Is this normal 4yr old developmental behaviour? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 07-21-2013, 08:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Our 4 yr old has very recently started to "talk back" and/or say rude stuff to us. She is getting sassy with us.

Is this normal 4 yr old developmental behaviour?

Should we ignore it? Call her on it? Punish her some way for it?


We dont really "punish" her for anything. Although if she is getting really rambinctious or doing things to hurt her brothers we do force her to take some "chill out time" on the stairs. We allow her to tell us when she is done. Unless she decides after 10 seconds, then we help her to decide on a longer chill out time :)



As of now I just say stuff like "That is being very rude. Please don't speak to me like that"

It doesn't really work as she will just say "You're being rude!"

I do tell her it is not ok for her to talk to us like that.


She is going through some things.

She just turned 4.

She is starting jr. Kindergarten in Sept and excited but a bit anxious about it.

She has almost 8 month old twin brothers, and the novelty is definitely wearing off for her recently. I think she is just realizing that they are here to stay and will be needy for quite some time.


We do A LOT with her. "Fill her cup" as much as we can. Lots of cuddles, play time, reading, one on one time with each parent, etc.


Part of me thinks it is a normal 4 yr old milestone. But then part of me fears that she is turning into a little monster and if I don't curb the behaviour now I will have a rude, obnoxious, delinquent on my hands soon enough.

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#2 of 6 Old 07-22-2013, 06:16 AM
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The talking back is definitely normal. My 4 year old does some of the same as yours. Hopefully bumping this up will get you some advice and support from others but I personally think what you are already doing is great. 

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#3 of 6 Old 07-22-2013, 07:26 AM
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If the tone is rude I just say, "try again" and usually it's fine on the second try.  It makes it less of a big contentious moment and more just a little blip in the conversation.  If she seems at a loss as to how to rephrase something, you can do it for her in as few words as possible.

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#4 of 6 Old 07-22-2013, 07:27 AM
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I usually call them out on it, saying it's not OK, *AND* give them an alternative of what they CAN say if they're frustrated/angry, whatever. 


So for like, GO AWAY!  I'd say, "That's rude - if you'd like me to leave you can say: Please leave I need to be alone"


That's the first example that popped into my head....but the idea is, you're only half done if you are telling the kid what NOT to do, because then they're filling in the part about what to do instead.  You have to give them the alternative, over and over and over again, but eventually things start to stick.  


My kids are now 9 and 7 and at this point I'll just give them the look, say, "That was rude - please try again."   or "I'm positive you can figure out a polite way to tell/ask me that."  and they know how to rephrase things on their own. 

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#5 of 6 Old 07-22-2013, 01:51 PM
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Oh, boy.  We have been struggling with this off and on since our son was 3, and he is now 8--so your fears of "creating a monster" are not unfounded.  I think where we went wrong was responding inconsistently and sometimes in bad ways.  These are some things NOT to do, with alternatives:

  • Don't respond to her nasty tone by feeling that now you are justified in using a nasty tone or raising your voice.  Instead, model the kind of voice and word choice you would like her to use.  When that's difficult because you feel so annoyed, think about how she must feel, and speak the way you'd like someone to speak to you to help you calm down.
  • Don't imitate her nasty tone in a mocking or exaggerated way.  This can hurt her feelings or trigger her to argue that she does NOT sound like that.  (My son and his dad are champs of arguing about who was or was not "yelling" and then arguing about whether or not they are arguing and totally losing the point of the original discussion!!)  Also, it puts the focus on what you don't want instead of on what you do want.  Instead, flinch a little or look sad, and say in a nice voice, "Please say that again in a nice way."
  • Don't hold a grudge about the sassy talk.  Instead, the moment she improves her behavior, jump into that positive moment and try to stay in it.  Example: "Mama! I need cheese! You better get it for me now!"  "Please say that again in a nice way."  "Can I have some cheese? Please."  Now you choose to respond with, "Yes, I'll get you some cheese," and get it in a cheerful way--instead of banging the refrigerator door while lecturing, "I wish you'd just ask nicely the first time.  You act like I'm some kind of servant!  That makes me mad!"  (If you feel you really need to express those feelings, do it BEFORE she's corrected her behavior.  Otherwise you give the impression that the correction still isn't good enough and she just can't get anything right!)
  • Don't respond to your child accusing YOU of speaking disrespectfully by arguing that you weren't or that you are justified in being rude to her because you're having a bad day.  This will get you nowhere fast, and it will teach her that these are acceptable responses to being told you're offending someone.  Instead, say, "Sorry," take a deep breath, smile a little, and say it again.  If you are feeling tired and irritated, it's entirely possible that you DID speak a little rudely, so try to respect her feelings.  Even if you're certain that she is only saying you were rude when you asked her for something because she feels like you tell her she's rude every time she asks you for something, and you know your request was impeccably pleasant--model what you want her to understand is the appropriate response from someone who's been told she spoke rudely.
  • Don't allow discussion about how things are said to derail important activity--getting out of a dangerous situation, getting out of the house on time, getting her to bed when you know she's exhausted.  Keep your focus on what needs to happen now.  Once it's done, think about whether you really need to discuss it (for example, if it's not just the way she spoke but that she was defying you in an obvious way, like you told her to come back to the path and she went closer to the cliff edge) and then sit down to talk about it at a calmer time.
  • Don't start expecting rudeness and sometimes accepting it.  Especially, don't roll your eyes at the other parent like, "Can you believe that?!" as you're grudgingly obeying the kid's sassy command--that is a bad, bad direction for all concerned.  Instead, when you're about to speak to your child, imagine the response you'd like to get.  If she's sassy, look surprised.  Maybe try the active-listening thing of saying, "You sound angry." and letting her explain why she's angry, or that she's not really angry but just hungry, or that she didn't mean it to come out that way and is sorry.


I hope this list of "don'ts" doesn't come across as negative--I'm explaining it this way because in retrospect, I see so many things that we HAVE done that we shouldn't, and I feel like reading about positive discipline strategies put those positive ideas in my memory bank but didn't suppress my knee-jerk responses to being treated badly when I'm having a rough time.  The fact is that I did go through a lot of bad experiences, stress, and expecting too much of myself when my son was 2-5 years old, and that made it easier to feel horrible when he was rude to me and react very negatively to it.  Since you have twin babies, you're undoubtedly overloaded at times, too!  So I hope this is helpful and you can get out of this stage quickly!

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#6 of 6 Old 07-24-2013, 03:29 PM
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I usually say "I don't like the way you are talking to me." If it continues and the tone is too harsh I pause until I can get calm. If it continues I model exactly how I want to be talked to. I repeat myself a lot. It also works with my husband.


I disagree with making the judgement that the child is rude and telling the child what they are. Try to hear what the child is too immature to say and repeat what you would like to hear in a respectful manner.


For example:



Me: I don't like the way you are talking to me.


DD (sometimes): Mommy can I please have that?



Me: Mommy can I please have that?

DD (usually repeats): Mommy can I please have that?


It usually works.

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