3.5 year old girl and temper tantrums — The Bump
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3.5 year old girl and temper tantrums

Hello.

I posted this on the preschool board too.

My oldest D is 3.5 years old.  She throws tantrums that last anywhere from 5-30 minutes most days.  This has been going on for 6-8 months now. The littlest things can set her off.  This morning, she wanted to get up at 6:15, but was upset and started crying when H and I would not get out of bed for her.  She normally gets out of bed at 7.  I got her to calm down a bit by holding her closely to me but not otherwise interacting with her.  Once calm, she played quietly and picked out her clothes for the day for about ten minutes. Then she spiraled into a second tantrum when she couldn't close her dresser drawer easily.  

This is typical of a morning for her.  

I try to ignore her until she calms down.  H wants to reason with her.  I would prefer he ignore her too, but, despite me asking him to do so, I doubt this will happen.  It's not his nature to ignore a crying kid.  


DD also gave up her napes about  two months ago.  H lost his job about this time too.  He's consulting now and money is not an issue, but I'm sure she's picked up on the stress H (and I) bring home from work. Her tantrums could - in part at least- be her reacting to our stress.  However, I believe we're decent about leaving work problems outside of home.  


I'm wondering if any other preschool parents experience this.  H thinks she's demonstrating signs of mental illness, such as clinical depression and histrionic disorder.  He's no psychologist, but had a mentally unstable grandmother and is worried that DD is following in her great-grandmother's footsteps.  My instinct tells me she's not really showing signs of mental illness, just being a sensitive three year old.  Thoughts???

Should I consult a doctor about her behavior? 

I'd appreciate any suggestions for dealing with her behavior, notably to shorten the length of her tantrums.

TIA!
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Re: 3.5 year old girl and temper tantrums

  • I have a three year old son that seems sensitive too.  He has always cried/screamed/tantrumed at the drop of a hat since birth.  I think he is just a sensitive three year old but I am having him evaluated just for peace of mind.
  • We went through this with our slightly older child (4.5 at the time).  For us, she was having an issue with kids at school, and it took us a while to figure it out.

    She was extremely angry and frustrated, and really didn't understand how to express herself.  The kids were mean, there was a lot of screaming at each other in the classroom and some physical stuff that we found out about later, and the teacher was always at her desk on her computer.  Once we got her out of that environment, the change was monumental and instant.

    Has she had any changes recently? 
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  • Sounds normal to me.  Ages 3-4 were definitely high drama for DD, much worse than the supposedly terrible 2s.  DS is almost 3 now and I am starting to see the same kind of thing emerge.

    They just really can't process their emotions very well at this age, so there are things that they want to do and can't and they get just extremely upset and can't easily get out of it.

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  • Age 3 was extremely hard for us with DS.  I have heard that this is very common and that 3 can be a lot worse than age 2.  Other than just drinking heavily and waiting it out, DH just made sure that we were consistent with our punishments (time out) and tried to give out lots of positive reinforcements.  We also started a rock jar where he can earn rocks and gets to pick a reward (toy, restaurant, activity) once he fills it up.  He also loses rocks when he makes bad choices.  This also worked well.

    So far age 4 has been a breeze so it does it better!
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    mamaskittles09
  • OP here - 

    This is a long overdue thank you for the great advice.  

    I did bring it up with my daughter's pedi who referred me to a child psychologist.  The psychologist didn't think D's behavior was terribly out of line for a girl her age.  We decided to check back with her in a few months.  

    Since my original post, DD's tantrums have tapered off significantly.  A few things we've done to support her include less weekend activities (more time for her to just rest and recoup), an earlier bed time, and a special place (her Minnie Mouse tent) to go when she needs to calm down. DH had I are prioritizing doing one activity each weekend that's totally her choice/call, such as a trip to her favorite park, or a meal she really wants. This helps too. Thank you to all posters who suggested these things!  

    H, DCP and I all now tell her what she's doing and that we can see she's not happy - "You're crying.  I can see you're upset." - whenever she starts a tantrum.  We then hug her, tell her we will talk to her when she's ready to talk, and walk away.  It's working for now.  

    I don't think we're out of the tantrum woods yet, but we're walking in the right direction. 

    Thanks again for the great suggestions.


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