Four Year Old Driving Me Insane

Updated on May 03, 2010
E.M. asks from Boulder, CO
15 answers

I have a four year and a half year old girl who can be the best kid or a huge challenge. Her newest thing is screaming "Why are you being so mean to me?" anytime anyone says anything she doesn't want to hear. For instance--just now--
Lauren: I can't find my shoes. I CAN'T FIND MY SHOES!
Me: I just put them in your room.
Lauren: I don't see them. They are not there. (Getting more and more upset) THEY ARE NOT THERE! YOU NEED TO HELP ME FIND THEM!
Me: (from the toilet!) You sound really frustrated about it. (Obviously not running to help because I am occupied!)
Lauren: Why are you being so mean to me??? (Screaming)
I go in her room--they are right near the door--the first thing I see as I walk in her room.
Anyway, AAARGH! Is this normal, bratty four year old behavior? How would you deal with it?

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So What Happened?

I love so many of the responses I got on this one. Yes, she is such a diva! And we try to be strict with her--trust me--with behavior like this, the first thing you want to do it put her in her place. Unfortunately, this often tends to escalate the temper and she does much better with positive praise. So hard to do though when she is pushing my buttons so often! I also was interested in hearing that this is a girl thing. I have two girls so I will be in for it. But in a way, it made me feel better :) to hear she is not the only drama queen out there. Thanks! :)

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answers from Fort Wayne on

I hate to say this, because I don't want to make matters worse, but welcome to the life of being a mother to a girl.....My daughter is SO dramatic. She's 7 now, and it started right around age 4. I have to literally stop her all the time before she starts going into little drama rages. I don't know what is so different between girls and boys that make this part of them sooooo different, but I have one of each, 15 months apart, and do not experience it even closely to the same degree with my son as I do with my daughter. A couple of things I have used throughout the last few years is explaining to her that I don't understand why she's so upset, but the only thing that makes sense is that she must not be getting enough sleep. Because of that, I put her to bed earlier that night. It puts the responsibility of her behavior into her own hands, and seems to work. I also, when she was younger, used to make her go into her room to calm down for 5 minutes. At 4, it definitely is probably going to be the way to go. When my daughter hit about 6, I started doing the earlier bedtime until she had a day that went by with no drama. It's extremely frustrating, and to be honest, my daughter drives me nuts too! I just can't stand DRAMA! But, I guess it just comes with the territory. The trick is finding a way that calms them and sticking wtih it everytime, and I'm still working on that!

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

I'm going to very blunt - you are the parent, she is the child. First of all, you tell her she is not allowed nor is it an option to speak to you in that tone. Tell her when she does, you will not respond to her, that when she can speak to you in a normal, calm tone you will listen to her. Then IGNORE her! This is the time they are testing boundaries and speaking to anyone in that tone is outside the boundary. One thing I notice with many parents is that they forget they are the parent and the child is the child. You are the one in control, not them. I'm not saying to control them b/c I believe in letting them make their own choices and so on but when it comes to tantrums - they don't get choices. My kids have never thrown a tantrum b/c they know it is not an option.

Whatever you do, do not coddle or try to negotiate (you will negotiate on other issues). Communication is a learned skill , this is when you can begin to teach her how to speak and get her point across in a positive manner. Something I was told a long time ago when I much more crass with my communication (hard lesson learned) - it's not what you say, it is how you say it. That has helped in all aspects of my life from dealing with family, friends, employers, teachers and the rude lady at the checkout stand.

Also, when I know whatever they are looking is in the place I am telling them and they say they can't find it - I always say, "If I come in there and it is where I told you, you will ----------- (pick a consequence that is appropriate). When I do that, magically, they always find what they are looking for.

This is only the beginning of her testing the patient. Remember, our job as a parent is to guide and teach. Our kids can only do what we expect of them if we teach them what we expect. Good luck!

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I would put her in the naughty corner the first time she screamed at me. To me, it just seems that at 4-years old, a child should be old enough to know that they are never to raise their voice to an adult and if they don't know it by then, then the naughty corner is a good way of teaching that rule . . . and it will nip that behavior in the bud real quick. I'm just a little bit of a stickler about how children are to treat adults, especially their parents. If you don't set firm limits now, teach them to treat you with respect always, then that little 4 year old will someday be a 14 year old yelling and screaming at you.

Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Cloud on

I know some kids can be challenging BUT have you tried ONLY answering her if you can see her??? Sit down and explain to her that you will not shout across the house to her. If you can't see her, you can't hear her. So next time she starts hollering, ignore her until she comes to speak nicely to your face. At 4, she is able to understand this direct approach. (She may not like it, but if you stick to your guns you may get a little sanity back......

When you speak to her, have her reply YES MA'AM so she acknowledges that she has heard you! EXPLAIN CONSEQUENCES THAT WILL HAPPEN AND FOLLOW THROUGH!

I do agree with momma11 as well. You do need to be STRICT with this as she will continue to run over you if you don't deal with this now...... It sounds like she is testing boundaries here. Our daughter can get the same way (she just turned 5) if we don't put a stop to behaviors as soon as she starts.

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answers from Colorado Springs on

As I finish laughing, some questions come to mind. Has Lauren had a physical checkup lately? Has she experienced some major emotional trauma? Does she go to preschool? Does she go to day care? Whom is she around often enough to listen to? She has picked up this sort of behavior from someone - maybe even a television show or a movie.

You want to make sure she's healthy so that you know she is physically and mentally capable of looking for and finding her shoes.

If she is, and this is a routine, I would let her know that it's not the game she wants to play with me. Since she's four and not two, I'd get down to her level, look her straight in the eye, and tell her very factually that the screaming is unacceptable and that I "won't play." Then, the next time she started screaming, I would turn my back on her - no explanation, no lecture, no response. If she kept screaming more than a few seconds I would deposit her in her room (or such designated area), and say nothing more than, "When you can talk nicely to me, I will listen to you." Be prepared to be highly inconvenienced for a while if she tests you strongly about this, but stick to your guns. You're the mama, after all, and this sort of behavior is one of the reasons Lauren needs a mama.

Yes, four-year-olds can be divas (and divos), and they do a LOT of parent-testing! But one day, they will be five. Do try to live to see that day.

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answers from Washington DC on

This sounds perfectly normal as my 4 1/2 yr daughter is the same , sorry don't have any advice as I am also clueless as to what to do! , just wanted you to know you are not alone!!

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answers from Honolulu on

When my kids do that.... I simply do not give in, with the minor sort of volcano eruptions that occur, like you described.

I tell my kids they can do it/find it/get it themselves. I say it in a calm firm way.
Then I go about my business and let them stew and problem-solve it.
Or I say "Problem-solve...." and that is my cue to them that they need to figure it out on their own.
My Daughter's Kinder Teacher did that too.

If you keep doing that, then that will become a more constructive "habit" for both you and the child.

Or course, if it is a real need in which a child needs genuine help... then sure help them. BUT, NOT if they talk/scream/demand like that.

I would also make sure she is not over-tired and/or hungry. If so, these little girls can get real cantankerous like that. This is my girl's achilles heel. Once fed or napped... she tones down pretty well with more patience.

And just think, they aren't even Teenagers yet!

all the best,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Provo on

My six year old son can be that way also. He can be very demanding and acts like he is the one person in the family at times. I think they are just trying to see which buttons they can push. When I tell him to go and get his shoes out of his room and he says he can't find them, I just tell him that I will leave without him. He usually finds his shoes fast! Sometimes kids need a gentle nudge to see what they can accomplish. Teach her that frustrated people really don't get much accomplished. Try your best to deal with this and keep your role as the parent. Kids can be very demanding and teenagers can be really demanding.

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answers from Washington DC on

Love your subject line! I feel the same way about my 4 and a half year old son. Can be SO sweet one second and without any warning or provocation changes to Damien. Just know that you're not alone...stay calm, when possible and vent to those going through the same thing with you! Good luck!

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answers from Colorado Springs on

*Deep breath*. I have five children who range in age from 8 to 5 months. I've done 4 twice now, and have two about to turn four in the fall--- one girl and one boy.

First off, I absolutely find this to be much more of a girl behavior (the drama anyway) though certainly not all of it. But yes, it is very, very normal. Six is another age for this kind of thing. My just turned six year old loves to tell me "I DO NOT LIKE THE WAY YOU ARE TREATING ME!" any time he's being required to do something he doesn't want to do.

We do a lot of reflecting feelings, like you are already doing (You sound frustrated). I also do a lot of calm redirecting and scripting. "You are angry because you can't find your shoes. You may not scream at me when you are angry. You may say "Mommy I'm frustrated! Please help me find my shoes!"

Believe it or not, giving them a specific script of what they *can* say and having them repeat it back to me has always worked very well with my children. (There is the odd chance they will yell no, but it's very rare). Giving them other things they may do to express their frustration (we allow stomping for example) also helps. And depending on the situation, getting "silly" or "dramatic" works, but this is very dependent on the personality of the child. It backfires hugely with my ultra-serious-and-low-frustration-tolerance one who really needs things clearly defined and doesn't understand humor. For my two drama queens, it works surprisingly well. So, if she were to scream "WHY ARE YOU BEING SO MEAN TO ME?" an overly dramatic response of "Because I.....AM....THE.....SINGLE....MOST.....MEANESTMOMMYMONSTER EVER INVENTED! Oooooooooooo! I'm so mean you better be careful! You better run because I am so hungry I just might eat a (insert child's name) for lunch!"

Otherwise, it is largely something that is age-typical and does disappear with time, patience, modeling, and coaching.

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answers from Cincinnati on

I would say that it is not normal behavior. That being said I have several general questions (think overall not necessarily just this situation):
* if you ask her to find something can she typically do it (e.g. you are in the living room and ask her to get something from the other room can she do it)
* is she a "concrete" person (e.g. if the house rule is to eat at the table would she take that as eating at ANY table or just the dining room table, if you joke “see you later alligator – is her response “I’m NOT an alligator!”).
* if you ask her to clean up her room/activity is she unable to do that without you standing there and telling her where everything goes?

I do love that you validated her feeling ("you sound frustrated"). Also it sounds like you remained calm but in case you feel you did not - if she starts to escalate you want to make sure that as hard as it may be you remain calm (use a firm matter of fact voice) - I explain it as if someone yells or raises their voice at another person it is instant to want to yell/raise your voice back.

Feel free to message me if you feel that any of the above questions are difficult.

Take care

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answers from San Francisco on

I whole heartedly agree with what Mommy11 has said in her comments.

In addition I would say that please stay clam and show thru your actions that her behavior is not acceptable, set up simple consequences whenever she acts up in the meantime.

Be firm, yet calm. If you think she is behaving in a Bratty manner, help her by teaching consequences for her bad behavior, including speaking to you in that manner.

* It takes 21 days to learn a new habbit*, please be consistently firm with your daughter while you lovingly teach her consequences for her actions.




answers from Minneapolis on

Haven't read through the responses, but when people ask questions about 4 & 5 yr olds, 98% of the time, it's on this topic. So - yes it's normal. Not fun, not desirable, but normal development behavior.

Continue to do what you're doing and give her the right words to be saying. She will one day grow out of this with a wonderful vocabulary to express her emotions and needs.

I could give you many many similar stories. My son at six does this very very seldom now and is very emotionally mature compared to the other kids in our neighborhood.



answers from Denver on

not normal. Momma11 said it all. good luck!



answers from Denver on

This is SO normal! Not to worry, it does drive you crazy and she does need to learn to stop this behavior.

I would tell her that you can help her when she calms down then completely ignore her until she talks in a normal voice. This will drive you insane for about a week but she will get the hint.

In short, the more you play into the behavior the more she will do it. It is her job to push your buttons, she needs to learn her boundaries. If she starts to get in your face and continue screaming "Why are you so mean to me?" You need to figure out a place for time out or a naughty chair you can put her in. Again, this is not a negotiating tool it needs to be used, let her know this is where she goes when she acts this way. Pick her up and put her there without a word. Once she calms down you can go talk to her about why she is there and that you need an apology. She is not to get up until both of those things happen. She may even leave the spot several times, you just need to continue to put her back. It will work I promise.

Good luck!

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