My Child Is Out Of Control

Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

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Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

Hi there!  I am a mother of two, and my child is out of control! She is a diva! My son will be 4 in November, and my daughter will be 2 1/2. My husband and I are in our 30s and have really enjoyed parenthood for the most part. My daughter has always been diva-ish, but it is out of control now. When I say always, I mean that I took her to the doctor when she was small (a few months old) over and over, thinking that she must have another ear infection, to no avail. The pediatrician finally told me it was her “personality” that we were seeing. I answered, “Are you kidding me?” I still ask that question every day. I am not one of those crazy women on TV who gives into their children’s every whim, and I try to be as consistent as possible, but she is blowing my mind. For me to reach out for help over the internet means I’m at my wits’ end

Her tantrums and screaming fits are too much for me.Even other people have told me that my child is out of control! I do not intend to live like this, and she is not a happy human being. No one should cry and scream every single day of their lives, should they? Surely this is not her personality? Can people be born to throw crazy fits all the time? I thought those people were the product of irrational parenting.

When she screams, I now have her go into the bathroom and shut the door. She won’t stay, and I have even sat in there with her to try and get her to calm herself down, but she gets more irate. All of these experts say that the kids are getting something out of the fit in order to do it again and again. What is it? What can a human being get out of sitting in a bathroom?

I am exhausted every morning before my day starts because there is always a “fit” about something. and I feel horrible because I truly feel like someone can do a better job raising her than my husband and I. This is just not a good fit. Can you believe these things are coming out of my mouth? I’m losing it, aren’t I? Help!  Tiffany

Hi Tiffany.

My child is out of controlNo, you’re not losing it, even though I’m sure you feel like it at times.  Believe it or not, I get a lot of people who contact me saying my child is out of control.  It’s a situation that many people find themselves in and you are not alone.  Having said that, if there was ever a time I would implore you to please look at my behaviour intervention service this would be it.  That’s not to sell myself but it’s because you obviously need help and as much as I can try and establish what to do in a letter, my efforts will fall short as all I can do is give you an idea as to the big picture.  

My child is out of control.  Ok, first realize you are not alone.

Having said that, I recognize you want as much help as you can get in a letter, so I will try and address what’s happening the best I can. First, I understand you’re simply getting desperate, and there isn’t a mother on the planet that hasn’t felt those emotions at one time or another. Take heart; you can get through this, and both she and you will come out on the other side. Here are some things that I’ve learned from your letter that I think will help you on that journey.

You are practising avoidance.

I’m going to be very forthright with you because I think that’s the only way I can be really helpful. I’m also going to speak as though you have ruled out medical issues as the cause of these problems. Ok, first of all, you are practising avoidance. Every morning you wake up dreading the day in front of you, and no wonder. However hard you might try, those feelings will likely affect the way you act during the day. It’s natural for a human being to avoid things or activities that are likely to create problems.

Your child’s behaviour responds to your expectations.

When you say in your mind that my child is out of control, you are admitting this fact to yourself on a daily basis, whether you realize it or not, and what you expect turns into your actions, which turn into reality.

Your daughter, despite being only two and a half, knows subconsciously that you are not in control. Her moods are affecting your day and that of everyone else in the family, and your days seem built around her and her moods. She has taken the position of “Queen Bee” and needs to be removed. Why? Because it’s not good for her or anyone else. Control is not a bad word, and helping parents re-establish it is what I do.

Your child is out of control because she is trying to send you a message.

Now, here’s why she’s acting this way: Children are very smart and intuitive. They feel comfortable when you are taking care of things. The moment that balance changes, they feel lost. They fight, scream, yell, and participate in a number of rotten activities to get you to change that balance back to where it should be. Her behaviour is what tells you there is a problem. And those thoughts where you feel she is out of control are what are alerting you to that problem and compelling you to change. When you are in control, you make her feel safe. When she feels safe, she will stop doing many of the activities that currently drive you crazy. She may always have diva tendencies, but you can get her current behaviour to stop.

You’re sending conflicting parenting messages.

Ok, now you may ask exactly what it is that gives me the feeling that you are not in control; after all, you’re putting her in timeout and you’re being fairly consistent, etc. If you tell a child that you’re reading a book to help you deal with her emotions, you are sending a very powerful message. That message is, “I don’t know what I’m doing. You are causing me difficulty, and I’m lost.” When you avoid activities based on her mood, you are doing the same thing. In addition, when you put her in the bathroom one minute but then change to hugging her the next, you are again sending that same message.

To fix control issues, you need good leadership.

So to fix this problem, here’s what you need to do: You have to take the lead. If your child is out of control, you need to start by recognizing when she’s doing things right and completely ignoring her drive to get negative attention. Take note of any positive behaviour. All children want to be noticed, so if she does something nice or helpful, encourage her and sincerely thank her for her contribution.

Parenting consistency is important.

For challenging behaviour devise a timeout strategy and stick to it. Practice the same response every time she misbehaves. If you decide to put her in time-out and she won’t stay there, take her firmly back and have minimal contact with her so you don’t give her any attention for behaving badly. If you must say something, keep it brief.

Make sure you decide you simply don’t want to have anything to do with her if she behaves like that. If I invited you over and you screamed blue murder at me, I’d be unlikely to invite you again. All you are teaching her are logical consequences. Believe me, once she knows that you mean business and are running the shop, things will get better.

Provide two paths.

As soon as she figures this out, much of her behaviour will stop, but this is not an easy process. At the same time as refusing to negotiate with her, praise her for any remotely good behaviour. Give her opportunities to help you, and make a big fuss when she does. Make sure that you and your husband are on the same page and behave with her in the same way. It’s really a question of providing two paths. On one path, she gets lots of positivity and is noticed for being helpful, but on the other, she gets no attention at all. You are simply saying that if you act nicely, people will want to be around you. If you don’t, then…

So, if you’re wondering what to do with an out-of-control child right now, my advice is to not take on too much at once. Try to start this only when you have some support, as for the first few days that you implement this plan, her behaviour will get worse. That’s because she really wants to find out if you are steering the ship, and she will do everything in her power to make sure that’s the case. Analogies aside, it won’t be fun, but I’m sure you can do it. All that stands between you and success are a few days of misery.

What you have to do to fix this may seem overwhelming, and it can be. That’s why I have the behaviour intervention service that I do. It comes with support, specifics, and step-by-step notes based on your family, and it works. Take care and best wishes, regardless.


There’s a book I love that explains all about proper leadership and it’s written by Dr. Neufeld and Aaron Mate.  It’s called,  “Hold on to your kids.” 

Do you know what to do with peer pressure and how to get your kids to handle peer pressure correctly?

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