What is WITH the 4-yr-old tantrum!?

Yelling. Crying. Stomping. Slamming.

That was my life this week. JUST this week. Not sure what is going on,  but my darling 4-year-old has been giving us quite a dramatic show. Sometimes I chalk it up to her being tired because she’s been going to bed late (like at 11pm!! Even though I put her in bed before 10). But as I did some more reading, apparently, there is a lot that is going on in the mind of a 4-year-old. I guess I don’t blame her. I mean, she’s learning a lot and feeling a lot. I know many adults who can barely handle the range of emotions that a human feels! How can I expect a 4-year-old to do it off the bat?

I guess the problem is not really her tantrums. Its how her tantrums are effecting ME! I’m trying to keep my cool counselor hat on, but oh man…. I’m exhausted as it is.

5243bfbaf64a27cf44c77c7f2e825fd0The one good thing out of this whole week, was that today – just today – she came up to me and said “Mommy, I’m angry a lot today.” *cue the heavenly music* I turned to her and said “Its okay to be angry. Sometimes we feel that way, but we just need to learn what to do with that feeling.” So we went on to practice taking deep breaths to calm down and I suggested counting to 10 as another tool for her bag. That’s about as far as I went with that today, but its a start. A good start, considering she had been pulling these “mad woman” tantrums most of the week. Any little thing that didn’t go her way, she instantaneously flipped the switch – went from crying, to running off upstairs, slamming doors, throwing things. WTH. I thought this was supposed to stop after 2? I thought that now with some communication skills, my 4-year-old can EXPRESS herself? hmph. Yeah, I know. It’s easier to scream and it must feel good to slam that door I’m sure.

After doing some searching, I found a good list of ideas for dealing with an “Angry Child”:

Responding to the Angry Child

Some of the following suggestions for dealing with the angry child were taken from The Aggressive Child by Fritz Redl and David Wineman. They should be considered helpful ideas and not as a “bag of tricks.”

Catch the child being good. Tell the child what behaviors please you. Respond to positive efforts and reinforce good behavior. An observing and sensitive parent will find countless opportunities during the day to make such comments as “I like the way you come in for dinner without being reminded”; “I appreciate your hanging up your clothes even though you were in a hurry to get out to play”; “You were really patient while I was on the phone”; “I’m glad you shared your snack with your sister”; “I like the way you’re able to think of others”; and “Thank you for telling the truth about what really happened.”

Deliberately ignore inappropriate behavior that can be tolerated. This does not mean that you should ignore the child, just the behavior. The “ignoring” has to be planned and consistent. Even though this behavior may be tolerated, the child must recognize that it is inappropriate.

Provide physical outlets and other alternatives. It is important for children to have opportunities for physical exercise and movement, both at home and at school.

Manipulate the surroundings. Aggressive behavior can be encouraged by placing children in tough, tempting situations. We should try to plan the surroundings so that certain things are less apt to happen. Stop a “problem” activity and substitute, temporarily, a more desirable one. Sometimes rules and regulations, as well as physical space, may be too confining.

Use closeness and touching. Move physically closer to the child to curb his or her angry impulse. Young children are often calmed by having an adult nearby.

Express interest in the child’s activities. Children naturally try to involve adults in what they are doing, and the adult is often annoyed at being bothered. Very young children (and children who are emotionally deprived) seem to need much more adult involvement in their interests. A child about to use a toy or tool in a destructive way is sometimes easily stopped by an adult who expresses interest in having it shown to him. An outburst from an older child struggling with a difficult reading selection can be prevented by a caring adult who moves near the child to say, “Show me which words are giving you trouble.” Be ready to show affection. Sometimes all that is needed for any angry child to regain control is a sudden hug or other impulsive show of affection. Children with serious emotional problems, however, may have trouble accepting affection.

Ease tension through humor. Kidding the child out of a temper tantrum or outburst offers the child an opportunity to “save face.” However, it is important to distinguish between face-saving humor and sarcasm or teasing ridicule.

Appeal directly to the child. Tell him or her how you feel and ask for consideration. For example, a parent or a teacher may gain a child’s cooperation by saying, “I know that noise you’re making doesn’t usually bother me, but today I’ve got a headache, so could you find something else you’d enjoy doing?”

Explain situations. Help the child understand the cause of a stressful situation. We often fail to realize how easily young children can begin to react properly once they understand the cause of their frustration.

Encourage children to see their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Help them to see that they can reach their goals. Use promises and rewards. Promises of future pleasure can be used both to start and to stop behavior. This approach should not be compared with bribery. We must know what the child likes—what brings him pleasure—and we must deliver on our promises.

Say “NO!” Limits should be clearly explained and enforced. Children should be free to function within those limits.

Tell the child that you accept his or her angry feelings, but offer other suggestions for expressing them. Teach children to put their angry feelings into words, rather than fists.

Build a positive selfimage. Encourage children to see themselves as valued and valuable people.

Use punishment cautiously. There is a fine line between punishment that is hostile toward a child and punishment that is educational.

Model appropriate behavior. Parents and teachers should be aware of the powerful influence of their actions on a child’s or group’s behavior. Teach children to express themselves verbally. Talking helps a child have control and thus reduces acting out behavior. Encourage the child to say for example, “I don’t like your taking my pencil. I don’t feel like sharing just now.”

Source: Reprinted from the Plain Talk Series, National Institute of Mental Health Office of Scientific Information, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1992). Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office (ISBN 0160359244; DHHS Pub. No. [ADM] 92-0781).

Robyn Oakenfold/The Calming Jar

Found some other great ideas:

 breathe box or calm down kit

The Calming Jar  ~ ok, I REALLY like this one, just because its so pretty. Oh, and my daughter loves sparkles.

Mr. Mad Balloons  ~ Hmmm. I’m not really sold on this idea just yet. Sounds almost violent.

Peace Table ~ Sounds like a better place to end up than Time-out!

Teaching your child to do Hookups (physically calming movement)

If you have any other ideas not mentioned here – please do share! We need to combine our resources! (Especially, since my 2 year-old won’t be far behind!)

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