Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, you are the parent of a very active three-year-old. One is prone to occassional mild tantrums. Where by occassional I mean two or three times a day and by mild I mean kicking, screaming and throwing things for ten or twenty minutes.

Let’s say she’s also prone to somewhat more intense tantrums on a less frequent scale. Which means the serious, no-holds-barred, drawing-blood-while-trying-to-gouge-mama’s-eyes-out, throwing-self-down-stairs, punching-baby-sister tantrums occur only every other day or so, and last an hour or two.

How would you deal with this, if you the stay-at-home mother of such a child? Would you consider this normal behavior for a three-year-old, or consult a professional about mental health problems? Would it seem like a red flag that something was wrong in the big picture of the child’s life, something that needed to be addressed and could make things happier and healthier for everyone? Or is this just par for the three year old course, as the few parenting books I’ve read on the subject seem to suggest?

And how would you handle it in the moment?

I tend to tell her that she’s hurting me or the baby or whoever she’s trying to injure, and that the behavior is unacceptable to me. If she persists, I will tell her to leave the room, and go to her own bedroom until she cools down. If she refuses, which she always does, I’ll carry her up there. And she’ll immediately run down the stairs after me screaming and throwing toys and we’ll do the whole thing again.

I find myself sorely lacking in tools for these behaviors. I have a lot of tools for dealing with adults in conflict that don’t work at all with my kid – like trying to reason, asking to take a break or a deep breath, redirecting to a positive aspect of the relationship or a positive activity, giving them what they want, walking away from the conflict or the person as a last resort…none of this gets any mileage with the above-mentioned hypothetical three-year-old.

I know some of my journal readers are adamant believers in never using “time outs” or any other punishment when dealing with young kids. I’m especially interested in your perspective. But the question for everyone:

What do you do when a young child is being physically violent towards you and/or a younger sibling? Also, how do you prevent fits like this from occuring in the first place?

(assume we lead a reasonably normal life: she goes to preschool three mornings a week, takes a gymnastics class and otherwise we mostly chill at home or visit a friend once in awhile. she sleeps about twelve hours a night, rarely naps, and eats a typical healthy diet at steady intervals throughout the day)