12 answers

What Is Considered "Normal" Behavior for a 4 Yr Old?

My husband and I recently spent some time with some family members. We have a 3 yr old girl and they have a 4 yr old boy. Honestly, I have never seen a child behave like theirs does. He is the second child - 7 yrs younger than his older brother. He will repeatedly thrown things at people and when disciplined will laugh and do it again and again. He has no empathy when you say he is hurting you and to please stop - again it amuses him to hurt you more. He is also very loud and does not seem to be able to speak in a normal inside voice. My husband doesn't communicate the best and told them in a rather blunt way that their kid is really bad. Of course, they didn't take to that well. From talking to the mother previously, he is not the first to tell them that. However, they have the attitude that "he is 4 what do you expect?" I find myself frustrated being around him, as does my daughter (who is more reserved, but by no means an angel herself - I am not comparing by any means and putting my daughter on a pedestal) and have walked away from him on numerous occasions because he would not listen when I would tell him to stop something. My question is IS it normal behavior? I might be completely naive because I have not had to raise a boy...and quite honestly, if it IS normal, I am not sure I will be able to and survive :) Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated as this is creating conflict with the sides of the family.

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Ok, so next step - how do we approach this in the future as it is bound to happen again? We see them for one week once a year. There is NO talking to them, but they are family so there is really no way to avoid seeing them. I know that our responsibility is our daughter and I've reinforced to my husband that we just need to let our daughter know that certain behavior is not allowed.

More Answers

Ashlyn, It is not normal, but you are not going to be able to be the one to help them out unless you do it with some books, or websites. It is very difficult for relatives to help relatives. When I had little ones I bougbt a book by James Dobson, The Strong-Willed Child. It was really helpful. Under no circumstances should a child be allowed to hurt others. Children are not mature enough to exhibit self-control and making good choices at all times. They need a lot of direction. I wish you all the best with the situation. Children come to us with all different personalities. Some are a lot more difficult than others. Being consistant, and often times making them role play the correct behavior, is the type of situation that will be needed. Does she watch Nanny 911. There are great suggestions on that show. -L.

Hi Ashylin,
I am no expert but I wouldnt think that this would just be normal 4 yr old behavior. They can be acting out & all but the nonempathy concerns me.
As I said I am no expert. I am a Grandmother and have a Grandson. He is not at all like that & none of his friends are.
There are kids who are just bad. There are some who are born antisocial & ninempathetic. I would keep an eye on him & good communication with my Daughter.
This may develop and worsen or it may just fade away. He may just be a spoiled kid who doesn't realize how things feel or people feel about things.


Oh god, he sounds like my step-sister's kids. I don't know about your nephew but mine are complete a**holes because their parents don't want to 'stifle' them. When the oldest, Max, was 3-ish he asked for a sip of my soda, which I gave him, and then threw a FIT when I asked for it back. What finally made him give it back you ask? A brand new soda of his very own delivered into his grimy little mitts by his mother. Meanwhile I got the one with kid spit, argh.
More recently they visited (oldest is now 6 and enjoys activities such as flinging fishing rods about the house with no regard for people's eyeballs or breakables) and the younger one, Caleb, (2) repeatedly kicked my sister and laughed when told to knock it off already.
Their form of discipline go something like this,
"Max, stop."
Max continues negative behavior.
"MAX, stop."
Max does NOT stop.
"Max, STOP."
Max keeps going.
Max finishes doing whatever it was (opening something he wasn't supposed to, tearing something to pieces, whatever) and wanders happily away to the next act of destruction.
It makes family time a real pain in the neck and my poor step-mom has a hard time bonding with her grandkids because they just plain suck to be around.
By contrast, my best friend's kid, Julien, who is only a few months younger than Max is VERY well behaved. His parents have always been strict about polite behavior and following rules but aren't screamers or spankers, just firm believers in the power of time out. When visiting I hear things like, "When you don't listen to what I say it makes me feel very frustrated, I would like for you to take a time out." and "It makes me sad when you aren't nice to your things and throw them around. Please pick them up."
Julien's one failing is a flare for drama. He in known to, when heading to time out, tearfully shriek a variation of, "I am feeling very hurt that I am being punished!" I think it's cute but I don't live there, my friend says it drives her a little batty.
Anyway, now that I've vented, no it doesn't sound like entirely normal behavior (although sometimes four can be a rough age). Either his parents aren't disciplining him effectively, he has some kind of organically based behavior disorder or a combination or the two and he's a fine little sociopath in the making. I hope for your sake (and your daughter's) that this lovely branch of your family tree lives far enough away that you don't have to see them much.

It's not normal....and they will be in for a real treat once he's 8-10 if they continue allowing him to behave like this. It takes a LOT of patience and consistency to raise a well-mannered child...it sounds like they have dropped the ball on this one. Discipline is KEY to a happy home and child!! We are all "animals" when born....we are TAUGHT to be social!

Hi Vickie,
It's not normal behavior for a 4 yo. I have 2 wonderful boys ages 8 and 6 that I've actually found easier to raise and mold than my girl, age 3, so I wouldn't blame it on the "boy-ness". Someone said that he may be abused or just not been taught to behave, and either of those could be the case. However, I would urge your family members to seek out professional help. It could be a sign of other problems, such as emotional or mental problems, or at least they would be given additional strategies on how to deal with him. A qualified professional would be able to help. They can talk to their pediatrician. Their school district should have the resources to help them sort things out, and I encourage you to talk to them and suggest this. There are things that can be done for any of the above listed problems, and the earlier the intervention the better. I suggest the school district because it's free and they use a "team" approach, which means that a group of professionals with varied qualifications come together. This could include a child psychologist, guidance counselor, speech language pathologist, school social worker, and they'll even try to involve the pediatrician or a neurologist, if that is necessary.
Good Luck... C.

Hello Vickie,

If it were my child & I didn't like the behavior of the other child, I would stay away from them at all costs to your baby girl, family or not. Explain that your daughter is at a tender age & some acts are just not appropriate for her, if they don't understand, so what?... Let them be angry, they'll get over it. It's not for their child your doing this, it's for Ashlyn.

Or maybe give some nice suggestions to the parents of the little boy on how to calm down their child, sometimes when other parents show them how, it works. Maybe the little boy has problems, issues, or is just plain spoiled, the thing to remember is to keep your daughter safe and happy. It's up to the parents of him to get him help.

If she is not happy or comfortable around this young boy, try hard to stay away from them, period. It's okay, you really shouldn't care what others think, no matter who they are, it's your daughter that your concerned with here.

I would put my child first no matter what they think.

Good luck, and have a great weekend sweetie,
M. D.

Boys can develop at a slower rate socially than girls. Full empathy is not expected at such a young age. However, most children that age are already showing signs of reflective empathy. I would not consider the behavior you describe as "typical" at that age.

This situation may be due to a number of things. He may be of normal development, but is merely mimicking what he sees and experiences. Do you know if he is bullied and laughed at by his older sibling? Is he exposed to violent games and tv programs? Does he witness disrespect at home?

It should also be noted that some children have developmental issues/delays that can play a role in such behaviors, such as those having problems in the area of abstract thinking. Psychological testing is the only way to know for sure if that is the culprit.

If I were in your shoes, I would think first and foremost for my own daughter's well-being. If it's not a healthy situation for her to be in, I would avoid visiting with them until the issue is addressed satisfactorily.

Vicky, to answer your question, NO way is his behavior normal. I run a home daycare so I have plenty contact with many age groups. That child is just undisciplined and allowed to run-a-muck. Good luck, A.

I can tell you from experience w/my ex's son that was dianosed with ADHD & ODD (although, I whole-hearted believe he's Bi-Polar) that's it IS NOT normal behavior for any child, boy or girl at any age! And if the parents don't get a grip on it now, it only gets worse!

That is not normal behavior and they are doing their son no favors by pretending it is. His actions are signs of one of two things. Either he is being abused or just has never been taught to behave. I know of a boy that behaves like that and it is because he was neglected when he was younger and had to fend for himself. But I also know of other little boys that have just never been made to be good or mind. I would avoid being around him if his parents won't let you make him behave. It is not healthy for your daughter to be around a boy like that.

This sounds like a spoiled undisaplined child. I have 2 grandson's who live close. One is handicapped and now 7 the other is 14. neither of them acted like this child. My grandkids don't get spankings except when they were still in diapers. Other punishments when needed were used such as time outs and taking away from privileges. Both were well behaved as a whole. 4 yr olds can be naughty on occassion but not all the time and not like that obnoxious child.

No this is not normal behavior! I work in pre k in a public school setting in the behavior unit. kid just like what you are describing end up in my class. Most are asked to leave several daycares before their parents think. hmm maybe there is a problem. For a lot of kids its the lack of consistancy. The threat of if ya dont stop..... and then no consequence. or the parent just thinks their child can do no wrong. By 4 they are petty set in their ways. I hope things change or he i gonna have a rough time in kindergarten! but you and your husband are correct in thinking this.

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