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Is this "normal " behaviour for a four year old?

(62 Posts)
jasper Sun 30-Jan-05 02:44:34

My dh is worried about our dd aged four. He has concluded she is "unteachable".

SHe reached all developmental milestones and was always very physically advanced and could talk , count, recognise letters early etc BUT...


Where it comes to applying the normal house rules governing the kids ' behaviour (big brother , 5, wee brother 2) she seems to be completely devoid of understanding.

If say she asks for a jigsaw and a pile of toys are strewn over the carpet and we say "put away the other toys and I will get your jigsaw " she will look at us with a look of total incomprehension and say "but I don't WANT to put away my toys". she seems to genuinely not understand the concept of "if...then..." as opposed to her just being deliberately naughty ( which of course she is sometimes too). If she sets her mind to do or not do something she is absolutely immovable.SHe assumes an attitude as if we are total idiots for making the request.

That sounds trivial but there are other things. Today she was building a tower of cushions that kept falling down. She was frustrated so picked uher big brother HARD across the head. DH immediately picked her up and put her in the "isolation "room and she screamed hysterically throughout as if she had been the victim of some terrible miscarriage of justice.

Most of the time she is sweet and adorable but about 5% of the time it is as if a switch has been flicked in her brain and she is completely MENTAL.SHe goes into a screaming trance. Her eyes glaze over and her face goes white. She appears semi-conscious.
I hope the word "mental"does not offend - I am in Scotland and there is no better word to describe her.

DO you think this is normal behaviour or should we be worried? I am not particularly worried but DH is convinced there is something the matter with her brain and has asked me to ask my mumsnet pals.

newscot Sun 30-Jan-05 05:35:16

Also awake in the middle of the night in Scotland! I have a dd aged 4 who has done not disimilar things, so a couple of thoughts. My daughter hates not being able to do something properly. When drawing or writing she says "I can't do this very well", will often screw up the paper and cry. Other mums with daughters the same age have said the same things so maybe this explains the pillow incident (and yes our dd has hit out at us in frustration)
As regards the 'first and then'concept-my dd has some trouble with slightly abstract concepts such as these (for example-was told at nursery that she had to wear trousers to go on the climbing frame so thought that as she was wearing trousers this meant she could go on the climbing frame any time she wanted) They have used a visual timetable with her and that solved the problem straight away. Of course this may not be your dd's problem, she may just be being difficult which seems to be not entirely unknown at this age! Good luck

Stripymouse Sun 30-Jan-05 07:53:16

My DD (3 and a half) is a normal bright child but really struggles with the concept of consequence and action - particularly when stressed or frustrated. We have the same meaningless battles in our house. Simple ones such as trying to tell her that the back door is locked with a key and no amount of pulling or pushing will open it, mummy will get the key so just wait - does she wait? hell, no. She carries on banging, pulling the door so much taht she swings round on the handle and bumps her head on the frame. So unnecessary and stupid and so annoying - we find our selves saying "if you only listen to us then that wouldn’t happen.." and "I told you not to do that because..." all of the time.
My mum calls it "strong willed" and "independent", "got to find out for herself" - I call it not listening, willful, downright annoying and hope with age she will grow out of it. Whatever it is, I reckon it is fairly normal in determined young girls (no experience of boys) who are just too caught up in what they are doing to calm down enough and take on board logical argument and process.

NotQuiteCockney Sun 30-Jan-05 07:59:29

I think this is totally normal. Adults aren't terribly good at accepting that they can't have what they want now. Children are considerably more rubbish. It sounds like your older son is particularly well-behaved, and that's given your DH some unfair expectations?

She probably does understand "if...then..." but doesn't think it applies when she really wants the second part, and doesn't want the first.

charliecat Sun 30-Jan-05 08:52:38

My dd is now 7 and has been like this all of her life, I have had the same thoughts as you! She aslo doesnt think before she does things...silly example...pulls piece of paper with glass on top with no thought that the glass is going to move and spill over.
She too is nice and other times a wee demon! She used to scream as if we were in the wrong for disiplining her but now I know that confiscating her monkey has the effect of making her cry bitterly I use that often...even if its just so I feel shes getting of what shes giving out.
She may cry bitterly, but it doesnt stop her next time, she doesnt seem to learn from her actions either?
Hard work!

Cam Sun 30-Jan-05 10:38:46

Sometimes I think that girls (and some boys too!) want to have a "discussion" about everything. I think they don't want to just accept what they are told (however reasonable it sounds to an adult) but want to question it verbally. This can easily come across as disobedience but may really be a genuine attempt to find out why they have to do something in that way.

aloha Sun 30-Jan-05 11:30:50

I don't think there is anything to worry about frankly. I'm absolutely sure there is nothing wrong with her brain. Did you know that the part of the brain covering impulsive behaviour is very underdeveloped in all young children? It develops slowly almost into adulthood. That's why all young children are impulsive and don't think much about consequences. Ds stuck his hand into another child's apple juice yesterday because he wanted an ice cube - apple juice all over the cafe. And in reaching to try to prevent it, my coffee went everywhere too... He's not really a tantrummer or particularly determined in the way your daughter is, but those can be useful qualities as well as bloody annoying ones

Barbaloot Sun 30-Jan-05 18:02:00

Probably not totally normal, in that most (ie more than 50%) kids are not quite as bad, but normal in that it still applies to a good few. My dd9 was, and largely still is, the same way, but ds wasn't and isn't. She is most reluctant to ever do anything she doesn't want to (tidying etc.) and has no thoughts to consequences of her actions. Sympathies to you because it is hard to deal with, normal strategies don't seem to work.

Might be worth looking carefully at her diet. DDs worst episodes did/do seem to correlate quite well with intakes of highly coloured/flavoured foods which we now try to avoid as far as possible without being obsessively paranoid. She is also mildly dyslexic, but not sure whether or not that has anything to do with these behaviours.

gothicmama Sun 30-Jan-05 18:05:57

thanks for this we are not the only family with dd4 who does teh same no helpful insights on ghow to handle it but relief we are not alone

SofiaAmes Sun 30-Jan-05 19:05:12

My dd is very similar....are you noticing a pattern here? Seems to be a quality more common in girls. It drives my dh crazy too and he too is convinced there is something wrong with our dd. He is absolutely convinced she is going to be the worst teenager ever and is already figuring out how he will deal with it. The funny thing is ...she is just like me. AND my mother describes me as a little child being very similar and particularly in contrast to my docile sweet obedient younger brother. She too was convinced there was something wrong with me and that I was going to be a problem child. The reality was that I was a remarkably obedient child in the end and ironically it was my brother that caused far more trouble. I think it is just a matter of growing into yourself and learning how to channel energy and achieve things in your own way.

Don't worry jasper, I'm sure it will get better as she gets older.

paolosgirl Sun 30-Jan-05 19:11:46

I'm going to go against the girl thing here, with ds. He's 7 now, and he also is very challenging at times. His tempers are something to behold,a nd he would rather cut his arm off than do something he doesn't want to. The thing I find particularly hard to deal with is kind of hard to explain, but if he's got himself intent on something or focusing on something else, he will not look at me, and seems almost hyper.
He has been assessed by a psychologist - he's at the extreme end of normal apparently, but still hard work.
I would say from what you're saying that it is normal behaviour from a very single-minded child, but I'm no expert. If you are worried, could you mention it to your GP?

Christie Sun 30-Jan-05 19:42:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Issymum Sun 30-Jan-05 19:50:44

A trait I've noticed in DD1(four in a month) is that she gets to a point where she is going to work herself up into a hissy fit and anything but anything will trigger it. So she seems as if she's being completely unreasonable and she is, but it's more as if she is casting around for the trigger that will allow her to throw the fit and vent whatever emotion - tiredness, frustration, downright crabiness - that is ready to overwhelmn her. We just hold the line, let the fit take its course, shout a bit (we are human and it is extremely annoying!) and over time she recovers.

Shimmy21 Sun 30-Jan-05 19:51:06

Another boy here -my ds sounds just the same as your dd especially when it comes to the "let's all help clear up" conversations and he's 6. He just really doesn't understand why he should help if he doesn't feel like it. It always ends up in some sort of confrontation -well if you don't help me clear up i wont let you ... and he just cannot see the justice in it. Please tell your dh not to worry. Perhaps it's a sign of independence and free-thinking!

nutcracker Sun 30-Jan-05 19:59:08

My 5 yr old dd is very much like you have described Jasper and always has been.

Not sure what advice i can offer as i am having lots of trouble with her at the mo.

Hope someone else has some good advice for you.

jasper Sun 30-Jan-05 20:38:50

What a relief!
Chrissie, the "isolation room" - could not think of a better word - is just the spare bedroom. It is the only punishment that seems just and kind of works. I have tried everything else but daren't mention the more un-PC methods on mumsnet!

My sil teaches 5 yo s and was here today and reassured my dh that dh seemed ok.
Paolosgirl, "EXTREME END OF NORMAL" is a fab expression and I plan to use it lots.
Sofiaames interesting you sould say you were similar to your dd as a child as my mum has said the same - although she did say dd is worse!

paolosgirl Sun 30-Jan-05 20:42:43

Issymum, we have the same thing with ds - this looking for a trigger to vent the emotion. It has been such a relief to read that someone else has the same experience. I have found that very often after his explosion, he cries for a cuddle - it does seem to calm him down very quickly, but someimes I can't help feeling I'm rewarding the bad behaviour. I don't think so though - he genuinely seems unable to control the explosion.

jasper Sun 30-Jan-05 20:44:33

her worst behaviour is getting dressed. I posted on mumsnet when she was 3 months old that she was a frantic screaming wriggler at nappy and clothes changes.

She is still EXACTLY the same. Most mornings she refuses to put on he clothes and as we have to meet a deadline (nursery at 9) I have to physically cram her , screeching and kicking into her clothes.

Same again at bedtime for PJs.

Dh is worried because he thinks she should have worked out by now that if she refuses to do something she will be forced to do it anyway, i.e. she must be thick/abnormal not to have worked this out and just cooperate.

jasper Sun 30-Jan-05 20:46:24

paulosgirl that rwarding the bad behaviour thing is a big issue between me and dh- he claims it is rewaring bad behaviour but I would never refuse a cuddle from any of my kids.

jasper Sun 30-Jan-05 20:47:00

Message withdrawn

paolosgirl Sun 30-Jan-05 20:50:53

Jasper, I know what you mean. Sometimes I'm so wound up after his blow up (when he can physically attack me, or be really insulting or hurtful or cheeky) that the last thing I feel like doing is cuddle him - but I hate to see him begging for a cuddle. Sometimes I just say that because he did X Y and Z, mummy is feeling a bit sad, and will give him a cuddle very soon when she feels a bit better'....but don't know what to do, really, for the best.

paolosgirl Sun 30-Jan-05 20:52:23

Re getting dressed - difficult in the morning, I know, but what about not insisting she gets into her jammies, and let her go to bed without them? Just a thought....

jasper Sun 30-Jan-05 20:55:55

paulosgirl the prob with letting her go to bed in clothes or to nursery in PJs (both of which have been suggested) is that this causes her older brother (5 and relatively "normal")to become extremely distressed!

jasper Sun 30-Jan-05 20:57:23

why can't I spell your name??

charliecat Sun 30-Jan-05 20:59:22

I find the best thing to do with both of my dds when they are being daft about clothes is to not look at them, grab them and the clothes, get them in them and the silence baffles them into not going quite as mad as they would if i was trying(and failing) to reason with them.
Plan B which i didnt have to use, but did have in place if needbe...was if they then removed an item id put on they would leave without it! So if they tugged at the clothe I would warn them and they didnt Thank Goodness!

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