What is age appropriate for a four year old,?

Ariana - posted on 11/26/2013 ( 6 moms have responded )

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My son kicks off on the streetcar, will run about sometimes, doesn't always listen when I tell him to stop. I find myself having to physically remove him, or give him warnings of consequences to get him to stop.

My biggest warnings are usually that he's going to get moved, or he might lose tv or treats. The problem is he'll do something like, you say stop touching that, and unless you physically remove him (or sometimes even after you try to) he will go and put his finger on it, just to be a bug. And it's like should I say no tv if you do this? And then if he does the little one finger on it thing does that count, or should I just warn him off?

You know what I mean? It's like I don't WANT to get him in trouble but he just seems to push every little limit so that I HAVE to get him in trouble. I try to go out with him and he kicks off and I'm in this weird inbetween thing of trying to distract and keep him occupied and threatening to get him in trouble if he doesn't stop.

He also has recently started getting 'pushy' and aggressive but it seems to only happen around other people or in public, and at really random times. It's only happened once or twice now but it's still embarrassing and I'm not quite sure what to do. He'll start punching at me, but it's like he's doing it for fun, but it isn't fun. Like he isn't punching me in anger, he's just throwing himself at me and punching and making weird noises... I've told him to stop, and I warned him y esterday he isn't allowed to do that with me anymore (since these two instances) or he will be in big trouble.

But what do I even do? How much is just him being a four year old and how much can or should I try to control?

My worst problem is in public when other people are around. He tends to act better at home. Mostly because all the expectations are there, there's plenty of time to do things, and I'm pretty much in control of the situation/environment. He can get put into another room if he starts getting really riled up. Whereas outside or especially on a bus etc. he starts to lose it and I feel at a loss for exactly what to do. It's embarrassing to have a four year old start to kick off in front of a bunch of people, or not listen.

That's the other thing, what is or isn't inappropriate? I don't know. Sometimes I really don't care if he's putting his face on the window, but other people find it gross or distracting. So I try to stop him but he doesn't listen, and then I either give up (which is embarrassing and then he's learning not to listen) or I have to usually physically move him away from the window and he starts kicking off. Or I have to threaten no tv etc which sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. If it doesn't I'm embarrassed also and then I have to give him no tv for the night.

So I guess I'm not sure what to do...

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[deleted account]

Specifically speaking, unless it is a window that you are responsible for cleaning, putting his face on the window is pretty much always inappropriate. It's excusable during the crawling stages, but by about age 2, a child knows not to do it. If he makes a blur on the window, you should clean it off, or better yet, have him clean it off.

Now, more generally speaking, if you tell him to stop doing something--like hitting you, putting his face on a window, or whatever else it is you ask him to stop doing--you MUST FOLLOW THROUGH and make him stop. If you give up, you are teaching him "If I just keep doing it after she says to stop, she'll eventually give up and let me do it." That is not the message you want to send.
So keep that in mind and pick your battles carefully. If what he is doing is not bothering anyone but you, let him do it. Consider your situation--if you've met a group of friends at an indoor park and you want to chat with the girls while the kids play, keep your expectations low--if he puts his face on a window, no one will care because they wash the windows every night anyway. Don't waste your time. Though, if you are at a friend's house to chat while the kids play and he smear snot all over her window, ask her for a towel and windex and have him help you clean it up. If he refuses to take his face off the window or starts to kick off when you try to remove him, it is time to go home. He must learn that he will not be allowed to stay in situations where he cannot behave.

The most important thing is that you MUST be consistent, so don't pick a battle you cannot win.
There is a habit that says "Start with the End in mind" and it means that anytime you begin something, think about what you are trying to accomplish at the end first. Put your steps in order and follow through, don't allow yourself to be derailed or distracted, and don't spend time on things that won't take you to your goal. Same with childcare.

[deleted account]

That little one finger thing is called "open defiance" and basically what he is doing is trying to see exactly how much he can disobey before a consequence kicks in. As he gets older, he will know "I can still touch something when she says no, as long as I don't break it...." and that can lead to major trouble. He will also think, "I can touch it without consequence, so what else can I do?" and he will start to take bolder steps. I know it feels silly to take his TV privileges for a weekend because he touched the screen with a pinky, but you need to follow through with whatever consequence you named. It is a very normal, even healthy behavior for a 4 year old, however, you have to address it early, right now, before it grows out of hand. Use it as an opportunity to teach, not punish.

Misbehaving in public or around others is also very normal, but again, something that must be addressed early. He knows you are less likely to discipline him in public or in front of others, so he knows he can get away with more. He is picking up on the fact that you don't want to leave the playdate or storytime, so you will put up with a lot more than you normally would before you force him to leave. It will only take a couple times where you leave before he learns the boundaries. When you take him out, do not wait for him to act up before laying out the rules. BEFORE you get out of the car, tell him exactly what you expect: "I expect for you to sit quietly and keep your hands to yourself. If you get loud or bother another child, we will leave." Then leave as soon as he breaks a rule. At 4, you can't really give him more than one or two guidelines at first, but after a week or two he will have mastered those two and you can add two more, and so on.

I noticed when you said he was play hitting you that you warned him that he would be in big trouble. You need a more definite warning. The first part is great, just say, "You are not allowed to hit me like that. I don't like it." then follow with a concrete consequence, "If you do it again, I will not play with you." The game itself is normal, but if you tell him to stop and he doesn't, it must be addressed. At 4 years old, he should know that if you say stop, he should stop. If he doesn't stop, he is being defiant and should be disciplined accordingly.

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They will always surprise you, and you know what? You said, he surprises you by trying something new, and you are flustered, but now that you are ready for it, he won't try it again. Well that means you handled it well! Be proud of yourself. I know that in the heat of the moment, you feel like you are losing control, floundering around, and embarrassing yourself, but in reality, you are doing something right! If you weren't he'd be doing the same things over and over.

Don't be too hard on yourself right now--you are in the toughest part of parenthood. He is gaining his independence and testing his limits. What he is doing is normal. Try not to worry about what others are thinking about your parenting--their thoughts don't matter. Instead, think about the way what you are doing will impact your child's future. HE is the one that counts. I can't tell you how many times I've had to sit on a bus holding my screaming child. Sometimes I was met with sympathetic smiles, other times I was met with mean glares, but it doesn't matter. What matters is what I was teaching my son in that moment.

Honestly, if he puts his face on the street car window, I would tell him "Hey, that's gross--it leaves a mess for someone else to clean up, and there are lots of germs on the glass that can make you sick. Do you really want to do that?" If he says yes, let him do it, but remind him every time. Maybe ask him, "How would you feel if it was your job to clean the windows and kids made messes like that all day?" This puts the decision in his hands, it makes him think through the action. Eventually, as he grows and learns what it is to clean someone elses mess, he will change.

Kids his age crave independence. They are at a stage where they want to make decisions on their own, but we feel they are too young. Try to let him make as many decisions as possible on his own, and he will be more compliant when you ask him to do something just for you.

Ariana - posted on 11/27/2013

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I don't have the same issues at playdates or out because I do, and have many many times, take him away from the situation if he's acting out. It's when you're absolutely TRAPPED that I lose what I should do.

Like you can't take a kid off the bus/streetcar for not sitting still, or for touching the windows. How do I stop him? Restrain him? If I do say something like you'll lose your television if you do it, I can take it away, but he's still doing it RIGHT THEN.

I guess my issue is more what do I do when I can't go anywhere else? I understand I need to be firmer with the finger touching thing I just get tired of constantly being the big bad guy when all I want is PEACE.

And different people seem to look at me, some people give me that look that's like oh you're being to leniant, and other people look at me like I'm being to hard. Like oh he's so cute, but it's like yeah he's rubbing his face on the window. I'm trying to stop him...

He's not bad all the time, but he manages to act out in new and exciting ways that I have to keep up with and alter everything I've already worked on. Like I'm the mom who had to take her kid out multiple times during circle time because my kid wasn't listening. It's like you have to do the same thing 1001 times or else. And other people wouldn't take their kids out, or they'd give me looks like oh you've got a kid like that. I don't know. He's great some days and just drives me nuts others.

I just am not sure what's expected from him.

Oh! and the other major thing is him screaming or whining instead of talking
(which I've been working on with him, by making him ask in a nicer voice, and speaking calmly which works a lot but not always). He will still just start to yell/scream about something before talking about it.

And what comes out of his mouth. Like (once again on the bus) he yelled, what about that FAT guy?? What about the fat man? Or he's yelled he doesn't like me, that he doesn't want to sit with me, etc. etc. I generally just ignore him, or say that's a rude thing to say but it's hard to know what to do (once again) when you've got people staring at you while your kids yelling he doesn't want to sit with you and trying to throw himself over the seats.

The other main issue is he surprises me. Like one day he'll do something, and I get flustered, I'm super ready for if it happens again, but he does different things and it messes me up. Like trying to throw himself over the seat. He tried to do that, but it's happened once and I actually highly doubt he's going to do it again at least in the near future. So although I can remind him, we stay in our seats etc. beforehand it's like he always seems to do things that are unexpected.

Enna - posted on 11/26/2013

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Kelly pretty much said what I meant. I just didn't have time to get into it in detail :) Thanks Kelly

Enna - posted on 11/26/2013

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I think you need to come up with a list of the things that he's doing that are "bad", decide which ones you're going to work on, come up with a list of consequences, then stick with it ALL the TIME until he stops. If it's dangerous, you must stop it immediately. If it's spreading germs, stop immediately. If it's just annoying/gross, save it until you get some of the other stuff dealt with. Pick your battles and be consistent.

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