Ages Four to Six


Fights with Siblings

QUESTION:

My 6-year-old son just had a horrid fight with his brother! Did I handle this situation okay?

Liam is 6 years old, and while I’m enjoying this age more than most, it’s still a very tough age with unique challenges. I think you handled the situation expertly! You kept him from hurting you and provided an external boundary because his inner ones had broken down.

Traditionally, in Biblical times, at six, there was a gentle turning over of discipline and training to the men (for the boys). My husband’s methods are often more effective because, while he is totally GBD, he much more gets little boys. If he were overly punitive or abusive, I would muddle through without calling on him for help. But he has the ability to step in and either back me up, or set a much stronger boundary than I’m comfortable setting. I find it very interesting that Bill and I met in the Sunday School program when I was teaching the kindergarten class while he was teaching the first graders.

I also find that, at six, Liam responds much better to clear, definitive, unwavering boundaries – and things that drive home that point without shaming him or making him feel bad (i.e. punishments). Limited use of logical consequences are effective on him now (as he’s developing early pre-logic skills) and within our totally GBD home, there is a place for limited use of rewards as a motivator to change habits (something I do not endorse prior to this age, except maybe in the case of wall charts to track progression).

I would suggest that you all sit down and have a family meeting and ask for your son’s input on what should be the result of both squabbles like the one he had with his brother, and aggression towards his parents.

I have also found that the more positively responsible Liam is (i.e. the more positive work and energy focuses I provide for him), the less negatively aggressive and disrespectful he is.


Lying and Stealing

QUESTION:

My son is six, and I told him that he could not have any cookies. I know he understood me, but when I left the room, he snuck cookies and took them into the bathroom to eat. Then, when I found the crumbs and confronted him, he said he didn’t do anything. I don’t want to be raising a liar and a thief! Help!

Actually, as mature as 6-year-olds seem, they are still little children. In the Bible, the word for “child” doesn’t even apply to a person under 5 years of age, so your son is just barely a child. Words like “stealing” and “lying” are laden with adult intentions and understanding, and can’t apply to a 6-year-old. Yes, technically, that is what he did. But the reasons he’s done it are much different than if he were 20, and the way you address this now will play a big role in determining whether or not these issues go away with maturity or become lifelong struggles.

I want to start with lying because that is the issue that has probably been going on longer. It’s important to understand that from ages 3 to 6, children are in a stage where “words are magic,” and they are learning about the power of words. They make things up. They also believe that, by saying it, they make it so. This is why you might discover your 4-year-old with cookie on their face yet they deny having eaten it – in his mind if he says he didn’t eat it, then it makes it so. Since clearly you are upset about the fact that he ate it, he figures he’ll just undo that with his words, and you will be happy again. Phrases of understanding are very helpful here: “You wish you hadn’t eaten the cookie.” “You remember now that Mommy told you not to eat the cookie.” “You want to undo what you did.” Help him embrace the reality of the situation, but accusing him of lying is not helpful.

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