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4 year old's severe temper tantrums

Parenting - Parenting, Children, Teens: My 4 year old son has recently been having MAJOR temper tantrums almost every day. He's in a good school, ...

 

  1. #1

    4 year old's severe temper tantrums

    My 4 year old son has recently been having MAJOR temper tantrums almost every day. He's in a good school, and I'm in touch with the teachers there, who tell me that he's fine, and they haven't noticed a change in his behaviour in school. Nobody seems to know what's triggering it. But he comes home very agitated, and wound up.

    His teacher has told me that he's very bright, and he's probably getting bored, and he's ready to move to the next year already. But it's always been that way, so what's different now? I've also been told that because he is that bright and alert, he is already getting a lot more attention than the average kid, so when I ask them to please be more patient or more caring with him, they tell me that there are others kids in the class, and they can only do as much as they can... which I understand of course, but which doesn't help.

    His teacher has also politely suggested that I should be more strict with him. And truthfully, that statement really shocked me, coz I pride myself on my mothering techniques, yet, she made me realise that I also make mistakes, and I also have what to learn... When typing it now it all sounds so rational and I don't know why I feel so shocked and attacked that she said it, but I just do... I'm confused I suppose, and wondering where and how (and whether) I should be stricter.

    Anyway, the thing I really need help with is with DEALING with his tantrums. Of course the ideal would be to prevent them in the first place. I have had long chats with my son when he's been calm, about what we do when we're angry, how we don't hurt Mummys and sisters, but we do go outside and kick balls, or we have paper to rip into shreds... I've tried explaining what's ok, and what's not ok. "It's ok to be angry, but we don't hurt... we don't throw things about.."

    But it doesn't seem to be helping. There are only 2 things I can do when he starts with a tantrum. first: I lock him out in the garden - and I feel TERRIBLE doing this - because I can feel his abandonment and rejection and it's the last thing he needs at this point. But we have glass doors, so he can still see into the kitchen, and I go every few minutes and say "when you're going to stop hurting and throwing you can come back in" - I stay loving the whole time - well almost the whole time! - but he's too busy screaming to even hear me most of the time...

    The second thing I think is better, but still doesn't feel that right: I sit on him. It's the only other way to stop him from kicking, scratching, biting, and doing general damage etc (of course not squashing him with my weight, but just enough so as to not allow his legs to kick, and then my hands are free to stop his hands from pinching / scratching...) While I'm sitting on him I tell him how much I love him, I try and stroke his head (if he doesn't try to bite me) and I also tell him "I can see you're really angry" to try and show him my empathy..

    The teacher suggested I put him in a room and give him something, and tell him to stay until he's feeling better. But you think he'll stay there?!? No way! Not when he's in a temper! He really gets totally out of control and you can't reason with him.

    The sitting on him seems to calm him down the most - but I don't always have the time, and sometimes if I'm in the middle of doing something I don't have the necessary 20 minutes to sit on him to calm him down.

    Whatever way I do it, because I try so hard to be the perfect mother, and stay calm and loving with him while he's tantruming, when it's over, I feel completely... I dunno, like I wanna cry and scream and I don't know what to do with myself. (I usually end up yelling at my husband...) (who of course is at fault because he should have come home from work earlier!)

    Anyone had experience with this at all?

    And if it's any help, according to my mom I was the same as a child, constantly throwing loads of tantrums. Only as a girl I suppose I wasn't quite as wild. (I hope I wasn't anyway...!)

    And I've been hoping that since I'm a far better and more understanding mother than my mother was, (and that's to say that she was a lousy mother, not that I'm an amazing mother!) I've been hoping that I'd be able to avoid all these tantrums... I think I did with my older one. So what am I doing wrong now?

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  3. Re: 4 year old's severe temper tantrums

    Do you pick your son up from school, or does he come and go with someone else, or on a bus? I'm wondering if something could be happening on the way home that's upsetting him...

    Also, is there anything you can pinpoint that brings on these tantrums? Does he tantrum when he doesn't get what he wants, or are the tantrums random and seemingly without cause? If he's tantruming when he doesn't get what he wants, the tantrum will focus all attention on him which will, in a way, reciprocate for what he feels he's being denied. If he's just pitching a fit for no apparent reason, you may need to have a child psychologist evaluate the situation; especially, if he's throwing things or hurting his siblings. That kind of behavior just can't be tolerated.

  4. #3

    Re: 4 year old's severe temper tantrums

    Thanks so much for your response, ThatLady.

    Thank god the past 3 days have been better.

    I pick him up myself from school so I don't think there's anything happening there. Although that's a very good point.

    ThatLady, I got a sick feeling when reading that maybe I should send him to a child psychologist... I mean, I go myself to my therapist, and it's ok for me... and I'm trying to get my husband to go for himself too which I think is also good... But for my 4 year old baby to have to go... it just feels really horrible... I know that the therapists I've met are lovely people who want to help, and it's nothing negative about them.. It's more that - I dunno - is my son that bad? is my parenting that bad? that at the age of 4 he's already messed up?!?

    The truth is I'm jumping ahead of myself.. I was just overcome with anxiety when reading your last sentence, but on rereading what you wrote before... I don't know. His tantrums do always seem to have a cause - most of the time. Only, in the past the things that provoked him would cause a little spat, or he'd laugh it off... or he'd have a little fight with his sister... Now, it seems to be the same things which make him totally loose control.

    But he has been better the last few days.

    Does it make sense to you that being bored in school would cause a sudden change in behaviour the way that I just had? Could it have been a change in weather? Possible hay fever, or something physically bothering him? Do you think I should just try and let it pass and hope it was nothing...? Is it ever nothing?

    And is sitting on him and locking him out a terrible thing to do? I'm especially worried about that, because I told his teacher about the sitting on him, and locking him out, and today I got a call from the school. They've requested a meeting with this teacher, me, my husband and the head of the school... When I asked what it was about they said "to talk about your son."

    HELP!!!!
    Am I going to be sued for child abuse??????

  5. Re: 4 year old's severe temper tantrums

    Perhaps, Lost, you'll be able to get some help from the teachers and school personnel through this meeting. They spend time with your son, as well, so they'll know a bit about his behaviours and what works for them in the school environment. If you all put your head together, it can have a very good outcome for your son. That's what's important!

    As to taking him to a child psychologist, that doesn't mean there's anything WRONG with him, hon. Sometimes, we just need a bit of help with a kid who's acting out, or who seems to have something bothering them that we can't figure out. I think of a child psychologist just like I think of a paediatrition...someone with expertise that I don't have. I'll treat a skinned knee myself, but if my child has a tummy ache that won't go away, we're going to see the doctor. To me, it's the same thing.

    You've been undergoing some difficult times lately, and kids tend to sense when things are awry at home. Often, their way of showing that they know things aren't right is by indulging in tantrum behaviours, or other things that aren't the norm for them. They're just acting out the stress around them. That's why a counsellor can often help them by showing them better ways to deal with stress.

  6. #5

    Re: 4 year old's severe temper tantrums

    ThatLady is correct. It doesn't mean there's anything "wrong" with anyone or that anyone is a "mess". But your son has a behavior problem. He needs to learn how to manage that and you need to learn how to help him manage that. And seeing a child psychologist can help both him and you achieve those goals.

    As for him only being 4, all the more reason to do it now. If he is disruptive or aggressive, what will happen if it continues is that he will get a whole lot of negative messages about himself from teachers and other children, his peers will start avoiding him, and things will go from bad to worse. The best intervention is always early intervention.

  7. #6

    Re: 4 year old's severe temper tantrums

    ThatLady and Dr Baxter - thanks for your posts. After all this talk of child psychologists, I spent almost the entire session I had with my therapist on the subject of my son. She doesn't think that he does need to see a child psychologist. She said that he sounds like a normal child... She suggested that perhaps when he was younger and had tantrums I didn't contain him as well as I could have done, so he's feeling a little out of control... I've gotta keep 'containing' him, and showing him that it's ok to be angry etc.

    Thankfully he's actually been a whole lot better now.

    I don't know what made the change... (I find it unbearable that so much of life is guessing games... I so desparately want to know and understand, and that things should be CLEAR in my mind.)
    Anyway, my guesses as to his improved behaviour are:
    1) All my 'preventative' talk of how to and how not behave finally rubbed off
    2) I've been taking him out more after school, so he has more chances of running around and letting out energy that way
    3) If it was an allergy or something bothering him physically - it's gone away.
    4) Or if it was a social pressure, or I dunno what... maybe it's just improved, or he's learnt to deal with it.

    She also said that because I have such anxiety levels, when speaking about problems I may over-dramatize them, and project my anxiety over to my listeners... Like I remember saying to the teacher that it was almost every day that we had another tantrum, because it actually felt like that. But in reality it was more like 3 or 4 times a week.
    So based on that, the teacher who requested this meeting on friday may have absorbed all my anxiety, and started worrying. So all I have to do is calmly explain myself to them...

    I know in my mind that the school only want what's best for my child, but I can't shake this feeling of being threatened and attacked. My therapist started talking about the 'me' that thinks that I'm a terrible mother... and we were trying to think what makes me think that...

    Anyway, this post is probably long enough! Better go...

  8. #7

    Re: 4 year old's severe temper tantrums

    Thank god the meeting went ok and I got the chance to vindicate myself re sitting on my son and locking him out. Just to update you!

    He's also been better this past week. I'm still not sure what triggered that behaviour those 2 weeks but it's in the past now and hopefully it won't recur!

  9. #8

    Re: 4 year old's severe temper tantrums

    ThatLady, I was just rereading some posts, and read what you wrote

    If he's tantruming when he doesn't get what he wants, the tantrum will focus all attention on him which will, in a way, reciprocate for what he feels he's being denied.

    I probably didn't understand that sentence when reading it at the time. Only now when rereading it do I appreciate the wisdom behind it. It makes perfect sense!

    It's one of those 'aaaahaaaa!' moments, like when my therapist says something that is so true, it resonates within me!

    Thank god my son's ok now. We had a tantrum again today, but got through it far more easily.

  10. Re: 4 year old's severe temper tantrums

    I'm glad to heart things are getting better for you and your son, hon. I remember how hard tantrums are, and how frustrated parents get. I can remember wanting to bang my head against the wall!

  11. #10
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    Re: 4 year old's severe temper tantrums

    Hi Lost,

    I am a mom of a now 9 year old and 7 year old (both boys). I remember when they were 3 and 4 and I think tantrums are very normal - especially at that age. They don't know how to express themselves and are trying to get attention any way they can (either positively or negatively). Don't beat yourself up on what you are doing to resolve it because everyone does it differently.

    In my case - I would remove my child from the situation.....move him to another location (even if that meant walking out of a store) and tell him to use his words .....or tell him to calm down and when he was calmer we could talk. This usually meant in his room.

    I think a lot of parents have been through it....it was a tough time for all - including your child who is essentially losing control of his behavior and most likely doesn't know why. It could be as simply as not seeing you all day....then you come to pick him up and he doesn't know what to do!

    Sometimes teachers and other parents are helpful - sometimes it is just a phase that has to pass. I would look to see if there is something triggering it that you could prevent or minimize before it happens.

    Best of luck!

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