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I'm a single mother of a 5-year-old boy. Within the last month or so, his tantrums are increasingly getting worse. Hitting, talking back, spitting, name calling, throwing things, the whole nine. I don't curse around him and I do my absolute best to not show any type of aggression with him. I grew up with an abusive father. I've tried time outs, taking things away, no treats, none which helps. I really prefer not to spank him. He's just under half my size so when he goes into a rage every now and then, it's hard to hold him until he's calm, once my frustration builds up and I do. I feel out of options and like I'm failing him. He has been telling me almost every time I pick him up from daycare that he doesn't like coming to my house and he would much rather be with his dad. His dad isn't mentally, physically, emotionally responsible enough to have him (we are in court and that has been proven).

Today, he woke up and was instantly in a bad mood, and that behavior is typical in our house because we both enjoy our sleep. I told him he could play with his toys in the living room while I got dressed and then I'd bring his clothes out so he could get dressed. As soon as I brought his clothes out the screaming and throwing things began. He proceded to get dressed screaming the whole time. On our way to daycare, we discussed how it's okay to be mad, sad, sleepy, frustrated but that it's not okay to hurt someone, their feelings, or belongings. I dropped him off and things were fine. He apologized to me for his behavior and I headed off to work. About an hour later, I received a phone call from daycare that they would be sending him home due to him throwing chairs across the classroom because he did not want to wash his hands. My mother picked him up and is watching him while I work.

What can I do to begin correcting this, since none of my attempts have worked?

  • Have you talked to his primary care provider about these issues? Some treatable diagnosis can manifest themselves in behavioral issues. It may not be about "correction" as much as understanding what the triggers are and the proper environment for your child. – Ron Beyer Apr 20 '18 at 20:25
  • Have you tried therapy? It sounds like he has had a lot of trauma in his young life, and it's an act of love to get professional help for him. – Aravis Apr 29 '18 at 0:33
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What worked for my 5 year old (now 8) is a zero tolerance policy on tantrums. We have the rule "crying you do in the hallway" (it sounds better in dutch) As soon as my kids starts in his tantrum moods any conversation stops instantly, i pick him up, and put him in the hallway. He can screem as much as he wants there which i'll completely ignore. I also make it clear that a normal conversation goes like "no you can't go on your tablet, but you can play with the legoes or we can talk about something else you want to do". A conversation with trantrum goes like "..." (I pick you up and put you in the hallway untill you calm down, after that you can so some chore (something very easy like putting away his shoes) and after that he can play with the legoes. There is no discussion about alternatives in that case.

Kids often do things to get attention. Even negative attention is attention and reinforcement for their behavior so yelling and spanking often don't work. And giving in double so. So i completely ignore them including standing with my back against the door while he is kicking the door giving him no response whatsoever (I check in on him every 5 minutes to make it clear that once he calms down he can go back inside)

By being very strikt and showing that a tantrum never gets him anything as soon as i'm nearby.

I know this is very hard if you have to leave for daycare. But in that case i'd say let him put on his clothes before he plays with his toys. (And maybe get up 15 minutes earlier). I know this is hard but after a year or so i noticed it was paying off. Right now we're at the point where my kid his and his sister's school bags before i even get downstairs.

  • We took a similar, yet more informal approach. We have drastic consequences for such behavior, e.g. losing TV, iPad, etc. or just sending him to his room. It really does work. – Norman May 18 '18 at 18:07
  • We took the approach that the kid gets nothing out of a tantrum. The most amusing part was when he realized that throwing a tantrum in front of us wasn't working, and threw one in front of another random woman. – David Thornley Aug 7 '18 at 17:42

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