39 answers

4 Year Old Is Really Rude and Sassy. Any Suggestions?

I have this wonderful 4 year old girl who has suddenly become very rude and sassy. It's like she is 16, but she's 4. I find that I am constantly correcting the tone of her voice or the words that she is choosing to use. Has anyone else dealt with this? Any suggestions on how to teach her the right tone of voice and what "rude" means.

So I was asked how we discipline and it is by using time outs. I have tried other things (spankings, taking away toys, making her go to bed early) and none of those things work. Time out seem to work b/c she is very social and it's really hard for her not to be in the middle of things. So time outs work, I just hate that she is in them all the time and I feel like I am nagging b/c I am constantly saying the same things over and over ("change your tone please." "can you use your nice voice?" "did you mean for that to sound so mean?" "honey that's very rude. you should say______.")

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

First I want to thank you all so much for your responses! Just knowing that what we are going through is normal was a HUGE help. I was so afraid we were doing something wrong! Since I posted the question, things have gotten much better. She's still sassy, but she is starting to understand when it's okay and when it's not. We are still doing time outs and I discovered that going to bed when it's not the normal time to go is a HUGE thing, so that's now what happens if she continues to act that way after being in time out. We are still working on it, I am still learning, but I feel much more confident. Thank you all so much.

Featured Answers

Try "Love and Logic" (Foster Cline), it has some very good "response" phrases, also ignoring her and not engaging with her may help, if she has no one to listened tp her, she will change. I also, had my son carry his own timer in a tiny back pack, anywhere we were we could have a time out, once he even sat against the wall at Chili's. Only once...
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I am having the same exact problem with my little girl although she has started at 3 years old...nothing really seems to work either...no matter what i try to do it usually seems to make it worse and we do all the things you listed above...im starting to put her on her bed for a time out and I tell her to come and apologize when she is ready...that seems to help a little bit because she decides when she is over it rather than us just making it worse...hope that makes sense..have had a long day here.

I too have a 4 year old, (son), and we are going through something simular to what you are. My son has become very aggressive toward me, throwing fits, whining all the time, hitting at me when I get on to him or put him in time out. I am out of answers, so if you find a good solution please do share with me.

More Answers

Leman's book - "have a new child by Friday" might work real well for you.


3 moms found this helpful

You don't have to teach a child to misbehave. I highly suggest On Becoming Childwise (Ezzo). It's been great for us.

One thing we just did with our almost three year old son was put him in time out where he could see us. We (hubby and I) decided to play his favorite game. He got very excited and wanted to join but we told him that it was sad he made a bad choice (I think he told us "No" which is a rule in our house) and that he had to wait until his time out was done. We told him to think about what he'd done. He was very moved by this experience. He stopped crying, thought for a minute, and when the timer went off he told us what he'd done wrong. He even said he was sorry without us asking him to! We encouraged him and told him that we knew he'd make a better choice next time and proceeded to play the fun game with him!

You might try teaching her appropriate behavior before she has an attitude. Set up ground rules. Make her said "the rule is I don't talk back to mommy or daddy" and have her tell you "yes mommy" (in our house it's yes ma'am) when you tell her to do something. If she tells you what to do tell her she has not earned the right to do that. She will have to start using appropriate words like 'mommy, may I have ...." We aren't reminding our son to ask nicely as much anymore. All I have to say is "you don't have the right" or "do you think you have the right to have gun (or whatever it is)?" He immediately asks the correct way. We also have a no whining policy. Of course you can't teach them not to whine while they are whining. You have to teach in quiet moments so that when they do it you can remind them what you'd talked about. "No whining, I want to hear a yes mommy." (This is straight from the Childwise book, btw.)

It's frustrating but she's probably just testing her limits. Unfortunately you will remember this years from now but she will not remember the constant time outs. Stay consistent! (That's what I keep hearing anyway, but it's so hard!!)

2 moms found this helpful

"Love and Logic" is the best behavior modifier I have seen because it not only works on the children it also works on the parents. It helps you use consequences that feel good to you because they empower your children in the end. I actually get a lot of enjoyment out of it because I can empathize with my boys since I am not the "heavy" they are simply having consequences from their bad choices in a safe and respectful way. There are several titles of books in the series and there are seminars that you can attend and workshops in the area that schools and county organizations support.
I also know a counselor that uses it in her "bag of tricks" if you are interested, her name is Patti Villalobos and her number is ###-###-####

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I'm SHOCKED at what I'm reading here...
I'd SERIOUSLY NOT consider tobasco or soap in the mouth and Ezzo is a NUT.
I recommend reading How to talk so your kids will listen and listen so your kids will talk. It's the most amazing book and has dramatically changed my almost 4 yr old's behavior.
Good luck!
tobasco? seriously?!

2 moms found this helpful

I think a lot of it is the age...friends haven't seemed to help us much sometimes! I think that consistency is the key (use time outs every time) and perhaps you can put it back on her. Instead of telling her that her behavior is rude, ask her if she thinks that her behavior is appropriate and how could she have said that differently. Make her do the work! As far as the other poster who suggested soap in the mouth - please don't put chemicals into your child's body for punishment. That is not a good solution. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I am sorry I haven't read all responses--but I just wanted to say that if she is in all the time (time out that is) maybe it isn't actually working. I have three and different things work for each one, but I know what does because they don't behave like that for a little while.

This could actually be very much of her personality as well. If so just show her how to channel the positive parts of it. I have a little sassy diva as well. I have read some manner books to her and we have the books by eric carl called the grouchy lady bug and greedy pyathon. We have also others and they seem to help.

(Sometimes it is just age --3 and 4 year olds have serges of emotions which they don't know how to deal with--It is our job to teach them how to do that--and I know that isn't always easy.)

good luck

1 mom found this helpful

Yes, I have had this problem. I believe in my case, my daughter started to speak to me the way she and her friends would speak at school. Kids experiment with new behaviors. It's part of growing. I explained to her that we don't speak to our parents and teachers etc... in the same way as we speak to our fiends. When she did use a rude tone with me, I had her do it over before I responded to what she was saying. Sometimes time out was necessary until she was ready to "do it over" (usually just a couple minutes). I have found it best to use what "works" and that's not always the same for every family or every child. Here are several other things you can try:
1. Read Books together that deal with manners, emotions and how to express feelings.
2. Role play (make it a game) how to let someone know something negative in a polite way. For example, pretend you are eating dinner at a special place and you both think it's gross. Play with how you can be polite about the grossness.
3. Remember, a little sass in a girl can be a good thing if she needs to stand up for herself; there is a time and place for it all -- but not with people who are kind to her.
Good luck,

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter did the same thing about the same time- at least with tone of voice. First thing, I made sure to keep my tone under control and avoid being sarcastic. She often sounded like me but with her own variation on the attitude. I found I had been on her case lately and stressed around her. I talked to her and explained that Mommy hadn't been choosing kind words to her and others. I apologized and explained that we would both be working on our kindness together.(My husband and I were separated at the time, and I was feeling stressed financially.)

So occasionally she busted me for not being kind or being cranky. I fessed up and corrected my behavior when she was right. (Ugh. Having kids sure makes you more aware of yourself... little mirrors and tape recorders...)

She was hugely into dress up back then. I warned her that princesses don't act ugly. If she did act ugly, then she would lose a princess dress forever. I only had to take one because it impacted her.

I occasionally sent her to time out or her room until she could choose kinder words and control her attitude.

Sometimes the situation made it clear that she didn't realize she said something rude. For instance if she commented on someone's appearance at a store, we would talk about why you shouldn't say something like that. The person could overhear and get their feelings hurt. They might not understand that you meant to ask a question... She is pretty empathetic so the idea of someone having hurt feelings made her want to be more careful.

Certain Barbie movies, Gigi, and kids films and stories allowed me to compliment and make a big fuss out of kids acting politely. This really helped her see examples of what is good behavior... plus my cleaned up example. Cartoon Network and several "kids" shows model terrible attitudes. Heck, even commercials can model some rude attitudes.

I remember practicing what is OK to say and how you can say it. This helped her learn more appropriate responses. It was more work than just correcting her, but I let her know I expected her to make kinder choices with her words and reactions.

She is 6 now and has been whining lately. We've gone back a bit, but she is still expected to choose good reactions. She knows a hissy fit or hitting someone is not acceptable. She knows she is allowed too feel angry if she doesn't get her way, but that doesn't give her permission to act badly. Haven't had to take anything away lately. I'm able to take her to work, but didn't take her that day... It's also been easier this time because she sees how Mommy talks to Daddy and how I react when I don't get my way. (I've learned over the years, too.)

Personally, I would save the Tobasco or soap for actual filth words. But make sure kid understands it's a bad word. I remember getting popped as a kid for repeating words that my Abuelita (Grandma) said because I didn't know those were bad Spanish words.

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