4 Year Old's Recent, Drastic Behavior change....what's Going On?

Updated on July 15, 2013
M.P. asks from New Baltimore, MI
8 answers

My 4 year old son is generally a great kid and a joy to be around; however, this past few days his behavior has been out of control. It seems like his personality has changed and he's a completely different person! I am at my wits end with his behavior and need help on how to get him back on track.
Just last week he was being extremely sweet; "I love you mommma," random hugs and kisses, very few tantrums, great manners- asking politely, being patient, listened to me when I asked him to do something, etc. This week has been completely different. He is talking back to me, being demanding, getting frustrated and having meltdowns over the slightest things. Yesterday and today he HIT me, kicked at me, pulled my hair out (hard), broke 2 of my necklaces by pulling them off in a fit of rage, scratched me on my face, and called me a "dumb*ss". Seriously, I have never seen this behavior in him, and I am extremely discouraged and hurt over this. I broke down and cried last night after he went to bed and I feel like doing the same right now. I am scared to take him shopping for fear that he will act this way in the store- we went to the mall yesterday and he ran from me and dared me to chase him, threw a screaming tantrum on the floor, and called me names. Today he threw a fit when we left the park- thankfully we live right around the block because *twice* he unbuckled his booster seatbelt and stood up in the car (my teenage son had to sit next to him and make sure he didn't unbuckle it again.) And this was all in a fit of rage over leaving the park.
Is this just a stage? or does it sound like something more serious? I typically use the "choices" method of parenting. It has generally worked pretty well, but the past week it hasn't at all. He is being downright mean and hurtful on purpose. What can I do? I want my sweet little boy back!

Edited to add:
The only thing that has changed is that I have been home all day, since I don't work in the summer. I think he's getting the language from his 18 yr old brother- I've talked to him about cussing- especially in his presence. He didn't call me a dumb s***, he said "dumb*ss" So, I have spoken to his brother about not using that language.

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answers from Chicago on

I think it's somewhat normal. Is he 4.5? When my daughter and her friends hit 4.5, they all started doing uncharacterististic things. My daughter started name calling, throwing mad tantrums, etc. it was all shocking. But that's the point: dr Ames says this is a super emotional age, and they play with the extremes.

A friend of mine's son hit her LOTS, but he is the type to get violent when frustrated.

It all calmed down around their bday. Meanwhile, zero tolerance, sent to room for anti-social behavior, no TV with name calling in it, etc.

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answers from Washington DC on

Night and day change such as that is not a stage. Something must have happened to him or in your household to change him so drastically.

When my son was 4 he would have never come up with the name "dumb s***". Where did he learn that term? Figure that out and go from there.

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answers from Chicago on

What has changed?

- Food. Is there a differnet food? Summer food, Ice Cream, chocolate , watermelon, etc.. Food can change them like this.

Allergy to a food can change a personality, just the same as external signs like rash or ezcema. My Brother used to get Mean like that with Chocolate, so does my son.

Do your best not to show emotion **Easier said than done**. Keep consistante and firm.

Good luck.

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answers from Des Moines on

Any new meds? Allergy meds can do this.

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answers from Honolulu on

This sounds pretty extreme. I would try to figure out what is causing it. Maybe even take him to the pediatrician. Is there anything that has changed in his life recently? I would investigate whats going on at school, daycare or with other people he is around. He's old enough that you could talk to him about it when he is calm. Good luck.

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answers from Springfield on

Has he been getting enough sleep? Are his eating habits about the same?

I think it sounds like he's overtired. Have things been particularly busy lately? Has he had some late nights? When my 4 year old starts acting like this (and it does happen sometimes), it usually means he's not getting enough sleep. He no longer naps, so it means getting through the day and really trying to get him to bed early. This is not something that's always easy to do, as 4 year olds tend to have minds of their own. But I do my best to get him to bed earlier.

If your son is anything like mine, control is a big deal. He likes to do everything himself, so patience is a must.

If you haven't seen a change in his eating habits and you think he's getting enough sleep, a call to his ped is not a bad idea. It does sound like he's not feeling like himself.

Good luck! I'm sure things will start to get better soon.

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answers from Milwaukee on

Yeah my recently turned 4 year old has morphed into this as well. I am just being super firm and really consistent - talking to him about every infraction.



answers from Dallas on

Talk to the pediatrician and get a checkup just in case. Make sure he's not sick or in some kind of pain or something.

See if you can get him to talk about stuff when he's NOT upset. He may not be able to put it into adult words, but he's old enough to give you some info to help him.

How much time does he spend with the 18 year old? Not to be paranoid, but if your older child has such bad judgement as to be swearing like that in front of the baby, I'd be wondering what other bad choices he might be making and thinking it was no big deal.

If you only just started staying at home, maybe the schedule thing is throwing him off, but if you've been off since the end of school and he just started acting like this, I would be wondering what's going on as well.

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