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Feeling a bit desperate about 4 year old behaviour...

(16 Posts)
Tyniclogs Sun 07-Aug-11 20:55:47

Ok have been searching around the posts and found quite a few 'my four/five year old has changed character and gone a bit postal of late' so feel it could be a 'phase thing'. Just wanting some more reassurance/advice as things are feeling completely out of control. My 4 year old DS has now had three quite big 'tantrums' in the past couple of weeks which have involved hitting/biting and kicking me really quite hard. Prior to the violence there is a lengthy amount of arguing and complete defiance to requests such as 'Please put your shoes on in the wet muddy playground'. Today this request meant I was slapped around the face repeatedly quite violently (in a very public park being watched by a bemused family). I walked away at first totally shocked (reduced to tears) as I was in danger of hitting back, I then returned and calmly explained his behaviour was unexceptable and removed him to sit on a bench. He continued to rudely be defiant etc. Tonight at bedtime he has refused to go to bed and spent the past half hour kicking the door and shouting. His Dad went up to try and got a torrent of 'shut up' 'I'm not going to do what you say'. We are trying to remain calm and put on an amazing united performance of perfect parenting but inside I just keep hearing Jeremy Kyle saying 'when did your son first hit you?'

The plan is to remain calm against the violence and to walk away or 'restrain' safely when we can. Explain the behaviour is unacceptable. Remove telly watching (the one thing he loves above all else) and to remove any violent influences (big on spiderman and batman at the moment and wondering if the superhero thing is having this affect...she wonders lamely!)

cyb Sun 07-Aug-11 20:58:33

you need to sit down and tell him what the family rules are

'No hitting/kicking/slapping' etc

and he needs to know what the consequences will be if he does that

At 4 you could probably ask him why he gets so cross and what could he do instead

FunnysInTheGarden Sun 07-Aug-11 20:58:36

give him a smacked bottom?

cyb Sun 07-Aug-11 20:59:01

yes that would work EVEN BETTER hmm

PacificDogwood Sun 07-Aug-11 21:01:23

Is there not a testosterone surge in 4 year old boys?? I have a vague memory of something along those lines.

And for your consolation, DS3 was a shocking hitter/kicker/scratcher from about 15 months to his 3rd birthday when it just virtually overnight stopped.
I am dreading to think what he might turn into aged 4...

<<off to do a search>>

cyb Sun 07-Aug-11 21:04:14

testosterone or not he still needs to know its not acceptable behaviour

Tyniclogs Sun 07-Aug-11 21:10:06

We've done the big 'discussion bit' before, after and at all other times and he's amazingly contrite and apologetic after the fact. I am promised he will never do it again. He's actually very caring (yeah right!) when it comes to other children, his younger brother and we've never had any reports of bad behaviour at nursery. Its me that gets slapped. I think we're not tough enough on the consequences though and need to follow through with zero tolerance measures.

Cathpot Sun 07-Aug-11 21:10:17

Going through same sort of thing at the moment with previously very easy going DD2 (4.5). Today she bit her sister because she wouldnt let her join in immmediately. I was almost too astonished to know what to say.She has also taken up jamming her fingers in her ears and shouting 'lalalala not listening' whenever she is told off (Oh. My. Lord. It is uniquely irritating) and flouncing about more or less anything, leaving / arriving/ getting out of the bath etc etc. Was at a very lovely, calm, friend's this weekend with her, who once I had put DD2 upstairs while I calmed down, talked me into actually getting off my backside and doing a reward chart. I knew we needed one but every time I remembered I needed to sort it out I was too cross with her to want to do it. It is paying off already; tonight as she starting to strop about bedtime, I was able to calmly remind her about it/ bribe her back into line.She did the same thing about 6 months ago and then after a few weeks sorted herself out and went back to normal so I think the phase thing is right.

I would say, try a very clear reward for positive behaviour, and clear guidelines to him about what you dont want to see and hang in there?

girliefriend Sun 07-Aug-11 21:10:42

Think he is pushing boundaries and learning that mum and dad haven't got a clue what to do!!!

Have rules and clear consequences for what will happen when he breaks them. My dd is 5yo and I've found time out is getting less effective but what does work is conviscating a favourite toy, for example when she was giving me a lot of attitude and rudeness she had forwarning - 'if you continue to speak to mummy in that way then I will be taking your scooter away' she did the scooter went away and suddenly peace was resumed!!!

If it had been me in the park, I would have done the explaining what you were unhappy about bit and then said as you can not behave you can not stay at the park and taken him home.

Don't get into any arguments, nip them in the bud early - 'if you continue to speak to mummy like that this will happen' if you do not do as I am asking you this will happen'

Also set up expectations for good behaviour and lavish praise and attention on him when he is being good.

PacificDogwood Sun 07-Aug-11 21:12:25

Oh, yes, of course, I am not debating that.

This blog sounds sensible but I have not found anything much scientific about the fabled '4 year old testosterone surge'.
And yes, my reference would have been Steve Biddulph's book as well blush.

Maybe it is all tosh...

Tyniclogs Sun 07-Aug-11 21:22:30

Lalala not listening...oh yes that sounds about right! I've always hated reward charts as I'm crap at remembering them...the jar of marbles idea sounds do-able (one in for good one out for bad etc) I was hoping I'd be a more effective parent in the Alfie Kohn style and not need such bribes (smooths Boden smock smugly).

I agree with the park but we were on the way to Wales so long drive (obviously not adding to the ideal circumstances). As my mother helpfully pointed out toinight I have been 'dragging' him about the country of late. My mother helpfully moved a 7 hour drive away so in order to see her etc...this was just after suggesting I need to take him to see a behavoural pyshcologist.

Cathpot Sun 07-Aug-11 21:32:08

Yes I had a chat about the marbles jar business with DH, but my gut feeling is that sometimes when they wind themselves up into a frenzy they cant back down or calm down in time to avoid an escalation of confiscation. I could see a week's worth of marbles disappearing in one fell swoop.

I got into this with DD1 at about the same age, where when she was having an off the wall tantrum I ended up confiscating everything I could think of, and she was just winding on up, eventually tantruming about the things I'd taken having forgotten the original greviance. This is largely because I get also get cross and fed up when they are being really horrid, and what I actually need to do is put them somewhere else, not listen or react to them while we both calm down. That's not to say I dont advocate a bit 'of pack it in or we are going home etc'- but its not always possible to follow through on that sort of threat. In our house anyway, a formal system of removing symbolic rewards like marbles etc would probably backfire.

Tyniclogs Sun 07-Aug-11 21:46:49

Cathpot I believe we may be made of the same parenting material your words have particular resonence...thank you all for replying to my parenting cry for help, your words have reassured and I am feeling marginally less wound up by the situation. Bedtime was resolved by me sitting on the computer ignoring the pitiful wails of 'I want my mum' he wailed himself to sleep.

I shall try a couple of the suggestions and report back if anything works well. Of to bed now to prepare for a week with my mothers helpful suggestions and aggressive child.

chocolatchaud Sun 07-Aug-11 21:48:22

I'm going through the same with my 4 year old DS at the moment, as are quite a few of my friends. We have come to the conclusion that they are ready for school in September and that having a focus will sort them out (fingers crossed).

I let a lot of it go over my head, but when it comes to hitting me, he is immediately removed from the situation, and put on the naughty step or whatever we have to hand! I think he is getting the message that I absolutely will not put up with that. Perhaps one step at a time - when the hitting has stopped I will move on to the silly noises etc. I know a lot of this behaviour is due to not having my undivided attention at all times - when it is just the 2 of us, he is fine.

Not good on the sticker charts or marbles - my memory just isn't up to it. Hope you get an improvement soon.

Fluffymonster Sun 07-Aug-11 22:35:33

Hi Tyniclogs!

I have a 4yo DD and my theory about sudden displays of aggression, tantrum-throwing etc, is it's often to do with insecurity. With DD it often starts with cheekiness, but with an underlying edge of tension or aggressiveness behind it. Also any tiredness just makes it worse.

She is usually a normal, happy girl, but last year, our family holiday was almost ruined - it started off with her having night terrors each night, to the point of screaming blue murder. She also didn't sleep as long as she did at home, so each day, she was getting more and more overtired. By the last part of the week she was in right state, tantruming 5-6 times a day, over anything and nothing. We weren't in great shape either! Your post about your Mum made me chuckle as my MIL also suggested that we take DD to 'see a doctor', because we 'need support as a family'. After ignoring my repeated warnings that she needed more sleep than she was getting, and not being very helpful in helping me get her to nap/go to bed at her normal times!

It was the first time we'd ever seen DD behave in such a manner (at one point she even had a mega-tantrum in the car while DP was driving, and was screaming and kicking his seat so hard he had to stop the car.) Shocking at the time, but if it's any comfort - as SOON as we got home and back into routine, she was fine again within 24hrs. She was just incredibly homesick and for some reason, even though she liked being on holiday, the change affected her very badly. This year, she was much better - which also shows how much better they cope with situations, from one year to the next.

Recently she went through another phase of being a bit rude, and 'cheeky' with the same 'tension' underneath - and I know it was to do with nervousness about leaving nursery/starting school. This is because it happened around the same time as nursery did a 'graduation ceremony' and they'd all put on a show. The kids had all worked on it for weeks and weeks and I think it sort of freaked them out. Two days after the 'graduation' she wet her bed for the first time since she was potty trained. I talked to a couple of other mums, who also mentioned their children had started having the odd 'accident' too!

Anyway, I bought a couple of books to read with her about starting school, and talked to her a bit more about it, acknowledging that in some ways it would be sad, but she'll make new friends, telling her it's OK to feel shy/nervous, and that I was too - and since then she's gone back to normal. Today she made friends with a random, similar-aged little girl in a playcentre, and I said to her that's really good, that she's getting more confident at making new friends. She said "Yes. Because I'm starting school!" smile

But yeah - my theory is to look for possible causes of anxiety, and try and work on that. It's unfortunate that there isn't much you can do about a 7hr journey...maybe try and make the routine at the other end a bit more predictable??

Tyniclogs Mon 08-Aug-11 10:11:53

Thanks so much for your incredibly helpful posts. I've also been wondering about the insecurity issue. The other night he cried because he didn't want to be a 'big boy'. He starts school in September, we've just had a camping trip. He and his Dad have had chicken pox and both looked medievil. Now in Wales with Mum for the week and then I go into hospital next week for an operation so he'll be staying with his other grandparents, he has a younger brother who's just turned 2...SOUNDS FLAMING OBVIOUS NOW DOESN'T IT! Its harder to see the wood for the trees when life just gangs up on you and you're trying to hold everything together.

Will think of strategies to help him cope over the next few weeks but thanks again your posts have all been incredibley helpful to see what's going on and to know I'm not alone!

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