worried about how my three year old behaves when she's mad. Is this just typical or do I need to seek help?

Elizabeth - posted on 05/17/2012 ( 14 moms have responded )

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It seems that the past two months have been the hardest with my three year old. She has tantrums, which I expect. But I'm almost wondering if I need to seek professional help. Today, for example, she got really upset when we went to the gas station and I wouldn't let her out of the carseat while I was putting in gas. I told her no, she would have to wait until we got to wherever we were going before she got out. She started screaming, so, I ignored her, thinking it would subside. It got worse. When we finally got to where we where going, she was hysterical. I tried to stay calm and told her we weren't going to leave the car until she calmed down and stopped crying. She started screaming "no, I don't want to calm down and continued to scream. So, I decided to go home at that point. When we get home, she's still screaming, hysterically. I go to get her out of her seat and she refuses to move or get out, so, (I'm trying to remain calm) I tell her fine, she can come in the house when she's ready. 5 mins went by and still screaming. I go to get her out of the car and I had to physically carry her out because she was thrashing around like a wild animal. I bring her inside and she continues to scream I will not calm down. Then she hits me in the face. At this point, I'm really upset. I try to explain to her that this is unacceptable and I refuse to put up with her behavior. I'm holding her in my arms and she eventually calms down. HOLY COW! talk about emotionally draining. I just broke down because, I couldn't believe my child was acting out this way. Am I doing something wrong? I begin to question whether I'm a good mother or not and whether this is just a phase or does my child need professional help. My heart is breaking to see her get to this point. Please help me.

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Crystal - posted on 05/18/2012

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Totally normal! OMG, my daughter was a little twit at this age. lol Thankfully, she has grown out of it and knows how to remain calm for the most part. :) Its definitely a phase and a rough one at that. Its a control thing...at least with my daughter it was. Just stay strong Mama and hold your ground. It'll take some time, but once she realizes you're staying in control, she'll hopefully calm down. Absolutely keep telling her that that behavior is not acceptable and definitely be prepared to do what you say (i.e. going home if she doesn't stop). Best of luck!

Determined - posted on 05/17/2012

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Although my 3 year old doesn't do this too often but she has her moments. Yesterday she through a lego at her9month old brothers head for no apparent reason. Consequences are the biggest thing that help and sticking to them no matter what. My lil one has a temp and an attitude and I don't put up with it, she gets toys taken away, spanked on the bottom if her actions are severe enough, and she will sit in time out for as long as it takes until she calms down. If she starts screaming I go in another room after she realizes she is not getting a reaction out of me she stops. It's frustrating I know, I don't think she needs "help" but I see no harm in bringing this behavior up to your pediatrician. There is nothing wrong in bringing up your concerns no matter how small or outrageous they may seem. Stick to your guns momma and stand your ground with whatever punishment you have assigned her no matter how much she fights. Hopefully some of this helps.

Melissa - posted on 05/19/2012

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My daughter who was 3 was screaming at the top of her lungs as I had to carry her out of a mall "I want my mommy" Three is really hard be as consistent as possible and it will get easier eventually. Tempers are really strong at 3.

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Whoever coined the phrase 'the terrible twos' had it all wrong...the 3's are the worst! If you are concerned over this one incident, you shouldn't be. It seems to me this was just an 'off' day for her. If this is an example of her behavior lately,take heart that your reaction of remaining calm & following through on your expectations of her WILL prove effective soon. She will realize things don't go her way when she misbehaves & will avoid using it. Keep calm & carry on ; )

Tabitha - posted on 05/18/2012

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Also, I want to add that you need to make sure that you're getting a break too. If you need to hide in your bedroom while she's screamin it out in her room, do it. If you need to have someone sit with her while you walk around the block, do it. This will help keep you strong enough to hold your ground and calm enough not to escalate it further.

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Nancy - posted on 06/07/2012

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Don't worry mama! We've all been there with you! Good job on staying calm and keeping your cool. I think it is that age. It could be her way of initiating her independence or trying to get what she wants. It doesn't hurt to talk to her pediatrician to get ideas on dealing with this behavior. My toddler can act in an almost similar manner and yea let me tell you it is mentally and physically draining at times.

Diamond And Rubies - posted on 06/05/2012

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Elizabeth,
you seem amazing and don't wonder if you are a good mom or not. I have a child that would do the same. My first two never threw a tantrum in thier lives, so when i saw this, I didn't know how to react. to make you feel better, she would actually put her self in time out. one time she stayed there for 45 mins and i told my husband, i told her to get out and she wouldn't. There were many times, we would go outside, because my husband couldn't handle it. we could hear her on the front sidewalk and her bedroom is in the back of the house, screaming her lungs out. It is very embarassing and I wonder if something was wrong. we have now saught out counseling which everyone attends and i thnk it helps to put things in perspective and for guidance for all of the whole family. She was 2-3 at the time , now 6, she still has her moments, but not waking up the neighbors.

Alexandra - posted on 06/05/2012

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I have a soon to be 3 yr old (next week) and he is doing the same thing. What I have done lately and it works is grab him look into his eyes and tell him to calm down. I hold him and he takes a deep breath and he calms down faster than when I let him blow it off. I used to think he'll get over it but noticed that its harder for him to bring himself down from that level. Try holding her asking her to calm down and talking to her in a soothing and calm manner and I'm sure her temper won't be as bad or last as long.

Tabitha - posted on 05/18/2012

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Oh, that age is fun!! Of course that was said in the most sarcastic way possible while rolling my eyes. I can remember just sitting on the floor and crying after a few temper tantrums that lasted a few hours and ruined plans a few times. All kids do this, they need to see how hard they have to push in order to get what they want. Stand firm Mama, you did just fine. There is no reason for a child to be out of their seat while you're pumping gas, you have to concentrate on what you're doing so you don't blow the place up. You can't be shifting your attention to a child roaming free in your vehicle. What if she got out on the other side and was hit by a car or snatched while you're standing right there?! Giving her choices to help curb the behavior was a good idea. But when they get to the point of being hysterical(like when you got home and she's thrashing around like she's possessed), there's no reasoning with them at that point. Take her into her room, leave her on her bed and close the door behind her. Sometimes they just need a good cry, and that's ok. If she was hungry or tired, she still needs to learn that she can't use those behaviors to let you know that's what she needs. By 3 years old, she's capable of telling you that she's hungry without all the drama. She's obviously not starving to death so there's no reason to act like it. Yes, a fit is very draining on both of you. But I only know of 2 ways to make it stop...Giving in, which only shows her that her behavior works. Or stickin to your guns, which shows her that there are other more appropriate ways of getting what she wants or what she needs. When she calms down from her fit, she gets a hug and a reminder that you will not tolerate that behavior and mommy loves you. Then you go on about your day. It was very hard to see any of my children like that(some were way worse than others...lol) but I knew from watching my younger brother that it works. Even if ya start later like when they're 8-9. Though it's way harder at that age. Once they realize that there's a line that they can't cross and that you won't give in, they learn to live on your side of that line for the most part. Sorry about the novel...lol.

Carrie - posted on 05/18/2012

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Sounds like a power struggle, wanting you to give in to her wants right away. My son did the same thing (and still does at age 7). He is VERY determined and VERY demanding. I have given in to him too many times and I am learning to hold my ground and not give in to his demands. Continue to stay calm, hold firm, and not back down. ( For I have learned when you do so, the child runs right over you and expects you to do it again and again at his demand).
Also, I like what other moms have said about the hugs.... hugs and even praying with the child can help calm her down! Be blessed! :)

Mandy - posted on 05/18/2012

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I do think its just the age! My son is 3 years and 3 months old and its been such a difficult stage with him for the last month or so! He has become quite emotional and fly's off the handle at the drop of a hat. For little things (ie. He wanted a piece of chocolate and I said no cos its nearly suppertime and he threw a fit!) It eventually resulted him in being put in "time out" where he screamed for about 5 minutes and I told him when he's ready to talk, he can stop crying, call mommy and then we can sort it out. 10 seconds later he stopped crying, called me and we spoke about it! It is very frustrating but just stick to your guns. Terrible threes! :)

Katherine - posted on 05/17/2012

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My 3 year old has done the exact same thing. Sometimes you have to do some detective work. Was she hungry? Tired? Thirsty? Those are some things that will result in a tantrum like that, especially the hunger because their blood sugar drops. Being a first time mom I didn't think of those things. Now that I have 2 I know better.

I really don't think it's out of the ordinary. It sounds like she was hungry or tired. Remember: 3 is worse than 2.

Jodi - posted on 05/17/2012

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I don't think anything's wrong with your child, but like Amber said, there's no harm in bringing it up with your ped. maybe he/she will have some good suggestions for dealing with rotten behavior! When children get to the crying, screaming, kicking, tantrum phase, they can't process reason, so it's kind of pointless to try to reason with them. When she starts a tantrum, just tell her ONCE, "when you're done we can discuss this." and don't say another word to her, or even look at her until it's done. And it can go on for what seems like FOREVER!!!

The other thing is, my daughter, also 3, sometimes just needs a hug. I can tell when she's throwing a tantrum because she just needs momma and when she's throwing one because she's angry about something. When she just needs a hug, I give her a big hug, she calms down almost instantly and I keep hugging her until she moves away and then things are just fine. We're to the point that when she starts getting upset, she can sometimes tell me, "Momma, I just need a special hug to help me calm down!"

To help her with her "angry" tantrums, when I start getting frustrated,I make a big deal about how I'm getting frustrated (not being destructive mind you!) but making big exxagerated sighs, saying "I'm so frustrated right now!" and then I say, "I need to take 3 big breaths to calm down." I take 3 big breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Then I started suggesting it to my daughter when she starts getting mad. Now, if she sees me getting upset, she tells me I need to take 3 big breaths and does it with me, and sometimes when she gets mad, she'll say, "I need to take 3 big breaths with you Momma." It's not a miracle, we still have tantrums, but it has helped us a LOT!

Good luck, tantrums can be so frustrating and hard to watch! It breaks my heart too to see my daughter get into it, but you're not doing anything wrong, you're a great mom who is seeking help! Hang in there!

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