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Are children aged 4 often mean/thoughtless/competitive?

(53 Posts)
Earlybird Mon 27-Jun-05 12:18:58

DD is an only child (4.5), and I'm a single mum (father not in the picture at all). Like most parents, I've been trying to teach dd some social skills such as being kind, considerate, polite, etc. As an only child, I also need to teach her how to share, how to wait her turn, how to stand her ground, how not to be pushed around, and how to respond when other children are mean. I think these lessons are perhaps things other children largely pick up at home from siblings.

I came back from dd's nursery this morning feeling quite unsettled about the behaviour of some of the other children. Is it typical for children of 4 to be quite competitive? There is often lots of "I'm going to xx's house to play, and you're not invited" or many/everchanging scenes of "you're not my friend". There is also a great deal of bragging "I'm going to xx on holiday, and you're not" or "I got a new xx this weekend, and you don't have one do you"?

It breaks my heart to see other children being mean to dd as she is a kind and gentle child. Let me hasten to add, they are not singling her out, they're just functioning at a 4 year old level as far as I can tell. For instance, this morning one little girl was being very grabby and refusing to share the building blocks. She had more than anyone else, but still was grabbing additional blocks and pushing the other children away. Also, for some reason, several of the Dads (who we know well and socialise with) dropped their children at school this morning. One of the other little girls chanted a few times "DD doesn't have a daddy".

Maybe I'm just feeling extra sensitive this morning, or maybe I'm extra protective as we've just had a lovely weekend. I know it's life and she'll have to learn how to handle those sorts of situations, but I just wanted to cuddle and protect my dear little girl from those unnecessary and unkind situations. How can I help her? What do the rest of you do? Are you experiencing this too?

motherinferior Mon 27-Jun-05 12:21:11

What horrible children - I'm so sorry your for your poor little girl.

I think they do the 'you're not my friend' bit but not necessarily the other stuff. Clearly my own little darling may in fact be a nightmare when I'm not there, but I suspect not.

Gobbledigook Mon 27-Jun-05 12:42:30

Earlybird - sounds horrible!!

I know a couple of friends of mine have talked about their 4 yr olds starting to do the 'I'm not your friend' thing but I've not heard it from ds yet (maybe it's more of a girl thing??).

Certainly not heard my ds saying any of the other things you've talked about but there is some competitiveness when it comes to running to get somewhere or something like that. I've seen a few 4 yr olds at nursery who are quite aggressive - grabbing toys and being quite aggressive about protecting them - again mainly boys.

Anyway, the short of it is, I think it's pretty 'normal' for 4 yr olds to start behaving in this way although obviously it's to be discouraged!

Fio2 Mon 27-Jun-05 12:46:01

my ds 3 1/2 does this 'youre not my friend' thing, even to me

handlemecarefully Mon 27-Jun-05 12:46:07

I suspect it's pretty normal, although I don't have a 4 year old. However my 2.11 yr old dd has come home from Nursery telling me that another little girl has advised her that she doesn't like her anymore...then they are friends again the next day.

Luckily my dd seemed completely laid back about this

katierocket Mon 27-Jun-05 12:46:51

yes. is the short answer. i think they can be horrible. remember Lord of the Flies!! Seriously though, I think some children at this age can be pretty harsh and there can be lots of the "you're not coming to my house/my ice cream is bigger than yours/you're not the winner" etc etc. Some of it of course is just about asserting their personality but also how the parents handle it. I think some parents just ignore this kind of behaviour and never tell the child that it's not kind. My DS is quite a sensitive little soul and we've witnessed quite a bit of this. I'm having to tell him to stand up for himself a bit if children say things he doesn't like.

handlemecarefully Mon 27-Jun-05 12:47:27


yes, I get "I don't like you anymore mummy", juxtaposed with "You're my best friend mummy"

Lizzylou Mon 27-Jun-05 12:48:11

Earlybird I have been shocked by some boys at Mother and Toddler, I am so determined DS won't end up like that! I hope it is just naive childlike banter, but it isn't nice and should be picked up on by nursery staff/parents, comments about people's background are well out of order..

One boy at Toddlers (4) makes a habit of scaring other, younger children, I watched him run up and shout really loudly and nastily into my DS's face, his mother did nothing and my DS was OK, but it did make me laugh when, at a music group we go to on a Monday morning he sits in his Mom's arms sucking his thumb because his peer group isn't there to watch him!
They are only children, but do need some steering as what are acceptable things to say....

flashingnose Mon 27-Jun-05 12:50:06

Earlybird - although not in your position exactly, we are going through the very same thing at the moment with dd1 who is also 4. Didn't have it at all at this age with ds who is now 6 (and TBH, very rarely encounter it now).

There is one particular girl at dd1's nursery who is very bright and competitive and says all of the things you're talking about, causing dd1 a great deal of upset and heartache. Unfortunately, I have now heard dd1 coming out with the same kind of stuff which makes me very and as it has never been an issue in our house before now.

What I have done with dd1 is roleplay these situations i.e. whenever this girl (or anyone else for that matter) says anything horrible or showing off-y, she should either ignore and walk away or trot out the line "Really? That's nice for you". We practice this regularly and I have heard her use it to great effect - there's no comeback to it which is fantastic.


katierocket Mon 27-Jun-05 12:51:17

by the way, don't think it's got Anything to do with being an only chlid, I think it's personality. I think there is a myth about 'indulged only children' but IME parents with only one child tend to be really careful abotu teaching sharing, manners etc. it's the youngest of big familes that are trouble as parents don't have time to give them the attention. I am the youngest of four and I was a bit of a handful, I think for this reason.

frogs Mon 27-Jun-05 12:51:26

No, I don't think this level of sophisticated nastiness is common, actually. The "...and you're not" tag suggests that they're going out of their way to put her down, as does the "x doesn't have a daddy" business. What's that all about FFS?

What is the school's policy on this? Have you approached the teacher? A good nursery (surely) should be encouraging the children to become socialised in time for reception, and learning to be 'nice' to each other (underrated concept, really) is part of that.

Mine were in the nursery class of a very Catholic school in a rough inner-London area where the staff are extremely hot on the whole being-nice-to-each-other thing. I've learnt not to be shocked by them coming home saying, "X's mum's in prison, cos she sells drugs. What's drugs, Mummy?" or "Mummy, what does 'f*cking c*nt' mean?' But I would be shocked by your experience, particularly if the staff weren't reacting to it very energetically.

On the other hand it is never too early to explain the dynamic of jealousy to your dd -- something along the lines of "It's not kind of X to say such nasty things to you -- maybe she feels sad because she hasn't got such a lovely family/toys/holiday/friends" etc.

katierocket Mon 27-Jun-05 12:52:07

great advice flashingnose, I think I'll try this with DS.

puddle Mon 27-Jun-05 12:52:40

early - to be honest it does sound normal sadly but what were the grown ups doing while this was going on? I'd be expecting either nursery staff of parents (if still around) to be saying that talking like that is not kind. The little girls I know started this type of behaviour much earlier than the boys - ds is now in reception and I've this kind of competitiveness is quite recent amongst the boys in his class.

handlemecarefully Mon 27-Jun-05 12:56:19

It's a bit of an assumption that parents of children who say this sort of thing are passively ignoring it. They may well be tackling it, but if this sort of thing is common in the child's peer group then it is going to rub off

flashingnose Mon 27-Jun-05 12:59:06

Certainly the little girl who says these things to dd1 is very clever - she would never say them in front of her Mum.

katierocket Mon 27-Jun-05 13:01:03

I wonder how she's learnt to be like that then? Is it just a power thing to you think?

sobernow Mon 27-Jun-05 13:02:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

puddle Mon 27-Jun-05 13:03:11

There is a boy in my son's class who is like it. I think it stems from insecurity in his case, and a need to 'win' alll the time. Sadly it's making him quite unpopular.

katierocket Mon 27-Jun-05 13:05:16

agree that at this age this kind of thing is fairly random but I think children have a nack for picking up vibes from a less confident child and targeting them. Sobernow, i was going to say the same thing about it being usually girls ^at this age^ isn't it to do with the fact that girls mature emotionally faster than boys?

handlemecarefully Mon 27-Jun-05 13:06:52

girls are probably more 'complex'

babster Mon 27-Jun-05 13:06:53

Dd2 is 3.5 and she has started this 'You're not my friend' and 'I am the winner, nur nur nur nur nur' nonsense recently. Drives me mad - ugh. I'm sure she and her friends are picking it up from older siblings at school (dd1 in Reception). Both my girls used to be so sweet and kind to each other but I feel they have lost their innocence this year

katierocket Mon 27-Jun-05 13:08:35

definitely agree with that hmc. I'm always saying that DS, while certainly no angel, is just more black and white and straightforward than his (girl) friend of same age. She is much more manipulative (hate that word it sounds very nasty but it's the best way to describe her behaviour sometimes).

sobernow Mon 27-Jun-05 13:12:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Issymum Mon 27-Jun-05 13:17:47

We've definitely got to the "You're not my friend" stage - the DDs (4 and 2) use it with each other, before immediately resuming their game together and I've heard it from some of DD1's perfectly nice and well-brought up girl-friends. I've made it clear that it's not acceptable because it may make the other person sad (ditto: "you're smelly", "you're fat"), but I suspect it is very much a phase - if you never tell somebody that 'you're not my friend', you will never learn what the implications of doing so might be.

Earlybird Mon 27-Jun-05 14:00:07

My goodness, thanks for the responses. It always helps to get feedback and advice.

For the most part these little incidents/comments seem to go unoticed/unchecked by staff or parents. DD is taught by the headmistress, so there is free play in her classroom with no supervision as the children arrive in the morning - and that is when everything occured this morning. If something extra loud happens, it will get the attention of the teachers in the adjoining room, but many of these exchanges seem to simply happen with no supervised response. When parents are around, they seem to be chatting to each other rather than paying attention to what is happening/said between children - so, unless it is a major incident, things are largely left unchecked.

My impression is that the behaviour that gets the attention of the teachers is the more loud, boisterous the unkind comments are rarely addressed as far as I can tell.

In hindsight, I think I should have walked over to the child saying "dd doesn't have a Daddy", gotten right down to her level and said something along the lines of "you're right, dd doesn't have a father. But it is unkind of you to tease her about it and you should stop it now" in a stern voice. Maybe children of 4 don't realise they've gone too far until they're told.

And yes, you're all correct that the fickle nature of 4 year olds means that they can be best friends one day, and out of favour the next. But I just don't like the "you're in/you're out" acceptance/rejection seesaw that seems increasingly common at this age.

Thanks also for the suggestions of responses and role playing. Think it will help dd so that she isn't "temporarily stunned" by unkind comments. I like the fact that she's kind/gentle and don't want her to be able to give as good as she gets, but also don't want her to be vulnerable to the mean comments.

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