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Uncontrollable crying fits
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Uncontrollable crying fits

I have two daughters, ages 2 and 3.  They're personalities and behavior patterns are like night and day.  My oldest is mild mannered and sometimes shy.  My younger daughter is outgoing, funny, and talkative.   The problem is the younger one.  She will begin crying about something like forgetting to kiss her father goodbye, and then cry for two or three hours.  I have tried EVERYTHING.  I have tried time out, the corner, spanking (with the belt, the hand, a spoon, a paddle.)  I have tried to console her and that does nothing.   I tried to ignore her and put her in her room, she just comes out and follows me around screaming and crying until I lose all sanity.  I have tried putting her in a lukewarm/cold bathtub and shower, she just screams louder.  There is no stopping her when she starts this behavior.  It is not only a source of insanity for my husband and I, but it causes problems between us, because we disagree on how to handle the tantrums.  Now, I know what the terrible twos are like:  I have several nieces and nephews, and one of my own I have witnessed through this time, but nothing to the degree of my youngest daughter.

Will she grow out of this stage?  Is this a sign of a serious behavior problem?   Is there anything else that I can do to detour her from these fits?
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Dear Beth,

It would probably be a good idea to confer with a child behavioral health clinician, because the interactions between your daughter and you (and your husband) need to be examined in some detail.

In a general sense, it will be important to develop a systematic, uniform response to the behavior. Part of this will involve anticipating circumstances that are likely to result in the crying episodes. Part will involve what to do when they occur.

Spanking is not going to be useful. Your daughter is already in distress at these moments. By physically hurting her you are only adding to the distress.

Time out as a punishment is not necessary, because it's not as if she is doing anything wrong. She is emotionally upset, and the resulting behavior is disturbing to the family.

It may require that you gently let her know that the crying itself is OK (in other words, you don't make an issue of the crying per se). The problem for the family is that when she cries for such long periods, the family's tranquility is upset. Thus, she may need to be in a separate room when she cries for such long periods. As a way to structure this, you can use a timer, and tell her that she can cry for five minutes wherever she wishes but, after the bell goes off, she'll need to be in her room to finish her crying if she's not ready to stop by then. As part of the plan, you can build in a reward for her success in stopping within the five-minute time frame.
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Dear Beth,

As a child, I was very outgoing, humorous, friendly, etc.  However, I also had several so-called "tantrum" episodes per week.  My parents used to call it "Justy's temper problem."  There was no consoling me at these times, and my father resorted to beatings as a way of trying to "discipline" me.  As an adult, I have now been diagnosed as having temporal lobe epilepsy.  Based on a thorough look at my medical history, my neurologist suspects that my epilepsy began in early childhood and was probably the cause of my "temper" outbursts.

I don't know what is going on with your daughter, but one thing  I know FOR SURE is that spanking her with belts, spoons, paddles, etc. is only going to make the situation worse.  The years that I endured being physically disciplined for something that was not my fault, and that I could not control, have totally seperated me emotionally from my family.  The normal bonds of trust were never formed.  Don't do this to your daughter.  Have her evaluated and DON'T HIT HER.  As frustrating as it may be to you, there has to be a solution other than spanking.

If the situation does not resolve itself as "just being the terrible two's", I would have have her professionally evaluated for any physical or emotional problems that may be causing this behavior.      

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This can be childhood depression.  Children have symptoms different from adults.  My 6 yr old son does the same thing every so often, and says he cannot stop crying and does not know why he is crying.  He gets angry at himself because he knows he should not be acting this way.  He takes an antidepressant at night.

Other things that affect my son's behavior are the foods he eats and what he drinks.  He was having extreme tantrums complete with hitting, scratching, yelling, spitting, etc. We eliminated all artificial dyes, flavors and preservatives from his diet and added essential fatty acids.  About a month ago I let him have gummie worms and the next evening he had a tantrum and crying fit that lasted for over an hour.  Dairy products also make my son's behavior worse and he gets argumentative.  You may want to try cooking from scratch and using no preprocessed foods.  Eliminate Jello, Koolaid (sugar and artificial dyes), and limit sodas, juices, and corn syrup.  I have been doing this for nearly two years now.  Some kids' bodies just cannot process artificial ingredients and it affects their behavior.  Try these websites: drrapp.com, cspinet.org, foodallergy.com, greatplainslaboratory.com.

Yelling, spanking and punishments do not help and do not improve the behavior - it only makes it worse. I've gone down that road may times.  Keep calm and let her cry it out.  Give specific praise for good behavior and after her crying has stopped try talking to her about her feelings.  She is so young that it may be hard to talk with her about her feelings unless she is very articulate. If the diet changes do not help she does need to be assessed by a professional and possibly get medication.  I hate to see such a young child on medication due to the side effects but if you have tried everything else then medication and/or therapy would be indicated.
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