3 yr old - cries all the time - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 30 Old 01-07-2010, 02:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not quite sure what to do about this, if anything. My three year old cries ALL the TIME about everything when she is the least bit displeased. She is normally happy and plays and explores but she cries with the same intensity as if she were extremely hurt for every single little thing.

For example, if I get the pink sippy instead of the purple she will burst out crying like she just fell down a flight of stairs. If I set her food in the wrong chair she will scream and howl out until she is in the chair she wanted to be. If I get a princess pullup instead of the one with just Cinderella she cries, fights, and kicks like no tomorrow. If big sister (6 yrs old) touches her car seat she responds like she just got hit hard. If she wants to flush the toilet and I did she screams and cries like I just abused her or something and I only flushed the potty. By the end of the day I am so tired of hearing her cry about every little thing I sometimes start to just ignore all cries even if she really does need something. Kind of like the "Boy who cried wolf" syndrome.

What to do? Any ideas? I don't want her to be constantly crying about everything all the time and I keep hoping it is just a phase, but it has been going on for about the last 18 months and I'm getting T-I-R-E-D of it. Any suggestion?
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#2 of 30 Old 01-07-2010, 02:52 PM
 
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I'll be watching the replies as my nearly 3 year old is very similar! (ETA she has been this way almost since birth! I recall tapping her head on the door as I passed through and my dh came running because it sounded like something r-e-a-l-l-y bad had happened. I think she was 3-4 months at the time.)

She cries easily and with a such high pitch that it sounds as if someone is ripping her nails off with pliers. The cry is the same if she bumped her foot on the chair while climbing up or fell down the stairs. I don't have the same problem exactly with 'choices' but I get the whole boy crying wolf thing. It's takes some deciphering to find out if she got hurt...or is angry...or frustrated...

I've been trying to just hold/comfort her as I would even if her reaction to something - in my opinion - does not need to be so over the top. It's what she needs and finds comforting. It does get tiring. She cries/screeches many many times a day over seemingly minor infractions/hurts, but I really kind of think it's just who she is! I'm rather emotional and cry easily. She is the same...her emotions just are louder than mine!!

Not much advice I'm sorry to say, but am interested to hear the perspective of others!

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#3 of 30 Old 01-07-2010, 05:50 PM
 
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I am going through something similar with my three year old right now! In fact, I was just about to open a thread about it. She doesn't care much about falling or bumping herself or similar, and will not cry about that kind of thing at all. However, he has been SCREAMING when things do not go exactly her way recently. Wrong color cup? Bad news. Little brother touches "her" toys (even if they are common toys, or his toys)? Screaming can last 30 minutes. I don't feel like singing the same song five times in a row before bed? She'll proceed to scream, cry and complain about anything else she can think of. It is defiance. I say A, she says B. My days have turned into a power struggle, even though I know that I should avoid those, say something witty and creative and turn the situation around. Well, not much success there. I end up yelling, though I don't want to. I feel really bad about it.

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#4 of 30 Old 01-07-2010, 07:09 PM
 
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Add me as a commisserator. My 2 yo is and always has been the same way. Everything is such a big deal to her. Somebody help us, please.

Amy (34): mommy to DD1 (11/07) and DD2 (7/10), wife, wohm, and wannabe suburban homesteader.
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#5 of 30 Old 01-07-2010, 09:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well...at least mine isn't the only one. And with my dd it isn't always a defiance thing or powerstruggle, it could be about any little thing including her being frustrated because she can't stuff a stuffed animal in an itty bitty purse, or whatever. We looked at her when she didn't want us to. Just some mornings it seems like she has cried, fussed, and complained the entire morning...like for four hours straight.

So I was just trying to see if this might be a normal phase, or if we have created a little person who wants everything her way all the time and if we should look at ways to change how we respond, etc. and how.

Thanks again if anyone has any ideas I'd love to hear them. I don't want to just start ignoring her cries when she really does need something, but it is getting tiresome.
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#6 of 30 Old 01-07-2010, 10:39 PM
 
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This is my 2yo. He's still basically nonverbal, so I get that he has a hard time communicating frustration or disappointment, but STILL - OMGoodness I get so tired of listening to the screaming all day long! Seriously, if I look at the kid when he doesn't want to be looked at, he starts wailing like I'm beating him.

Hoping someone has some ideas...

A, wife to R and mom to 3 boys: D~ 10/05, J~ 8/07, and B~ 12/09 jumpers.gif

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#7 of 30 Old 01-08-2010, 03:34 AM
 
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I was just getting on to ask the exact same thing. Mine will be 3 in two weeks and tonight her frustration over the wrong color something or other (she was hysterical I still can't figure out what she wanted) led to a full out kicking screaming face clawing temper tantrum. And for the record, getting kicked full force in the abdomen when you're 5+ months pregnant is not a good feeling.

What is with this, cause it has got to stop!

Unassisted birthing, doula loving, extended/tandem nursing, nonvaxing, cosleeping, intactavist, Celiac having mama to Mariska 01/25/07 and Phinneas 05/07/10
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#8 of 30 Old 01-08-2010, 03:52 AM
 
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Me too. We always thought dd #2 was our "easy" child...nlot now! Now that she's 3, she's a complete Jekkyll and Hyde....either angelic, loving, expressive, verbal (she's super verbal and always has been) or else pinching us b/c we stopped her from touching something hot, sticking out her tongue at me for complimenting her on something, and so on. I tell myself it's just 3 and hope it will pass...part of the issue with her is setting limits. I don't do that well. The screams and tears bend my will, or used to. Now I am so tired of the drama that I am trhing to stick to my guns a bit more. She clamors for choc milk or candy at Whole Food and whereas I used to agree, now I practice saying no more often, and trying to tell myself that it is ok for me to do so, and that if she disagrees and raises hell, that she'll be ok. But the looks from the passersby today when I had to carry her out of the gas station wailing and crying b/c I wouldn't take her coat off in 35 degree weather were no fun! I commiserate with all of you.
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#9 of 30 Old 01-08-2010, 03:49 PM
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My DD went through a very emotional phase at about 3.5. The worst of it lasted about 2 or 3 months. Shes going through a bossy phase right now at 4 and 3 months. I'm finding the bossiness more annoying.
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#10 of 30 Old 01-09-2010, 03:13 PM
 
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Yeah this sounds like my dd1. Interestingly, she did it only with me and dh, not other caregivers. Someone said they thought it was a habit she formed to get attention from us. I used to always pick her up and hug her and try to see what she wanted. Now I try to stay matter-of-fact and help reframe reality/put it into perspective, but she's almost 5 now. I don't know. I teeter between validating and not wanting to give power to something that needn't be the end of the world. I have sometimes found it works to redirect her. Other times she just needs to get it out. Sometimes when I simply can't listen anymore I go far away to another side of the house. Sometimes she'll suddenly realize she's hot or hungry or thirsty and come to call about that need. Okay, that's something we can work with. Sometimes she needs connection, needs me to read to her or give attention. Sometimes it's her missing her friends and lamenting that she can't see them when she wants.

Anyway I could go on and on... but I hear ya...

ETA - sometimes I have to remind myself to not take it personally.

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#11 of 30 Old 01-09-2010, 03:31 PM
 
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My DD went through a very emotional phase at about 3.5. The worst of it lasted about 2 or 3 months. Shes going through a bossy phase right now at 4 and 3 months. I'm finding the bossiness more annoying.
My DD is 3 and 3 months-she does both of these behaviors. First she's bossy, then if she doesn't get her way, we have whining and crying. I chalk it up to age, I think it's a rather hard age emotionally. Too little to do most stuff, but developmentally they think they can, at least that's how my DD is. I wonder if it also a bit more difficult for those with high verbal skills as I see that pattern in this thread, like they want to express with words, but yet don't know what to really say. I find that is the problem with DD many times. We also have a new baby and I hink at times it to get attention, even though she gets attention 24/7, she's a big extrovert so she thrives on constant attention. All I do know is it drives me crazy

Me Wife to T (14 years)Mama to Princess(4) and Monster Boy(my 1 year old ):
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#12 of 30 Old 01-09-2010, 04:04 PM
 
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My son is the same. I have learned though, that my son is just very sensitive and he actually always has been.
It gets pretty annoying and frustrating. I find it helps to write down how I feel when he cries (when I have a free moment of course!) so that I can also sort out my own feelings and remember to keep this seperate from the situation (I feel this is very important...getting angry, impatient, frustrated - at my son never helps! lol). (for example, I feel failure because I do sometimes equate his happiness with my ability as a parent, this in turn makes me feel angry - with him and myself...why can't I get anything right?!...etc etc...). Once I have sorted out what my actual feelings are, I can talk with someone about them - a close, like minded friend for example. And then I can better understand myself and in turn, better realise how I can deal with the situations as and when they arise (and they often do! lol).

Some people are just emotional and sensitive. This is my son. I have learned to accept this and who he is. The crying does not bother me as much now. I know a lot of it is simply because I grew up to be uncomfortable with feelings. It is not because I am a failure as a parent. I validate his feelings often - he needs this. I also try and help him see the lighter side of life without ever shaming him for his feelings. I don't ever want him to feel like he has to bottle his feelings up or that feelings are bad or undesirable or that he has to hide his sadness and tears. I grew up like that and find it painful to cry in front of people - I wish I felt as free as he did.

I think learning how to look at a situation and work out how to solve our problems about it - without melting down into tears first (you know, oh dear, I am unhappy with that cup, I shall just tell my mum I would rather have a differnent one...rather than bursting into tears at the first thought of it! lol)...is something that just comes with time. And we can only help our children during this learning process by being open with them and listening to them and comforting them when need. My goal is never to stop my son from crying - he just needs to cry. They will get there in the end (I dont know anyone my age...that isnt hormonal lol...that just bursts into tears at every unhappiness they encounter!). Surely they have to. I trust this! (just as much as I trusted my son would eventually find his own indpendence - he did...and he will eventually sleep in his own bed, etc! lol)

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#13 of 30 Old 01-09-2010, 04:15 PM
 
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I don't really have any advice to offer, but I wanted to ask you all if there has been any change in routine or lack of stability in the house since (or before) this started. Something new, something changed, anything at all.

Something as simple as mom having time for them one day and not as much the next (when maybe they needed that time spent more on the second day than the first), can throw a toddler COMPLETELY out of whack, and trying to get back to normalcy can sometimes be just as challenging. Especially when they're not able to communicate exactly what it is that's upsetting them (often they don't even know themselves what that is).
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#14 of 30 Old 01-09-2010, 05:30 PM
 
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I have had a similar problem off and on for a few years with my now 5 yo son. We have had to work very hard at learning to acknowledge his feelings (lets face it, feelings aren't rational and none of us can control them, only learn to deal with them differently), while being careful not to enforce melt downs as the way to get what you want. We try to explain to him that screaming is not the way to get what he wants, and suggest other more appropriate ways of expressing his feelings, and asking for what he wants. NOT easy to do at 3, but has gradually helped as time has gone on. We also noticed it is often most noticeable right before he gets sick, tired, or if any major changes occur in family life.
Just be sure to acknowledge their frustrations (sometimes just saying "I can see you are very frustrated" makes a huge difference), and not give in to jumping to stop the screaming by giving them what they want (within reason) so they don't think that's the way to do it. It's a delicate balance. Hang in their, they all do it sometimes, and they all get better eventually.

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#15 of 30 Old 01-14-2010, 03:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Cetan Luta - I guess finding that balance is the biggest problem I have. I want to acknowledge and empathize with her feelings, without giving in and giving her every single little thing she is throwing a fit about. And sometimes I can't even "fix" it because it something that is physically impossible in this world, like gluing her piece of toast back together or something. Or having to get out of the pool swim lessons are over...I just can't help that. But, I really don't want to enforce the melt-down as a way to get what she wants, but at the same time acknowledging that "it sucks when you can't have your way...I get that."

Ann of Loxely - I don't have so much of a problem with it...it doesn't really bother me or make me feel good or bad to hear her cry. The bigger problem is that it annoys my husband so much that he'll make comments to her saying things like "You must be the saddest baby in the world, etc. etc." "We'll just send you to an orphanage in China and then maybe you'll see you don't have it so bad here..." and on and on, half joking, but really tired of hearing the fussing and crying on the bad days.
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#16 of 30 Old 01-19-2010, 02:00 AM
 
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Oh I'm so happy I found this thread!

My DD just turned 3 last month and I'm going through the exact same thing. It is so hard, I feel like the is the worlds unhappiest kid because she is crying about something or another half of the day. It's really nice to know my LO isn't the only one.

But now how to address the problem? I've tried everything. Acknowledgement of frustration, singing, consoling, ignoring, calm time in her room, bribery, etc. She just gets totally inconsolable when she gets into these fits.

Granted, she is going through LOTS of major life changes, I just wish I knew how to help her express herself verbally, she has always been a great talker but it's just not happening lately.

Amri- mama to Indica 12.08.06 and Kytan 04.04.10
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#17 of 30 Old 01-19-2010, 04:53 PM
 
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I can tell you what has worked with my 3yo.

When she screamed like that, we always just gave in without thinking about it. Like, when she screams for the "green" plate, we always just said "oh, excuse me!" and grabbed the green plate for her right away. She leraned the lesson: screaming = I get my way!

So now, when she screams, we just stop. Cover our ears, and say "too loud -- mommy can't hear you". We encourage her to use her words "I don't understand... try again in a normal voice". Or we'll say "pardon me?" if she didn't ask in a full sentence in her normal, polite "can I please have a green plate instead" voice.

Once we stopped giving in to the screams, and insisted on her using a normal voice, she started using it more often. She's much better now (and so are we!) at learning to always use (or wait for) her normal voice.
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#18 of 30 Old 01-21-2010, 09:06 PM
 
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I will preface this by saying, I am not as "gentle" as many on this board, although we do not use physical punishment. So this type of thing may not be acceptable to everyone.

I have a four year old and a two year old, and they are both very big on crying, sometimes screaming, whenever something isn't just right.

The four year old has gotten a lot better, though, about asking nicely, because I do not give her things she doesn't ask nicely for.. Period.

For example:

I turned on the CD player for her and pushed play, thinking her music was in it. She started wailing at the top of her lungs. It was an honest mistake. But since she didn't say "Mama, I want to listen to my music please", we listened to the whole CD of my music (and her wailing. I ignored it.) After it was over, I explained calmly that if she wanted her music she had to ask nicely first, not wail and demand. She asked nicely, and we listened to her music. And ever since then, she's controlled herself and asked nicely when I accidentally started playing my music or daddy's music instead of hers.
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#19 of 30 Old 01-21-2010, 09:30 PM
 
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My 3.5 year old turned into a screaming banshee a few months ago, its driving us all batty. We also know that it gets worse when she's hungry (but we also don't want to keep throwing food at her like she's some wild animal, ha ha) so we try to avoid her getting hungry by giving her snacks and she has a snack drawer in the cabinet with pre sorted snacks that she is allowed to pick out when hungry.

We also always remind her to "use her words" and if she doesn't use her words, no amount of screaming, crying, kicking, or what have you will get her what she wants. I always warn her, "if you continue to scream that must mean that you don't want the barbie anymore, so stop of you want to keep playing with her" (after she had a fit because she couldn't get the barbie's legs bent in a certain direction and refused help), so if she continues having a fit, then poof the barbie is mine, yes, she screams louder for a minute or two, but she has really learned in the last few weeks especially to keep herself under control. We always give hugs and kisses after a tantrum and I always remind her that we don't understand her when she's yelling, that we want to hear her words.

Oh, a good sentence I tell her is "that's the problem, what is the solution?", so instead of her screaming that her shoe came untied (happened this morning), she is forced to just ask me to tie it for her, if she spills something, she has to ask me to help her to clean it up instead of screaming that it spilled. It has been really helpful in getting her to stop and think about it before she starts.

But the screaming does make me want to stick a needle in m eye :-).
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#20 of 30 Old 01-22-2010, 12:16 PM
 
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But the screaming does make me want to stick a needle in m eye :-)
YES! And if they scream too long, I get migraines. The two year old is worse now than the 4 year old (though for awhile, she was worse, and I definitely think he learned it from her). I am more able to reason with her.
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#21 of 30 Old 01-22-2010, 01:41 PM
 
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My DD is 2.5 and while she usually doesn't cry she will start to get upset/ tantrum. As soon as I see her pull the face, I quickly get down to eye level and say "calm down... it's OK. Would you like the X one instead?" then she will calm down and agree, from there I usually get her to ask for X calmly. "mommy I would like X please". We have been working on this for a while. At this point I am seeing a big improvement where sometimes I just look at her and it is like a light bulb goes off in her head and she backtracks and expresses herself in a calm way.

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#22 of 30 Old 01-23-2010, 12:42 AM
 
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My DD went through a very emotional phase at about 3.5. The worst of it lasted about 2 or 3 months. Shes going through a bossy phase right now at 4 and 3 months. I'm finding the bossiness more annoying.
oh god, no!
my dd is 3.75 and is the epitome of all these posts and I keep telling myself (ad nauseum) that somehow, like magic, when she turns 4 it won't be so bad (this despite the fact that she's been ,ahem, spirited since birth)

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#23 of 30 Old 01-24-2010, 05:06 AM
 
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I don't know that this holds true for EVERYONE experiencing this problem, but I'm noticing that several people (first of all the OP) have made red flag comments about the screaming ultimately getting the child what they want.
Examples:
"If I set her food in the wrong chair she will scream and howl out until she is in the chair she wanted to be"
"She clamors for choc milk or candy at Whole Food and whereas I used to agree, now I practice saying no more often,"
"I used to always pick her up and hug her and try to see what she wanted."

If screaming holy hell gets you what you want, even once, it becomes a viable method for getting other things.

We've made a major effort emphasize that screaming/crying is NOT an acceptable form of communicating what you want. It's AMAZING how my DD can go from 60-0 when we calmly say "I can't understand you when you're whining/crying." In an INSTANT she stops all the drama and very clearly and calmly states what it is she was howling the second before. Once that happens then we can actually talk about what it is she wants and have a much greater likelihood of being able to calmly negotiate it. She doesn't always get the thing she was howling for, as it may just not be a reasonable request, but she HAS to make herself understood calmly and politely.

I really try to avoid concerning myself with what other people think in terms of public parenting. I hope that people with any sort of sense will understand what's happening if I have a howling small person and I'm attempting to calmly deal with them, and honestly, if you DON'T get it, and you're THAT put out, tough. It happens. My concern is with parenting as effectively and consistently as possible in a fashion that I believe is constructive. If I try to please the adults around me instead of focusing on doing my job, I'm doing my DD a disservice.

Co-sleeping, Breastfeeding, EC'ing, Baby-wearing, Homebirthing mama to two fabulous girls 6/2007 and 8/2010
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#24 of 30 Old 01-24-2010, 06:38 PM
 
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I think that if you give her something that she is screaming and crying for, even one time out of ten, she will continue to do this. I think an acknowledgement "I'm sorry you are so upset, but I cannot understand you when you are screaming and crying. I will be here to help you when you are able to talk in a normal tone of voice" is probably the best response. Then follow through. Even if you are in the middle of the grocery store or at a friend's house, don't give her anything she cries for. Even if you would have given it to her right away if she had asked for it nicely, don't give it to her. I think you need to nip this in the bud right now or it will go on for a long time.

Yes, she IS doing this because she's 3, but its your job to teach her how to interact pleasantly with others. You can't just say "Oh, she's 3, she'll grow out of it if we wait long enough." Well, I guess you COULD say that, but it will be harder on both of you if you do.
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#25 of 30 Old 01-24-2010, 07:22 PM
 
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This is very very normal. We should have an area just for the age of 3.5.

They are desperate for autonomy at that age and will try to get it any way they can, whether by demanding a certain cup, by demanding no one touch something, or by refusing to use the potty or refusing to eat certain things. So I would model appropriate ways to ask for things, but at the same time give her autonomy wherever practical. I got a lower drawer at that age and put my dd's cups in it and showed her how to get her own water. She could choose what cups she wanted. I put her plates someplace within her reach so she could choose a plate and I didn't have to guess or ask her every time. But at the same time, I would say, "I understand you aren't happy. Can you tell me nicely what you want?" Repeat that, and give her autonomy where practical, and she will get it with a little time.
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#26 of 30 Old 01-25-2010, 05:28 PM
 
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Wow! I am happy to see this thread! My DD was a tough 1 1/2 to 2 year old. 2 for the most part was great. About two weeks before her 3rd birthday last week, she turned into a whining, crying jeckyl/hyde. Simple things like coming downstairs in the morning for breakfast are a huge deal. She is refusing to go into the grocery store and throwing a huge fit. She has the words for what she is feeling/wanting but when she gets all riled up, she isn't using them. A few weeks ago, I could have distracted or joked our way out of some of these confrontations. Not anymore. It is like she has lost her sense of humor sometimes. I definitely think her behavior is worse for me than anyone else. I think she is certainly trying to decide if she is a baby or a big girl. She wants to be rocked again every night for bed which we had moved away from. I love doing this and I am happy that one of our old routines is giving her some comfort during this time. I am sad for all of you but I'm glad I'm not the only one. I have been doing a ton of reading about gentle discipline and age appropriate behavior and I will be taking the ideas on this thread into account too. Let's hope this phase ends soon!!!
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#27 of 30 Old 01-25-2010, 07:30 PM
 
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Does she still listen to you while she's crying? Meaning could you ask her what SHE can do to fix the situation? I'm reading a book called Positive Discipline, and one example in it just jumped to mind. The boy didn't like his water in an blue glass (this is from memory, so some details aren't exact). So his Mom guided him through how to get a different glass, like :
Mom - "What can you do about it? Do you think you could get a different glass?"
Boy - "It's too high".
Mom - "How can you get to it? Do you think if you pushed a chair over to the counter, you could reach it?"
Boy does this, gets his glass, spills the water while transferring it, and then Mom guides him through cleaning up his mess. What I like about this (and I'm not sure how it works with different kids' temperaments) is that it presents kids with a way to think through their own problems. It doesn't tell them their problem isn't valid, but rather, lets them figure out the solution and makes them feel "powerful" to solve them.
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#28 of 30 Old 01-25-2010, 08:09 PM
 
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I try once or twice to validate the feelings. (Not give into the tantrum, just to validate the feelings and then work towards a solution)

If that doesn't work, then I ignore the screaming. I tell her I'll be happy to talk with her when she's ready to talk. If it keeps going for more than a minute or two, I remind her that we don't cry and scream in the common part of the house and tell her she needs to either calm down and talk with me or go to her room.

When she's ready to talk we come up with a solution. I don't give in while she's screaming, but I will often spend that time thinking about how I can reward her using her words once she does calm down. She's just 3, and I'll often have to supply her with the words, "You're really upset that I gave you milk in the green cup." But that seems age appropriate.
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#29 of 30 Old 10-16-2012, 12:26 AM
 
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I absolutely agree you have to change the behavior now this is the molding stage. Every child is not the same and all methods may not work for you. BUT I do the ignore when crying if excessive. And always make her politely ask for things she tries to boss me too! I think you have to claim your position early take the heart feelings rather than suffer later.
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#30 of 30 Old 10-16-2012, 12:39 PM
 
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Even at that age, I would say things like, "You're upset.  This screaming is not OK.  I'll be happy to help you/change it/etc. when you ask me politely."  And then wait for them to do it.  If they seemed to need help with the words, I'd wait a minute and say, "You could say,  Can you change the music please mommy?"  and help them out.

 

Agreeing with those that say if you "give in" even one time out of 10, they'll keep waiting for that 11th time every time and do it over and over again.  You can be kind and gentle and firm, without being mean.  It may *feel* mean initially because she'll be throwing the fits repeatedly.  But if you keep modeling the kind, but firm resolve to not help her until she can channel those negative emotions into a non-aggressive way, it will eventually work. 

 

My own 6 and 8 year old occasionally try to pull a bigger kid version of this.  I'll usually say, at this point, "Do you think that's going to help this situation?"  or, "I'm positive you can think of a polite way to say that." - It's totally a normal kid thing, but normal does not necessarily equal appropriate....that's where the teaching comes in, to guide them out of it. 


Heather, WAHM to DS (01/04)DD (06/06). Wed to DH(09/97)
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