3.5 year old temper tantrums

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-12-2011
3.5 year old temper tantrums
Sat, 11-12-2011 - 8:46pm
My 3.5 year old has two to three massive temper tantrums per day. They can last as little as 15 minutes or as long as an hour and a half. She screams, cries, hits me, hits her 1.5 year old brother - it's out of control. I have no idea what to do. I am a single mother ( father left us 5 months ago) and am at the end of my patience. Does anyone have experience like this or useful tips?

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-02-2005
Sun, 11-13-2011 - 1:50pm
It's pretty normal for a 3.5 year old to test their limits, and with a household change as drastic as Daddy leaving, she's probably going through some hard stuff and doesn't know how to handle it.

If my son hits, he goes right to time out. Period. 4 minutes time out, then he has to tell me he is sorry for hitting and give me a hug. This includes hitting our pets (in which case, he has to also apologize to the pet)

For a temper tantrum where he is crying over something, I just walk away. I ignore him and pretend he is not crying or screaming or whatever he's doing (though, if he starts throwing things or ripping stuff off shelves, time out.) He's getting pretty good at calming himself down to ask for what he wants nicely, and if he can't have it (like an 8th cookie) and he throws a fit even more I just ask him if he ever gets anything by throwing a fit, which he doesn't, and if he refuses to stop I threaten to throw ALL the cookies away or put his toy that he's crying over up in his closet for a day.

I only have one, but I do know that sometimes if my son is being a super-pill I'll tell him that since he is whining so much and giving me a headache, I'm going to sit in my room until he's done. I then go into my room, close and lock the door, and wait him out. With another kid I'd probably just say we're going to play in my room until she's done having a fit.

It seems to me that girls are more challenging than boys in terms of sassiness, but the best advice I can give since nothing works for every kid all the time, is just to be consistent. If YOU need a time out take one. Go into your room, or the bathroom, and lock the door. I know it seems like it's neglectful or mean, but your daughter needs to realize that she can not get what she wants by throwing a fit, and that her behavior will not be tolerated. In addition, if she's being a super-pill and your patience is at its limit, it's better, in my opinion, to go sit in a room and let her wail and cry outside of it while you remove yourself from the situation than to try to absorb it all until you snap, because even the most patient of us will eventually snap and yell or say something we regret. Remember that everything you do is setting an example, so if she's throwing a fit and yelling and you yell back, she's probably just going to yell louder and longer.

After the fit is over make sure to talk about it. Ask her why she was making such a fuss, try to help her understand her feelings and find ways to get them under control. I know it's hard to remember sometimes, but 3.5 years as a person isn't a very long time, and there's still a lot to figure out while you're being consumed with emotions you don't understand and everyone is telling you what to do when you do it and you're just trying to figure out your independence.

Just remember, she's not a rotten kid, she's 3.5, and every 3.5 year old has their days. (I also notice my son gets BAD when he's tired - he doesn't nap anymore - and also if he's going through a growth spurt his sleep is interrupted at night which makes him a real pill during the day.)

Good luck!
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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-08-2008
Mon, 11-14-2011 - 2:02pm
Hi there! Welcome to the board. I'm sorry to hear that you are having such a hard time with the temper tantrums your daughter is throwing. It can be so frustrating and can really push our patience to the limit. I think that breaca had a lot of great advice to share with you and I'm not sure that I'd add anything. I have the best of luck with all of my children by walking out of the room and ignoring as much as possible. It is probably one of the hardest things to do, but it really shows that their fits aren't going to get them what they want and certainly won't get any attention (negative attention is still attention) from me.

Hang in there and keep us updated on how things are going. HUGS to you!

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-03-2008
Sat, 11-19-2011 - 2:45pm


If these tantrums are happening multiple times a day, see if you can discover patterens. Is she hungry, tired, bored? Try to be proactive and prevent, it is much easier than trying to deal with a tantrum. What are the tantrums about? Is she trying to communicate something that is not being understood? On the whole there really is no talking to anyone during a tantrum, 3, 33, 83... Wait it out and move your other child out of harms way so that they do not get hurt. Also move yourself out of harms way.

  • Ways to prevent tantrums:
  • Give choices. "Do you want the blue toy or red toy."
  • Give heads up. "We are leaving in 5 minutes. Start to feel finished and if you like we can take the toy that you are playing with (or not clean up so that they can come back to what they are working on.)
  • Understanding. "I know this is hard."
  • Keep it simple and have consequences. "It is bath time. You can be upset but if you yell too long you will run out of time to read book before bed."
  • DON'T EVER GIVE IN TO A TANTRUM. If the tantrum is a bout a toy do not give the toy because you are tired. or the treat or the....

I hope that this helps,

Brandi Davis


    Brandi Davis Child And Family Coaching Sign up for your complementary 30 minute Coaching session (p) 215-805-7494 (f ) 707-885-7494 www.ChildAndFamilyCoaching.com Because nothing is more important than family