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(15 Posts)
desperatemumlivingbythesea Sat 24-Feb-07 20:42:14

My 4 year old boy (who I'll refer to as "H") is normally an adorable, happy, loving, sensible, and fun little boy but he has recently started to be very rude and confrontational towards me. He has started disobeying me, not listening etc. and his behaviour has become stroppy and involves lots of answering back, shouting, having the last word, and repeating things i've said to him such as "Don't speak to me like that", "Don't be so rude to me" and "I won't put up with that sort of behaviour", ie. the kind of retorts that I'd expect if he was 11-15 years old but surely not at the age of 4?! When I tell him off he either raises his eyebrows in a 'gosh how tiresome' fashion or bursts into tears with "It's not fair" and "You've upset me now". It's bewildering and breaking my heart. How can I teach H that it's acceptable for me, as his mother, to make such comments, but it is rude for him to do so - It's a complicated lesson that children need to learn. I've tried with-holding treats, banning TV for periods of time, and a reward chart, but all to no avail. I've also tried to be very loving, tactile, and calm - trying to explain things to him, but he still continues with the same behaviour. My husband is very supportive and H is similar towards him, but not as bad - the bad behaviour is mostly aimed at me. We have thought that the cause could possibly be the introduction of a little brother who is now 9 mths old (who I'll refer to as "P")... but he seems to adore him and we do our absolute best to share our attention between them both. Another thought is that it might be TV ... We have "Sky" and he flicks through all the children's channels - I presumed that they were all appropriate but have recently noticed some such as "Horrid Henry" in which cartoon children answer back to their parents etc. I will of course make sure he only watches certain channels from now on. Anyway, thank you so much for 'listening' to what has been very long-winded. Any help/advice/ideas would be very much appreciated.
With best wishes.

northerner Sat 24-Feb-07 20:45:13

Hi there. I have a 4 year old boy just like yours. Think it is an age thing and totally normal. We just have to ride the storm I reckon.

Is he at school yet? Mine got worse since starting school. I HATE YOU MUMMY is quite often used against me

FrannyandZooey Sat 24-Feb-07 20:51:15

I am not sure if it is ok for us to say things to children that we would find rude if they said it to us

when I hear my son reflect back things I have said, and they sound rude / aggressive / controlling / whatever, it makes me think that it isn't a nice way for people to speak to one another. Our children use our behaviour to learn what is acceptable - we have to model the behaviour we want to see them adopt. I know it's not possible to always be calm and considerate, and your ds sounds like a typical challending 4 y o (I have a theory if they have been delightful age 2 or 3 then MY GOD you get it in spades when they are 4 or so ). But I believe that negotiation and firm kindness are better tools for discipline than any methods involving punishments and rewards.

I do agree that TV culture encourages negativity towards adults, though. It's quite subtle but pernicious, IMO.

MotherofOne Sat 24-Feb-07 20:55:52

Sounds fairly typical 4 year old behaviour I'd say (with DSs of 7 and 4 myself!)

Could be all or any of the following:

- learning new bad habits/ peer stuff from school
- reacting to no longer being 'your little baby' and struggling with knowing how to cope with it
- testosterone surge boys are meant to have about age 4
- influence of TV
- getting to the age where they begin to get a bit of self-awareness and 'trying out' things like answering back etc.

DS2 (4) is very like this at the moment - delightful one minute and horrid the next. Our tactics are mostly to ignore him, or try to cajoule him out of it by saying things like "oh no, nasty DS is back, we don't like him - we want nice DS... and then go off searching 'nice DS' and tell him to come and find us if he finds him!

livingbythesea Sat 24-Feb-07 21:05:23

Dear FrannyandZooey
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my message. I completely agree with you that it isn't at all ok for us to say things to children that we would find rude if they said it to us ... I'm horrified that it seems I may have been guilty of that, and admittedly hadn't seen it in that way until you pointed it out. How do you suggest I respond when H keeps being defiant/rude? When I have said to him "Don't speak to me like that", "Don't be so rude to me" and "I won't put up with that sort of behaviour", I have done so calmly but firmly, and not shouted or been aggressive, so aren't those words OK? I'm feeling really confused, as you can probably tell!

northerner Sat 24-Feb-07 21:06:43

Oh, am I invisible then?

FrannyandZooey Sat 24-Feb-07 21:17:03

I don't know, I mean I could imagine "Don't be rude to me" could be an ok thing to say, depending on tone of voice etc...but could sound rude coming from a child (my ds says it to me and I think he is spot on when he says it actually, as I am being rude usually )

it's very hard isn't it? I think phrases like "I won't put up with that behaviour" are controlling and threatening when you really pick them apart and see what they mean. "Don't speak to me like that" sounds confrontational and doesn't make any suggestions on how you would actually like him to behave. I can not really think of many / any situations where we should be saying things to children that we wouldn't be happy to have them say back to us - I suppose a better way might be to say "Please speak to me politely" or "You sound cross - but try not to be rude to mummy - what is the matter?"? What do you think? I know it sounds like semantics but I think it shows respect to speak to them as we would like to be spoken to.

There are some good suggestions from northerner and MotherofOne on here, as well (maybe more by the time I have finished typing). I did think of the hormone surge at age 4 when I read your title, but forgot to mention it.

livingbythesea Sat 24-Feb-07 21:23:05

Dear Northener
Hi ... Sorry, genuinely didn't mean to offend you. I confess I missed your message ... thank you so much for responding. H isn't at school yet ... his birthday is 1st September. I'll look forward to more challenges when he starts!
Thanks for your support, and best wishes.

northerner Sat 24-Feb-07 21:26:36

OK, I'll let you off.

Steve Biddulph's book raisning boys is a good read, and ad Franny has said he beleives boys get a testosterone surge at around aged 4 which explains alot.

Mine is a ball of anger and frustration one minute and a delightful loving boy the next. It's bizarre.

livingbythesea Sat 24-Feb-07 21:29:29

Dear MotherofOne
Really useful comments, thank you - I think you're right on all counts.
In fact, I've valued all the comments I've received. Just went and had a chat with my husband and we've decided to try and deal with things differently from tomorrow, ie. ignore bad behaviour, give more emphasis to the good behaviour (which we've always done, but will focus even more strongly on this), and forget about punishments and rewards for a while. We're going on holiday on Monday to Centerparcs so hopefully things will improve as we'll all be a lot more relaxed and have a lot more time for each other.
By the way, it might be obvious, but this is the first time I've ever participated in a forum (hence not quite getting the etiquete right and replying to all messages!). It has been incredibly helpful all ready. But what do DS and DS2 stand for?!

livingbythesea Sat 24-Feb-07 21:33:25

Dear FrannyandZooey
What you have said is very interesting ... As I just wrote to MotherofOne, I have just discussed everyone's comments with my husband and we will start tomorrow afresh, with lots of new thoughts and ideas.
Need to log off now, but thanks again.
Good Night!

FrannyandZooey Sat 24-Feb-07 21:39:13

Oh welcome to MN in that case.

Ds means "dear son"
ds2 "second son"
dd "dear daughter"
dh "dear husband" etc

There is a list of acronyms used on the site, up the top somewhere. Click on "acronym list".

Hope you have a good holiday. You might find books by Alfie Kohn interesting as he challenges the idea of routinely using punishments and rewards with children. I second Northerner's suggestion of Steve Biddulph being good for advice on boys this age.

I reread my last post and thought it sounded terribly smug - I don't actually manage to speak to my ds in a calm and respectful way all the time at all, and have used all the examples you gave and at times some really unfriendly ones But the tactics I have suggested is the way I think things should be. I'm an idealist

CurlyN Sat 24-Feb-07 23:08:59

Hi northerner sorry to hijack, but what do you say/do when your DC say 'I hate you'?

northerner Sun 25-Feb-07 09:43:50

I say well I love you.

Although have to repress tyhe 5 yr old in me that wants to be mean back

AussieSim Sun 25-Feb-07 10:19:31

I agree with the posts so far and would like to add as a mother of a 4yo and a 20mo that DS1 went through a rough patch when DS2 started to become quite mobile. While they are just a lump they are not too threatening , but when it becomes quite obvious that they will be quite involved in all goings on then the ball game changes. We got over that hump after a bit and now DS1 is sounding a bit more like your H. I use time outs and try to stay calm. I have the book, How to speak so children will listen and listen so children will speak' which I think addresses some of the semantics in how to express yourself with your kids. You might find it useful. HTH

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