4-Year-Old Behaviour Getting Worse? People are often shocked when they notice a sudden shift in their usually obedient and helpful child. It’s almost like it’s come out of nowhere and can feel like your starting back at square one.
If you thought that the terrible 2’s was over and that the ‘Threenager’s was your worse parenting years, I’m sure you didn’t plan for the 4-Year-Old Woes!
Is your 4-year-old behavior not listening? It’s not uncommon for older children to take a turn for the worst even after many months of improved behaviour and a boost in social skills.
4-year-olds can have a hard time figuring out themselves and the world around them. Having so many factors taking influence on their behaviour (educational, developmental, physical, emotional etc) they can often get very wound up and this leads to worsening behaviour, temper tantrums, angry fits or worse.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), normal behavior in a 4-year-old should include some of the following signs:
Your 4-year-old should:
- want to please and be like friends
- show increased independence
- be able to distinguish fantasy from reality
- be demanding at times and cooperative at times
In this article I’ll share the industry’s best tips on 4-year-old behaviours getting worse and what you can do right now to have a major impact.
4 Year Old Behaviour Getting Worse? Here’s What To Do
First of all most 4-year-olds have built up a full picture of their current world. They are mature and able enough to tell you what they want and how they want it. That is the great part for us as parents as the attention to detail is key. However, this increased maturity comes at a cost.
Now if they don’t get what they want, in the way they want it you run the risk of having a more Mature ‘terrible twos type of temper tantrum. (wow that was a mouthful!)
Although most 4-year-olds can communicate effectively they still have barriers to language and can sometimes find it harder to explain the complexity of their situation. This can, in turn, lead to temper tantrums and your 4-year-old attitude issues
Here’s what we suggest:
1. See the world through his eyes.
It’s easy to understand why your 4-year-old should be listening through your eyes, but less so if you take that same argument down to their level.
Logically it makes perfect sense. For example ‘Go put your toys away, it’s dinner time’, is a simple and logical way to tell your child what is expected of them. But your 4-year-old doesn’t always respond to logic, but they do respond to love. Try framing your commands with more context like ‘It’s time for dinner and I’m really hungry, let’s put the toys away now and we can play with them as soon as we finish’
Both statements are asking to do the same thing but contextually they are worlds apart. By framing the command in this way we can provide better clarity on what and why you want something done and also be more acute with your parenting style. (i.e If your child wanted to play for longer, then you would have explained that they can play for longer once dinner has finished)
2. Allow Choice.
4 Year olds crave independence and there is no other way to become independent than to be given the magical element of choice.
‘Would you like Mash or Peads today with dinner’
“Do you want to go to the park or shipping first’
‘Would you rather wear RED or BLUE today’
Your 4-year-old will respond better if they believe that the choices they are making are entirely there own. Remember we are trying to limit bad behaviour and temper tantrums from ever happening in the first place.
This will help with 4-Year-Old Behaviour Management and hopefully eradicate the problem from happening again.
3. Be Patient and Give Your Child Space.
If push comes to shove and you are unable to calm your child down then the best single piece of advice you will get is to give your child some space.
Communicate what you are doing it and why you are doing it. ‘I’m going to go into the kitchen now to give you time to think about why you’ve hurt my feelings, When I come back we will discuss it’
Your child is developing empathy and by showing empathy to him he’ll understand what it is and find it easier to display back.
4. Validate before Raging
This one is a bit harder to do but is a very smart way to approach a 4-year-old who is misbehaving. Instead of vocalising the reason why your child shouldn’t hit other children, try to validate the behaviour with a direct statement. For example, ‘Why did you just hit your brother, you know that’s wrong to do’’. Try instead ‘You must really be upset with your brother to hit him like that’.
In this way, you are validating the reason behind the rage and providing a framework to understand what the reason was behind it. This is a very intuitive way to allow your child to learn from their mistakes and at the same time provide a safe framework for them to better understand themselves. This will help curb most bad behavior.
‘4-Year-Old Behaviour Getting Worse’ Reflection Task
If you want to change the behaviour of your child you must look at the consequences of your parenting style. Children react differently to different parenting techniques. Try to avoid the ‘one size fits all approach’ and tailor-make your style to each child.
Every child has a unique way they interpret the world and it’s surroundings so being more sensitive to this uniqueness is a smart way to control your child’s behaviour.
4 Year Old Behavior Expectations – Do’s & Don’ts
1. Don’t use discipline as punishment
Effective Discipline shouldn’t feel like an overriding punishment. Instead, it should feel like a way to engage with your children to help them build their morality and strength of character. This is always a work in process and discipline will always be more effective than a punishment without explanation.
2. Don’t Erupt Like a Volcano
It’s difficult to do, but exploding at your 4-year-old may not have the desired effect to curb defiance. Instead, a clear and concise warning about specific behavior could be more effective.
3. Do constantly praise
Every child wants to feel appreciated and one way to win the battle against tantrums and fallouts is to continually praise for a job well done. Noticing the small things will remind your child that you appreciate all of what they do, not just the obvious. This has the added bonus of showing a good example and helps build their own skills.
4. Do set limits
Clear boundaries are the key to effective discipline and children respond well to structure and a good routine. If the boundaries are broken, then your child needs to know there are clear consequences for this behavior. This will help to solidify your role as a parent and their role as a child.
5. Do be a friend don’t cross the lines
Of course, you want to be your kid’s friends, but there are very clear lines that you should try to remain clear and unblurred. Friends are seen as playmates and this role can affect your ability to effectively parenting when you need to put your hammer down.
These clear limits will strengthen the bond you both but still give you both enough freedom for learning and expression.
Bad behavior in children is often linked to unclear boundaries and blurred roles between parent and child. Children crave routine and structure and will progress rapidly in the correct environment. Sometimes it can be difficult as 2 siblings that are similar ages will have totally unique temperaments and what worked for one will not work for the other.
As all children respond differently to different parenting techniques it’s important you approach each child with a blank slate. This will help distinguish personalty based bad behavior.
A big mistake that many new parents make is trying to parent 2 children in the same way. While discipline frameworks should always be similar to the precise applications of it should be modified for each child.
This will ensure that all your kids get an equal and fair playing field and it will also give you a headstart in looking out for practical strategies to use for each one.