4 Year Old ! NIGHTMARE!!! HELP!!

Updated on March 18, 2016
M.T. asks from Aurora, CO
21 answers

My future husband & I blended our family's almost a year ago & everything was great..until his 4 year old daughter started acting out..LONG STORY, she acts out when I insist she uses manners (please & thank you, instead of telling me: go get me a drink/ or you will paint my nails or you will do my hair!!, or tell her to close her legs & not show her panties.. she has been stealing (from me as well as classmates at school) lying, manipulating, rolling her eyes, giving dirty looks..all around being disrespectful, we have been working with her for many months with it only getting worse.. my issue is my man wants me to take over as her mom (since from what I see her mom is awol) & I have tried to step in & show her different things, but it is getting to the point where I do not like to be around her.. I do not want my kids to be around her because I will not have them pick up her bad behavior... I love this man, but how much torture should I endure?! will it ever stop? why did she change? can I do anything to change it back to how it was before? how do I get her "mom" to realize she is doing damage by talking bad about her dad &I? how can I get her mom to realize it's not a good idea to take a 4 year old to bar's when she does have her?? HELP!!!! I have cried, begged, pleaded I do not know what to do.. we are trying with NO positive results

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your opinions.. while it may sound cold to hear all at once while I ranted due to frustration.. I am not trying to bash this girl, but trying to gain insight as to what else I can do.. I try to bond w/her.. I have tried countless things & no my future husband aka man did not take a role in teaching her manners/ etiquette , but he is trying.. as we all are... I have two boys & have never had these types of issues.. I hear people say a 4 year old can't lie.. um yes she can & does & what I mean by steal is this.. she took someone's purse from daycare because SHE (not anyone else) said it had things in it she wanted! another example, she went into our room, into my drawer, got into my jewelry box, took items, then took them to her room hid them & took other items to her grandmothers, to me yes this is a BIG problem.. If I were merely playing house, I would not care. I would not try to involve myself in her life. I would not try to teach her it is polite to say please when you ask for something or thank you when you get it.. if that is over the line or not my place then I apologize to anyone offended but this is my life, my home & certain manners will be required by EVERYONE...
As far as trying to be her mom.. I agree, I cannot be her mom, I can be me.. I can be here to guide her, try to teach her to make good choices.. How do we know she is taken to bars, actual bars? Because she posts pictures on facebook... I am a strict parent, every kid has chores, every kid is required to show respect to everyone... it's not that I cant stand her, it's that I do not like her actions.. I KNOW a lot of these issues have to do with her mother, I cannot change that, my fiancé cannot change that.. only the mother can... to be clear we all lived together for over 7 months before anything happened..it wasn't until after her mom moved onto her 2nd boyfriend that it became a big issue.. I am not perfect, I will make mistakes, but since I am now & will be apart of her life..it is my obligation to try to steer her in the right direction.. simple things as chewing w your mouth closed to keeping your dress down (yes I make her wear shorts underneath), saying please/ thank you... my rant may seem harsh, I can be the evil stepmother as much as anyone would like to think.. bottom line is I am trying to help her.. maybe it's wrong of me to vent, maybe its wrong to "interfere" maybe it's not.. if I don't help her, who is going to?? poor girl? I say lucky girl that a "stranger" cares so much that she tries to take care of her, show her good from bad, puts her to bed at 8pm instead of 11:30.. maybe my choice of words were wrong but so is judgment

More Answers



answers from Portland on

The way you describe the 4 year old as stealing, manipulating, giving dirty looks ... to me it sounds like you're describing someone much older than 4 years old.
You say you've been working at this for many months - so this started when she was what? Three years old?

I don't know. When I read these posts I wonder if these are legit. You write in capital letters NIGHTMARE and talk about her closing her legs so her panties don't show?

If you've cried, begged, and pleaded ... to me you sound like a drama queen.

If this is legitimate, all I can think of is poor little four year old child. Neither mother figure wants her and you're all up on her about manners.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Poor kid. No offense but I think your attitude and lack of understanding about childhood development-4 year olds don't really lie for instance, or steal, they don't understand such concepts and need to be taught what's appropriate and what's not- is part of the problem.

A misbehaving kid is a kid in need. Stop demonizing her and tell her dad to start parenting her. She sounds like a kid who needs a really big hug and someone who loves HER. She has to feel that you hate her so, and find her to be a source of, as you call it, torture. Like I said, this poor kid just needs someone to love her. So start there.

Stop insisting on manners and just start modeling. Sounds like you've created some really big power struggles with this kid. Let them go. Ignore and give POSITIVE attention instead of what appears to be highly critical and negative attention. If you stop demanding manners, an amazing thing happens: kids naturally find their manners. They really just want to please us, but you have to give them the chance to do so.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

I am a step mom. I can tell you if you think it's "torture" and you don't know how much you can take and she's 4, you need to call it done.

Parenting is a commitment to the child. Nobody has committed to this BABY. Very sad.

If you're going to stay, you dig in and give it everything you have. Including counseling because blending families is a hard thing to do when circumstances are good. If you don't have it in you to commit to her - you need to leave before she's damaged further.

I agree with the others. This is primarily your husband's responsibility. You're either a team or not. You decide.


11 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

So many issues here.

So, you don't have blended families because you cannot stand his child and he wants you to parent her. She has a mother, whether any of you like it or not or whether she is a good person or not. He doesn't get to decide that you "take over" as mom - what in the world does he think that will do to his daughter? He needs to deal with his ex and the issue of parental alienation - and by the way, how do you know what the mom says about you behind your backs? Are you taking the word of a 4 year old? What do you mean about taking a 4 year old to bars? How do you know she does that? And how in the world is it your responsibility to tell another woman what she can do with her daughter when you are not the child's other parent? I'm not defending taking children to bars, mind you - I just want to know why it's your responsibility to get involved in this. What's your legal claim? Why isn't her father getting involved here?

Blended families only work when both people in the marriage are on the same page. You and he are not. Who are you crying/begging/pleading to? The ex? Your man? Why?

Look, she's 4. You prioritize things. You don't take orders from her, but you let her father parent her. You don't worry so much about a 4 year old showing her panties accidentally. That's not first on the list at all.

How were things "before" that you want to "change it back to"? She's acting out for a reason, you say you are "working for months" but you don't say if you are getting professional help in this regard. Based on the way you word your question, there's not much understanding at all about a 4 year old's development or what happens when a family goes through upheaval and a child hears bad stuff about Dad from her mom and picks up on her future stepmother's resentment and her father's total abdication of parenting. If you aren't getting intensive parenting assistance for a child in crisis, get it. And that means your boyfriend takes the lead on it and you absolutely work as a team.

There's nothing in your question that says you are doing this. I'm a stepmother of 2 and I get how incredibly difficult it is, especially when there is resentment and poor communication between father and mother. But what you're doing isn't working - you need expert and ongoing counseling. But it's worth it.

Otherwise this will break up you and your boyfriend - because you have not blended your families at all, you've just put his kid and your kids under one roof.

ETA: Okay, you've put in additional info. Your boyfriend takes screen shots of the child in bars and prints them out. Those go to the lawyer or court. Stuff is stolen at preschool? The school handles that - how is a 4 year old getting to a staff member's purse anyway? Poor supervision. Stuff is stolen from your room? You put your valuables away and you put a lock on the door. Stuff gets taken to Grandma's house? Who is packing her stuff and not going through it? An adult must be supervising a child this age. "Please" and "thank you" - kids don't get what they demand until they ask nicely - learn to ignore a 4 preschooler who makes demands, and have family rules for what everyone has to say/do to get privileges and treats. Same rules for everyone. If she stops getting a payoff for bad behavior, she'll stop the behavior. The rules are the same for your kids.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Get out while you can. Your children should be your priority.

Your wanna be fiancé wants a wanna be mom so he dies not take responsibility.

I truly feel for the child who has no loving parent to parent her and who wants to be her parent, how sad.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I agree with all the posters below. You need to acknowledge that you are not her mother and stop trying to be. She loves her mom, warts and all, but she also knows she can't count on her. She is testing you and daddy to see if she can count on you.

I don't understand how any bar owner would allow a 4 year old child inside; it has to be a restaurant where they have a bar. If not, then call the authorities and have the place investigated.

Also, if your "man" (not boyfriend or fiance, just your "man" - interesting) has problems with where mom is taking her, it is up to him to go to court and get some rules in place for her visits with mom. Either that, or stop the visits altogether.

Bottom line, your "man" wants you to step up so he doesn't have to. I would rethink blending my family with a "man" who doesn't want to share in the responsibility of raising his own child, let alone yours.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

After your SWH, I hope you understand your relationship with her is a marathon, not a sprint. This is not a quick fix problem. This may be your everyday for YEARS. Really think about that.

I hear your frustration. This is a situation you have pulled into but cannot control. But you are coming across as rigid and with way too high expectations for her.

Look up Maslows hierarchy of needs :
Food/ Shelter above all else, then
Family safety and security (she is here) then
Self esteem/respect (you are here)
The needs go in order and basically a child most almost complete one before moving on to the next. So this means until family security is established she will not understand the need for manners (respect).

She has regressed emotionally due to the stress of her parents, her living situation and/ or mom's boyfriend (who I would be diligently checking out).

*******Please see where she is at and not where you want her To be.********

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~original answer~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
You do nothing because:

Your "man" is not ready to be married to you or anyone at this point.
He is not available to have a relationship with anyone else because HE needs to put the relationship with his daughter first. His ONLY focus should be parenting her and establishing stability for her.

His focus should not be on your needs, a wedding, blending a household or step parenting your kids. At least not at this time.

Please step back from the relationship.

Then when the daughter feels secure (your relationship with dad is too threatening right now) work on establishing yourself as a couple with her father first. My concern is that the father may have moved your relationship along quickly to find her another mother.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Empathy. You need to remember empathy. You are putting labels on this girl. She is a divorced kid for goodness sakes! Have some EMPATHY. Stop trying to change her. Change YOUR approach and try to relate to her. Validate how she is feeling. Her dad has a new woman and now her mom has a new man. SHE IS ONLY 4! Her world has been turned upside down for a while now in her little short life! She has never had a single 'real' family to relate too. She is trying to navigate this and understand how to 'behave' in 2 households with 4 adults and step siblings. She does not have the cognitive skills to understand what is really happening in her life. SHE IS ONLY 4. Why am I having to explain this to you?

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Until your man is willing to take over as her FATHER, not much is going to change. Her daddy needs to insist on manners. Her daddy needs to go to court to insist that his four year old daughter not be taken to bars. Her daddy needs to establish the boundaries, determine the rules, decide the consequences, and follow through with consistency (about manners, and stealing, and disrespectful talk and everything else). This little girl sounds like she's getting mixed messages. Her biological mother is sometimes AWOL and sometimes in the picture, telling the girl how bad you and her dad are and taking her to bars (and are you positive about that, and by bar, do mean a place solely for beer and drinks and maybe a pool table, or do you mean sitting at the bar at a place like Applebees and getting a meal, instead of sitting at a table)? And her own father is telling a woman to whom he's not married to step in and be a mother to this little girl. She's crying out for security, stability, and consistency. She's demonstrating it every way she knows how.

If her dad is not the one in charge, then you can go to family counseling, or court, or get out of this situation.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Poor little 4 year old kid! My advice to you is that you and this little girl need to bond. You need to learn to love her as much as you love your own children. You need to spend time with her and really, truly, deeply care for her. One way to bond is to have one on one time with her and just play what she wants to play. Pay attention to what she is doing and make little positive comments. Also, if I were you, I would stop with the demanding manners since it is not working. I would work on ignoring the poor behavior (demanding things), modeling polite behavior to her so she sees it, and EVERY single time you see her doing something right give her lots of positive reinforcement. I think it would really help your family to start family counseling.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I am concerned that you say you blended families but seem to have no love for this child. When you love a person with a child you have to also love that child as your own, if you can not you have no business being a step parent.

If the mom is not taking good care of the child (taking her to bars) then you need to try to limit her visitation, but this is something dad needs to do, not you. You should not be dealing with his ex, that is his job.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I agree with mynewnickname. Her father/your fiance needs to step up and be her parent and stop trying to pawn his parental responsibilities on you. You are not her mother and it would take many, many years, if ever, for her to fully accept you in that role. The reality is that he picked a lousy woman to have a child with the first time around, and you picked a guy who has a child with an unstable parent. This kind of chaos is what you are signing up for.

I would suggest counseling for the two of you and your kids. Blending families is really hard work, but there are some basic rules of engagement that tend to be more successful for families than going at it trying to figure it out yourself. Please, let an expert give you the insight and guidance you need to move ahead and if things don't change, you can then decide whether or not to move forward in your relationship with this man. Frankly, I think that the time to try to blend families is AFTER you have gotten married and not while you're playing house, but by doing it in the order you did, at least now you get to see how things might be and you can plan an exit strategy if needed.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

take a breath. give up on making her what you think she should be. work on being someone she can trust. she needs a mommy figure someone to kiss owies, someone to giggle and play dress up with.if your children are well behaved talk to the about modeling the behavior you want to see in the child. and when you see them doing a good job praise them for it. ignore her when shes demanding. gently remind her to say please and thank you. provide her needs.point out the positives in her behavior and praise it, give her attention for good behavior. all while ignoring the problematic behavior.
all 4 yr olds don't get it that we should sit so panties don't show. that is something that will come with her getting older and understanding more. till then put pants or shorts on her (under a dress if she has to wear one)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Work on your relationship with her first. The manners and etiquette can wait. I know very few kids at that age who consistently say please and thank you and even fewer girls that age that know to keep their legs together. These are definitely important things for her to know, but they can most definitely wait. Your relationship with her is so much more important.

I wouldn't worry about your kids picking up on her behavior. You don't mention how old they are. Can you enlist their help? Or at least explain to them that this is something she is working on?

I have a 7 year old so with special needs. His brother is 9, and while he does get frustrated at times, he does understand that some normal expectations for a 7 year old are simply too much for his little brother. I'm sure you can explain to your kids that the little girl is going through a lot and, while her behavior is not ok, it's going to take time.

In you SWH you say that you have tried to bond with her. Keep trying!!! She needs to know that you are there for her 100%. It's very possible that she is testing you. She might not even be aware of it, but it is very likely that she needs to know that you still love her, even if she misbehaves. It's ok to correct her when she does things that are impolite. It's ok to remind her. Stay calm and don't get upset when you do, and above all, make sure she knows you love her. Catch her being good. Schedule special time for just the two of you. Watch her favorite show with her. Keep doing those things, and you will form a relationship with her. You will bond. But it's going to take time.

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answers from Miami on

I'm sorry, but you probably will need to let go of this relationship. With a mom who is determined to ruin her child, there's probably nothing you can do. You aren't her mother. Her daddy would like you to step in (probably makes his life easier) but this child won't have any of it.

She's only 4. She doesn't understand what she is doing. That doesn't make it any easier for you.

If you don't want her near your children, then you really can't be in this relationship. Do yourself and ultimately, this man and his child, the favor of leaving NOW, rather than letting this just string along.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Wow. Sounds like you guys need to get some counseling, or at least some parenting classes, BOTH of you. You sound very young, and inexperienced with children. Four year old's are not capable of manipulating and lying, not in the true sense, and what do you mean stealing from other classmates at school? Children this young don't take possessions to school, what could she possibly be stealing? Again, they barely know what stealing is at this age.
Please seek some professional help, start with asking her pediatrician for a referral.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think your problem is not the 4 year old. Your problem is that your man wants you to take over as her mom. My guess is she changed when you started stepping in as her mom. And the more you step in and try to be her mom, the more she pushes back. You are not her mom, and everyone, including her, knows it. He needs to step up and do the parenting when she is with you.

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answers from Norfolk on

Sorry - call off the wedding and move out.
This isn't going to work and calling it off now will have you dodging a bullet.
There's no telling the Mom anything and she will be manipulating the 4 yr old against you (and her father) for YEARS.
Her father is trying to dump her on you - and if not you, then on the next prospective Mom figure.
Run now - far - and fast.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Are you kidding me? She's FOUR. You don't want your kids to be around a FOUR year old? You are worried that a FOUR year old isn't closing her legs?? A FOUR year old is "rolling her eyes and giving dirty looks?" A FOUR year old is "torturing" you? A FOUR year old is "manipulating" you?

You need to get a grip. How about if you lighten up and start showing her a lot more love and stop focusing on "manners." She's FOUR.



Are you kidding me? She's FOUR. You don't want your kids to be around a FOUR year old? You are worried that a FOUR year old isn't closing her legs?? A FOUR year old is "rolling her eyes and giving dirty looks?" A FOUR year old is "torturing" you? A FOUR year old is "manipulating" you?

You need to get a grip. How about if you lighten up and start showing her a lot more love and stop focusing on "manners." She's FOUR.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Toledo on

I don't think anyone is criticizing you for venting. And I don't think anyone is criticizing what you are trying to teach this girl.

First things first. If you don't have a good relationship with her, you won't be able to teach her a thing. Get to know her better. Show her that she is loved. She will begin to want to please you. She will begin to want you to be proud of her.

There's nothing wrong with what you want to teach her, but you are trying to do too much too soon. Slow down. This is going to take time.

You said you lived with her for 7 months and then things changed when her mother became a bigger part of her life. That doesn't surprise me one bit. That's a very dramatic change. She's lost and confused and desperately needs stability. Keep loving her. Keep showing her that the home you and her father have made is a safe place for her. Keep working with her, and you will see results. But do not forget that she is only 4 years old and cannot possibility be expected to handle all these changes and drastically different living situations and still remember to mind her manners. That's just too much. Keep showing her that she is loved and she is safe and you will see results.

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answers from Amarillo on

ETA Did something happen with the new boyfriend that made the daughter act out? Perhaps a physical check up is in order.

Original: Well, you are not married to this guy. You have a choice of staying with him and marrying him or you can leave and create a new life with your children. His daughter knows that you are not her mom and is testing you every single step of the way. As others have said, it is up to dad to do the disciplining of his daughter and not you. Only you know how long you it will take. Also get into child counseling so you understand the outburtts of her actions.

the other S.

1 mom found this helpful
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