Ask Our Experts

Got Questions? We've got answers from experts and parents who've been there.

What can I do to help my 3-year-old learn that he cannot have everything his way?

My 3-year-old is a good boy. However the last few days he has been so defiant and aggressive. Yelling, hitting, throwing toys, kicking things, having temper tantrums and just about anything else you can imagine if he doesn't get his way. Nothing has changed in our home environment and we have tried reasoning with him, time-outs, holding him to calm him down and everything. Is this normal behavior?

Submitted by skl5280

It is not unusual for children of 2 or 3 to have angry "tantrums"--reactions of yelling, throwing things, hitting, and general loss of control. It is good to search for something in the child's life that may have changed--as you yourself has suggested--since often tantrums are a response to new elements that throw the youngster for a loop: a new sibling, change in caregivers, or emotional events at home. But oftentimes there is nothing particular that parents can identify that has set the tantrums into motion. The "change" may be that the child himself is maturing, and has new ideas a new worries; the child suddenly understands more about the way the world actually works, and feels suddenly less in control and less secure because of this. It is part of growing.

 

I would suggest therefore, that you attempt to do whatever you can (realistically!) to avoid setting up situations that seem to provoke tantrums, and then to try to calm your son and get the day back on track. Recognizing that tantrums are not unusual and that the best thing to do is to maintain your cool--these ideas may help. Punishment, time-out, and other efforts to intervene directly with the tantrum "behavior" usually do not, in my opinion, get anywhere.

The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.

Community Answers3

Answer this Question
X
Enter an Answer to this Question

Tips
500 characters left


My 3 year old used to throw tantrums without provocation. I used to get very upset not knowing what to do. Then one day, my husband & I sat down with her paints & papers while she was in one of her moods. Soon she came and sat down next to us and got involved having forgotten why she was angry. She asked for a cookie and I realized that she was hungry. I make sure she's involved in some activity when she's at home and when it's not her nap time.
Submitted by margaritadrake
The three's are often harder than the two's. They are a little older, a little bigger, and desire to make more decisions themselves. Try to allow the child to make choices. Give them less to 'tantrum' about. Many times we won't 'get' why they are upset but if we try to see things how they see it then it'll be a little easier. Once one of my kids was throwing blocks after asking him not to. Finally, he told me he likes to make them fly. So we made throwing ok, cool, and fun with paper airplanes.
Submitted by themunirfamily
We found with our 2-3yo, that the trigger to these awful, prolonged tantrums was hunger and/ or exhaustion. We now make sure he "grazes" all day, and has, at least "quiet time"if he won't have a nap. We also avoided going places that interrupted nap time, and if he started to get niggly,I'd pull a box of sultanas or somesuch out of my bag for him. Hunger was/is the main contributor for his behaviour..
Submitted by upstageentertai