My son turned four, and it seems like overnight he’s angry all the time, arguing and throwing things, and fighting me about everything. What can I do?
There is just something about 4 1/2-year-olds! Especially in boys. There are studies that show a testosterone surge at this time, unequaled until they actually enter puberty, and it starts to let up as they turn five, and after that they’re sweet again. Honestly, with Liam, it was like one night he was this monster child and the next day he was my sweet baby again.
Just keep your kind and firm boundaries. Reflect his feelings. It is okay to be angry, upset, overwhelmed. Maybe, though, you want to change what you see in him. Do you think maybe by classifying his feelings as “angry,” you’re actually pushing him in that direction?
I think the words I used to describe it were “You’re feeling crazy in the head right now,” or “You’ve got intense body energy,” or “You are overwhelmed by some very BIG emotions.” Sometimes our labels can become self-fulfilling prophecies (even when we didn’t mean them to be labels).
And make sure you’re pointing out the happy, joyous, cooperative times, not only the negative times. Remember, what we focus on we get more of.
What to do? We have a rule that if you are being antisocial, you may not be around others. It’s a sign to me that you need alone time – not a time out, but come out whenever you are ready to be around other people and behave appropriately!
Also, how much structure are you providing in your son’s day? I found Liam much more cooperative when we had a routine up on the wall and he knew what was coming next. And I made the rule that going to his “outside the home” activities was dependant on his ability to cooperate in the home; I wouldn’t take him in public if he was not listening because that would be stressful for me and not safe for him.
Oh, and I wouldn’t continue talking if he was humming or something. I would stop and wait and look at him until he stopped and listened. That is my boundary!
Children this age aren’t trying to make us help them, they need us to.
With my 4-year-old daughter’s personality, I do need to make many things black and white. “If you cannot keep your feet and body off of your brother, then you will go in another room and miss the rest of the movie.” She now has a choice. And while I hope she’ll choose to stay off of her brother, the point is that I’m not letting her control the situation and make him miserable. It’s less about the actual behavior and more about the family harmony. Last night during dinner it was, “You are choosing to be hungry. I’ve given you three options and you refuse to eat them. You are making a choice and I will respect that. But you will not make me miserable while you do this.” And, when we were out shopping, I told her, “I want to enjoy being out here with you. If you continue to behave this way, I will not enjoy it. If I stop enjoying it, we’re leaving.”
I make sure not to word it as though she has the power in the situation. I just let her know how I will manipulate the situation, so that her choices do not negatively impact others.
Remember these Coaching Tips from Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s Kids, Parents and Power Struggles:
* Connect instead of disconnect
* Assist instead of taking over
* Listen rather than lecture; stop firmly rather than grabbing or jerking
* Help instread of abandon
* Explain instead of force
* State rather than shriek
* Smile more, frown less
* Think about your relationship in the long run
* Start with a single step