A Mamas Uncut Facebook fan writes in asking for advice on the topic of dealing with a 4-year-old prone to “uncontrollable” tantrums and other behavioral issues. The mom says “the fits she throws are insane” and that she is living in constant “fight-or-flight” mode. She says she has tried absolutely everything she can think of to change the behavior, but nothing has worked. Read this mom’s question, and Amber Trueblood’s response, below.
“I’m at a loss with my 4-year-old daughter and her attitude and tantrums…”
“I’m at a loss with my 4-year-old daughter and her attitude and tantrums. She is an angel for others, but for her dad and me she is uncontrollable. The fits she throws are insane, and I can’t control her most of the time. She screams and kicks the walls. All I try to do is be nice and calm, but my chest gets tight because I feel like I’m in constant flight or fight. Her mood changes are instant; I never know what she will do. We have tried EVERYTHING. Nothing works.”
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Advice from Expert Amber Trueblood
It can be soul-crushing, ego-smashing, and psychologically exhausting trying to manage a little one who is out of control. Believe me, whatever is prompting this behavior, it’s not fun for her either. If all the behavioral approaches you’ve tried haven’t worked, let’s try some new ideas.
I’m very direct and communicative with my children. At a moment of calm between the storms, I would explain to your daughter that you’ve done some research and decided to help the family communicate better so that everyone feels calm and can more easily express how they’re feeling.
You can describe how some kids are allergic to peanuts or gluten and can feel sick to their tummy or even have trouble breathing. Similarly, people can have a reaction to foods that make them feel out-of-control, frustrated, and upset… like their head is spinning around in circles. Just like sugar and alcohol can make adults feel irritable and grouchy, sugar alone can do the same to children. Some children are far more sensitive to foods than other children, just like adults differ in their reaction to foods and drinks.
If this were one of my boys, I would start with removing sugars from his diet for two weeks, and see what happens. It definitely won’t hurt her physically to go without sugars and to truly keep tabs on all the ingredients of what she’s eating and drinking. The secondary benefit to this approach is this; if you’re able to be very strict and explain that her body may not be processing sugars properly, resulting in her feeling like she cannot control her body or her words, she will see you are committed to finding the cause and removing it. She will also see that you’re not messing around. Chances are, she’s not gonna love being the only one at the birthday party without a cupcake. Just ask my boys, they’ve been the ONLY kid at a party without cake on several occasions. Mama don’t play.
If you’re not ready to remove sugar, I recommend you look for a pattern in her tantrums (time of day, sleep-related, food-related, person-related, school-related). A four-year-old knows how she is expected to behave around people, so she can often muster up the energy to control herself until she’s home in a safe place and can let loose. This doesn’t mean that she’s only feeling out-of-control and upset with you and dad, it may merely mean she’s managing only to SHOW it with you and dad.
About Amber Trueblood
Amber Trueblood is an author, retreat-host, and the mother of four sons. She’s an unapologetic bibliophile, having devoured over 250 books on behavior, management, systems, parenting, meditation, and self-development. Her expertise, experience, compassion, and humor result in a unique combination of entertainment and effectiveness with her clients.
Interestingly, Amber wrote Stretch Marks, her debut book, while on a Broadway Tour with her husband and four sons, traversing over 60 cities across the U.S. and Canada. Amber is most passionate about providing mothers simple and realistic tools to guide them toward a happier, calmer parenting life. Her unique approach includes helping clients clarify their values and priorities, then showing them how to use that knowledge to make better discipline decisions, relieve mom-guilt, reduce self-judgment, and become a truly enlightened parent.
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