MY husband and I are at our wits' end. We have a four-year-old girl who just never seems happy. It's almost like she doesn't want to be happy.
She complains about everything from her top riding up her back when she is in her car seat (so we end up taking her top off) to the way her food is cut, to just about everything.
Her tantrums are unbelievable and our house is getting destroyed. We have holes in the walls and our TV got broken because she threw a chair at it.
We have six and five-year-old girls too, so the dynamic in the house can change quite dramatically. We do punish the four-year-old's behaviour, as we don't want the other two thinking she is getting away with things when they don't.
We of course try talking calmly to her to understand what the problem is or to make her understand why her behaviour is not acceptable.
What makes this situation worse is that she is such a bright, witty little girl who can bring so much joy and laughter to our lives. But, mostly, she will start her complaining from the moment she gets out of bed in the morning.
Every day I cry at some stage, as I just can't take the drama. I don't know if you can help, but we seriously are in need of help.
I OFTEN think that children's behaviour is their way of trying to tell us things. This is particularly the case for young children, who don't yet have the verbal skills that they need to tell us in words what is going on in their heads.
It may be that your daughter is just lagging behind in the following areas: her ability to tolerate frustration, to solve problems or to be flexible with change. Some of that may be simply her age (she is only four) and it may also be that in comparison to her sisters she struggles with these things more.
While it is important to be fair with all of your children, you don't have to respond equally to them. Children are different and sometimes they need different kinds of responses from us to meet their specific needs.
Some of the behaviours you describe are quite extreme, for example throwing a chair at the TV, and it may be that they reflect some unsolved problems that just keep repeating themselves.
It is well worth reviewing the kinds of situations where your daughter explodes in fury, to see if any patterns emerge. Who is there typically, for example? What has been happening before? Where do the tantrums normally happen? What times of the day are tantrums more likely to occur? What happens in response to her outbursts?
Understanding the answers to these kinds of questions may give you a better indication of the triggers for her behaviour. It won't excuse her behaviour, but it may start to explain it. It may also give you and your husband a better indication of what you need to do.
It may be that you can do things in advance of an outburst to soothe her or to reduce the intensity of the feelings. It may be that you can set up new routines or family habits to minimise the opportunities for outbursts. It may be that you can change how you respond to her, perhaps showing greater understanding.
Like the car seat example you gave, you could try saying something like: "I don't think it is easy to have to sit in your car seat, especially when you don't even want to be in the car."
This might tap into her frustration about having to go on the journey. It may also ease the intensity of her frustration and make it less likely that it will develop into a full tantrum.
Dealing with an explosive child like this can be wearing, so no wonder you find yourself in tears some of the times. It is important that you also try to mind yourself so that you don't burnout with the stress of dealing with her.
This might involve looking for some support, socially, from friends or family or sharing the parenting load. Perhaps it might help you to take some time for yourself to just meet your own needs.
Given the quite extreme nature of your daughter's behaviour, you may also want to consider getting some hands-on professional help and guidance. You have started that process by writing to me and it may be worth following that up by consulting with a psychologist locally.
You clearly want to understand and help your daughter and it makes sense to avail of support and advice you can rely on.