My 4 Year Old Is a Brat

Updated on June 13, 2008
J.H. asks from Elk Grove, CA
8 answers

Lately my daughter (who just turned 4) has been a real brat. She definitely has an attitude and I don't know how to handle it. She will talk back to us, mock us, and stick out her tongue. She throws things when she gets upset. We recently implementing taking away all of her toys of which she has to earn back one at a time for good behavior. If at any point she acts up again, we take them back away and the process starts over. I'm not sure if this is the right path to take, or if anyone has any other suggestions. Any help, advice, or just the knowledge that others are going through this would be wonderful. Also, she doesn't act out because she can't express herself (she has an amazing vocabulary and can talk non-stop forever); I'm not sure why she does it. Anyway, thanks for the help.

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So What Happened?

I'd like to thank everyone for their advice. It's nice knowing I'm not the only one out there. As Jessica was mentioning, the transition time between work and home may be a big factor. I've also been going back to school for almost 2 years now, and I know that doing my homework around her bothers her a lot. I have already switched to doing my studies outside "her" time, but I will make a better effort to create a more gentle transition between school and home. And for all of the other pointers, my husband and I thank you. We look forward to seeing what works for her. :)

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answers from Sacramento on

The 1, 2, 3 method works pretty well. After awhile, all you have to do is say 1 and they behave. If they don't behave after you count to 3, they get a time out and have to sit on a chair or somewhere selected and not talk or they have to sit there longer. If they get up, or act up, they just stay there longer until they can behave. They might be there quite a lot the first few days and it is a lot of work, but it works. Have you watched the "Nanny" show? Basically, if you let them get by with it, they will keep doing it.

Good luck. My children used it and didn't have to use it for very long before the children got it that mom and dad had a zero tolerance level for bad behavior.

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answers from Sacramento on

I would try "throwing" the object away so she knows she isn't getting it back. I did this with my daughter, I threw it away in front of her and then when she wasn't looking I grabbed it back and hid it. Hey, there are just somethings I can really get rid of that way. I held it out for a long time and then when she did something that was really good, I "magically" brought it back. As for the talking back, some may not agree with me and I understand, we all have our own parenting styles, so whoever reads this, KEEP YOUR CRITISISM to your self please! One day my daughter talked back to me ALL DAY! I did everything, take things away, go to the room, no cartoons, etc... at dinner that night my husband told her to finish her food, she blatently go up threw it away and said NO. That was it I was DONE!!! My husband was having a jalepeno with his dinner, I swoped it up and then her and swiped it in her mouth! She hated it! Low and behold the child was an angel for quite a while, now all I have to do is tell her there is a jalepeno pepper in my pocket! My friends pediatricin suggested cheyne pepper when her son was throwing fits and talking back, so I guess I wasn't too bad. GOOD LUCK!!!! IT will get better!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

We too did the hot sauce/pepper on the tip of the tongue for a sassy mouth. It worked.



answers from Sacramento on

Hi J. - She IS expressing herself when she acts like a brat. Maybe she is jealous of the baby and the time you are not spending with her. Try planning a special day the two of you (or also include Dad) can spend together without the baby and have her work toward that goal. Give her points or stars on a chart when she behaves well and take them away when she doesn't. Hope this helps!
Patti b



answers from Sacramento on

Hi J. ~

I can relate to your frustration - my daughter also just turned 4 and can be bratty. She is a very sweet, wonderful little girl and we're told that she does great all day in preschool. We even receive compliments about her behavior when we're in public...but at home, it can be quite a different story. I've heard that toddlers act out around their parents because they feel safe around them and that it is a stress reliever for them...I'm not sure if this is true. But one thing I do know is that this can be very nerve-wracking. Our biggest dilemma is at dinner time...she would rather play, sing, talk, show-off, etc. than eat...sometimes she has been at the table for over an hour after we've cleaned up the dishes! She also gets bratty when she is getting tired...esp. since she doesn't always nap in the afternoon.

We use time-outs and then after several minutes, we will sit her down to calmly talk about the reason she was in the time-out, why she acted that way, etc. We have found that this gives her the chance the express herself in a safe environment and has worked for us numerous times. In other instances, we tell her that we'll take away a toy, privlege, etc. if she does not stop the bratty behavior and then follow through if she continues.

In the end, I wanted to share my story so that you would know that you are not alone. In fact, I have heard from other moms (including my own) that this is a pretty normal phase for kids. Good luck!



answers from Sacramento on

I looked at your profile and noticed that you work. I work too (fulltime) and I occassionally experience the same behaviors as you describe. I call it decompression. My 4 almost 5 year old goes through this when I pick him up from school. He too is very articulate, but I think that transitioning from school to mama can be hard for this age. I do this:
*have a snack in the car. Low blood sugar leads to grumpy kid
*throwing/hitting/yelling is met with a trip to his room. I don't take things away ~ i would, i just haven't had to.
*sit in his room, on his floor and casually clean it. he LOVEs when I spend time in his bedroom with him. This is a great way to transition from being away from mom. & it doesn't involve jalapenos :)



answers from Sacramento on

I just feel that punishing kids with things that are hot or spicy or soapy will scare them away from trying new things in the future. I seriously doubt my kid would eat chips and salsa, try Indian or Thai food, or eat half the stuff we like if we punished her with hot sauce. I do agree that taking something away when it is thrown is a better idea, and keeping it is just fine. Even though they may seem defiant and awful, in reality kids just get frustrated because they want to please you and sometimes we don't notice all the things they have done already so they get angry and don't know how to explain themselves. They burst into tears, whine, or freak out in anger. It's very frustrating being smallish and smartish and aching to have a say in something important.

We go to a parenting and family nights run by and often there is a lecture on communicating with your tot. Some of the things they talk about are appropriate reactions to things, and one of the best communication strategies we learned was to get down on one knee and become eye level with our daughter and put our hands on her shoulders and really talk to her when she's upset. Communication is not just about talking and expressing, it's about listening, and sometimes the kid just doesn't listen unless you are the adult down to her level. Ditto for us, sometimes we are too busy to "hear" what she's trying to say and the breakdown in the communication leads to a breakdown in the relationship a little. But it's salvagable. There is a control issue, and she's freaking out because she is realizing how little control she has. Maybe your daughter has transition issues? Some kids really need a countdown. Mine seems to breakdown 5 minutes before we have to leave for daycare, tears, stripping of the clothes to put on a dress, lots of no and go away mommy. And I ignore all the "mean" stuff, tell her I love her, and get her moving. sometimes we are just late. I give her some sugarless gum in the car when she settles down. The faster she settles, the sooner she gets her gum, and the morning is more relaxed all around. When she doesn't settle down, no gum, no reward. Those days are very few and far between. Once settled, we talk about things and she helps plan weekends (her big thing is riding light rail. I dunno what that's all about.)

We also read a book by Joy Berry called A Child's Book About Whining (or something similar) and our kid has been really reacting positively when we remind her she's whining. She might still cry, but she tries to get herself back in control.

We also have only one kid, so I am betting a lot of the frustration you are dealing with is because you've got one very smart/insistent 4 y.o. and a baby who really needs even more attention.

Hope something I've said helps!!!



answers from Sacramento on


Isn't it fun. NOT! We went through this same scenario for a year. It is exhausting and frustrating, but it will sink in. We have a 5 year old son who is now sweet and behaves very well - of course still a 5 year old. :) Keep ding what you are doing and be consistent. We took everything away in his room even as far as his dresser and he too had to earn them back one at a time. Yes it was a pain for us, but we kept at it. It is so hard because you feel mean, but your daughter, like our son, needs to know she is not the boss, you are, and she has to behave in an appropriate way. Good luck to you and please if you want to vent or ask any more questions you can e-mail me at [email protected]