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If it's been done before, I'm sorry - but please, could I start a support thread for dealing with my 4-year-old?

(146 Posts)
Jacksmania Wed 14-Mar-12 18:34:24

I'm not being a very good mummy right now. I'm being an awful shouty mummy. sad It's making me feel horrible all the way to the bottom of my soul, and yet I can't seem to help it.

My four-year-old is the sweetest, funniest, cleverest thing in the whole world (moi, PFB? grin). I love him so much it makes my heart hurt sometimes.
And he's also four... which means he whines, cries, argues, and acts like a cheeky brat. I can cope with the cheekiness. But right now, I can't cope with the whining and crying. I don't know what I'm doing wrong - but how can such a cheerful, funny child have days when he starts every request with crying? This morning he hopped in the shower with me, and immediately started crying. "What's wrong??" "Mummy can you get my baaaaaaath toooooyyyyys" <wail>. Oh. My. God. Why can he not just ask?????? "Mummy can you please get my bath toys. " You bet, no problem.

Then it was folding his clothes out of the dryer. I made the horrendous mistake of folding his shorts and putting them away. Cue hysterical tears. "Whyyyyyyy can't I foooooooold my shoooooooorts..."
Repeat with every other nonsensical thing and half an hour later my blood pressure is through the roof because the default is to cry and whine and not simply ^ask".

WHAT am I doing wrong? Why can't he just ask???????????

And yet, half an hour later he can be a completely different child, happy and cheerful, and then back to crying over something stupid.

I am going round the bend. I really am.

We just came back from holiday, and while there, he had a massive strop because we couldn't go get another lemon cupcake because it was time to go to the airport.
I'm so ashamed of myself but I literally snapped. Something just went "ping" and I hurled my hairbrush on the floor (well away from him, on purpose - I had that much control) so hard it shattered. And I came close to doing the same this morning, with a cup of fruit salad, but got a hold of myself in time Thank fuck or there'd have been melon all over the ceiling.

I hate myself when I'm like this. I feel like I'm turning into my bloody father who had a scary temper when I was young. Don't know if he still does but that's a different story. I actually frightened myself with the rage I was feeling when he wouldn't stop whining and crying.
I am setting a shit example for him - I don't want him to turn out like me!!

I thought I saw a three-year-old support thread last year sometime, but didn't post on it - could I start a four-year-old support thread?
What am I doing wrong?
Please someone tell me, because I feel so shit right now, I hate being shouty and scary like this.

Jacksmania Wed 14-Mar-12 18:35:59

Gosh that was long blush Sorry.

Should also add: I'm not in the UK, I'm on the West Coast of Canada so post at odd times.

And also, don't know if it's relevant, but I had bad PTSD after DS's birth, and a horrid bout of anxiety last year.

KatieScarlett2833 Wed 14-Mar-12 18:39:16

You are a human, not a robot OP. You are doing nothing wrong.

Of couse you are going to get utterly frustrated by his attention-seeking.

Don't beat yourself up about it.

My mantra at that age was (and is) "It's a phase, this too shall pass. It's a phase...... " repeat ad infinitum.

NoWayNoHow Wed 14-Mar-12 18:41:21

Ah bless you, it's so hard isn't it? No-one tells you about the "f***ing fours"!!! grin

DS is EXACTLY the same as yours - 4.3 yo, a wonderful child most of the time, but the moaning and groaning drives me to distraction!!!

I have resorted to childishly mimicking the way he speaks to try to get him to understand how flaming annoying it is!

The only piece of advice that I can give is that losing my temper simply makes him even more intolerable, which in turn makes me more furious, which makes him completely impossible. We wind each other up and it's a vicious cycle that has to be broken - the bad news is that it's not going to be him that breaks it!

Whenever I get to the point that you're at, I turn into a cBeebies presenter - fake voice, fake smile, fake composure! I react in a charming and disarming way to every little shitty thing he does, and normally after a day of acting like an idiot being calm, his behaviour tends to fall a notch. Then it becomes more natural to be calm, which leads to him being calmer, and then we get on an even keel again. It's the vicious cycle in reverse!

HTH, but know that I'm in the same position as you and know exactly how frustrating it can be!!

Faverolles Wed 14-Mar-12 18:43:31

You're not doing anything wrong. He's 4 - that's the problem!
I recently bought a book called 123 magic, and it's like a miracle has occured in the fav household.
For us, it gave us a way to deal with the issues we had quickly and not draw it out to take over our lives.

smartiesrule Wed 14-Mar-12 18:45:33

Oh, I do feel for you. I was there with DS (5) a year ago. It very nearly drove me to drink. Best advice is to ignore everything you don't want to encourage. When he stops for a breath, say 'I will answer/help when you ask me calmly.' It took about 2 months for mine to get the message, but now he's the politest child I know. I still ignore him if he forgets to say 'please' or 'excuse me', and it wasn't easy at first not to scream hysterically shout at him but he has learnt now.
I lose my temper quite easily, and I realised to my horror that he was terrified of me when I shouted. That's why I had to do something about it.
Good luck, all I can say is that it will get easier.

BornToFolk Wed 14-Mar-12 18:49:02

I'll join in! I could have written your post (apart from being in Canada!) as I also have a gorgeous, clever, funny 4 year old who is the light of my life and can also be a total little so and so when he wants to be. Like the other weeknd when he behaved appallingly in front of my best friend and her little girl who had come to play.

I also had a violent father and I hate losing my temper with DS but he really, really tried it on sometimes. I end up shouting at him to get him to stop shouting...hmm

He also does the whinging thing and it drives me mad! If he would just ask nicely for things, he can usually have them (within reason of course!)

The biggest thing is the defiance. "No" is his favourite word at the moment. Hitting and kicking too. And name-calling.

At the moment, we are praising the good, ignoring the bad and it's kind of working. We have a pasta jar (one piece in for good behaviour, one piece out for bad with the promise of a day out if it gets full) but he doesn't seem that fussed by it. Still, worth a try.

Are you a SAHM? Is your DS at school/nursery? I work full time and DS doesn't start school till Sept. He's an angel at nursery, of course. In some ways I'm relieved to hand him over to nursery but then I miss him and look forward to the weekend...and he spends the whole time acting badly. Well, not the whole time but it can feel like it. The other weekend we had lots of lovely things planned - the friend coming to play, a trip to the park etc and it felt like the whole thing got ruined.

Jacksmania Wed 14-Mar-12 18:50:25

That's it - I see his little face when I shout and I think with complete horror how utterly frightening it must be for him to see the mummy who loves him more than anything turn into a scary screaming monster sad

The thing that utterly breaks my heart is that he comes to me with arms raised wanting a cuddle when I've screamed at him sad

I feel so low right now, so utterly low.

TheProvincialLady Wed 14-Mar-12 18:50:28

I just refuse to answer any statement/question/request that is not in a reasonably normal tone of voice. I say "Sorry, can't understand you when you talk like that. Use a normal voice" and then ignore until he gets over it. I find it changes the dynamic completely and I don't get annoyed. Something to remember is that you don't have to respond to each any every whinge. You can just choose not to.

Jacksmania Wed 14-Mar-12 18:51:17

Thank you all - I was afraid I'd get flamed - must go out for a bit, will be back. Thank you thanks.

TheOneWithTheHair Wed 14-Mar-12 19:00:33

I agree with smarties. Just go onto auto pilot and repeat "ask me nicely if you want an answer". And repeat for as long as it takes. (((hugs))) for you Jacks. smile

RachelWalsh Wed 14-Mar-12 19:15:19

My son is 4 1/2 and has recently been getting into the most terrible rages. He gets himself so worked up he finds it really hard to calm down. It's exhausting to deal with and usually over something totally inconsequential. He also says all the usual "do it or you're not my mummy anymore!" "I don't like you!" and so on.

I find the most effective thing to do is just to try and stay calm and acknowledge his feelings but also to let him know very clearly that hitting, throwing things etc are not acceptAble. I think it's about him feeling powerless and frustrated usually and also I think his emotional maturity has fallen behind his intellectual maturity if that makes any sense? He does manage to calm down eventually and I feel positive that he is learning lessons about managing his own behaviours (we talk about healthy ways to express anger, about being able to choose how we behave and tbh I empathise with his inability to calm down at times - I know I have felt like that at times even as an adult!). It's also important to me that he feels loved as a person even when his behaviour is not acceptable IYSWIM? So when he says "I don't like you!" I just calmly say well I love you.

This sounds like I am mrs calmpants of reasonableville but in reality this is my ideal set of responses and sometimes I fall short. If I do lose my temper I apologise though and then I tell myself I'm modelling that too!!!!

Gilberte Wed 14-Mar-12 19:24:48

I have a 4yr old-on a good day she is absolutely wonderful. On a bad day she is whiny, argumentative, grumpy, cries at the drop of a hat etc etc.

If I don't anticipate her every move/ want the way she wants her porridge, whether she gets to push the buttons on the microwave or I get to push the buttons, if I forget to ask her which bowl she wants, which spoon, where she wants to sit- then I'm a mean mummy.

"You should have asked me she cries". If she's in a bad mood and I touch an item of her clothing (in my desperation to get her dressed), she won't wear it. "It's smelly now- wah wah wah"

She'll tell me how mean I am and that she wants Evie's mummy to be her mummy and that I'm no longer her best friend and that she won't ever again do any for me and that I must do everything for her (no change there). I too frequently take it all personally and I have seen the red mist descend and lost the plot a few times - trying not to shout at her ( though I have shouted a few times)- think Basil Fawlty going a bit nuts whilst the psychiatrist looks on ( stupid noises, silly manic dancing lots of vocalising). If I can't get it out of my systen this way, I'll smash a plate in the kitchen, throw a toy down a bit too heavily- I once threw a bowl of breakfast across the room and regret it later.

I read somewhere that it helps if you can do a Tarzan yell and beat your chest a few times ( get all that tension and emotion out without yelling at anyone) so I may have to try that next time.

You are so not alone though- at times I do think I'm on the edge that she's tormenting me- that she makes my life a misery but I have to try to remember "do not take it personally"- I read When Kids push your buttons by Bonnie Harris and I found it very useful.

Your child is angry at that moment, his emotions are immature, he doesn't think like an adult- he'll move on in half an hour and you'll be a wreck-it's normal and everyone out there with a 4yr feels your pain!

Jacksmania Wed 14-Mar-12 21:15:11

Yes, the mind-reading thing. On the phone in the car (with hands-free Bluetooth of course smile), ringing run-and-tumble camp to say that we were going to be late due to the bloody hysterics while trying to get ready. Hang up. Sniffling from the back seat. Escalates to quiet sobbing.
Me (BP through the roof at this point)(trying to ask calmly): "why are you crying, sweetie?"
"Because you didn't let me tell Miss Jen that I'm wearing my pirate shirt and my Clone Troopers shoooooooooooooes..."

BECAUSE I AM NOT A FUCKING MIND READER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I didn't say that - I tried as calmly as I could to say that Miss Jen had to go back to class and he could show her when he got there. But I felt like it. Actually I felt like bursting into tears, too.

Cutted-up fucking pear, anyone????

TheOneWithTheHair Wed 14-Mar-12 21:36:06

It sounds exactly like the cutted up pear incident! It's so frustrating. I am beginning to see the beginning of this in ds2. I shall be clinging to this thread like a life raft jacks.

Jacksmania Wed 14-Mar-12 21:54:37

Do any of you who are dealing with this sort of thing have people you can talk to in RL?
I don't, really. At the risk of making myself sound even less attractive cos people do so love a screaming harpy I'm feeling a bit lonely in RL. I have several friends I really care about, but no-one whom I feel really close to... well, one potentially but we haven't known each other that long... that I feel I could just dump all this on and say "I really need a shoulder to cry on". Everyone seems to dreadfully calm and competent. I suppose I do too... could every mum out there feel like crying inside but look perfectly fine? Or am I surrounded by super mummies?

inmysparetime Wed 14-Mar-12 21:59:44

I work in a day nursery, with a lot of 3-4yos and see a lot of whining. It is definitely a developmental stage, they have mastered basic physical skills (walking, toileting, holding a pen) and have a basic understanding that different people have different motives. They want to be a "big boy/girl" but are not quite school age (with all the status that confers) and they find this frustrating. Their basic "theory of mind" means they know whether mum or dad is the softer touch for sweeties, but they are not yet sure what exactly adults know about what they are thinking (hence the "mind reader" tantrums).
It is crappy to parent a 4yo, but at least you don't have to be the 4yo, a not-quite-big-boy/girl, ruled by hormones and frustration, knowing what you want to do/happen, but not how to make it so.
It will pass, try to remain calm for your DC as they can find it very difficult to calm themselves down.
Keep cuddling, 4yos love cuddles (IME), and find places to vent your own frustration (like here).

inmysparetime Wed 14-Mar-12 22:05:56

Jacks I am definitely not a "super mummy", my DCs are older now, and it's easier to be objective when it's not your own DCs whiningsmile.
I have a couple of close friends now, I didn't really have any at that stage except people I saw at toddler group.
You must have some relaxation strategies through your teaching work, try using some of that knowledge with your DC, it's a valuable skill, I teach my nursery children basic Pilates and we use it to help wind down if they get too giddy.

becclestown Wed 14-Mar-12 22:12:04

I find that my DD (2.9) undermines all my attempts to bitch to my friends about her behaviour by being an absolute saint when we're out of the house.
But when we're home she can whinge for Britain. I try the ' I'll only talk to you when you ask in a nice voice' approach. It hasn't started working yet.
It's good to know I have a good few years of this ahead of me!

<places clean spare muslin on shoulder for soaking up tears>

urbanturban Wed 14-Mar-12 22:20:47

Ooooh can I join too?! grin
I can empathise with pretty much everything I've read so far!!
DD1 is 4 yrs 3 months and is so 'switched on' and mature that I sometimes forget her emotional maturity hasn't caught up with her yet !

inmysparetime what a great post-especially the bit about DD1 not knowing that I don't know what SHE is thinking in her head-I hadnt thought about it like that before! I shall try and remember that when she berates me for not realising that it was of the utmost importance that SHE puts the toothpaste on the toothbrush.....confused

ProcrastinateWildly Wed 14-Mar-12 22:29:29

My 3.5 year old does this too. I have started to tell him I can't understand him when he whines, and just ignoring him, leaving the room. I sometimes also suggest a better way he can say whatever it is, eg. 'do you mean, please can I have a drink mummy?'. I also use the screaming at the top of my voice approach will you shut the fuck up be quiet and stop whinging

Bohica Wed 14-Mar-12 22:36:45

My DD3 is 4 and 2 days, you have just reminded me of what I am in for <faints>

You all sound lovely to me and inmy your description of 4 year olds made me smile

cocoplops Wed 14-Mar-12 22:39:28

4 was a very trying age for my DS. He was/is a lovely, gorgeous, funny little man but blimey the demanding behaviour at 4 did drive me to distraction.

Things that helped....123 Magic - honestly, give it a whirl, can't hurt, easy to implement and easy to stay CALM while implementing. School....I know its a few months off (unless Canada start later than the UK)....but it was a Godsend, his behaviour improved immensely. Jollying along - apparently its a 'proper parenting strategy' - playful parenting - but I find that when faced with whinging if I find something to make him laugh about the situation (not in a I'm laughing at you, but finding his and your own in humour level) it can re-direct the tantrum. Fine line between it falling like a lead balloon sometimes - but can help sometimes! For e.g. we read a book about someone losing their good mood, so if he just woke up in a grump then I'd go searching for the good mood in ever ridiculous places.

Very, very hard time though. I also had the guilty cycle of feeling shouty and then guilty....very demoralising and confidence sapping. You say you had a bout of anxiety - did you have medication, counselling or just got through it yourself? Anxiety and stress can raise your irritability levels hugely. That was the other thing that helped me - tackling my anxiety/mood. But the 4's WILL pass, honestly! The tantrums and unreasonable behaviour will get better!

EliasMum Wed 14-Mar-12 22:40:14

I can empathise with everything you've said Jacks. My DS is 4 1/2 yrs and has daily mood swings which leave my husband concerned whether he is abnormal. Fortunately, after teaching Reception for so many years, I know it is just part of emotional development and he will improve soon. You sound patient and caring. I tend to walk away a lot when DS is 'having an emo' and have resorted to copying him too. Sometimes, if I've done a good enough impression, I have brought him out of it and made him laugh.

Northernlurker Wed 14-Mar-12 22:46:28

My 4 yr old is now approaching 5 and definately much easier but up to a few weeks ago she was hard work. Wonderful and lovely and hard work. For her it's all about the arguing with EVERYTHING and saying 'But mum....' Finally one day picking her up from after school club (she started school in January) I snapped when she argued the toss for the 8th time in 5 minutes. I said if you argue again you are going straight to bed when we get home. She argued (you could cry couldn't you?) so when we got home it was straight in to bed. After some time I went in to see her and we had a big talk about how hard this was. She desperately wants to be good and we agreed to 'do as we're told straight away without arguing or saying but' Now clearly it's impossible for her to change overnight but we found a fun thing to do. If she starts to whine and say 'but....' I tickle her on her butt grin Since this 'big row' it has been easier because basically I have given her clearer guidelines on how she needs to behave and what I will react well too. Seems obvious but this is my third child and I still struggled. She is so lovely and it's so nice to enjoy doing things with her.

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