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My 3 year old is having violent tantrums...

He has always been very sweet, and loving, this seems to have come out of nowhere. He has been sick the past few days, and naturally cranky but along with his crankiness has come these violent outburts of smacking, hitting, kicking, and punching. He hasn't ever seen anyone act that way, and doesn't watch TV/movies with it. Where is this coming from?? Should I be worried?? I do not now how to react as he has never done anything like this before. It's not just his usually tantrums, they are angry, violent tantrums. We also did just move so I don't know if these behavioral issues might be related. Could this just be a stage?


Asked by Anonymous at 11:39 PM on Jul. 9, 2011 in Preschoolers (3-4)

This question is closed.
Answers (10)
  • (cont)
    self-doubt, and incompetence are really common triggers for moms. Along with unexamined beliefs, involving "shoulds" and "woulds" (and shouldn'ts!) "A good mom would know..." or "he wouldn't be doing this if I were a good mom..." or "I should be able to fix this." I have been able to trace EVERY experience of anger or irritation, with either my spouse or my children, to some underlying belief or thought that was triggering something painful (that I wanted instinctively to avoid.) We learn this early & young because it's how WE were treated (anger was projected on us as if we were at fault & were the cause of it, rather than the trigger for it.)
    Anyway, his intense anger is most certainly a secondary emotion but you can reflect it as it is by being present with it and acknowledging it (rather than resisting/trying to stop it.) Being seen & understood is the key thing that can help with expressing & processing it.

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:49 PM on Jul. 10, 2011

  • wow, I don't know . I would assume it is related to moving and being unsure of his new surroundings, missing what was familiar to him. But if it doesn't get better, i would ask his Pediatrician. the fact that he has been sick is another issue....maybe he is in pain?

    Answer by minnesotanice at 11:45 PM on Jul. 9, 2011

  • My first thought ist hat this is fairly normal behavior for a 3 year old. He may also be acting out because of the move. These little guys are still feeling emotions and stuff that they've never felt before, and not sure how to cope. If that's the case, try sitting down with him at a time when everyone is calm and see if he can tell you why he's so mad. He may be more sad than anything.

    I'm a fan of Dr. Phil, and he's got some interesting thought about anger. He says that most often anger is more of a veneer for other emotions, like fear and sadness. More often anger is easier to manifest and deal with than fear and sadness.

    My kids are 4 and 7. We moved 8 months ago. Right after we moved they were more of a handful than normal, until they started making friends with the neighbors.

    Answer by Rosehawk at 12:22 AM on Jul. 10, 2011

  • seems normal to me my 3 yr old does it alot when his been getting his way and then someone else says no

    Answer by myboysRmyhero at 12:35 AM on Jul. 10, 2011

  • Most likely, the move did it to him, he doesn't understand why he doesn't have his friends, or his room anymore, especially if this is the first move since he was born. Reassure him that this is home now, and you and daddy love him, maybe find him some activities with other children his age so he can make friends. He also may just be choosing his boundaries, most kids do at this age. He is waiting for you to let him know how much he can get away with. Good luck!

    Answer by kustomkrochet at 6:54 AM on Jul. 10, 2011

  • im going through the same with my dd at the moment we moved from fla to arkansa

    Answer by lilmama406 at 8:04 AM on Jul. 10, 2011

  • Oh yeah! They go through these tantrum stages, and many toddlers don't do well with change. Sometimes, you just need to hold them, hold him in your arms, trying not to let him flail around until he calms down ... it's hard but it can help.

    Answer by isismoon3 at 9:12 AM on Jul. 10, 2011

  • I think it is a sign that his system is stressed. It's like a down-shifting in the brain, as far as coping. He is acting out (literally, like charades) the chaos & confusion & turmoil of his inner world, which is a less happy/predictable place to be since so many changes, plus being sick. Probably being sick (which could happen because of a lowered resistance because of extra stress/challenges to his coping skills) was a kind of "last straw." So frustration is going to be MORE frustrating, and it will be easier to GET upset (more things will BE upsetting than usual.)
    There's not necessarily a lot you can change, but I think reflective listening could help you a lot in the current moment (whether it can change or not.) Simply hearing, noticing, and reflecting back what you hear from him is what that would be. It doesn't have to be "interpreting" things into "you're feeling sad;" it is safest to stick to the content of his own

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:30 PM on Jul. 10, 2011

  • (cont)
    communication. So it could be as simple as "Oh, this was the wrong pasta. You really wanted the curly kind and this is all wrong." Or "this banana is broken & you wanted a whole banana" or "this banana is broken & it's ruined" (if he's outraged & rejecting it.) Or "I see, I brought the wrong cup." Don't focus on fixing things or explaining things or trying to make things better--letting him have his feelings without struggling against them (to show him how it's not so bad, or how it has to be that way, or why it happened or why his demands are unreasonable) is really more helpful to him. ESPECIALLY if he is looking for reasons or ways to "offload" some big feelings related to underlying issues & griefs (such as moving.) If kids have deep upsets, they can look for opportunities to unload the stressful feelings & they create their opportunities (by screaming & crying over things "for no reason.") If you are quick to fix

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:36 PM on Jul. 10, 2011

  • (cont)
    things & they didn't get to accomplish their emotional work, they will "make" another opportunity by falling apart over....the wrong sippy cup brought when they insist on a drink at bedtime.
    What Rosehawk is talking about (referencing Dr. Phil) is the concept of secondary emotions. Yes, anger, like any outward-directed or other-focused emotion, is a secondary emotion in that it is triggered by a feeling that comes first (often experienced unconsciously.) Anger is a way of dissociating from painful, vulnerable, threatening experiences. (And this is true for all humans, including parents. When we feel anger as parents, we can always assume there is something else more personal involving us that we are experiencing, but not recognizing, and that the anger is a self-protective distraction, a literal "projection" onto someone else. It's the same with irritation, annoyance, blame, criticism...anything other-focused.) Fear,

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:42 PM on Jul. 10, 2011