I have three children, a five year old, a three year old and a 10 month old baby.
At the slightest thing, the three year old will get annoyed and storm off in a sulk. It could be anything from being told that he can't do something (such as take a hard toy onto the trampoline) or it could be something like his food is slightly too hot to eat. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be any particular reason, something will upset him, his face changes into a sulky face, then he will run off. He will often scream and slam doors on the way out. I guess you could describe it as kind of a tantrum but it's more like a sulk.
Other times it will manifest as a rebellious sulk in a public situation, like today in the park, he refused to slide down a big slide halfway down, for some reason - holding up the other children. I have no idea what was even the problem. I feel like in many situations he often chooses to not conform.
I've tried various ways of dealing with it:
I've tried, going to get him, being nice and carrying him back - he will just run off again.
I've tried being playful, laughing and tickling him in the room he's stormed off into - but I think he quite likes this, now if I go into the room, he goes all giggly and silly in anticipation. But it doesn't really solve the problem.
I've tried asking him what's wrong, he just "growls" at me and won't say anything.
I've tried ignoring him completely. He will usually come back into the room, and maybe open and re-slam the door as if to make us notice him. This isn't always possible, e.g. in public he might be in danger if we let him walk off and we're not supervising properly.
For the last two days the thing I'm trying is to bring him back and really trying to settle him by hugging/holding him very firmly, until he calms down - which does kind of seem to work, but he gets SO angry and exhibits more of a traditional tantrum in the meantime, and I'm having to hold him quite tightly. Even though it's not aggressive in any way and it's not done in anger it does feel like I'm using my size and strength to control him, and I'm not sure my wife would be able to do the same because he's very strong.
The thing that usually always works is trying some kind of happy distraction, like for example once when he stormed off about not wanting the dinner I'd made, I made a face out of the vegetables, and he came back happily and ate it then. Or today I pointed out how much his runner bean that he's brought home from pre-school had grown. But it's not always possible to do something like this, or to think of or have the means or time to do something that will get his attention.
His vocabulary is pretty good, but when he goes into this mode he seems unable or unwilling to articulate what the problem is; instead he just goes into this silent sulk and won't say anything. He will sometimes explain afterwards what the problem was.
I really don't know what the best thing to do is. Should we ignore him completely or should I continue with the holding method to get him to calm down? Or should I even try to punish him, by putting him on the naughty step? I'm trying to not do the naughty step (positive punishment) at all now and only use positive reinforcement instead (a star chart).