Tantrums in an older child can be very disconcerting to a parent, especially because the child’s outburst can be so much more explosive. Here’s one mom’s story—and my advice on how to proceed.

Q: Our 4-year-old daughter suddenly started having 30- to 45-minute tantrums when she doesn’t want to do something. Kicks, screams bloody murder, throws herself around to the point of hurting herself or me, will not stay in the time-out room, calls us stupid and mean, tries to hit us, beats doors and throws things. We ignore these fits but have to hold the time-out room door closed so she doesn’t run out and attack us or her siblings. Is this normal? She is acting totally crazy. What do we do? Reverse the lock and lock her in until she stops? We are desperate for help.

A: My, you’re having a time of it, aren’t you? First of all, let me assure you that this is normal behavior. Some kids “bloom” late, and it sounds like your daughter is one of them who perhaps wasn’t too prone to tantrums as a toddler, but now has decided that she wants what she wants when she wants it. When she doesn’t get it, because she’s bigger and stronger and louder and more coordinated, her tantrums are fiercer and longer and more destructive.

Some kids “bloom” late, and it sounds like your daughter is one of them who perhaps wasn’t too prone to tantrums as a toddler, but now has decided that she wants what she wants when she wants it.

Yes, she is totally acting crazy because she’s decided no one is going to be the boss of her. But let me tell you a secret—kids don’t like to be out of control. They really don’t. All this screaming and throwing herself around scares her inside. She won’t acknowledge that because she doesn’t realize it (because she’s 4 and kids that age do not have a lot of self-awareness).

What to do? Ignoring it is good but difficult when it’s in your face. When she’s calm or during a calm part of the day for her, sit her down and talk to her briefly (short and sweet principle in action!) to tell her that you’ve spoken to the Doctor and he said that little girls who have such wild temper tantrums must not be getting enough sleep. Therefore, on the days when she has a temper tantrum, she has to stay in her room after the tantrum ends, then go directly to bed after an extra early dinner. That’s it—that’s all you’re going to say.

Then when she has a temper tantrum, don’t bother trying to get her into a room—everyone else leave the area and let her flail about on her own until she’s calm. When she has calmed down, then you take her to her room and confine her there and put her to bed super early (I’m talking by 6 p.m. at the latest, but preferably 5 or 5:30 p.m.) Yes, she’ll fuss and might throw another tantrum, but you’re going to expect that and so you’ll be mentally prepared.

Continue as necessary and expect things will get much worse before they get better, but with consistent application, a calm, unruffled demeanor by you as mom, she’ll settle down.