My 4 Year Old Is Extremely Hard Headed- Is Something Wrong?

Updated on August 02, 2010
H.J. asks from Baltimore, MD
8 answers

My son is 4 and is extremely hard-headed. He still has temper tantrums and 4 minute time outs can drag out for as long as 45 minutes because he can't calm down. He can be aggressive when he is upset. After time out when you try to talk to him, he says I'm sorry, but he can not really answer why he did something and he has just started being able to tell me what he did to get put in time out. I am worried that there could be something wrong, but my parents and sisters just say that he is hard-headed. While that is somewhat re-assuring, I do worry.

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answers from Chicago on

My son is 6, still same issues you describe. Some days I'm just like when is it gonna click, the longer you throw a fit, the longer you sit.

Anyway, he's different with dad than me. Somedays are better than others, but we usually have at least one a day for rotten mouth. Sometimes Dad just gives him a hug as first warning asks him to stop says he loves him and asks him to change his behavior. Works better for him.

I get down at his level. I almost have to whisper that was not acceptable, please sit calmly. When I re-set the timer it sets him off even more, so I just visually watch when he calms down. I used to get all mad and yell, I'm seeing that my tone does have an impact. Good luck.

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answers from Chicago on

Sounds like a strong willed child. I had one of those. James Dobson's book Strong Willed Child would be a good book for you to read.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Choices can help kids who like to have lots of control over their world (or hard-headed). Before you say no to him think of two options that are yes's. Are your talking to him during a tantrum or trying to get him to sit in time out? That may be hyping him up more. When he makes the wrong choice, instead of time-out, have him remedy the situation. If he writes on the wall have him clean it (as best he can), if he says something unkind, give him the words that he should have used to express his frustration.

B. Davis
Because nothing is more important than family

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answers from Los Angeles on

Time outs don’t work for every circumstance and my advice would be based on what brought on the tantrum.

When my 4 y/o has a tantrum because he’s tired or frustrated, I try to be as sympathetic as possible, talk to him softly and ask him if he wants to hug. He has never said No. It works for him.

When he throws a tantrum because he doesn’t get what he wants, I redirect or send him to the other room until he can calm down. Again, it works.

The last time my son started to have a tantrum at the store I said to him “we don’t have time for this! We still have to go buy wings for the car so we can fly home in a hurry!” It stopped him in his tracks and a fun imaginative story started about “The Wing Store”.

Different tactics work for different situations.

I agree with the others here except for what Caresse T. said about spanking. I am totally against that.

Good luck to you with your DS!



answers from Washington DC on

While I know there are different methods of discipline/child rearing and can see the case for most of them, my experience tells me that hitting a child such as yours will do more damage in the long run than it will good. What will it teach him? That his anger makes you angry and since you are bigger, you get to hit him?
The fact that you're worried is your signal to seek help. Consider asking your pediatrician if there might be a professional in your area you can talk with who can help understand what is going on with your son and offer ways to teach him to calm down and handle his agression. In our community we have a service called Family Preservation that does just this thing. See if this or something similar might be available for you.



answers from Washington DC on

I just wanted to chime in here. I have a daughter who is very much the same way. She will be 5 in September. If we start with something that is a minor offense and I bring her to her room for discipline, sometimes she gets so upset it goes from what could have been a quick discipline session to a 20 (or up to 40) minute event. She is VERY strong-willed. She thinks she's a grown up (she's actually said as much to me)! She still hasn't completely accepted that I, as the adult, get to control things more than she does.

That being said, do I have answers? Not really. I read some of the other posts and was able to find some good advice, but not much I haven't heard or thought of before. I will say that I've seen improvement over the years. Tantrums, in general, are less frequent than when she was younger and the big long ones are even less frequent. The only thing I've found is that she needs an appropriate balance of two things: 1) very clear and consistent discipline (which is sooooo hard when you have a child like this) and 2) lots of love and reassurance, especially after being disciplined. I've also found it very helpful to give clear instructions on expected behavior--specific actions and words that ARE appropriate in the place of whatever she did wrong.

The one thing I've had to really get through my own thick skull is that, despite the fact that she is extremely bright and picks things up very easily, it's not the same with learning appropriate behavior and emotion control. It takes a very long time and lots of practice and repetition for kids to get this.

Hang in there and good luck,



answers from Washington DC on

My son is the same way - VERY stubborn and hard-headed. He is a control freak and does not understand that he cannot always be in charge. He is almost five and it has been getting better and better, so don't lose hope. I've noticed that my attitude can either make it worse or help ameliorate the situation. I just have to have lots and lots of patience with him. Time-outs only seem to make it worse, so I gave those up long ago. It also seems to be worse during periods of stress or when he is sleep-deprived. I have often thought just like you - "What is wrong with my son? This does not seem normal." But I think normal kids fall on a wide spectrum. I think reading on here about other people's kids acting crazy has helped me feel better. :)



answers from Pittsburgh on

My son is like that. I think while he is hard-headed he also still hasn't learned how to express himself through other means. I would suggest a few things. One is putting a discipline plan in place that gives consequences for misbehavior and also rewards for proper behavior. One thing I've used in the past is putting tokens in a jar. My kids earn tokens for good behavior and can have them taken away for poor behavior. If they have "X" tokens they can have a privilege (tv, computer time, etc). If they don't have "X" tokens then they don't get privileges.

Another suggestion is modelling good behaviors, showing how you deal with disappointments and teaching him other methods of communicating their needs/emotions. Also talk to him in a firm, calm manner when he is throwing a tantrum.

Finally, reading books on strong wille children can give you ideas on why they do what they do and how to deal with it.

Best wishes to you.

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