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4 1/2 YO Behavior

505 Views 7 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  dvnmama
Hi, all. I'm new here and looking for some input. DS is about to drive us nuts.

He's gone from the normal not listening to just being defiant. Sometimes, it seems like he's in "trouble" (usually, he sits on his bed or the couch) all day, doing things he should know putting things in his mouth, screaming for every little thing, peeing on himself or the cat (and laughing about it), or writing on things he knows he is not allowed to (the bed, his toys). Or just blatantly ignoring me and/or DH. He is a very bright boy, but emotionally like any other kid his age, plus some extra anxieties that come from being very sensitive.

One thing that does not seem to have helped the situation (but did not start it) was that we brought home two puppies a couple of weeks ago. He wasn't thrilled with the idea (he is afraid of dogs, although he is getting better and slowly used to the puppies), but it was something we had been talking about with each other and with him a long time, and we felt that with exposure (they are crate trained, so they are not on top of him all day, and he never _has_ to be with them), he would learn that he doesn't have to be afraid of dogs. I've also tried to enlist his help with the pups, saying how we have to teach them how to behave properly (instead, he started acting like them--biting me!).

We both work at home, and it has been busy, so there is stress there, too.

I admit we are on the stricter side of AP, but I have tried to get down on his level and get him to talk, but he's always had trouble expressing and handling his feelings (for example, he banged something against his lip last night, and after he told me what happened, I said, "Ouch," trying to be sympathetic, and it just got him upset all over again). I also try to make sure we're spending enough one-on-one time together (like asking if he wants me to let me read to him while we are outside with the pups or just asking what he wants to do), and he doesn't answer me or doesn't seem interested (which is sometimes typical of him normally).

So, I just keep the limits where they were, try to talk to him, and try not to blow up when he keeps repeating the same inappropriate behaviors.

Help! I need some tips to help resolve the underlying issues (although I am not sure completely what they are--maybe it's just the "4 1/2's" as they say about the unstable periods that little kids go through). I don't want him to be unhappy and in trouble all day!

Any tips out there?
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Welcome to MDC!

How do you react when he does those things? Maybe you should try posting in the Gentle Discipline forum.

From what little you have shared with us, it sounds to me that he's having difficulty communicating and gets frustrated as a result, so acts out. I would definitely try to spend more time talking with him. Don't dumb down your language, talk to him like you would anyone else (that's how kids learn to talk, by hearing other people talk). Sometimes, if adults always speak to them using simple sentences and one or two syllable words, the child doesn't have the language tools they need to adequately express themselves.

Or maybe he's having a reaction to something he's eaten. Too much sugar, dairy, or red food dye makes my DD really hard to cope with. How is he sleeping? Maybe he needs to get up earlier in the morning and take a little nap, or maybe he's ready to drop his nap. Or maybe he just needs more quiet snuggle time, my DD also acts out if she doesn't get to nurse quite often enough. Or maybe the addition of the puppies to the family is just too stressful for him, on top of the stress you said your family is experiencing. I'd probably try to find a home for at least one of the pups.
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Hi! and welcome!

We're having a similar experience with my oldest.
My 4.5 yo is also recently defiant, he tends to not hear as he shuts out the world when he focuses on play. We're seeing a return of the twos, in short doses, too. He becomes very frustrated. He's having tantrums (albeit very quick ones) and doing things he should know better. He even bit his brother!!! (hasn't bitten anyone since 12 mo). According to the Mother's Almanac this is a "wild time" so maybe some of it is normal.

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Oh, thank goodness, we're not the only one's going through this!!!

I think it's normal though. I remember my mother always complaining that "4's are worse than the 2's" . . .

We also got a puppy when my son was a new 4, and it didn't go well either. In fact, ds seemed to react as would be expected if we'd had a new baby. There was a definate shifting of family dynamics.
Youch, double whammy. Normal 4 year old defiance and jealousy of the new pups. Think of it as brining a new babe, or a set of twins into the house. Four is a fun age. They push all the buttons, test all the limits. This is when a lot of kids tend to get "mouthy". My ds has always been "strong willed". Four was a fun year for us...five was much more naturally compliant, lol. A nice break before the new and better testing starts at 6.

Sorry, not much help from me. I would try to make sure that you're spending time with him alone, and not with the pups and see if that helps.

"(for example, he banged something against his lip last night, and after he told me what happened, I said, "Ouch," trying to be sympathetic, and it just got him upset all over again)."

Just wanted to mention that actually, his reaction doesn't necessarily mean that reflecting his feelings was a bad idea. On the contrary, maybe he felt "heard" enough to let out the sad feelings? I used to worry a lot that active listening would perpetuate fits rather than calm them, but I haven't found that it does. We all have a little of that "stiff upper lip" about us, but it seems to me (with my 41/2 and almost 3) that the more you take care of their hurts and sorrows, the less they seem to need you to.

Just another thought to ponder!
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Thanks for all the replies so far. Yesterday, while waiting to see responses, I tried a different approach to him acting like the puppies (he wasn't hurting me when he "bit" with his lips that time, so I said "no, no puppy" and that started a game). I also started to make sure we got a little more one on one time, even though it meant staying up later to finish up work (2 a.m. *yawn*). That seemed to help. He is also getting used to the puppies, and I tried to make sure yesterday that I didn't push at all with the puppies and only did what he asked me to do (like picking him up to bring him in the room with the puppies), and he is getting more excited about them

We really see pets as family members (we also have two cats and some hermit crabs), so it's very unlikely we will find another home for them, unless there are serious problems. I don't want him to see them as "things" that can just be given away when they are not convenient. I am not saying we perhaps shouldn't have waited a little longer on the puppies, just that now that we've made our decision, the whole family should try to make the best of it. If there were health issues or threatening behavior problems on the part of the pups, we would try to find them the best home possible, but that would be a last resort.

Anyhow, thanks also for the response of my reflecting letting him feel his emotions...if that's true, I've been going about this all wrong by saying, "it's okay, saying 'ouch' doesn't hurt you." Us moms get confused, too
But I'll keep that in mind next time the situation comes up, as it most surely will, and just offer comfort if he gets upset again

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Janell, I certainly don't think you'll have to get rid of the puppies, but I think your new approach of not pressuring him about them might be the best route to acceptance.

We all live and learn, every second of every day, that's why we have kids, otherwise, we'd be the dumbest people on earth, wouldn't we

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