Help with My 4 Year Old That Is Outta Control

Updated on May 11, 2010
T.R. asks from Los Angeles, CA
13 answers

My almost 4 year old is becoming really bad, she constantly fights me on everything. I have a 18month old and pregnant
I can't get her to listen nor sleep in her own room she throws fits like no other. She is a good child at heart and feels bad
after she snaps outta it. Sometimes I feel like nothing I do is working I've tried everything and nothing seems to work. Can someone please help me my stress level is getting weaker by the sec..

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answers from Los Angeles on

Try time out sitting in a chair with nothing to play with it takes time at the beginning but they eventuialy learn good luck raised 4 and now have7grandchildren A. no hills

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answers from Honolulu on

Maybe she feels stressed too.... kids often react to what "we" are feeling or doing... and then they get the end of our "expectations."
An oldest child... does not have an easy position in the totem pole. They have pressures too... real or imagined. They are compared to, told no more often, told what to do, told to be an example for the other kids, told to share everything, to help with things, to do do do. And they simply cannot do all those things... because they are kids. And sometimes the parental "expectations" upon an eldest child... is not noticed... but the kid feels the impact of it "all."

My daughter, when I had my 2nd child... I made SURE to still expect things of her that was within her ability and range of handling it. One time though... I was asking her to do something and she got upset and told me "I'm just a kid... not an adult! " And it was a real eye opener. For me.

-Keep "expectations" age appropriate.
-Allow her to talk and express herself.
-Validate her for her feelings.... even if she is grumpy. Even adults need that.
- spend time with her, in a way that she wants to spend time with you. ie: ask her what SHE wants to do.... with you.
- ask her daily, "how are you feeling? Everything okay?" and if not say "tell me about it... " or ask her why?
- emphasize that you and she are a TEAM
- Make sure she knows that she is not lost in the shuffle... and that SHE is still important....
- Make sure to "connect" with her during the day at some point... not just caught up in daily "stuff" and the grind.

When my daughter is like that... I know it is because she needs extra time with me... and for me to actually be right there, in front of her, NOT distracted by stuff, and my having a one-on-one with her. That is how she "bonds" with me and feels better. I actually tell her sometimes "I'm sorry Mommy is so busy today... I know you needed my attention. I will try my best..." And my daughter feels better when I say that because it "validates" her. It keys down her emotions and meld-downs.
A parent "apologizing" to a child, makes a big difference as well. Because as parents, we often "rationalize" our own icky behavior to our kids and 'we" are never "wrong." But, that makes the kid feel jilted.

And most importantly: DO NOT "expect" the child to be "perfect." That is unattainable. Just emphasize telling them "try your best...." and then when they DO try (even if it is not perfect), praise them and acknowledge their effort. Otherwise, they will give-up... trying to please you or behaving. It is a 2-way street.

If she does not want to sleep in her own room. Then fine. Let her sleep on the floor of your room. That's what we do with our kids. Sometimes they are scared of things, or need you more. Its okay. For me, the main thing is that they DO sleep... and sleep well. If they don't sleep in their actual bed... then if they sleep on the floor, even if on the floor of their room... no biggie. My daughter went through a phase where she didn't want to sleep in her bed per say... but would sleep on the floor next to it. Who knows why. LOL But I didn't treat it as a "battle."
Pick your battles.
Eldest children... often get picked on more... inadvertently. Or they get TOO many "expectations" put upon their little shoulders.
Once they act argumentative and have more melt-downs... they need their parent more.... and to be understood... and to be taught "HOW" to communicate and express themselves.... palatably. But that you, Mom... will ALSO listen to them... too.

all the best,

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

since I dont really know everything or know you I cant give the best advise meaning that i cant give detailed ideas on how to make things easier but I will say that more than likely she is feeling stressed too as you say your are expecting and already have another LO in the house. she might feel pressure w/ another baby coming and feel worried that you will have less time for her. she might miss her mommy and feel that she needs more time w/ her. (I am in no way suggesting that you dont spend enough time w/ her I am just stating that she might feel that way) I know it is super hard and you have a million things on your plate right now (as moms we all do) but I think a good frist step would be to set aside time that is just for the two of you a time where it is just you two and no other children that need you. even if it is just a few minutes a day...time where she knows she has mom all to her self. and you need to stick to it bc she will expect it and hold you to it and if it is missed she might act up as a result. you can also reward her for good behavior w/ your time (you cant take your time away if she is 'bad" as that is not a good discipline idea at all) for example: you have a problem w/ her not cleaning up her toys...every day she cleans up her toys (w/ help of course) she gets a sticker and when she gets five stickers then she gets to have a tea party w/ just mommy whatever I hope you get the idea and I hope this little bit helped. xo

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answers from Columbus on

Only you can answer this question. If you have tried typical dicipline consistently and it is not effective with her, and your gut says that this is not typical behavior and something is going on that makes her unable to control herself, then get her evaluated by a Developmental Pediatrician. This is not a regular pediatrician. Call the nearest children's hospital, and you will find Developmental Pediatricians, who are specialists. They will call in what ever she may need from neurologists, to speech therapists and put it all into one report for you and give you a comprehnsive treatment plan.

I did not read the other posts, but the advice you are getting from me comes from a Mom whose kid was not fine and who acted like this at age 4 too. If you have a typical kid, you just cannot relate to what it is like to have one who isn't, and all the "be a better Mom" advice you will get is not going to help you if this is the case. Like I said, only you really know if you just need to work harder (which I doubt) or if your daughter needs help.

Let me know how it goes.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Hi T., First of all, for her to be calm and in control, you first must be calm and in control. She is doing the things she's doing cause she can. If there were consequences each time she didn't obey you, she would start, by the way that's not normal, and even it it was normal it's not acceptible. Parents today are scared to discipline, so afraid someone is going to call CPS, I didn't use books in raising my kids, but we did use good sound discipline. One of the things I have noticed when moms are writing in about behaviour issues, where are the dads? My husband would have never tolerated any of these things. Back to the books I read Dare To Discipline, and Parenting isn't for cowards, they were great books, what they did for me was tell me that my husband and I were on track with discipline and raising our children. Time outs please? Please their a Joke, I don't even use them in my daycare. Be loving but firm, and remember you are in charge not her. J.



answers from Los Angeles on

Welcomde to the friggin' 4's. Honestly, the terrible 2's are NOTHING. it is all about testing limits at 4. Your daughter is normal.



answers from Los Angeles on

lay 5 basic ground rules-

1. listen to mommy/daddy
2. no hitting
3. no screaming
4. no sleeping in mommies/daddies bed
if she does any of these give a time out. stay firm with her and she will learn that she isnt the boss. do this with your 18 month old too. also make a reward chart that if she does as she is told/ sleeps in her bed she gets a sticker on her chart and after she gets x amount of stickers she gets a small prize.
also another thing that may help if your able to is take her and your younger one to the park to release some of your older daughters pent up energy. also if you think shes ready pre school may also help. i hope my advice helps you :)



answers from Los Angeles on

Allow yourself a time out. I notice for myself that when I'm frustrated and angry at my kids because of what they are doing or not doing and that all the disciplinary tricks just don't seem to work, I give myself the permission to leave the scenario for a couple of minutes. I announce to them, 'hey guys, I've asked you to stop and you are not listening. This makes me very upset. I need to leave the room right now.' It gives me a break from dealing with the stress at that very moment and a lot of the time, it just gets them to stop. I also say to my younger one who is prone to fits, 'if you are going to act like that, I'm going to the other room until you are done.' Sometimes, he just needs to go through his fit before he figures it out. He usually comes in to the room when he's done and apologizes. This is how he processes his anger/frustration and we each get a minute or so to regain our composure.

Hope that helps!


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi T.,

Your daughter's behavior is totally normal. She's jealous that she doesn't have Mommy's full attention. The only thing you can do here is to understand why she is behaving this way and try to meet her needs as best as you can.

Talk to her. She's old enough to have this kind of conversation. Acknowledge how angry she must be. Ask her to tell you more about how she feels. You might even share your own disappointment about not being able to spend quite as much time with her as you used to.

Try to come up with something (an activity, a secret hand signal, something... ) that is just between the two of you. She needs to know that, even though new siblings arrive, you still love her and that your relationship with her is special.

Don't worry about her behavior right now. Worry about what is causing it. If you address that, you will see her behavior start to change.

Be well,
G. Brown, M.A.
Child Development Specialist & Parent Educator



answers from Los Angeles on

I was just telling someone today that age 4 is son is 4...he's an only child..he's very sweet but he seems to be becoming more independent and doesn't want to listen when we're out and i don't think its about attention..they're just finding their independence ..i have to tell him that if he doesn't listen to me there will be no trips to the aquarium or a place he wants to go...then he listens..also i bought him a Leapfrog little computer game thingie..that son doesn't throw fits..he used to when he was younger but i would put my foot on his butt and help him throw the fit ..then he would laugh..and i hug things out..
so if something upsets him and he gets angry i ask if he needs a hug and we talk about it..really works..
next time she has a fit try hugging her and telling her u love her and its going to be ok.
do u have her in a preschool? my son goes 2 afternoons a week ..has really helped with a lot of things..he's always been super active and i could never take him out to i can.

good luck..sorry you're so stressed..i can relate but you have more on your plate..try to get some alone take walks and think..and relax




answers from Minneapolis on

I meant to answer sooner, but somehow just bookmarked this instead of replying.

Your comment about her feeling bad about it afterwards stands out to me. I would watch for the pattern to start (of her fighting) and remind her that things are going to spiral out of control and then she will feel badly afterwards.

THEN I would help her find a way to handle things better. One generic formula for resolving conflicts is saying something like "You want A. I want B because {valid reason}. Let's figure out what we can do." Then open your mind to looking for a solution.

Doing this is teaching her problem solving. What a GREAT skill to be giving her.

Listen to what she says, think "outside the box" and you can figure something out almost all the time. I have a VERY stubborn kid and this worked (and works) for me over and over.

Good luck! Being pregnant is enough of a challenge on its own. I remember my mood being all over the place. Throwing an uncooperative little one or two on top of it all makes it so much harder, doesn't it? Pick your battles and let go of whatever you can during your pregnancy.



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi fellow mom,
To start off with my method may sound a little crazy, but it worked for me and it only took one time! My oldest daughter of three, she is almost 6 years old now, was super sassy and misbehaving quiet a bit right before her 4th birthday, it was a couple of hard months. I finally told her if she acts up again I was going to give her a cold shower. Well the next day she started being really rude and talking back, saying she wasn't going to go to time out or stay in it and I couldn't make her! So I put her in the tub, grabbed our shower hose, turned on the cold water and held her arm so she was stable and I hosed her down with all her clothes on with cold water! She has never talked back or acted up like that again! I didn't have to use spankings or hitting force of any kind and it really worked! I had exhausted all my peaceful punishments, like time-outs, taking away toys, taking away fun things to do and didn't want to do spankings. Good luck to you!



answers from San Diego on

I would contact Davis Erhler and consult w/her. She is a sleep expert and the BEST!!! Having all your babies on a good sleep schedule/routine will seriously 'make or break' everything! She will help you and not only will your children be happier, but so will YOU! :) Good luck!

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