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Explosive temper from 4 year old

Ex wife and I are really out of ideas here.  Our 4 year old has recently started having crazy Temper Tantrums, hitting, thowing/breaking things, screaming.

Primarily when he is with me every other weekend, it comes down to going to sleep at night, or being told that he has to take a break from playing his lego game (though that is getting better).  Last night, we talked a few hours before bed about how daddy has to get up early and take him to mommy's house (because I work weekdays) and that we needed to go to bed early, he promised up and down that he would listen and go to bed when I asked him to.  Dinner then bathtime stuff all went fine, 8PM and I told him since he was good, that he could watch 2 of his 15-20 minute shows before bed.  We watched the shows, I told him it was time for bed, then the screaming/crying begins.  And the "I need to go potty, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty" stuff.  I calmly told him, "Buddy, we talked about this, we need to get up early to go to mommy's house in the morning because I have to work"  I let him obviously go to the restroom (which he did have to use), but no food or drink before bed, that has always been the rule in both our houses.

10:30 rolls around and he is still awake, fidgiting and playing with toys, I tell him that I will take his toys away if he does not go to bed, now the full blown throwing, screaming and crying comes.  I ended up taking his Lego game away and hiding it (thining about just getting rid of it at this point).  Finally he calms down after I ignore his little fit and an hour or so later he falls asleep.  This happens every night he stays with me.

Cut to this morning, he woke up before me and my alarm clock (around 5am).  No problems in the car with a 45 minute drive to Mommy's house.

Dropped him off and headed to work.  Texted the Ex-Wife asking her if what I did was wrong (taking the game away) and she replied, "Nope, because we are having a heck of a morning".  No idea what started it, but he was throwing things and breaking things.  She was in her room, he was beating on her door with a Toy Guitar.  When I left, he was trying on his Halloween costume for his Mother to show her what it looked like and seemed like he was in a great mood.

The other thing is hitting and biting all the sudden, when he is not at my place every other weekend, he is at her Grandparents house (she works weekend nights).  Last weekend he started hitting her Grandmother, I do not know what the circumstances were at the time, but they are saying we need to get help now so he will not get labeled when he starts school.

He is a VERY smart and well spoken kid and has a crazy good imagination.  I just don't know where this is coming from or how to calm this behavior.  Any kind of advise would be greatly appreciated!
2 Responses
134578 tn?1602101550
Hmm.  Well, this is a kid who has a disrupted life.  Never gets to be settled in one place without having to move on to another place.  The fault, as he sees it, is in you and your ex-wife not being together in one place any more.  Also if it is not bad enough that he gets shipped between you two, he also has to go to Grandma's for long-ish periods of time.  I wouldn't like it either, and I have a lot less primitive emotions than a 4-year-old.

You had a long talk with your son prior to bedtime but about your needs, not his.  Daddy needs to get up early, and so on.  He is probably beginning to get it (not articulate it necessarily, but feel it) that Daddy's and Mommy's needs will always outrule his needs.  I't get tired of that, too.

Talk to a family counselor about how to make your son feel like he is more of the center of your world and his concerns matter, when he is with you.  Go to bed at the same time of night that you want him to go to bed (sorry but really, it's only every other weekend) so nothing interesting is going on when he is put to bed, the rest of the house is dark and you are (apparently) asleep.  Don't let him have screen time before bed -- I'm surprised you haven't seen how disruptive that is to a kid's sleep patterns, look it up.  Be on the same page with your ex-wife about bedtimes (the time of night) so you are not putting him to bed at an hour when he is not used to going to bed (either too late or too early).

Good luck, but I feel for your son.  He has only a few ways to express it but he is being screwed compared to what he wants, and possibly needs.
2 Comments
Also, being with you should mean a lot of active exercise, not just you watching him while you are also on the computer or watching TV or reading.  Take him out and get him very, very tired!
Good advice. Agree. Kids today are overstimulated and rarely spend time in nature, which is calming to the nervous system. Particularly good to take him near bodies of water...the ocean, rivers, streams, heck even lakes and ponds. It's very relaxing. You can make a game of him getting a 'point' for every animal and insect he observes.
19308109 tn?1475528371
I agree with the other commenter, this is actually pretty typical behavior for a child this age...even the smartest and most vocal, well spoken children with a great vocabulary lose it at this age and can get violent.

How long have you been divorced? It is very traumatizing on him. Does he go to preschool, day care or have any place where someone could be abusing him? This is also common behavior for a toddler who is being sexually abused. Does the ex-wife leave him with a  new boyfriend/over/male sleep over friend?

The only thing you can do is try to keep your cool, remember kids need your love at the moments they deserve it the least. Encourage him to TALK about his feelings. Make sure he gets plenty of time outdoors and in nature, it has a calming affect on kids (NO technology!) try to reduce screen time VERY GRADUALLY. I know how hard it is to be a parent but when we were young we didn't spend 24/7 in front of electronic screens constantly stimulating our brains. And I would add in a warm bath every night before sleep. With a few drops of pure, preferably organic Lavender oil. It naturally helps kids sleep and relax. Good luck to you!
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