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Is this normal behaviour for 4 year old?

(22 Posts)
upforathird Sun 26-Feb-17 16:43:39

DH and I are really banging out heads together about our 4 year old DS. He's intelligent, friendly, sociable and very well behaved at nursery but can be sooooooo badly behaved at home.

The main issues we have are that he often runs off in public, ignores us and secondly he hits us and his younger sibling (who's no angel by the way and often hits him too!)

A couple of example incidents recently.

1) Putting younger DC in the car, DS did not stand by the door as requested and ran around the front of another car where I could not see him (and it was dark!). I went to get him and spoke firmly to him about how he must not run off in the car park because it was unsafe etc. I did not shout but he immediately started saying "don't shout at me! Don't be angry!" And then hit me in the face as I was doing his seatbelt up.

2) On his scooter in a park and we get to a point where we are nearing a busy A road that we need to cross. Well before the road we started to shout to him to stop and wait for us but he continued to scoot along. DH shouts much more firmly to stop! DS continues to scoot along. Name shouted by us - ignored by DS. DH then starts to run after him as he gets scared that he may keep going all the way to the road, DS turns around and sees him so ditches the scooter and tries to run away. Eventually DS panics and stops and turns around putting his hands on his ears and covering them up (as DH is shouting at him angrily I guess!

3) Standing on the driveway rubbing his coat sleeve up the wet dirty car (obviously exploring the fact that he is cleaning it) - DS was asked to stop doing this by both me and DH and to go into the house as we were waiting for him and he ignored us completely and continued to "wash the car"

Would you say any of this is normal /abnormal behaviour for his age. He's 4.2. Sometimes he is so compliant and wonderful but other times SUCH hard work. I try a no shouting policy, I distract, I praise good behaviour, I put a name to his feelings "I know you must angry but you mustn't hit me", I try to not say DON'T and STOP and use positive reinforcement but inevitably throughout the day it gets to the point where he pushes one to many buttons.

Thanks for reading this far and i would be so grateful for any experiences of children like this and how you have dealt with it!

upforathird Sun 26-Feb-17 18:03:10


upforathird Sun 26-Feb-17 20:20:34

Anyone?? Eek

teacher54321 Sun 26-Feb-17 20:25:42

I have a 4yo Ds as well and he is also an angel at school but can be a total pain in the arse at home. He doesn't run away or misbehave in that way as he's always been quite fearful and has a good sense of danger but things like rubbing his coat on a dirty thing and then not stopping is absolutely familiar! His flashpoint is bedtime-one night last week it took two hours and both of us in tears to get him into bed. I have no advice, just solidarity!

AThousandTears Sun 26-Feb-17 20:35:57

I have a 4 year old too.

He wouldn't run away or hit, but the ignoring when giving a direct instruction happens way too often for my liking.
Our trigger seems to be getting changed (in the morning and before bed). He ignores, walks away, climbs on things, plays with toys after each single item of clothing is put on/off. Bloody nightmare!

He's also testing a new one of shouting "No" when I ask him to do something. That's fun.

It's that old trick of consistency with managing consequences for ALL the unwanted behaviour. The hardest thing for me is managing my own tone or response when I'm getting stressed with it. E.g. He is going to make me late for work. I find it hard not to show that and continue with the calm repetitive responses.
Smile and think fondly of the age where they'll grow out of it!

My only advice about the running off is that he won't be able to go out on a scooter etc if he can't be trusted to follow instructions. He will have to hold an adults hand the whole time he is out of the house if he can't be trusted. He won't want to do either of those things!

NickyEds Sun 26-Feb-17 20:40:30

What kind of consequences are there for when he behaves like this? Honestly, if he's running off towards roads etc I'd put reins/little life pack pack on him until he learns not to. My ds turned 3 just before Christmas and is often described as a live wire but wouldn't hit me so that behaviour sounds extreme.

Gildedcage Sun 26-Feb-17 21:05:37

My youngest was like this. Frankly a total nightmare! Everything you have said was familiar; running away, hitting, fingers in the ears...sadly I have no real practical advice. I did take her to a school pick up in reins and she made problems in other ways i. e refused to walk. What I've learned is to be calm also I sometimes used to remove myself from her tantrums. The good news is that she has improved massively in the last couple of years. There's light at the end of the tunnel.

WineCheeseSleep Mon 27-Feb-17 22:53:29

Have you had his hearing tested? I spoke to our health visitor about some similar sorts of things and she recommended we get it checked. I didn't think that was the problem but it turned out he had glue ear and mild hearing loss. Might be worth getting it checked?

upforathird Tue 28-Feb-17 03:06:40

Thanks for the replies - wine, I haven't had his hearing tested but actually that's quite interesting you say that because there are often times that I say something to him and he gets me to repeat it several times over (and that's simple things that I know he'll understand). I've never noticed him have any ear infections or anything though and passed the newborn hearing test no problems...

With regards to the scooter incident - that's a one off and I have often been out with him and he's been fantastic at waiting when asked, getting off and walking/ holding hands when needed. The result of this situation was that he had to come off and walk holding hands the rest of the way back while the scooter was carried. It was like he was REALLY testing boundaries but panicked last minute and came back - he was about 100 yards from the road at the time (we couldn't see it yet due to a corner and bushes).

Hitting wise- it's never done with full force. It's done to annoy and cause a reaction. Very attention seeking without the full malice of wanting to physically harm.

I think behaviour like this occurs when he is tired and/or hungry. We'll have weeks of fantastic behaviour then a run of really difficult behaviour

Spottyladybird Tue 28-Feb-17 03:48:20

My DD is nearly 4 and this describes her perfectly. She's always been a livewire but has recently started hitting us or throwing something if we say no.
Out of the house she's angelic but she has her triggers which make things difficult.
We have started time out for hitting and helping her to understand her feelings which seems to help. I'm also trying to pick my battles as she will argue about anything and we try to heavily praise when we catch her being good.

JamDonutsRule Tue 28-Feb-17 03:57:42

I'd get hearing checked but otherwise I'm afraid it sounds pretty normal to me!

BottomlyP0tts Tue 28-Feb-17 04:06:30

Never any hitting from our children - not last age 2 anyway and even that was dealt with firmly.

The running away issues also don't happen to us.

The blatant ignoring of directions etc? Now that was a horrid phase that we are out of thankfully.

It does sound normal to me though - I would deal with any violence swiftly

JonesyAndTheSalad Tue 28-Feb-17 05:03:04

Try being really clear in your instructions....

Make them a bit simpler

So instead of "DS, please stop wiping your sleeve on the car"

"Stop touching the car"

He doesn't think in terms of consequences yet, so simple instructions are easy for him to process.

But I agree about getting his ears checked too.

Quodlibet Tue 28-Feb-17 05:28:47

My daughter is only three but has/would behave in similar ways.

In the situations you have described (tired and hungry being a contributing factor) it sounds like his impulses are sometimes unmanageable for him. The more stress is loaded on him (by shouting etc) the more difficult it becomes for him to see a way out and so the situation escalates. That pattern is very recognisable to me and I am also trying to find ways around it/to avoid it.
Obviously you have to keep your child safe so shouting when they are scooting off is unavoidable. But I'm trying to head things off at the pass eg if I can see the slightly glazed tired/wild look then I will have a quiet and cheerful word with her about how if I say stop/wait she will stop straight away, eg reminding her of the behaviour I need from her while she's calm and before she has adrenalin/blood pumping. That seem to help. Generally, finding ways to stay calm, de-escalate and avoid triggers helps us.

1t6y9o Tue 28-Feb-17 05:46:33

Check out the book 'Calmer Easier Happier Parenting' on Amazon. The techniques in the book are perfect for your situation and it explains all about why he isn't cooperating and how to have him cooperate. It really works!

Mol1628 Tue 28-Feb-17 05:55:49

My 4yo doesn't hit but everything else sounds similar. He has days where he just decides to be a real pain and disobedient. Then other days he's great. Also perfect at nursery.

I tend to ask him nicely not to do something. Then warm of a consequence, then if he doesn't do as he's told follow through. It's got to be an instant punishment though or he doesn't care.
Also being overly positive, which is hard when he's being a nightmare all day but every find he listens straight away we make a big deal of how nice it is when he listens and we can have a nice day and mummy doesn't have to get cross etc etc.

Mol1628 Tue 28-Feb-17 05:59:40

Quodlibit, I think you've got it spot on. Stopping the behaviour before it happens is spot on, otherwise he flips out and acts up even more. So if he's being a bit disobedient and we are going for a scooter ride I just remind him the importance of stopping at roads and as soon as I ask so I can keep him safe. Poor impulse control is exactly right for us. But he's slowly improving now at 4.5

WineCheeseSleep Tue 28-Feb-17 09:58:49

Just on the hearing thing - DS passed his newborn checks too and I knew he could far away sounds like planes etc so didn't occur to me he might have hearing problems. It was just when the health visitor mentioned it and I googled it I could see the problems it can cause.

elQuintoConyo Tue 28-Feb-17 10:05:39

I was the same at the same age. My mother gad the gp check my ears - he announced I had selected deafness grin

Our 5yo is still a little like this. He takes off on his scooter pit of sight or too far away. I have warned him, taken it off him, waved it over the bin etc. Yesterday he freaked me out by scooting off, round a corner and down a hill. He had stopped at the corner (one way residential street - but cars still do fly about like the Stig). I calmly took it off him and put it in the bin and walked him home.

He gets it now.

I feel terrible though sad

SarcasmMode Tue 28-Feb-17 10:13:33

Completely understand.

DD1(3.11) is like this sometimes.

So well behaved often but other times so mean spirited / angry.

Hits her just turned 1 year old sister.
Hits us.
Throws things at us.
Throws things in general.

It's worse when she's tired.

I do truly sympathise

Blueflowers2011 Tue 07-Mar-17 14:45:01

Very, very normal.

I broke my foot as I was running after them because mine would not listen and scootered at the edge of the road. Scooters have been completely banned now as they STILL dont listen (age 5 and 4).

I have been hit many times.

Thanks for making me feel normal, sorry Im no further help.

minipie Thu 09-Mar-17 18:44:39

I have no advice but just to say we are in this phase with DD (4.4) as well. She has always had poor impulse control not helped by the fact she doesn't sleep enough and is always tired.

Glad to hear it gets better!

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