Punishment for a 4 year old

Leslie - posted on 07/09/2013 ( 1 mom has responded )




I need help with discipline ideas for my 4 year old. I am a single mom, his dad is not in the picture, and recently he's really been acting out. Not listening, even counting doesn't work, time outs don't work, yelling doesn't work. I get the tears and an I'm sorry, but then 5 minutes later we're at it again. Last night he was being naughty and I asked him to stop, he continued. I asked again, he continued, I asked him to come here, he wouldn't. I started counting and when I got to 3 and headed towards him, he ran and laughed at me. I walked in the house and he came in, I spanked him and put him in his room, he cried and cried and cried. I went in and we calmly talked about it, but he was at it again tonight. I don't know what to do with him for punishment that he will understand at 4


[deleted account]

At 4, the best way to discipline is through natural and logical consequences. Whenever possible, let him suffer the consequences of his actions. Now at 4 years old, most of those consequences are too long term for him to grasp, so you have to think of consequences RELATED to what he is doing wrong.

For example, If he won't pick up toys. Set a timer for 5 minutes and say "Anything not put away when the bell rings goes to charity." After the bell pick them up for him and take them to Goodwill (Or whatever charity in your town has drop stations near you). Explain in the car that it was HIS choice to give the toys away because part of the responsibility of owning toys is taking care of them.

Avoid using the words "I" and "me". If you focus on how his behavior affects you, he will focus on trying to make you feel as bad as he feels, because in his little 4 year old mind, if you talk about you, then you are the reason he feels bad. We can help you think of other consequences, but they are action specific, so you need to share specifically what he is doing wrong.

That said, the not coming when you asked him to, then running and laughing is a classic cry for attention--he wants to play with his mommy. He has no idea when it is or isn't appropriate to play yet. I use a timer for this too. EVERY SINGLE DAY set aside 20 minutes to play with him. Try to do it close to the same time everyday if you can, but it's fine if you can't as long as it does happen everyday, and you can tell him in the morning "We're going to have Mommy Playtime at ____ today." If he asks to play before that time, and you don't have time, remind him that you plan to play later.
During that 20 minutes, you focus on him and NOTHING else. No phone, no computer, no tv on in the background (music is okay). Let him decide what to do, and do it with him.
Right now, he doesn't know when he'll get your time again, so he grasps for it all the time, which gives you no peace or time to yourself. After you do this for a few weeks, he will understand that he doesn't have to grasp at you all the time to play because you will come to him on your own. You feel like he has your attention all the time, because you are constantly thinking about him, but you are also multitasking (because you're a mom!) Unfortunately, your attentions doesn't register to him unless he has ALL of your attention, so he is still craving that attention and you are craving a moment when you don't have to give it to him. Stop multitasking and focus just on him for 20 minutes a day, and you will see improvement in just a couple of days.

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