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Toddler » Discipline and Guidance

Three Year Old Temper Tantrums

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Dear Dr. Susan:

Our 3-1/2 year old daughter has become increasingly difficult of late. If she does not get her way, she’ll spend 30-60 minutes in a completely inconsolable tantrum. She’s a wonderful child: usually happy, silly, thoughtful and fun to be around.

I know no one is happy all the tine, but I’m at my wits’ end as to dealing with these tantrums. I’ve tried talking calmly, being stern, and sometimes I lose my patience and end up yelling – which I hate myself for doing. What can I do for both of us? Thanks for your help.


Dear Cindy:

Thank you so much for contacting our site.

That is great way of putting it! “What can I do for the both of us?” 3-1/2 – 4-1/2 year olds are increasingly aware of self-importance and their own needs and wants. They want most everything they see on TV or see another child using at preschool. Girls get “chicky” and “mean to outsiders.” Bummer! All tantrums are theatrical and real all at the same time. If they can’t go to a friends, if you set a firm bedtime, if you say she can’t wear shorts to school when its 10 degrees outside, you’d get a nice long argument and a beautiful long “fit.” Remember she’s having the fit, so don’t you have one too. Tell her at sometime when she’s upset (but not in the middle of a tantrum) that you have decided on a way to handle her tantrums. She will stay where she is when it happens and you are going to keep calm, and leave the area until she calms down, then you will come back and talk it over. Respect her need to talk about it but do not let her be in charge. She is not in charge of her household. She is part of a family who talks out their problems using words.

This may require a few family meetings (discussions) to practice how to say calm. Walk away, take a break, no hiding or breaking things, etc. The result will be worth the effort!

Thanks again for writing to me.

Dr. Susan Turben

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