, I feel so angry inside, and like I want to smack her, although so far I've managed to contain it.
any suggestions from your experience?

cloudhands Fri 22-Feb-13 10:44:12

I think you are totally right Emmie, tantrums often seem to be about small things, but actually in some way they often trigger much bigger feelings about something else in the child. It's great that you could listen to your daughter and figure out what was wrong.
It's our tendency to feel a bit irritated, that our children, have tantrums about tiny things, but I think these smaller things are triggers about much bigger emotional upsets. Tantrums should be seen as a positive thing! They help our children get rid of excess stress, and frustration so that they can be better behaved the rest of the time. If we can listen with love and unconditionally, and assume there is a big reason behind the upset. Children can't always verbally explain everything, and anyway tantrums serve a much bigger need than just communication, they are a way of getting rid of stress and frustration. if we can try to be calm, love and support our children as they cry, rather than simply ignoring them, then they can cry as much as they need and restore their bodies and minds to emotional equilibrium.
Ignoring a tantrum can help it stop more quickly, but that just means a child hasn't released all the stress and frustration, and will just carry the emotional baggage around to try and release later.

Emmie412 Fri 22-Feb-13 07:53:39

DD3 here appears to be past the worst meltdown times but I have noticed that quite often when she becomes difficult I have realised that her mood and resistance has got nothing to do with the actual thing being asked of her.

For example, the other day she got a post card from her granny who lives in another country. At bedtime she was refusing to get into bed and when I lifted her she started kicking etc. I then said 'DD is upset. DD is feeling angry' (i.e. naming the emotion), to this she nodded and when I asked her to tell me why she felt upset, she eventually expressed that she wanted her granny to be here. Rather than telling her that she would not see her granny, I just said that 'DD misses her and would like to spend more time with granny' and this seemed to be enough.

Same thing when DD gets stuck with saying the same thing over and over again, e.g. asking for a certain friend to come over and play when it is not going to happen. Rather than endlessly explaining no, it is not going to happen, it has been more successful to name the emotion i.e. 'DD is feeling lonely and wishes she had someone to play with, it has been a bit boring today being sick, hasn't it?'

It is not always possible to reason with a tantrumming child but my whole point here is that there may be something else that she is finding difficult to express and that then leads to difficult behaviour, that it almost feels like they are just trying to pick a fight out of everything.

How new is the situation with separation from her dad and introducing a new partner into the family? How long has she been going to pre-school?

MrsLion Fri 22-Feb-13 07:49:56

My DD2 is 3.8 and we are going through the same thing. Very angry rages, full blown tantrums, defiance, extreme rudeness and disrespect. 
Luckily we seem to be getting through it now and it only really started improving when we got very tough and very consistent.

By tough, I definitely don't mean being angry or shouting ourselves. We just calmly imposed harsher consequences. And always, always following through.

E.g dh was getting ready to take dd1 and dd2 swimming, they were both very excited but dd2 started playing up and refusing to get in the car seat. Then started screaming and yelling when dh tried to buckle her in. 

After one warning, which was ignored dh, dh got hit in the face and he just very calmly got her out of the car and took dd1 swimming without her. I stayed behind.
She was devastated.  
Another time we were on the way to a birthday party and I turned the car back around and went back home.

It is very hard- but after a few similar incidences her behaviour is improving a lot.

We're actually all a lot happier and less stressed as all the negotiating, warnings, verbal battles are bring vastly reduced.

In terms of getting her to do things, like have a wee or eat her dinner. I just let them go. Or try some of the humor techniques that others have mentioned. Funnily enough since the zero tolerance on bad attitude was implemented, she has also responded better to requests.

Good luck op. It is very trying indeed and you are most definitely not alone. 

LeChatRouge Thu 21-Feb-13 23:15:34

I think I would keep an eye on how much attention the tantrums are getting from you. My tendency would be to not entertain them at all, as soon as one starts, put her on the sofa, go in the kitchen and pull the door to and start hoovering or something.
For me, I wouldn't be having conversations about weeing or sitting with her pinching and scratching. Be firm, be confident. It's not about negotiations, it's teaching her what's acceptable behaviour for her age.

cassell Thu 21-Feb-13 22:56:31

Ds1 had a horrible phase from about 3.5-3.7 of several melt down tantrums a day and nothing seemed to work. He is now 3.10 and although we haven't got rid of tantrums completely he now has only about 1 meltdown a fortnight which is loads better.

A few things that helped:

Earlier bedtime: the tantrums coincided with him dropping his afternoon nap and I think he was just exhausted. He now goes to bed by 6-6.30pm every night and wakes between 7.30-8.30am. He also has a 'quiet time' in his room for an hour or so after lunch where he can play with his toys but must stay in his room. That time on his own often helps him to recharge his batteries even though he's not sleeping.

Pre-empting hunger: I noticed that his tantrums would escalate badly if he was hungry so I now make sure I offer a (healthy) snack mid morning/mid afternoon especially if he starts getting a bit frustrated/seems tired/lacks patience as that's when it could escalate to a tantrum.

Praising specific good behaviour: eg 'well done for holding mummy's had without being asked', 'that was kind of you to help ds2' etc. Takes a while of being consistent but he often now praises me 'well done mummy for cutting my toast up' grin and points out to me when he's having good behaviour.

Ignoring bad behaviour: very difficult sometimes but if you're consistent it does work. I try to look as bored and uninterested in him as possible when he's having bad behaviour.

Using 123: saying you need to do X by the time I count to 3 otherwise I will do it for you/we won't go out/relevant consequence (and following through). I usually only have to follow through 1 in 20odd times now. Surprisingly successful.

Setting clear rules/boundaries and explaining routine: I've tried to make it clear to ds1 what is accepted or 'good' behaviour in a particular situation and what is not acceptable or 'bad' behaviour. I try to talk through in advance what we're going to do and what is expected - eg today we're going to go to friend A's house this morning, you need to play nicely with A, share his toys etc, if you don't or if you hit/push etc then we will stop playing and come home. After A's house we will come home and have lunch etc' that way he knows what to expect and the consequences (good & bad) of the way he behaves. It's helped him a lot as I think it gives him some control/knowledge over what will happen.

It's a tough age though and although he's generally better now if he's ill/tired/hungry then he reverts to tantrum territory.

Hope some of that helps.

mrswee Thu 21-Feb-13 22:29:26

I am having similar problems with DD of the same age. I have been reading a book called 'how to talk to kids so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk'

even though dd is only 3.5 the idea in the book are really working and I feel like our family is coming back together a bit!

drjohnsonscat Thu 21-Feb-13 15:05:52

I think sometimes their emotions just overwhelm them and you can't do anything about. You just make sure they are safe and carry on, sort of ignoring what they are doing. DD was never a trantrummer but has started having massive screaming fits at 6 - she just works herself up into an absolute rage of screaming and stomping and shrieking. My tactic is just not to engage. With DD because she's older she has to stay upstairs while she rants and raves - you might not do this because yours is younger and you need to know she's safe. But I think you just put her in the middle of the floor and go about your business. Don't hug. Don't interact. Just be present but not engaging. It could take an hour. But she will learn she gets nothing until the storm has passed. Last night's tantrum lasted over an hour but in the end she burnt herself out and was happy as larry this morning.

And yes, she does this because she knows she's safe with you. DD was shrieking last night that she was going to chop my head off and she hates me. When she finally calmed down and we had our cuddle I told her that I heard her saying that but I knew she loved me anyway and I loved her always. That bit made her cry - I think because she knows she's safe.

Also agree with the idea of rephrasing things "who wants to help mummy put her coat on?" type thing. DS (also 3.5) gets praised for doing thigns before he's done them ("look at my good boy going to the toilet") so he's already in a good place before it escalates into a stand-off. Also don't forget to use humour to defuse situations. You can do a massive exaggeration and say "wouldn't it be funny if you never went to the toilet and all the wee came out in the bed and then ran down the stairs and into the kitchen and all over mummy's feet and out into the street and down to the town and all over the world and all the people in France were wondering what it was". It's a sort of distraction but it also defuses the situation so as they are laughing they are forgetting to get into a rage.

Iggly Thu 21-Feb-13 14:48:29

She might be too young for family meetings - any discussion has to be quick and simple and immediate.

I find taking things away doesn't work much. I find timeout only works if we explain why it's happening (as opposed to saying "right, time out!") keeping it brief of course.

Also is she tantrumming when tired/hungry etc?

megandraper Thu 21-Feb-13 14:45:27

I had terrible tantrums when I was 3. Frustration mostly. They went away when I got a bit older.

Sorry, but I think you are perhaps being a bit too formal and legalistic about all this - family meetings with a 3 year old?

I think that perhaps you just need to weather the storm for a while, until she gets a bit older and able to handle things better, just Kleinzeit had good tips about avoiding confrontation. Doesn't mean give them whatever they want, just minimising conflict.

hereagain99 Thu 21-Feb-13 12:40:39

Thanks Iggly for the advice, and I will not shoot you for it grin

We both know that it is not very nice to take things away but we decided to have a go at it as a last resort as we are desperate. Time out hasn't work either so we don't have much left.

We have introduce Family Meetings where we talk about how we all feel and what her behaviour is doing to us but I think she is not understanding it very well. We habe always follow Alfie Kohn (Unconditional Parenting, Punished by Rewards, etc...) and we know that techniques as confiscating toys or punishing/rewards do not have a positive outcome.

We just wanted to see if it help to improve the situation which of course it hasn't sad

We are open to any other advice that works smile.

Iggly Thu 21-Feb-13 08:54:22

Ok now dont shoot me but you sound very negative in your treatment of your dd - things taken away, don't do something otherwise something gets taken away etc etc.

It becomes a vicious cycle - she will react negatively to your negativity, you react negatively to hers etc etc. does that make sense?

Try flipping your approach and being positive. Praise her - specific praise that is, not generic "good girl", praise her for the things she does well. So say thank you for going to the toilet, thank you for getting dressed, that's good dressing/tidying etc etc. and she will start to copy you. It's really hard to do but it pays off.

My 3.4 year old get likes this - when I'm tired or grumpy he really picks up on it even if I think I'm hiding it well.

Also try and break the tension. So today, ds looked at me with a cross face and demanded more milk for his cereal. I said "that's a cross face" and copied it then said "you look like a duck" and we both laughed. I then asked him how do you ask for something and he asked nicely. In fact that's the approach that works 9/10 times - asking him how to ask nicely for something and he does.

Our techniques came from talking to preschool for ideas. They suggested that we have time out (not a naughty step) - basically for him to cool off. He gets a warning (specific - so say if you do x again then you gag time out). Make sure he hears the warning. If he does it again, then we tell him he's having time out for 3 mins (use an egg timer) and tell him why. Then when it's done, ask him why he has had it. If he doesn't remember or won't say, then calmly tell him why and importantly tell him what he should do next time. However dont be tempted to use it for every transgression otherwise it loses it's meaning.

Do speak to your preschool for ideas though.

cloudhands Thu 21-Feb-13 08:52:08

Hi Hereagain99,

that does sound trying. One aspect of Hand in Hand parenting I like is that parents can exchange listening time together, to let off steam about the frustrating aspects of parenting. It's not about giving advice or finding answers from other parents, it's just about having time to say all the things that drive us crazy about parenting, so we don't take that anger and frustration out on our children. if you have a friend you can call or can set up a listening partnership through hand in hand (it's free,) then that helps enourmously)
I've found that this has given me a lot ore patience with my DD, I think when our children are crying or tantrumming, the best thing we can do is to wait it out. If we try and stop or distract then the upset behaviour will just come back at another time. So then we have wasted all that energy trying to stop them from shouting and screaming, and also have to deal with more bad behaviour in the future! But if we have the patience to listen and be there, calm and collectedly, then they'll get to the end of their tantrum and feel much better.
This is hard, which is why it's great to talk in private with another adult.
Lots of rough and tumble play can help channel the aggression in a more positive way, and in the moment of a tantrum, just physically stopping your daughter from hurting you, and trying to remain calm is the best way to deal with it.

There's a set of booklets I bought at the hand in hand store, (24 dollars) that really explains more about this approach in more detail, and can help you see how it works.

hereagain99 Thu 21-Feb-13 08:39:18

Thanks for all your replies. In a way I am glad to know that we are not the only ones and that my child isn't totally becoming something horrible sad

Cloudhands: I know that tantrums are good for them and that it makes them feel better but when we are having 3 tantrums a day like the ones we are having now it is difficult to remain calm all the time. Yesterday afternoon was a clear one. I asked her to go for a wee before going to bed for a nap. Straight away she began screaming that her wee wasn't coming out while hiding inside my bed and laughing. All this escalated to "mummy I need your help to go for a wee" and when I went to the toilet with her she carried on screaming that her wee wasn't coming, was all this a joke? She seemed to enjoyed it. So it really feels like she is looking for any reason to start screaming. Is this healthy and good? I am not sure anymore, not when I am sitting with her and hugging her while she is screaming and the only thing she is doing is trying to hurt me by pinching me and screatching

Thanks again to all of you

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 21-Feb-13 05:42:31

Oh, I know the answer to this one!

3.5 year olds are possessed by the devil.

Honestly. Well, not honestly. But it's a horrible age. My DD1 is an easy, compliant, delightful child, hardly ever tantrummed, terrible twos absolutely weren't, etc.

And then she hit 3.5 and nothing at all would make her behave. It was almost an out of body thing. My advice is: batten down the hatches, get through it, one day soon she'll be nearer four than 3.5 and it'll be okay again.

cloudhands Thu 21-Feb-13 05:37:39

Hi there, did you know that tantrums are actually a very healthy way that children express frustration? They are natural normal and totally fine.
I've noticed with my DD that if I listen while she cries, and offer her closeness, comfort, staying with her, and remaining calm that when she finishes crying she is in a much better mood. Toddlers get so frustrated sometimes, and tears actually contain the stress hormone cortisol, so if you can focus on your feelings, and try to remain calm and loving, when your child kicks off, this will have remarkable improvements on her behaviour.

I found out about these ideas through [[ Hand in Hand Parenting]

and I've just noticed that if you subscribe to their newsletter you get a free audio podcast, all about tantrums, the link is here,

tantrum help

Kleinzeit Wed 20-Feb-13 21:14:38

PPS My experience of reward charts is that they are good as habit-formers. There are some things that are just not intrinsically rewarding, like eating with your mouth shut – why bother? But once you’ve practised taking small bites and keeping your mouth shut many times for a reward, it just becomes a habit, and it pretty much stays in place even after the reward has gone, with just the odd compliment as a reminder.

Kleinzeit Wed 20-Feb-13 21:08:24

PS the point of "Yes, you can do it later (etc)" was to avoid saying "No" or "Not now" because they were so provocative. I still didn't let DS do things he shouldn't and I wouldn't say he could do something tomorrow in the hope he'd forget, because he wouldn't forget. If necessary it might have to be "yes, for a treat on your birthday". It was really a question of always using the most positive possible wording! And it really did make a difference.

Kleinzeit Wed 20-Feb-13 20:53:17

When my DS was that age, I learned a gazillion ways to avoid saying “no” while still getting him to do what I wanted, and a million ways to avoid telling him what to do while still getting him to do it! He was a tantrum chucker too and they were like a red rag to a bull. So we had a lot of routine (so that I didn’t have to keep telling him what to do, it was just what we alwyas did); a lot of when-then “when you’ve had your wee then let's read a story” (so I didn’t have to say “go and have a wee”), a lot of “Yes, we can do that (or you can have that) tomorrow/at the weekend/when the rain stops/at teatime/in five minutes” or even "yes, let's have <something different from what he asked for>"; and a lot of “would you like the red T shirt or the blue T shirt” (giving him a choice but both options involve putting on a T shirt).

I also found Incredible Years helpful – it has a big range of strategies, including how to do effective praise and rewards and how to end or “fade” the reward so the good behaviour stays.

hereagain99 Wed 20-Feb-13 19:16:23

Any more ideas please? grin

hereagain99 Wed 20-Feb-13 15:34:14

smile I am glad this is not an out of normal behaviour then. Does reward charts really work keely79? DP and I are considering having a go but we are still not 100% convinved. What is your experience?

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