If you are a parent to young kids, then I am pretty sure you have heard the phrase terrible two’s.
Both my own kids are well past this age and I had thought that I made it through to the other side of the terrible two’s quite some time ago.
But recently, my 4 1/2 year old younger daughter has begun to have full blown tantrums all over again if she doesn’t get her way.
Definitely couldn’t make this up and have decided that we are entering a new phase, which I am calling Ferocious Fours (Almost Fives).
Take for instance a recent outing to the mall, where she had two full blown meltdowns in less than an hour’s time.
First one was at Target, while we were shopping for an upcoming birthday party gift for her older sister’s friend. Apparently, this toy shopping to her meant that she too would get a new toy. Even though, it clearly wasn’t her birthday (it is May and her birthday isn’t until November) nor was it Christmas or any other major holiday that might require her getting a gift or new toy.
Yet, once that spectacle was over, we headed over to The Children’s Place to look for new bike shorts to be worn under spring/summer skirts. My shopping agenda got derailed by the next outburst, which was all over her simple desire of getting to purchase a dressy dress that clearly we didn’t need right now.
That was only one day and two incidents occurred in less than an hour’s time.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, only two days later while playing with friends, the same child got her panties in a bunch when she was offered an orange ice pop, because she simply wanted an ice pop, but not orange.
Back during the terrible two’s, I can recall understanding that my kids were still pretty young, but still needing to be taught right from young with this sort of behavior and handled it like this.
But now, that both my girls are no longer babies and school age, I began to realize I may need to approach my own daughter’s behavior differently than I did only a few short years ago.
4 Ways to Prevent The Ferocious Four or Fives Tantrums
1. Keep Tantrums from Happening
This may seem impossible and many may be asking, how exactly can a tantrum actually be averted completely. Here is the thing, I have started to warn ahead of outings, now what I expect as far as behavior from my younger daughter, who is indeed the guilty party at this point in time.
For instance, if we are going to the mall, I now make it crystal clear that we are only going for x,y, and z, therefore she shouldn’t expect to get something that isn’t on our shopping list. At the very least, I feel hopeful that now she shouldn’t be surprised or taken off guard by her impulse needs or wants.
2. Don’t Give Into Tantrums
Still, I am not deluding myself to think that the tantrums will stop cold turkey, because let’s face it nothing (bad habits included) is this easy to stop doing once you start up again like the return to tantrums at 4 and 1/2 years old.
That is why when tantrum worthy moments do occur, I have always made sure not to give into them and still do now. I most definitely don’t give into what the tantrum is about, like the toy or dress that my younger daughter wanted. You better believe she didn’t get either of those items on that fateful day nor will she be getting anything else she would find the need to implode over.
3. Clearcut Consequences for Tantrums
If I am out somewhere, like I said previously I will do all I can to ignore, because if not then this will negatively reinforce that this behavior is the way to get my attention.
If this doesn’t help to stop the behavior in its tracks, then I will extricate us from the situation.
During this time, I make sure a time out is issued, such as going back to the car before continuing on shopping, because I will not continue to remain in a public place while my child further descends into a shrieking mess.
Better to remain calm, talk that much needed time out and then return when calmer heads prevail once again.
4. Reward for Positive Behavior
If we manage to escape the dreaded tantrum, then I try my best to give some positive reinforcement.
See at this age, my own daughter does know the difference between right and wrong now, as well as what is expected of her behavior wise.
So I am all for rewarding when she does act appropriately, because she should understand that the correct reaction is not only a good thing, but what we strive for at all times.
Don’t get me wrong, the reward isn’t anything that could break the bank and is usually something like getting to read an extra book before bedtime or something equally benign, plus a bit of verbal praise for this, because positive attention strategies can more than help to keep future outbursts to a minimum and at bay.
Again, at only two short years older, kids 4 or 5 years old, should have a better grasp on their emotions, actions and even their vocabulary, than a two year old would.
Still that doesn’t mean they are mature or grown up and will most definitely have their moments, but it is still what we, as parents, do during these past, explosive moments that can hopefully make all the difference for the possible, next time.
As my 4 and 1/2 year old, told me as I was getting ready to publish this, “Can I come with you? I promise to be good this time, because I just want to be with you.”
Robin (Masshole Mommy) says
Four was the WORST age for both of my boys. I cringe when I think back to it.
Robin, looks like we are right on track then.
Liza Hawkins says
Great tips! I find it’s hardest to remember to reinforce positive behavior, but works sooo well. 🙂
Confessions of A Mommyaholic says
I know this is the one that I find the hardest to remember sometimes, too and yet the one that does help remind my girls that the proper behavior is what we are all just trying to achieve. 🙂
Carrie Groneman says
Great post and excellent suggestions for handling the situations. Kids are kids and it spills into adolescents, teens and….adulthood, lol Love your article and I’m sure it’s another WINNER! Thanks Janine. Carrie, A Mother’s Shadow
Thanks as always Carrie and you are right through kids will indeed just be kids.
Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama says
My eldest boy had the roughest age 5. Emotions were everywhere and anywhere!! But you are right. Things have calmed down since he turned 6 not all the way but much better than before!!
Nellie, my oldest actually seemed to narrowly escape this, but my younger one as I said here, “Lookout!” Hoping that by following these tips we can make it safely to 6 and have it calm down here, as well.
Liza | @aMusingFoodie says
Reinforcing and praising positive behavior is SO helpful (if I can remember to do it). 😀
Again, I so agree, Liza and still the one that I sometimes do forget myself, as well. 😉
Reading an extra book before bedtime is a great idea for a reward. My daughter used to throw tantrums in the store. And if someone touched her car seat. 😉
The tantrums in the store are seriously the worst and yet I can’t thank you enough for letting me know you dealt with this, too Rosey. And I love reading before bedtime as a reward 😉
Kristen Miller Hewitt says
It’s such a hard stage, especially when we just don’t get it! Their emotions are so big and they just can’t handle them.
Confessions of A Mommyaholic says
Thanks again Kristen and totally agree the emotions at this age are totally over the top!!
Liz Mays says
You are so right with the consequences. If they think even for a second that they might win, the tantrum goes on! Excellent advice here!
Thanks Liz and I know they can never think they will win otherwise it is over in more ways than one!!
April G says
The terrible twos weren’t so bad it would definitely 4, 5 and actually even 6. Once my son hit first grade, things went haywire. He had expectations that he never had before. I don’t know what it is about being around other kids going to school but it definitely got worse.
April, that is so what I am finding right now, too and thank you for weighing in 😉
Briton Underwood says
I have twins who just turned two. It has been brutal, I didn’t realize I would have to flip them at three to turn a profit and avoid the ferocious fours. Thanks for the heads up! Great piece
Briton, I didn’t realize either and seriously hope that this stage goes quickly now, too!
Ashley Austrew says
My daughter will be four in October, so this is really helpful. I had no idea the tantrums might return!
Confessions of A Mommyaholic says
Happy to help Ashley and I truly didn’t think and actually hoped that they wouldn’t return either here.
Jenifer Maxwell Fuller says
Ashley they come back as a pre teen/tween also.
Ashley Austrew says
Confessions of A Mommyaholic says
I find the 3’s and 4’s WAY more challenging than the terrible two’s. It’s hard to remember they are still little even though they act older, and they have big emotions!
I totally agree and definitely over the top emotions at this age for sure!
James Oliver, Jr. (@jamesoliverjr) says
Oh man. I’m in the middle of the two drama with the twins.
I thought we’d be out of the woods soon.
I hoped too and made it through the other side now only to find it happening again here at 4 years old!!
Sharon, The Mayor says
We went though this also. Wait until eight when the added girl drama comes on full-force.
Oh god and my two are only 16 months apart. So double the girl drama!!
Seana Turner says
I love, love #1. I think all of us – kids and adults alike – cope better when our expectations are properly set. I was a Mom who would be honest if the girls were getting a shot at their doctor’s appointment… I hate surprises and I don’t deal as well when something catches me off guard. I remember talking to my girls about how it can be hard to be in a store and want something, but not buy it, and that’s why I don’t just troll through the Container Store.
Seana, I am the same way with handbags and shoes, too! But seriously thank you 😉
Diane Roark says
Can I come with you? I just want to be with you! I love that!! I also love that you have a plan to prevent and stop the pouty behavior. I have learned the best defense is to have a plan. My 13 year old still thinks she can get away with being pouty even though she never does. She is a very unusual situation because of her past and test us in everything. The good news is after 9 years with us she is SLOWLY learning.
Blessings and have a great week!
Aw, Diane you can come anywhere with me! Seriously, would love to you to join me!! 🙂
I swear the phrase “terrible twos” should be banned. As they get older the tantrums get WORSE!!!! As they develop more vocabulary, can express what they want, know what they want and think they should get what they want…the temper tantrums get worse. I deal with it all the time and just let him go then explain that I love him so much that I am going to make sure he’s healthy, safe, and follows the rules.
Karen, I agree and think all we can do is let them know that they are healthy, safe and to follow the rules, too.
My son did that…skipped the terrible twos and moved into horrible fours…I wanted to put him to sleep permanently. LOL I’m not sure he ever moved past that and he’s thirty now. 🙂 Happy Monday, Janine.
Bill, coming from you I seriously appreciate it and know it will get better someday in the future now. Happy Monday once again 😉
the Imp says
I am so looking forward to this being over and done with.
Then again, my 16 yo is prone to cries of, “THAT’S NOT FAAAAIIIIIR!” which is essentially a teen verison of a tantrum.
Yup, I will have two girls doing the teen years together. God help me!!!
Lauren Baker Cormier says
Great post! #1 is SO important. My kids do much better if I’ve set clear expectations ahead of time. Shared this 🙂
Confessions of A Mommyaholic says
Thank you again for sharing and again #1 really has helped here in the last few weeks now for us, too. 😉
Ginny Marie says
Great ways to deal with tantrums! My 10 year old still has them from time to time! I have a list of simple rewards from my teaching days, and I still use them as a parent. Sometimes just having a dance party is reward enough!
I love the dance party idea and definitely am going to try that here. Thanks for sharing that with me 😉
Then they become tweens and teens…. Not sure the tantrums every completely go away! You have a good plan Mom with some great tips, good luck 😉
Aw, thanks Jen and I know it only becomes big girl tantrums and drama from so much of what I have heard, too.
I had a 4 and 5 year old once… they are now 9 and 10 and the tantrums have only spaced out a little more. 🙂 I also have an almost 3 year old who makes up for any time there isn’t a tantrum going on. I am going to put into action your tips. 🙂 Thanks. 🙂
Aw, thanks for weighing in Becka and glad you could also use some of these tips with your 3 year old, too.
Stephanie @ Life, Unexpectedly says
Our sweet little Lily is going through a little premature puberty stubborn phase right now. She basically thinks she knows everything, can do what she wants, and gets away with everything. Well, not in our house. A little bit of that behavior definitely stems from getting a lot less attention now as Calvin needs a lot of me, but still, her behavior is not acceptable.
Your ways to prevent tantrums sound really good, especially the first one!
Thanks Stephanie and I once again think our Lily’s would get along perfectly!
Kathy Radigan says
I really thought 3 to 5 was the most challenging!! Hang in there it’s almost over and then you will be in the magic years!!!!!! xoxo
Aw, thanks Kathy and I needed to hear this now more than ever!! <3
Chris Carter says
Oh gosh how I just groan for you, Janine! Your advice is spot on, in my book!! Especially, taking the child OUT of the store or situation… because although I have ignored and not reinforced such meltdowns back when my kids were that age, – if they continued and ramped it up more- we were OUTA THERE. And said child just forfeited the rest of the day for any privileges whatsoever.
Hang in there mama!!!
Thanks Chris and I know we are so out of anywhere that either of my girls could now ever imagine to act like this again, too.
Nicole Johnson says
Four is tough…I have one now and have had two (that are now 10 and 8). They really begin to test and push the limits at four. I think it can be even worse if they have older siblings. But, I do think setting clear expectations can help. And I do believe reasoning and explaining to a four-year-old is easier than it was when they went through the terrible twos.
Nicole, you are so right about the reasoning and finding that out myself here. Thanks for sharing that with me 😉
I don’t know why, but the odd years have always been the most difficult for my kids, or should I say me. Those are the ones where they just seem to lose it a bit more than the even ones. Although I have to admit the teen years in general have been setting new records for challenges.
But I am definitely in favor and support of not giving into tantrums, that just leads to more trouble.
Jack and I am so with you on not giving into tantrums either.
Aww, what a great post sweetie! I think every single year is priceless. They grow so fast! 🙁
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Aw, thanks Diana and just left you a comment about your amazing news!! 🙂
Kids all go through these phases differently, don’t they? Our oldest was a difficult child from the age of 1.5 well into her fives. She’s not a bad kid, just very opinionated (like both her parents) and too intelligent for her own good. The little one seemed to have breezed through the two’s without much of a problem, but we’re seeing glimpses of the threenager in our future. And each kid has a separate need for discipline – the older one just dissolves into further problems when negative discipline happens, but the little one seems to respond effectively to things like time out. Love that you offer things like extra reading time…and what your daughter said at the end of the post is just so sweet!
I totally agree Leslie that each kid is indeed different and goes through different phases in their own due time. Thanks for sharing with me here today 😉
Ah, that last thing she said! It’s just like them to win us over like that in the end!
I found the ferocious fours and fives to be so hard, because even though Scarlet was old enough to be reasoned with, that didn’t mean she’d actually.. be reasoned with.
I agree and seriously how unfair!!! 😉
Leah Davidson says
Great advice, but so hard to follow!!!! I can say though the the 7-10 ages are pretty good?!?!? Does that give you hope!?
That totally gives me hope and seriously thank you for that, Leah!! 😉
Elaine A. says
Oh yes, my daughter was this way too. Especially about getting things when we were out shopping. I get it, I want stuff too! But yeah, I put the kibosh on that real quick! 😉
Elaine, I have totally too and seriously not having it here if I can help it now!! 😉
Joy @ Yesterfood says
Oh, Janine, that last sentence! ♥
Aw, Joy <3
Catherine Gacad says
‘panties in a bunch…’ you are totally cracking me up right now. franco is prone to tantrums but i hope it’s just because he’s a baby and he’ll grow out of them. but i know they’ll come back around at 2 and 4 and 8 and 14 and 16. i’m just waiting….!
Catherine, I loved that you loved my phrase here and I know each stage seems to bring new struggles though still.
I can certainly relate! Reiko is 4 and is still having tantrums from time to time but I gotta admit, they’re not as bad and as frequent as when he was younger. He has better understanding now. I agree with not giving in to tantrums or what they want to have. Children have to learn to wait and learn that not all they want they can get. Kudos to you!
Aw, thanks Rea and I know giving into the tantrums are truly the worst thing we can do with our kids.
The Pinterested Parent says
3 1/2 has been challenging as well. All of your tips are right on. You have to hold strong. It is sometimes easy to want to give in when they are melting in public. I am hoping 4 is not worse. Lol! Hang in there mama.
Aw, I hope 4 isn’t bad for you and got my fingers crossed!! 😉
Kay went thru the ferocious 4’s, but then she had a really nice state. I started thinking we were in the clear! But now she is starting to test me in new ways. She backtalks and argues that she’s not breaking rules or being rude when she is. It’s driving me nuts! I’ll take the terrible 2’s back now please, lol.
Oh God, don’t tell me that and just don’t think I could go through it again at almost 6, too. Seriously, the terrible 2’s are looking better and better though lately!!
Rabia @TheLiebers says
We’re dealing with this now at newly five. He’s also the baby of the family and very used to getting his way from his siblings and others. He’s finding it tough that as he gets older he’ll have more responsibilties, like getting himself dressed and washing his face at night. These are good tips and things I’m already doing. I’m glad other moms are dealing with this same thing. I feel a little less crazy now!
Thank you Rabia for sharing that it is definitely not just us here either!
Aunt Gloria says
Good advice and strategy Janine. I guess 4 and 5 is a time when kids begin to feel they want to be more autonomous and independent….but really can’t. So it comes out in tantrums or negative behavior. I remember having a tantrum around that age, which was very unlike me. The devil made me do it! Positive reinforcement works for good behavior. I think you’re on the right track and Lily will come through this stage OK. And hopefully so will you!
Hope Emma is better. Happy weekend. Love to all…..xxoo
Aw, thanks Aunt Gloria and just hope we make it out of this stage quickly now to be honest. Have a great weekend once again!! xoxo 🙂
Aunt Gloria says
It’s amazing how parents survive these various stages! You’ll look back one day and have fond memories! Love you…..
Agreed Aunt Gloria and definitely amazes me, too. Love you, too!! 😉
Bre @ Bre Pea Blog says
As we approach 4 years, I can totally relate to this post! The older she gets, the more stubborn she gets as I think she’s becoming more aware that she can challenge me. It’s tough but not giving in is definitely important.
Bre, I know the older my younger one gets the more stubborn, she is too here. So, trust me getting this in spades!
I have five children, and my fourth is now four and a half! I thought that I was an experienced mom until my sweet cherub started her ferocious fours big time recently! Honestly, I feel like this is what we are doomed to live with for the rest of time, but I know that it’ll pass (not soon enough, I can tell ya!). I’m finding it exhausting and also so unpredictable… She’s also been developing some bad habits over the past couple of weeks out of nowhere… like talking to herself when someone talks to her, or not answering adults when they address her… this is all just recent, but kind of goes along with her defiance – I think she wants to be in control, and these are ways that she can feel like she is…
Anyway, I was just looking on the internet to make sure it’s not my imagination, and that there are actually other 4.5 year olds who go through this too! So, I was relieved to come across your post…
Thank you so much and I hope that things have become easier for you since you wrote it! 🙂
Tehila, most definitely not you and admit 5 is a bit better now, but we still have our moments all the same. That said happy you did come across my article and thank you for sharing with me, too! 😉