My daughter has not really had many full-blown tantrums when she was younger, ever. But now at 3.5 years old, almost 4 years old (on 8/27). She has been having the worst tantrums ever. First, she used to just cry, then cry loudly with a few jumping up and down, but now she cries, then screams (pierce your ear screams), jumps, fall on the floor kicking, swinging arms and screaming. It's chaotic!
This is what I have done: give a warning for time out, which is her going to another room, sitting her safely on the floor, (if it's dark turning the light on) and closing the door. I let her scream it out in there and keep track of time to 3 minutes. Then open the door, if she's still screaming, I calmly tell her that she needs to be quiet first (if she can hear me over the crying), if she's still on blown tantrum, I close the door again for another 3 minutes. Usually by the second time around she's probably tired herself out, I ask her if she is calm now, she whimpers yes, and agrees to be quiet. I bend down to her level and tell her that what she is doing is a big no no and she must use her words. I explain it is okay to cry, but not to scream and throw herself on the floor etc. Give her a hug and tell her I love her and we walk out together, she's back to herself like nothing happened.
I can say this has become increasingly difficult to deal with in the last 2-3 months. It was few... maybe once a week, now seems to be happening more frequently, 2-3 times per week or more some weeks.
Honestly I even have cried myself over how frustrating this is. Her tantrums are even worse in public. Yes, I do practice leaving the scenes, but that's not always feasible to do. The "professional" advice I've read online seems unrealistic to our situation. I've followed professional advice and it's not working. Just getting worse.
Today for example, I took her to Chuck E Cheese's and she had a blast. We cashed our tickets in, she got her toy and we were about to leave. We've been there many times and she knows the routine: when we cash our game tickets in for a prize, we're leaving. But this time, she says "Nooo, I want pizza now". I told her we could have pizza for dinner but not here at Chuck e Cheese's and that it was time to go. We had already been there 2 hours and she didn't want pizza when it was offered earlier. She started crying, saying nooo she wants to stay, I held her hand and we exited out of the building, now she starts screaming and pulling back while trying to walk to car. I actually now have to pick her up because a car was waiting for us to cross (I'm already embarrassed by now too). I try to put her in her car seat but she is literally resisting and she's strong. She rigids up her body to where I can't even sit her in the seat, falls on the floor of the car, now I am struggling to pick her back up to get her in her seat. I had to push her down with all of my force (without trying not to physically hurt her, she's very strong) to get in the car seat enough to strap her in, by this time she's kicking and actually starts hitting me on my chest. I finally get her in her seat buckled and she's still full-blown, now even kicking the back of the passenger seat where my 10-year-old son is sitting. Screaming to the top of her lungs.
This makes me want to cry just typing this up. This was the worst one so far. I feel so lost on what to do. It's only getting worse.
And I've never spanked her, although I was raised that way and everyone else in my family, so I can't go to them for advice because their only answer is to spank her. And I don't agree with that at all. Never hit her, I don't believe it will help but probably just make things worse. Family now believes she's getting worse because she doesn't get spankings. I don't agree.
There has to be a better way to deal with this, if possible de-escalate or even avoid. I understand tantrums are a natural part of developing control of emotions and all of that. But hers seem more aggressive and also she's getting older to be having tantrums like this.
Please help me with suggestions, ideas, your previous experiences or what worked for you.