Three Year Old Meltdowns? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 05-26-2007, 11:50 PM - Thread Starter
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I haven't posted in awhile, but I could use some expert advice!

My 3 yo dd has been having worse and worse tantrums lately. We never know what will set her off (late bedtime, wrong pjs, a "scary" bug, someone telling her no, whatever), and she just gets out of control before we can even respond. She is hysterical and irrational, and lately violent.

I had a talk to her today about how feeling angry and frustrated is something that everyone does sometimes, but that we don't hit people even when we're really upset. I offered a "calm down place" with pillows to hit and books and toys, and explained that if she couldn't calm down by herself, I'd take her to her calm down place (positive time out?). Anyway, she was ok with all of that. I thought I had a plan, but then this afternoon she flipped out over a bug and got hysterical, screaming at me to squash it. I didn't even SEE it! I was busy doing something else and she just got completely out of control. She didn't get violent, but she kept screaming and demanding that I shut doors and squash the bug. I have no idea why she is so scared of bugs lately.

I ended up leaving her lying on my bed (she was confident that there were no bugs there as long as I shut all the doors) and she passed out within a couple of minutes. She slept a couple of hours and then woke up freaking out because she couldn't find her favorite pajamas. Her daddy was here with her and couldn't understand what she wanted. These tantrums happen at least once a day. I just don't know how to help her calm down or be less afraid, and I will not let her hit us. A few different issues here, but I would be really appreciative of any bright ideas!
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#2 of 10 Old 05-27-2007, 12:14 AM
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My dd has major outbursts like that as well. Its like she loses control of herself.

I'm not sure if I'm right, but I suspect it might be a sensitivity to food dye, maybe red #40. This isn't something she ordinarily has, so I am trying to experiment with purposely giving it to her and see how she reacts.

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#3 of 10 Old 05-27-2007, 12:23 AM
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Subbing. We are having the similiar issuess with my 3 yr old DS. We just never know what will set him off. I have not tried an area for him to, "let out" his frustrations. We just pretty much don't know what to do, so he just continues on with his tantrum, and we try to calm him down and then all of a sudden it's over. However, he's been having these really awful ones that are like 30 min long. He's always been really mellow, and now all of sudden this has started up. It should be called the, "terrible 3's," not the terrible 2's.
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#4 of 10 Old 05-27-2007, 05:04 PM
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Yeah, 2 was a breeze compared to the 3 that we are dealing with. :

The unpredictability of it all really throws us off sometimes. It used to work to give my son choices, now it seems to be really overwhelming to him. Everything is a reason to protest. I find myself saying "you need to talk nicer to me, I can't understand you when you have mean words" a lot lately. I find that I just have to be repetitive and calm until his little brain works it out somehow. That can be the most frusterating part. I am 32 weeks pg and yesterday he wanted me to lift him out of the bath tub rather than climb out by himself. I explained that it hurt my back to lift him because he was such a big boy now. He shreiked and screamed and cried and said horrible things for a good 20 minutes until he finally decided to climb out on his own. By this time I was having a melt down of my own. Sobbing to him about how hard it has been to know how to handle him when he acts that way. I told him how broken hearted it made me feel and how I wish we could get along better. It was amazing how he seemed to understand what I was going through and apologized to me. I don't want to have an emotional breakdown every time to get through to my child...It would probably work for a short time anyway.

I don't have any advice really, just commiseration. It can be rough sometimes and I have to constantly remind myself that "this too shall pass"
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#5 of 10 Old 05-27-2007, 08:32 PM
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I agree as well. Two's were way easier then the threes. My ds hadn't had a real full on tantrum until he turned three. Now I find they seem to be triggered by fatigue. If he's tired the smallest things turn into the biggest dramas. I think that you are doing all the right things to help her through her frustration. The hardest thing for me is to keep myself calm and not get upset with him. Perhaps with the bug thing you guys could to some bug investigations. If you went outside and looked for bugs and found out about how they live and what they eat she might not find them so scary.
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#6 of 10 Old 05-27-2007, 10:10 PM
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For us as well the 3's are much worse than ds when he was 2. TAntrums started after my second ds was born 6 mos ago.
Anyway a few ideas for the OP
... has she eaten enough? My ds tends to melt down when he hasn't had enough nutritious food, he needs to eat frequently, more than your 3 meals a day sensitivity/allergy... High fructose corn syrup? it's in so many ;things you may not realize it, this throws our ds for a loop,

For us what has worked recently, ismy acknowledging ds feeling sad/frustgrated angry & holding him if he will let me.

HTH at least a little or gives you ideas. We are still working it out ourselves:
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#7 of 10 Old 05-28-2007, 09:59 AM
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I believe 3 is when they start the "irrational fear" age, so I think this is all totally normal. Aggravating, but totally normal. DS has recently decided he's afraid of bushy beards, after seeing a store employee with one. His dad has a goatee, so it's not facial hair per se, just long beards.

It's hard when it's an irrational fear to us, but to them it's really real. And the tantrums, well, they take on a new level of intensity at this age, huh? The hysterics I addressed on the "stop crying" thread at the top of the page here. We're not really having any violence issues accompanying it, but I would probably address them as I did when he went through his hitting phase, which is to just validate his emotion and state that while the emotion itself and expressing it is OK, I will not allow him to hurt me in the process. And remove myself from his swing range.

I forgot myself yesterday and started to get into a tantrum/power struggle with DS about some yogurt and a nice shirt he had on that I didn't want to get messy and wanted him to take off while he ate it, but he was seemingly terrified of being shirtless (which he has done countless tiems before with no issue whatsoever), and he absolutely melted down - and I was not helping because I was totally focused on the shirt staying clean (I know, I know - it's just a shirt - in my weak defense, we're traveling and I only ahve a few shirts for him packed - I know, totally weak.). But thankfuly I snapped out of it after a couple minutes and we worked out a solution (a towel tied around his neck like a bib), so the tears stopped and I got a grip.

Three is more challenging in many ways than 2 was. However, 2-1/2 to 3 years old has been my LEAST favorite stage thus far. Thankfully we're past that least, for now. Until the next least favorite stage.

Heather, WAHM to DS (01/04)DD (06/06). Wed to DH(09/97)
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#8 of 10 Old 05-28-2007, 10:30 PM
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yes yes
is all i have to say and maybe "us too"

it feels hard...

but speaking from the end of 3's (my dd turns 4 in aug) i am seeing a lot of the light at the end of the tunnel//

she will on her own choice go under the table to take some space when she starts to freak out sometimes (her choice of place)

she is much better at logic and compromise

and she is capable of a lot more self care and personal freedom..which she really enjoys

i try and connect "big girl fun" with "big girl behavior" like the occasioanl organic sucker, staying up a little late, playing "by herself" in the yard of our small community store (i am watching from teh porch instead of standing right beside her) whatever.

we talk about what big girls say and do when they are angry sad etc and what a younger toddler would....the difference and then what we would NEVER let a baby do...

i try and figure out the difference between her crying out for help via a fit (mostly nasty words and violence more than screaming these days.....but they all surface some .....sigh) vs. her trying to see where the boundary or the rule is for comfort/safety

my child is a tester....and there is a paradox between her testing the boundaries of safety and respect in order to feel safe in that i am going to reign her in when she needs it and then sometimes she acts out because she is trying to express saddness/fear i do use a variety of tools from taking space alone to playful parenting her out of it...

it is hard and yes, lets hope it passes.

lets hope her teenage self is not as rebellious as her toddler self!
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#9 of 10 Old 05-28-2007, 10:51 PM
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#10 of 10 Old 05-29-2007, 08:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone. I know it's pretty normal behavior, it's just hard.
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