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Q: How to help a 4-year-old through her violent tantrum?

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 10 February 2022

Q: My 4-year-old child has a very low tolerance for frustration; seemingly anything can set off a tantrum. These aren't just any tantrums, as she actively tries to hurt anyone in the vicinity by biting, kicking, and hitting or she throws and breaks things. I remember being the same way as a child, going from calm to explosive instantly and over small things. I want to teach my daughter better coping skills. I feel I am helping her identify when she is starting to feel angry, but once she begins raging, there's no stopping it. Is there a way to help her work through the tantrum without hurting anyone or being shut out in a room by herself?

A: Try to model appropriate behavior when you "lose it" yourself, saying, "Mommy is very frustrated and needs a minute to calm down." Then, when your daughter has her own emotional storm, help her learn meditation techniques like focusing on her breaking and visualization exercises that can then serve as reminders the next time she feels the anger rising.

A: Feeling balanced yourself can make a world of difference. Sensitive children can be greatly affected by the emotions of those around them.

A: It is helpful to involve your daughter in finding solutions. Perhaps you two could make a tantrum first aid kit together? Or make up a tantrum song about how hard it is to not get carried away by our emotions?

A: My oldest son is very sensitive to low blood sugar and needs to eat at regular intervals to avoid mood swings. When he suddenly develops a low tolerance for frustration, eating a healthy snack helps him almost immediately.

A: A friend of mine had a very explosive child like yours. When he would get angry, she found it helpful to take him to another room and let him kick and hit a pillow while screaming out his feelings. When he was calm, she then would talk through his feelings, which were a recurring them centered on his sibling's birth.

A: I have found humor and playful parenting to be effective at heading off tantrums. Reading a book or doing another activity that your child loves to do with you can help distract her from the strong emotions, too.

A: With my daughter, I would make sure she's safe but then just wait through it, keeping out of reach if she was hitting but staying with her and staying calm until she was ready to talk. I also told her stories about when I was angry and how I coped. She seemed really interested in my experiences. Maturity helped a lot. Now she's able to take deep breaths and actively work to stay calm when frustrated.


Responses to this anonymous parenting questions were gathered from real-life parents living around the world. 

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