4-Year-old Out of Control at Dr.

Updated on October 25, 2010
J.O. asks from Novi, MI
19 answers

I am so upset. My 4-year-old ran around the Dr. office. He would not stay in the room. He even kept opening the door that led to the hallway outside. He was making loud sounds and poking me. He hurt my eye. I was trying to hold onto him and he was giggling and thrashing like a maniac. I could not hear the Dr. I told him I expected him to sit quietly at the office or play with the toys quietly. This happens every time we go. His other siblings were there, too. The timing had to work that way this time. If he is alone he is not so bad. Today when we got home he had a time-out, and I talked about how upset I was with his behavior in the car. He cried the whole way home.

Why is he a total brat at the office? He does this at my Dr. too, or the bank, etc. It's not that he is scared of the Dr. or anything. Anything that is not TOTALLY kid centered, like Chuck E. Cheese, he is a total brat and I cannot control him. I cannot take him anywhere, but I have a life to live trying to raise my family. I do have to take him to appts. every now and then. He is worse than the baby.

What can I do next?

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answers from Oklahoma City on

for one you have no control over him as you said, and guess what mom...HE KNOWS THAT. you need to start setting HARSH ground rules and find a way to make him literally afraid of getting in trouble.

maybe start a reward/punishment system, however, find something that works soon because it'll just get worse and worse if you don't nip it in the bud NOW...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Saginaw on

I think the key to resolving this behavior is to talk before the appointments or anywhere he acts like this about what you expect from him. Before you even take him out of the car tell him what you expect and don't expect and then what the consequences are if he does not behave.

This sounds to good to be true to work, but it really does work.

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answers from Chicago on

I hate long waits at the doctor's office! I would do jumping jacks with my kids or sing silly action songs (I'm a Little Teapot). If that didn't work, I'd tell them that I didn't think they could hop on one leg 10 times in a row. They'd say something like, "That's so easy!" I'd say, "Really? Prove it." After they did one leg, I'd exclaim shock and ask if they could do the other leg. Usually by that time, the doctor would come in.

As they got older, we'd play the "Quiet Game." See who could stay quiet the longest - whomever lasted the longest would get a prize (sugarless gum or a sucker - always have some in my purse). I'd say, "One, Two, Three - QUIET!" And we'd all be quiet. Sometimes I'd burp or do something silly, which would make everyone laugh and then we'd have to start over! "One, Two, Three - QUIET!"

When we were out and about - the threat of going home immediately would be hanging over their heads. They knew this because I would tell them exactly what would happen to them if they got out of line on the drive over to where ever we were going. I would make them promise to behave. Also, we would review how we behave at the bank or store or restaurant or doctor's office. If we couldn't leave immediately if they acted up, they knew that they would go to their room for the rest of the day and only come out for meals and bathroom breaks.

You know, I only had to do that to one kid once (I have 3) and no one else even dares to step a toe out of line when we're out. They so know better now. They act up at home, and that's where it should happen.

I mean what I say and I say what I mean. No empty threats. Be consistent and be firm.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

time to be in charge & FIRM. I really like Laurie D's suggestion about the backpacks....I had forgotten we used them, too! Still do to some extent...LOL....my son's are 14 & 23!!!

Anyway, he's acting this way.....because he knows he can get away with it. He knows you won't crack down on him, he knows you are busy....& kids take every opening they can get & run with it!

If you go the backpack route, his very 1st punishment should be for you to confiscate it.....should he not comply with the behavior you deem proper. He loses his priviledges & has to sit on your lap....or right next to you. If he continues with not behaving, then .....seriously, you put him in a "hold" where he cannot be disruptive, where he cannot hurt you. Doing this does not make you a bad mom.....& be sure to tell him that he will released as soon as you are done with your business. & most importantly, do not verbally argue with him......he will feed off of it!

& really, look at it this way: if you don't teach him how to behave & how to respect himself & others........then how will he learn? Peace!



answers from Detroit on

When my sons was that age and younger they would do the same thing. I would be more frustrated with the Dr. than my sons when I took them for Dr. appointments. First they call you just to go and set a tiny examining room with a toddler and/or pre-schooler. Then the Dr. takes about 30 min. before coming into the room. By the time the Dr. got to the room my sons had managed to rip up all the tissue paper of the examining table (despite me trying to prevent it.) every door and/or draw in the room has been opened. By the time the Dr. arrives I'm exhausted and sweating from trying to keep them in line. They are both much better now.
If they are not interested or don't want to be there I guess this is what happens. I suppose it gets better with age and a good bribe.



answers from Detroit on

I would have him tested eventually for ADHD if this behavior continues. I have a daughter who is ADHD and had always acted like you are talking about. Some kids cannot control their impulsivity and literally cannot sit still. You summed it up at the end by saying he is worse than a baby and this is very prevalent with children that are hyperactive or have ADHD. When I am at the Dr's, I usually take a pen and let her just draw on the table paper covering the exam table or I sing (usually calming) or play other games. This is the ideal time to reinforce ABCs or Counting. If there are pictures in the room, ask him what he sees or what are the people doing in the pictures. Believe me, I understand your frustration---I have been there time and time again. In the car, I would always keep an activity bag with drawing stuff, small toys, or even music and headphones. It does help.


answers from San Francisco on

This just made me laugh! i work at a eye doctors office- we just had 2 kids that just ran a muck in here! a 2 year old and 4 year old. I have a 14 month old so i know kids can be crazy! But this Mom just literally sat back and her kids ran through this office like a tornado! I mean they were yelling, screaming (high pitch kind) and picking up our phones as they were ringing. Running behind the desk and in our chart room. I left to lunch while they were here. We do Lasik surgery so the husband was here for a consult about 1 1.2 hrs, so we make sure our patients are well aware of the length of time the appt, and what to expect every time they come in. We don't have patients waiting in our waiting room thankfully, but this lady waited the whole time and i could hear her kids screaming all the way to the break room! i know it happens, but i think the part was that she did nothing, not even a shh to them! We have a busy clinic so my co worker making conversation said maybe they'd like to wait in the lobby of the building- the patient didn’t like the idea.

I think if your child acts a bit crazy (like most do :) then just step out side or away from people. Then maybe the child will get the idea they will be removed from the situation and no cause chaos because we all know kids love causing chaos! :) I don't look forward to the day my son does this! ha.



answers from Detroit on

I don't wait until I get home to put my kids in a time out I believe in immediate consequences.....they know they have to behave and if not they get a time out.....if the time out doesn't work then they get a swat (yes I know I am a terrible mom for spanking my kid) on the butt, that will usually shock them enough to get them to behave.....I don't EVER tell them they will stay home next time as that is what they want (they want to be someplace fun not at the boring old dr office).......you could also try a reward system......I have used it from time to time when I know a wait is going to be extra long......tell them if they behave and you don't have to put him in time out then you will go to the park or McDonalds or whatever doesn't have to be big or expensive just enough to get him motivated.......hope you find your solution



answers from Detroit on

He does this because he CAN. You have to find a better punishment, and something you can use AT the Doctor's or when you're out doing errands. You have to show him YOU are the BOSS. Right now HE IS, and he knows it.

If he's jumping around at the doctor's, then he HAS to sit on your lap the ENTIRE time with your arms wrapped around his body holding his arms still so he won't hit you. Yelling at him after the fact is not making any impact, even if he cries the whole way home. Punishment needs to be immediate, and if he does it again, then make the punishment worse and worse. He'll get the picture. And you have to be consistent.

Remember the baby is going to do everything he does, he's teaching the baby how an older child is allowed to behave. You have to nip this in the bud NOW, or you'll have two crazy kids to chase around.

I'd suggest watching some episodes of Supper Nanny or Nanny 911. You can learn from them what to do with out of control kids specifically.

I know this is exhausting, and I've had times with my 3 year old when I just don't know what to do because everything I've tried has not worked. Then I've done just what you're doing, I've asked advise, and tried new things I had not done before. You're a good mom, soak up all the advise from these mama's and show your son that YOU are the Mom and He is the child, and he will NOT GET AWAY with it ANYMORE.

Stay calm when you tell him stuff, but be FIRM, no budging. If he does something mean rebelling to what you say, then stay calm and give him the consequence. His game will be to get you flustered, so take a deep breath and keep you cool. If you feel yourself losing it, take a time out yourself, its okay to do this and show kids that adults get upset too and that this is an appropriate way to deal with that.

Best wishes! You can do it!


answers from Dallas on

I think the answer is telling him a few big rules before going. Tell him if those rules are broken what will happen and then back it up. I think it's when you are distracted and talking to someone and your not able to really get control. I wouldn't try it out at the doctors office but a few runs to the bank would work. I wouldn't go when I really needed to to, just go to teach him. That away there is less stress for you and you are both mentally and physically prepared to "deal" with his behavior.



answers from Washington DC on

I had the same issue today with my child. My son is a very willful and energetic kid, and he loves to run wild when we go into public places. It is a fairly common behavior for 4s that I worked with in pre-k and kindergarten, too. Some people find that 4-year-olds can be very naughty, and moody, and get into trouble.

When this happens in my household, I have learned to stay calm, but to have a serious talk with my kid. I get down to his level, look him in the eyes, and let him know that I like taking him out with me, but if he cannot be safe (because when you can't listen, you are not being safe) then next time I will have to leave him at home with the babysitter. This usually gets him to behave, because he loves going out with me (even to the doctor, lol)!! I try to give him reasons for why I want him to do something, and talk in a serious tone. I know it is tough in the doctor's office, because sometimes you have a long wait, and it can be boring for a kid. Our pediatrician is very good with kids, and she will let my son "help" with his exam, by holding an instrument, or give him "games" to do (when she is actually observing his abilities).

4-year-olds don't always know what they are doing, or why. So, it takes some guidance and patience with them. They mean well, but can try your patience. I understand!



answers from Los Angeles on

what i do with my daughter when she has to goto the dr. is i bring crayons and let her draw on the paper bed cover since they toss it anyways. my daughter is very used to sitting and being fairly quiet in places. i will also swat her if she does not control her self after being warned 3 times. the swat is never hard just a moderate tap on the butt lol.



answers from Detroit on

It's hard to say, not knowing your son, but if he seems perfectly normal andf age-appropriate at other times, I'd work with him with a child therapist. If he has other behavior quirks or is developmentally behind, I'd have him evaluated for delays and autism. My doctor daughter was terrified of needles (weird, huh?) and gave me huge problems at the doctor's, but you said he's not fearful.



answers from Sacramento on

Did you speak to him about his behavior and discipline him when you got home? There needs to be consequences for this type of behavior or he'll never learn. Have you tried time outs? What about taking away his TV time? Looking at your previous posts that is what he seems to treasure the most. I know you mention that YOU need the TV time as well so that you can get breaks but I would take it away from him (next time) anyway. I'm sure it will only take 1-2 times for him to know that you mean business. Speak to him before going out and explain how you expect him to behave and what the consequences for not behaving will be. Then enforce them.

Now the other things I think you need to consider, and maybe you already have, are the following ...

1.) was he tired?
2.) was he hungry?
3.) was he bored?

It's is difficult to get even the most behaved child to behave under those circumstances. Make sure he has adequate rest, isn't hungry (bring a snack), and maybe bring some items along to keep him entertained.

I found this link which as cute ideas to keep the little ones happy & entertained at the doctors office.




answers from Colorado Springs on

Dear J.,
It sounds like your son needs clear and consistent discipline. I imagine that you notice the terrible behavior more at appts and such because it is more embarrassing there than at Chuck E Cheese. He will do whatever he can get away with. Does he ever have consequences for his behavior? There is no good reason why an otherwise healthy child cannot act with self-control and respect in any setting. The responsiblity to teach him this lands squarely on your shoulders. It is very hard but necessary work. It pays off hugely once you start to see the fruit of the hours you have invested in disciplning and shepherding your children.



answers from Las Vegas on

When my children were that age, I had them carry little backpacks filled with toys, coloring books and crayons so that they will have something to occupy their time while they waited for me to finish doing my adult-centered things. If they still acted up, even with having these great things to do/play with, then they would get the naughty corner for 4-minutes. My children have always know, that there are naughty corners wherever we are in the world. These things worked for me. Perhaps they will work for you as well.



answers from Washington DC on

I am all about bribery for good behavior.
We used chocolate milk, Swedish fish, extra stories, mac and cheese for dinner or pizza, sleep with mommy for a little bit before bedtime.
also some good leverage tools, I took away Lego's, any tv (Disney or whatever), bread and milk for dinner and early bedtime.
He has taken control because he knows exactly what will happen, you will yell and get all frustated, he gets tons of attention, albeit negative.
Change gears M., start rewarding good behavior and he will want to do more for you.



answers from Denver on

My daughter is ADHD and we suspect our younger child may be too. Sounds like every office visit we've ever had, grocery store trip etc. Some children just don't/can't respond to consistent, typical parenting strategies or rules because of how their brains are wired. It is not always bad, inconsistent parenting that causes this kind of behavior in kids....but the people with normally docile, quiet and naturally well behaved children always seem to give themselves credit for "perfect parenting.". Hang in there.



answers from Detroit on

4 is a difficult age, no? I am finding it incredibly frustrating at times too!

Here's what works for us: I set brief, clear expectations ahead of time (like 10-15 minutes before we head out the door to the appt), and I make sure he can repeat the rules back to me. We call this "following the rules". And I praise him like crazy for good behavior, and give him reminders of, "Oh, that's not following the rules" kind of statements. (for the record, I also learn to let a lot of things go - like if they're crawling on the floor at the dr's office, ew, but fine....wash hands when you get home, and baths before bed, etc) Then when we get home, following great behavior, we make another big deal out of it - we tell daddy, call grandma, etc, depending on the event.

If I have to, I will excuse myself from the doctor, and set him in a time out immediately. I might also ask him to sit outside the door (with it open) to remove his "audience" so that I can talk to the doctor w/o interruption.

I know that when I try to "control" my kids, it almost always backfires on me. But, when I give them two choices (both directed toward the result I am aiming for), it actually gives the "control" back to them. For example - You can wear your blue shoes, or your tennis shoes. You can walk there, or I can carry you. You can sit in the chair quietly, or you can sit in the hallway quietly. You can stay in this play area, or you can come back to the table and sit. And I follow it up with, "You have a choice". And on and on....yes, it's exhausting, but it (mostly) gets me the results I want without too much resistance from my boys. It puts the responsibility of their behavior on them, and shows them (natural) consequences when needed.

Maybe when things are calm, and you're just hanging out at home with nowhere to go, you could talk about good behavior, and what helps Mommy, and what the rules are when out of the house.

Good luck, Mama & hang in there!

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