Help with my 4 year old's attitude!

[deleted account] ( 4 moms have responded )

I'm having a serious problem with my 4 year old. He has such a bad attitude all the time. Problems include:

Never wants to try new things (including food, meeting friends, activites, etc.)
Wakes up whining and arguing about everything from going potty ("I don't have to go" when he does) to getting dressed to cleaning up to eating breakfast/lunch/dinner.
Always tells me he can't, despite us telling him he can, he just needs to try, giving him assistance, trying to teach him, etc.
Demanding things ("Get me this" instead of "Can I please have this")

I have tried so many approaches and I swear up and down that I don't let him walk all over me. I like to think I'm a reasonable parent but some people even tell me I'm strict. I don't EVER get him anything he wants without a Please and Thank You. When he talks back he gets reprimanded, I don't make idle threats, he gets grounded (loses toys for a set period of time), he gets time out, I even went so far as to take away all of his toys this weekend because he refused to clean them up. I told him I would take them away if he didn't clean up and he said to me "It's ok, Mommy. I don't like my toys. You can take them away." So I did. No matter how much I follow through with his punishments, he doesn't change. And now it has resorted to screaming matches. I can't take it anymore, he's making both of our lives miserable.

Please help!!! :(


JuLeah - posted on 09/06/2011




This is not about him 'walking all over you"

You are taking this way too personally. His behaviors don't reflect on you.

He is a kid, he is four. This is not about him having a bad attitude. That is kind of ‘a blame the victim’ mentally which is not at all helpful if you wish to figure this out.

Do you think he is happy with how things are? I doubt it. But he doesn't have the life skills to make changes.

He does not have the power to make your life miserable. No one has the power to do that. Our thoughts, feelings, actions are ours - our choice our responsibility

It can not be a screaming match unless you are choosing to scream too

And, kids at this age really just want to please. It might not seem like that, but really he wants you to be happy with him. Which is why, even if he loves his toys, he tells you it is okay for you to take them. He is attempting to please you; give you what you seem to want.

He doesn't understand that your intention is for him to be more upset and sad then he already is.

Punishment does not teach

It sounds like the habit you two have is fighting. Your form of communication is arguing.

Why do you have to be right all the time?

Why do you have to control everything?

It takes two people to fight like this, like tug of war, and at any point you are free to drop your end of the rope

So, ask him, he is four, trust his answer. "Do you need to use the bathroom?"

He says, No

Let is go, let it be

If he needs to go in a few minutes, well, that is what kids do. He can figure it out and deal with it on his own.

Many kids at this age are frightened to try new things - you push them and their fear increases

If he has a history is being wrong, getting into trouble ... he will be more frightened to try new things, as he will be more frightened to trust himself

So, cleaning up his toys - assuming it is a mess a four yr old can actually clean, ask him to clean it up then let it be.

He doesn't play with anything new until the old toys are put away

No yelling or nagging is needed

And, "Clean your room" is a set up for a kid this age. They can not know what that phrase means - it is too abstract

Kids need it broken down - put this puzzle on that shelf

"I can't" is a normal kid thing too, but will be increased if they are frightened to try - fear they will get it wrong - and "I can't" is often a way for them to get attention

"No matter how much I follow through with his punishments, he doesn't change" .... you need to make some changes

He is not a robot - he is a little boy

Back off, relax -

As for waking up in a bad mood ... well, make sure he has no sugar prior to bed - blood sugar levels drop in the night and kids wake cranky - something with protein is better

And, if you do make changes, back off, relax ... understand, for a time, things might get worse.

He is used to interacting with you in an arguing fashion; it is what he knows. If you change that, he will resist the change for a time and increase his behaviors in an effort to get you back to reacting to him in the way he knows and understands - human nature to resist change, even if we don't like where we are at. He won’t be doing this on a conscious level, so you won’t really be able to talk with him about it

Play with him ... read to him, color with him, play cars and actions figures with him, swing with him, play tag .... let him lead the play. don't direct the play, don't set the rules or tell him what to do next ... child led play will be very important for the two of you - do something where you both will laugh, relax and enjoy each other - that is critical

Sticker charts are good too. A list of ‘chores’ not more then 4 – make bed, get dressed, toys off floor … whatever – and he gets to put a sticker on for each thing he does each day – 20 stickers can be traded in for ….

Sticker charts are great because it takes us out of the equation. We are not ‘telling’ them what to do all the time, or nagging. They do it or they don’t. Never shield a kid from their own consequences.

My nephew fought getting dressed each morning. It was a real battle – routine, habit. He missed the bus because he was not dressed, she drove him to school 4 days out of five.

My sister stopped fighting, dropped her end of the rope. She said only, “This bus will be here in ten minutes. I won’t be driving you today”
The child, age 10, got on the school bus wearing his jammies and carrying his school clothes in a bag. He changed at school.
He never ever fought getting dressed again, because my sister no longer had to remind him.
The consequence of not getting dressed is going to school in your skivvies. She stopped shielding him from that consequence. She backed off …

Amy - posted on 09/06/2011




This is very typical behavior for a four year old. My son is 5 and the same exact way! I have learned what's important to me and what isn't. To me it's all about control and our pediatrician gave us some great advice learn to pick your battles, and you can't force them to use the bathroom or eat. It's the two things that they control and nothing we can do can force them to do it!
As far as food goes I make sure there is something at evey meal my son likes, anything new or that he doesn't like he has to at least take a couple of bites. My son really like pasta so I give that to him after he's eaten his veggies and meat.
When my son wakes up cranky I usually just give him his space till he's in a better mood. I know I don't wake up everyday in a good mood so I don't expect it from him. The more I push him the worst he gets so if I just let him be he comes around in a half hour. If he throws a fit I just walk away and ignore him just like I do with my 17 month old. If he says something hurtful I just get quiet and don't respond he usually apologizes, I accept it and move on.
The only time I tell him if he needs to go to the bathroom is if we're going somewhere in the car or it's time for bed. He knows his body and he'll go when he has to. My son has gotten better but at 4 he didn't tell us he had to go to the bathroom till it was practically an emergency!
We never did true time outs with my son, if he was mad or angry we would have him go sit in another room until he was ready to use his words. It got to the point that he would get frustrated and angry with us so he would walk away and go cool off somewhere. Once he felt more in control of his emotions we talked about what was wrong and sometimes would compromise because he was communicating with us. Like I said your son sounds exactly like my son, sometimes if I find my son is pushing my buttons to the point I might break I remove myself from the situation and calm myself down before proceeding because nothing gets accomplished by yelling at each other.

[deleted account]

My intention isn't for him to be sad or upset. My intention is to teach him that if he doesn't take care of his things, then he won't get to play with him. It's not about punishment, it's about respect. And I don't say "clean your room" I tell him to put his cars in the car bin, put his Legos in the Lego bin, put your blankets back up on the bed, put the books back on the book shelf. I'm very specific about what he needs to do and I don't make him do it all at once.

I don't have to be right all the time and I don't have to control everything. But he refuses to eat and refuses to go to the bathroom. He can go from the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed and hold it. Of course, when I finally get him on the toilet he sits for several minutes because there is so much. I don't want him getting sick because of it. And he won't eat meals but when I don't let him have chips (until after he eats his lunch) he throws a temper tantrum. I really don't feel like I'm being controlling. I just want my kid to be healthy.

Do I think he's happy? No. Because I wouldn't be so worried about it if I thought he was. And I don't like the thought that he's miserable because of me. I don't want to make him upset or miserable. I want us to get along and I want us to be happy together.


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Ashton - posted on 12/20/2016




I have to ask... based on the responses here and your responses to them, the not going tot he bathroom all day etc... HAve you taken him to a pediatrician with these concerns? is it possible he is suffering from a mild form of Autism or even perhaps ODD? (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)<--- this one sounds like ti very much could be hte problem...

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