45 answers

How Do I Get My Almost 4 Year Old to Obey Me?

Today I am completely exasperated and at the end of my rope. I tell my little girl not to draw on the wall, and she promptly goes and does it. She'll do things she knows are wrong, then goes and hides under the kitchen table. Help I don't want to be a spanking, yelling mom and I don't know how to respond when she does things that are so annoying (sticking the scissors I just barely used and set down in the jam jar, dropping her hair elastic in her baby sister's porrige when she walks by her high chair...taking the ice cream out of the freezer and sitting under the table to consume it, with her hands...dropping my cell phone into her bath...why does she do all this stuff??? I can't just say "that makes mommy sad" and put her in time out. It's not working. The other day we were at a friend's house for a barbecue and she was alone for 60 seconds after she left the table and when I went to check on her she'd drawn two little pictures on their foot rest that was under the coffee table. Fortunately it's vinyl and I got almost all of it off but help! she so knows that we only draw on paper. Is she just curious and experimenting with the world or trying to be the most difficult kid ever? Another case in point: we're at a friend's house and she has a little magnet board she was arranging pictures on that she'd left leaning against the wall in the living room. Again, out of the room for 2 seconds, I come back and she's taken one of the pictures and just scrunched it all up. Why????? What would possess her to do that? When I start yelling and being mean I see her immediately start treating her little sister poorly. I'm furious with her and that isn't helping either. Any good parenting books that help? I don't have time or energy to work though the thousands that are out there. Thanks!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Wow I am a Child Care provider out of my home and have seen many 3/4 year olds doing the same at home. You need to sit clear rules and no minutes out of the room for you. If you need to leave the room take her with you. Explain to her that because of her choices she must stay with you all the time. It will make a difference we other kids are around. She will want to go play and will have to spend time with the boring adults if her behavior isn't better. I have a child in care that makes his mother pull her hair out/ sitting crying because of her sons behavior. He will pee on his bedroom floor for no reason. But in my home he is limited to his bad behaviors because he is under constant watch. When he does make a bad choice we try to catch it and redirect, but if he gets away with it before we have a chance then it is straight to time out. Or the object that he was destroying is removed from him. It becomes an off limits object for him. We do not yell, or hit. We just tell children what we expect, and if they make a mistake we tell them the right thing to do. If you get mad and start yelling they have you on the run. Stay in control of every situation. They do understand what they are doing at this age, so start consequences for bad choices.

1 mom found this helpful

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Logic-Magic-Early-Childhood/dp...

Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years! This book has been VERY helpful for me and my 3.5 year old. I highly recommend it!

Good luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful

My most recent favorite is Love and Logic. Can't remember the author (I borrowed it but need a copy to keep, it's that good).
I have three boys and the oldest is very strong willed, too. I wish I would have realized the link between my angry behaviors and the way he then would lash out at his little brother back when they were 3 and 1. hang in there and look for a parenting support group if that may help. We can feel so isolated as moms but wer're not alone!

More Answers

I had a little girl like that once, and she has grown into an incredibly beautiful, smart, resourceful young woman. SO before I answer, I want to assure you that this, too, will pass (it may feel like a kidney stone, but it will pass!)

I struggled with her, and learned through the years, that with this one, the best consequences are natural consequences. If you color on the wall, you have to clean the wall. And you will not have fun, or do the things you want to do or have what you want to have, until you have at least made an honest effort. If you eat the ice cream with your hands, you can't have the ice cream because you made the whole thing melt (or got germs in it), or no one else can eat it. If she ruins someone else's possession, she must give that to that person and say she is sorry. (She will be embarrassed, especially if you step out of the picture and she has to do it herself).

You're right, it is difficult not to become a screaming meemie (been there too, and it really does not work). You have to consistently get her to begin to think through ... (which is not age-appropriate for a 3 and a half year old, but it's never too early to try) ... "If I do this, what will happen?" If the only consequence she can think of is making you angry, or making you have to clean up after her, then she is getting what she really wants, which is attention from a mom who now has a little sister to tend to, as well.

I hate to tell you mommy, but this is not about you, it's about her. Step out of the picture, try to stop thinking of it as "disobeying," you and start to think of it as, "How can I teach her to live in the world so that she avoids the pain of constantly having to always explain herself, say she is sorry, or make amends?"

Good luck! It's a long journey, but I promise you that one of these days, you will look back on that little girl and know that you took her curiosity and ingenuity and channeled that energy into something great!!!!

2 moms found this helpful

I'm sorry you're having such a trying time. It's certainly not easy being a parent. One can not be lazy or indifferent and raise a well-adjusted child. It takes time and work to learn about your little one and to guide them well. Sometimes our old wounds and fears keep us from trusting our instincts and being the authority our children need. Something that helped me want to discipline my children when they were very young was hearing on a parenting cassette that if I don't discipline my children people won't want to be around them. Of course I wanted my children to be well liked.

I want to take this opportunity to say something to all young moms in general. Do you look into your precious little one's faces and speak to them with love, admiration and respect the way you want your husband to speak to you? Do you take some time with them that's not shared with your friend on the cell phone or the computer, t.v., ipod or other technology? Do you touch them in gentle caring ways? Do you know what they are feeling, what their fears are, what brings them joy? I'm a mother of 3 adults, grandmother of 3, and a former pre-school teacher. Every one of us wants to be known, loved, treasured and we all have ways of acting out when our needs aren't met. We have to have a balance between showing little ones we adore them and giving them the security of boundaries and discipline.

Another great book to consider is the one on the 5 Languages of Love. There's one specifically for parenting.

1 mom found this helpful

My five your old son also misbehaves when he needs a little extra attention. I discipline him because I do not want to reward that type of behavior and then I examine how his past few days or week has been. If we have been running nonstop then I try to designate a night at home with early bed times and a little extra attention. Think back to when this started and if you have been able to give her a little attention that is just hers. I put my 22 month daughter to bed first and then give my son my undivided attention for 15-20 mins. It seems to meet his needs most of the time. I also try to make sure he doesn't get away with anything. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed I am not as consistent as I should be. I just try to get consistent and be firm and loving. Between the extra attention, the night off, and consistent discipline it seems to put out the fire. I hope this helps because I have felt your pain.

1 mom found this helpful

I taught 4-year-olds in AISD PreK classes for 5 years. It sounds like most of your daughter's behavior is attention-seeking. The important thing about behavior is to look for what incites it & try to prevent the inciting incident. (For example, if a child bites whenever a child tries to take a toy from him, you supervise play to intervene if another kid gets grabby). If you think it sounds possible that your daughter is vying for your attention, do everything you can to give her as much POSITIVE attention as you can. Maybe you could even spend some time alone, while the baby is with Daddy or someone else, so she can have you to herself, like it used to be.

And when she does anything you approve of, thank her. Try not to just use generic praise ("Good job, honey" or "What a pretty picture"). Also try to avoid focusing on yourself ("I like how you were so sweet to your sister today.") Instead, use specific encouragement such as "You did it!" or "You're using so many colors in your picture! Tell me about it." or "You were so sweet to your sister today!" And if you are having trouble phrasing things (it's a challenge to change this behavior in ourselves - I've been at it for about 7 years & still hear myself saying "Good job" a lot) then just say thank you. Try to say things as you would say them to an adult. I suggest googling praise versus encouragement. I don't have any specific good resources, but you should be able to find some more examples of this. Whether your daughter's acting out for attention or not, giving her positive attention (vs. yelling and time outs that are not working) will help her to feel accepted and capable of good behavior.

It's also possible that sometimes she just forgets what is appropriate & what is not. Four-year-olds can be so well-spoken and seem so mature - so far from the toddlers they were yesterday. But memory is not fully developed yet, impulse control is still difficult, & they're still babies, really. Granted some of the things you described sound over the top, but try to look at things one incident at a time, & don't let it all pile up in your head til your fuming if some of it is just typical kid stuff.

People will probably recommend incentive charts & such. Be careful that you don't set her up to think she deserves a pay off just for doing the right thing (this can be ok in the short term but should be phased out) & be VERY sure to choose something that very frequently monitors behavior & that you can commit to keeping up with. It's very difficult to do, but to be age appropriate it should be a system that allows her to feel successful, so you want to be giving her a star or whatever every 30-60 minutes, not just at the end of the day (which is very long for a little kid & just sets her up for failure). Also, a reward should be earned quickly, like in a day or two, not a week or two.

My last bit of advice is what I feel is most important. From what you described, your daughter sounds a bit like my son. I cannot recommend highly enough the book "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. There is a workbook you could get to read with it, too. I'm reading them now & finding them to be very helpful, & I've heard hugely positive reviews from parents probably a good 40 times.

Earlier I mentioned some baby free time. If there's a chance that her behavior is related to the baby, I've heard great things about the book "Siblings Without Rivalry." It may help you, too.

Good luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful

Wow I am a Child Care provider out of my home and have seen many 3/4 year olds doing the same at home. You need to sit clear rules and no minutes out of the room for you. If you need to leave the room take her with you. Explain to her that because of her choices she must stay with you all the time. It will make a difference we other kids are around. She will want to go play and will have to spend time with the boring adults if her behavior isn't better. I have a child in care that makes his mother pull her hair out/ sitting crying because of her sons behavior. He will pee on his bedroom floor for no reason. But in my home he is limited to his bad behaviors because he is under constant watch. When he does make a bad choice we try to catch it and redirect, but if he gets away with it before we have a chance then it is straight to time out. Or the object that he was destroying is removed from him. It becomes an off limits object for him. We do not yell, or hit. We just tell children what we expect, and if they make a mistake we tell them the right thing to do. If you get mad and start yelling they have you on the run. Stay in control of every situation. They do understand what they are doing at this age, so start consequences for bad choices.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi K.,
I am a BIG fan of Smart Disipline! They did a presentation at our church recently and it is great! She is exactly the age they say to start using this, my son is 5 yrs. and it is working very well for us. You can find it at smartdiscipline.com. They have a video and workbook that is great, it is about $50.00 for the two of them. You could contact them and have them come to your church. When our church did it they (church) paid for the first 50 pepole and after that was on $10.00 a person. Great program that really does work. They talk about how to discipline in a positive way and make them responsible for their own actions. For example they get 3 chances and then they star loosing privledges, ie: TV time, outside and so on. It makes them really proud of themselves when they don't loose anything. Good luck and God bless,
K.

P.S. This is very similar to Super Nanny!

1 mom found this helpful

Your three year old needs attention. She is crying out for you. Leave the baby with a sitter and have some time just for her. Take her to the zoo, to get a pizza, or to buy her a book. Love her and listen to her. She is giving you all the signs of a child who needs you. She is willing to get attention anyway she can even if it is the wrong kind of attention. Find something she likes to do, a little workbook for children or make cookie together. Tell her how much you love these really positive things she is doing. Find ways to tell how she makes you ssssoooooooo happy. Change the way she has found to deal with a situation she doesn't understand.

1 mom found this helpful

"Making Children Mind without losing yours" is a great book.

She is BEGGING you to discipline her mom. She is testing to see how you react and figuring out which buttons to push that cause the biggest reactions - it's not that she's evil, she is just learning about her world - so teach her!

Here's a few pointers:
1. Guilt will never work (It makes mommy sad) - its too complex of an emotion to put on a 4 year old and teaches them manipulation which will only bite you in the butt when she's a teen! lol! :)
2. If you can't behave, we can't stay - IMMEDIATELY remove her from friends houses, playdates, etc. for behaviors like you just described above. No big drama, just a simple statement of fact and a quick movement out the door (Plan for 3 testings of this rule at a minimum before she realizes that you mean it - if you back out or bend the rules even once you've wasted your time and she owns you!)
3. What we mess up - we clean up. The vinyl chair cleaning is her job. The scissors in the jelly are her job, etc. Make her responsible and involved in the cleanup (especially if she's missing out on fun stuff while that gets done and you have to leave as soon as its clean because she didn't behave in public).
4. We take responsiblilty for our actions. "I am sorry for marking on your chair and disrespecting your home Ms. _____" Sometimes the horror of having to apologize to a grownup (or complete stranger) is enough for her to get the idea that our actions effect others.
5. The more consistent, cool, calm and collected "these are the facts of life darling" you are - the easier life will be for all of you!

Yes, I've had to leave in the middle of a best friend's birthday party and it sucked for me, but it was the right thing to do. Besides, if you stay at the party after she does stuff like that then other guests will see you as the one who lets her kids run crazy and you don't want that rep. It doesn't honor yourself, your children, or your spouse.

1 mom found this helpful

1 / 3
Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.