Out of Control 4 Year Old

Updated on August 26, 2006
H.S. asks from Tempe, AZ
31 answers

My 4 year old son don't want to hear anything that we tell him. He fights with everyone even our 10 month old baby . we've tried talking to him taking toys away and nothing seems to be working.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

E.J.

answers from Phoenix on

Try reading 1-2-3 Magic:Effective Discipline for children 2-12 by Thomas W. Phelan, PhD. His methods worked great for my 5 and 7 year olds.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

S.J.

answers from St. Cloud on

My son likes to talk back, he is very much independent and Strong willed. We were told to give him as many choices as possible. This is especially true for you if the 4yr old is the youngest. I am not a patient person, and the choices thing is hard to make myself do, but boy, did he behave better. Choices of shoes, clothes, food-any and all. I routinely give him 2 options for lunch or dinner. If he doesnt answer in an app time, i say Ill count to three, if you dont choose, I choose. Hope this helps.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

E.

answers from Denver on

Have you ever heard of the Love and Logic system. It is a really good way to deal with raising children they have very successful ways of handling most any situation. Look it up on the web.

E.

More Answers

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

J.

answers from Minneapolis on

I'm a stay at home mom with a Master's in Family Psychology. First, I would check with your pediatrician to make sure there is no physical cause for your son's behavior- pain, hearing loss, etc.
The easiest and cheapest way to find parenting resources is at a library- Woodbury has a good one. They have videos, books, and DVD's. T Barry Brazelton is pretty good. Also, it may sound cheesy, but check out Supernanny or Nanny 911 on TV. The 3 things any professional would tell you would be to emphasize structure and consistency. That means that you need to create a family schedule and stick to it. Some kids are very sensitive to change, and a schedule helps everyone in the family. Also talk with your husband and develop clear, specific, simple rules and expectations, such as no hurting others bodies, belongings, or feelings, Follow directions, etc. When your son breaks a rule, there is a consquence that you CALMLY give. It can be a time-out, or removal of privileges. Next, focus on giving your son as much positive attention as you can. Play alot, comment on his behavior whenever he is doing anything that is not bad- even just watching TV- it's not especially good, but he's not being naughty. Say, Joe, how's the TV show? Who's that guy? Tell me about him. Listen and ask questions and be interested. This is really long-winded, I know, but let me know if you want anymore info! Can you tell that I miss my job:)

2 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

C.

answers from Fort Collins on

Hi H.,

My oldest is four and she had some behavior issues too...
I started her on a star chart where she would get a star for sharing her toys, listening to mommy and daddy, going to bed without arguing, etc. She is rewarded trips to the zoo, chuck e cheese, etc. if she reaches X amount of stars. It really works! I've noticed quite an improvement...even her whining is getting better! She gets so excited about working towards more stars on her chart and knowing about what happens after she receives a certain amount. Her attitude is much better and she behaves a whole lot better too! Try it...it might work for you too! Good luck!!!!!!!!

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

C.

answers from Phoenix on

You didn't mention whether your 4 yr. old is your oldest, but I assume so, or you would have 62 things you'd tried with the other boys. My daughter was [& is] very strong-willed. Exhausting as it was, and seemingly hopeless, we devised the unfailing routine of time out...chair in the corner away from toys, tube, family. [she could hold one lovey...that's all.] Have you ever seen the Miracle Worker w/ Patty Duke? At times I felt like that...right down to the "football block" from both sides so she couldn't leave. As I say, it was awful...but it worked over time. Soon she'd stay for the assigned minutes w/o tantrum. Always talk extreme behaviors over with your pediatrician in case something medical is going on. Good luck.
C.

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

L.

answers from Phoenix on

I have a 4 yr old girl who is very independent and very assertive. For me it was a matter of consistancy using time out frequently and a timer. She hated the timer and that motivated her to either stop a behavior or do what she was told. You also have other children in your home which he is competing for attention. At 4 it's all about them, so they don't understand sharing. What worked for me was getting my 4 yr old involved in cleaning and some (very minor)"cooking". She liked feeling like she was a big girl and my helper. I also had to learn to speak in a very calm and soft voice instead of raising it. If you would like to chat and some help you can email me at [email protected]____.com

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.

answers from Omaha on

H., I have grown sons (twins) that are 19. When they were around 9 or 10 someone told me about John Rosemond. He use to write an article that was in the Omaha World Herald. Not sure if he still does. He writes books. I read his books and went to 2 of his seminars. He is GOOD. Strict. Very strict but what he says works. I know from experiance. His web site is www.rosemond.com . Check him out. You won't be sorry. Let me know if it works for you. [email protected]____.com care and Good Luck!!

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

H.

answers from Phoenix on

Have you tried Nanny 911?

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.F.

answers from Portland on

H.,
I can imagine the feeling your having...it's very frustrating. It may sound a little extreme to some, but if they are really out of control, this is the time to get it back before things get worse (and they can).

Take all of the toys out of your sons room and put them somewhere he can't get them. You can slowly return toys as he improves. Also, when you're feeling your in an intense situation, one thing my husband found worked great with our 3 yr old was quickly removing him from a situation. He would simply walk up to our son, pick him up in a fast movement (not jerking him or hurting him, just moving fast) and taking him to another room or situation. We found that sometimes it brings him back to "reality" and he's easier to work with.

I hope this helps some. Best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

S.

answers from Phoenix on

Okay, I have a just turned 5 year old daughter. With her, we were having all sorts of acting out behaviour and hitting, etc. So I started off taking her and sitting her down in another room-kind of away from what frustrated her.

Then I told her that I wanted her to decide if she really wanted to act the way she was.

Say she got upset over not getting to have a treat: Then I told her it was her decision to either have the treat and give up watching Disney for a day.

Try giving him a choice in his behavior. First remove from the situation and then give him an option. When my daughter gets a choice, she usually decides to take what I first offered. Sometimes she doesn't. Unless it's a big thing that absolutely must NOT be done (like hitting)...then by giving a choice-and letting them feel like they have involvement-works for us.

She now takes the time to decide how she will respond and life here is much better!

1 mom found this helpful

K.B.

answers from Salt Lake City on

H.:
How about you or your husband spending one on one time with him away from the house? Calmly discuss his fighting behavior in a different setting. Hopefully, he will open up and you can get to the root of why he is acting that way. With the baby, it could easily be jealousy. I would start to praise him when he is good instead of always pointing out when he fights or is being bad. Fighting/conflict is something you want to get a handle on while he is still young. Let him know what type of behavior is expected and let him know what the consequence will be for bad behavior. I personally am not a fan of time out, nor am I fan of spanking-unless it is an extreme case...but even then, it would be more of a swat. In our household, the child fighting/not sharing etc. is to tell the other child or parent they are "Sorry" and formally apologize. I wish you the best...
K.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

K.

answers from Colorado Springs on

Hi there! Man, that must be so tough---I have been through the same thing and it made me want to rip my hair out somedays!! I would recommend checking out a "Parenting With Love and Logic" book by Cline and Fay or seeing if a hospital or other place around you is offering one of their classes. Oftentimes the classes are pretty reasonably priced and the tips and techniques used completely turned my son, and our family, around. Life is MUCH more peaceful now!!!

Have patience and try to give yourself some kind of break (even if it is just telling yourself you are ok and are doing a great job raising your kiddos). The Love and Logic stuff really helped me a lot...........best of luck to you!!!

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

C.G.

answers from Colorado Springs on

My daughter turns 4 on the 1st of August and she's the oldest of two. She has had a lot of behavior issues and finally I had to do something drastic to change it so we started a behavioral management plan. I went to the store and got her a jar and some marbles. I also bought some prizes from the dollar store. When she was doing things that are helpful and being a good girl she receives a marble that she gets to put in her jar. When she is misbehaving she has to take a marble out of the jar. When she fills the jar she gets a prize. Its helped us a lot because she can physically see the consequences of misbehaving. She's been so much better now that she has more consistency as well. Its not for everyone but it worked for us.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

C.M.

answers from Las Vegas on

I only have 1 5yr old, what works for me I isolate her from the siutation, tell her her to use her words, and if she gets too excited I tell her to calm down & express w/ words not by yelling cause then you cant help him. use a little reverse phsycology( it works!!!). We have a big family so kids forget to share - if the siblings & are older use them & tell them to lead by example.
It worked on a kid in the supermarket Mom was in line & the little girl was screaming!!! Mom says oh she does that & when I asked the little girl what she wanted she said I want to push the carriage. Go figure & it was a kids carrage at that. Mom was to busy yelling rather than to find out she wanted - was to do all the shoping with her she had her own carriage w/ stuff why not have her put it on the belt too.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

J.F.

answers from Rochester on

My son had very similar issues between 3-4 years of age. We had a GREAT daycare lady who really shed a lot of light on the subject for us. The thing that worked best for us was staying calm. I would usually end up arguing back, which made my son tune me out. Instead, she suggested talking to him calmly, like I would to my husband if we were disagreeing.

We'd take him to a separate room, (usually ours, which was neutral territory) and just say "I don't like how you're acting. It's making me/daddy/your sister upset and I think we all need to calm down." Then he would sit on our bed for a few minutes until he'd calmed down. (This was also good since if he threw a temper tantrum, there were only pillows to throw and not toys)

If this didn't help, he went down for a nap. We'd close his door and just let him have a tantrum if he needed to. We made it very clear that this behavior wouldn't be accepted, and if he wanted to be around friends or the rest of the family, he had to be nice. We also stressed using our "inside" voice. We'd set aside time every day to go outside so he could yell and shout and do what little kids do.

As he got older, he was able to calm down and then tell us the reason he was angry/acting up, and we could reinforce that it's important to play nicely with people so other's don't get hurt by our actions. A lot of it seemed to be frustrations from learning things (ie potty training, tying his shoes, remembering words to a song, etc) but also stemmed from wanting attention. Depending on where your 4 year old is in the age range of your other children will make a difference, too. And not necessarily "middle kid" issues, either.

This is by no means a "quick fix". This takes a lot of determination and dedication on the family's part, (not just you, but anyone who cares for him like grandparents or babysitters) but is completely worth it in my opinion. My son still acts up from time to time (all kids do) but he's much more likely to resolve it on his own. Hope this helped a bit.

~J.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

C.K.

answers from Minneapolis on

One thing is to try to remember to stay calm..which may be hard to do when it's so frustrating. Remember that you are the boss. Consistency is the key. Have you tried putting him in a time out? First, find out what is love language is.. for my son..time outs don't always work..my son's love language is quality time. therefore, I have to make sure my husband and I are doing something really fun in front of him, so he knows he is missing out. that has worked for us. In the mean while, there are some child therapy tools you can try with your son..so he can talk about his feelings through playing. hope this is a start. I know of a great therapist who has her phd..in child therapy..she's in bloomington. let me know if you need anything else.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

P.H.

answers from Denver on

Hi, H.

Have you tried having a time out? We're using a carpet square like on the "Supernanny" show. One minute of time out for every year of their age. Then, the offending child has to apologize to the person who was hurt, and give them a hug and a kiss. This hasn't eliminated the fighting in my house, but has helped cut it way down. It also diffuses the situation when it's happening.

Also, have you read any of the Love and Logic books by Jim Fay? He is wonderful! He is all about giving kids choices, which is really motivating for kids. I highly recommend Parenting with Love and Logic, and Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood.

Good Luck!

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

F.H.

answers from Portland on

This can be very difficult. Since he is 4, it could be ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), but it could be environmental, too. Make sure he doesn't have any ear infections or food allergies. Make sure you speak to his pediatrician, because I know my son gets VERY cranky and out of control when he is just getting sick...it can be as much as 2 weeks prior to his actual falling ill. He is 8, now, but still does it. He is something of a class clown, but he has a BAD temper. Being consistent is the best remedy. If you do timeouts, make sure he gets them right away when the behavior is happening. If he gets up, put him back. I had to do this for my son and I think the record was a 2 hour timeout because he just wouldn't stay quiet and in the corner. But, he eventually did it and it got easier after that. You will have to control your own rising temper, too. I know it was very frustrating just sitting there being quiet while he took a timeout for 2 hours, but the more you talk and react, the more he will react and act up. I won't lie; we still have some behavioral issues from time to time, but it is a lot better now. You may want to institute a reward program, too. Maybe set up a jar with colored cotton balls and every time he does something good, he gets so many cotton balls. When the jar is full, he can do something really fun like go bowling or to a movie or buy a toy or whatever he likes to do. If he is a big helper, you might say every few cotton balls, he can help clean the kitchen or living room (kids love to vacuum). :) This is big for my son at school. When he gets so many stars, he can go to his previous year's teacher and help her out in the classroom.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

T.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Hi H.,
I listened to the author of the book "ScreamFree Parenting" by Hal Runkel. I am currently on the waiting list at the library. It was very interesting and is suppose to teach you how to get your kids to do things without having to scream. I know alot has to do with being consistant and always following through with what you say you are going to do. Check it out. I can't wait to read it and get some new ideas myself.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

B.V.

answers from Provo on

Where does he fall in the family?? I would suggest if you have extra money, that maybe contact a local karate school and see if they think they might be able to help. I don't have any boys.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.Z.

answers from Denver on

I would remove him from the situation and put him in a different room. The old "time out" thing! My oldest was a challenge at that age too and I found that would be the only thing that worked. No attention is better than negative attention! Stick to your guns so that he will learn that he will get the same result everytime he does something.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

G.

answers from Denver on

Hi, my name is G. and I'm a single mom. I have a 4 1/2 year old son that was (is) also a wild child. We have been through 8 daycares in a year and a half because no one can control him. I have been told that he may be bi-polar (by his pediatrician), or ADD, or .... I started him on some natural products from a site called nativeremmedies.com. I HAVE A DIFFERENT CHILD. Still wild, but not as aggressive or confused. Also, lots of wild "boytime" with my boyfriend has helped him. Aggressive wrestling, throwing things, being crazy- boy stuff that moms aren't the best at! He wants more attention and loving and more of a chance to be a wild boy. Hope that helps.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.L.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I have a child that is nearly four. He is the same way. He argues and fights with everyone it seems. His older siblings (3) dont' do anything but hinder by fighting back. We have started taking him out of the picture when he gets frustrated. It has gotten to the point where there is a designated corner with his name on it. We call it his anger corner. He can hit the wall, yell and scream or what ever he wants to get his anger out. Then when his anger subsides he is more likely to answer questions about why he was angry. Maybe this can help you. It takes some time and patience and serious understanding. You may have to give him a pillow or something to use the first couple times. Hope all works well.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.M.

answers from Tucson on

Hi H. my advice will be that you need professional help, maybe a counselor or a early dev. worker, somebody that help you to figure out better way to apply choices and consequences, are soo many agency that can help you.
I am a Behavior Counselor and also I do have adopted son with multiple diagnosis. I don't know where you live but I have information in different states. I live in Tucson, AZ and here are 3 specific agencies. (la Frontera, Pantano and Providence) the 3 are free for low income medicare or kidcan.
Good luck, A.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

E.

answers from Omaha on

I have 3 young daughters of my own and my husband and I struggled with these same things when they were a bit younger. We took the Common Sense Parenting class thru Boys and Girls Town. That was the best thing we ever did. It was only $90 and 1 1/2 hours once a week for 4-6 weeks. We had things under control in just a few weeks and it was great that my husand and I were on the same page as far as parenting went. If we fell off the wagon we would just pull out the book and refresh. Our kids are older now (9, 8 & 5) but we have taken the techniques and rolled them into something that works for their ages. The skills we learned were priceless and I would suggest any parent weather stuggling with behavior problems or not take this class. Heck, you have to take classes to do your job why not to raise your children? I dont knwo about you but I was not born knowing how to raise little people!! Hope this helps!
E. :)

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

B.E.

answers from Minneapolis on

I have a 4-1/2 year old who is still a major challenge. He fights with everyone too and it just gets everyone mad and in a "tizzy." He calls me "stupid," "idiot," "I hate you," etc., and what he's mad at is that he's not getting control over me. It's been a major battle for control since he was three and I have felt defeated many, many times. I've talked to a child psychologist who told me consistency is the main thing and to not let him get the control. She also said this may not be something I can "nip in the bud." It may be a lifetime temperament. We have done time outs, removed him from the situation. I've had to look him in the eyes and tell him his behavior is unacceptable and he cannot join us at the table, go out in public, etc. I agree with all the other responses that patience--heroic patience--is needed, and to also look at how the rest of the family is acting. I can honestly say his temper tantrums were well learned by his mom and dad, so we had to change our own behavior. I've also watched Nanny 9-1-1 and found it helpful.

I have thought about a natural remedy, but am not interested in the drug manufacturer's options, such as Ritalin. I think he's a boy and he naturally needs more attention, has more energy and is more wild. I have to say, after a weekend away with his father at the cabin, he's been a dream child this week. He needs lots of time with dad, so he can disengage from the constant bouncing off of me. It has really helped to get dad to step in and be the leader in this situation.

We're still holding out hope that his behavior will improve as he gets older, but it is a long, challenging road.

Good luck. I've learned from all the responses here and glad I'm not alone.

Barb E.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

R.J.

answers from Phoenix on

Oh, H. - how I wish we could talk face to face. Four years old was when we started being able to take our precious little guy out in public again. His tantrums were intense and completely unpredictable. The only way to stop him from destroying something or hurting himself was to hold him. And I was told when I was 6 months pregnant with my second child that I needed to stop holding him during a tantrum because he could hurt the baby. He never meant to really hurt anyone, and you could see the war on his face - the one between his unbridled anger and his sweet spirit. It was heart-wrenching for my husband and me.

So what did we try - besides everything? We took him to a counselor (did the marble jar, the star charts, etc), took him to a shrink (obvious signs of oppositional-defiant disorder and possibly ADHD, but meds made him sick and changed his whole personality). Oh, yes, and lots of Dr. Phil episodes! You're going to hate this, H., but what ended up making the difference was consistency and patience, and lots of them. And I couldn't agree more with previous advice about positive, personal attention - my son needs that from me more than anything else. We talk a lot about respect. And like Susan mentioned, kids often respond really well to being given choices, making them feel a little more in control, and boosting their self-esteem when you shower them with praise over making the right decision. My little guy also feeds off my moods and adopts them as his own, which is a real hassle because I have a mood disorder myself. (Talk about pressure, not to mention guilt!) So I had to make some major changes in myself, my parenting and my home in general. I had to adopt the mindset of "this is not a Michael issue; this is a whole family issue". We got help from outside sources, of course, like friends, family, and James Dobson from Focus on the Family (he's fantastic!), but it was - and still is - work with a capital "W"...everyday. My son is six now, and is much more in control, but he still has his raging moments. And on the days I am lazy, negative or apathetic, I can see it reflected in his behavior.

It's not my intention to frighten or frustrate you - your situation could be very different from mine and may require a lot fewer adjustments - but I wanted to interject my story in case there was something you could use. Lots and lots of grace to you, H.. Please let us know when you find something that really works with your son. :)

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

S.

answers from Phoenix on

Don't give up and don't give in. It's seems a lot harder on the parents because we get so tired of trying to do the right thing. My two year old nephew (also most 3) came to live with my husband and I about 9 months ago, we also have a 16 month old son. We had to make sure we not only had them play together but also alone. We would separate them and my husband and I would give them separate attention. My nephew would be a different child when I would give him undivided attention. I would read books with him, color, do puzzles. If I had to run to the store or my husband would go play golf we would take turns taking only one of the kids. But there were times (and there still are)when he would just be in a mood. We started making him stand with his nose and toes to the wall (time out). At first we would have to stand right behind him in order to make sure he would do it. Sometimes we would have to stand there for 15 minutes just to make him do it. If he refused to eat dinner, he would go to bed with out. If he missed behaved in the store everyone else would get a treat when we got home and he wouldn't. A couple of times it has taken me over an hour to get him to take a nap because he would keep getting down to play. A few times I've had plans to go to the park or go swimming but have had to tell him we weren't going because of the way he was behaving....even though I really wanted to go I had to take the sacrifice in order to prove a point. I have to say I'm also a believer in discipline (spanking) when needed. You just have to stick to your rules and not give in....even when you feel guilty...don't!

Good Luck

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

B.B.

answers from Omaha on

My son started acting out at this age and I took him to a counselor because I couldn't control the situation anymore. I found out he had bipolar. Regardless of the situation parents need to relax to. I would try a lot of different techniques that someone can teach you. There are parenting classes, in home counselors, Counselors for children, Child Saving Institute, Know that it is not your fault and when each of your parents need a time out give each other the support and time. It is very difficult raising a child that start temper tantrums and will not listen. There could be a lot of possible reasons in a child why they would act in that matter, but it's when you have to reach to the bottom of his frustration, actions and what is going on in is mind then it help you understand better and able to control the situation better. My son is 10 years old today. One of the best ideas was to get him into something very busy. I went through years of these situations so I understand agression and not listening. He was in soccer last year and he is in football this year. He is doing great. Keep him as busy as possible and try to take turns with the kids as far as attention, but the other kids are invading his space when mom is teaching him something new so please let someone else take that role why one of you as parents are sharing a role with him. Give it a try. It will take time though. Good luck. B.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

B.

answers from Honolulu on

I just finished reading a book called "How to Talk to Kids so They Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish. I liked their philosophy and techniques used for raising children, based on respect (and it was a very fast read, too!). Granted, you will not get immediate results like time-outs will, and they don't promise that the techniques will work every single time, but I think you will raise an independent child who feels respected and will show respect. I have a 5-year-old daughter and have tried time-outs and taking away of privileges with her, but I found that when I did, she got a "Now I've got nothing to lose" attitude. Goal-setting and giving of rewards didn't work for her either, as she was stubborn enough to talk herself out of wanting the prize or reward.

I suppose there is no "right" way to raise a child. You just need to follow your instincts.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches