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Extremely cranky 4 year old

For the past few weeks my Ds4 had been extremely cranky. Everything we do turns in to a melt down, often because he thinks something had gone wrong when it really hasn't.
I don't know how to deal with it and it seems to be getting worse all the time. today he flipped out because it was getting dark and he didn't want it too. This was an all out melt down with uncontrollable sobbing and screaming at us.
If I don't get a handle on this soon he's going to be trying control our lives with his fits.
He goes to full time kindergarten and is starting to get teased for being such a cry baby because he has these fits there too.

Any advice would be great. Thanks.

Answer Question

Asked by Anonymous at 6:36 PM on Feb. 16, 2013 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Answers (9)
  • If this has started in just the past few weeks, has anything in his life changed? Is his diet the same? Has thee been a family event of any kind?

    Answer by Ballad at 6:41 PM on Feb. 16, 2013

  • Stay calm and matter of fact. Let the melt down run it's course. And once it's over, move on. Do not overdo the attention given to these melt downs. GL!

    Answer by silverthreads at 6:44 PM on Feb. 16, 2013

  • My advice is to stop trying to "fix" it. (That includes reasoning with him when he is falling apart.) Trying to show him how his upset is "unreasonable" (pointing out that what's happening is not really wrong/unfair, or pointing out how there is no way to stop the sun from setting) is resisting or invalidating his feelings of upset. This automatically triggers counter-resistance in him (because people know their feelings are valid, and will struggle against the suggestion that they "shouldn't" feel that way.)
    Paradoxically, giving a child permission to have his feelings without engaging whether or not they are right/reasonable or valid, makes space for other feelings. (The child doesn't spend as much time defending his right to be upset, so he can move THROUGH the feelings. This means he's processing & resolving, rather than stuck.)
    To give space, you don't ignore (this too is an effort to "make it stop"), withdraw, or "fix."

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:31 AM on Feb. 17, 2013

  • Intense, persistent crankiness indicates that he is looking for opportunities to discharge feelings he's carrying. Think of it as an "emotional poop." His body & mind stay healthy by letting OUT the stuff that drives off-track behavior & crankiness. There really (truly) is no such thing as a "bad" feeling; the only bad feeling is one that is unexpressed. Children have an instinct to get out the distressing feelings that accumulate from life & its frustrations. But that process can get interfered with pretty easily.
    If parents view upsets as something "bad" or "wrong" happening (i.e., our job is to make them right as soon as possible & stop the crying) they probably employ distraction or compensation at those times...trying to avoid upsets or "fix" things so there's no meltdown. Feelings don't disappear, however. When a child becomes more demanding (upset by more & more things) & cranky, it signals a need. Avoid interfering!

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:37 AM on Feb. 17, 2013

  • Knowing "how" to respond in ways that facilitate the process (of emotional release) rather than triggering resistance & struggle (and escalating the situation even more) is helpful.
    There are some principles for a kind of listening that helps. Less is more, generally. Acknowledge what happened ("ah, you didn't want it to get dark & it is.") Work on your own tolerance for his expressions of distress. Increasing our tolerance for THEIR feelings often means becoming more open to our own feelings that are triggered...noticing how irritated or agitated you feel, and realizing how you feel driven to "make it stop" (because when he melts down, it is triggering thoughts like "A good mom would know what to do" or thoughts about how this wouldn't be happening IF...)
    Recognizing that it isn't your job to fix or solve things (to do fast talking with lots of explanations & reasoning) helps your responses not interfere. Allowing is so key!

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:47 AM on Feb. 17, 2013

  • 4 years old in full time kindergarten? Sounds like most of the problem right there, to me. He's not old enough for school and he's stressed out. Throwing tantrums is the 1 thing he can control so he's doing it.

    Answer by Anonymous at 12:07 AM on Feb. 18, 2013

  • Is he acting out because he is bored? If that’s the case I would make him activity bags,

    Answer by MrsMorrell at 9:17 AM on Feb. 20, 2013

  • How are they handling it at school and does it help. At this age kids (and I still have my head through a wall where I slammed it so many times from this) need to learn to control emotions and the world around them. He needs to work these emotions out and you cannot fix them. You can read lots of books like " I just don't like the sound of NO" and "How to lose all your friends" and a dozen other choices because I found that learning how to act in the right way for my son was not instinctual and emotional development and positively directing how to deal with feelings is something that needs attention too. As you build up skills for success use time outs--in this instance they are not a punishment they are literally a time out which does not have a set time but rather is complete when the child has gotten over the last melt down and worked it out. Changes of schedules, lack of sleep, growth spurts, environmental changes and

    Answer by hotelmom123 at 1:51 PM on Feb. 22, 2013

  • ...even how much a child is learning can all contribute to the melt downs. Try to see some common threads in when these melt downs occur most is it changing from one activity to another, days you spend less time with your child, days he has done stellar work at school?
    In my world most of the issues came and still come from transitions--not wanting to put the blocks away and do lunch, not wanting to go to school until a TV show is finished and so on. We are still working on the melt downs but proactively teaching how to handle situations in conjunction with letting him learn to self sooth and understanding the real causes of the issues have nipped 80% of it in the but.

    Answer by hotelmom123 at 1:56 PM on Feb. 22, 2013

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