Posted by: Natalie | 2012/09/18



I have a 3yr old(almost 4) and he can be the sweetest child at times. Is it normal for a boy his age to have " mood swings"  / tantrums? One minute his sweet the next he turns around and is a changed child. He will through everything from the cupboards if he doesnt get what he wants, biting, kicking etc. I cant take it anymore. Its like we have to tipy toe around him not to upset him. His brother is 11yrs old and he always have to give in to the 3yre old. I dont know how to handle the little one ...:(

Expert's Reply



Many children of this age still have typical temper tantrums as you describe here.Temper tantrums are a form of attention seeking behaviour. It can often be difficult to deal with these tantrums especially when children have a tantrum when out of the home such as in the local supermarket. If at home it is important not to provide an audience for this kind of behaviour. So the minute that your son starts with a tantrum take him straight to his bedroom and close the door. Do not let him out of his room until he is completely quiet and the tantrum is over. Do this each and every time without fail when he starts with a tantrum. He will soon learn that this behaviour is not acceptable and will stop having theses tantrums.

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Posted by: Purple | 2012/09/19

oh, and he is the one who must clean up the mess from his tantrum or if he destroys the bathroom or bedroom if he is put there for time out.

That teaches him the direct consequence of his behaviour - you make a problem, you fix the problem.

He is too young to properly obey if you tell him to go and clean it up, so after he is calm and has had his time out, you take him to the mess and say, " now we are going to clean up"  and you both clean up.

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Posted by: Purple | 2012/09/19

If he is used to everyone giving in to him, then he knows his behaviour gets a reaction.

With a young toddler (1-3) many tantrums are caused by frustration at not being able to physically do what they mentally think they are capable of doing (not having the dexterity), or from tiredness, hunger, thirst, being too hot or too colds - thi ngs which for the most part can be avoided or dealt with by distraction. Those that become full blown tantrums, the child can be put in their room until they calm down.

At nearly four, your son has learned that when he throws things and shouts and screams, that everyone gives in.
He is old enough to have a bit of reasoning capacity now, so when he is calm, sit him down and tell him in short understandable sentences that " everyone gets cross sometimes" . " its OK to be cross"  " its not ok to throw things and shout if you are cross" . " if you throw things or bite or kick or hurt anyone when you are cross, you will sit on the naughty chair"  (or whatever you use).
He needs to learn about respecting other people''s needs and so on.

when he has a tantrum, its difficult to stop it in mid go, but you can just close his bedroom door or take him away from his audience (pick him up and take him outside). When he has calmed down, kneel down to his level, give him your short speech again and then put him in the bathroom or on the naughty step or chair or mat for his 4 minutes (one minute per year of age). A kitchen timer is very helpful. If he gets up, you extend the time.

Keep doing this consistently (when you are out, take him to a shopping centre change room or the toilet or your car if necessary) and over time the penny will drop that his behaviour is not getting the desired reaction.

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