Tantrums In 4 Year Olds: The Advice You Wish You Knew Sooner

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 05/10/23 •  Behavior / Tantrums

Tantrums in 4-year-olds can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Have you ever felt helpless in the face of your child’s uncontrollable fits and outbursts?

In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating science behind tantrums in 4-year-olds and provide you with practical tips to prevent them from happening so you can say goodbye to public meltdowns and hello to a more peaceful life.

What Is A Tantrum?

Are Tantrums In 4 Year Olds Normal?

Yes, tantrums in 4 year olds are a normal part of child development. They happen as your child learns to become more independent and typically occur between the ages of 1 and 4.

How Do I Handle My 4 Year Old’s Tantrums?

Dealing with temper tantrums in 4 year olds is never easy, especially when they happen in public. But being prepared and having a list of strategies to deal with tantrums in 4 year olds is your best plan to get through them safely and effectively.

6 Steps For Handling 4 Year Old Tantrums Anywhere

1. Stay calm no matter what. This is the hardest part of handling tantrums in 4 year olds. But taking a deep breath and staying calm is key to preventing a tantrum from escalating.

2. Acknowledge their frustration and anger. Tantrums usually occur when your little one feels ignored, unheard or misunderstood. So acknowledge their anger or frustration with minimal words.

3. Talk in a slow low voice or not at all. Use as few words as possible. Mid – tantrum, 4 year olds are looking for you to lose your temper and give them a reaction. Sometimes it is best not to say anything until the tantrum has passed.

4. Move your child to a safe place if possible. If you can, move to a safe place where your child cannot hurt themselves, you, anyone or anything else.

5. Remove the audience if possible. It can feel very embarrassing to have your child throw a tantrum in public so if possible, remove them from an audience. This allows you to concentrate on them without worrying about what others are thinking and very often, without an audience your little one’s tantrum will lose momentum.

6. Wait it out and chat about their feelings afterwards. You cannot force tantrums in 4 year olds to come to an end. Nor can you expect your toddler to listen to you in the middle of a tantrum. Therefore, wait it out and have a chat about what happened afterwards to help your 4 year old understand that there are more acceptable ways to express their feelings next time.

7. Don’t give in. And I mean NEVER give in to a tantrum. Even if part way through you feel you may have denied them something that they could have had or done… Once you have said ‘no’ you must see it through. If you give in to a tantrum you reinforce that this aggressive behavior gets results.

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How To Prevent 4 Year Old Tantrums From Happening

Prevention is always better than reaction. And having some tricks up your sleeve to prevent toddler temper tantrums from happening in the first place is hugely beneficial for the whole family.

9 Way To Prevent 4 Year Old Tantrums From Happening

1. Create a calm-down corner. Having a safe space where your 4 year old can go when they feel things are getting too much can be hugely beneficial to help them reset their emotions. If you wish to leave your child to calm down by themselves for a short time, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a 1-minute “time out” for every year of your child’s age.

2. Practice teddy bear breathing. This is a fun way to get your little one to practice deep breathing which works wonders for preventing tantrums in 4 year olds. Balance a teddy bear on their tummy and give it a ride with the rising and falling of your child’s breath. It is a great idea to make this part of the bedtime routine when they are lying down in bed.

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3. Utilise emotional development toys, books and flashcards. These are excellent ways to get your little one to talk about their emotions in a healthy way. They will give you an insight into how your child is feeling and will give them the essential verbal tools to express themselves in a healthy way.

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4. Lead by example by modelling good listening. Leading by example, giving your child positive attention and listening to them first will go a long way in avoiding unnecessary temper tantrums in 4 year olds.

5. Talk openly about emotions and feelings. If you talk openly about your feelings your child is more likely to do the same. It is important for them to realise that feeling angry, sad and frustrated is normal but that there are ways to process these emotions without having a tantrum. I love the Little Spot of Emotion Books to help address this topic with children.

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6. Praise your child when they manage their emotions properly. When your child successfully processes or navigates a situation that could have resulted in a tantrum ensure that you give them plenty of praise and encouragement. Reinforcing a good outcome will definitely help to reduce temper tantrums moving forward.

7. Maintain a happy and positive family atmosphere. 4 year olds are very sensitive to their environment and the happier and calmer their surroundings are… the fewer tantrums they will have.

8. Ensure your child has a healthy age-appropriate sleep schedule and regular bedtime routine. Sleep and emotional behaviour go hand-in-hand. Help your child to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime to limit the possibility of overtiredness causing any tantrums.

9. Give your child the words to express their feelings. Very often, severe tantrums in 4 year olds are a result of your child’s inability to vocalise how they are feeling. Make sure there are plenty of opportunities for your 4 year old to talk about their emotions and give them the words to express themselves.

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What Is The Difference Between A Tantrum And A Meltdown?

The main difference between tantrums in 4 year olds and meltdowns is that:

However, some tantrums can turn into meltdowns if they go on for a long time…

Characteristics Of A Tantrum:

Characteristics Of A Meltdown:

Frequently Asked Questions About Tantrums In 4 Year Olds

Need more advice about temper tantrums in 4 year olds? Get the answers to the most common questions here:

Is It Normal For A 4 Year Old To Be Emotional?

Yes, it is normal for a 4 year old to be emotional. This is because your 4 year old is starting to learn about other people’s feelings and has a strong desire to please and be seen as good and kind. They will also start to form friendships and learn the whole range of emotions that go with this.

In addition, they will be developing their imagination and with so much going on you can expect your 4 year old to have emotional outbursts as they try to process all these new feelings.

How Can I Stop My Four Year Old’s Tantrums And Hitting?

If your 4 year old is hitting out when they have a tantrum you need to take swift action and address the issue. Make sure that your 4 year old knows that hitting is never allowed by saying No hitting. Only respectful touches are allowed.’

If your child is uncontrollably hitting, hold them firmly from behind, keeping their arms by their side and say that you will only let go once they calm down.

Once the tantrum has passed, talk about how hitting people is not an acceptable way to behave and offer them alternative options like hitting a cushion when they feel angry and using words to express their frustration and anger.

When To Seek Help For Tantrums In 4 Year Old

In some cases, temper tantrums in 4 year olds can be an indication of an underlying condition linked to the child not being able to process emotions effectively.

If you notice any of the following signs, or if your child is regularly engaging in specific types of tantrum behaviors, then I would advise having a chat with a medical professional to see if an emotional assessment would be useful:

Why Does My 4 Year Old Keep Having Tantrums Every Day?

Your 4 year old may keep having tantrums every day because they are:

While these are the most common triggers if your little one suddenly starts throwing more frequent tantrums than normal… they may also be feeling insecure about a recent change in their life such as starting nursery, moving house or the arrival of a new sibling.

What Do You Do When You 4 Year Old Screams At You?

Firstly, don’t ever scream back or verbally discipline your toddler when they’re throwing a tantrum. They are screaming at you to get a reaction… so the most powerful weapon you have is not to react.

Keep your voice calm and refuse to talk about the issue until they bring down the volume and use their ‘quiet’ voice. Encourage them to come and sit in the calm-down corner where you can help them express their feelings in an acceptable manner with positive behavior.

It is important that you take this time once the screaming has stopped to reinforce that they will have your attention if they speak and behave respectfully.

Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder To Blame?

You will only know if attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is contributing to tantrums in 4 year olds if you consult a child development psychologist or child development expert.

Further Reading

Toddler tantrums are a normal part of childhood, but they should not be dominating your life. Read these articles to help you better understand and manage temper tantrums in a healthy and productive way:

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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