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I'm think I'm failing my 4yo

(13 Posts)
WhatHo Thu 27-Mar-14 11:34:55

4yo DD is a darling but she is having 1-5 severe tantrums a day, followed by periods of almost excessive horror at her own behaviour. Which does not stop her from having the next tantrum.

I can see that tantrums are perfectly normal at this age but she has them over the most ridiculous things. She doesn't listen to me at all - it's as if once she has launched into a tantrum she's 'lost' - this morning she decided that she didn't want to cry at all (she tries so hard), then lost her temper over something very minor at the breakfast table. It was nothing serious, we were totally relaxed about it, but 5 minutes later she was on the floor having a roaring tantrum about... how she didn't want to have a tantrum this morning.

She is also demanding food after a tantrum and I worry she's trying to self-soothe with food. She is very tall and heavy, not overweight but it wouldn't take much to get there.

I've read the Incredible Years and am following its guidelines but she will not stay in time out - I have to carry her to her room (and taking 22kg of writhing 4yo up the stairs is no joke). After she's worn herself out she's curled in my lap, exhausted and very sorry for herself.
It's clearly not working. We are also in reward chart territory which I regret hugely as not getting stars kicks off another huge tantrum and so on.

I'm in a massive lather of anxiety that I'm going to fuck it all up. Well, fuck her up. I love her so much and I think I'm failing her. I try to stay calm but I get so frustrated and wound up myself, mostly I control myself but sometimes a find myself shouting back at her - what a stupid thing to do, get in an argument with a 4yo! I worry I'm not being consistent, though I'm trying very hard to be. I also find myself detaching when she's having yet another tantrum, which might make her more intense.

I guess I need advice, or perhaps someone can recommend a child psychologist to me - as much for me as her - or something.

Background - she is doing very well at nursery, she is helpful, polite, calm and good with other kids. The teacher was astonished to see her screaming at me after school one day as it didn't fit with her in-school behaviour.
She has a little sister who is 2 and is very good with her.
She is hitting all her development targets with aplomb, ahead of the curve on writing and drawing, which she adores doing.
She gets lots of praise and hugs when things are going well.

UriGeller Thu 27-Mar-14 11:49:46

She sounds like a little boat in a storm of emotions! I think you are her anchor. I think you're doing really well and she sees you as the safe thing she can rail against, you who she knows will love her whatever she does. You can see this by her exemplary behaviour at school and with her sister. If she has frustrations, she knows she can let loose to you and you'll not be upset or dislike her for it. Help her by allowing her to let it out. Everyone has the right to protest and to exhibit their emotions, when she's done, can you have a bit of a debrief? Talk about what makes her so cross? Food isn't the best comfort but she might be thirsty after the dust has settled and is mistaking thirst for hunger.

WhatHo Thu 27-Mar-14 12:26:35

'A little boat in a storm of emotions' sounds like the perfect description of her. Uri your kind post has made me a bit tearful.

I am very much struggling with letting her express herself/disciplining her, and one of my bad habits is to try and make her see reason after a time out, whereas I need to let her move on and have a debrief when we're both less wound up.

Water is a great idea.

TheGreatHunt Thu 27-Mar-14 12:52:23

Maybe the tantrum is because she is hungry or tires. What does she eat?

WhatHo Thu 27-Mar-14 13:20:45

TheGreatHunt She goes through phases. Right now it's an astonishing amount - she ate a vast baked potato for supper on Tuesday, of the size my DH eats. Often seconds for lunch and supper then hungry at bedtime again.
She is currently 114cm tall at just under 23kg, which is off the charts for height and top of the chart for weight. She is going to be approx 6'3 when fully grown so I do expect her to eat a lot, but it almost feels compulsive at the moment.
Or she could be having another growth spurt I guess?

TheGreatHunt Thu 27-Mar-14 14:24:03

Are you giving her enough protein?

My ds is a 4 year old carb monster. Pasta, bread, biscuits, all carbs and that's what he wants. So I try and give more protein in his diet as that can curb the sugar highs and cravings (and bad moods).

TheKnightsThatSayNee Thu 27-Mar-14 14:37:39

Someone on here said tantrums have a purpose (such as getting something they want) and melt downs don't. If she's having complete meltdowns it doesn't matter how you parent her she isn't in control of herself. Am not saying she shouldn't be punished but maybe strategies like counting, blowing up balloons, or deep breathing might be more helpful. I'm sure if you google anger management techniques for children there will be lots of them. I'd also make sure she knows being angry/sad etc is fine but kicking off because of it isn't.
Don't beat up self up about getting cross I don't think there is mum alive that has never got into a pointless argument with their child. The little darlings sods know what buttons to press.

bluewisteria Sat 29-Mar-14 14:39:53

Hello WhatHo!

I probably could have written part of your post...

I have two daughters, the eldest is 4yrs 3 mths, youngest is 2yrs 4 mths...

DD1 is (I haven't measured or weighed her) in size 8/9 clothes, and most people mistake her for a 6 year old. She went through a stage of at least five tantrums a day. Granted, she was younger, 2.5 - which is a fairly typical age for this, plus a sibling (who she initially detested for at least a year) had arrived. I honestly, honestly, thought I would crack up. It was absolute hell. The worst part of it lasted 8 months, but only in the last few months I feel that an end might be in sight. I'm having serious nightmares about the teenage years already!!

So, first off, HUGE HUGS!!!

I signed up to a locally provided parenting course, Triple P, it was run for free by local childcare centres. They are all over the country, so contact yours. Mine also came with a creche for the children if necessary.

Are you a single parent?? If not, how do you and your partner work through this together? I think responsibility and consistency across the parental board is key. Especially if you do the majority of primary care, you need to know you are supported. You can do the course together. I know it might be hard re working hours, but if you can afford to use a bit of holiday then I would really recommend you both do it.

You don't do the course because you need to as you are 'a bad parent'. Indeed, most of the people there were amazing and had a great deal of love for their children and self reflection for their parenting abilities, just like you. It was more that it would help to untangle the process of unmanageable behaviour, and help the parent to take control of the situation and steer the event in a better direction. Yes, time out was part of it, but remember the beauty of time out is that it can be done anywhere, SAVE YOURSELF carrying her up to her room.

It also really helped to identify key triggers for your child's behaviour - heat/sound/tiredness/confusion/growth spurts etc. I found this was really key to our problems, I was able to head a significant number of them off each day.

I can't recommend it enough, truly. There are online courses, but I would really recommend googling 'Triple P (insert your borough/council)' and see what comes up.

I have so much more to say but aware that this is long enough! PM me if you want any other info

cake and wine

Goldmandra Sat 29-Mar-14 15:27:25

I recommend Triple P too. It helps you to evaluate the approaches you are taking and helps you to work out ways you could tweak them to make the more effective.

I agree with PP about meltdowns. Tantrums have a purpose whereas meltdowns are just total emotional overloads which are uncontrollable. Whatever you do, don't try to manage them with sanctions.

She might be seeking sensory input via food after the meltdowns rather than calories. Try giving her crunchy foods like carrot sticks or apples or perhaps chewing gum. You could also try deep pressure activities like carrying weights, tight hugs, pushing things, etc which may fulfil her need in a different way.

WhatHo Mon 21-Apr-14 19:32:23

My DH has just had a major op so I have been essentially looking after 3 kids for the last 3 weeks - I am exhausted., and apologies for not checking back in. And THANK YOU everyone for your words.

GreatHunt I think so - she has a vast bowl of porridge for breakfast and loves spaghetti, will not however eat other types of pasta or any bread so some days it's all about the protein and bananas.

Knights - yes I think you're right, they are meltdowns not tantrums and I will google anger management. There is a relaxation/meditation class for mums and children nearby, I have been toying with looking into it.

wisteria Thank you, and thank you for the hugs! Again I'll look into it! DH is very involved, unfortunately we do occasionally pull in different directions, though never on the big stuff. He gets frustrated very easily and apparently was a horrible 2 year old - I think there is a genetic component grin. However he hasn't been able to help much - two major ops in the last 6 weeks. The tantrums predate his being unable to help BTW.

goldmantra very interesting, thank you. And yes, if she has no control, why punish her, it's not deliberate. It's just... sometimes I simply can't take any more noise and it's as much for both of us to cool off as anything.

I have had one breakthrough - nope, still as many meltdowns! - but have been getting down to her level rather than standing over her and it has been shortening the length and intensity of the yelling. I feel rather stupid I haven't been doing this more, I suppose I get so riled up I haven't been able to meet her in the middle.

Sigh. I'll get there. sad

I don't think you're failing her at all, you sound like a very caring and patient parent - I think it's just that you're stuck in a cycle where nothing seems to be helping and your DD's emotions are often bigger than both of you and that's scary.

I agree with your last post, I think they are meltdowns...the fact she's so upset by them and yet keeps having them suggests to me that she can't do a thing to stop them, so I agree there's little gain to be had by punishing her. I think she needs guidance and support and empathy, I think she trusts you to provide that and that's why she 'saves' her meltdowns for you.

I have a DS who I suspect is on the autistic spectrum. even if he's not I'm learning a lot about how to deal with his behaviour and his meltdowns by applying ASD techniques and reading about what may be causing them. as I understand why some children have meltdowns better I am able to respond better to him when he has one, otherwise my feelings are similar to yours - why can't I help him? I must be useless. we are not.

if you search Google for 'autism discussion page' you can find a link for a Facebook page with lots of helpful info, more importantly I have stumbled across some presentations that contain useful advice and strategies about meltdowns. I will try to link but they're on Google drive so it may not work. here

the one I am referring to is called 'calming meltdowns' by Laura Markham. she is also the author of [[ this website]] which I find really helpful

I think it's really common for children to hold it together in public and then let it all out at home, my DS is a complete Angel at playgroups, intelligent, polite, gentle etc, he can be the complete opposite at home...I now take the view that children 'do well if they can' - have yet to read the explosive child fully and it may not be relevant to you but I've seen it recommended many times for children with elements of behaviour that seem explosive - your DD sounds wonderful, I just think she has some feelings, for whatever reason, that are really out of control - that must be really scary for hersad I hope you can unravel the reasons but in the meantime I think the anchor idea is superb - I always say I am (or should be) a satellite to my DC, no matter how much they thrash around I'm always there to guide them back to safety. your DD is lucky to have a Mum so fully on her side, best of luck finding calm together smile

sorry this is the link for the aha parenting website

Bumpsadaisie Tue 22-Apr-14 11:49:22

Maybe you are getting too anxious. You say you are a "massive lather of anxiety".


- She is doing well at school and manages to keep a grip of her feelings
- She is good with her sister (this is great, lots of them aren't, presumably she is successfully controlling her negative feelings of jealousy and annoyance)

She sounds like a girl who is keeping herself under control quite successfully in many ways.

Could you do things to help her identify her feelings about things and then express those feelings? My eldest is nearly 5 and though she doesn't tantrum she definitely gets very upset about the smallest thing. I have found that just saying "Oh DD for goodness sake its only a fly!" just makes it worse. Better to say "oh, you are scared of that fly as you don't know if it is going to suddenly fly near you." She is much calmer if you help her recognise and articulate feelings.

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