I Have a 4 Year Old Mama's Girl That Constantly Disrespects Me.

Updated on September 30, 2018
C.R. asks from Dearborn, MI
20 answers

My daughter is disappointed when I pick her up from pre-K, and doesn't like me to take her to dance or gymnastics. She tells me she doesn't want to be seen with me, because I am ugly and she is embarrassed of me. She sticks her tongue out at me frequently, and tells my wife she wants them to get rid of me. I'm not sure how to handle this. Any suggestions?

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So What Happened?

I'm not sure how to reply to replies, so I am updating it in my question.

My wife tells my daughter not to talk to me that way, but quite often when I try to give my daughter a timeout, she will run to my wife, and my wife will pick her up. My wife and I aren't on the same page, but this behavior is unacceptable. I'm hoping it is just a phase, but any help is appreciated.

My daughter is very intelligent, but also immature. Multiple replies say a 4 year old doesn't understand being embarrassed. My daughter is using it in the correct context, by saying she doesn't want people to see me with her, so I think she has a little idea of what it is.
She hid at my inlaws yesterday, because she didn't want me to take her to dance.

Thank you for all the replies. I do think there are some good suggestions that I will try to use.

Update: I used a few of your recommendations, and it seemed to work a little. I'm sure this won't be a fast turnaround, but I'll take a little improvement.
I spoke to my wife, and she agreed to trying to be on the same page. She also wants us to mean no when we say no. (we give in too much) Thanks again for the replies.....and I wish I was kidding to the person that thinks I am.

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answers from Rochester on

Quite simply, I would have the privileges taken away. My son knew if he didn't act properly or didn't get good grades there would be no hockey. No muss or fuss, just tell her she won't be able to go if she is disrespectful to you.

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answers from Boston on

You don't have a problem with your daughter you have a problem with your wife not backing you up. The deal with little kids is that they are strangers in a strange land. They don't know the rules and customs so its up to us as parents to teach them how to act to help them grow into responsible members of society. These times when she is saying this stuff is actually a time to teach her how to speak and act in polite society.

Yes she's saying words and using them in the correct context however I'm pretty sure she's just saying something she's heard before and since you react she knows that saying it will get a reaction out of you. Just because she throws out bait doesn't mean she knows how to fish.

I watch my granddaughters a lot and then they say hurtful things after I've said that dreaded word no I just let them know that I'm sorry they feel that way and I love them. When they say they don't want me to do something and want mommy or daddy I let them know that I understand that they miss their parents but I'm here to help now. In other words I don't get into the reasoning why they are saying what they are saying I just deal with the situation and move on.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I was having a hard time believing this post, but now I think I was wrong, so I want to apologize. Sometimes internet messaging is hard. I'm sorry. 4 is really young to express feeling embarrassed by a parent. I'd remind you that children often express favorites and you shouldn't take it personally or even that seriously. Like if she says she wants to get rid of you, try to give her a big playful hug and kiss and let her know you aren't going anywhere. If she sticks her tongue out, you could stick your tongue out too, and turn it into a game of who has a longer tongue. If she's says you're ugly, well, that's just mean, so I think I'd just let her know that hurts your feelings and please don't say that. Time-outs will do nothing for your relationship with her, so think more about how to have alot of fun with her most of the time, and do not make a big deal out of the moments where she seems to be pushing you away.

Also make sure that you and her mom are loving and supportive of each other. You sound angry at her mom for parenting differently than you. You’re not going to improve your relationship with your daughter by allowing tension to develop with her mom. Trust that you are all doing the best you can, and see if you can lovingly develop parenting strategies that you and her mom are both enthusiastic about.

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answers from Boston on

So, based on your "So What Happened" addition, do I understand that you are separated? You refer to "your wife" but also refer to "every other weekend," which sounds like visitation.

Kids this age often have a "favorite parent" and it's a phase. They only want Daddy to read to them or only want Mommy to put them to bed. It goes away. But this post is more disturbing because you say that your 4 year old is saying she's "embarrassed" and "doesn't want to be seen with" you. Those are NOT words used or concepts known by kids this age. It's much more typical of tweens and teens, so it sounds like she's being prompted to say that. Calling anyone ugly (parent, friend, stranger) is absolutely unacceptable. Sticking the tongue out should not be tolerated - but it's a typical discipline issue that can be handled by not getting too emotional but making clear that she's not getting a single thing she wants or any attention at all when she does it.

Your biggest problem is that your wife rewards this behavior and undermines you by allowing the behavior to continue. This is not co-parenting.

Your daughter isn't the problem - your relationship with her mother and the vastly different parenting styles (and possible parental alienation) are your biggest problems. Not knowing your legal status, I can't say whether couples counseling, parenting classes, or legal mediation would be the best recourse.

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answers from Norfolk on

This doesn't sound like 4 yr old behavior.
In my experience - and although they switch back and forth between who's the favorite parent - often little girls are Daddy's Little Princesses.

2 and 3 yr olds have tantrums, melt downs, fits of "I hate you" when their boundaries are reined in - but 4 yr olds should be over that by now.
4 yr olds have very little concept of what embarrassment is - they just don't.
So try to stop thinking that embarrassment is a motivation for her behavior.

When kids say things to hurt your feelings - you have to be the adult and not take it personally - your whole ego should not be wrapped around this.
When she says hurtful things you say "I'm sorry you feel that way but I always love you" and "If you keep sticking your tongue out like that it might get stuck that way" and "Have you got a new tooth coming in? Is it bothering you?", etc.

She might be parroting what she hears others saying - kids this age and even into 2nd or 3rd grade just blurt out what ever they've heard - which is why the adults need to start watching what they say within earshot of the kids and if they are picking up nonsense from tv then think twice about the shows they are watching and find something more educational for them to watch.
Try turning the tv off and reading a story to/with her.

You and child need some regular Daughter Daddy time - find something that you like to do together.
It might take awhile to find out what that is - so try several things.
Being a chauffeur to/from activities doesn't count.
Try going to a park or playground together, firehouse tours (our son LOVED firetrucks and some girls love them too), visit the zoo, aquarium, museum, etc.
You need to establish a fun thing you do together so she sees it as a treat and looks forward to it and once you have that she will be much less likely to act up.
And if she does act up once in awhile, then you cut the fun short.

You and your wife need to work on your relationship.
It helps to have a united front so you can better deal with the kid(s).
Try some marriage counseling.

Of course she's not mature - she's 4!
She's not going to have even a glimmer of maturity till she's closer to 7 yrs old and even then it will be extremely rudimentary.

Saying you are embarrassed isn't really understanding it.
Buying into it like she knows what she's talking about is a mistake on your part.
Kids get embarrassed sometimes over some pretty stupid things but you do NOT cater to it.
Choose your battles.
If a kid is suddenly 'embarrassed' to wear a winter coat in freezing weather - you don't engage in a fight over it.
You let them freeze and when they complain that they are cold - you don't rescue them from their choices.
You tell them that deciding to wear a coat next time will take care of that.
That's a natural consequence of a child making a poor decision - they can get over their 'embarrassment', hopefully learn from their mistake and make a better choice next time.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I don't have daughters. I only have boys. Whew.

Your wife and the in-laws are the problem. Your wife is feeding your daughter's words and issues, or so it seems, without hearing the WHOLE STORY.

1. Next time your daughter says you are ugly. Tell her that SHE HAS YOUR DNA and if she thinks YOU are ugly?? then maybe she is too!! OOPS!! Yeah - she's a little young to be using that. But she needs to understand.

2. If she's embarrassed by you? Ask her WHY? If she can't formulate the reason for being embarrassed? She's being fed and groomed. Are you and your separated or what??

3. The next time she's nasty to you? You turn around and take her home. Take away ANY AND ALL ELECTRONICS and tell her that if she's THAT embarrassed? She can sit in her room and cogitate her thoughts. Leave her there for no more than 5 minutes (set your timer if you need to) and then go in to talk with her. NOT TO HER.

4. You and your wife need counseling. She needs to STOP feeding your daughter the words and encouraging this behavior. When your daughter runs to mommy for "help"? Your wife needs to put her foot down and say NO. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR.

5. Who is "THEM" in the tells my wife she wants THEM to get rid of me? If that's your in-laws?? You have some serious problems on your hands. You need to start documenting things and get your stuff in order. This is NOT COOL!

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answers from Chicago on

There is some defiance in 4 year olds. They are wild and wonderful, and some are real handfuls. However, they do not have to be a handful. . 4 is the age of easy power struggles. They are finally aware of the power they can exert over the world. Sounds like she is doing a lot of misbehaving for attention.

My oldest told me she hated me at 4. My other two kids never did. Reflecting back, I had no clue what I was doing. i saw a defiant, disrespecting child. What I should have seen was an immature 4 year old testing out her impact on the world and acting out for attention.

If she tells your wife she wants her to get rid of you, your wife should be very clear," oh sweetie, that's a hurtful thing to say. I love daddy dearly, and mommy would be very sad if he went away."

When she says she doesn't want to go to dance class with you, she should be told," do you want daddy to take you to dance class or are you not going today." Her choice shouldn't be about who is doing the taking.

Please drop the TOs. There is no need. Be clear about what you expect. Yes, some kids test, and test, and test. I have one of those. Sounds like your daughter may be a strong willed child. I can tell you that it will only get worse. I found 4 horrible with my daughter. She tested everything, over and over and over. The key is to keep it calm, loving and encouraging. Focus on the positive behavior, and when she does things like stick out her tongue, just turn away, walk away, or say, "i don't want to be with you when you do that."

A lot of her negative behavior is due to wanting attention, so it's important to give her lots of attention when she is being warm and loving. Do not react to her misbehavior. Just be clear,"daddy doesn't like that, I don't want to play with you anymore." Or," when you do that, it hurts daddys feelings." No reactions, no TOs, just be clear with your boundaries.

And just wait, sometime in the next year she will be all about daddy not mommy. Somewhere in the 4s LOs discover they'd rather be with daddy than mommy.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

How does your wife handle it? Given the current dynamics, your wife needs to tell your child that she needs to be kind and respectful and give her negative consequences when she is not kind and respectful.

You can also do this - speak in plain direct language - "that is not kind and you need to stop saying mean things right now. If you continue to be mean, then I will turn the car around and you don't get to go to dance tonight" (and follow through)), but it will have the most impact from your wife and she needs to step up.

By the way, kids often have a favorite parent, and sometimes the favorite parent even switches. That is not unusual so try not to take it personally. However, she is old enough to understand that she needs to be kind to other people and calling people mean names is not allowed.

ETA (edited to add, since you are new here): Based on your addition, it sounds like the bigger problem is your wife, not your daughter. You can (and should) try, but this will be hard for you to manage without her support.

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answers from Houston on

First, she is four not 12. She is immature. Not sure what you are expecting from a 4 year old.

I don't think she is the issue, I think its your wife. You and your wife need to discuss this and how to address it. When you discipline your daughter and she runs to mom, Mom needs to remove herself from the situation. She needs to tell your daughter to listen to daddy and walk away. Because she is picking her up, she is conditioning her to come to her when she is unhappy with something you said or did. She in essences is the good parent and you are the bad guy. That is not how you parent a child. Kids know how to work parents and your daughter has your wife's number.

So, if she doesn't want you to take her to dance or gymnastics then don't. BUT she won't be going either. Do this a couple of times, yeah, she'll get it.

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answers from Los Angeles on

A few things.

One, kids usually have a favorite or preferred parent. And they're not permanent. It's fluid and it changes throughout the years.

Two, I doubt your 4 year old knows what it means to be "embarrassed." I have a 6 year old girl and she hasn't fully grasped the concept. Also, it doesn't sound like you have a good relationship with your wife. Your daughter may be picking up on it. Maybe your wife says those things and with similar attitude when you're not there and your daughter is just copying her. I would talk to your wife before punishing your daughter further.

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answers from Washington DC on

When you say you and your wife aren't on the same page, could the relationship be so poor that your daughter is parroting your wife? 4 just seems so young for this strong reaction from her.

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answers from Atlanta on

I agree with the suggestion that the next time she speaks rudely to you when you are driving her to dance or gymnastics, tell her that she needs to stop it or you will not take her to her fun extracurricular activity. "I cannot drive someone to dance class who says mean things to me." If she keeps it up, you will need to carry through, even though it means wasting the money paid for that class and probably some really nasty screaming or crying in the car on the way home. Same thing any time that she says unkind things to you--she does not get to do something for which she needs a parent. The consequence has to be right after the incident, though, because I don't think a 4 year old can connect having said something nasty 30 minutes ago with not being able to go to the park now. Good luck!

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answers from Miami on

The poster who said that you have a problem with your wife is oh so right. You and your wife need to go to a counselor who specializes in pre-school children and your wife needs to learn exactly what to do to nip this stuff in the bud. If your wife doesn't cooperate, nothing you do will help. She doesn't know what to do, lets this little girl rule over both of you, and it's VERY hard on your little girl. She isn't getting limits, C.. Children need limits and she is begging for them, and not getting them.

Please get some professional help. Your wife doesn't know what to do here. It's one thing to say "take action". It's another thing to know how to do it.

And whatever you do, DON'T tell your daughter that maybe she's ugly since she has your DNA. That's just awful! She's 4 years old, not 14! Dear God!

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answers from Santa Fe on

You and your wife need to BOTH tell her NOPE, you do not talk meanly to other people like that. That was rude. Then you tell her because she is being mean she is getting a consequence. Make it something she hates...time out in room, no dance or gymnastics, no playing with neighbor kids for 3 days, no tv/movies for 3 days. If she freaks out and gets upset then you know you picked a good consequence. Let her have her tantrum and scream and cry. She will probably yell about how much she hates you and other mean stuff. Ignore her. Both of you need to tell her NO. You do NOT say mean things like that to Dad or any other person. Come down on her and let her know this is totally unacceptable. Calmly enforce the consequence and don't give in to her demands. You and your wife need to talk about this beforehand and both use the same language with her and give the same consequences with her 100% backing you up or even being the enforcer. Does she hear your wife say mean things about you? Where does she get this from? As a mom I would also be having private conversations with her about how physical appearance or looks are NOT what is important...what is important is the kind of person someone is and what is in their heart. I'd tell her Daddy is a wonderful person who I love very much and mention a few kind things you always do.Then I'd tell her that she is being ugly inside to say mean things and I expect much BETTER behavior from her from now on. She is to say nice things about other people and be a nice person and if she is mean I'm going to give her consequences such as x or y. I'd also make sure to hug my husband in front of her and compliment him on how great he is. I would also read her the Beauty and the Beast or some other book that might get through to her. Watch the movie. Watch Shrek. I'd make sure she isn't getting the message that beauty is important in life from something she is watching or seeing regularly. For example, if you or your wife watch some vapid reality show I'd stop doing that around her! And last, it sounds to me like you and she really need to work on bonding. Perhaps once a week you can take her to do something just the two of you. Build something together. Take her to go feed the ducks or go on some kind of outing (fishing, ice cream, a hike, flying a kite, the library, an art project, a movie)...I'm not sure what you like to do in life. Another way to bond is to join her when she is doing something she enjoys doing (playing with her dolls, playing on an app, drawing, etc) and ask her questions about it. Good luck. Let us know how it goes after some time. PS - My son was really bratty at this age. Don't take this stuff personally but do work on teaching your daughter what is right and wrong in life.

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answers from Portland on

Have you asked her why? Maybe your wife talks to the other moms and she gets to play longer.

The being ugly and embarrassed of you seems really odd. I don't know too many four year olds who are just hurtful. You said in your last post she was sticking her tongue out at you then. I don't really get it.

Our kids didn't have a preference for one of us over the other at that age (still don't). I know it's not unheard of. Perhaps it's mostly moms at dance or gymnastics. Maybe you stick out like a sore thumb. My husband took ours to dance class for many years and was the only dad there but it was fine. Maybe your daughter is sensitive? Maybe another child has said something innocently.

I wouldn't tolerate it. Talk to your wife and be on the same page. I'm not sure timeouts are how I'd handle it.

ETA: reading some of the other answers, and if your daughter is truly a brat and testing you and your wife is doing nothing but somehow encouraging this behavior (along with in-laws), then I suppose what I would do is to treat it like a tantrum and just not reward her - she would not be allowed to do those things until she is mindful/respectful. If she is bratty going to dance? she doesn't get to go to dance.

If she sticks tongue out at you? Then say "I guess you don't get to have an ice cream/read book/watch movie time/play outside with daddy".

We have a rule in our house where if you're unkind/disrespectful, you don't have a timeout or your stuff isn't removed - you just don't get to join in family fun. It worked really well. My siblings all did it as did my mom growing up (kindergarten teacher). Nothing makes a kid smarten up to know they aren't being involved/included in something fun they'd otherwise get to enjoy if they were being kind.

With peers - your child will not be included/invited if she's bratty or mean. This is a valuable life lesson. May as well start at home.

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answers from Washington DC on

Have you asked her why she's embarrassed? Or where she learned about embarrassment and what embarrassment means? She probably does have an idea of what embarrassment means even if it's not exactly the Webster's definition. I also think that 4 isn't too young to have a serious talk about how words mean things and words have consequences. But you and your wife do have to be on the same page about these behaviors. Also, I think your wife needs to initiate the consequence when your daughter says these mean things that way she sees that it's not Daddy telling Mommy to punish her but Mommy doesn't like it herself at all too. I hate to ask this but does your wife think it's cute that she is the favorite and maybe that's why doesn't say anything when daughter is mean? Cause she doesn't see it as too big a deal? Has she said in your daughters hearing that she was embarrassed about something about you? My daughter often tells me I'm here favorite and she's always been this way but from the first time I heard her say it, I told her it was OK to have favorites but NEVER ok to say something rude to the other parent or to tell the other parent that they aren't the favorite. She also has known that from age 2-3 it is rude to call someone ugly. And yes, you can punish for her mean words. I don't know what the natural consequence would be for saying something like that since you obviously can't just stop taking care of your 4 yr old but I would definitely stop with the extra nice unnecessary things (like a new toy, fun event, etc) saying the reason was that I'm not going to do this super fun thing with someone who doesn't treat me nicely or I only buy fun things for people who respect and like me for me and don't say mean things. Needs are necessary, wants are not. But again, your wife has to be on the same page otherwise she will just be fueling your daughters words.
Good luck. I know it's hard hearing those words from your own offspring.

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answers from San Francisco on

You kidding , RIGHT?

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answers from Appleton on

When my daughter was a tween she said something very rude to me in front of one of her friends. I looked at her and said 'if you ever talk to me like that again I am going to put on my pink and orange tee shirt - green pants -one red sneaker and one purple sneaker and we are going to the mall. While we are there I am going to wave at all your friends while I am holding your hand.' Her friend laughed my daughter said 'shut up MY mom would do it!'

You are the parent, parent is also a verb or an action word -- take action. Do not let this little dictator rule your world. Next time she tells you not to come in with her do just the opposite. Tell her not only am I going in with you but I am going to hold your hand and stay to watch you practice. I'm the adult you are the child I make the decisions, not you.

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answers from New York on

Of course she is "immature", she's 4!! If you expect any "maturity" from a 4-year-old you should take some young child parenting classes or read up on early stages of childhood, to have a more realistic sense of what attitudes and personality development to expect.

And, you might need to develop a thicker skin - if you think this is bad, wait til she's 12.

A few singsong silly remarks like "your tongue might get stuck that way" are really the only response you need right now.

ETA: It has sometimes been said that a tongue out is the young-child equivalent of flipping a middle finger. I do think that is at least somewhat true BUT at age 4 she is a bit too young to be thinking of it on that level. In a year or so, when she is a bit older, sticking out a tongue could warrant a "stronger" response.

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answers from San Diego on

Your daughter is acting like a little Brat. She is rude and disrespectful to her father. This is unexpectable behavior and you need to nip it in the butt now before it gets out of control. Your wife is fanning the flames.

She is testing you...seems like she want and needs your attention and using negative behavior for negative attention.

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