Does my 4 year old have behavioral problems?

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012 ( 25 moms have responded )

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My daugter is about to turn 4 on Friday and she is out of control. She will be perfectly happy one minute and then if she is asked to get ready for her shower or to pick up toys she completly melts down. She has such explosive fits where she will scream, throw herself on the floor, kick anything around her. If myself or her father is in close proximity she will kick, hit, bite, pinch, and pull on our clothes. We cannot talk to her during these outbursts; they can last 10 minutes or longer. These outbursts happen on a regular basis; it is to the point where if we can go 2 days without an outburst we are thrilled and yet walking on eggshells waiting for the next one. Her outbursts occur from the simplest things: please pick up your toys, time for dinner, please eat your dinner, no you may not have a snack we are about to eat dinner. Her pre-k teacher and daycare provider never see this behavior but have commented that she is sensitive. I forgot to include spitting, she will spit on me during these outbursts as well. Something as simple as it is time to get out of the shower and she screams and begins hitting and spitting. Another problem we have is that we live in a small village on a second floor and her outbursts are so loud I know that the family downstairs can hear them. If I do something as simple as place my hand on her back and say lets go put on our jammies she will throw herself to the floor and scream that I hurt her and pushed her. She does this in many instances screaming that I or her father hit, pushed, pinched, or scratched her when in fact we have barely touched her. We are at our wits end, she does not listen to anything at all, she was jumping on her bed (continuing after we asked her to stop) and bit her tongue and made it bleed. 2 minutes later she was jumping on her bed again, we remind her of this when she continues to jump on her bed and she acknowledges but continues to do it. We feel that simply asking or saying not to do something should have some explanation as to why we do not want her to do certain things and the same for things we would like her to do. It seems as though she is very angry and frustrated during these outbursts. I feel that this behavior and defiance is beyond that of a 4 year old child am I crazy or is my concern justified?

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Holly - posted on 10/23/2012

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maybe the pediatrician might help, but it honestly sounds to be outside a pediatricians relm of expertise... maybe a child psychologist.

Holly - posted on 10/23/2012

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do you ask her what might get her a better response? do you remind her of these conversations? and remind her that she isn't earning back her toys?



I am a firm believer in spankings, if my kids continued acting like this after all you have tried they would get a spanking. I am at a loss if you've tried all that. I think the rise in these "behavioral problems" is parents afraid to spank their kids.

Gwen - posted on 10/23/2012

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It really sounds to me like she is seeing how far she has to push the limits to get a response, but I'm not a professional, either. A friend of mine had a little boy who did the cry till he vomited at bedtime. One night she finally said "You know what? That's it! You want to puke; fine go for it! You'll just have to sleep in it because I am NOT getting you out of bed!" He did it and she left him in there. After that, it only happened another time or two before he gave it up for good.



No one ever told us how complicated parenting would be~It's like a constant struggle to stay one step ahead of our very smart kids :)

Gwen - posted on 10/23/2012

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" ..we remind her of this when she continues to jump on her bed and she acknowledges but continues to do it." Then REMOVE her from the bed! What your actions are saying is "Honey, don't bother listening to anything we tell you because when you ignore us, we will allow you to continue doing it anyway."



If my 4 year old screams or spits at me, she gets soap in the mouth. Believe me, it doesn't take long to learn that lesson! :) The other night, she was throwing a huge tantrum in her room. I told her "You know I'm not going to stay in here and listen to you act crazy. I'm going to go watch my show and I'll see you later." She raged and stomped around in there for a good 30 minutes, but I totally ignored her. I knew if I went back in the room, the message I'd teach her that the crazier she acted, the quicker I'd give her attention. It was hard, but she eventually got quiet and fell asleep. She is very well behaved 85% of the time and also does great at school, babysitter, grocery store, etc. It's that other 15% when she's either sleep deprived or trying to assert her independence. I don't know about your daughter, but it helps mine with transitions if I give her plenty of warning. Like "Sadie, I'm going to go start supper" then "Supper will be ready in 10 minutes finish up what you're doing." then "Dinner's almost ready, time to go wash your hands."..and so on. You get the idea. It sounds to me like you need to stop trying to be so diplomatic with her and just lay down some strict rules. She does not need an explanation for every little thing. Put her in time out and tell her the timer doesn't start until she quits screaming. After the time out, get at her level and explain to her that -blank thing- is not allowed in your house because it is -blank-. (i.e. Screaming is not allowed because it is rude) Keep it simple and then hug her and tell her you still love her.

Amanda - posted on 10/23/2012

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I have a 4 yr son who can behave like this and sometimes worse. I went to my GP and they referred me to a behavioural specialist. I found out he has ADHD and sleep apenea. Not only do I have issues with him at home I have outburst while we are out, and there were issues with his behaviour in daycare.



We went through sleep studies and all sorts of sessionswhere they went through all factors of our lifestyle and diet to come to this diagnosis.



When he has an outburst he is sent straight to his room until he has calmed down. Sometimes it takes 5 mins, other times it can take 2 hrs. There is no reasoning or trying to coax him out of it. He has no comprehension of why he was sent to his room or even why he behaved to way he did. As your daughter knows and has an understanding of what she did wrong ít's probably more of a defience thing which can be controlled.



Last week I told him he couldn't help himself out of the fridge, he totally lost the plot and it took over an hour before he even started to calm down. I asked him what it was all about and he said I don't know. I asked him if he thought it was the right way to behave, he said I don't even know what you are talking about.

I do know other kids that really push the boundaries and step it up a notch once they turn 4 but they do calm down.



If you are really concerned I would speak to your doctor, they may be able to advise you on other ways of dealing with your daughter.

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Gwen - posted on 10/23/2012

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If you are watching her and interacting with her when she is doing all of this crazy stuff AND she knows the difference between right and wrong, then these are definitely attention seeking tactics. IGNORE.IGNORE.IGNORE. When she acts nuts, walk away. When she grunts instead of using words, walk away. When she starts hitting herself, walk away. Tell her you refuse to stick around and watch her act like a crazy person. You will talk to her later when she can calm down and behave like a human being. Close the door. End of conversation.



When she is being calm or doing something good, run to her!

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012

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no, no imaginary friends, yes as you can now see I'm not still wet behind the ears--HAHA! Well, she hits herself so hard and she is VERY pale like me therefore she makes herself all red and blotchy! I've researched bipolar disorder a bit and she isn't manic...but who knows this could all be a precursor? I just wanted some feedback from other moms because I have to tell you it is VERY hard to remain calm and to know what to do anymore. I think the pediatrician might be the next stop.

Holly - posted on 10/23/2012

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OMG!!!! I would probably begin laughing at the sight myself. It honestly sounds as if she is doing this for the attention, unless she has a serious mental illness like bipolarism or perhaps even schizophrenia. does she have "imaginary friends" that get her into trouble?

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012

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you know what happens when she gets spanked? she will then begin spanking herself and laughing and hitting herself in the face. we have stopped spankings...not that they were hard but enough to get her attention. While doing this she is laughing and when she is done she will tell me that I hurt her!

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012

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Yes I do and she says no, and we will talk about it but she will just move on.

Holly - posted on 10/23/2012

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do you ask her if she thinks that acting that way helps make things better? or gets her what she wants?

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012

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we get "I don't know", "becasue I was Naughty", "because you told me I couldn't have ____",

Holly - posted on 10/23/2012

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what does she say when you ask her why she decides to behave certain ways?

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012

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We do leave her alone when she is having a fit, we do discuss what she has done wrong, and she loses privleges like her cartoon time, or her favorite toys are taken away, we do cover the bases. Its the sudden changes in behavior that are concerning

Lacye - posted on 10/23/2012

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If she is able to tell you why she was in time out, then no, she does not have a problem. She knows what she is doing and that it is wrong. If she starts throwing a temper tantrum, leave the room. Do not acknowledge her. Do not say a word to her. Just get up and leave her sitting there. If you stay, she is getting the attention she is wanting. When she calms down, then talk to her. When she bites, kicks, spits, or anything else to you during these fits, what do you do in response? Is there any consequences to what she has done?

Dove - posted on 10/23/2012

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My son has cried so hard that he puked before. It scared him so bad that every single time he even started to cry (even a whimper) for the next 6 months he had to have a bowl ready or he would completely freak out. He hasn't puked because of crying in probably two years, but it still scares him. It was totally not something he did on purpose and not something he could control.

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012

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Oh god no she does not get her toys back right away by any means. She will ask about ones that have been taken away and she is told she cannot have them back until she can show us that she is a big girl. And not just for a short period of time, it has to be consistent. This morning I took away her play vanity and when I came back she informed me that I forgot the stool!

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012

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It's ironic that you say to record it...I have recorded these outbursts and as soon as I start recording she stops and asks me what I am doing? It is so peculiar; sometimes she will stop, more times than not she continues.

Holly - posted on 10/23/2012

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you have to take the reigns now and let her know that its not appropriate... when taking the toys away, make sure to start with her favorite, and she HAS to earn them back... not just take them away for 15 minutes... she has to earn them back, after a WEEK of good behavior gets them back... like my mother told me when my kids were babies, EVEN if they are sick they HAVE to behave... being sick does NOT excuse bad behavior.

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012

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It has just gotten worse in the last few months, unfortunately she had an allergic reaction to an insect sting and therefore we went through months of various allergy medications because the reaction from both the sting and the medications was on going. Finally, we had enough and took her off all allergy meds and her behavior improved sooo much. But, it seems like so much of that behavior is returning, there have not been any major changes in the last few months. It's as if someone turns a switch and she completly changes. Don't get me wrong we have good times but the negative ones are beginning to outweigh them.

Holly - posted on 10/23/2012

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remove her from the situation... physically pick her up and move her... put her in her room to have her outburst and when she is done talk to her... I can't imagine how hard it is to deal with a child like that. we do a lot of talking in my house. i talk A LOT with my children. but if you can't talk to her, she needs to finish her "melt down" and then talk to her. tell her how inappropriate that behavior is... record it and let her see how out of control she is. let her know that it makes you so sad and hurts your feelings when she acts like that, and it makes you feel like a bad parent that you can't get her under control. kids are smart, they aren't dummies. I tell my kids that it is a VERY hard job to be a parent, and when they disobey me, it only makes it harder on me. it is my job to make sure that they behave, and when they misbehave it means that i haven't been doing my job.



if that doesn't work you need to let her know, these things WILL happen regardless of whether she throws her fit or not, and for her it would be easier if she just listens and does what she is supposed to, drag her, even if she is kicking and screaming to take her shower, drag her kicking and screaming to get her dressed, drag her, kicking and screaming to school. if she doesn't clean up her toys throw them all in a bag and put them somewhere she will not look (garage/attic/basement) and make her EARN her toys back one by one... let her realize if she doesn't take care of her things and act right, she doesn't deserve them. the toys are a privilege, NOT a right. and if she misbehaves take her toys away one by one, starting with her favorite.

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012

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Also, we do remove her from the bed, this is when an outburst occurs, she becomes VERY combative. Upon removing her from the bed she will scream that she is being hurt, she will then find things in the room to throw, she will start kicking, hitting anything to display this anger. Believe me we haven't missed the obvious solutions to these problems, I am hoping to hear some other ideas on discipline as conventional methods do not work, which leads me to my question as to whether or not there might be more going on?

Mary - posted on 10/23/2012

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My daughter does have rules, she just chooses to ignore them. As for the diplomacy, after asking her to stop doing something that she shouldn't be doing multiple times I feel that by reminding her that she bit her tongue jumping on the bed hurt that she might stop. We have tried all avenues. She will sit in time out and when she is done screaming and crying she will tell me she is done. I tell her that that is good but that time out is not over and when I say it is we will talk. I do come to her level and ask her if she knows why she is in time out and she will tell me she was naughty. I ask her what she did that was naughty and she will tell me what she did, I'm trying to get to her emotion was she sad or angry and why. She also will pair her outbursts with grunting instead of speaking and using her words. We try for consistency but her behavior makes it very difficult, she has worked herself up so much that she will begin to gag and on occasion vomit. Believe me and I'm not trying to offend anyone, but I'm now at the analytical point of this situation now because it has been ongoing for about 2 years and getting worse everyday. And by worse she will now hit and pinch herself during these outbursts. I have looked at her behavior as "normal" for her age but over the last few months it has become agonizing to the point where it is not good for my child. And, before I go to her pediatrician with these concerns I want to see what other moms have to say. I definately appreciate the input! :)

Gwen - posted on 10/23/2012

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Oh, and you might also tell her things she IS allowed to do when she's angry or frustrated, like stomping her feet or punching her pillow.

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