Model Behavior Gone Wrong

Updated on May 11, 2015
N.M. asks from Durham, NC
9 answers

So I was reading a post about screaming, tantrum throwing 4 year olds, and one of the answers given said that the child may be copying your behavior And it struck me that that is more than likely to be the problem. Daddy and went though a bit of a rough patch recently. So now I feel like should talk to my son to explain to him that our behavior was not acceptable. What I'm looking for is tips on exactly how to do that.

Anything helps.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone,
We will be talking with our son about how to handle situations that frustrate us without raising our voices, and we will let him know that it is something that everyone has to work on. I appreciate all of you! Even reading your answers gives me some relief, and i believe that things will get better soon because I will be staying home with him this summer to spend more time with him. My classes kept me really busy this semester.

Thanks again everyone!

More Answers


answers from St. Louis on

Do as I say, not as I do, does not work. There is nothing you can say to change your son's behavior, you must model that behavior.

I just want to add after looking at the other comments, everyone is bringing good advice to the table. I probably should have elaborated more. Out of control parents and their spouses tend not to apply discipline correctly. You have one out of control parent, another doing damage control, child running amok. So that is where I came to saying anything will not work. It has to be a complete change. Even applying discipline won't work because dad is still out of control and you are saying that is okay.

At four he cannot understand that a parent can behave badly but a child must obey. Anyway, you have some good advice here, listen to them.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

To add to Julie S comment, I suggest that you cannot say anything helpful to your son. He's 4. His brain is not yet able to understand your way of thinking about him acting like you. If you do think he's acting this way because you and Dad act this way than you must learn to model better behavior. Talking means nothing even to an adult. One can say they will or will not do something but until that person's actions change the words have no meaning. It's good you recognize this and better if you change. Your 4 yo son is not able to understand any of it.

I also agree with Amy j. Kids need consequences to learn good behavior. It's too easy to think that if you tell him that yours and his behavior is wrong you and he will change. Instead it will be helpful if you and your husband learn a better way to communicate. However, it will take much hard work over time to change what has been happening for years, even before you met your husband.

However, your son has recently begun this behavior. He's ready to be taught. I urge you to learn more about child development and how they learn. Learn what form of discipline that will work for your son. Discipline has to be immediate and enforced in a calm loving way.

My daughter has taught her children to go to their room until they are able to be calm. She found that talking with them while they're upset makes matters worse. She ends up feeling frustrated because they don't hear her. Going to their room is not punishment. It's teaching them that this behavior is not acceptable as well as helping them learn how to calm down.

You and your husband can use separating until you can calmly discuss the matter helpful in reducing your fights.

As to learning about disciplining children, books by Janet Campbell Matson have helped many parents. I also recommend Love and Logic. We often think we know enough and we don't. I took child development and family life in college and 60 years later am still learning.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

I know so many docile, loving, sweet, gentle, soft spoken, dedicated positive attachment parents : With bossy TERRORS. Kids will throw fits if they are allowed to. They won't if you discipline it firmly. I never scream. I never throw fits. I'm super Mellow, loving and kind. All my kids attempted tantrums OF COURSE at the normal ages. My third was a born angry rager. But no dice, it was not allowed. Did I freak out once or twice under extreme stress from a cheating ex and bankruptcy and IRS liens and raising three tiny kids alone...yes, but that's irrelevant.

It's about being a calm, loving, firm disciplinarian. Your child is not throwing fits because you are. UNLESS, your child NEVER throws fits....they're a rare, docile little zen buddha, but then you and your mate had a few big fights, and now your child is a terror...ok maybe.

Modeling nice behavior is great in the big picture over the long haul for kids with a strong foundation of self-control that has been instilled. But parents do not have to adopt a child-like persona in order to model for their kids. My parents fought, spanked us, voted, drove cars, smoked cigars, used power tools.....doesn't mean we got to..We were disciplined for tantrums and therefore didn't throw them. Same with my kids. "Back to Basics Discipline" by Janet Campbell Matson for calm, loving, effective parenting with firm enough discipline for fits.

If you feel that he is really only throwing fits because you were, then say this. "Honey, sometimes adults get really stressed and angry and yell and fight. I'm sorry. It's not nice. We'll try to do better. You're not allowed to act that way though. If you do there will be consequences."

If that's all it takes. Problem solved. But he's probably just a normal kid throwing fits. In which case, discipline it. And being good models yourself helps too eventually. But not really at 4.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Even a 4 year old can understand the sentence "I lost my temper with mommy/daddy yesterday and we yelled a lot. I'm sorry if that scared you. Mommy/Daddy and I need to talk, not scream to settle our conflicts."

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

It is ok to admit to kids that you make mistakes. It is ok for them to understand that parents aren't perfect.

I have straight up told my son when I was wrong, eg: I'm sorry I gave you a consequence for X before I really understood what happened. I was wrong. I will try to do a better job of listening to you next time.

So I think you can say to him "I shouldn't have yelled today. I was wrong and I will try not to do it again." But then, of course, you and your husband have to actually follow through and stop the yelling.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

You can't use the same paint brush on everyone. Both Amy and Julie below are right. That being said, I know plenty of good parents who don't yell at each other OR their kids, and they have strong-willed children who give them a run for their money every day.

Sometimes kids are just plain hard-wired differently and it's a long work in process to help them mature through it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

don't give complex psychological explanations to your 4 year old. you'll just confuse and upset him further.
stop doing it, and be calm and understanding when he does- but don't 'accept' the behavior. give calm, understanding firm consequences.
and if he sees you or his daddy screaming again, give yourselves a time-out. hopefully remembering that you're modeling behavior for your little boy will make you both remember to address each other the same way you want him to address people.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You know, I see a lot of my husband and myself in our kids. Not only looks, but the way we handle situations, how we react to good/bad things, how we speak to people, etc. So they really learn by watching us and seeing how we handle things in life.

With that in mind, we are all human. Everyone has bad days, melt downs (an adult melt down will look different than a 4 year old tantrum, but it's the same thing), and the inability to cope sometimes. So it's good for kids to see that everyone has bad days and how to work through them sans the tantrum. It's also good for them to understand that it's okay to have bad days.



answers from San Francisco on

Not only is it okay to admit to your kid that you've made a mistake, it's good for them. They learn that no one is perfect, even their parents. It makes it easier for him to come to you to tell you that he's made a mistake.

Sit him down and just say "I know mine and daddy's behavior has been poor recently and I'm sorry for that. Daddy and I have to work on our behavior when we get frustrated with each other. Yelling and screaming at each other is not what we should be doing and we are going to work on it."

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