How often does your 4 year old have a tantrum? - Mothering Forums

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Old 06-06-2010, 12:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My best friend is not a mom yet (soon), but she has worked with kids as a traveling teacher of sorts. Her and her DH visited recently and she observed DS having multiple meltdowns for various reasons at least a half dozen times a day (during transitions and etc). I told her that his behavior is well within the range of normal and she said that his behavior was definitely NOT normal and she knows because she's dealt with so many kids (vs my experience only dealing with my two...).

Now, DS has had some delays. He didn't start speaking until he was 3 and I know he has some issues comprehending explanations unless they are very simple (again not unusual IME).

I've had time to think about what she said (that there's something REALLY wrong with my DS and his behavior) and it's really bothering me now. I mean, kids don't really melt down around teachers so much. They save all their "release" for the people they trust (their parents) and others get to see the best behavior. I don't believe her assessment is fair. FWIW, we just moved across the country 3 weeks ago and then had my friends here as guests for the last week. All intense things.

What has your experience been with your 4 year old?

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Old 06-06-2010, 12:29 PM
 
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In my experience, my four-year old saved her tantrums for me and her father, and saved her excellent behavior for teachers and others. She had a lot of tantrums during transitions etc as well. I don't know if it's the "almost five" thing, or if I'm getting better at dealing with her (esp with help from Sheedy's Raising Your Spirited Child), but they are improving.

Oh, and I drastically cut her sugar intake and that has helped a lot. She had a tantrum yesterday, after a birthday party with cake and make-your-own-sundaes. Go figure.

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Old 06-06-2010, 01:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks and good point on the sugar. My kids don't do well on it, either.
I'm going to check out that book. DS is pretty intense at times (as is DD). Not that I count, but he could even have over a dozen freak outs in a day (big ones). It's honestly just something I've gotten used to and know he'll grow out of, so I don't keep track like someone who is accustomed to peace and quiet.

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Old 06-06-2010, 01:35 PM
 
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I have a 4 year old who *is* having trouble at school, and 12 tantrums in a day seems like a lot. His routine has been very disrupted in the past couple of weeks, and the tantrums/meltdowns have increased a lot, but we're still nowhere near 12. If the number you are seeing now is artificially high, I wouldn't worry, but if you are used to that many a day, I would do some reading and talk to a professional...
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Old 06-06-2010, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks! I think 12 is a bit high even for him, but I'm honestly not keeping track. I'm just trying to be fair since I know my friend would say he fusses more than 6 times a day. I was thinking more along the lines of him freaking out because we are getting in the car (2 minutes of whining/fussing/being annoying) then another minute once we got into the store because he wants to ride in the back of the cart and not the seat and another fuss because we have to buckle into the car seat again. I'm not talking about screaming fits that last 10-30 minutes (even if a minute or two of yelling/fussing feels like an hour).

It's the kind of stuff I always thought was "normal" behavior until my friend said he should be doing everything happily without fussing about it.
He might have an actual long tantrum 1-2 times if it's a particularly stressful day, but I'm more talking about how he breaks the peace if things aren't going his way (the kind of stuff guests feel like running away from). Today he's had none.

It was a lot worse when we were driving across the country a few weeks ago and he had to spend all day in the car.

ETA- Now I'm thinking I should keep a notebook or something to keep actual track of how often he's melting down. I really only register the times where his behavior stresses me out (like if he really starts screaming in a store or something) and that's like 1-2 times if we are having a "bad" day. The rest is just annoying, but I don't keep a running count.

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Old 06-07-2010, 01:49 AM
 
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I would not let it bother me. You know what is normal for your kids. All of us have judge other parents before we had kids, maybe less now but there is still alot of it going on. Perhaps in a few years your friend will understand your situation better and apologize.
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Old 06-07-2010, 02:05 AM
 
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Your son sounds just like mine - also 4 yp. He was also a late talker and still doesn't communicate as well as his siblings did at his age, and I think that's a big contributor to his getting upset.

Honestly, though, the things you're describing don't sound like meltdowns or tantrums to me. A minute or two at a time because he doesn't like what's happening sounds more like expressing displeasure than tantruming or melting down.
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Old 06-07-2010, 02:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks ladies.
Eclipse- I thought so as well, but my friends were convinced he's broken. No biggie. I do know DS and he'll be just fine. I think I needed to post this thread to really ponder the situation and get some feedback because I was frustrated.

Well, I kept an ear out for any freak outs today and there were 2 minor things that barely registered and then a total meltdown around dinner time. Screaming, kicking, refusing to use the potty, demanding cake, crying huge tears, etc. Because this thread really has me thinking, I immediately started to ponder what the real issue was and asked if he was hungry and suggested some food.
He stopped crying right away and that was that (after 10 minutes of loud).

I see that most of his having a hard time was likely because we had company in our home for a week. Next time, I'll trust my gut. My friend did get me thinking about my parenting approach (which was good because sometimes DS is really a handful), and as a result I have changed a few things and will continue to modify as necessary, but I'm learning to be more confident and not let others sway me so much.

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Old 06-07-2010, 04:38 AM
 
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Several minutes of fussing/whining is not a tantrum, in my book. Heck my 6 year old has multiple instances of that every day, more if it's stressful/she's tired/the phase of the moon is right.

Tantrums = screaming or crying. when dd was 4, she had 1-2 a day, all at home. Plus the whining. Her school teachers were often very surprised to hear how difficult she'd been at home.

I would keep track of your son's meltdowns. It might give you a pattern. It might also help focus speech therapy on areas where he's having trouble.

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Old 06-07-2010, 11:47 AM
 
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I agree. My dd is 4.5 and probably has several BRIEF episodes of whining/fussing per day. Even her more explosive angry bits only last for a few minutes, and are generally around transitions (and when she's probably tired and/or hungry to boot). She is also an absolute doll at preschool-- so I think the assessment of a teacher who has not actually lived with children isn't going to be terribly accurate (though it may be well-intentioned). Fwiw, I've been a bit concerned about dd's anger (which does seem to be more than many of her friends-- but I think a lot is just her intense personality, and not a sign of any "problem"), and have found some useful ideas in "Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids" and "Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline" (as well as many other books, but those are the two most recent!)
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Old 06-07-2010, 11:51 AM
 
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I agree. My dd is 4.5 and probably has several BRIEF episodes of whining/fussing per day. Even her more explosive angry bits only last for a few minutes, and are generally around transitions (and when she's probably tired and/or hungry to boot). She is also an absolute doll at preschool-- so I think the assessment of a teacher who has not actually lived with children isn't going to be terribly accurate (though it may be well-intentioned). Fwiw, I've been a bit concerned about dd's anger (which does seem to be more than many of her friends-- but I think a lot is just her intense personality, and not a sign of any "problem"), and have found some useful ideas in "Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids" and "Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline" (as well as many other books, but those are the two most recent!)
This is us as well. FWIW dd is very advanced so her greatest intensity was around 2.5 and 3.5. Now at 4.5 she's usually fine unless she's tired, hot, hungry, or sick. Some fussing or moodiness but not tantrums like age 3.

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Old 06-07-2010, 12:08 PM
 
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Both of my kids save the best tantrums for me.

My older son had a rough time at 3 and then at 4, then big tantrums slacked off alot. My younger son will be 4 this week and he typically has at least one a day, usually more if he's tired or hungry.
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Old 06-07-2010, 12:21 PM
 
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Your son sounds perfectly normal to me in all honesty!
My son is very similar. He has a lot of meltdowns during the day. But I honestly wouldn't call them tantrums. They are not exactly what he had when he was two or three. They are different. Usually you can simply get through them via talking about the issue at hand. They don't last huge lengths of time either. They last seconds and when the problem is resolved, its almost like it didn't happen! lol
Hes a perfectionist and very very easily frustrated. At four - everything seems like its the end of the world to them! lol

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Old 06-07-2010, 01:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You're all awesome. Thank you!
I love all the book recommendations and I'll definitely see if the library has them.
I call his fussing "tantrums" for lack of a better word. There is often yelling even if it doesn't last long, but it's not a full blown meltdown at all. It's just obnoxious and frustrating at times to deal with.
He is intense and certainly has perfectionist tendencies. He practiced winking with both eyes before he showed me one day he could do it. I didn't even know he was learning it, but he clearly wanted to get it "just right" before sharing.

He's just now beginning to respond to explanations, but before it was pointless because it didn't make a difference. In fact, my other friend (her hubby) was trying to explain to DS why he needed to behave a certain way and I kind of laughed at him and asked him how that was going.
Again, I do think some valid points were raised, so that's a good thing.

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Old 06-07-2010, 01:34 PM
 
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Full-on meltdowns, rarely.

But my middle child went through a few months before he turned five where several times a day he'd be angry/disappointed and clench his fists, turn red, and let me know exactly how he was feeling.

I told him he's allowed to feel whatever he's feeling, but any threatening language ("I will punch you!") or mean talk was disciplined immediately and firmly and he began to find other ways to deal with disappointment.
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Old 06-07-2010, 06:35 PM
 
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DD had daily, sometimes multiple, raging tantrums from 3.5 to 4.5.

She is a spirited child and has a hard time with transitions. I also see her behavior deteriorate if she has eaten a lot of junk, not enough, or had a rough night of sleep.

My sister (masters in special ed, social worker) was always askign my mom what was wrong with DD. She loves to say how her kids will not behave like th

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Old 06-07-2010, 06:49 PM
 
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Too many to count she screams and carries on over the slightest thing yet she doesn't (well not so much) at school. my dd. caitlin is very highly strung she doesn't like to not get her own way and she can be very hyper at times (which is only getting worse since she was putting epilepsy meeds).

Working with children doesn't suddenly make you know what is normal as pp's have pointed out children do often behave more in front of teachers and other none family members, caitlin however doesn't when the hv came for caden's 2yr checks she kept jumping all over me and on the furniture

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Old 06-07-2010, 11:14 PM
 
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My just turned 4 yo doesn't do tantrums, thank goodness. He isn't all sweetness and light of course, but no screaming, crying or anything like that. I was trying to remember the last time he tantrumed and I can't.
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Old 06-08-2010, 01:16 AM
 
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Ok, I hate to be a nay-sayer but your ds sounds a little unusual to me. My ds1 is not quite three and a half and while he has his issues it is nowhere near a dozen or even a half dozen meltdowns a day. But I'd look at the whole picture. How is your ds over all, developmentally? Is he potty trained? Does he play well with other children? How is his eating and sleeping? You mentioned some language delays. Does he get speech therapy? That might really help with the tantrumming.
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Old 06-08-2010, 01:29 AM
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Honestly, he's 4 its normal, and not all kids are the same. My 4 year old niece is sugar and spice and DD at 4 was high needs, constantly throwing tantrums, etc. Your friend should know that.

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Old 06-08-2010, 02:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I've been counting meltdowns since I started this thread. Today he had about 3 small ones (mostly because of brother/sister battles) and one huge one. I took him into my room during the huge one to give him some space and quiet and he fell asleep and took a nearly 3 hour nap (I napped too ). He woke up with a low grade temp, so that probably had a lot to do with it.
I really think he was freaking out a bit due to our move and our visitors. We hadn't traveled much until recently. Only to visit my mom (less than 3 hours drive away) 2 times a year for a night or two.

He has been speaking since his 3rd birthday, but speaks in full sentences now. He is more into mechanical/physical things. He is capable of using the toilet and can stay dry but sometimes it can turn into him resisting and fussing because he doesn't want to. I will only put him in a pull-up at night or he'll mostly pee in his pants all day. He was a really happy and easy going baby and toddler.

He now talks to other kids. He used to run away, so that's a good thing, IMO. I really try and let him do his own thing as much as possible. My kids have evolved at completely difference paces and in different ways and it's hard to know for sure what "normal" is anyway.
His physician never seemed alarmed about his development when she visited with him.

Eh. Lesson learned. I definitely consider new information because it's often useful, but don't let it knock me off balance. My first priority (after taking care of myself) is making sure my children's needs are met. I think I can really work with DS to make transitions easier on him and make sure we are doing what we can to address situations. If it appears that I should have him assessed for speech therapy (or whatever he needs), I'll do that.

I really appreciate hearing opinions and experience from all sides. Thank you!

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Old 06-08-2010, 06:49 PM
 
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Sounds on the high end of normal to me. DD was like you are describing. ITA that teachers see different behavior than parents.

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Old 06-09-2010, 04:46 AM
 
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my 4 yo complains loudly when things don't go her way. i think your friend is in for a rude awakening when she becomes the parent of a 4 year old.

i would not let her comments concern me any more than some "random" person telling you them. you just moved, and had houseguests for a week? that IS stressful for everyone.

those with older kids -- when do 4 year olds "outgrow" this phase? ie, when can i expect to hear, "sure Mom" or even "OK" instead of, "No but..." or "i don't want to" ?

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Old 06-09-2010, 01:19 PM
 
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Three was bad, and he had a few a day surrounding transitions. At four (he turned 4 in February) . . . I really can't think of the last time he had anything I would consider a tantrum. He is pretty much down to asking for what he wants, begging for what he wants, and then saying, "Oh, ohhhhhh-kay," when I don't give in.

The other day, I wanted him to swim to me in the pool, and he was arguing about it. I said, "Ronin, just say 'okay' and swim." He said, "Okay," and swam. Cracked me up . . . he was my "difficult" child as compared to his sister.

I do think it's normal for four year olds to tantrum, but not as much as you've described. I would start looking into it more in a month or so if he is still reacting like that. With company, and a move, it makes some sense . . . but yeah. I tend to agree with your friend.

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Old 06-09-2010, 06:29 PM
 
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It's the kind of stuff I always thought was "normal" behavior until my friend said he should be doing everything happily without fussing about it.
.
that's pretty much how my 4yo is BUT i get the idea from friends etc. that that is abnormal (i had a friend over recently and she was amazed by him; she's the gf of one of ds1's classmate's dad.) if he starts to act up, having tantrums or misbehaving, i know that he is either sick or he needs me to crack down on discipline. that just means that i get super strict and the even a small misbehaviour sends him to the laundry room. a couple of times (or maybe a day's worth on and off) sitting in there until i tell him to come out and we have our well-behaved child back.
and he doesn't get chocolate, except the occasional smarties, b/c that seems to make him crazy.
that said, he is much more sensitive now that he is 4 (making sense of the world?) his first temper tantrum ever in his life came when he was 4 at our friends' house (it was shocking-what do you do with a child who has never had a tantrum?!) there's a little boy who is the son of our dear friends and for some reason, he drives my ds1 crazy. he doesn't get along with him at all. we're working on it though and i'm sure things will be fine again next time we see them. all we do with him is talk about what is going to happen before it happens and he generally does well with that ("so and so is coming over. i expect that you will get along with him as best you can or i'll have to send you to bed early (or sit in the laundry room or whatever)...") he does well with that. and we try to make sure he gets a nap before seeing this other boy. with his 4 yo (almost 5) best friend, he can be left alone (they run around the house, up and downstairs-we don't worry about them b/c they just play wii or with toys) to play with him with not a single problem. same with the little girl next door (she's 3) except we have to make sure they're not off somewhere kissing
i think it totally depends on the kid. i might be back in a couple years when ds2 is 4 saying what do i do with my 4 yo????

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Old 06-09-2010, 06:42 PM
 
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Several minutes of fussing/whining is not a tantrum, in my book. Heck my 6 year old has multiple instances of that every day, more if it's stressful/she's tired/the phase of the moon is right.

Tantrums = screaming or crying. when dd was 4, she had 1-2 a day, all at home. Plus the whining. Her school teachers were often very surprised to hear how difficult she'd been at home.

I would keep track of your son's meltdowns. It might give you a pattern. It might also help focus speech therapy on areas where he's having trouble.
I agree with this, B is 4 and will have several whining fits a day... More if she's had a rough day (over-tired,emotional). Tantrums don't happen everyday, however some days we can have full-out tantrums several times in a row.

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Old 06-09-2010, 06:45 PM
 
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those with older kids -- when do 4 year olds "outgrow" this phase? ie, when can i expect to hear, "sure Mom" or even "OK" instead of, "No but..." or "i don't want to" ?
Oh my goodness.. I hear "But Mama!" more times than I can count in a day, she does come up with some crazy logic to dispute things I ask her to do though.

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Old 06-09-2010, 08:11 PM
 
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I guess for me it depends on what you consider a tantrum or meltdown. My just-turned 4 year old cries easily when he's upset or hurt (see my earlier post about crying), but I wouldn't call them meltdowns or tantrums.

I consider a tantrum to be crying inconsolably because he's not getting his way, not able to do what he wants, or frustrated. The keys for me are
  • being inconsolable or unable to calm himself
  • lasting longer than just a minute or two
  • Not due to being hurt

I would say that by my definition, my son has a tantrum about once every week or two.

OTOH, if you're defining any crying as a meltdown or tantrum, then my kid has 3 or 4 most days.
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Old 06-09-2010, 10:50 PM
 
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tantrum is a thing they would have to outgrow..and that's just but normal for kids.

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Old 06-10-2010, 10:56 AM
 
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Oh my goodness.. I hear "But Mama!" more times than I can count in a day, she does come up with some crazy logic to dispute things I ask her to do though.
ugh yes. if we're talking whining or being argumentative, we've got that going on! 4-year-olds know everything, dontyaknow?

to me, tantrum means screaming fit and uncontrollable crying/yelling/screeching.

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