miserable, rude, demanding 4 year old (long-sorry)

(33 Posts)
hatter Sat 06-Nov-04 18:44:23

DD1 (4.5) is contriving to make our life a misery. Some of the time she is lovely, but a lot of the time recently she's truly awful. She seems determined to be miserable, to have an argument. The most trivial thing sets her off - and it's nearly always mine or DH's fault. Today has been fairly typical - she woke at 7 and instantly burst into tears because her teddy had fallen out of bed. I would say that she finds a reason to burst into tears on waking about 50 per cent of the time at the moment. She had breakfast and then watched some tv, dh brought her some clothes downstairs so that she could get dressed whilst watching Dick and Dom. She proceeded to cry hysterically for about 20 minutes because he had brought the wrong type of socks. She went to demand (and I mean DEMAND) that he get some more - this involved going further than she would have needed to go to get them herself! Over the rest of the day we had about 3-4 more similar incidents, each time involving 15-20-odd minutes of total hysteria. Each time over something totally trivial. We delude ourselves that we do a reasonable job of balancing out rewards and threats, of being consistent, and of giving warnings, but we're clearly doing something wrong! It's very hard not to get bad tempered and I worry that we're just heading into a horrible cycle. We're actually beginning to wonder if there's something wrong with her. She seems hungry a lot of the time, and is better after food, but not convinced that can entirely explain it. What do we do? We are both of us really fed up.

Gobbledigook Sat 06-Nov-04 19:09:27

Hatter, hopefully it's just a 'phase' - sorry I know that's never helpful. It's just that ds1, now 3.5, went through EXACTLY the same thing a few months ago where it started right after getting out of bed and was over triviality like what spoon we gave him with his cereal or which route I took home from nursery. It was a complete nightmare but it's stopped now and actually, I 've only realised that from reading your thread and I'd forgotten all about it.

I'm afraid my only way of handling it was to completely ignore, say 'oh, I'm not talking you while you are in that state' and get on with something else. Partly because I have another toddler and was pregnant at the time (possible reason for odd behaviour??) and just didn't have the energy to deal with it any other way.

hmb Sat 06-Nov-04 19:30:01

Dd went through a phase like this and could be vile at times. I also began to think that she needed 'help' of some sort. In the end I would tell her that she was alowed to be upset but not to make eveyone elses life a misery. I would then send her to her room and let her yell it out. And yell she would, often for over an hour. In the end she would calm down and say sorry. She has got over it, and is now a very pleasent 7 year old. She can still throw the odd wobbly tho.

At it's worsed these temper tantrums could last up to two hours. One was because I wouldn't sort something out for her as I was on the phone.

charliecat Sat 06-Nov-04 20:29:41

My dd who is 4 in a couple of weeks is JUST the same thankfully it doesnt often last more than 10 mins at a time but whinging/crying episodes are often less than 5 mins at a time between them. Everything is a dramatic disaster to be bawled about.
She has also took to scribbling on things which is a pet hate of mine and shes done it so far to a pillow case a kitchen chair and a doll. I have laid the law down thick and said shes not allowed to touch any pencils or pens unless shes asked me first. She asked me tonight for one and I felt like guilty mother from hell for making her ask me but its better than getting things vandalised...
It is just a phase but my nearly 7 year old dd had just had a meltdown and screamed the place down. Too much junk food and not enough sleep.

Gobbledigook Sat 06-Nov-04 20:35:03

Charliecat - nothing wrong with asking for crayons!! Mine are not out unless we are specifically having a colouring session. DS1 is 3.5 so no problem but ds2 is only 2 and I just know he'd scribble on walls! In fact, dh had them last week while I was out and I came back to red crayon all over my cream, stone fire surround

Came off with the old faithful - baby wipes!!

misdee Sat 06-Nov-04 20:40:53

have your got my 4yr old there? if dd1 is being miserable these days i tell her to go back to her bedroom, wither calm down or have some more sleep if she feels tired. she usually calms down within 10mins. i stand outside the door (door closed) and dont let her out till she has stopped. the other day i moved away from the door, and she screamed it out for 15mins total. then she came back to the lving room and sat and ate her lunch.

Gobbledigook Sat 06-Nov-04 20:42:12

Misdee - yep, I just ignore it and ds1 comes back to the table eventually and just gets on with it. The trick is to try and stay calm and ignore it though it's bloody hard isn't it?!

misdee Sat 06-Nov-04 20:46:46

its very hard, but lately i've found it the only weay to do it. with-holding treats doesnt work, rewards for good behaviour doesnt work, so know she nows that if she kicks off then its off to the bedroom, with no tv till she calms down. it upsets dd2 at the same time tho, and she shouts for her sister through the door so we have to keep dd2 occupied when this is happening.

mvgf Sat 06-Nov-04 20:49:37

Hey Hatter, I think if I were you I would try a homeopathic remedy, maybe a Bach flower blend would be a exciting place to start. Sometimes things change very quickly when kids are treated with natural remedies.

Do you have a reputable health store nearby??, pop in and see what they can offer. Cell salts are another interesting thing, they are tiny little tablets that just instantly dissolve on the childs tongue and no nasty taste at all.
Bach flower remedies can be added to drinks, you only need between 2-4 drops around 4 times daily or as needed.

Ghosty Sat 06-Nov-04 21:46:49

Sympathies to anyone with a stroppy 4 yr old ... my DS will be 5 soon and I am happy to report that things seem to be settling down.
The best advice to give you is to pass the responsibility back to your 4 year old. Basically, when DS gets into a state like that I 'remove' myself from him in that he doesn't get an audience and he doesn't get what he wants until he asks in a civilised manner. He gets sent to his room and I tell him he can come out when he is ready to behave properly. It took some work to get this system up and running and now I just have to point in the direction of his room and off he goes, howling.
What it means is that he has time to think and take responsibility, ie, decide for himself how he is to behave ...
He usually comes out now and says sorry, we have a cuddle and we start again.
If he has done something awful (like kick the baby ) it is a super human effort to keep control but then I say "You can come out when I am ready/when I am not cross/when I have calmed down" ... that works too because he has worked out that he is better off in his room then

zippy539 Sat 06-Nov-04 22:15:33

Same thing here. DS (3) is prone to complete screaming fits when things are not exactly to his liking (morning milk has to be placed in the same position on our bedside table, clothes must be to his exact specification - I could go on..). More than once I have wondered if he is on the autistic spectrum - but more often than not I think it is a control issue. At the moment I think it is worse because he has just started nursery - it's like he has to have some things which he can still control. Has your DD had any life changing experiences recently which could be making it worse?

You have my complete sympathy - but I'm not sure I can offer any concrete advice. Sometimes humour works with DS and can bring him round but it's hard to work up the energy to cagole him out of a screaming fit when it's the tenth of the day and you have other children to deal with.

Earlybird Sat 06-Nov-04 23:00:21

Understand and agree that sending them to their rooms to "cry it out" is an effective response. But what do you do when the tantrums happen in a public place?

Gomez Sun 07-Nov-04 00:07:23

My word - you have stolen my child!! And I thought we were so special - no problems when 2 or 3 and now an abolute drama queen at 4!

We can still get away with withdrawing treats or the ulimate sanction no visit to Gran and Papa. Works when out and about too but was PSML today at her antics and then felt really bad as she was destroyed that we were laughing at her. I felt so bad. Anyway I am sure it will get better and Hatter I am sure you are doing nothing wrong (well I hope not as that means we are too) and it will be all change again soon!

nikkim Sun 07-Nov-04 00:25:27

you have my sympathy and understanding hatter my dd can be exactly the same, she can be the most delightful, funny charming three year old in the world some days but other times is just wicked and very manipulative and can ahve me in tears just through exhaustion and frustration. I do try ignoring her and that does work but it isn't always easy . Good luck and if anyone gives you a miracle cure please let me know.

hmb Sun 07-Nov-04 09:02:42

Earlybird. Try to ignore it, not easy I know. Appologise to those people around you. And wait it out.

The 2 hour tantrum that dd threw when she 6 (!)was when we were on holidays. It started on the beach, took all the time to get back to the carava and then continued while we were there. I had to appologise to the other holiday makers onthe campsite. They all said, 'That is OK , he is only little, we have all been there' and then I had to tell them it was my 6 year old and not her three year old brother!

She is getting over it, but we have had to be very firm with her. She knows that if she goes off on one she will come home, to her bed , instantly (talking about a tantrum not being upset you understand)

She went off on one about 6 months ago ina party and was removed. This pissed her off and initialy made things worse but it brought home the idea that there is acceptable behaviour and unacceptable behaviour. YOu have to be consistant, no matter what a pain it is (we wanted to stay in the pary)

One difficulty is that people who *don't have such a volitile child can find it hard to understand just how violent and disruptive these tantrums can be. I remember a very sweet friend of mine coming to pick up dd for school for me. DD was off on one as she had the 'wrong' coat (had left her other one in school), buy pick up time tantrum had been going for 45 minutes. Friend tried to jolly her along, and I told her that the best way to deal with it was to ignore her. Friend, being sweet continued to try to talk dd round. They left. Friend phoned me 45 minutes later and asked how I coped as she had never had to deal with anything like dd. In the end she had ignored her and it worked.

At its worst dd was having at least one a day, often more and they did go on for hours. We seem to be coming out of it now, thank god.

sallydog7 Sun 07-Nov-04 13:22:35

My DS (4.5) goes into 'damien' mode if he doesn't get his own way. Recently, he has been calling me, DH and grandparents stupid idiot, stupid women etc. Even the most innocent of programmes contain stupid or idiot and of course, he hears it at school. He often says it when he hurts himself. Tantrums will occurr mainly from tiredness or boredom and I do also wonder if he gets jelous of his 2.5 year old brother. He doesn't show any obvious signs, just gets mad at brother, me and DH. I've recently tried a good boy chart but they are quite hard to manage. He was so good yesterday that he's been rewarded by Shrek 2 DVD today. Right now though, he's tired and DH hasn't returned with the DVD so DS is having a strop. How do you ignore your child when he's shouting the house down and tormenting his brother? He gets time out but usually works himself up again before long when he's released. He's such a wonderful child about 60% of the time but the 'bad' times leave us feeling stressed and puts pressure on mine and DH's relationship.

acer Sun 07-Nov-04 13:32:43

Sounds just like my ds, he will have a tantrum for as long as 20 minutes at a time over something really small, like the spoon has been put the wrong side of his cereal bowl or if i put the straw in his carton of juice etc.., alot of it seems to be tiredness and he is worse when hungry, but it can be really stressful for everyone else.

hmb Sun 07-Nov-04 13:33:17

It isn't easy to ignore them. Trust me I know as I am the veteran of many a looooong strop. DD gets sent to her room and we ignore what goes on. If she trashes the room (and this has happened) she is expected to tidy it up at the end. If she doesn't the toys etc get put in a black bag and she looses the right to have them for a time.

It isn't easy, it is dreadful! But we have found that this, along with praise and support of positive behaviour is the key. I'd say be wary about rewarding lack of tantrums too much or they can begin to 'use' the technique to get what they want. At 7 I feel that reasoable behavioiur isn't too much to ask for.

Earlybird Sun 07-Nov-04 14:44:30

thanks for the advice hmb. Our conflicts often come when dd flatly refuses to do something she's asked to do. For instance, I took her to see bonfire/fireworks last night. Could see her behaviour starting to deteriorate (demanding, unreasonable, rude), and knew it was probably because she hadn't eaten (too early for tea when we left home). I'd packed sandwiches, raisins, yoghurt in anticipation but she flatly refused to eat anything at the park.

Those are the situations that drive me mental - you know the cause of the upset, you know the remedy, but you can't force a child to behave well. It's especially hard because I couldn't take any immediate action. I did say at one point "if you keep acting that way, we'll have to leave and go straight home" knowing that the "offending behaviour" would be 90 minutes past by the time we negotiated the crowds and long walk home. So, we stayed, and gritted our teeth for a good part of what was supposed to be a "fun family event". She did settle down eventually, but only after I literally force fed her half a sandwich. So, surprise, surprise....hunger seemed to be the cause of the problem. Grrrr......!!!

Oh yes, by the time we finally got home (10 pm), she refused to walk up the stairs to enter our building. I asked her nicely a few times, and she refused. Finally, I took her hand and pulled her gently but firmly up the steps - cue great wailing. Felt a bit of a meanie, as I knew she was probably deliriously tired, but I was fed up myself by that time!

Lonelymum Sun 07-Nov-04 14:52:37

Hatter, has your dd just started school? My dd is 4.7 and can be just as demanding and awkward about everything. I left the house in a rage yesterday because of her behaviour, and stayed away for several hours, (Xmas shopping) and when I came back, she started all over again. Apparently, she had been fine during my absence! Makes me feel great!
The point is, my dd is very tired from being at school all day and I think that makes her behaviour worse. Maybe your dd is suffering in a similar way?

fostermum Sun 07-Nov-04 15:41:05

if she where mine,i would take her firmly by the arm take her to a place of safty but not in the center of things(misery loves an audience)and tell her that when she wants to come talk nicely about her problem(socks)she can come do so untill then please wait there as you dont want to be screamed at as your her mum and love her and dont deserve this,may take a few attempts but has worked for me

hatter Sun 07-Nov-04 20:56:34

hmmmm. no miracle cures then? normal behaviour? we're all in the same boat? DOH (in a loud Homer voice). Oh well, worth a try. More seriously, thanks everyone, I do feel better, and you've guided me to the conclusion I was coming to anyway - that being angry and threats and bribes just don't work for this particular type of behaviour. (I knew this anyway but it's so hard to ignore when you are so badly provoked) So I have made a resolution and - fingers crossed - it seems to be working already. I have resolved to show no emotional reaction to her behaviour, and no change of plan or direction. The only impact of her behaviour will be that she is excluded. thinking about it I think that getting angry and/or changing plans (which, even though the impact is aimed at her has an impact on everyone) has actually had the effect of handing over to her enormous power - she's been dictating the mood of the house. So although it can be extremely difficult and although we get incredibly provoked, we are resolved to try this different tactic.

ernest Mon 08-Nov-04 15:39:00

hatter & early bird, don't mean to come across as a know it all or anything, I've had & still got my own fair share of bad behaviour! ime though is - make sure they're not hungry. earlybird - 2 thiings I got from your post was you anticipated the hunger problem so brought food with you as it was too early to eat b4 you left. (did you try & give her food anyway or did she refuse before you left too. I think if the schedule is going to be upset anyway, i wouldn't worry about feediong at an odd time. The other thing is making a threat & not carrying it out. really fatal mistake. Dh did something similar-ish. on saturday we told kids we'd be visiting friends on Sunday. ds complained (over & over & over...) he didn't want to go. dh finally snapped & said, ok you stay here on your own then (he's 3!) Next morning we get ready to go & ds says, but I'm not coming - dh - oh yes you are. Ds points out, but you said I could stay here & howlled (sp???) the house down. Not exactly the same but if you say something you have to follow through.

it's so right about giving them power. Just out of interest hatter, did your dh give in & get her the socks in the end???

I would def. refuse to give in to stroppy demands & remove kid or yourself if they're really overactling. It's much easier than getting cross. come back when you're able to behave nicely.... good luck. I've got all this starting again with nearly -1- year- old placid gentle angel baby flexing his temper & screaming muscles

Earlybird Tue 09-Nov-04 12:59:23

ernest - thanks for sharing your experiences. Good advice, and food for thought. You may be right that the better option would have been to feed her tea very early - at least she would have gotten something into her tummy, and possibly we could have avoided the bad behaviour that was hunger induced. Also think that next time I should speak to her about why we're eating early/having sandwiches in her buggy so that she understands the deviation from routine....rather than simply handing her a sandwich and expecting her to cooperate. Eating was probably the last thing on her mind in the midst of all the excitement/confusion. Live and learn.....

enid Tue 09-Nov-04 13:28:00

my dd1 (4.11) is very difficult at the moment and I put it down to starting school (where of course she is an angel!!) - tiredness and a bit of stress. She is sometimes a great big PITA though and I send her to her room when she's awful and also try to give her a bit of one-to-one time so we can sit and do reading etc together - its hard to do when dd2 (2) wants to muscle in on everything but I notice a difference when I do.

Our normal morning runs like this:
dd1: "I don't want rice krispies anymore. I hate them'
me: 'but you like rice krispies and you always have them. Come on, get on with it'
her: 'NO! I HATE THEM! Its not fair, dd2 has sugar puffs and she LIKES sugar puffs! I want something I like instead!'
me: 'Oh x, come on. Do you want sugar puffs then?'
her: 'NO! I HATE SUGAR PUFFS!"<<hysterical crying and dramatic pushing away of cereal bowl, often culminating in impressive slide to the floor and foetal position under the kitchen table>>
me: 'Oh for goodness sake x, come out'
her: 'You like dd2 better than me, its not fair, I don't want to go to school and I don't even like the pens you bought me, I don't even care!'
me: <long pause, ignoring tactics, tending to dd2>
her: "mummy? are you still there"
me: "yes. do you want a cuddle?"
her: "yes"
<<peace reigns for half an hour or so>>

tiring isnt it?

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