Angry 4 year old - what to do? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 09-06-2011, 08:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Mamas I need your help. I haven't been on the board in I don't know how long but I'm at my wits end with my 4.5 year old son. he was the easiest baby and toddler anyone can wish for but now at almost 5 years old he's started talking back, constantly not doing what i'm asking him to do, saying things like 'i'm gonna break our house/our car/ my toys/ hit my teacher" etc. He's refusing to get dressed in the morning, and to bed at night. Whatever I ask him to do I'll get a loud 'no' screamed back at me - with grinding teeth and fists raised - and he will do exactly the opposite.


It's so bad it's putting a strain on my marriage with my husband. I just want to cry. I feel like I'm mad at him (my son) all day, just yapping at him to do stuff to sit still, be quiet, clean up, put on clothes, put up his dishes etc. My husband is tired of hearing me yap all day, which is understandable. He tries to help out but often annoys me too. I just feel like i need some time off....I don't want to be with my kids and husband, i just want to be left alone and do absoltely NOTHING. It makes me sad to think that but  really don't know what else to do.


I hope I can get some advise here. I have talked to moms I hang out with and am horrified with their answers. i've heard anything from spankings with a belt to hot sauce and soap in his mouth which is NOT THE WAY I WANT TO RAISE MY KIDS. That's exactly what I'm trying to steer away from.


Please help.

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#2 of 10 Old 09-06-2011, 04:54 PM
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I am so sorry about what is going on! I really wish I had some helpful advice, but I just wanted to offer some hugs and hope that other moms out there can provide some insight.  I did have a few questions, and wondered if you thought any of it might be a source of the issues:


--  Have you noticed if anything dietary sets him off?  Is he on a fish oil or fatty acid supplement?  From my own experience (and those of friends), if I miss my multivitamins or fish oil, I am not pleasant to be around.  Fish oil in particular helps me regulate my mood.


--  Does he watch TV or is he exposed to media?  If so, is it possible to cut it out of your life for awhile?  Maybe some nature therapy?


--  I am reading the book "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn, which is really wonderful.  I am not far into it, and right now the book seems to focus on a lot of what not to do (i.e., withholding love, time outs, excessive praise, etc., etc.), so I am looking forward to getting some tips.  But it so far has been a really helpful reminder of the importance of love, kindness, and patience in discipline.


Finally, I am also horrified by your friends' advice.  It is disrespectful, unkind, and I think will only serve to anger your son further.


Good luck and I hope that this too shall pass!

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#3 of 10 Old 09-06-2011, 08:20 PM
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Hugs to you for sure. I'm so sorry you are dealing with this. Do you have a good pediatrician? Ours has always been really helpful with advice on how to deal with stuff like that! When our daughter was "acting out" with anger, one piece of advice he gave us was to give her options for expressing her anger and encouraging her to talk about why she was angry. Also, to let her know that its okay to feel angry as long as we express it appropriately.


Good luck to you!!! smile.gif

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#4 of 10 Old 09-09-2011, 10:53 AM
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What does your DH think about your son's behavior?  Are parenting style differences causing strife between you two?



Wife to Doug, mom to Hank and Logan !!!
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#5 of 10 Old 09-09-2011, 02:25 PM
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I agree with PP who said to talk to him about his feelings and let him know it's more than okay to feel angry, but that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to express our feelings. Maybe something is bothering him at school? Since the new year just started it could just be his nerves trying to settle into a new routine, etc.


And instead of "yapping" at him to do stuff, can you make it playful? Like, "Oh, I see you took your shoes off in here. Let's race them and see whether the right one or the left one makes it to your room first." If he refuses (and he may at first, just to be contrary) just do it yourself, in the silliest way you can, making car noises or whatever, and maybe he'll want to join in the fun next time. I think if you act silly enough, he'll lighten up a bit.


ETA: And yeah, FISH OIL!

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#6 of 10 Old 09-18-2011, 08:26 PM
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I've been dealing with similar issues... and just kinda sick of listening to myself... 

When I read your message and thought about all the great advice I used to find on here I thought... "Well maybe he need and safe time and place to act angry"... then I kinda laughed at myself cause maybe I should try it here.


My son Just turned five, and when he isn't angry at me he is pretty critical of me... mad that his breakfast fork had syrup on it for example.


I can tell his testoterone levels are running kinda high right now... how to put this... his urine smells stronger (nightly pull ups) and his "junk" is a little larger than it was looking a month ago.  I often see a correlation between these attitude times and his random burst/outbursts of yelling or running or hitting or slamming something...


A friend suggested, and it proved out, that I ought to have him checked for allergies... because her son was difficult too, and after testing and confirmation Allegra made her son into a new kid... and when I treat my sons allergy symptoms he behaves MUCh better...


But Testosterone  can spoil all my intentions...


I put my son in Yoga hoping he'll learn to calm himself, and when he was in a really active gym class a couple times a week he was a bit happier...


Let me know if you find a really great solution.  Best of luck

Tea drinking Momma::: Grady 8/06 and : Coralynn 8/09
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#7 of 10 Old 09-19-2011, 09:49 AM
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Unconditional parenting is a great book. It really doesn't get into prescriptive though. You might want to pick up "how to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk" for more scenerios. In general, things that have worked for my almost 4yo are
-adequate sleep: consistent bedtime, white noise (fan) to help quality of sleep.
-pay attention to triggers: low bloodsugar is key for ds1 so if he's starting to act out I make sure he has a small quality snack.
-whole foods with little sugar
-pick my battles: give him as much control over his life as possible. Keeping in mind also it is in his job description to gain skills to allow him one day to be independent (and to learn that he CAN do things)
-he is more important than time. If it takes him five minutes to buckle his carseats, that's ok. (see pick my battles)
-change the topic (also see Pick My Battles). If I see something is heading towards a confrontation I take a step back and ask myself if it will be ok to let him do it his way. If no, then I see if there is a compromise (eg. You can take the toy in the car but it can't go into school). If there is no compromise available, I try to reframe the request, give it a break for a few minutes, or give a transition plan (ok go down the slide one more time). If none of those work I try joking distraction (look! Your brother is eating your shoes! You need to get them on your feet before he gnaws a hole in them!)

One thing I've found that does not work is trying to talk while we're still engaged in whatever the issue is-- he gets obstnate or doesn't listen and I start haranging orngtongue.gif

Eta: I think the best thing from Unconditional Parenting is thinking about what your end goals are for your child and how a lot of the techniques commonly taught to gain obedience are destructive to those end goals. Parenting with love and logic is probably harder than spanking a child, but the lessons you teach are so much better.

Loving DH geek.gif, raising DS1 learning.gif(01/08) and DS2 bfinfant.gif(10/10), caring for cat.gif x 3 .
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#8 of 10 Old 09-27-2011, 08:59 PM
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Want to send you such a big hug.  We have been going through a really rough patch with our son, just turned four.  I've actually said out loud two different times that I thought the decision to have children was the worst decision I'd ever made - I actually said this!  I LOVE my children, and everything about being a parent!  But man, is it ever tough with an unhappy four-year-old around.  They can seriously make every moment feel pretty hellish.


My son has taken to screaming, "NO!" in this creepy, devilish voice.  Punching us.  Hard.  Punching his one-year-old sister.  Grabbing her hands and feet and squeezing them as hard as he can.  Mocking back to us every thing we say.  Screaming as loud as he can every time she enters the room.  (Yes, every single time - she just learned to walk.)  Running away from us.  Just in general being absolutely intolerable to be around.


Near as I can tell, it's based on this rule:  If a child feels right, he will act right.  With a heavy dose of I miss my mama.


Feeling right, physically:  My son has a dairy intolerance that, as an infant, caused acne.  As a toddler it caused tummy aches.  Once he turned three, it caused horrible, violent behavior.  I now believe he cannot even ingest a hint of it, and that he's also intolerant of corn (including corn syrup).  Each ingestion causes four days of non-fun.  


Feeling right also includes, for us, a routine.  Even weekends are rough for him.  Also included are bowel movements, sleep, and just plain ol' eating enough.  Keeping his blood sugar level ... level ... is key.


And yes, he misses his time with me.  Before his sister arrived it was just the two of us.  Now the baby is here, and my husband now works from home.  DS rarely has a moment alone with me.  His days go so much better when I am the one to put him to sleep, and if he has just a few seconds alone with me when he awakes.


I tell you all of this to say:  Yesterday and today were relatively good for us, and it all involved work.  A lot of work.  I have to stay three steps ahead of him, all day long.  A couple times I failed:  When I found him hitting his sister in the face repetitively, I looked at the clock and realized he ate breakfast 2 hrs prior.  Convinced him to eat waffles and maple syrup, and he was back to his old self.  In the afternoon, he raised his fist to hit me.  I realized he needed time alone with me and a book, which fixed him right up.  But otherwise, he was just a sweetheart.  A lot of it was my reaction.  Instead of getting upset when he slammed the door, raised that fist, snarled his lip, I just ignored it and excitedly changed the subject, picked him up and hugged him, etc.  


We talk a lot about what he can do when he feels angry, what do to with that hand when he feels it turn into a fist.  He has yet to pick me up on my suggestions (hit a pillow, take a deep breath and blow into his thumb to open those fingers) or suggest anything of his own, but at least he knows I understand what anger is, that it's okay, and that it has to get out, somehow.


We just went on vacation, where he spent many hours with my husband, who only reacts by sternly saying, "Stop.  You may not hit.  People are not for hitting."  Which is exactly what all the books say, but only makes my son hit harder.  The only things that works with DS is to ignore it and fix the underlying cause.  For us, it's more mama time, more food, more sleep, more routine, less Papa.  This last part sounds horrible, but at least for now it is true.  DH knows his reactions (such as quite dramatically pulling the car over and pulling DS out and to the side of the road to "talk to him" after he repeatedly screams and kicks DH's seat) do not help at all, but DH cannot get himself to act differently.


Anyhow.  It will get better!  You will figure it out!  Again, sending hugs.  It is *not* easy!

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#9 of 10 Old 09-27-2011, 10:55 PM
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I am so glad to read this thread. My almost-4-year-old has been going through a lot of anger. We've had a bunch of changes in our lives - a big move, mom started grad school, dad is away 3 nights a week - so I know that has a lot to do with it. But I'm at my wits end with him sometimes: hitting, spitting in our faces, screaming, throwing things at me. He usually does these things while laughing maniacally. I go back and forth between trying to ignore it and change the subject to just losing my temper. He's not getting enough sleep, but he consistently refuses to go to bed and gets up early.


So, I don't have much advice, but the few things I have figured out:

I know that being tired or hungry can trigger an episode.

He also often has one shortly after I return home from being away from him. I try to focus on him 100% for a while when I get home, and it does seem to help.

This is not my favorite thing, but I have found that isolating myself from him is sometimes the only way to get him to stop hurting me (and to get me to stop wanting to hurt him). Then when the angry has turned to sadness, I can talk to him about how what he's doing is making me feel. I don't know how much is getting through.

Also, time and space sometimes works. If I can't get him anywhere near where I need him (like asleep) sometimes I just leave him alone, with some parameters (you have to be quiet and in your room) and after 30 minutes or so he'll come and say he wants help getting to sleep. If I stop fighting, it takes the fight out of him. Sometimes.


I have read Unconditional Parenting and want very much to stay away from the whole bribe and punishment mentality of parenting. But I have to admit that my husband has used some really basic behaviorist techniques (if you hit, we are not going to the movies) with some success. I feel desperate enough to try some of that (hence the above-mentioned isolation).


I'm also going to experiment with food. He's on a pasta and bread diet at the moment and I wonder if that's not contributing.


Good luck! And I hope others have some more suggestions.

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#10 of 10 Old 09-28-2011, 09:02 AM
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great advice here.


I want to echo - food allergies or insensitivities AND brain food - fish oil is a good one.


I also give DS Focus Factor for Kids when he starts to act not like his normal cheerful, cooperative self. After 1-2 doses, we see a difference. Clearly, something is missing in his fairly-decent diet, and FFfK serves to give his brain what it needs. (He also gets CLO, but that alone was not enough.)


Also, check out the book "What's Eating your Child?" by Kelly Dorfman. She explains nutritional (dietary and supplement) approaches to all sorts of childhood issues. Anger (and mood in general) is one thing she addresses.

DS, 10/07. Allergies: peanut, egg, wheat. We've added dairy back in. And taken it back out again. It causes sandpaper skin with itchy patches and thrashing during sleep. Due w/ #2 late April, 2012.

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