Anyone experiencing a 3 year old that has a lot of anger when things don't go right?

Tara - posted on 09/01/2011 ( 14 moms have responded )




Just looking for advice or shared stories! When my son doesn't get what he wants sometimes or when things (like playing cars etc) don't go the way he wants it to he right away gets really upset and angry and will throw things, scream etc. I know that it is normal behavior to have tantrums and get frustrated however sometimes I feel as though he is a little excessive. I first try talking to him nicely about the situation, have encouraged him to let me know how he is feeling and ways to deal with it, to ask for help anytime etc but it doesn't seem to matter most of the time. It gets to the point that I put him in a time out to calm down or up to his room because it's very frustrating on me. I am at a loss of what else I can do or why he is getting so angry. We are not a household that fights and yells at each other either. It's upsetting to see him get so angry so fast over what seem like little things that can be corrected or helped. Anyone with some insight??

Thanks! :)


Kathy - posted on 09/08/2011




Hi there, I see you have alot of helpful suggestions, but there was one i was given by my children's Autism worker that I don't see here. It is a little card with pics on it (visual) and has steps Says "Calm Down" Sit in a chair, feet flat on floor, hands folded, deep breath, count to ten, Good job!! But the child isn't put by himself, you go through the steps with him, then immediately go back to a fun activity and praise AS SOON as you see ANY positive behavior even if it is sitting nicely or smiling, anything... May not work the first time or second, but not seen as a "time out" which seems negative for a behavior which could be a meltdown which he couldn't control, but a "calm Down" instead which is quiet and time with you to step out of that moment...Hope it helps.

Jane - posted on 09/01/2011




My son was like that at age three. He would get so angry he would shake. In his case, we first tried time-outs, explanations, and simply restraining him until he was calm, but it got worse. We then tried counseling, anger management, and all sorts of reward systems. Eventually, when he was 5 we ended up at a psychologist, who diagnosed him as ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). Then, when he tried to kill himself for the first time at age 7 he was diagnosed as having Early Onset Bipolar Disorder as well.

I'm not saying that your son has a mental illness, but you might consider some family counseling and/or some play therapy to figure out what is going on with him and how best to help him learn a better way to express disappointment.

Robin - posted on 09/06/2011




The fact that you are already talking to him about what is happening for him, and what to do when he gets angry seems good for him in my opinion. Also, giving him space to take a time out from the situation so that he is able to re-group gives him a tool to use when he is overwhelmed with his own frustration. I think it is difficult to know if his behavior is due to being three or due to something else, and finding out might take time. Meanwhile, I have found while working with boys who had difficulty dealing with strong emotions, that offering tools that would help them cope with their feelings helped. Sometimes, that meant planning a time-out spot they could use, sometimes that meant helping them identify their emotions with labels and talking about ways to express emotions in a safe way. Of course, for little guys, the discussion would be with age appropriate

language...I have also found that playing scenarios with a child's favorite toys could be really helpful. For example, the scenario when the toy get's really mad. How does the toy solve the situation in an affective way? What feelings is the toy experiencing? What happened to the toy before the toy got angry?...

Janet - posted on 09/02/2011




He may get frustrated easily and can't properly express himself just yet. If by age 4 it doesn't subside then maybe ask GP for advice. My 2 1/2 yr old will act like this occasionally, but not all the time. Mainly when she is tired.
They say tantrums are because kids can't express themselves and should outgrow this stage by school age.


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Tara - posted on 09/05/2011




Thank you to everyone for your message! It's nice to have the support and know that others are going through the same thing. I do the time outs and the explaining of the situation having him say sorry etc. When he goes to his room he will stay in his bed (he won't play or anything) so he is good that way. He is great for others, just seems to be this way with us at home. I do know a lot of it is pretty normal behavior at this age but I just find it hard to talk to him, reason with him to get him to talk to me first before getting so angry. I find it frustrating and just needed to know I am not alone and some advice on ways I can handle it differently. I feel better now so thank you!! He is a kind hearted boy, plays great with other kids and has never hit another adult besides us so I am not 'worried'. It's just nice to have the support and comfort of other moms!!

Angela - posted on 09/05/2011




My son threw massive tantrums at that age. We did eventually take him to talk with someone about oppositional behavior. With some intervention & better techniques from us, his behavior is slowly normalizing. If his tantrums are frequent, intense, aggressive or occur with other caregivers (e.g. Preschool) consider a second opinion.

Debbie - posted on 09/05/2011




remove everything from the bedroom and have him go there, make sure there is nothing that will hurt him when hes done explain to him this is not nice to do and everytime repeat let me know if this works k

Kathleen - posted on 09/03/2011




Sounds like my 3yr old right now. We ended up in a fight earlier because of his behavior. It's tough, and very frustrating. Just be consistent with time outs, and punishments. DS got put in time out for not listening and he was doing something dangerous today. He got told no, then he proceeded to hit me. He went into time out, fought and attempted to hit me again. He got upset because he went in time out, but I do not tolerate hitting in this house. He has to sit 1min per age and his time starts over if he does not calm himself from screaming. It is normal, frustrating and hard but it is normal. still talk to him, when my son gets out of time out, I make him come over and apologize and I ask him what he did to go in time out. He tells me because he hit...or threw or whatever. Talk to him why it's wrong. However, time outs, and discipline are necessary to get through it. I promise you and I are not the ONLY parents who put their three year old in their room during a temper tantrum so we can calm down. I'd rather put my son in his room than really get mad at him when he is still learning.

Jenni - posted on 09/03/2011




My son is the same way. He is ultra sensitve! Sometimes talking isn't enough although it's great you are telling him that you are there if he needs you and encouraging him through language on appropriate behaviours! You should definitely continue the discussions.

Try to find opportunites to catch his strong emotions before the wield out of control and become toy throwing. Not always easy to catch it in time. But when you can, stress "You're angry/frustrated right now! Stop and think! What do we do?"

Provide other appropriate alternatives to venting his frustration or anger.

Give him a stuffed animal to squeeze. "I see you're angry/frustrated right now! Here, give bear a nice hard squeeze!"

Count to ten.

Deep breathing- get down to his level and hold his hands while breathing with him.

Stomping feet- stomp feet with him

Jumping jacks - do them with him

Sometimes time out isn't always enough for some children. They need more tools to help them to calm themselves down. Model these appropriate tools for dealing with frustration/anger when you, yourself are experiencing stress. "Mommy is really angry she broke her favourite mug!! 1, 2, 3 etc"

For more helpful discipline tips and support join our community!

Jane - posted on 09/02/2011




The article says "Twenty-three to 83 percent of all 2- to 4-year-olds have occasional temper tantrums." The operative word here is occasional. A tantrum when the kid is tired, or when you have had to repeatedly say no at the grocery store, or when an older kid keeps taking the toys is understandable. But daily or hourly tantrums over little tiny things are not. An example of one of my son's more notable ones is when a substitute teacher at school told him he could not use the computer right then because he had to do a specific assignment. His response was to shriek at her, swear, and throw furniture at her. He also told her he was going to kill her. *Sigh*

The article also goes on to say the following: "Children who have temper tantrums often have other problems like thumb sucking, head banging, bed wetting and problem sleeping. If these behaviors happen, or if your child has temper tantrums that last more than 15 minutes or occur three or more times a day at younger than 1 or older than 4, seek help from a family physician, psychologist, or marriage and family therapist." Now that describes my son in a nutshell. He was a thumb sucker (and still tries to do it at age 17), a bed wetter (until age 14), and has to be drugged to get him to go to sleep on a reasonable schedule. And his tantrums were frequent, unreasonable, and really awful.

In other words, some tantrums are normal but frequent tantrums are not. As the article says, "But occasionally, fits of temper and violence persist into elementary school and may signal serious problems. Sometimes there are biological sources of anger that require diagnosis by a physician or psychologist."

In our son's case, it was brain damage at birth and ADHD, ODD, and Bipolar Disorder.

If there are other children in the household and they have NOT developed these problems then I would argue that inept parenting is not the problem. Certainly the article lists some terrific ways to help your kids not end up with anger problems, but only if it is simply a behavior that the child has used successfully to get what he wants. We did all of those things but it wasn't enough.

I sincerely hope the OP is feeling frustrated by normal three-year-old behavior, but in case she isn't, she should talk to her child's doctor.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to understand this sort of thing unless you've been there, done that.

Tara - posted on 09/02/2011




my son does this too. Were taking him to a behavior specialist next week. I dunno if its ADHD or Autism, but I dont think its normal.

[deleted account]

It's part of his age. He is trying to assert his control and feel like he is in control.

Just keep being consistent in how you react to him. Keep doing what you are doing. And yeah sometimes all you can do is put them into time out/room for a cooling period.

It happens here with both my son and the day care children I look after.

Hang in there.

If things don't start to calm down after awhile, then give a call to the family doctor to ask for some advice.

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