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Bonnie, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 2189
Experience:  and pediatric nurse practitioner with 30 years of experience counseling parents.
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Hello, I have a daughter who will be four at the end of

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I have a daughter who will be four at the end of the month. She can be the most affectionate, sweetest girl in the world but two seconds later, she can completely fly off the handle. The things that set her off can be so small, it's often hard to believe. Her mood swings are so dramatic-she screams/shrieks louder than any child I have ever heard to the point your eardrums vibrate and people around have a look of shock. She loses all control and even intentionally blows snot all over her face. When you wipe her up, she escalates further and screams "I want my boogies back!".

If we put her in her room to collect her emotions, she begins throwing everything she can get her hands on towards the door--even chairs and furniture. She has broken a few things along the way.

Ignoring her doesn't really work as she just follows us around with her behavior.
She is combative. For example, when we address her, she says "My name is XXXXX XXXXX" (it is!). Sometimes I feel like I am walking on eggshells to avoid a conflict because anything can set her off.

Of course, I try to keep my response steady and collected but after a long fit, I sometimes lose my cool and end up raising my voice to her and getting angry (I hate it! & end up feeling terrible). It is only when she sees that I have reached extreme frustration that she seems satisfied and backs off. It is like she enjoys pressing my buttons and testing the limits.

As quickly as it started, she can often get herself back together and right away wants a hug and kiss and says "I am sorry for acting that way" completely unprompted. When I ask her why she acted this way, what was wrong, talk about her feelings etc she always says "I don't know"---then we are through that hurdle until the next time. These blow ups seem to happen (almost) daily.

I suspect that she is not getting enough sleep, although tiredness couldn't fully justify what's going on. She stopped napping around 3 1/2 and even if I can get her to nap on occasion, she ends up staying up til 10 or 11 pm. Most days she wakes up around 7:30am. I put her to bed around 7:00-7:30pm. Nightly, she doesn't fall asleep until 9 although we have very busy, active days. She must be exhausted, I can't understand why she doesn't doze off the second her head hits the pillow.

While I understand kids this age can have tantrums etc, her behavior is to the extreme. Others (grandma, friends etc) have also felt disbelief over seeing that way she can act. I can't imagine this is typical behavior and I worry something is wrong. I want to help her even out her emotions but don't know what else to do. Can you help?
Hello and thank you for consulting JA, Sorry it took so long for your answer,

I agree with you that her emotional reactivity is "over the top". I also agree that she is not getting enough sleep. Four year old children generally require 10-12 hours per 24 hour period.
I would ask her doctor about using a sleep aide and see if getting more sleep will solve the emotional problem. Many have had good luck with a natural sleep aide known as Melatonin but check with her primary physician first. Also do all the bedtime routine strategies every night without fail. In addition, do not allow any "screen time" one hour before bed. Having light enter the eyes tricks the body into thinking it is daytime and the natural melatonin does not get released.
If she is still having severe temper tantrums, have her evaluated by a child therapist or child psychologist for other possibilities and perhaps play therapy. Other possibilities include mood disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety. If any of these diagnoses are found treatment would be recommended. Treatment is play therapy and, sometimes, medication. Just a note, children with ADHD or anxiety often cannot fall asleep easily.

Hope this helps and warm regards,
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