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4yo unreasonable tantrums?

(12 Posts)
zebra Thu 13-Nov-03 19:39:16

4yo DS has a certain type of tantrum... Usually over something fairly minor, he starts hitting, throwing, kicking. He's totally beyond reason, won't negotiate, won't listen to anything we say, won't stop being horrible.... I honestly don't know what to do with him except physically restrain him until the tantrum passes. But that can take an hour, and my other child may need me in the meantime.
Most the advice I've heard is pretty useless. "Ignore him" means letting him throw large, heavy or breakable objects right at his sister's head. "Lock him in his room" means I have to tidy the room up later after he's trashed it, because DS physically can't do things like put the mattress back on the bed -- and me fixing his mess seems to send the wrong message out.
Pinning DS down seems so horrible, surely we can do better? But how when DS gets so completely unreasonable?

kmg1 Thu 13-Nov-03 20:25:32

Oh poor you Zebra - this is a toughie. How frequently would you say he has this sort of tantrum?

DS1 was similar to what you describe, but a little older - just had his 5th birthday, I would say. With him - with the help and support of school - we talked to him (at a non tantrum time) that it was completely unacceptable for him to lose his temper in this way (it is for a 5 yr old, am not sure it is for a 4 yr old - control of strong emotions is a tricky thing), and that he HAD to learn to control it. We set him a target of not losing his temper for a week, and then a month - the final reward was a merit certificate in assembly at school.

He is 6.5 now, and still feels emotions very deeply - for instance he gets very, very excited about things - more like a 3 yr old might than a 6 yr old. Anyway, he still does occasionally lose it, but can hold it together for a little while even when he is 'about to blow', and that gives me chance to calmly point out to him the consequences ... we usually have some sort of ongoing sticker chart or pocket money bonuses or whatever, and he has now got to the stage that he can control himself usually in order not to lose the reward. So, "you can throw that now if you want ds1, but if you do you won't get a sticker on your chart will you?"

He very rarely gets violent now, and I have always treated this firmly and consistently. If he does have an outburst we send him to his room, and yes he does tend to make a big mess before he calms down. But if he does have those emotions inside, I would rather he throw his duvet, pillow and mattress about, rather than hurt somebody.

Hmmm.... now my ds1 sounds horrible, doesn't he? He isn't at all, he's gorgeous, and I'm really proud of the progress he has made in this area in the last 12 months. Learning to control strong emotions like anger is hard for all children, but it is harder for some than for others.

Only other gems of wisdom are the standard praise, praise, and more praise. Give him a sticker for every day/morning/hour (as appropriate!) he doesn't have a tantrum, and a reward if he gets 7 stickers in a row. That way you are rewarding the good behaviour.

We have a big library here, and have had some good books from there - possibly 'being angry'. Children don't like feeling out of control in this way, and talking about it - at a calm moment - can really help.


zebra Thu 13-Nov-03 21:15:28

He had one big one today, I guess he has them every other day or so. The weird part is that he isn't completely wild. It's a throw one thing, pause to consider effect, throw 3 more, pause, kick and punch, pause to consider results. I know he's trying to deal with strong feelings... but I can't figure any other way to help him; it would be better if he would just shout or stomp around or go sulk (better for us, anyway). He can't talk out his feelings or understand anything to do with consequences. When he's in a tiff I could fear he's an ADD child, he so can't understand consequences. I'm just hoping it's a normal part of being 4yo...

I could conclude we were just cr*p parents, but my 2yo is so reasonable, she's never so cross that she won't negotiate, or loses sight of consequences. So I guess it's just DS's personality to be the opposite.

soyabean Thu 13-Nov-03 21:26:06

Zebra: My ds2 is 4y4m and has been having horrendous tantrums too. He doesnt throw stuff but gets very fierce and red in the face and sometimes hits out at me, he is really 'beside himself' ie I think it goes beyond his own control. He was like this between about 2.5 and 3.5, then much much better for 6 months,. We thought we had cracked the problem and family commented on how different he was. It has restarted since he started f/t nursery. We reckon it is just tiredness, and he behaves perfectly at school so I think its the strain of being good all day (he loves nursery as far as we can see and never doesnt want to go). But it makes hima nd the rest of the family miserable when he throws a wobbly.

I agree that ignoring is not really an option. Our doors dont lock so we cant lock him in a room either. Patience and diverting attention can only go so far.
So, we have started a star chart. Today was the second day and so far so good. Managed to ward off a threatened tantrum before tea, and he is pleased with himself. He can get three stars a day and if he does so for two weeks he has been promised a 'little present'. Not sure what yet, not planning to break the bank. We shall see. btw we did try this when he was 3 but it had no effect at all, guess he was too young to understand. So far, it seems to appeal to him this time.
Good luck!

kmg1 Fri 14-Nov-03 08:55:50

Soyabean - great to hear the stickers are working for you. Hope you have a great week and manage to keep up the momentum and motivation for the sticker chart. I'm sure seeing all those stars on his chart will be making him feel very proud, and much happier about himself; as well as making life a happier for everyone else.

Zebra, I think the fact that he's not 'completely wild' is a sign of hope for getting it under control. DS2 is 4.5 now, and he's always been great about discussing his feelings, and predicting the feelings of others. DS1 at this age was hopeless: he wouldn't discuss his feelings at all, and had no idea about others. It's just something he has had to study and learn and work on, rather than just pick up in an intuitive/natural way. We have found that books and stories help. He's much better now in every way.

I agree - it's not parenting - it's how the children are. DS2 is completely different, and we haven't done things differently with him in terms of showing emotions, talking about feelings, and so on. He just has a real flair for all social skills, ds1 doesn't.

Hope things improve for you soon.

scoobysnax Fri 14-Nov-03 09:11:58

What does your ds say about the tantrums later in the day?
Is there any mileage in having a de-briefing session once there is a bit of distance from the episode and everyone is calm?
I was thinking along the lines of asking him how he was feeling whe he went into the tantrum, how the tantrum made him feel, what he wanted from you, and how he feels about it now.
Then maybe you could explore how you could both have interacted differently and avoided the tantrum, and how you would both feel if you had.
I am constantly under-estimating how capable my own 4 year old is of discussing this kind of thing after the event so although it might sound a bit grown up for a 4 year old, it might not be.
Good luck!

scoobysnax Fri 14-Nov-03 09:17:09

I also think that there are 2 ways to deal with the problem - dealing with the actual behaviour, and dealing with the cause. The cause might not be the obvious and superficial trigger which sets him off.

WideWebWitch Fri 14-Nov-03 09:24:37

Zebra, my sympathy, my ds was difficult at 4 too. And he still has his moments at 6. We have a book we still read called "I feel angry" which is good for talking about it. I think it's made him realise that we all feel like it sometimes but it's not OK to express anger inappropriately (i.e violence towards others). Soyabean, I agree about the being good for someone else all day bit - I certainly felt that contributed to ds's bad behaviour and I can understand it. In a way I'm glad he saved the bad bits for me and not playgroup. Zebra, I had some wise words from tigermoth and others when my ds was being difficult, I'll see if I can find the threads for you. It's NOT crap parenting, I'm convinced it's not but your ds is a boy and your dd is a girl and I do think they handle these things differently. Plus one has testosterone and the other doesn't! The things that worked for us were:

* Star charts. Consistently and ruthlessly applied too. You can't take away a star once it's been earned but ONLY good behaviour over the period agreed earns the star
* House rules typed out (inc No Violence rule) and pinned up. Even though he couldn't read them, he knew what they were and was reminded as appropriate.
* A Behaviour book. I'll see if I can find the thread where I talked about it. It's not for everyone but it worked for us.
* Explaining our new regime and sticking to it. We were pretty firm about this and he liked the boundaries.
Back in a minute with any past threads I can find. Good luck, I do know it's tough and can drive you to despair. It did me anyway. Let us know how you get on in a while won't you?

WideWebWitch Fri 14-Nov-03 09:39:36

Well, here's 4yo turning into Kevin the teenager and here's Dahlia's waterjug thread which has some interesting ideas on it, plus put this in just for Mears' comment about the f'ing fours!

soyabean Sun 16-Nov-03 13:36:54

Thanks for those www, I will try and find some time to read them properly. Star chart has been good until this morning when there was another huge fuss over getting dressed: partly our fault as we try and get him to choose his clothes the night before and put them out so there is no opportunity for a fuss in the morning, but we forgot last night. The only other thing is that he has been drawing his own stars which are so huge they are covering two weeks already!
kmg1 thanks for your encouragement. Scoobysnax thats a good idea, we have been talking about the behaviour later once things have calmed down, but perhaps could do mor to find out exactly how he fel t so it can be avoided another time.
Zebra, about the cr*p parent thing: I feel the same often, but my elder two almost never had tantrums: all sorts of other annying behaviour (!) but not these crazy tempers, so I really do think that its something *in* ds2 that we all need to learn to cope with or channel, or something. But I just dont always have the patience to work things out properly with him. Hope you are having an OK weekend Zebra?

kmg1 Fri 28-Nov-03 20:25:22

Zebra - how are you getting on?

zebra Sat 29-Nov-03 09:40:09

Truth is, the response was so meaty I haven't been able to digest it all. For some reason things have improved since I first posted, and I don't know why. Star charts don't work for us, but I am trying to talk to DS when he starts to strop, basically saying "You're getting upset over X, is it really worth getting upset over?" And maybe that works... or maybe he's getting older, or we're better at other defusion, or maybe it's just been a good week! Anyway, thanks for asking.

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