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Don&Bradly
Don&Bradly asks:
Q:

What do I do?  My 4 year old is driving me crazy!

I have a four year old that dose not listen to me at all. He like to thourw fit when he does not get his way. I put him in his room but he just come out of there. I tell him to go back to his room and he till me to go to hell. I can't seem to displince him at all with out getting in teddl.
In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Boys Town National Hotline
May 29, 2009
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What the Expert Says:


I am so glad that you wrote to www.education.com with your parenting dilemma.  Working with a 4 year old who does not accept your authority can make you feel crazy at times.  

While I know that it seems difficult, please know that you are doing the right thing by trying to discipline your son when he does not listen to you or when he throws a fit when he doesn’t get his way.  As parents it is very important to draw clear cut lines between acceptable and unacceptable behavior for our children.

Sometimes it is best to start with a clean slate.  Before another tantrum can occur, make certain to teach your son your expectations.  We usually encourage parents to break following directions down into easy steps.  For instance, teach your son that when you ask him to do something, he needs to look at you, respond by saying okay and then to do what you have asked right away.  Keep your instructions short and simple.  Practice this response a couple of times a day and identify it as practice so that he is able to experience success.  Set up easy tasks that he can do right then and there.  For instance you could tell him that you were going to have him practice following directions.  Then ask him to hand you one of his toys.  If he follows the steps that you have outlined for him, heap on the praise.  This is the time for hugs and kisses, high 5’s, smiles and “good job” compliments.  It is also not unreasonable to give him a small candy piece like an M&M each time he completes the practice correctly.

Spending time practicing with your child will increase the chances that he will behave appropriately in real situations.  You must make behavior practices upbeat and fun though for this approach to work.

It is also a good idea to prompt your child that a real instruction is coming.  Instead of asking him to pick up his toys, you may want to say something like, “In 5 minutes, I will be asking you to pick up your toys.  Don’t forget how to follow directions.”   Then after a couple of minutes you can say “In 2 minutes, I am going to ask you to pick up your toys.  Be ready!”  Then you can ask him to follow your directions to clean up.  

If you have repeatedly practiced, he will be much more likely to comply.

When a child acts out it is important to discipline him as soon as possible so that there is a direct connection between the misbehavior and the consequence.  While sending him to his room might seem like a punishment it may actually have the opposite effect.  It sounds like his behavior becomes more intense when he is sent to his room and rather than dealing with the original misbehavior you are now addressing his verbal aggression as well.  Perhaps it would help to find some additional consequences that would be related to the misbehavior.  For instance when your son is verbally aggressive, he would need to sit quietly where he is at and then say that he is sorry before he can go back to playtime.

Keep your wits about you when you are teaching with your son.  If you became angry and tense, he will do the same.  If you stay relaxed and calm, it is much more likely that your son will mimic this behavior as well.

Please know that if you have additional questions, you can call the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.  Trained counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist you with parenting questions or just provide a listening ear for support.

You are doing the right thing by looking for ways to deal with your son’s behavior.  If you are interested in learning more about our methods, please feel free to check out www.parenting.org, a website sponsored by the Boys Town organization.  

Again, parenting a 4 year old child is hard work.  Please continue to reach out to find the help that you need to be successful.  

Thanks again for writing to www.education.com with your story.
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Additional Answers (7)

michaelbartone
michaelbart... writes:
Hi Vanessa,

This sounds like a very difficult situation. I applaud you for keeping your cool and trying strategies to discipline him. I would suggest talking to your son. Ask him why he does this or if he is upset about something. I would also bring him to the doctor and have the doctor talk to him. There may be some issues he is having trouble with, and he needs a way to express his frustrations.

He could be hearing this from other children or adults or from the media. Just keep giving him love and letting him know you are there for him. Hope this helps!

Peace, Michael
> 60 days ago

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Developmentalist
Development... writes:
This article could be a big help in your situation:

http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Why_Time_Out_Doesnt/

or try our Parenting Styles Info Center located in our Reference Desk on the homepage.
> 60 days ago

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Danielle
Danielle , Parent writes:
HI Vanessa,
I have a four year old myself and it's been one of my favorite, but also one of my toughest years. My son, like yours, is testing limits. With us, a lot of it is at bedtime, when he keeps coming out of his room and saying, "I'm not tired. I won't go to bed." For me, what has been key is keeping my cool outwardly, even when he's making me upset. You also might try some positive discipline, rather than negative-- to stop the tug of war. For example, perhaps he gets a sticker each time he DOES listen. Or perhaps he gets an extra 10 minutes of your undivided attention when he helps around the house for a few days in a row, etc. Let me know how it goes...
> 60 days ago

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Seann
Seann writes:
Hi Vanessa,

There have been some great suggestions here already.  I to have a 4 year old who at times completely loses her temper and is very hard to reason with.  In dealing with her at those times, I find it is largely a trial and error process - sometimes one things will work and other times its another.  One of my favorite approaches is the "smother with love" approach where I will just sit with her on her bed or on the couch until she calms down and then I try to re-direct her attention to a positive activity.  I also find that the best time to talk to her about what is going on and why she got made is when she's in a good mood and happy - she tends to be far more responsive.  We all now how hard it is, so keep on working with your son to find the best solution for both of you.
> 60 days ago

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twinkle8107
twinkle8107 writes:
Help mine to but she is my little sister.I ask to stop,she screams.I shout,she screames even louder.We are on the same track here(well sort of)
> 60 days ago

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pikatua11
pikatua11 writes:
PUNISH HIM!!!!!!!!
> 60 days ago

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radz
radz writes:
Set simple expectations, review as you discuss this eye to eye. Explain this is not acceptable and consequenses are time out for 4 minutes(1 minute per year of age). Time out means no dialogue between you and child. Designate one area in house that is time out spot. You explain to the child why they are being sent there and leave them there. If they move, take them back without saying a word. After time is up, discuss with the child why they were in time out asking so you know they understand the purpose of the time out. Be consistent with your discipline plan. Kids love structure and consistency. Allow time for your plan to work, dont give up. I disagree with sending a child into a room with no explanation. Also, do not get angry when you are disciplining.  They pick up on anger and respond negatively to it. If a child is from a 2 family home (parents are divorced) it is important to make sure both parents are following the exact discipline plan and this includes the grandparents as well. From past experinece is one family spoils and the other disciplines, the child gets very mixed messages and will not follow either family. Be consistent for childs sake.
> 60 days ago

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