"Good parents take very, very good care of their marriage, lest their marriage become a mirage. "

Out of Control Tantrums!

Question

I have a little 3.5 year old who is completely out of control. I admit we have let him run the house a little bit as he is a little spitfire and makes things unpleasant (i.e. screams as loudly as possible) when he doesn’t get his way especially outside the home. It’s embarrassing. I usually take him home but that doesn’t seem to work. He will do it again in the future. He interrupts incessantly with adult conversations, he throws hour long screaming tantrums, and he rarely listens to instructions without arguing, dawdling or ignoring. He even often throws a fit and outright refuses! Once a really happy, cheerful and affectionate boy now has become increasingly sullen and unhappy. How do I take back control? It seems nothing we do works. The tantrums are bigger than ever!

I have read some questions and answers here which recommend tickets and charts. Do you recommend them at all for this age? I’ve been holding off as he seems a bit young. But we need to do something! Even my very patient husband is at his wit's end. Any thoughts?

Answer

Wow- it sounds like you've got a bit of work cut out for you, but don't be nervous. With calm and consistent leadership, you can have a happy and obedient child. I don't know if you are familiar with what John describes as seasons of parenting? In season #1- the family pretty much revolves around the child and his needs. This is a period from infancy up to the child's SECOND birthday. By the time your little one turns two, you should be transitioning into the 2nd season of parenthood. During season 2, the child learns that he isn't actually the center of the family- that his parents are. He begins to be discipled (disciplined) to become more like his parents (a functional, respectful member of the community). When parents fail to grow into the second season of parenthood, they are left with selfish, ill mannered, demanding little tyrants. These poor children never grow out of toddlerhood! I'm sure you've even met some parents of teenagers who are still stuck in season one of parenthood? They have teens who think the world revolves around them, the rules don't apply to them and that everyone else was put into their world to serve them. Is that the kind of teenager you want? Then move into season two now.

As far as addressing specific behavior issues, "The Well Behaved Child" is an excellent book which explains the ticket system, charts, strikes, etc. To answer your question, no- your child is not too young to be disciplined. The key to any discipline is that you don't see it as a method, but as a permanent change in YOUR behavior. Your focus needs to be on leadership, not relationship. If you think that using the ticket system will solve your problems, you will soon abandoned the method and declare that it doesn't work. Until you shift the dynamic of your family into one that is parent-centered, any discipline method you attempt to implement will fail.

Sincerely,
Liz Mallett, CLPC
parentcoachok@yahoo.com

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