Advanced search expect my 4yo DD to do what she is told? Friend said IABU

(118 Posts)
ThatsNotMyDinosaur Tue 25-Jun-13 20:26:20

My 4yo DD is a lovely girl, if you ask anyone who knows her they would say she is polite, well mannered and well behaved. But what they don't see is that at home she can be very stubborn, refusing to do what she is told.

It can be anything from 'stop being silly on the stairs, you will fall' to 'stop teasing your little brother' to 'please put your shoes away' or 'come on, into the car please'. She doesn't do it, she looks at me and just carries on whatever she is doing.

I always ask nicely the first time (this is usually enough if we are out or with others), then I ask a second time with a tone that says I am serious, and if I have to ask a third time then I show that I am cross with her (no yelling or anything just a cross face and very firm) and she has to do her 4 minute time out. This always turns into tears and sobbing because she has been told off and in time out, but she just doesn't get that if she had done what she was told then she wouldn't be in trouble.

It drives me mad, why can't she just do what she is told? She used to, then she turned four!

My friend said I am expecting too much, I shouldn't expect a four year old to do what she is told. But I don't think IABU because she used to do what she was told before this attitude arrived and her 3 yo brother mostly does what he is told will cry if he turns difficult on his 4th birthday too


JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 27-Jun-13 15:58:56


I agree with Apileofballyhoo and cjel

Apileofballyhoo Wed 26-Jun-13 21:14:09

Posted too soon (phone). Just wanted to say definitely keep cuddling him and also I would say don't stop talking to him when he has been naughty at nursery to show your disappointment, he probably doesn't understand this. I'm not sure what else to say except he does seem to be seeking attention. Has his behaviour changed? I read a bit on peaceful parenting which basically says if child's emotional needs are met they will be happier and less likely to throw tantrums, act aggressively etc. It also deals with negative behaviour without punishment or consequences (other than natural ones). This approach worked with DS.

Apileofballyhoo Wed 26-Jun-13 20:58:21

choceyes you sound at the end of your tether. Your DH is NOT being helpful. Your DS probably needs more attention of a positive nature. My DS is 5 and went through a horrible phase in recent months of whining and whinging and not doing anything unless I shouted at him. Tbh this was directly related to a very stressful upsetting time in our lives...but it took DS more time and a lot of positive individual attention to get back to normal (mildly irritating but mostly lovely). It's awful but when my tolerance was low, he was hard to handle, and now that I am less stressed he is much easier.

I am rambling on about myself and I am not sure how relevant it is to you - it's just you seem so stressed and unhappy.

VerlaineChasedRimbauds Wed 26-Jun-13 16:59:12

I always had to do as I was told as a child. It took me a while to be brave enough to adopt a different approach with mine. Well, I had to really, to stay sane, because I had a biddable child first and an extremely self-willed child second. I found that I was happiest (and so were they) with the approach already mentioned on the thread (Mme Lindor? - not certain...) that negotiation, charm and reasonable argument were allowed to win the day - regardless of who was using them. In other words: I wasn't always right and they didn't always have to do what I said. They're both very considerate adults now - the self-willed one even more so than the biddable one!

CreatureRetorts Wed 26-Jun-13 16:53:22

I do what MmeMindor does with timeout. Sometimes I put the two dc into timeout together and they sit calmly then it all calms down. Works well.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Wed 26-Jun-13 16:53:05

I had a revelation when mine were little. If I was feeling slightly ill, the DCs were better-behaved. It could have been that they were worried about me and being good, BUT I think it's because I adopted a slightly more laissez faire attitude and less "heat" in my tellings off.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Wed 26-Jun-13 16:47:07


I agree with what you say. It is a drip, drip approach

JamieandtheMagicTorch Wed 26-Jun-13 16:44:31

Things to try:

Read Playful Parenting - there are some idea for how to avoid butting heads over something. Taking the anger out

Make a challenge - I bet you can't/I'll race you up the stairs

Counting down from 5 to 0

Positive requests - put you coat on the peg, NOT don't throw your coat on the floor

Take the heat out, the anxiety about the future and the feeling that the behaviour is an attack on you - slightly bored policeman voice , not heated fishwife. Children sense fear and loss of control in us, and sometimes it doesn't make them want to please us more.

Avoidance of problems - tiredness, hunger, over-excitement have a lot to answer for. I know my DS2 is 'orrible when I pick him up from school because he is a different child when hungry

Expectations - She's still really little, even though she is verbal. I think articulate children lull us into thinking they have more self-control than they actually have

I have to say, them not doing what they are told, first time, was a big shock to me.

MmeLindor Wed 26-Jun-13 16:35:47

You can use the benefits of TimeOut without the shouty angry bits by wording it differently.



'You are very cross, aren't you? Do you want to go and sit in your room for a few minutes and calm down a bit? Your bunny is on the bed. Why don't you have a cuddle with bunny and tell her what is wrong?'

I know that makes me sound like a really ineffective, useless parent who always has to explain everything to her little darling - and I promise you that sometimes I have used version 1, cause I have lost my rag.

The idea with time out is really to give the child a moment to calm down, get a grip of his emotions and be ready to come back and apologise. Not to punish them.

working9while5 Wed 26-Jun-13 16:28:42

Time out shouldn't necessarily a negative consequence. Sometimes little kids really do need a bit of time out you know. Actually, sometimes we all do. They feel huge emotions at this age. There are lots of ways of doing time out that are not aversive, it doesn't all have to be roaring and wait til I tell your father types of tones.

Mine goes in a time out each and every time he does something violent. Being violent with his brother is usually a consequence of him being irritated with a one year old snatching or destroying his stuff or else roughness because he has been too hyper for a while OR I am not being exciting enough and he is looking for attention.

It's not about "compliance", it's about realising that when you have big and strong feelings sometimes you need to walk away because you can't at that very moment of intense arousal regulate your own emotions as a young child. As a parent, it's your job to teach children how to modulate their strong feelings and cuddles and words are not always the right thing when there are intense feelings about. It's about bringing them down from the high point of the curve - there is a point they can't listen and respond and they need some TIME OUT to get to a state where they can manage.

However, I agree that time out for literally "not doing what you are told" isn't necessarily a great idea. Praise the good, let most of the negative stuff go unless it's dangerous or antisocial, lead by example, reserve time outs for situations where it has all gone too far.

Squitten Wed 26-Jun-13 13:48:32

Sounds like a normal 4yr old to me. Mine is nearly 5 now and we get a lot of the same nonsense.

The naughty corner doesn't work on him anymore but threatening to send him to his room certainly does (not toys or anything interesting in there). If he has been mean to his little brother, he is made to sit on the sofa and do nothing while his brother gets all the toys to himself. If he is refusing to do something, e.g. the shoes in your case, tidying up in mine, I don't shout but he isn't allowed to do anything else until he does it so if dinner is imminent, he is told that he's not eating until it's done. That way, it's him that's missing out and there's no battle of wills.

I also find playing on the "you are the big one" works well with my DS. He likes being praised for acting like a big boy, particularly when DS2 (in full toddler swing) is being bratty. He seems more aware now that he is expected to do things that his brother can't because he is the big one, and he seems pleased with that. He's also taken to helping DS2 do stuff he can't, like getting toys out, opening fruit, etc, so that's good too.

TVTonight Wed 26-Jun-13 13:33:18

Perfectly normal 4yr ol behaviour to me.

I think that you are just trying to achieve compliance, and her spending a lot of time in Time Out demonstrates that your need to be punitive if she doesn't JFDI.

Time out is a very overtly rejecting punishment and seems to be creating a very negative cycle and before you know it you won't be able to enforce it.
Have a think about why instant compliance is so important to you? Is achieving it through this method important too (do it now, or else there is something bad waiting for you).p

Edendance Wed 26-Jun-13 13:30:31

I'd stick to what you're doing- removal of things can be too ambiguous- time out is immediate and obvious and avoids empty threats being thrown around when you can't think of what to punish with.

You are not being unreasonable, keep doing what you're doing, consistency is key!

MadeOfStarDust Wed 26-Jun-13 13:07:43

One good thing to try is the element of surprise... sometimes just give in to something ridiculous..... Once or twice I was harried, trying to get the 2 of them dressed ready for the park -
" come on or we won't be going to the park" ....
"We don't want to go to the park - we wants ice-cream instead"

So we sat on the floor and ate ice cream in our pyjamas...

I could have done the whole - "we'll get ice cream in the park, will you get ready" followed by screaming match/time out whatever - but it diffused the situation, we got to go out later, had a relaxed day and they always remember the time we ate ice-cream in our PJs

pick the battles is good advice..

The shoes, just ignore what she says til the shoes get put away - "you want to do what?", "ok after the shoes are away", no need for a battle - calm plain speaking - a lot of things don't have to be done there and then.

For things that have to be done there and then, we used the reverse psychology tricks - "oh I thought you were old enough now to get in the car - hey ho" and lift up and in etc... didn't have to do that often before getting the "I AM old enough, I'll do it"

oh - and forget time outs - if they end in tears or shouting - then they are not working.

I have 2 lovely girls aged 10 and 12 who understand the importance of doing as they are told ... most of the time.... but we still sometimes have ice-cream moments.... smile

working9while5 Wed 26-Jun-13 12:31:24

I haven't read all the thread but yanbu and to an extent neither is your friend.

There's nothing wrong with your discipline routine, but it is ALSO true that the expectation that your child will "learn" from these routines and respond first time to every instruction at four isn't reasonable (though I am totally with you on the frustration).

My eldest is 3 and a half and like your girl, he is a good mannered and polite sociable little boy mostly. At home he is both sweet beyond belief to his little brother (1) and also the most violent little thug to him. I spend a good proportion of each day trying to stop him from tumbling him over or doing other stupid things like jumping near his head or snatching things off him so roughly that he falls over.

I've recently had a lightbulb moment where I've realised that this tends to coincide with my 3-4pm energy slump when I often go on the computer so have copped (finally!) that this is about getting attention. This week has been calmer as I have either tried to be more present or got them involved in something at the table or if I'm really knackered I put on a bit of television for the worst part of that slump.

Children learn through multiple exemplars so the reason that you have to do things over and over and over and over and then over again before doing it again and then a few more times for good measure (you get my drift) is that this is basically their version of a French verb drill. They can understand the language but to make the transfer to longer term rule-governed behaviour it really is a case of lather, rinse, repeat. They will still forget sometimes and you will have to teach that same old lesson from scratch while wishing you could tear your hair out.

This book is amazing because in the end of the day, the hardest part of being a parent is sometimes the frustration and helplessness you feel when you're in that neverending loop of behavioural guidance and discipline (or whatever the current challenge is). The key to feeling better about this is not getting your girl to behave perfectly, it's in realising that this IS the process... you have to just do it over and over and over and the grace often lies in letting go of your expectations that things should be different or that she "should" know how to listen first time etc. She doesn't. She's showing you that by the fact she's not doing it. So you just got to keep on plodding onwards, doing what works and not what's easy, and trying not to tell yourself stories about you or her or why this is happening but just accept that this is where she's at and this is the dance. Until it changes up and you have to start all over again. The good news is that children's brains are pretty erratic up until they are about 20 so there will be these repeat lessons even when you think you are done with them.

Make any sense? I hope so!

cjel Wed 26-Jun-13 12:19:39

Choceyes. that sounds so difficult. I will probably get flamed for saying this but i think that the bad behaviour of a child usually stems from something they are not happy with and that I agree with loving your child to death!! punishing a child like this all the time is confirming that life is horrid and they are so tiny they can't express or even recognised what they are unhappy about.


I think you know that your dc needs more affection that is why you are questioning what your husband is saying.
The shouting is making you very sad and it will be doing the same for your DS.
punishing him for something that happened hours ago is ridiculous, he won't understand that he will just think you don't like him and ve more confused and hurt.
Again i say that this isn't meant to say you are wrong just to say how these situations can escalate if you think parenting is a battle you have to win,
If things can be changed and ds gets only positive attention for the tiniest little good thing i think an improvement will happen. ignore bad behaviour and praise good is a great way to think. I don't mean safety things like hand holding over roads etc but a lot of things if it is possible to stop and breath for a minute you will realise they aren't that important and you can start to enjoy the child you have.
I have spent the morning with my 18month old dgs( and will have him and the 3yr old tomorrow) and have had fun trying to encourage him away from the landscaper building my new patio!!!!

If I could say one thing it would be relax, go with your gut and enjoy your ds!!

MmeLindor Wed 26-Jun-13 11:16:06

yes, taking time to take a deeeeep breathe before getting shouty definitely helps.

For all those who are struggling - I could have written all this (and probably did) 4 or 5 years ago.

It does get better. It doesn't help that if you have a younger child too, then you are probably just exhausted by the full-on-ness of parenting.

I find that now that the DC are more independent and able to do stuff themselves, I have much more patience and am able to cope with the odd strop better.

whatsthatcomingoverthehill Wed 26-Jun-13 11:06:03

I don't think withdrawal of affection is ever a good response.

My 4yo DD is very similar to what a lot of people have described. It is bloody difficult sometimes, but I think it is telling that the outcome often depends on my frame of mind. If I’m tired from work, or rushing to leave to get somewhere then I don’t have much patience and things quickly seem to escalate. When I am more patient and show steady resolve rather than leaping to threatening punishments and time out it works out much better, and probably quicker than otherwise.

My concern with the OP is that you say the main thing you won’t budge on is “Do as I say”. Doesn’t that end up meaning pretty much everything then? If they are being too noisy, not eating their food properly, arguing over what clothes to wear and you tell them what you want them to do, doesn’t it then become a “Do as I say” situation? If so then that would be incredibly wearing if you did time outs etc each time.

choceyes Wed 26-Jun-13 10:27:06

Very interesting thread!
My 4.7yrs old DS is very challenging at the moment. Not listening, annoying his little sister, speaking in an annoying silly voice all the time, trying to get DD nearly 3, to disobey me, crying and tantrumming etc etc. I really feel like I have lost my way with him. I have very little patience with him now, and I seem to go from calm to screaming in a few seconds at any hint of him doing something I disaprove of. I feel so awful about my parenting. I'm definitely not doing the right thing. DH thinks that we have to be tougher with him and is always giving him time outs. They never work ofcourse.
He has been behaving badly at nurseyr too recently, although well behaved this week so far.
I tell him the consequences of him being naughty at nursery, like his friends wouldn't want to play with him if he hits them or grabs their toys, they wouldn't want him to go on the nursery trip etc etc and I also dont engage him in conversation for awhile afterwards, to show my dissapointment at his behavious. I'm not sure if I am doing the right thing.
But when we get home I do cuddle and hug him, but DH says I shouldn't be doing that if he's been naughty at nursery. Is this right?
I don't know what I am doing anymore, parenting is just so hard sad

Graceparkhill Wed 26-Jun-13 09:52:48

I think the square thing is brilliant. Will use that. I do a team approach- we are all on the same side with the same objective so we don't need to "battle "each other.

MmeLindor Wed 26-Jun-13 09:45:16

My mum just demonstrated this very well this morning.

She was taking DS to school - only across the busy road and they walk the rest of the way. I looked out of the window at 8.53 to see him sitting on his football, crying. Mum was at top of road, DD had already crossed and was dithering about carrying on.

He didn't want to walk, wanted taken in the car. Mum decided 'my way or the highway' and walked off with DD.

My son is VERY stubborn when dealt with in this way. Mum had backed herself into a corner. I went out and gave him a good telling off for being disrespectful to his granny and took him to school (he would have been late otherwise).

We will be having a chat tonight about this, but there was no point in sticking to my mum's guns and him being 15mins late for school.

He is very very logical, and I have found using geometrical analogy works well. I explain that the family has 4 corners, like a square, with a person at each corner. If one person gets what they want all the time, the square gets lopsided and falls over.

mrsjay Wed 26-Jun-13 09:34:53

t has definitely given me some things to think about regarding my parenting of my four year old.

I think threads like this gives little tips that you can pick and chose to try, no mumsnet when mine were 4 we just had to wing it I would have loved this when they were small

Onetwo34 Wed 26-Jun-13 09:32:56

Useful thread to read - it has definitely given me some things to think about regarding my parenting of my four year old.

mrsjay Wed 26-Jun-13 09:24:11

Does she have a count down for things like shoes? 'You need to have your shoes on in 5-4-3-2-1 or xyz will happen', alternatively 'I bet I can get ready quicker than you, if you can beat me you can have xyz treat (possibly a star on chart etc)'.

^ ^ this is what I used to do it worked great with the DDS tis like a 5 second warning

Graceparkhill Wed 26-Jun-13 09:23:30

I am from the Mme Lindor school of parenting and my two are now 21 and 14 and well mannered/ considerate / genuinely helpful.

I have very low standards when it comes to tidiness/ what clothes to wear and apart from the health and safety stuff didn't see that my will should always prevail in the early years.

Funnily enough both are very tidy and punctual but I think this is borne out of consideration and desire to get along as a family unit.

They also have many faults but that is another thread.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now