Guest post: Surviving Your Four Year Old

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post is from Alicia who blogs at Magic and Mayhem.

Surviving Your Four Year Old!
Originally posted Jan 26th, 2008 by Alicia

Lately Jack (age 4) has been really pushing my buttons! He’s been argumentative, angry, bossy, defiant and just plain trying. He’s told me he hated me (which neither of his big sisters have ever done!), threatened me, made mean faces, you name it.

I have read enough parenting books and been through enough parenting to know that children act bad when they feel bad. Still, it is very hard to take when a small boy keeps shouting at you and saying mean things! There is only so much of the Mary Poppins hat you can put on before you feel like beating him with it.

I know what the conventional wisdom is. Spank, yell, punish, show him who’s boss. Be meaner back to teach him how to be nice. I’m not a fan of conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom was once that the world was flat and you should own slaves. That doesn’t mean I didn’t lose it and yell and act mean a time or two during this phase, but it wasn’t my goal.

The behavior has been going on for several weeks and it was a long few weeks.

In order to get through it, I read Your Four Year Old again to remind myself what was age appropriate and what works for the age, modeled handling my own anger well, firmly told him that he could not treat me badly and left the room if he was nasty to me, offered lots of hugs, talked about his feelings and healthy ways to express them, dramatically increased his mama time, gave him more choices, read extra books, smiled lots, told him I loved him lots, complemented his good behavior and waited.

Of course I also lost it and yelled, told his dad to take over, vented to friends, and acted rotten myself a few times! I’m human, after all. :)

Fast forward to the past few days. I have my old Jack back now for the most part, just a little older and wiser. Today he greeted me with “Hi mom, how ya doin’?” and then made up a poem for me later (You may be big, you may be small, but you’re my bestest friend of them all). The past few days he has presented me with artwork, told me many times how much he loved me, helped out when asked, apologized when he was rude to his sister…. He’s been a mature, sweet, helpful, funny little boy.

This is a big time in Jack’s life. He stopped being the baby in the family 8 months ago when his brother came along. He is learning to read and write and add. He is growing and changing. He’s stuck inside during a very cold winter and not able to run and move the way his body needs to. He’s got to share, compromise, negotiate and be patient many times a day, which are skills a lot of grown ups never master.

It can be so hard when little ones (or big ones!) go through stages that make us nuts. I can just imagine what it will be like around here when we have a bunch of teenagers! I am so glad that I had faith in him and kept working at helping him through it, instead of turning us into enemies.

And with that, I’m off to go play with said four year-old! Have a great day all!

Alicia Bayer is an Attachment Parenting, homeschooling mother to four fabulous kids ages 1 to 10. She runs the website A Magical Childhood ( and a parenting/homeschooling blog (

10 thoughts on “Guest post: Surviving Your Four Year Old”

  1. This post reminds me that approximately six people have recommended the book Unconditional Parenting in the last month. It sounds in line with some of the things you were doing–have you read it?

  2. I’ve read parts of it but I never finished it, to tell the truth. It’s presently on my bathroom floor along with a pile of magazines and a decorating book, for when I get more than 3.5 minutes alone in the tub. I do think it’s a good read and it’s definitely thought provoking. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it but it’s good for getting you to think about things from a new perspective.

    The books that I go back to when I need a parenting boost are “Siblings Without Rivalry,” “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline” and “Parents, Please Don’t Sit on Your kids.” Don’t discount the last two because of their horrible names. 😉 They’re very helpful (and child-friendly) books.

  3. Discipline is the part of parenting that scares me the most. Patience is key, I know, and I’m working on that, but then I worry that I’m not reacting promptly or properly to misbehaviors. Too much to figure out . . .

  4. So what you’re saying is that the insanity of 4 eventually smooths over? My 4 fluctuates daily from wanting to be the big boy to still the baby, and with all the mood swings of a teenager. 🙂

  5. Hang in there, Summer! With my first 3 kids, age 4 was always a bumpy one to some degree. The book “Your 4 Year Old” by Ames and Ing (I believe) really is helpful for that age — and all the others. It does get smoother, especially when you work on keeping that connection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *