4 year old is killing me - Mothering Forums
The Childhood Years > 4 year old is killing me
stlmomof2's Avatar stlmomof2 08:57 PM 02-29-2012

My son has always been difficult but it seems like he got better around 3 and now at a young 4, is almost as exhausting and difficult as he was as a nonsleeping fussy baby.  Last year, I worked full time and this school year I'm a SAHM and watching 2 babies.  The babies are great--sweet, playful, fun girls.  They restrict our freedom somewhat but we still go to the park and occasionally more exciting places.  Nonetheless, DS spends most of the day whining over wanting to do something I told him he can't do.  He wants to play video games (I limit his screen time to 30 minutes a day).  He wants chocolate (I do give him treats but not constantly).  He wants to go to Monkey Joe's (fun, expensive place for kids).  If I say no to whatever he wants to do, he typically growls, throws things, kicks/hits me, or says things like, "I hate you.  No more kisses or love for you.  I just want to hit you."  When he does these things, I send him to his room for a few minutes, mostly because he makes ME mad and I need a little break.  I have put him in preschool two days a week as of the last month, which he loves.  I thought this might make him happier in general but it seems like he still hates coming home and being with me.  We mostly spend all of our time together and although I do make a point of reading to him and doing other little activities with him, I just cannot sit there talking to a 4 year old for hours on end.  He talks constantly, it drives me nuts, and sometimes I'll say, "I need a break.  I need some Mommy time," and I'll let him use the computer.  Although he's okay with this, he'd really rather me sit next to him talking to him about his computer games.  When I take him places like the grocery store, he does really annoying things like hide in the next row over right after I tell him to stay within my sight.  Occasionally he'll lay down and refuse to move in public places because I said no to something or other or I'm saying it's time to go.  He is really exhausting and infuriating.  He can be incredibly negative, sometimes sitting around listing all the ways everyone he knows has slighted him, sometimes from months back ("I don't like Andrew showing me my toys.  I should be the one showing him my toys.  Daddy didn't say bye to me this morning. Why did we have to leave the park?  I didn't get to go down the red slide...").  It seems like he's either really cranky or acting very silly/happy.   Last night when he was in a good mood, I asked him why he acts up with me and he said, "Because I don't like you."  I said, "Why don't you like me?"  He said, "Because you never do fun things with me.  You never let me use the tablet" (DH's computer with Angry Birds).  He is almost always sweet and helpful when it comes to the babies, although he sometimes gets agitated if one of them is crying really hard (uncommon).  DH, who works full time, describes him as "delightful" and says that he always has a fantastic time hanging out with him.  DS loves hanging out with daddy and is grateful for everything daddy does for him.  DH used to be very stern with DS, occasionally spanking him or yelling in a scary way at him.  I really do not agree with that approach and have talked to DH about it and he's eased up.  Now DS behaves so well for DH as though being an authoritarian really worked.  When DS does something wrong or if he gets hurt and cries, he always says, "Don't tell Daddy!"  He's obviously still scared of DH but wants to impress him, too.  Sometimes I snap on DS, too, but have only spanked him a few times (which I totally regret) and am more likely than DH to keep calm and talk things out.  Any advice, helpful books, etc.?

ghannit's Avatar ghannit 01:23 AM 03-01-2012

I too have a just-turned-four-year-old (DD), and a 3 month old (DS), & I strongly relate. I was warned years ago that 4 is surprisingly tough, and wow, it is. The grumpy/cranky or silly/happy thing you referenced rung very familiar to me! Sometimes I long for age 2 or even 3. For all of the difficulties of those ages there was not this intense sullenness or this intense hyperness. 


I often say that she really is becoming a child now, and is no longer a baby... for better and for worse. I tend to see this as a phase, and an adjustment time wherein the negativity is a sort of testing of the childs own reality. Finding fault in people (and this applies for DD to things too, like clothing tags, her hair, etc...) seems to be a natural way of defining herself and her perceptions.


I know how exhausting, frustrating, draining it gets. The ability to be rude (in tone of voice, wow) has really shown itself recently!


The best advice I can offer is what sometimes takes the edge off for me: explain your own hurt feelings in the face of your childs negativity or meanness. They really aren't fully aware of the damage they do to your relationship. Empathy is not developed yet. End a bad day with a hug and an affirmation of your love.


Comments at bedtime like, "Lets try to make tomorrow a happy day for everyone. Lets be our nice selves so that we can feel calmer and less frustrated than we did today. I love our happy calm times together. Lets notice all of the good things around us", often seem to have some effect.   


Good luck and I really feel your pain!         

stlmomof2's Avatar stlmomof2 09:18 AM 03-01-2012

Thanks, Ghannit.  Glad to know I'm not the only one and 4 is widely recognized as a tough age.  For some reason, I had the idea for years that when my kids turned 6 and 4, everything would be so easy.  Although he's a lot less physically draining than he was from 0-2, all of the guilt trips, whining, and mean talk day in and day out really get to me.  But when I talk to friends who have intense, challenging children who are 4 or older, they say that their children never say they hate them.

stlmomof2's Avatar stlmomof2 09:52 PM 03-01-2012

Nobody else????  Please???

pianojazzgirl's Avatar pianojazzgirl 06:12 AM 03-02-2012

I have to go bring ds to preschool, but I'll come back later.


I did want to mention that 4 is pretty universally recognized as a difficult age.

pianojazzgirl's Avatar pianojazzgirl 07:07 AM 03-02-2012

OK, I'm coming back with a book recommendation.  Check out "The Explosive Child" - I think it might resonate with you (and make you feel better too when you read much more extreme examples of explosive behaviour!).  I don't even know that I'd classify either of my kids as "explosive", but I still really got a lot out of this book.  The author talks about identifying triggers to explosions and then working on ways of solving those "problems" using a "collaborative problem solving" approach.  I found it very interesting and helpful.


I also want to mention that lots of kids say "I hate you" to their parents.  Very common.  Of course it doesn't really mean "I hate you", but is an expression of their frustration/anger/sadness/etc.



stlmomof2's Avatar stlmomof2 04:28 PM 03-02-2012

Thanks, pianojazzgirl.  I have actually read that book only I read it years ago in the context of teaching challenging kids.  I may need to reread that.  I need to brainstorm triggers for him.  Mostly it seems like just randomly he gets an idea in his head of something impractical that he wants and if I don't say yes, then he lashes out.  Maybe there's some kind of pattern to the times or situations in which he decides to start asking for things.

sagelove's Avatar sagelove 08:46 PM 03-02-2012

I can relate. I also have a challenging 4 1/2 year old son. He is often quite difficult (and has been since an infant, he has a very strong willed and moody temperament and is incredibly active), but he also gets into those "hyper/silly" phases a lot, too (especially when he is tired--he goes bonkers...or he will often get that way with like-minded peers). He can be really awesome or really draining, lol. Love that little guy so much, but man can he push my buttons! He also often hits/gets physical when angry (getting sloooowly better over time), can be very negative and is slow to warm to new situations or people. I have skimmed or read different parts of various books, from Raising your Spirited Child to The Difficult Child to How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, etc., but I find certain techniques don't really work for him like they would to a more "average" or "easy-going" child. He does go to preschool and does fine there. However, he is the youngest in the class (late summer birthday) and his actions are still on the immature side. For example, he often has a really difficult time sharing, where as I've noticed many of his peers are more open to sharing at this age. He also still snatches toys a lot, something I though he would have mostly grown out of by now. And following verbal directions is a challenge. He is extremely territorial about his toys at his house, so we try to do play dates on neutral territory or other peoples' houses. Speaking of play dates, I have to been near him quite a bit to help guide his interactions...no extended chatting with other moms!


On the flip side, he is incredibly bright, extremely perceptive (even though it may not seem that way upon casual observation...he must have some weird spidey sense going on) and can be quite compassionate. And even though his energy can be draining, I really do love it. Adore the strength and agility and stamina he possesses. Wish I could have some of it, lol!


ghannit's Avatar ghannit 11:56 PM 03-02-2012

Oh YES, to this part. Sigh...

I suppose I do notice these moments coming. It's typically about her wanting to be respected as a decisive, self-determining individual. I say this because she has said "I just wanted to do it myself" on occasion, post tantrum.


I have read that it's common for some young children to say "I hate you" with the words based simply on ego and developmental frustration. I've yet to get that comment, but then DD was a late talker, sooooo... ;-) Perhaps I need to brace myself! I've read too that such a comment is due to the childs total trust in you (that you'll be there unconditionally). I find that theory comforting!    

Louis CK (stand up comedian) has some very funny material about his (then) 4 year old DD and her difficult behavior. I should post the link if I can find it. 

Originally Posted by stlmomof2 View Post

it seems like just randomly he gets an idea in his head of something impractical that he wants and if I don't say yes, then he lashes out. 


stlmomof2's Avatar stlmomof2 07:37 AM 03-03-2012

It's weird... DS had been intolerable for days prior to me writing the post and now ever since I wrote the post, he's been so sweet.  He does have a wonderful side to him like your DS, Sagelove.  He's very cuddly and loving in certain moment, has a great imagination, loves to tell wild stories and imagine crazy play scenarios.  But sometimes he'll be angry and I can't even tell why.  He'll be sitting there just fuming and growling and screeching.  I'm pretty sure if I pay more attention to him and give him the benefit of the doubt more, things would improve.  I was talking with a friend about the grocery store situation where I'll say, "Now stay where I can see you," and he'll immediately start hiding from me.  She said, "What if you didn't say that?  Would he hide?"  But it's so hard to view him as a responsible mature person when he's just not!

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