How do you give consequences to a three year old that doesn't care about them?

Taryn Cadance - posted on 01/16/2013 ( 8 moms have responded )

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I have two children, 3 and 4, and they are very different in learning styles and behavior styles. My problem is with my youngest. Between 1 and 3 times a day he throws these Gosh awful fits and gets really angry to the point where he kicks and screams and sometimes throws himself around, and it is usually when I tell him that his behavior is a "stop" and that we shouldn't do that behavior, or I have just given him a consequence for an unacceptable behavior. The fits that are caused by the consequences are usually because I take away the toy that he is either throwing or hitting someone with. I tell him that if he does it again he will loose that toy or he will not be able to play or that he will have to take a time out, so I follow through with the consequence and then he throws these angry fits.

I don't understand... Why does he say go ahead, or I don't want it, when he really does? How do I get this to stop? What am I doing wrong? I don't yell, I don't swear, I don't swat their butts. I use an even low tone, I talk and redirect, I have even given him a signal to use when he feels like he is getting really upset so that I know that he needs some time to calm down (This is done by him sitting in the corner). Does anyone have any ideas?

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Michelle - posted on 01/17/2013

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What do you do when he's having the tantrum?

I find the only thing that works with my youngest is to completely ignore the tantrum and walk away. I don't tell her to stop or anything, just completely ignore it. She finally realizes than if she wants me to talk to her again then she will stop.

Also make sure that you praise the good behaviour as well. If he wants your attention then it should help with the tantrums.

Alicia - posted on 01/16/2013

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Sounds like he is testing you and your responses to him. Sounds like you are setting realistic consequences for his behavior. I would suggest remaining "neutral" when redirecting him, meaning emotionless, or blank and ignore negative reaction to his consequences. I would also suggest, catch him being good, praise the good behavior as well. If this is truly
attention seeking behavior, ensuring he will get positive attention from positive behavior should help. In the mean time hang in there

Candy - posted on 01/17/2013

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It sounds like you're doing just about everything right. The only thing left is to address his feelings, because he sounds like he's very frustrated about something. Using a 'transaction' like taking away a toy or a privilege isn't addressing the fact that he's angry in the first place; he can't help being angry, and he just doesn't know what to do with those big, overwhelming feelings because he is too little to have learnt how to do it yet.

Have you tried offering him an alternative way to express frustration? Eg, take the toy from his hands, hold his hands firmly and say calmly "I won't let you hit. If you feel angry you can hit this pillow." If he is throwing himself around and trying to kick or hit you, a good position is to hold him across your lap face down with your arms across his shoulders and bottom so he can't hurt you. It is possible to do this firmly without actually hurting him and without him being able to hurt you. From that position you can then talk to him gently- "I hear that you're very angry. I'm going to hold you here so you can't hurt anyone. When you are ready to stop hurting I've got a big hug for you."

If he's having a screaming tantrum on the floor, sit down near him (but not in range!!) and say something like "I hear you're angry. It's okay to be angry but it's not okay to hit. When you are ready, I would love you to tell me what made you so angry. I can't understand your words when you scream, so you will need to use your normal voice to tell me."

If you can distinguish between 'feeling angry' and 'acting out' for him, and show him that the feelings are okay but the actions are not, you will be taking a huge step forwards.

Another thing I found helpful with a very angry child (I am a preschool teacher) was having one of those blow-up punching bags that bounces back when you knock it down. Instead of punching his playmates, I let this little one have a 'session' with the punching bag (he was witnessing significant household violence at home and had lots of difficult feelings to let go).

It's really important to find out WHY your little one is angry. Maybe sibling rivalry? Maybe he just needs a little more one-to-one attention? Giving him more time and love is never a wrong move!

Cecilia - posted on 01/17/2013

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Candy pretty much said it all so i'll see what i can add to it.

From what it sounds like you're doing everything that you should. You simply have one of those kids who just test the limit. He's going to say he doesn't care if you take it. He's trying to tell you that you don't have power. Like you said you know he wants what he is losing, thus you still have power.

If nothing else all kids have that one thing they can't stand to lose. Try figuring out what it is. Maybe TV time, snacks, dessert, A very favorite toy ( even if it isn't involved in the fighting) For my two year old, it's easy, it's her blanket. And i do take it and put it where she can't get it. Even if she hadn't been carrying it for hours it gets to her.

Let me see if i read the one part right, if he tells you he is getting upset he goes into a corner to calm down? I think maybe there might be a better spot for him. Let him go into his room by himself to calm down maybe.

Reward him for letting you know that he is overwhelmed. Sticker charts work great for this.For every time he acts responsible with emotions he gets a sticker after [insert # here] stickers he gets to choose something out of the prize box. Our prize box is filled with dollar store things. Buy a bag of army men and give them out one at a time as reward, crayons, markers,i've even seen kid watches at the dollar store, or even just keep pieces of candy. Something that he will want to work for.

Place i use for charts http://www.freeprintablebehaviorcharts.c... or use excell and make your own if you know how.

Gigi - posted on 01/17/2013

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Your way of dealing with his behaviour is very good, so just keep up with it even if it seems that it is not working. He is just testing how far does he have to go for you to give him what he wants. Eventually he is going to see that no matter how he behaves you will not change your mind, and then he will stop. Mine took few weeks (her's were smaller tantrums at age of 1,5 or so) but then she stopped.

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Amie - posted on 01/20/2013

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It's a phase that will pass...I am dealing with the same thing with my 2 1/2 year old...and I know it will pass, but it's very difficult. Just keep it up and don't give in. They are testing us and they need us to be strong parents and keep our boundaries. The tantrums need to be ignored and they can return to the family/conversation/playtime when they decide to be normal kids again. Don't let him play you and you'll get through this time.

Taryn Cadance - posted on 01/17/2013

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Thank you I will definately try that. Last nights tantrum worried me cause it was a half an hour to 45 min long.

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