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4 year old defiance/behaviour

(18 Posts)
OhBrotherWhereArtThou Wed 30-May-12 16:25:02

Hi all,

I hope I'm in the right place for this - I'm normally a lurker on AIBU and chat but really need some help. Please forgive the length. Some of this is very hard for me to say.

So, I have DD(4), DS(2) and I'm 38+3 with DC3.

The event I'm about to describe happened today, but is the tip of the iceberg. We have had a lot of poor behaviour - answering back, defiance, cheekiness, stuff which I have been passing off as a 4yr old phase and trying my best to manage.

DD is in nursery for 3 hrs a day. Collected her at 3pm. She asked if she could go outside to play. I told her no, as today we would be tidying her room. It is an absolute tip, stuff, toys, puzzles, clothes everywhere. DP had a chat with her on Sunday and they agreed she would spend a little time every day doing it, which hasn't been done, so I thought we'd tackle it together.

Once I told her, she started to cry. When we got back to the house, she refused to get out of the car. I warned her that if she didn't get out, she wouldnt get a treat after dinner, which is often enough. She still refused so I just picked her up out of the car. She then stood at the front door crying. Once I had DS out and opened the front door, she refused to come in, so I kind of pushed her in. She stood in the hallway crying at me.

DS started to ask for a DVD, which I put on for him, thinking he would watch bits of it while Dd and I tidied. She stood at the living room door crying at me, I ignored her. Once the DVd was on, I said come on, let's go. She stood at the bottom of the stairs and refused to go up. So still trying to ignore her tantrum, I took her by the arm and started to lead her up the stairs. Three stairs up, she snatched her arm back, threw herself against the wall and refused to move. Now, I was losing my temper, and she got a smack on the bum and told to get up the stairs. She still refused, I ended up shouting at her and smacking her again. She turned round, right in my face, and screamed with all her might. By now my temper was completely lost, I screamed right back at her to get upstairs, and when she turned to go up she got smacked again. And this one was hard. Not that smacking is our default discipline that I find the first two acceptable or anything, but I feel particularly terrible about the last one.

So, I thought I would bite the bullet and talk about it. What's done is done, best I can do now is learn from it. I have some issues which mean I always second-guess my treatment of DD, which I can go into of anyone thinks it may be relevant. I phoned DP in tears after the event, and he feels that with the way she has been behaving for so long, its understandable that I snapped and he actually thinks he would have reacted the same way. He said to calm down then go talk to her, tell her how unacceptable her behaviour was, and that she is to stay in her room, tidying, until dinner is ready. I have done that, and although she was annoyed, she accepted it. It sounds like she isn't doing anything though, I think chances are she is just sitting on her bed.

What would you have done? how could I have diffused this from the start? What discipline techniques do/did you use on a wilful child of her age?

One thing I will say is that we stopped using the naughty step when she was 3. At that point it wasn't working. She would do something which we'd warn her for, and she'd just say 'step, yeah!' and take herself out there without repeating the behaviour. It was no punishment for her.

I've talked to her a lot about the baby coming, and genuinely don't believe it to be a factor, but willing to accept it could be. Willing to accept anything that anyone might have to say so, please, hit me with it.

OhBrotherWhereArtThou Wed 30-May-12 16:25:41

Oh, my, that is long. Apologies blush

JarethTheGoblinKing Wed 30-May-12 16:32:48

I have a 4yo and this sounds very familiar tbh. It's just pushing boundaries, isn't it.

If you look at it from her perspective you drove her home, stopped her playing outside on a lovely day, told her she'd be doing something as boring as tidying her room for the whole afternoon (I'd throw a bloody strop if someone told me to do that tbh grin), and then her brother got to watch a DVD. I guess she was reacting to that perhaps.

I do know what you mean though, the defiance makes me seethe, but smacking just makes it worse IMO.

DancingwithDragons Wed 30-May-12 17:01:00

If you are looking for strategies to help her with behaviour as naughty step isn't working have you thought about rewards and consequence. E.g if she misbehaves then she has a doll/teddy/card/board game removed but it has to be something she plays with often for it to have an effect. And she doesn't get it back if she says sorry, her behaviour has to improve e.t.c also you will need to be consistant with it, and if you threaten it carry the punishment through.


jkklpu Wed 30-May-12 17:10:44

My ds2 is 4.5 and can be very defiant, which I found more and more wearing in late pregnancy (ds3 = 6 weeks old). No magic answers but I do try to avoid negotiations/suggesting things I know he won't welcome until he's home after school and has had a snack and is more chilled out. Immediately post-school he's always exhausted and very unlikely to be positive about anything, esp something as dull as tidying his room!

4lovelychildren Wed 30-May-12 17:51:38

Could you try next time saying we can tidy your room together for 20mins ten you can play in the garden? Carrot situation?

Fairenuff Wed 30-May-12 18:59:19

I think you just need to be more consistent with her.

DP had a chat with her on Sunday and they agreed she would spend a little time every day doing it, which hasn't been done Why wasn't it done? They agreed a little time every day so what happened to Monday and Tuesday?

when she turned to go up she got smacked again Why did you smack her again when she had already got up to go?

This will be confusing for a 4 year old.

You should explain very clearly to her what your expectations are for her behaviour and what the consequences will be if she doesn't follow your rules.

OhBrotherWhereArtThou Wed 30-May-12 21:06:20

Firstly, thank you to you all for taking the time to try to help me, I really do appreciate it.

Jareth, you raise a very good point. From her perspective, I can see how she could feel like she was being punished, while DS was being 'rewarded' with a DVD. I agree with you about smacking making it worse, I won't say this is the first time it has happened, but it is a rare occurrence. As hard as it is for me to admit, it happens in temper even though I know it does more harm than good. Thank you also for saying it sounds familiar, it is definitely helpful to know it isn't just us.

Dancing, we've talked about starting some kind of reward chart. Her nursery have started rewarding the kids with stamps, which was received well. I get paid tomorrow, and had been thinking of taking her to choose stickers and a chart. Maybe even magnets and a small whiteboard. I wasn't keen on the idea of 'get ten stickers and get a treat', but maybe she has to get ten stickers to get her toy back? Will discuss with DP, thank you.

jkklpu, I have been worrying that I might be being harder on her because I'm so heavily pregnant. Your point regarding having the snack first is a good one, particularly given she not only wolfed her dinner down but asked for more, which she never does.

4, you're right, and on a normal day I would have tried that tactic, I just couldn't think straight. She went so quickly into a tantrum which normally takes longer to build, and I missed the window.

Fair, she did a tiny bit on Monday. She literally put away one jigsaw puzzle and some books. On Tuesday, I slipped up and forgot. When I remembered, the kids were already outside playing and it felt wrong to make her come in when I was the one who had forgotten. Looking back I suppose I was wrong there too, I should have made her do even ten minutes before bed or something. When it comes to that last smack, it was temper, no other excuse. And yes, you're right, to smack her when she turned to go up to her room as I wanted her to would definitely be confusing. TBH, she shouldn't have been smacked at all, never mind once she was actually complying.

Would I have been better to keep her room until the weekend? When we had the whole day to offer a more exciting activity afterwards?

And when she refused to go up the stairs and screamed at me, what would have been a more appropriate response? Walk away? Anything is better than smacking I know, but what would have been the best thing to do?

Thank you all, I know I'm maybe over analysing now, but worried about a downward spiral and want to try to fix myself, you know?

sommewhereelse Wed 30-May-12 21:19:58

Yes, when.
'yes we can play in the garden when we've tidied your room together'.

A good thing for diffusing situations like this is the 'granting wishes in fantasy' technique from the 'How to talk so kids will listen book'. So you empathise with her problem and talk about how you'd love it if the toys were magic and the room would tidy itself while DD played in the garden, how if every time she went down the slide, a book would jump back on the shelf etc, all the while carrying on with leading her out of the car, into the house. Kids are often keen to join in the silly story.

AKE2012 Wed 30-May-12 21:20:33

Iv had this with my child and being a single mum i feel makes it worse as theres no one to back me up. What i did was just ignored my child when they started. Id explain that because your other child has been good you and them are going to watch a dvd. Say that if she stops the behaviour and tidies her room she can get a reward like out to play the next day or choosing a dvd the next day.
Some days i am a shouter as my child knows how to push my buttons and i hav gotten to the point when they have gotten a smack so i understand why u did that. You just have to push the good behaviour that she does and ignore her when she is having a hissy fit. She will soon get bored as she isnt getting attention. On days my child acted like this it drains me and i only have one. I hav no idea how u do it with another child and one on the way. Id hav probably been in my room crying.

Fairenuff Wed 30-May-12 22:43:22

I think it helps to have a routine.

Snack first and a drink.
Ten minutes downtime to relax/play (or twenty, or thirty whichever suits you)
Then get on with jobs as agreed
Then get sticker reward
Then back to playing until dinner/bath/bedtime

These routines really help as they get older too and you need to factor in homework too.

No smacking. If she doesn't do as she is told, she won't get attention for it, she won't get a sticker and won't get playtime until it's done. Her choice.

Lots of praise when she does follow the rules.

BertieBotts Wed 30-May-12 23:05:00

I think after nursery it was a bit much to expect her to tidy her room, it would have been better to let her play for a bit first - even if this meant you didn't have time for her to tidy up because of dinner etc. Nursery is tiring for them (even if it is playing) and they do need a bit of downtime afterwards. You could have then tidied room either tomorrow morning before nursery, or at the weekend when you have more time to break it up a bit (and presumably DP is there to help out which would make it quicker). TBH I wouldn't expect much enthusiasm from a 4 year old for tidying, so you have to either build bribery into it, make it a regular routine (e.g. all toys away before bed) or try to make it into a bit of a game, because they don't really "get" the need for it until they're older.

DP's idea of a chat with her to agree a little each day was good, but it is best to be really specific with this age group, so saying "At X time every day" (works best if you time it with an activity e.g. before lunch, after breakfast, after nursery, after Peppa Pig).

Something DP often does with DS is tells him "We need to have lunch when we get home, and we need to tidy up your bedroom today too. What would you like to do today? Can you help me think of a plan?" and usually between them they'll come up with some kind of plan which means DS gets time to play and the job whatever it is gets done too. And because DS feels like he's had a say in it he seems happy to do it. DP is also good at making it into a game by giving him "missions" e.g. I bet you can't put all of your train track in the box before I put all of these jigsaws away, or Can you take this bag and see if you can fill it up with rubbish? etc. They also agree little tasks and DP lets DS boss him around a bit e.g. deciding which parts he should tidy up and which parts DS should, and there's a lot of "teamwork!" and high-fives going on confused grin

When DS doesn't do as he's told, I try to step back and think why, look at what I'm asking him from his perspective, because often it is explainable and once you work out why you can work around that. I do of course get cross too - we're only human - but I really try to look at why he might not be doing something, if I can manage it, and then we renegotiate. I always try to apologise later for being cross/shouting etc too later.

Do you think she might be worried/anxious/not sure how she feels about the baby coming at all?

OhBrotherWhereArtThou Fri 01-Jun-12 11:11:24

somewhereelse, you've hit on something there. I think my own communication is an ongoing issue, and will look into the book you recommend. We have been butting heads for a while, I need to change something.

AKE, I phoned DP in floods of tears after it happened, and once I had calmed down I did stop to think about how single parents must manage, believe itor not. You're right about focussing on good behaviour, I do try, on this occasion she didn't get a chance to do anything good for me to draw attention to as the tantrum started the minute she got in the car.

Fairenuff, funny you say that. I worked FT up until last July, with DP the SAHP. When we switched roles, one thing I decided was that I would have a much stricter routine, but I didn't stick to it. Various reasons. We're in NI, and have only about 4 weeks left of the school year, so will implement something loosely, with a view to tightening it up when she starts P1. I can imagine the routine will become even more important with a third DC too.

Bertie, the room tidying has definitely become a weekend activity! Well, once it is done, it will hopefully be a nightly thing. We have intended on keeping it that way before, but she can literally trash the room in a short space of time, then we go to do bedtime, see the state of it, and realise it can't all be done before bed. Once it is done this time, it will be made clear that she'll be expected to do it every day.
She likes to be in control too, so your suggested method of planning it with her would work well. I got it wrong from the very start on this occasion.
I'll be trying to appreciate her point of view more often too. We have had some surprising behaviours from her recently, I don't knowif it's related to the baby. I've done my best to open communication with her about it and keep her involved. She says she's fine with it and excited, and genuinely seems to be, but I do wonder if it's the reason for some of her actions. As an example, we took DS to get his hair cut. That very night, she got hold of some scissors and cut a chunk out of her hair. Obviously then, we worried that she feels sidelined for attention. DS got attention getting his hair cut that day, so she cut her own. She may well be worried that she will get even less once baby is here, I don't know. She says she wants to help with baby, so I'm hoping that she will, then I can focus on her helping and offer lots of praise.

Dropdeadfred Fri 01-Jun-12 11:15:20

I wouldn't expect a 4 year old to come home from nursery and tidy her room. I'm not surprised she cried. Couldn't you have done it whilst she was at nursery??

BertieBotts Fri 01-Jun-12 11:46:12

I don't know if this helps at all, but we try to keep bedroom tidiness under control by only allowing certain toys up there. DS is 3.8 so a similar age, although perhaps he doesn't have as many small loseable things - but he's not allowed food up there, any drinks other than water in a sports bottle, and no potentially messy toys which have small essential parts which can get lost, so no hama beads for example (if he had hama beads which he doesn't ATM), no pens, nothing which can spill, etc. Upstairs he has trains, train set, cars, happyland, toy kitchen and food/accessories, toy farm stuff, big floor puzzles, duplo, a small amount of playmobil and a few assorted random toys like a tool kit, soft toys, mcdonald's toys, various figurines etc. They're all supposed to have individual boxes, but everything is effectively able to be speed-cleaned, ie, shoved in whatever box is closest without getting wrecked or lost, and his room is quite small so often if he wants to do a jigsaw or whatever he needs to make a space by tidying up, it's not possible to shove things out of the way.

Downstairs we keep things like the marble run, colouring stuff, craft stuff, construction set with small pieces, jigsaws which have small pieces, snap cards, and toy till (because of the money). So he tends to be supervised when playing with them and if they look like they're getting really spread out or potentially lost then we can warn him to keep them together or they will get put away.

Flicktheswitch Fri 01-Jun-12 14:40:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

OhBrotherWhereArtThou Fri 01-Jun-12 18:23:08

Yeah, Flick, I'll be sticking to that in future, fun/quiet activities only. When the weather was worse and they weren't getting outdoors, I would've been able to get her to do some tidying with me up there with her. I just didn't stop to think. I have done an awful lot of general cleaning recently (joys of nesting!) and have maybe been a bit one track minded.

Another good suggestion, Bertie, thank you. Her pens have been out of reach for a while, since DS decided to start drawing on walls every chance he gets. It's a good idea to redistribute things, as she is definitely capable of making a big mess! Jigsaws etc could be moved.

Dropdeadfred, I could tidy it while she's at nursery, yes. No lesson there though.

skybluepearl Fri 01-Jun-12 18:54:13

Rather then smack and shout at her you would be better putting her in her room or the dining room or where ever out of sight. Ignore her and let the situation cool down first, then reflect on the situation and think things through together. This method will help you both in the future.
'I could see you were cross, what made you feel cross?'
'why do you think mummy asked you to tidy up'
'how do you think mummy felt when you got upset on the stairs'
'what should we do next time to make things easier'

We have a ten min tidy every day at about 8am when everyone is feeling good. I put a timer on and we do it together. We have music on and sing along while tidying so its good fun. I usually tell them 'we will watch beebies/have breakfast/play a game after tidying'

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