4 year old tantrums are very common. Do you want the good news first, or the bad news? Let’s start with the bad news. The bad news for you as a parent (at least during a tantrum) is that your child has become more sophisticated in his approach to everything in life in the last year.
This includes her relationship with you. Make no mistake, when your child wants something, she knows how to push your buttons. And if she thinks for a minute that a tantrum will do the trick, she’ll be on the floor kicking and screaming bloody murder in the bat of an eye.
So, what’s the good news? The good news is that, for most children, 4 year old tantrums are the last hurrah for this method of trying to control their environment and get what they want.
Most kids outgrow tantrums by the time they reach 5 years old. Parents with children who are older than 4 and still throw tantrums on a regular basis should consider consulting a pediatrician or child psychologist to explore possible reasons and solutions.
When 4 year old tantrums occur, your best strategy is calm, unemotional consistency. Such tantrums are usually the result of the child being told to do something she doesn’t want to do, or that he can’t do something he wants to do. To a 4 year old, being dropped off at preschool or told to go to bed present the perfect opportunity for a power struggle. It is normal for children at this age to test your boundaries, and your best bet is to make your boundaries clear, immovable, and unemotional.
Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into the power struggle. If your child doesn’t comply with what you want him to do, calmly repeat the directive and, if necessary, physically place the child where he should be. For example, if it is bed time and your child throws a tantrum, place him in bed, calmly reiterating that it is bed time.
If the child gets up, do it again. And again. And, if necessary, again. As many times as needed until the child stays there. Eventually, she will get the point that the tantrum is not going to get her what she wants, nor is it going to earn her any bonus attention.
It can be difficult to respond to your child in an unemotional way, especially if his behavior angers you. But you will save yourself a lot of grief, and help your child as well if you can put your feelings aside momentarily and simply, calmly focus on the behavior you want to see changed.
Another thing you might consider with 4 year old children if you see the same triggers are constantly causing tantrums is to pre-empt the tantrums with a promised reward. Small things like stickers or toy cars are ideal for this. Simply say something like, “I’ve noticed you get very angry and sad when I drop you off at school.
Today, if you can behave like a big boy and go to school with no fuss, I will let you pick out a sticker.” While you shouldn’t try this while the child is in the middle of a tantrum (first because you don’t want to reward the tantrum and second because the child is not in a frame of mind to reason anyway), this can be a very effective tactic if used before the events that usually trigger your 4 year old tantrums.