Please help my 4 yr old is throwing out of control tantrums

lisacaDecember 23, 2007

I am so frustrated and don't know what to do. My son is 4 yrs old and I have taken him to the doctor with concerns of ADD. She said absolutely not. She said if he were ADD he wouldn't be able to sit thru an exam. He has been in preschool and he has been placed in the 2 to 3 year old class. He doesn't know his colors. They say he is behind. He is also behind in his speech. He goes to a speech tharapist two times a week and she also says he is very focused. Then there are the tantrums, he has these on a daily basis and they are quite severe and I never know what is going to set him off. He goes into rages if I tell him to do something that he does not want to do such as, pick up his toys or he can't have something sweet to eat. These outbursts started getting severe for the last 2 weeks. He starts hitting me, pulling my hair, biting me, calls me names, spits on me, throws anything at me in his sight, knocks over furniture, all because he doesn't want to do something. I am so worried. I feel that there is something seriously wrong. His behavior is only with his family. His preschool says he is an angel and has no behavior issues and his speech teacher says he is perfect with her and listens very well. He gets along great with other kids. He only acts up with his immediate family. I dont know if I should press the ADD issue with the doctor or is there something else going on with him. He rarely sits still at home. It seems like he is always on the go or getting into something he shouldn't be in. He will sit thru a movie but only if I am also watching it. He is very easily bored. He breaks most of his toys and they only interest him for a couple of days. I don't know what to do. Perhaps he can't handle sugar. Maybe food allergies? I noticed it is alway in the evening. Maybe he is overtired. I just need some advice, anyone?

Thanks, Lisa

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You must be exhausted!

First thing I'd do is talk to the preschool and get more information. Please ask them to speak frankly to you and NOT to sugar-coat things -- that you think there's something going on and you need their help. You said he doesn't know his colors and that he's "behind" -- exactly how? Ask about his speech, social skills, coping skills, fine and gross motor skills, ability to follow directions. What activities does he do over and over again? Which ones does he avoid? Are there any activities that are hard for him or that seem to stress him? Take notes and write it all down. Again, if you get the little spiel about how "sweet" your little boy is and how much they love him, thank them politely, but get down to the nitty gritty brass tacks.

I'd also ask if it's possible to observe your son while he's there without being observed yourself. Let them know you're having some discipline problems at home, and since they don't seem to be, you'd like to see what's working so well for them. Even if you can't watch, just hearing about some of their techniques will help.

Next, Google 'Disorder of Sensory Integration' or DSI. In a nutshell, it describes a set of symptoms where some children can't handle the types of ordinary sensory inputs (sights, sounds, sensations, tastes, smells) that most people can handle with ease. A typical child with DSI can be driven absolutely nuts by the seams on socks or labels on T-shirts, by the sensation of squishy mud or the sound of the vacuum cleaner. Other children with DSI won't be at all bothered by messy diapers, a skunk's smell, extreme temperatures or have minimal sensitivity to pain. Kids with DSI expereince severe discomfort, anxiety and even pain when confronted by the types of ordinary stimuli that surround most of us everyday. It's the kind of situation that can cause extreme and bizarre-seeming behavior in children that can look like ADD or even autism.

The types of severe tantrums you're describing could very well be a child 'downloading' the stress of his day at pre-school in an environment he knows is safe. In a sense, he's having to work very hard to 'keep it together' at school and just falls apart when he hits home and can finally relax.

The other thing I'd do is have a long talk with your speech path. Does he/she specialize in children? And if so, in children with special needs? (If not, consider switching.) If he/she has a few years experience and sees a lot of kids with developmental disorders, ask her what she thinks. True, she won't be qualified to give you any sort of diagnosis, but she SHOULD be able to give you an idea of what kind of specialist you may want to consult, or better yet, suggest a name or two.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 1:56PM
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You stated that he only acts up with immediate family. Its sounds like he is doing all he can to get your attention and/or even get what he wants. How do you respond to his hitting, spitting, and kicking? What kind of disiplinary guidelines do you have for your kids? Most kids i know that act that way do it because the parents allow it. Its time you put a stop to this behavior. If you leave him to act this way at age 4. What will he be acting like at age 14? He will also be much bigger then you by then.
I also have 2 kids with some learning disibilties. My oldest now 9 is ADD. She never through tantrums. We'll she did try at that age. But i always put a stop to them. Even if it means that you leave wherever you at. My son has speech delay. He goes to an early childhood program. He has been going since he was 3. He just turned 5. At this very young age kids really differ in their abilities. My son just recently learned his colors. This is all normal. What makes it hard or rather what made it hard for me is that my GF kids were smart,smart, smart. It easy to compare and wonder "whats wrong with my child?"
I wouldnt push the ADD issue. My DD is not ADD because I said so. She is ADD because everyone had concerns(teachers,doctors, other care givers). ADD/ADHD is not something a child can turn off in front of certain people.
sweeby is right. You must be exhausted!
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 1:13PM
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I pretty well second whay Ninos said...but also want to ask..
Do you have other children? How old? Do you work? Where does stay when you are at work? And what is your action when he is acting up?
One of my kids did the screaming and banging head thing....and I would walk away....and he would stop, get up off the floor and come to where I was and start again. If we were in a store or another place where I couldn't walk away, I would hold him so he physically couldn't do all that stuff. He stopped very quickly.
What do you do about it? Just don';t allow it...Grab him and hold on and say..."I can't let you act like an will hurt yourselfe or someone else".
I also have heard the bit about holding it in while at school and needing to let it out at home....if you think that's the case....find an outlet....tell him to go out and run as fast as he can to that tree and then run back....and then tell him to do it again...get those endorphins running!
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 1:30PM
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I know it's probably the easy answer, and you could very well have a more difficult problem on your hand, but I'm thinking it really could just be a case of him being tired. Sounds like maybe he still could use a nap and isn't get one; or maybe needs to go to bed earlier. Is he snoring at night or are there allergies or anything that may suggest he's not getting a good night's sleep? If you're not feeding into them, I really think most tantrums like that are linked to kids being either sick or over tired.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 7:39PM
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I agree with sweeby about Sensory Integration Disorder. As she mentioned there are several sites describing the disorder. Structure and routine are the first best remedies for helping your child cope. P.T's and O.T.'s are extrememly necessary in early intervention. They are also the best in the field for diagnosis and evaluation. LOL !

    Bookmark   January 11, 2008 at 1:58PM
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My daughter has uncontrollable outbursts when she has sugar and some food dyes. We took her to a naturopath, who put her on a very strict diet to cleanse her body of built up candida. It was tough to do but made a huge difference. We try not to give her any sugar; there are lots of sugar free alternatives.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 12:35AM
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My older son had melt downs if he got cows milk. Did your child ever have a milk allergy or get put on soy formula?

I also wonder about your child being over tired. That is when they may look like they are full of energy, but actually they are so tired that they cannot discipline themselves follow the rules.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 8:37PM
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I have a four year old girl going through some of the same things.
She has started trowing tantrums when she doesn't get her way or doesn't like something. She can be fine one minute and literally seconds later its like the devil had played a bad joke and took over my child ( i say this only in a joking manner)

Everday with her used to be a battle, almost walking on egg shells avoiding her tantrums. She has even started to say horrific things about killing people (we limit her tv to disney and educational and we don't talk about these things but kids ears are like sponges and they often repeat what they hear many times with out undertanding fully wha it means)

But I've received some good advice-turn every negative into a positive.
I've watched her behavior patterns, she doesn't like changes and while routines don't really suit her consistancy does.
Instead of giving into her tantrums I try to be firm with them. I have simple clear rules.
We don't hurt ourselves or others
We dont say bad words
We use our words well (w/o screaming or whining)
If she screams at me I clearly tell her that I will not respond to her until she asks me with good words
If she hits I put her in her room for four minutes
Then we talk about it.
Ive also noticed that she needs more sleep 12-14 hours aday, she can be overstimulated(she needs rest periods after a certain amount of stimulation)
She needs to eat every couple of hours (not sugar foods but healthy snacks)
Reward her positive behavior, even with words. Encourage her when she does something well.
I have a great book called types of difficult children. It really gives you good advice and support on raising your child.
The best advice I could have gotten is
Embrace your spirited child, they are many times the leaders of tommorow.
My advice to myself take a deep breath, remember she is my child and GOD gave her to me for a reason, maybe helping her understand how to control her behavior is it.
Remember your not alone.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 1:14PM
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you guys all sound like little brats! (I clearly tell her that I will not respond to her until she asks me with good words) well i knew you kids wears the pants in your house. sound like ya'll being run by your kids. wouldn't be like that if you took care of them like the old days ;p whip whip

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 9:39PM
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