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Discipline for a 4-Year-Old

My son is on the verge of turning 5, and we were having a small war in our home. Not over what kind of party he wanted, not over how many toys he needs, and not over what food to serve. In fact, it had nothing to do with his actual birthday at all. It was everything else. And I mean, practically – everything – else. I don’t know what was going on in his little mind, but my angel had turned into a wild man who liked to do such things as shout NO! and trip his sister on purpose. And me? I turned into a monster who felt like she was constantly shouting – screaming – really yelling – at the top of my lungs. No fun for anyone.

What did I do? I read, and I tried different methods. “Do you need a hug?” I talked in a whisper. I gave us both time outs. I took away computer time. I held back dessert. And nothing really changed until school started. The boy I knew is reemerging; I’m recognizing the little guy in front of me. And now that he’s coming back, we’re having loads of fun. Surfing with Daddy, going out to eat for dinner, picnics on the beach–we’re living life again. So what was it? Summer tiredness? A blossoming little sister? Who knows?

But I did read something on Baby Center that made me feel a whole lot better:

At this age your child still lacks self-control. It can take more than one, two, sometimes ten times for a lesson to sink in. Repeating transgressions is also a way of testing the limits. Are they firm or mushy? If Dad ignores me this time, maybe what I did isn’t such a big deal after all.

Aggression is a normal phase at this age. Specific situations in which your child feels uncertain or out of control usually trigger the incidents. Respond quickly and calmly. Establish set rules and consequences for antisocial behaviors like hitting and kicking.

Hmmm, maybe it’s the age–he’s growing up, turning into a five year old, and he’s just getting better. Wish me luck. . .

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