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Challenging behaviour from 4 yo - advice appreciated!

(8 Posts)
washngo Wed 23-Jan-13 18:41:38

I'm finding my 4y3m old ds' behaviour really difficult at the moment. He has a really wild temper and seems to fly off the handle in a really unreasonable way. The way he speaks to me, his dad, and other adults is really unacceptable. I don't know why this is as I've always tried to model good social interactions, encouraging him to be polite and say please and thank you.

For example, today we were at a friend's house playing. He was having a really nice time and didn't want to leave. Before we went there i had reminded him that when it was time to go I expected him to come with me nicely, and that if he did he would be able to put a marble in his jar (we started the marble jar as I felt i wanted something positive to remind us both of all the good things he does rather than focussing on negatives). When it came to be time to go i gave him a 5 min warning, then started to get ready. He began flailing about, accidentally hitting the friend we were playing with. I asked him to say sorry which he did. I then tried to help him on with his coat and he shouted at me "NEVER EVER PUTTING MY COAT ON, GET OFF" and other similar things. On the way home he shouted and screamed and i said i thought he needed to go to his bedroom to calm down. He screamed that if i sent him to his room, he wouldn't eat his tea and he would break all the toys in his bedroom. When we got home he kept trying to cuddle me but when he is angry he does it in a really aggressive way which involves him pushing me and being very rough. He went to his room and calmed down a bit, but as promised refused to eat any tea at all.

Other things he has started doing include hitting me or pushing me when he is angry. If an adult asks him to do something and he doesn't want to he often makes a sort of angry screamy noise at them. He also shouts at his younger sister a lot.

Ds is a very sensitive, thoughtful sort of child. He worries about things a lot. I am currently pregnant with dc3, and have been unwell throughout the pregnancy. I know he is worried about me. I think that may be the root of some of his behaviour. I just find it so, so hard as I want him to realise that this sort of rudeness is not ok. I am a teacher and I honestly thought no child of mine would behave like this. I thought i'd be able to use 'the look' and just get them to behave the way i wanted! Does anyone have any advice on how to curb this sort of behaviour? It would be much appreciated!

washngo Wed 23-Jan-13 19:06:17


mummy2benji Wed 23-Jan-13 19:17:59

My ds is 4yo too and started school (nursery) in September. It is a difficult age and I have found some trying behaviour too, which has been the case since starting school. There seems to have been quite a lot of hitting going on at school and ds has come home with the odd bruise or scratch where another child hit or threw something at him. Ds has always been very gentle and initially was quite upset by all this, but over time has got used to it and has been known to push or hit back on occasion. I guess they are at that awkward social age where they are still learning to play nicely with each other, share, establish a pecking order etc. We have been careful to watch out for ds doing any pushing or hitting at home and being stern if he does.

We use the 'naughty spot' (a mat in the dining room), which we began using when ds was 2. It is 'time out' if he is naughty, and he gets a minute on it per year of his age ie he now has to sit on it for 4 minutes. It has worked really well with ds. I give him a warning beforehand that his behaviour will result in going on the naughty spot, or if he hits then he would get sent straight to it. He has never once got off it, but I know that a lot of children need to keep being put back on it when you first start using it. The concept is from Supernanny (Jo Frost) if you want to look it up.

Ds was also a bit more trying when I was pregnant with dd (now 12 weeks). Probably because I was sick and wasn't able to do quite so much with him. To reassure you a little, he is wonderful with dd and adores his little sister.

Good luck with the naughty spot / time out if you decide to try it. x

washngo Wed 23-Jan-13 19:57:04

Thanks mummy2, we used to use naughty step but it was getting hard getting ds to stay, and he had very rarely calmed down fully by the time his 3/4 mins was up, so we changed it to going to his room til he was calm. I also think a lot of his behaviour is due to him trying to get my full attention, and because I used to have to stop what I was doing to keep putting him back on the step, it sort of gave him what he wanted iyswim. Not sure if sending to room is having much effect though...

stottiecake Wed 23-Jan-13 20:57:22

Hello there!

I have a 4.2 yo ds and recognise some of what you are experiencing. I am finding him very challenging at times and it's exhausting trying to deal with his behaviour in a calm way (not always succeeding there).

We try to ignore the rude behaviour - the door slamming/ huffs/ sulks and moods. If he has been rude to someone in particular he can't expect that person to help him with anything until he has given a genuine apology.

We don't do the naughty step here. I try to think of what would be the natural consequence. So if he doesn't do something he needs to do i.e. have his teeth cleaned I tell him if he doesn't hurry up I'll have to go and do something else. And then if he doesn't agree to let me help do his teeth I will walk away and do whatever - tidy towels etc - he would probably then follow me asking me to clean his teeth. We don't often get to the point where there is no time for a story - he has usually figured it out by then. We did have a big stand off one evening - he mucked about so much I just left him to it and took my time sorting out ds2. He didn't like it (no attention!) and we have had no probs since (with teeth cleaning - plenty of other probs tho'!..)

Using humour and racing also can help here. 'who's going to get their coat on the fastest' or just being deliberately terrible at doing it it's funny so it's a distraction. Have found it really hard to find energy to be funny when I'm feeling MAD! Always try to give a count down too but sometimes he will still be awkward (understatement!)

We try to remind ourselves that at this age they have 'little bodies but big emotions' - read that on here - helps a bit to keep my temper at times. Also I think 4 year olds get massive surge of testosterone which explains some of their physical behaviour. Sometimes understanding 'why' and thinking of it as a stage/ phase helps with dealing with it. It does with me anyway.

stottiecake Wed 23-Jan-13 21:04:40

Just another thought... I try to always have time booked on the calendar for just me and ds1 to spend together alone doing something of his choosing. Last week we went for a trip to the next town on a double decker - sitting at the front on the top deck - excellent fun! Also recently heard of 'love bombing' where during one to one time you tell them frequently that you love them. ds1 responds really well to it.

stottiecake Wed 23-Jan-13 21:07:16

Also all the best with dc3. Sorry you have had such a hard time sad

Tgger Wed 23-Jan-13 21:24:42

Not much advice, sorry, but to say it sounds normal 4 year old behaviour- DD 4 and 2 months is going through a bolshie/pushing boundaries phase. She sometimes says really outrageous things that I don't think she really means, she is just trying out for size. I either ignore or tell her what she's saying is unacceptable (but in a very calm but firm way) and please don't say that again.

I think being pregnant and poorly will make it worse so yes, he is probably acting out. I think you have to set your boundaries firmly and clearly, stick to them and give lots of love and cuddles as well. Things like screaming are unacceptable and it's go to your room and calm down if it continues (initially "stop screaming"- I seem to find myself saying this a bit more often these days... " You're 4 not 2".... (probably not very helpful but makes the point to yourself rather than them).

I have zero tolerance for hitting. There seems to be more anger at this age and IMO they need very clear boundaries- also help to express their strong emotions- ie it's ok to be angry, but it's not ok to hit people when you're angry.

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