M.3. asks from Wheaton, IL on March 02, 2011
Almost 4 Year Old Being Defiant
So the last few days my soon to be 4 year old has started to become defiant. He is pushing and testing the limits & I'm not sure exactly how to handle it. My oldest (who is 5 1/2) isn't as "pushy" as him when it comes to testing limits. A few examples from the last 2 days: 1.) We're walking through a parking lot & there was a huge puddle. I said VERY clearly, "Boys - don't jump in the puddle." My almost 4 year old instantly jumped into it. I asked if he heard me. He said, "Yes, but I wanted to jump in it anyway." 2.) He has been touching our TV. We've told him not to touch it and the reasons why (TV's aren't for touching, it's dangerous & could fall, we don't want your sister to touch it, etc.) We see him touching it again and once more tell him not to touch it and have him tell us why it's important. The next morning I come into the room and he's touching it again. 3.) Tonight he asks if he can get another drink before bed. I say ,"No, it's late and you don't need anymore water." I tuck him in. 10 seconds later he comes running out of the bathroom...he went and got a drink anyway after I walked out of his room.
There have been several other things as well, but obviously I don't need to list them all. We do daily chore/behavior charts & listening is one of them. He isn't earning his smiley face on the days when these behaviors are happening, but he doesn't seem to care. I know he isn't even 4, but I do expect my children to listen to me. Overall he is a wonderful kid, but I'd like to stop this defiant behavior now. Any advice or suggestions? Thanks!
***He does get consequenses---the day we saw him touching the tv again he lost the TV for the day. The day he jumped in the puddle he lost his video game. We also use time-outs in our house.
So What Happened?™
Thank you all so much for your advice. I will continue to give out the consequences when he misbehaves and be consistent. Hopefully this Phase won't last months like it did for some of you!! :)
K.B. answers from Milwaukee on March 02, 2011
My daughter is going throught the same thing, she is 4 1/2 now, the defiant behavior started a little before she turned 4 years old. It is getting better, after 6 plus months of repeating yourselves. I have to keep reminding myself to not get mad, repeat myself, do the consequence and repeat.
We always have consequenses for not listening, it depends when she does not listen.
--- Not picking up toys when told to, toys get taken away for a week (if it happens again two weeks).
--- Not eating dinner, no dessert.
--- Not walking/following rules for being in the mall/parking lot/store then you MUST hold mommy's hand even if you do not like it, till you do as mommy says. Have to show you can do something to earn the responsiblity to not always holding mommy's hand.
At times kids are being defiant to get your attention. I have found that if my daughter does something for example: throw/kick a toy when I walk into a room, it is to get my attention not just to be bad. So in the toy case I simple take it away, paying no attention to her. She usually runs after me either asking why I did that, which I reply 'you were not respecting that toy so I took it away, I will get it back in one week' OR she will say she is sorry and will not throw/kick it again.
I also arrange a time where we do something fun, just here and I, that she picks to do (with in reason like library, coloring, painting, playing trains, puzzle, game... once a month she can pick a place that costs money). I have found that once I started doing this daily she was less defiant because she got the attention, in a good way, from me so did not need to seek for attention with bad behavior. This dose not solve all the defiant behavior, but a lot of it, the rest of the time have to have consequenses that deal with that situation.
With our time outs my daughter has to stay in a time out till she says sorry for whatever she did, and what the proper behavior she should have done. Sometimes it takes a minute or two, other times it has taken 10-20 minites, depends on how defiant she is being. I NEVER give in and anything that is taken away is taken away for at least a week, to me anything less and the kid does not appericate what they have or they know that they will get it back in a day or two so they can wait and that defeats the whole point of what you are doing in the first place.
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C.D. answers from Eugene on March 02, 2011
One of the things you really need to do is to stop telling him what "not" to do and instead tell him what to do. As soon as you tell a three year old "Do not stomp in the puddles" you have just given him a great idea! (Hey, that sounds fun. I think I will stomp in the puddle!) Instead, give him something positive he can do, such as, "let's keep our feet dry by walking around the puddle" and then praise him for staying away from the puddle. Same thing with the tv. Simply tell and show him, "here is where we can touch the tv: on the edge, the bottom and the top."
Secondly, try using natural consequences. "If you splash in the puddle your feet will get wet and we don't have any dry socks or shoes for you. You will be pretty uncomfortable with wet feet." or "If you touch the tv, you will have to clean it yourself (and the patio door as well!)"
Also, remember to allow your child to be a child. Splashing in puddles is FUN! You can tell your child "We can't splash in the puddles today, but on Saturday, let's put on our boots and see if we can find some really BIG puddles to jump in. I bet I can make a bigger splash than you!" If you follow through with that activity, I'll bet your issues with puddles will disappear.
Good luck and have fun splashing in puddles!
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J.M. answers from Boston on March 02, 2011
Are there consequences for not listening? If I told my son not to jump in a big puddle and he did it anyway I would probably take off his shoes and socks and make him ride barefoot in the car (which he wouldn't like). I would tell him that sitting in wet shoes isn't good for his feet, so he should have listened to me.
If he touched the TV I would say "oops! No TV time today. We watch the TV, not touch it."
All kids need positive reinforcement, but some also need negative consequences. Doesn't have to be anything major, but something. Our son is often in the "naughty spot" (time out) for not listening to us, but it is getting better.
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F.W. answers from Cumberland on March 02, 2011
I was just going to second Jane M.--consequences are needed --he is testing out what he can and can't do. What did you use in the past for things he chose to do that were inappropriate? If that worked then try it again now whether that be time out or loss of privilege. Constant reminders do not work--there needs to be a reaction to his actions so he sees something will occur if he continues to act that way.
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C.B. answers from Kansas City on March 03, 2011
wait till the tantrums start up again lol..i thought i was over those way back at 2! mine hit 4 and a switch went off. five months later we are starting to get back to "normal". i don't have much advice except stick to your guns and discipline, discipline, discipline. try to be patient. but there does come a time when the behavior is over the line and it's time to put the foot down - my mom suggested i was perhaps "too" patient with my son and i ended up seeing she was right - it was the worst "phase" we've gone through yet. i finally just started timing out at the first hint of defiance - his was whining/dawdling/fighting over getting ready for school. when i started disciplining as soon as it started, instead of reasoning, offering choices, consoling, and put my foot down - THEN is when it got better. i also dropped the whole patient mom routine. i changed my tone of voice immediately and let him know i meant business. it helped! at 4 he is just so mature and smart, i lost the perspective that he IS a kid, still needing guidance and molding. i was trying to reason with him too much, as if he was a rational human being - which 4 year olds are NOT! :) good luck, hope you get through this phase unscathed!
B.M. answers from San Francisco on March 02, 2011
Just like the others said, consequences and they should be immediate. My kid has gone through similar phases, some longer than others. It is hard and frustrating. You may need to change your consequences as well.
This is completely normal. At various times in their lives, they will be testing limits. It is part of growing and learning and each kid will do it differently. So, go back to the rules you went by when he was younger and going through a similar phase: try to be clear with expectations before you enter into a potential situation (ie going to a friends, into a restaurant, playdate, park etc); be immediate with your consequences and discipline (whenever possible), review your consequences. And try to keep your head, I know how maddening it can be but the less emotional you are about it, the more effective your discipline will be.
Hang in there. It may be around for a while but it is part of growing and your sweet kid will return. I promise :)
L.C. answers from Washington DC on March 03, 2011
If my child were defiant like that, he'd have his rear end in time out faster than he could say, "Because I wanted to".
That said, sometimes natural consequences work quite well - he has wet feet from jumping in the puddle and he'll just have to put up with wet socks and shoes... I would say something like - We are not jumping in the puddle today because we have to go to (where ever) and we don't want to have wet feet and clothes all day, do we?
You need to be firm and consistent. He's testing you now - just wait until he's a tween or a teen. You need him to respect you now...
I found it was always better to tell them what I wanted them to do rather than what I didn't want them to do -- unless it was a safety issue or something I could see them thinking about doing. (Like taking the decorations off of someone else's birthday cake... yes, he did that and yes, he went right home! Please note that he remembers the event like it was yesterday and he never did anything like that again.)
You need to find his currency. Does he like TV? Does he like video games? What is his favorite thing to do? My son LOVED TV. If he was naughty, I took away his TV. It was like taking his right arm... It was extremely effective. I always gave one warning.
If you are out and about and he is defiant, haul his sorry butt to the car and take him right home. (No more fun for you, pal!) :-) I gave time outs in stores, at friends' homes, where ever I needed to do that. Remember, whatever you threaten, you need to follow through -- every single time.
If you touch the TV, you'll have no TV the rest of the day. And you do it.
If you hit your friend, we will go home. And you leave if he does.
I did not reason with my children. I gave them the rules and the consequences. I did give choices - you can continue to misbehave and we will go home or you can behave and we will stay - your choice.
You need to be firm.
You need to be consistent.
You need to let him know that YOU are the Mom and that YOU are the boss. He is the kid - not the boss.
G.H. answers from Chicago on March 03, 2011
My told my friend about a parenting workshop in Naperville. She has a strong willed 4 1/2 yr old boy and she said she noticed major changes within a couple days. The counselor uses "the Nurtured Heart Approach". The workshop was 4 hours and only $79 per couple. She said it went by super fast & she was able to ask tons of specific questions & got suggestions. I couldn't make the class but asked the counselor to make a roster so when another class gets scheduled we can go. Call Dan Peterson www.thecompass4life.com , he's out of Naperville ###-###-#### x2. He said he also does one on one counseling and accepts insurance.