Our son, 3.75 years old, gets frustrated fairly easily (e.g. zipper gets stuck when he dresses, tower of building blocks collapses unintentionally). Often this results in him stomping and/or throwing the item(s) that caused the frustration and/or screaming at the top of his lungs.

We do not want to allow such behavior. Currently we keep it at bay with severe punishment: After such a scene we immediately shout at him "One more stomp/throw/scream and you get 3 hits on your butt!" - and follow through with that if he goes on. As a result, such outbursts end quickly. Before we implemented this punishment, he had much longer outbursts, so it does work. But I feel that this is a rather unhealthy way of solving the issue: We make him suppress his frustration and anger, and I think suppressing is no healthy long term solution.

If we parents get angry, we swear (and find that acceptable). So after such a scene and after he calms down, we tell him he can swear instead of stomping/throwing/screaming, like "Stupid zipper, why do you always get stuck?". And that if toy X frustrates him, he can just play with something else and so "X got what it deseved". But I have not observed any change in behaviour so far (we do it that way for a month or so). I assume he is unable to implement it because the feeling of anger is just too strong to allow his conciousness to correct his impulse.

Any ideas on how to handle the issue differently?

I would like to add that the issue I consider unhealthy is NOT that we spank him. I know this is controversial. We use spanking not out of anger or lack of impulse control on our side; we use it as a disciplinary method. Because all other methods we tried do not work (e.g. timeouts). So if you are uncomfortable with this, imagine I had written "you get a 10 minute timeout" instead of "you get 3 hits on your butt".

The issue I consider unhealthy is the fact that we teach him to suppress his anger without any way of letting it out or redirecting it. Because we don't know how. This is what I need ideas for.


3 Answers 3


It is good that you want to teach him a healthy way to express his anger and frustration. Things like helping him stomp his feet, shout, hit a soft pillow, throw a soft toy. Maybe some calm down time in his room or elsewhere, with a parent if he wants (time in, not time out) and some guidance (when he's calm) on things like taking a deep breath, counting to ten. Your job is to guide him to understand his emotions and help him learn to cope.

I will however take issue with spanking as a form of discipline. You would (rightly) be very upset if your child, or partner, or another adult came up to you and said "you can't do that, here, three smacks on your butt!" that's assault. Your child is a small human, but is still entitled to respect and to live without fear of being hurt. You are teaching him that his parents hurt him (and by extension that he could hurt other people) when he struggles, and indeed that his struggles are a problem to you, not that you are there to help him. Its even banned in several countries.


It is simple.

You are asking him to swear at zipper, but you don't do this by self, you swear at him and hit him. So he swears with you not with zipper, and also he got a problem, he can't hit you, you are too big for him, so, you crack his small brain with this punishment trick. He is too small, his logic does not work fully yet, he did (his reactions) only that you teach him. You teach him be angry or get beaten.

Before to teach him be peaceful, try to free out of angry and physical punishment potency, learn how to be peaceful to him first. If you are boring but calm - he will learn how to be boring and calm, if you are joking with him and his problem - he will perceive this with ease, if you make judge process about zipper - he become nervous about small problems and he will punish his zipper, his pet, his little brother/sister - anyone who is more weak then he is. If you want to teach him swear on zipper and other humans - you have to swear at zipper (and help to solve this problem to him) and you have to let swear on you, you should get mistakes then, like he did.

Trustful method. Lets play, his behavior is right, you should to learn from him. When you ll dressed together you can play his role and his problem. Imagine, that you zipper doesn't work, and you should to "stomping and/or throwing the item(s) that caused the frustration" - and then ask him to "help"(as he did). Let him solve this problem out of his person, let him be in safe and right position, without punishment frames. Maybe he ll got any solve and ll teach you, or maybe he ll punished you, as you teach him.

I don't know what he did. But I don't think that will be bad, his bad, this be interesting. And doesn't matter what will be his solution, don't punished him, he trying do good - support him.

He is trying to do good, he don't know how to do this, but he is trying.

It is hard to do simple good things.

  • 3
    I like this answer. Especially at the end, I think "it is hard to do simple good things" and "he don't know how to do this, but he is trying" could easily apply to OP as well. Do you think the answer would better without the leading "It is simple?" What's simple for one is not for another. Mar 6, 2023 at 21:01

First of all there's nothing wrong with spanking in and of itself, when appropriate and not done in anger, and especially not when you are angry. It's a proven effective method of child correction and education for pretty much all of history. So, don't worry so much about spanking in general, as much as maybe whether or not each incident warrants a spanking.

There is a huge problem with yelling and swearing at your child. How on earth can you hope to teach him to remain calm when frustrated when you're losing your cool for the same reason? 3yo's learn by example. What kind of example are you setting?

If he gets frustrated, try sitting down with him with whatever toy, zipper, etc that frustrated him and say "here, let me show you how to do it"... "next time you get frustrated, come ask daddy (or mommy) for help." That calm response, and the close time you spend with him working through it might just be enough to teach him to calmly ask for help.

Yelling and screaming in frustration is a learned behavior. It is not innate... so there's a good chance, given the description of how you react when you get frustrated, that he learned it from you. Now, show him a better way... by being a better example of how to handle problems.

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    This answer can use some support from reputable sources (actually a lot of support; it's long on opinion and short on facts.) Yelling and screaming are indeed innate behaviors meant to express great frustration, which is exactly how preverbal and young children express this. Calmness is the learned behavior that replaces yelling and screaming, and adults revert to this innate means of expression under stress. Don't blame the parent for innate behavior of the child. Sure, modelling the right behavior is their responsibility, but parent-blaming isn't appropriate. Apr 28, 2023 at 4:00

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