Thank you so much for this great website. I feel like this method is what I have been looking for because constant time-outs are not working anymore. Anyways, my 4 year old daughter is starting to drive me and my husband nuts!!! She cries and screams about EVERYTHING!! If we say"no" about anything she throws a huge tantrum. The hard part is when we are out in public or with family or friends and we tell her "no" she starts screaming and yelling and I just don't know how to handle the situation. We have started losing our patience with her and it has made us angrier and in turn she gets angry back and yells, slams doors, etc. How do I turn this around before it's too late? I don't want her to act like this and I fear that a lot of it is because we have lost patience.
Thanks again for any advice! Really appreciate it!
Sometimes being a mother is so much like being a doctor. You see symptoms and you aren't sure if they're a sign of something serious or whether it's some small minor virus that will pass in a few days. Such is the case with your screaming child. Is she just going through a phase? Is she deep down discouraged? Or is she finding that screaming gets results? Since we can't be sure, let's cover all the bases.
Make sure that you are connecting with her in positivie ways throughout the day. Really pour it on. She's getting big now, so it isn't as natural to pick her up and cuddle her. But she still needs lots of affirmation and physical affection. You didn't mention other children--but four year olds can feel especially "put out to pasture" when the cute baby or two year old is always stealing the show. You can make up for that by developing a new and special friendship. Treat her, in subtle ways, like a peer--sharing little secrets, doing "grown up" things together and then overtly telling her much you enjoy your time with her. Lots of warmth and reassurance about her place with you.
Never reward screaming. Ignore it. Walk away. At the very most, say, "I'm sorry. I can't understand you. When you're ready to talk to me, I'll listen." Even when others are watching, just calmly say this or ignore her all together. Or if she's truly causing a disturbance, take her to the car and read a book in the front seat while she screams. When she finds that she gets absolutely nowhere by screaming--no reward, no attention (negative or positive), no bribe or blackmail or negotiating, no power at all, she will stop. It may take a few days.
The combination of these two stategies should really help. At some quiet, close moment, you can talk to her about screaming. "Remember earlier today, when you didn't get another cookie and you screamed?" Teach her that babies scream because they can't talk. But people just talk. Teach her very specifically what to do when you tell her 'no'. Practice together--each taking the part of parent and child.
Any time that you see her doing it right (handling "no" correctly) stop everything and praise her. "Wow! That was so great! I know that you really wanted that toy but you didn't scream even a little bit!" etc., etc. All the attention and reward shifts to the positive behavior.
When you know what you're going to do, you don't have to get ruffled or emabarrassed. Just carry out your plan and when she calms down, smile, give a hug and say, "I'm glad you're happy now. Remember...we never scream."