Temper Tantrums – When to Worry

It's normal for healthy preschoolers to have temper tantrums. Starting to pay attention to tantrum styles may help sort out what's healthy & what's not.

Temper tantrums can be a normal and common part of early childhood, but sometimes they are a sign of a problem that needs to be addressed.

Parents often ask me whether their child’s tantrums are beyond what is normal. When is a red-faced preschooler screaming and flailing about normal; when is the tantrum a cause for concern? What’s too often? What’s too long? What’s too extreme?

Top Five Reasons to be Concerned about Temper Tantrums

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine analyzed the tantrums of 279 children from 3 to 6 years old. Their results were published in the January 2008 Journal of Pediatrics.

They divided tantrum behaviors into aggressive-destructive (kicking others, hitting others, throwing objects, breaking objects), self-injurious (hitting self, head banging, holding breath, biting self), non-destructive aggression (non-directed kicking, stamping feet, hitting wall), and oral aggression (biting others, spitting on others).

The authors suggest that parents need not worry about isolated or occasional extreme tantrums, especially if the child is hungry, overtired, or ill. Instead, they should pay attention to tantrum styles, the overall pattern of tantrums.

They identified 5 high risk tantrum styles and suggest that kids over age 3 with any of these deserve further evaluation by a mental health specialist.

The results of the study are preliminary, and by no means proven, but at least give parents and pediatricians a place to start.

Aggressive Temper Tantrums

If a child shows aggression toward a caregiver or tries to destroy toys or other objects during most tantrums, the child may have ADHD, oppositional-defiant disorder, or another disruptive disorder. Specifically, if more than half of a series of 10 or 20 tantrums includes aggression to caregivers and/or objects, consider an evaluation. Depressed children may also have a pattern of aggression.

Self-injurious Tantrums

By the time a child reaches age 3, a pattern of trying to hurt oneself during a tantrum may be a sign of major depression and should always be evaluated. At this age tantrums that include behaviors such as scratching oneself till the skin bleeds, head-banging, or biting oneself are red flags no matter how long the episodes last or how often they occur. In this study, they were almost always associated with a psychiatric diagnosis.

Frequent Tantrums

Tantrums at home are more common than in daycare or school. Having 10 separate tantrums on a single day at home may just be a bad day, but if it happens more than once in a 30 day period, there is a greater risk of a clinical problem. The same goes for more than 5 separate tantrums a day on multiple days at school.

In this study, when tantrums occurred at school, or outside of home or school, more than 5 times a day on multiple days, there was a higher risk of ADHD and other disruptive disorders.

Prolonged Tantrums

A normal tantrum in this study averaged about 11 minutes (though I’m sure it seemed a lot longer to parents!). When a child’s typical tantrums last more than 25 minutes each, on average, further evaluation is wise.

Tantrums Requiring External Help

Kids who usually require extra help from a caregiver to recover were at higher risk for ADHD, no matter how frequent the tantrums were or how long they lasted. Speaking calmly to your child in the midst of a tantrum, or acting reassuringly, is normal. But if you find you can’t stop a tantrum without giving in or offering a bribe, pay attention. By age 3, kids should be learning how to calm themselves.

It’s normal for healthy preschool kids to have extreme temper tantrums sometimes, and to lash out at people or things on occasion. Starting to pay attention to tantrum styles rather than individual out breaks may help sort out what’s healthy and what’s not, and how to respond.

What’s your experience?

Beldon, AC, Thomson NR, Luby JL. Temper tantrums in health versus depressed and disruptive preschoolers: defining tantrum behaviors associated with clinical problems. Journal of Pediatrics. 10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.06.030. January 2008.

Medical Review on: April 29, 2016
About the Author
Photo of Dr. Alan Greene
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
Get Dr. Greene's Wellness RecommendationsSignup now to get Dr. Greene's healing philosophy, insight into medical trends, parenting tips, seasonal highlights, and health news delivered to your inbox every month.
Showing
50
comments (327 total)
Add your comment

Recent Comments

My five year old has almost daily temper tantrums at home. Never at school but always at home. “you didn’t bring home fried rice for dinner” (we never even had a conversation about this) tantrum; I can’t have cupcakes for breakfast? Tantrum. Time to take a nap? Tantrum; go get dressed? Tantrum; I can’t sleep in mom’s room? Tantrum…I tend to ignore him or repeat myself over and over until he gives up but my husband is not so lucky. Any suggestions?

I hope this is helpful I reaised my grandson who is 25yrs old he still lives with me and almost 3 yrs ago he had a child a boy he is not married and still lives with me his ex girlfriend is basically raising the boy however he stays with me some of the time he is aggressive mean at times refuses to listen and refuses to use the potty like to make in his diaper and wont let anyone change it what can I do to help him become well adjusted

Hi,

My baby is 2.5 years old. We are observing some weird behaviour in afternoon whenever we make her to sleep. She cry, bit uncontrollably. She used to sleep with breast feeding earlier but now her mother is not feeding here. I don’t know why she is behaving like this.

Could you please suggest me here?

Thanks

My daughter-in-law slapped her two-year-old son in the mall repeatedly because he screams uncontrollably. My grandson is extremely aggressive has probably 10 to 15 tantrums a day. My daughter in law will do nothing about it other than slap him and that’s usually after she’s warned him 10 times . I was babysitting for them but refuse to any longer as his aggressive behavior is just getting worse and worse and her idea of discipline is to slap him or beat his ass instead of timeout or actually being a parent.

I’m surprised no one has called child protective services. Have you considered making the call?

My 2.5 year old has extreme meltdowns, but the doctor suspects they are sensory related. He is extremely intelligent; it’s safe to assume he will test profoundly gifted when we decide to get that done. But he doesn’t understand when he’s hungry. It’s like he feels something other than hunger and will refuse food. This can go on for an hour or longer, just screaming. Any thoughts?

I am experiencing a very similar situation. My son is 3.5, has extreme meltdowns, throws toys and is also extremely intelligent. I have never had him tested though. He doesn’t like eating, refuses meat, only drinks milk (we mix with water a few times a day to get him more fluids), doesn’t care about consequences, rage screams on timeout and won’t listen to anything we say. He refuses to do anything we ask him and won’t accept “no”. I just want to get through to him and help him transition. Before he started these tantrums our house was peaceful, we don’t argue in front of him, yell or anything. I feel like my 1.5 year old daughter is being raised in a war zone now. We want peace again. What should I do?

Hello,

i have a daughter who now now 20 months old, she doesn’t have frequent tantrums and might have a tantrum every two weeks, however yesterday she had a tantrum which made me concerned. Her tantrum lasted for over an hour and during the entire time she kept screaming her lungs out, sometimes pulling her tongue out, gasping air and once pulled her hair and hit her hand. I have never experienced such a tantrum. When she normally had it, it would last maximum 10 minutes and she would eventually calm her self down but yesterday all my attempts during the entire hour didn’t calm her down. when her tantrum finished she drank her milk so fast although i am positive she wasn’t very hungry because she ate an hour earlier.
should i be concerned or is this a normal behavior?

I have a 5 year old son who goes to school full time. The problem im having is at school he will punch, kick bite and throw things he has even damaged school property which resulted in meetings with the head teacher.
At home he will attack his sister and myself physically and has bit, pinched, thrown things at us. He even managed to grab his sisters scissors as she was cutting he just snatched them out of her hand and threw them across the room and i couldnt get to him quick enough as there was no warning. Luckily they was safety scissors and noone was hurt.
The school say he hasnt got a problem. Doctors say he may have autism because his speech is delayed but school dont agree.
I just dont know where to go or who to turn to as school are not supporting me but then they keep ringing me telling me i need to take him gp which i do and need support from school to back my claim up my son has problems.
Time out only makes my son worse, I have even purchased calming things like sensory lights etc to try and calm him down and nothing is working.

My daughter has these temper tantrums spells where she will scream at the top of her lungs or swing her body all over the place and she tries to hurt herself, she tries to put stuff in her mouth.
She will throw and pull anything in her reach, she tries to pull on my arms and legs to prevent me from moving. If she notices I’m trying to get up sometimes she will do all those things to the point she falls asleep. She suffers from migraines and also will upset herself that she causes herself to get a migraine.
I have been dealing with this for the last 2 years and at one point she was doing fine, but now it seems she has started back going through this phase. I actually think she might suffer from some sort of disorder. The part that confuses me is she only does not at home with me she has good grades and is a good student overall.

Alicia,

How hard. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

Two questions:
In your last sentence — Does she only do this at home? Or she does not do this at home?
You mention that she stopped for a while — what changed right before she stopped? What changed right before she started again? Think about changes in diet, changes in living situation? A move? A separation? A new baby sitter?

Again, so sorry you are struggling.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

my son is 2 yr old and he makes short and repeated squeals as many times a day everyday. Sometimes it is his way of asking things and sometimes I have no clue why he does that. It makes me disoriented and I shout back not to shout. Though most of the times I try to handle the situation calmly, I have been having lot of difficulty handling this. I’m also equally worried about his physical and mental health. Please advice.

I’m not a doctor, but perhaps you could start by telling him he needs to use start using his words, not noises, to let you know what he needs/wants. It should be done every time he asks for help by making noises. It’s entirely possible you’re rewarding that behavior simply by responding to it, let alone providing what he wants using this behavior. I can’t imagine this would be harmful, but of course, you should discuss this with his pediatrician and provide your concerns.

My son is 3 (turned 3 in August) and he has been slowly starting to have tantrums more and more. They do not happen in preschool, but happen at home, and mostly with me (mom). To make matters worse, his father and I separated in September and I moved to an apartment. The home he grew up in also sold in November, and he has a new house with his dad as well. He has started getting really violent (kicking, hitting, pinching) and throwing toys and belongings, banging on the walls, etc. I have tried to stay as calm as possible but I don’t know what to do about it. I have tried giving him loving touch which seems to make him even angrier. He also gets angry when I try to talk about things after he calms down. I don’t know what to do to support him through this rough time for all of us. And I don’t know if I should be concerned about a larger problem, or if this is potentially situational.

I’m not a doctor but a preschool teach and one thing preschool age kids struggle with is change thier was another site that i saw change can cause tantrums. I believe what is going on is normall developmentally. He has a lot of changes in a short span, the separation and the 2 new houses. That 3 changes in a short amount of time.
I saw this comment was posted in December so hopefully its better now (a month later)

I have a 3year old that I went and picked up across country because my daughter was beat up by her new boyfriend. My grandson kicks the wall, finds chord/strings and puts it around his neck and uses his hand to choke himself. He is always saying, ‘please don’t kill me!’ when he sees we are upset because he is not listening. Yesterday, he woke up and the bed was soaked in sweat. He started telling me about my daughter’s new boyfriend throwing him on the bed and hitting him ‘pow pow.’ I couldn’t go back to sleep because I was crying so much. She lives in New Jersey and I am currently in California. I am in affordable housing, so I do not have the funds for an attorney but as a free consultation, I can not do anything so long as she has a job and a roof over her head for him. This is a 3year old. She doesn’t want to give me temporary custody and I just found out she is back with the guy that beat her. Grandparents do not have rights, and I have called pediatricians to get him seen, but they said that mom has to be the one to take him to the initial appointments. I am unsure as to what my options may be for taking him to get screened on this and possible marijuana exposure. Can anyone please tell me since it is going on three weeks and I am at a loss.
Thank you

I know this was nearly a year ago but I hope things are better for your little grandson. If not don’t give up! You may be his only hope. Do contact social services and don’t take no and keep asking. Also, record him talking about the things that have happened to him and also keep a diary of everything that happens and what he tells you. Also, If your daughter is using drugs she can get on long term birth control and get paid. The organization is called Project Prevention. I only bring this up because you mentioned marijuana exposure. God bless you! And all the other grandparents taking care of the abused little ones.

I’d suggest calling social services and request a well check.

This is the most vague and uneducated article I have read in a while. The evidence is so very skewed and non-reliable. It leaves parents scratching their heads….

I completely agree. Very well put. Thank you.

Trust me, if you had a child that fits one of these descriptions, the article does not seem vague and it’s presenting information that has already been scientifically researched.

I am the caretaker of a 5 year old boy who’s father was killed in a car accident over 2 months ago, he was in the car as well and the first responder said he saw everything. He has daily tantrums (sometimes multiple in a day) whenever anyone asks him to do something he doesn’t want to (brush his teeth, go to bed, eat meals, etc.) or when someone says no to him. His mother just gives in time and time again and refuses to even consider sending him to therapy, when he is clearly in a lot of pain and not expressing in any way other than tantrums. Am i wrong to think shes being neglectful in refusing to seek professional help? I can’t keep watching this kid hurt so badly.

Sounds like she’s likely in a lot of pain herself. I hope they both get the help they need.

I am at my wits end. I have a 3 year old son who throws raging temper tantrums at daycare. He has been going to daycare since he was 6 weeks old (my husband and I both work full time). He was at the same daycare until about 4 months ago. He would have tantrums there but not to this extent. In January, my husband pulled him out of the daycare that he has always been in because “he would get a ‘look’ on his face when he came to the door of his class and the just kind of withdraw when he got in there.” I have to be at work before daycare opens so my husband was always responsible for dropping him off (I never saw this ‘look’). So, my husband pulled him out in January and put him in a new daycare. He was there for 2 weeks and was having such raging tantrums (screaming at the top of his lungs, throwing chairs across the room, dumping out toys, knocking over small book shelves) that he was KICKED OUT OF DAYCARE. We have him in another daycare now and are still having the same problems. ***Side note: We have, in the last 3 weeks, had his tonsils removed because they were almost touching (apparently, this can be like sleep apnea and cause sleep/behavior issues). My husband and I are getting calls from daycare constantly to come pick him up. I think now my son has learned that if he acts crazy like this he can go home, which is what he really wants.

I have tried everything. Positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement. Taking things away. Spanking. We have gone to 2 sessions with a child psychologist and are scheduling more. Like I said, we have had his tonsils out. I don’t know what else to do. Any advice, mommas?

Hi, I feel for you! Is there anyway you could work less hours or go to part time? Obviously this may be impossible but if there’s any way you could cut back hours perhaps this is worth it in the long run…at least you could be there in person for him during this crucial developmental time. This could be part of the tantrums as you mentioned. How is he at home with you? If less work time is not possible I would either go out of my way to meet in person with the staff regularly and establish a relationship and act as a bridge between them and your son so he sees you trust them and even talk about them at home. Or what about a live in nanny? This is so hard, talk to him, hug him when you feel like doing it the least. I have 2 kids under 2 , my 2 year old throws a lot of tantrums I struggle with this as well in our own way.

Have you tried rewarding the good behavior and ignoring the negative? I find that when I give my daughter attention during the tantrum it gets worse, but since ignoring it and telling her “your tantrum is not going to work” then I walk to the other room tantrum then quickly goes away lol.

My son is 3 years old, and has a strong personality, sometimes i feel he is a mini man, he started to go to daycare when he was around 18 months, the kids in his classroom are all around 4 years old and some of them will be 5 years old soon, he doesnt get along with some of them, and when someone pushes him or tries to take things from his hand with force he respond back the same way, i know that they are all kids and that things happend, he learns some bad manners from them but i try to let him stopp doing them without mentioning the name of the kids, because i want him to stop doing the wrong behavor and not accusing other kids, im a single mom and have no one arround to help, so even if i spend good time with him, he has some tantrums that make my days hard, do you think that the fact that he doesnt get along with the kids in the daycare and the age differences is affecting his behavor, especialy that there are some parents who are making their kids behaving bad with my son teeling them that he is misbehaving, his behavor with other kids outside is good and he never act bad or push them especialy when they are younger than him, he loves to share his toys and even food with other kids outside the daycare and he loves animals also, but i feel he gets more angry around the ones at the daycare, not all of them but some boys

Hi, hajar. I’m so sorry to hear your story. I’m a mom of 2 year old son and studying early childhood education. I think your son is getting hard time with other boys. In the battle to possess toys in the childcare, he always would be a loser because he is weaker than them due to his age. In my son’s case, I also have a friend who has a son who is one year older than my son. My son didn’t know how to share yet because he is just 2 years old now, and the 3year old boy is the same. I found that they were keep arguing, and my son became a loser every time so he cried each time. I thought this situation could grow my son’s anger, so I decided to stop doing play-date together until my son and the other boy know about sharing. Even though I’m learning Early Childhood Education, I’m not an expert yet, so my story is not an professional advice. However, as a mom, if your child is continuously getting emotional hurts from peers in the childcare, you strongly talk about it with childcare teacher, so let them prevent this situation, or find other childcare which consists of same age group of children. I hope you can deal with this situation well.

Hi
I’m a mother of 4 beautiful children my oldest boy is a high functioning autistic I am use to outrageous tantrums for him but my 3 almost 4 year old son is exhibiting extreme highs and lows when he’s happy he is everywhere I’ll use the word ecstatic for his highs and for his lows he is extremely aggressive to the point of injuring myself and those around him and himself to the point I have to restrain him to prevent further harm. It seems the smallest thing can trigger him such as a dropped cookie at snack time . his tantrums last up to 2-3 hours and happen multiple times a week sometimes multiple times a week. I have tried talking it out letting him tell me how he feels or why he feels that way I have tried rewarding good behaviours I have tried to notice warning signs as to be able to divert him from his tantrums and I am at my wits end I am physically and emotionally exhausted . on top of dealing with his behavioral health I am struggling with my own mental disorders and just don’t know what to do any more. I do a lot of it on my own as his dad is always at work or school . HELP!!!

Hi Ashley, my 3 year old is low on the spectrum and exhibits many of the same behaviors you state. Something drops, and he yells until I pick it up. Today I told him he had to take one bite of salami then he’d get the cookie he wanted. “First this then that” method only causes a tantrum that lasts until I either give in, or he falls asleep from exhaustion. Today he screamed for three hours straight. He kicked, hit, pulled my hair, and tried to rip my shirt. He is relentless, but I’ve decided to stop giving him his way because it only made his demands stronger. DH came home early to help me, but has a 90 min drive on a good day. Like you, I’m alone all day. DH leaves at 5 am and returns around 8 pm. The EI therapists all gave me the same repetitive techniques about time outs in a tent with favorite toys, telling him to use his words (real effective while he’s screaming bloody murder), or just ignoring it. None of it works. He ultimately shoves me, yanks my hair, or throws things when I stand firm with discipline. I’m not a yeller, and remain calm most of the time. However when he throws things or attacks me, I lose it. I put him in pre k as soon as he turned 3, and in some ways the behavior has worsened. He’s in a special needs class where I fear him picking up more bad behaviors. His teacher cannot offer me any advice on how to handle these extreme tantrums. If so called special ed experts cannot offer anything but text book advice, then what does a frustrated parent do? I’m hoping his developmental pediatrician can offer some insight. I feel very isolated and trapped at home. Simple, short outings to the store turn into a battle, starting with strapping him into the car seat. I can’t talk to anyone about it without being told I’m either “too nice to him” or “that boy isn’t autistic! He’s just stubborn and needs more discipline!” Or worst of all “oh, my kids all behave. I’m lucky I didn’t go through that.” He does not listen to most simple instructions and responds to any technique for discipline with aggression and yelling. I’m at my wits end. Prayers to you, and for all parents in this situation to eventually find a technique that works for each child. “Hugs”

I have a 5 year old that will be 6 in December. He’s an intelligent fun loving little boy, but when things don’t go his way all hell breaks loose. My husband I have tried many reward behavior methods, but they only worked for very short times. My son loves eating out, but I do not want to always reward him with food. The majority of the time his behavior at school results in a RED for the day which is the worst. School has been in for 10 weeks and his teacher has called me at least 4 times. He doesn’t have ADHD/ADD. He knows what he’s doing and knows right from wrong. He knows that he has to follow the rules and chooses not to because he doesn’t want to. We don’t know what else to do! He’s given positive reinforcement as well as consequences for wrong behavior. Any suggestion at this point will be helpful and appreciated.

I’m not an expert, but I am the mother of 5 children. My oldest is now 13. I’ve had a few difficult children, including one with autism and one with OCD/Anxiety. I looked at this site because I have a 3 year old who has some epic tantrums. Pray for me. ;-)
When I saw your post I really felt compelled to respond because of some similarities we went through with one of our children. I remember expressing frustration to a therapist about our son’s interactions with others (sounds a bit like your son). I told her that I was particularly frustrated because we had taught him right from wrong and I knew he knew better. She stopped me right there and said, “that’s a lot to assume about a young child. To put all of that responsibility on him is not fair.” At the time, I thought she was crazy, but have since learned that he had struggles I never realized or understood. My advice to you is to get a mental health evaluation by a health care professional (not one at your school). If you receive a diagnosis, get help from someone who specializes in that disorder/illness. It will be worth it. Good luck! P.S. mental health professionals are notoriously hard to get into. Get on waiting lists and be patient, but persistent! Only you can advocate for your child.

My son turned 4 in August and I am very concerned about his behaviors. He is very intelligent and can almost carry on conversation like an adult. He doesn’t like being around other kids much and is very introverted. He gets very angry and sometimes claws at his face. He has told me that he wants to hurt himself. I am terrified because I have Borderline Personality Disorder and my first self inflicted injury was at 6 years old. My son is exactly like me seemingly in every way. I’m so affraid he will suffer as I have. Do I take him to a Dr or am I being overly paranoid like my husband says?

I understand your distress as this would be an upsetting situation for a parent. From working in a youth mental health centre my advice would be to talk to your doctor, you may not be seen by a specialist but it is worth talking about your concerns. Regardless of that, it is also important how you talk to your son about what is happening. “I see you’re feeling very angry, does that make you want to hurt yourself? Mummy won’t let you do that but lets find other things that help…” Be open and non-judgemental, giving him space to talk and learn new ways of managing intense emotions. Also consider how your own emotional responses may be impacting him, in terms of social modelling. Perhaps get help for yourself around this. BPD affects the way you regulate emotions and your interpersonal relationships, but it is of course possible to develop insight and strategies around this as you may have done already. Hard to be more specific on a page like this. All the best, clearly you care a lot about your son.

Hi.
I am in desperate need of advice. My 6 year old son throws terrible temper tantrums if he cannot get his own way, and is very destructive in the way he behaves. He will shout kick, hit and scream. I have taken him to a pediatrician who did not assess him, but was very willing to give me the script to take Ritalin. I have since taken him to a psychiatrist who was more willing to listen to and pay some attention to my son. He gave forms for the teachers to fill in and will need to go back to see him once the forms have been filled in. It appears when I have spoken to the teachers that he seems to show some symptoms of ADHD, but not all.
I feel that he is not a case of ADHD, but rather has frustration and underlying anger. I do not want him to go onto Ritalin; no matter what everyone says regarding side effects and long term use. There have been many stories about children getting successful results on the medicine, but at the same time there are just as many stories about the negative side effects. My son is going to attend play therapy to see if we can get to the bottom of the anger and tantrums. Is there any there medical syndromes, mental conditions, etc that I could research in this area?
Thank you
Kind regards
Helen Norman

Hi Helen,

You are doing a wonderful job trying to find the cause of your son’s bad behaviour. And it’s to bad the pediatrician wasn’t more attentive. I wonder if he ever suggested to you to check your son’s Blood Glucose?
My 5 years old was acting much like what you are described about your son and then some. It turned out he has Type 1 Diabetes and what was making him act out and throw tantrums was elevated Blood Glucose. He’s much better behaved now, that we started controling his blood sugar levels with insulin. I sure hope your son doesn’t have Diabetes, but I think it’s worth to check his sugar.

Hi Helen, wow, you’re already doing a lot, the psychiatrist, the play therapy and the feedback from teachers. As you can see in the post below, my son goes through some terrible tantrums too, but I would stay away from any medicine and tags such as ADHD, especially when your instinct tells you to. How much do teachers know about this and how qualified and specialized are they in the area?
What I’ve been trying to figure out about my son’s tantrums is the cause. Lately is seems it’s either not getting his way or changes in his routine, such as spending less time with me or his dad. I also hope to find the answer but so far I’ve discarded the following:
1. Leaving my son on his own, as he can break things and even hurt himself
2. Holding him, as it makes it worse
3. Talking or reacting, as it makes it worse too

What triggers your kid’s tantrums?
Amy

I taught my daughter deep breathing, and she comes to me and asks me to help her breath to calm down almost every tantrum. I wonder if this falls into the last category of needing external help. She really can’t do the deep breathing all by herself- she needs me to breath with her. But, it is internally motivated that she willingly comes to me to ask me to help breath with her. Should I be concerned?

Mommy,

I think it’s fantastic that she recognizes she needs help and asks you to help her. Of course, the goal is that she can do this on her own so she can be in control when you’re not around. Perhaps you could help her get to that point by shortening the time you work with her each episode. In the meantime, good work on your part helping her find a way to master what can be a very difficult time.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I am at my absolute wits end. My son is six years old in two weeks, only child, I’m a single parent and the only parent in the picture since infancy. I am the Director of an ECE program, and have always been as understanding and patient as I can be of how my child copes with loss – and of his difficulties communicating because he also had a speech delay. (He no longer has the speech barrier, as I sought out help early and hes right on track.)

The fits started at five.

Words cannot explain the pain, confusion, and frustration I feel now.

I just want to help him. If he does not get his exact way; he will hit, kick, bite, punch, slap me… And he’s a big child for his age, it really hurts when he hits me. I have bruises all over my legs from being kicked. But that’s a good tantrum, that’s best case scenario. Worst case scenario? My child will accompany me to work when hes out of school, if he throws a fit there I can expect to have chairs thrown at me. He’ll throw books, he’ll slam doors… and then there’s the high pitched screaming “I HATE YOU”. He does this at home too, except for the chair throwing – the chairs at home are too heavy and large to chuck at me. Trying to alleviate the fit I’ll set out some books in a quiet space or in my comfy desk chair and try to give him space. That worked once for maybe five minutes, now he just completely trashes whatever area I send him to. My desk? Every single pen, piece of paper, EVERYTHING will be thrown at me. Quiet reading area? (Area with soft pillows, large soft mats, a bookshelf, felt stories and story board, and books.) He will literally throw everything. Everything.

He started biting again on Monday during a particularly fun fit. I asked him to wait his turn to line up for a snack – he responded by full on attacking me and swinging at me. I tried to hug him to immobilize him and hopefully calm him down, he responded by twisting around and biting me as hard as he could four times.

He’s started getting insanely jealous – I can’t go anywhere public without him losing it if I even coo at a cute baby in another persons cart. He’s started lying to authority figures, such as myself, also people like doctors. “My mommy doesn’t let me brush my teeth.” Is one of the new fun ones. “I have skin bugs and mommy doesn’t believe me or take me to the doctor.” He has no skin bugs, I took him to the doctor twice. He has eczema which I’ve treated since he was an infant. He slaps me when I put on his lotion or screams at me until I give up and walk away, so yeah, he’s itchy. Ditto to the toothbrushing. I’ll ask him to brush his teeth, and he told me no. I push it and he’ll scream at the top of his lungs for thirty minutes.

I cut him off from technology. I cut him off from having friends or family visit if he throws a fit. I try to offer good incentives – he wants a cat, so I told him he has to have some time without any fits first, because kittens get scared easy and he needs to be able to help care for it too. Nothing motivates him. Nothing helps.

Tonight, I was organizing his toys after a play date, I asked him to brush his teeth while I put away the toys, he refuses. I told him to go to bed if he wasn’t going to brush his teeth. He refuses and starts to argue with me that he needs tv time. I say, “Ok, no treats tomorrow when we go to the store, if you wont brush your teeth, you can’t have sweets because the sugar bugs will give you cavities.” Ensue him arguing and another screaming fit. So I pick him up, put him in bed, continue my cleanup. He starts his high-pitched screaming again… And I lost it. I slapped him. I can’t take it anymore. Hate me and judge me, please, if you would like to spend a day dealing with nonstop screaming fits from a six year old that’s almost taller than you and already is stronger than you… and you can do better… be my guest.

I feel terrible, but I am getting to a point where I think I’m losing my mind. He’s usually okay with other people, but with me, every time he doesn’t get his way, he argues endlessly and will literally attack me. I’ve done everything I can do, professionally, and as a parent. I can’t swat him on his buns because he will just look back at me and scream louder. Consequences don’t work, he won’t respect boundaries and stay in his bed, taking things away provokes him to follow me around and scream at the top of my lungs that he is taking things away from me.

I am tearing my hair out. I feel like this is all my fault. The guilt is eating me alive. I don’t want to take my son to a doctor that will tell me to ignore the fit – it’s pretty hard to ignore having a chair chucked at your head (and hitting you if you don’t dodge quick enough). I don’t want a doctor to drug him until he isn’t the same person anymore. I don’t believe in corporal punishment, it doesn’t work, and it makes me feel like a crappy parent. My child is literally leaving bruises and marks on me – and there is absolutely no way to calm him down. I don’t know what to do anymore. Please help me…

I also have a 5 year old Grandson who lives with me. I am 56 years old and I am doing everything I can to take care of him. He does the exact same things to me that your son does to you. He was suspended from Kindergarten this past week for 3 days for having a melt down at school and throwing chairs at students and the substitute teacher in the classroom, as well as throwing crayons and hitting another student in the ear and trying to hit students with other items that were thrown. When the assistant principle went to try and calm him down, he had to physically pick my grandson up and carry him to the front office, with my grandson kicking and hitting the whole way to the front office. I was called to come and pick my grandson up. When we got home, my grandson threw a big hard plastic object at my head which hit me in the eye, knocked my glasses off and caused my eye area to swell and hurt. The next day, he head butted me in the face and my nose has now been bleeding for 3 days and my teeth are hurting and my soft pallet hurts and my face hurts. I have been debating going to the emergency room to see if my face is broken or what is wrong with my face now…….My grandson started having episodes around 2 years old……He was abused by his biological father and my daughter got custody with her court paperwork showing she got ~365~ days a year with her son and her husband she was divorcing got ~0~ days. My daughter has now not had a job in right at 2 years and 6 months ago my grandson came to live with me, with my daughter give me power of attorney showing that my grandson is now living with me…..The first thing I did was add my grandson onto my foodstamps and sign him up for insurance. Getting his insurance changed from the state he was in to my state, took my contacting the insurance company here in my state as well as in his state and not giving up on getting this done……..The insurance company in my state would not give him insurance until the insurance in his state was cancelled and the insurance company in his state would not cancel his insurance just because I had a notarized letter from his mother that he was now living with me. It took several months of 3 and 4 phone calls and sending faxes every day to the insurance company in both states…….The insurance company was the same company just in 2 different states so it took a lot to get him on the same insurance, just in my state…….so that was finally accomplished. As soon as I got that done, I scheduled him an appointment with a Neurologist who deals with children’s issues. I then scheduled him an appointment with a primary care physician that I had done some research on, that had gotten high scores from other parents whose children saw this physician. It took 3 weeks to get in with the primary care physician and 4 weeks to get in with the Neurologist, so this saved me a lot of time and not having to wait longer to get in with the Neurologist. I let the primary care physician know that I had already scheduled a Neurologist appointment and the name and address of the Neurologist and she did a referral over to them for me as she stated my grandson did need to be seen by a Neurologist and the one I had chosen (based on online research late at night after my grandson went to bed), was and is a wonderful Neurologist and highly sought after……..So, we go for our Neurologist appointment, and my grandson was his normal hyperactive self….jumping all over the place, climbing on everything, etc……It is exhausting, he has an excessive amount of energy and he does not sleep during the day or at night, he is very aggressive both at home and at school, he has to have everything the same at all times…..from getting up at the exact time to eating at the exact time…..to eating the exact same thing every day (and it gets hard to eat spinach pizza every night for supper, every day 7 days a week). The only thing that is not the exact same every day is going to bed time, because he has a very hard time going to sleep. Some nights, I go to sleep and he is still awake lying in the bed wide awake. He refuses to sleep without me beside him in the bed, and he has to have his hand on my face and one of his legs over one of my legs. When he finally does go to sleep, if I move at all, he is wide awake and talking to me, asking me where am I going. I honestly think he is scared I am going to leave him. I know he missed his mommy because he tells me he does, but he also tells me that he loves his mommy but that he also loves me and he does not want to live with his mommy because she is nasty and her house is always nasty, but he does not want to hurt her feelings when she tells him she wants to get him back after she gets a job.

My grandson’s Neurologist started him out on Adderall and it made him 4 times more aggressive. He was suspended from Kindergarten and was made an emergency appointment with his Neurologist. His medication was changed to Ritalin and he is doing much better, although he still gets aggressive (as shown by the hitting me in the eye and the head butting my face this past week), but he is much, much better than before. He is scheduled for psychometric testing in January as that was their soonest appointment for the testing. I have also scheduled for my grandson and I to go to a behavioral therapy program which will help both of us learn how to deal with stress and how to deal with his behavior issues and what ever else may be wrong with him. I know there are some mental health issues with my grandson. I don’t know what those issues are yet, but I want to be ready for both him and myself both, to deal with his issues.

This has been a struggle for both me and my grandson. I am scared of him on occasion as it seems like he is not himself and almost as though he is someone else completely when he is angry. His face changes and his eyes half close and he looks under his half closed eyelids and his voice changes……Remember, this is a small, skinny, 5 year old…….Nothing stops his behavior…….I used to spank him…..that did not work and made his behavior worse…..I tried time out…..that did not work and no matter how many times he is put back in time out he would get out (3 hours of physically putting him back in the chair every 2 minutes was all I could handle)…….taking things away do not work (if you take something of his, he will break something of yours)……I try to find ways to keep him calm, as I get horrible migraines with the tantrums/meltdowns he has…….He scratches me, he hits me, he makes me bleed, I will wake up to him having a plastic sword or a plastic toy that is sharp and him trying to cut my throat with it when he gets mad.

I know what you are going through and you are not alone in this……I feel like I am living in a nightmare. I am hoping that whatever is wrong with my grandson can be found and together we can work on making my home a place that is calm and safe.

WOW! I can’t imagine living like this. I raise 5 sons and at one time a single parent. Stop the understanding is my advice. Your the grown up he is the kid. You tell him your the mom he is the child. You don’t hit me. Stop now! Your not going to get everything you want. He screams you have really big voice. I can hear you. What does he do all day. Structure his day and ignore some of his behaviors. Be consistent with structure. This may sound easy. Take some self defense classes and learn deflection tactics. When his hand goes up to hit you you stop it. Say NO in a firm voice. I won’t let you hurt me. Give him a pillow to hit. You can hit the pillow not me. Follow through on direction. I’m sorry you didn’t get what you want I can’t always give it to you. He is old enough to be in a sport where he can work off some of that energy.
Have you ever read parent effectiveness training.,Listing and communications skills. i listen to these stories and I’m in awe. Follow through on what he is to do. You should be enjoying this child. Boys can be lots of fun. Does he help you cook, play games make cookies , play board games laugh take walks hick a ball around,eat pop corn and watch movies There can’t be much fun in your home. Find something good about him and that he is good at and recognize it. I don’t think change can be easy.

You’re not alone. My 5.5yo daughter has MANY of the same behaviors you described. It’s unbearably frustrating and embarrassing and depressing. I have a 7mo at home, too so things have really escalated. I have to restrain her to keep her from hurting me and destroying the house. Though she is a perfect angel at school, with other friends – but with me she is out of control. I can’t ignore her because she will hurt something. I can’t walk away because she follows me and unlocks doors. It’s a living nightmare. My husband is deployed and she’s really not dealing well. We are scheduled to see a counselor soon. I’m hoping for some guidance then.

Your son may well require counseling and medical intervention. I’m at the point where anything can help. I’m with you in spirit and solidarity. I hope you find some help, soon.

I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this

2 Year old son likes to bang his head off of everything even paivment he doesnt even have to be angry he also wakes up 2-3 times a night screaming and bannging his head what does this mean?

Hi Kyra, I know you sent this message a while ago. I hope your son is getting better. Has pain been excluded as a cause? As that was my first thought when I read your post. My son is on the autistic spectrum and whenever he is ill, even now at 16 and fully communicative, he can not really identify himself that he feels unwell, as he seems to lack the self-awareness. I don’t know if this is the same for all 2 year olds, but just my experience.

4 year old is constantly worried about looking pretty. Frequently putting on make up and changing clothes till she is ok with how she looks. Also after every meal asks if her belly looks too fat. Is this normal?

This is something she is mimicking. Might be on TV might be mother, Aunt, siblings, siblings friends ECT. But this is learned.

I don’t think that kids that young should be concerned or even aware of body image. Maybe ask around some more. That is just my opinion.

Hi. I have a daughter who turned 2 last week. She was a calm and quiet little girl who rarely cry and seemed to have high pain tolerance. However, she became ill a week before her second birthday and everything changed after her recovery. She became edgy and throws tantrum about literally everything. She hates it if someone tries to talk to her or offer her anything. She throws objects and kick and cries and she wont stop unless you hold and carry her. I’m really worried about her and i missed the nice little girl she was.

Talk to your pediatrician about PANS/PANDAS. It’s a behavioral symptom to an infection following an illness.

I’m sorry for this. Has the little girl recently had any vaccines Pryor to her 2nd birthday?
I don’t like any vaccines, they are very bad.
You may disagree that’s ok, just think when she had her last shot!

Sylvia

Hello, I have a 2 1/2 year old , she was our foster daughter that we adopted in February. She throws tantrums sometimes I know what is upsetting and other times have no idea what triggered her to get upset. Some of her tantrums have lasted 25 minutes, but I would guess they average 10 minutes. She stiffness up her body if you try to pick her up , she at times bites her self or an object. How do you know when these are typical toddler tantrums or if there is an underlying issue. I know there is mental health diagnosis in her bio family and she has been moved a lot between her mom and foster care system for all of her life. When do I seek medical attention ?

Adoption is a wonderful gift. This little girl is very lucky she found you.

My ex-husband was adopted. His adopted parents were very loving. He had issues (thus ex-husband) that he couldn’t work through as an adult. I’d say, even if these are just normal two-year-old fits, it’s smart to get counseling. Pediatric therapists are trained to draw deep feelings out of kids. That way you’d at least know.

I have an 8 year old girl that just started about 3 months ago with aggressive tantrums that get physical. Screams hits kicks name calling. Nothing seems to calm her down. If you ignore it it gets worse. She is seeing a doctor now and all she wants to do is talk. Any advice?

Like us, kids also need to get their anger out and as a parent, you need to ensure that they vent in a non-destructive way. The next time your child is crying or whining, get them engaged in something interesting so he or she completely forgets about the meltdown. Interestingly, kids have pretty short attention spans and their minds are easiest to divert. So the next time your child wants to buy every toy at the supermarket and become a ticking time bomb, try something to quickly switch gears and say “hey, can you help me pick a flavor for ice cream?”

my daughter was 4 in December, and started a new nursery in sept last year, since Christmas she has started to had awful tantrums at nursery, hitting the teachers, chucking chairs, and toys, so much so the teachers tell me they have to send the other children into the other room for there own safty, I’m shocked because she has never done this at home, not like this never hits out or even chucks thing, don’t get me wrong she has had her moments of trying to get her own way, but still this is becoming a every day thing at nursery, iv had meetings, and now the dep head is getting involde, they are keeping a diary and trying to work out whats triggering it, today was a book she wanted, this is not her first nursery setting, she went to another for a year before this and was never like this, I’m starting to think they think there is more to it, adhd ect I just don’t no why she is like this, again I stress she has never been like this at home, I try to talk to her but she just says I don’t want to talk about, it, feeling help less at the moment, wondering what the next nursery day will be like, and if she has hit again, there is 2 preagent ladys as well and its starting to scare me, although iv not seen her hit the teachres , or any of her behavior, just what they tell me, they look at me for answers and I just don’t no,

Change nursery care asap!

Hello everyone.I am glad to see that I am not alone.I have a 2.5 year old little boy who has at least 6 breakdown die hard tantrums per day.His tantrums scare me because he often bangs his head against walls, throws himself to the ground and throws his head back, and most recently he has began to slap himself in the face really hard when he doesn’t get his own way.I have tried time outs (do not think he grasps the concept at this age) redirection, and giving him space when he needs it, but engaging myself with hi when I feel he needs me. He talks, but not yet in full sentences and for the most part only I can understand him.He is also a biter (bit my older son 2x breaking skin and leaving scars both times) and he is a thrower (breaks remotes, phones, tablets) when ever he is angry. I am trying my best to be patient and tell myself this too shall pass.However, deep down I really feel his behavior is NOT normal. He is grabbing my face throwing a fit as I am writing this.Any advice would be appreciated.Thank you in advance.
Faith

Watch associations and take him to a very good highly recommended therapist. Someone that cares about children and has a good history. Don’t just rely on anyone talk with your Pediatrician, check the ratings of the therapist. Any new people in his life lately or any changes in daycare or babysitters. Sisters and brothers have new friends? Do not spank him please, love him hold onto him when he is going through this be patient. Little children can suffer, depression, anxiety, ptsd, all kind of things. ADHD. My sons behavior was identical to this, I failed to get the very best therapist and the experts he needed. I thought all the experts were helpful any could help. This is not anywhere near close to the truth. Check their education,degrees, tolerance, and get recommendations. Talk to your child’s Pediatrician.

hi my name is Tanya I’m 21, and have a 28 month old son who is exactly the same as you described in your post. I have suspected that he has some sort of learning difficulty since he was under one years old but no one would listen the just though he was slower than kids his own age, he has never met a milestone and only speaks one word at a time doesn’t know very many words but he echoes the last word i say, he will pick new things up like words, or movements up but then drops then just as fast, he has his own language that I and other close relatives can understand he has a very bad temper that can be triggered off by the slightest little thing, for example craft time if my daughter touches anything he will take a massive tantrum, have noticed he’s started to bite things not other people yet thankfully, he grabs my face so tight his nails cut the skin, he bands his head of walls and smashed TVs or anything he can reach, but also he can be the loveliest little boy in the world comes up cuddles and kisses you for no reason, rubs my back if I’m feeling sick, took him to see a ped and he had an episode not his biggest but still fairly aggressive and the ped agreed with me that he had some sort of learning difficulty

My twin boys are 6 when they throw tantrums that don’t stop until the situation goes how they wanted it to go to begin with. They never do it at the same time, they behave great at school and church but at home they don’t. We have rules and do positive and have tried negative reinforcing as well as a few swaps on the butt, but nothing is working. Points system worked for a few weeks till they had a great week and got their reward..

Advice would be appreciated. Thanks

hi! I’m a nanny (I’ve been doing this for a LONG time..majored in the field and just find that it’s a career that suits me) and I care for a 16 month old girl. She’s been displaying signs of tantrums with me since she was 6 months. I’m not joking. I used to record it because it blew my mind that a literal infant could be so in control of their screeching for so long (could scream for 20-30 minutes, be picked up, completely change her mood and start smiling/giggling instantaneously, then resume screeching if put back down). Now, she does this every day when the parents leave, every nap time, and every time the parents are home and she knows it and they aren’t holding her. (keep in mind she doesn’t screech at me if I’m not holding her/giving her complete and undivided attention like she does with her parents). Today, dad left and she screamed in such a way that I promise she’s doing long-term damage to her vocal chords…and she did that for 45 minutes straight before becoming so exhausted that she had to stop. I asked her, as I always do, “are you done?” and she perked up a bit and responded (like a happy grunt she uses when she recognizes an upward inflection..which would indicate a question..she does that or says “yah!”). When I got up to go sit by her, her immediate response was to get up when I did and reach out to be picked up (context, her dad gives in after a max of like 15 minutes of screaming..mom gives in after about 30 seconds and they almost always resort to picking her up; if not that, turning on the tv for her or sitting with her and doing complete parent-led play). I told her “no, we’re sitting down, why don’t you play with your baby?” and I handed her her baby doll, which she held onto. I then sat down, but not close enough that she could touch me, climb on me, or try to force me to direct her play (which she almost always does) and so she immediately started full-blast screeching again. I waited 10 seconds and said “are you done?” and she immediately turned it off, perked up and did the same thing again. So I said “are you fine? you seem fine.” and she kept responding in her “happy” grunts, and so I said “okay, so let’s play with some toys” and she threw the baby down, threw herself down, and screeched again for another 5 minutes until she was so worn out that I put her down for a nap…and I can guarantee she was not tired when the tantrum started 45 minutes before. Also I’m not just letting her scream for 45 minutes..she has moments where she’s climbing on something or thinks she hears someone so she completely stops to focus on that, so I take those moments to ask her if she’s done and offer her a toy (because it is her play time, which we have at that time every day), to which she turns the tantrum back on and reaches out to be picked up. I’ve experimented with picking her up, in which she stops completely and starts pointing at things and making happy sounds and tries to get me to flip her backward (she loves to fling herself backward and be held upside down) but the change is so instantaneous that it’s as if she wasn’t just screaming her brains out. So, of course, thanks to my degree, I was able to spot that as a red flag for manipulation and I absolutely never pick her up when I recognize these tantrums. She throws these long tantrums every day, at least once. And the screeching at her parents when they aren’t holding her or giving her undivided attention is 90% of the time. It’s like she’s living in a perpetual tantrum that is only broken when her parents give in…so she doesn’t nap in a crib for them. she still sleeps on them for EVERY nap because she’ll scream (I believe they told me for half an hour) which they can’t handle so they pick her up instead of seeing if waiting it out longer will make a difference. She sleeps in their bed with them at night, which she has her entire short life. They still give her milk out of a baby bottle at night because apparently she throws tantrums without it. she goes all day with me without her pacifiers, but they give them to her immediately when she screams. mom just told me the other day that she “demands” to sit in a sling on her chest for an hour every day when she gets home from work. it’s insane. I’m just the nanny, so I don’t know how much I can actually do…but I KNOW so much of this is parenting..but I guess I’m wondering how much of it isn’t? The mom is a pediatrician..she is completely normal in her physical and mental development. So..what can I do when it’s just her and me to alleviate some of the drama? I refuse to give in like her parents do..I can’t bear to see her grow up with an oppositional defiant disorder..or worse..and it be partially because of my doing. I’ve dealt with older kids with ODD and it’s notttttt pretty. But it feels like that’s the direction she’s headed and I want to do whatever I can to change that direction.

I don’t know if this is the right position for you, and I can tell by the very literal and factual way this was written that you are probably not a parent yourself. Children are not a expierent for you to test out and train. This poor little girl spent the first 9 months of he life being swished to sleep by the warmth and love of her mothers womb. Her parents (with the most loving intentions) brought her into this world and are raising her, in the best way they know how… with LOVE. So many adults deal with abandonment and depression issues because their emotional needs were not met as children. They weren’t picked up when they felt the most vulnerable, so they learned to be calous and hard and insecure. This tiny toddler depends on you and her parents to console her and talk her through her feelings, instead of arrogantly asking “are you done?” Maybe try “I’m sorry your upset, let me give you a hug, your not alone I’m right here and mommy and daddy will be home later.” She needs you and it breaks my heart to hear the tone in your writing that basically assumes she is some jerk that manipulates everyone, it’s your duty as her caretaker to give her the tools to work through her tough feelings that she doesn’t know how to work through yet, it’s your job to be patient and it’s your job to give her the love that her parents wish they could. Don’t judge the parents for sleeping with her, that is our biological norm!

I AM SO GLAD TO READ THIS!!! I’m literally in my room with the door closed trying not to cry my 21 month old has the exact same tantrums and she only does it with me and dad. I know I’ve been giving in too much but I’m at the point of trying to not give in anymore so i put her in her crib cause she started the screeching and kicking in her chair all because she didnt want anymore yogurt. I mean its literally 5-10 tantrums a day and i am LOSING MY MIND!! My husband is more firm he’ll just let her cry but the cry and screeching is so annoying i just cant deal I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO!!

Hi I have a 7 1/2 year old daughter who constantly has tantrums at home and has uncontrollable screaming and crying. She goes on to hurt others near her or break objects around her. She starts theres tantrums for no apparent reason e.g. She loses a game on her iPad against her brother. Is there anything I should be worried about? If so who should I go and see?

when there is regular aggressions on humans or animals, it’s usually a red flag for something psychiatric going on. Not necessarily extremely serious, but without intervention, it can become more serious. Intervention could be as simple as going to a behaviorist and getting individualized tools to use when the tantrums occur (or how to recognize triggers and warning signs to intervene before the tantrum even occurs) to slowly change the behavior…and not necessarily having to go to regular therapy with the behaviorist/therapist/etc…depending on where she’s at behaviorally and/or mental-health-wise. But I would definitely seek out a professional more than just your primary pediatrician for those simple tools I mentioned. A child therapist is one route, but I would recommend a behaviorist unless mental illness is suspected. Just my two cents!

Hello! I have a 2 1/2 year old foster son who is displaying violent tantrums. He communicates very well and can speak full sentences so I know communication is not the issue. The other day we were at the dentist office and he was jumping on the furniture in the waiting room so I made him get down and come sit next to me. He didn’t like that and completely lost his temper with me. He began screaming at the top of his lungs, kicking and lunging at me trying to bite me. After several attempts of trying to bite my arm with no luck he finally took his nails and scratched up the top of my hand to the point of it bleeding. I had to take him out to the car and after a few minutes he calmed down. I was shaking because his level of aggression scared me. Whenever he doesn’t get his way he automatically resorts to screaming, hitting, biting and throwing whatever is in reach. It happens about once a day. These are not normal 2 year old temper tantrums. He has been seeing a behavioral therapist once a week for 2 months now and nothing has changed. He doesn’t sleep well at night either which has been another constant battle for us. If we leave him in his room he will just scream for hours and if he does fall asleep he will wake up in the middle of the night screaming which wakes us up and my school age daughter. The only way we can get a decent night sleep is if he is in bed with us. He can be very sweet and loving and responds well to being nurtured, but when it comes to structure and discipline we see the violent rages. Any advice?

just some encouragement–two months isn’t really long enough to see much of a difference with any kind of therapy. Give it a few more months at the least. I would also recommend a child therapist (mental health) because his behaviors are commonly seen in children with even just minor mental health issues..and kids from the system typically have rocky backgrounds that need to be worked through. And you’d be surprised how much a good child therapist can help even a 2 year old!

Hi i have a 3 year old son who doesnt talk very well. we have him getting help at head start for his speech and his social comunication with other children at school. He has bee in head start for half a year now and its seems the more he goes the more he throws a tramtrum just for having to get on the bus to go to school then throws one while getting off the bus to go into school and then throws one when its time to come home. I was told he does try to bite but hasnt done it in sometime but when he does throw a fit he dead weights himself to the point where you have to litterally bend your knees just to pick him up off the ground or he will dead weight himself while your holding him just to try to get him in his seat or into the car or even out of the store. I usually count to ten to myself at home when he throws fit but he never throws a fit at home it always when he has to go to school. I just started working so his father is home with him in the evenings while i go to work from 4 to midnight or whenever i get off work, i have tried everything from comforting him or trying to get him to show me why he is upset or even by letting him pick what he wants to do or pick a toy to take to school with him. Please i dont know what else to do and i dont want his teachers to keep having problems with him. like i said i have: tried everything to get him to calm down he sleeps from 7 pm to 6:30 am. he doesnt eat for the teachers so then i make him something when he gets home. I try to make sure he has a good balanced meal. If you guys have any tips on what i can do to help him i would greatly appreciate it.

Shawna,

Thanks for writing in.

When a child has problems communicating their thoughts, desires and needs, they can resort to tantrums either out of frustration or just to let you know they need something different than what they are getting. From reading your comment it sounds like that may be what’s going on. Have you had him evaluated by a pediatrician or a behavioral specialist? If there isn’t a reason he doesn’t speak well yet, they may help you find a professional to help with his speech development.

I hope that’s helpful,
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi,
We are having some concerns over our 4 1/2 year old daughter.
She had been having some pretty intense and quite frequent tantrums. At least once a day, and they will last hours. If she becomes unhappy at bedtime and falls asleep like that then she will wake in the night shouting and screaming still.
Usually they start because she doesn’t like something that myself or her father are asking her to do (which is normally a very simple thing)
Her cheek goes down to her shoulder and her face looks sullen and moody. At best. At worst, she shouts and screams and will not respond to us
Even if we were to “give in” to her she would no longer want that and will continue tantruming. She will bite at her clothes, sort of scratch herself but only once badly. She can be verbally aggressive “hate you” and knocks chairs over and slams doors.
During a few nice conversations she has said some slightly concerning things, i.e. I don’t like being me.
Not really sure what to do really. Do we seek further professional help (who?) or as she is so young just carry in and monitor?,

Msiu,

Thank you for writing in.

At 4 1/2 frequent, significant tantrums warrant being checked out. If you’ve discussed this with her pediatrician and haven’t been helped, consider a behavioral specialist or behavioral therapist. You can locate one in your area by calling the nearest Children’s Hospital and asking for a referral.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi there, my son is 3 and he has very violent tempertantrums. He has a younger sister who is 2. He throws about 20 tantrums a day. Screaming throwing toys hitting punching kicking you name it. I thought it was normal but after today a incident happened where his little sister grabbed one of his little toys and he shoved her into my table and she had to get 5 stitches in her head. Now his father and I are thinking there is a serious problem we have tried every single approach I read about and heard from family and friends. We are exhausted and don’t know what to do. Please if you can tell us some ideas or recommend what specific type of evaluation he needs please. Thank you

Natasha,

I am so sorry you’re going through this. It’s tough to give you suggestions if you’ve already tried “every single approach”. Does that include having him examined by his Pediatrician? How about a Behavioral Therapist? Those two doctors would look for different things and it sounds like it’s time to engage with qualified professionals to help you find the root cause and treatment or an approach you haven’t already tried.

Sorry I can’t provide more help.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Okay, so my daughter is One Years old. She can be an awesome baby but sometimes her mood just switches and she starts to hit, bite and starts to throw things all while crying. She always hits herself. I don’t know what to do because she is so young but should I be worried?

Hi Shanta,
Thanks for writing in! I’m sorry to hear about the tantrums, that sounds rough.

The best way to figure out your child’s issues is to keep a detailed log of timing of food, what food she eats (or what you eat if you’re still nursing), activities, TV or screentime, sleep, sickness, bowel movements — literally everything you can think of — and determine if there are any things in common before the outbreaks. Remember, if it’s a food trigger, it could be a while between eating and the outbreak.

If keeping a detailed log feels overwhelming, try logging one thing for a week and seeing if you can make any links, then the next week log something else.

I know this is a lot of work, but so is having a child who is struggling. Please do log back in and report your findings.
Hope that helps!
Alexandra (caring helper at drgreene.com, not a doctor)

I have a three year old little girl. Her behaviour is worrying. From the time she was one til now she screams all day every day. She can be sitting there and start to scream. She will not sleep at all. She holds her breathe and bites herself. She also tries to eat odd things. She would rather eat paper than food. I havent slept in a week bc she wont sleep no matter what. Please help im exhausted

Rebecca,

How exhausting and worrying. Have you discussed this with her doctor. There may be an underlying medical issue and even if there’s not, it’s likely smart for her to have a physical exam to rule out issues.

So sorry you’re going through this.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi there,

My son is 5 and will be 6 in April, he has very extreme tantrums, every day, violent and aggressive, argumentative and sarcastic. He cries at the drop of a hat. It takes a long time to calm him down and nothing ever seems to get through to him. No form of punishment or reassurance or ignoring has worked. It’s ruining our home life. He is emotionally very immature but seems fine at school. He cries what feels like all the time, but at school he is fine. He can’t voice why he is so angry or aggressive. At home he is restless, can’t sit still, cant concentrate but at school they see no issue. What could be wrong? Is it something we have done badly as parents? He can’t seem to hear things we ask or say but he has had his hearing checked and his hearing is fine. He is so frustrated and angry. Do you have any suggestions?

I wonder if he’s been tested for auditory processing delay. I say this as my daughter at 7 is just now being tested for this, and I understand that often times we don’t know a child has this until around 6-8 as it’s hard to test before this. My daughter too has awful tantrums right now, they were better for a while and now seem worse. For a long time now I’ve noticed that she understands better if I ask her to look at me and then repeat back what I say to her. I would think a child’s world would feel so much more intense on top of all the stresses and pressures a child of 7 goes through, if they have anything more going on. Good luck, whatever it is that is causing the tantrums, I hope you find a solution.

Maxine,

How difficult. I’m so sorry you’re going through this with your son.

With tantrums, it’s important to try to determine the root cause or causes and your son may not know. Two very common triggers are being overtired and being hungry.

Other triggers can include high glycemic foods. That would obviously be candy, juice, desserts, but could also be white rice, bread and other carbohydrates.

Some kids have a real problem with food dyes that can manifest in behavior issues.

A big change in family structure such as divorce, new step-parent or a new sibling can make things seem especially tough at home.

Is he going through a new stage of development? Perhaps struggling to be dry at night?

For some kids, it’s literally not getting outside and playing hard. Kids (and adults) need both sunshine and physical activity.

The best way to figure out your son’s issues is to keep a detailed log of timing of food, what food he eats, activities, TV or screentime, sleep, sickness, conversations — literally everything you can think of — and determine if there are any things in common before the outbreaks. If it’s a food trigger, it could be a while before the outbreak making it harder to find the correlation.

If keeping a detailed log feels overwhelming, try logging one thing for a week and seeing if you can make any links, then the next week log something else. I know this is a lot of work, but so is having a child who is struggling.

I hope this is helpful. Do log back in and report your findings.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

About three weeks ago my daughter who is 5 started having freak out episodes when her father would come to pick her up. Tonight was really bad, her dad ended up leaving her here with me. Should i be concerned or is this normal?

This is not normal. I think you should talk to your pediatrician about this.

My four year old just started kindergarten in September already he is getting negative reviews. He wants to be first and some days I am told he throws himself on the floor, something he does not do at home. I am told when outside playing in a nonenclosed area he runs always from the teacher. I am told he takes toys from other kids as they say for no reason. One day the teacher tells me he needs special help she is not a special needs teacher. I am no professional but I am quite certain that my son is normal and that is normal behaviour for a four old. He gets upset and may cry if he is not chosen to answer question. He is very intelligent. I am at a loss. Believe it is his environment and that the teacher are not committed to helping or doing all they can. I witnessed one incident where he came to class and they announced that the class was not going out side today he turned to a teacher and ask so what are we doing then and her response was just take ur jacket off 3times he asked and got the same response. I think that would annoy any one. I witnessed a so student getting upset because he was not chosen to answer a question to the point he was escorted out to calm down, so how do is my jk son already given up on when sk kids still exhibit same behavior. Any suggestions for a frustrated mom.?

Be very careful. As someone who works in a behavioural school, this does sound like a behavioural problem that could worsen if it’s not caught and treated. The first signs to look for is if your child has outbursts over irrational things (i.e., not getting to answer a question, his lunch isn’t what he wanted, etc.). Kids start learning how to calm themselves down at 3 years old. If his ability to calm himself down is not improving, and his responses to unexpected/undesired events is to throw himself on the ground, take toys from children, run away from he teacher, then there may be something else going on here.

You’re right; the teacher should be doing what she can to support him (giving him the tools and strategies he needs to help himself when something undesirable happens). If she is dealing with his behaviour more than his learning, however, then there is an issue. You can ask his teacher to keep notes when these behaviours happen.

I see diagnoses being recommended quite a bit, but what if you already know what’s wrong?
We’ve got an eight year old girl with ASD (On the more “moderate” part of the spectrum. Not Aspergers, not severe autism) who will have meltdowns of epic proportions around twice a week, sometimes more. They can start in the morning, at school (usually at school), or in the evening, and last for hours. Today she started a tantrum in the late morning, locked herself in the closet at school, screamed at several peers and teachers, and tried to batter her teacher. She stayed there the entire day. While on the way out of her hiding place, she slammed the door so hard that she nearly (unintentionally) broke her finger, which was in between the door and the frame. And then, she put on a lovely angel face on the way home, not knowing that we already knew. The tantrum then resurged upon her finding out that a) we knew, and b) she was not currently allowed to play video games. And now she’s barricaded herself in her room (we CANNOT get in. If this isn’t over soon, the door is coming off its hinges), and is screaming all about how she hates us all and wishes we would die/she was dead/ she had a different family, etc. Second time this week.
Nobody can get through to her. No expert can do it, and they all say it’s like nothing they’ve ever seen. Not in the factor of severity, but in the factor of sheer stubbornness. She never truly cares about her actions, and it seems that nothing will stop them. No punishment works, and only worsens the problem. She’s never sorry about what she did, only that she got caught and had to miss out on a privilege.
She’s told her teenage sister that she wasn’t a wanted part of the family and that she should go die… because she made a dinner that she didn’t like while babysitting her. She also stabbed her with a fork because she was told to clear the table.
She also has no regard for any request we give her. At all. Her reasoning for ignoring us and running away when we ask her things is usually “I didn’t feel like it”. No request is to small to cause grief. Raking the yard? tantrum. Cleaning her room? tantrum. Calling her? no response. Asking for something? Heavy complaining about “being our slave”. Upon asking her if she was listening to me once, she responded with “No. I don’t care”.
She once had a tantrum because we asked her where she wanted her mirror and hung. She reason for the tantrum was, and I quote, “I HATE thinking!”.

Hi, Emma. So many issues here. ALL related to how her brain is wired differently as a person on the spectrum. To help her with meltdowns, for example, try to look for what precedes them and what signs she shows of bring distraught and getting near to that point “of no return”! Catch her before she reaches this peak and help her to find ways to cope, such as going to a quiet room, reading, playing a quick video game… this will help her manage through coping strategies before she gets there.
Please look for an expert in Asd who can help make very specific suggestions to help both her and you. These strategies will not necessarily be what “everyone else does” with their 8 yo daughter, but these should be things that help her in the way she needs to be helped.

Cheryl,

I am so thankful to have found your site. Saying we are at our “wits end” is an understatement, which makes our whole situation even sadder.

I have the most beautiful, God loving, compassionate, intelligent, athletic, communicative 11 year old daughter.

She started throwing irrational fits around the age of 7, but I have always thought this was because I had overcompensated and bent the rules for her and her little sister because my husband left.

This is no longer the case. She is throwing these very aggressive temper tantrums and becomes physical with her sister on a daily basis.

She will calm later and apologize and need to share all of what she is feeling, but she cannot control herself enough not to get into that state in the first place.

She has become unfocused and unorganized at school. Her teacher even says she is distracted and distracts others.

This morning when confronted with the fact that she failed to turn her work in, she started yelling and blaming until she was in a full blown melt down, when asked to go downstairs she refused and when we try to physically remove her she went crazy. (literally)

She will come home today and she will say, “I am sorry mommy” and she will mean it.

This behavior is effecting everyone and I see it slowly killing the sweetest parts of her.

I am scared for her and want to get her help, but I am not exactly sure where to go.

Thank you,
Regan

Regan,

At 11 there are several things to think about:

1) Could this be caused by the onset of puberty? Are her hormones out of balance in ways that cause this extreme behavior?

2) Is she dealing with ADHD issues? If so, take a look at her meds to see if she’s having a negative reaction.

3) Diet can be a huge trigger. Some kids can’t handle high glycemic foods. That would obviously be candy, juice, desserts, but could also be white rice, bread and other carbohydrates.

4) Some kids have a real problem with food dyes that can manifest in behavior issues.

5) Try to think back to when these started. Did something big change? Did she have a round of medicine right before this? Was there a change in family structure? New sibling? New step-parent?

6) For some kids, it’s literally not getting outside and playing hard. They need both sunshine and physical activity.

The best way to figure out your child’s issues is to keep a detailed log of timing of food, what food she eats, activities, TV or screentime, sleep, sickness, conversations — literally everything you can think of — and determine if there are any things in common before the outbreaks. Remember, if it’s a food trigger, it could be a while between eating and the outbreak.

If keeping a detailed log feels overwhelming, try logging one thing for a week and seeing if you can make any links, then the next week log something else.

I know this is a lot of work, but so is having a child who is struggling.

I hope this is helpful. Do log back in and report your findings.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I answer a lot of questions on DrGreene.com, I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com and Dr. Greene’s business partner, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi
I have a 2 year old twin boy. His tantrums are daily now, they include excessively crying, bitting, hitting anyone even me, scratching, pulling hair and throwing objects, not caring if it badly injury’s someone. I cannot say no to him cuz all hell will break lose with him. There’s time when I do give him what he wants and he throws it at me. I cant take it no more. I know this can not be normal. The crying has always been there since birth. I always complain to his doctor and they brush it off like nothing. He doesnt speak. He takes speech therapy. Hes failed his developing evaulation twice, first one when he was 1 years old and second one was when he turned 2 years old. When should I do? Should I see neurologists or developmental specialist?

Milly,

It sounds like it would be very wise to seek professional help. A developmental specialist is a good place to start, but don’t give up until you get the answers you and your son need.

I am so sorry you’re going through this.

@MsGreene

My daughter just turned 2. Every night she has a complete meltdown where she is screaming and crying, head banging, throwing stuff, hitting her self, everything, nothing I do comforts her. We live in an apartment complex where we have quite hours from 11 pm till 8 am. Normally, her meltdowns have not been this bad, but for the last 2 or 3 months now, they have got completely out of control to the point neighbors in the building are coming up to me and telling me that I need to keep my child quiet. I’m not sure what to do at this point, I know the landlord can’t give us a violation for a child crying, but at the same time I don’t want my neighbors getting on my back about the noise. She only has these extreme temper tantrums at bedtime and sometimes at nap time although not as frequent as the ones at bedtime.

I should also mention that these temper tantrums last 30 minutes or longer. I’ve talked to her pediatrician and she’s not concerned just said she’ll outgrow it.

Hi,

I am writing because I don’t know whether to seek professional help. My 3-year old daughter is aggressive EVERY night (for at least the last 6 months) and very hard to settle for bedtime. She is hitting me when I try to rock her, but when I tell her I can’t sit by her if she hits me, she cries and tells me to come back; the cycle then continues. She often climbs out of bed crying, clinging to me, etc. She frequently wakes at night too.

Our mornings are a nightmare too, with constant tantrums and wanting an exact pair of socks, hair clip, etc.

What worries me most is that she is also still “testing” with being aggressive towards her younger brother – he’s now a year old and her testing continues.

I don’t know if any of this is normal, if it’s attachment related (I constantly worry about this as a working mom), or something else.

Thanks!

Meghan,

The fact that you are asking about getting professional help is a good sign that it’s time. For your daughter, and for you.

Best,
@MsGreene

Hi!
I need help! My son is 3 years and 3 months. He is a very smart boy. We have absolutely no issues at daycare, they say he is a great listener, is involved in all of the activities, etc. We have been having what i consider a sever problem with him at home in the last few weeks. He is displaying this behavior where he wants things said/done a certain way. He will scream “Mommy, say do you want dinner?” he wants me to stand in a certain place. I try to accomodate and then he will change his demands and escalate the tantrum. he will then just continually repeat the commands and cry and yell. I do not know how to deal with this and i dont know if this a normal part of controlling things or not. Im at my witts end and dont know if I should get help or not.

Nicole,

This may be part of normal development for your son, but whenever I hear, “I’m at my wits end” I believe it’s time to get help. Your pediatrician may be the right person, but if he or she is not, try a developmental psychologist.

You deserve help and so does your son.

Best,
@MsGreene

Hi!

Liam is almost 2. Starting about 2-3 months ago every time he doesn’t get his way, especially about when he wants to walk around instead of sitting in the shopping cart or when we are eating dinner he wants to sit with mom or me instead of in his child seat. His tantrums have been getting worse, with him almost getting out of breath every time. he has these tantrums about 3-4 times a day.

my wife and I are continuing to be calm, holding him (if he will let us) and reassuring to him during this. Telling him that if he calms down or stops crying that he can do what he wants but this hasn’t worked as of lately. Last night we stopped our family dinner for 45 min because he wanted out of his child seat as soon as my wife and I sat down to eat. if we take him to the store its impossible to get anything done unless both of us our there to help each other.

he also started saying words 6-7 months ago, but 1 month ago he has stopped his progression. he know will not say words because he doesn’t “feel” like it.

Q1: is this level of tantrums normal? any thoughts on what we should do or don’t do on his tantrums?

Q2: Should we be concerned psychological function growth with his tantrums and slowing of talking lately?

I should have gone back and read my post before posting it. it looks like my psychological function growth has stopped as well with my awesome sentence structures.

I would love any input as we are at a complete loss with our 3 1/2 year old. She’s been throwing major tantrums for the past year and they are full on, out of her mind tantrums, where she can’t be reasoned with. Usually they are triggered during the day with her not getting her way, but so many times we also have no clue what they are triggered by. She often starts them by shouting “no” over and over and then that goes into a full meltdown that sometimes includes kicking and hitting and screaming. And once she snaps out of it, she acts completely normal. When she’s not in a tantrum, she’s generally a happy, active kid! She’s the 3rd (and last) of 3 girls. She only ever throws tantrums at home. Most people don’t believe she acts this way because she’s completely happy anywhere else! She often throws them in the middle of the night and refuses to stay in bed. Or she throws them even going to bed. She hasn’t slept through the night in at least a year (she used to be an amazing sleeper), and she never naps. She goes to bed around 10 because we spent hours fighting her to go to bed. We’ve tried putting her to bed earlier but no matter what time we try, she goes crazy until about 10 where she falls asleep in exhaustion. And then she’s up at 7:30. We are obviously just at a loss of what to do. She’s in a happy heathy home where she gets plenty of attention from daddy and mommy. Any help or tips would be so appreciated.

We are also in same situation as Lindsay. Our daughter is 3 years 5 months. She is going to school for 3 hrs. During these 3 hrs she is fine for first one hour then she suddenly start crying and roll on floor and sometimes cry for 10 mins and gets back or some time upto 20-30 mins and then get back to play. but during cry she gets mad and really do tantrums.
She like circle time a lot and really enjoy and do some activities but this is very consistent from last few weeks. She is in pattern like play + cry + play. she is sleeping well go back to bed around 9-9:30 pm and wake up at 8 – 8:30 am. she is eating well. Potty trained. when she is at home she is happy and play all the time. she does demand for few things which we divert her mind by engaging into something else. School teachers have tried different things shorter school time, accompany one parent at school but does not seem to help and kind of losing faith and would probably ask to take her out of school.

We are really tensed and I would really appreciate some tips and guidance to improve and see if we need to consult pediatrician or some specialist for this.

Hi Lindsay,

It is curious that she only behaves this way at home. With tantrums, it’s important to try to determine the root cause or causes. Though she typically starts by saying “no” repeatedly, there may be reason that she is unable to cope with emotionally challenging situations at times, while at other times she is able to cope just fine.

Often the trigger is not immediately before the behavior, making it even more difficult to to sus out the cause. Consider these potential triggers:

High Glycemic Foods That would obviously be candy, juice, desserts, but could also be white rice, bread and other carbohydrates.

Food Dyes Sadly, these can also be found in some kids’ medications.

Lack of Physical Activity For some kids, it’s literally not getting outside and playing hard. They need both sunshine and physical activity.

The best way to figure out your daughter’s issue(s) is to keep a detailed log of timing of food, what food he eats, activities, TV or screentime, sleep, sickness, conversations — literally everything you can think of — and determine if there are any things in common before the outbreaks.

If keeping a detailed log feels overwhelming, try logging one thing for a week and seeing if you can make any links, then the next week log something else.

I know this is a lot of work, but so is having a child who is struggling.

I hope this is helpful. Do log back in and report your findings.

Best,
@MsGreene

Hi,
My oldest child, now 6, has been complaining of his head hurting when he gets extremely frustrated leading to tantrums. He cries mostly because of how much it hurts. His tantrums have started becoming more frequent since he entered Kindergarten, but I just assume it’s a growing thing? Most tantrums start from being frustrated at toys/ Legos not doing what he wants, so he throws them or bangs them. however, it’s only at his true tantrums that he cries over his head hurt hurting so bad (the front of head). Should I have him checked for anything?

Sarah,

Per Dr. Greene, this is a great time to take your son to see his pediatrician.

Best,
@MsGreene