4 year old attitude problems - any help?

Christine - posted on 11/21/2008 ( 20 moms have responded )

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My 4 year old is very strong-willed and high energy, which is great, but at the other end of that spectrum is that she can be very sassy/disrespectful and we also have problems with her listening/obeying. We are very consistent in her punishments, but I just feel like we are punishing her all the time. We explain why it is wrong to act that way and she seems to understand, but then continues to do it. Anything that has worked for anyone else?

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User - posted on 11/21/2008

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Sounds like my five year old son! One thing that has helped is a star chart that we use CONSTANTLY to reinforce good behavior. If he gets dressed when he is asked, he gets a star. If he walks out the door with me when I say it is time for school, he gets a star...etc.. stars, stars and more stars. I let him make the chart, so it looks totally crazy, but he loves it. He needs 30 stars to get a reward, and it's not a toy. It's an ice cream sundae party with the family after dinner. Or a special afternoon at a museum or whatever...The rewards are all things he would get occasionally anyway, but he gets to earn them, which he thinks is cool. It has made a huge difference.

Claudette - posted on 11/21/2008

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Sorry, it must be the age because i'm having the same problem with my 4 year old.

Ariana - posted on 03/10/2014

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Um did nobody notice the person who puts her young daughter into cold showers when she's not listening? That seems like a really drastic thing to do with a young child and totally inappropriate. I'd rather put them in their room until they learn to calm down then subject someone to freezing water. I don't think that teaches any coping skills and the only thing it does is teach the child to fear you and your strange punishment. Plus what happens when she decides she doesn't care? Or she's to big to put in the shower? Then you're going to have to 'up the ante' and god knows what you'll try to do. Sorry but for a small child I feel that is totally inappropriate. We are adults not jail keepers. We're supposed to teach children how to act now scare them into submission.

Ariana - posted on 09/24/2013

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My son is also very strong-willed. I also use consistent punishments as much as possible but also choosing my battles is a major thing.

If you try to fix everything you end up with a whole lot of punishment and not a lot of fun. Try to keep situations as flexible and low-key as possible.

For example my son will put his shoes on the wrong feet consistently and refuse to switch them. This is a terribly irritating thing but if he refuses to put them on the right feet really who cares? It bothers me on the inside but the moment I go, okay well leave them like that then, and just let it go everything goes a lot more smoothly. That way when he's actually doing something he's not supposed to and I get him in trouble it's not me being controlling or nitpicking, and I don't have to get on him about every little thing.

Try to be positive, make plenty of opportunities for success and reduce opportunities for failure. Don't tell a child to do something that you don't actually need them to do. I only tell my son to do things I am willing to enforce a consequence for if he does not listen/respond. If I want him to do something, but he doesn't actually have to, I do not phrase it as a command. If I make a command he is always expected to listen to it. I would rather he listen successfully twice for simple things than 5 times after I had to force him to listen, (or have him fail at listening since I was just to tired to follow through).

Hope some of this helps!

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[deleted account]

Thanks Charisse! I think it worked mainly because it gave her something that was only about her. With a younger brother around, everything had to be shared, including time with mom and dad. But when it comes to rewards from tickets, she knew it was because of her good actions that we got to go somewhere. I would always ask her if it was ok that brother came along to wherever she choose to go and she would always say yes!

Charisse - posted on 11/21/2008

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Erin ... I like your idea. It does work for young kids. It's an incentive for them because they want the reward at the end. If they've collected say 20 tickets, they can turn those tickets in for a trip to their special place, or out for dinner. Keep doing that!!! Once they get older, the same idea will work, but differently. It won't be tickets, it can be turned into bucks ... fake bucks, of course. Say your daughter's name is Sarah ... make up Sarah buck with her picture on it, then laminate it. Get a piece of bristol board from the dollar store, pick up some stickers as well. Write on the top of the board activities she needs to follow, for example, keeping her room tidy (toys picked up, clothes put away, etc.), if she does chores, that can be added to activities she does for the day, also, how her day was at school. You can add as many as the board would fit. Each night before she goes to bed, bring the Sarah bucks to her room and go through all the things that she's was successful in completing that day. Make it one Sarah buck an activity. Separate from that, make up an incentive sheet for her to turn those Sarah bucks into something to look forward to. She can have a choice on what she chooses. Your daughter and you will sit down to discuss these, because it will mainly be her choice on what she wants to turn in her bucks for. At the end of the week, say, on a Saturday ... she can choose to go to a movie, or go shopping at the mall with you, or go sledding at the park ... something she can look forward to. You're all welcome to e-mail me for some solutions. The bucks may not work for everyone. These behaviours are trial and error, what works for some won't work for all.

Kimberly - posted on 11/21/2008

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I have a 4 year old with the same issue, but there is HOPE! :) My husband and I have been taking parenting classes, trying to get support and ideas for what to do. My "strong willed" child definitely has an attitude! We also researched a website, scream free parenting. What we found through various different streams, was that the discipline should be uncomfortable. That being said, I give my 4 year old a warning, then a 2nd warning that if she does not cease she will get a cold shower (note I say COLD so she isn't freaked out about showers in general and she does get the difference), and by the 3rd time, I march her upstairs and put her in the shower and turn the cold water on for a few seconds. No, I don't take her clothes off (that's the part that really gets her). I've had to do it now 3 times, and she's stopped. Now, I get to the 2nd warning and she stops her behavior, apologizes and moves on. Also, I want to add that this is only for serious offenses. I feel very strongly that you have to choose your battles, if you fight over every little thing, she isn't going to get it. And praise is VERY important. I am constantly telling her how great she is doing, how much I love her, and she gets treats and stars for good behavior. I hope this helps! Each child is different, a cold shower isn't going to work for each child, but it's being "uncomfortable" that really makes the consequence stick. My favorite part is snuggling her in a big comfy towel afterwards and giving lots of hugs and kisses.

Charisse - posted on 11/21/2008

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To all of you who wrote in about your own kids .... this is certainly not surprising. I have many tips and solutions to your problems ... e-mail me at char0041@yahoo.ca and I can help you.

Charisse - posted on 11/21/2008

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Christine ... there can be many underlying reasons why your daughter has suddenly "changed" from the cute little girl she used to be. Kids in this generation are getting brave with testing their limits. They need to see how far they can push buttons. Consistency is the key to nipping this in the bud. If you don't mind me asking .... what kinds of punishments to you instill when she is sassy/disrespectful or not listening to your directions? Misty, if you don't mind answering that question too. I think I can help you guys with your problems. I've worked with children for almost 13 years, and have been successful in turning behaviours around ... the younger the better. If you want to personally e-mail me, that's fine too. My e-mail address is char0041@yahoo.ca.

[deleted account]

My daughter is almost 4 years old and is the same way. We started a ticket reward system. Every time she follows the rules, listens, shows compassion, etc. she gets a ticket. We talk about why she received the ticket as she herself puts it into her jar. We also explained to her how she would loose a ticket - basically only by showing violent behavior (ie. hitting her little 2-1/2 year old brother or thowing a fit for no apparent reason). The point is to make the reward plentiful and the taking away of the tickets drastic to the point she does not want to loose the ticket. Of course, the reward has to be related to her exact desires and enjoyment, going to a special park or the zoo which she trades a number of tickets for (hence she has to keep earning tickets to go more places!). This has shown to be very effective and we have noticed drastic positive changes in her over the past 6 months. Also, at the same time, we began to talk to her like a big kid. We gave her more choices and I really had to let go of my little baby girl! It has been great! Good luck to you! Oh, and we gave up nap time. That gave me more one-on-one time with her and just upped her bedtime by one hour to make up for it.

[deleted account]

Just a thought, have her role play..Ask her to be the mommy and her ideas of what she would do, if you didn't listenobey...Give a specific scenario that you and she have experienced.

Tanya - posted on 11/21/2008

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oh my gosh- sounds JUST like my four year old daughter. I find when it is just me and her or her dad and her she is an angel, but when the other girls come home from school or we have company she acts up. I must admit that we are not consistent with her punishments and understand that may be the problem. I do however reward her for GOOD behaviors. I would love to hear how other mom's deal with their 4 year olds!

Emily - posted on 11/21/2008

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My daughter's 3 1/2 and just started developing this attitude... I'd love to hear suggestions too. :)

Micki - posted on 11/21/2008

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My little girl is the same and the thing that helps us the most is making a HUGE deal when she does something right or the right way and making the punishment a part of what we have to do but not a bigger thing then her praise and it seems to help, she also has a bean jar (same idea as a star chart) and we talk to her and her teachers at school and church about her behavior all the time to make sure we are all on the same page.

User - posted on 11/21/2008

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Have you tried having her pay you for poor behavior?

At the beginning of the week, set up a fund of Monopoly money, or marbles, or something to keep track of. Each time there is a behavior problem, she pays you. Set up in advance with your husband and any other regular caregiver how much infractions will be worth. If there are some things that happen all the time, you kind of know what to expect. Then at the end of the week, find out how much "money" she has left, and reward her based on that amount as she must have used good behavior sometime in order to still have money left. ( I hope I am making sense here). Either let her rent a movie, or get an ice cream cone, or have a special evening out with dad or mom, just her and the parent. Obviously the more "money" the better the reward.



Just a thought. So maybe you can feel you are doing less "punishing" and more teaching. This way she punishes herself.



TJ

Jennifer - posted on 11/21/2008

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My 5 year old is exactly the same way. My husband had adhd when he was a kid, and of course there was nothing to do about it then. He said that he eventually grew out of it, and that she will too. No matter what, we will not medicate, because I do not want a different child. I am glad that I am not the only one who feels like we punish her all the time. It starts when her feet hit the floor, and doesn't end until she is asleep. I have found that if I take her to the park, or make her play outside it gets rid of her energy. She is much more willing to listen/obey and is not sassy or disrespectful. Maybe you can "work out" in your home to release some of the energy she has. That always works for us.

Karin - posted on 11/21/2008

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My daughter was diagnosed with ADD and ODD when she was in Kindergarten. They stopped testing her after the first test, rolled their eyes and said..."Wow, are you in for some fun".



After some mishaps we found the right medication for her, and though it helped her focus in school it did nothing for her ODD. We have gone through years of punishing her, fighting with her, and trying to discover new ways to get her to listen (I once took to only responding to her in a whisper...that only made me easier to ignore). She is in 6th grade and just turned a corner. I don't know how it happened, but it just did. I can only credit that we did all we could think of, stayed in the fight, loved her like crazy, and hoped for the best.



I guess my point is there is no over night solution...as I'm sure you know even if you have other children without ADHD, but the truth is it's so much harder to wait when the struggle is so much more 'every day'. Hang in there. Keep hoping, and all your hard work will be rewarded.

Misty - posted on 11/21/2008

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I would love the answer as well. I have a four year old daughter with the EXACT same problem.

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