4 Year Old - Screaming/Angry Outbursts


New Member
Hi everyone! I have been searching the internet in hopes of finding some advice on how to best deal with our 4 year old. She is the sweetest, kindest most lovable little girl in the world and yet lately, my husband and I don't necessarily know if what we are doing is working for her and her latest outbursts. I feel like we are dealing with a teenager.... except she's four! :S

I'm not sure exactly what sets her off. It could be something that my husband or I have said no to, it could be me not hearing what she said the first time, so she answers with crazy amounts of attitude... it could be that one of us doesn't do exactly what she wanted us to do when she's explaining a game that she has made up. So very trivial things (though I'm sure they're not trivial to her).

My husband and I always try to react in a consistent manner and we try to support one another and be a united front. We try and model the behavior we want her to display. For example, we don't yell and scream at each other or anyone else... which is why I wonder where she even gets this. We try and teach her respect, honesty and that she will get a lot farther with us when she is nice/sweet then when she yells and screams. We make sure that she really doesn't gain anything from yelling and screaming. We make it a point to explain things to her and try and get her to understand the why's and use moments as teaching moments rather than just punish. We have tried comforting her when she acts this way, we have tried validating her feelings, we have tried giving her quiet time until she is calm enough to talk to us. The only real thing that seems to work in the moment is giving her quiet time in her room until she calms down and then talking to her. What worries me though is that lately, these outbursts have gotten worse, not better. It went from happening once in a while to happening a few times per day.

So now, we have started taking things away when she acts this way or not giving her attention. For example, the last time she yelled at me, I told her that she hurt my feelings by yelling at me and that I don't want to play with her any more (I try to simplify my language and speak in a way that she may understand). She said, well I said I'm sorry. I explained to her that I really appreciated that she said sorry, but my feelings were still hurt. Then I tried by explaining to her, imagine that I broke your favorite toy, said sorry, then went and broke another one, said sorry, then another, said sorry etc. Would you believe me that I was sorry? She shook her head no and seemed to understand what I was trying to explain. So I told her that's how we felt when she yells at us, says sorry and yells at us again. It seemed like this got through to her, but the next day, she was at it again.

Does anyone have any suggestions for us? What we are doing... are we missing something? Is there another approach that has worked for someone else? I understand that kids go through developmental phases and I'm ok with that. I just worry about her developing this into a habit and therefore believing it is ok to speak to people in this way. She is a very strong willed child and I don't want to inhibit that, but at the same time, I don't want her to get away with that either. What do we do?! =)


Well-Known Member
Maybe try reading Explosive Child by Ross Greene. It helped us. You really have to sleuth out what the function of the behavior is. Kids do good if they can, and if they can't, observing the environment closely and what happens before the blow-ups can give you clues. Then you can make a plan to help fade those behaviors. It's a start. We can't tell much about this young lady from your post and it's hard to tell if it's painfully normal stuff of a spirited child, immaturity, temporary frustration at missing skills that will come along as she matures, troubles in any other environments (pre-school, play groups, playground, etc). Welcome--you'll get lots of support and information here.

Sister's Keeper

Active Member
Maybe it is time for punishment, assuming that there are no other neurological issues going on.

When my kids were little, like toddler age, and having tantrums we ignored them.

But, maybe at this point you need to institute a punishment. We use time out (with pretty good results.


We would whisper back to them...they have to stop to hear you...We would say, I don't understand yell...then only whisper to them.

You can't debate with a 4 yr old....when you exhaust yourself explaining things to her, she got what she wanted....your undivided attention. Our children didn't do well with time outs...so we had to other things. Sometimes it was putting their favorite thin gin time out instead.

Every child has a " button"....use it to your advantage. Yes, small children are like teens!

Hope this helps..hugs

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Welcome Kalsas,

Have you had her evaluated by a psychiatrist or psychologist? This can be very helpful because your daughter, even though at some level understands what your saying, isn't able to put it into action. Also, I agree that reading The Explosive Child can be very helpful.


Well-Known Member
Once, when General was the most widrly used forum here, The Ecplosive Child was a must have for children with difficult temperaments. Almost a Bible...it is excellent.

My granddaughter started out screaming all the time over everything. I was concerned. My daughter and her boyfriend looked up methods on the internet and found one that stressed structure and warning granddaughter of changes to come. She did not like transitions and needed reminders before they happened. She is only two but very smart with a good vocabulary.

Honestly doing this has turned my grandchild around and she screams very little now and is charming and fun and adorable.

Both daughter and her boyfriend, however, ignore her when she screams even in public. If she wants a toy at a store and screams to have it, she still wont get it. This ignoring her when she has a fit really reduced them.

I have no idea if this will work for your child. If nothing mainstream works, I recommend having her evaluated by a neuropsycologist (this is not a neurologist. It is a psycologist with extra training in the brain). They are very skilled and often have waiting lists, but are worth it.

Sister's Keeper

Active Member
LOL no. You can't reason with a 4 year old. I've had 5 of them. It is like banging your head against a wall, you only get a headache.

I agree, with kids it is find your currency. For us, when they are smaller, maybe 1st grade on down, time out worked wonders, but it had to be swift and consistent. No reasoning, no explaining, just "Tine out for yelling." (or whatever the problem is) and place them in time out 1 minute for each year of age, and time out only "counts" when they are quiet and sitting in the time out place. Of course, time out was explained beforehand.

After about 2nd grade actual grounding worked better, but I think they are more able to process long term decisions at that point, they are less impulsive. When they are older we take away electronics, TV, play time with friends, etc.

I remember doing time out at an amusement park. We really stuck to it LOL.


Roll With It
I would also strongly recommend Love & Logic Magic for Early Childhood. My youngest son's first grade teacher was a new teacher and over the Christmas break I loaned her that and The Explosive Child. She read them both and used them both. She was sweet and bought me new copies of each because she folded a few pages over and in one place her pen bled through the paper she was taking notes on, but I kept the old copies and had her keep the new ones for reference as she taught. Near the end of the year she got some awards for how she was able to get through to the difficult kids. She told me she learned more from those 2 books than from all of her classes for how to handle kids.

Remember that kids have short attention spans. The longer you talk, the less they remember other than that they are bored. I wish I had learned that lesson earlier.