Tuesday, 30 April 2013

This week: face off with my 4-year old!

When my husband walked in from work last night, I jokingly told him he'd arrived just at point of face off between my son and I. That's kind of how it's been this past week or so with my four-year old, with lots of silly little battles, frustration on both sides and I've found it all quite difficult and draining.

I have to laugh at myself when I read the post I wrote last year On taming toddlers, where I said I was glad to see my son (at the age of three) assert himself at home and that it was the best place for it! Little did I know what I had coming back then!

To give a couple of examples, mealtimes have become difficult, where they never were before, with my son simply taking one look and refusing to eat any of his meal. A lot of my simple requests such as, 'please can you tidy that up', are met with a loud, whingy 'no!' and usually accompanied by as screwed up a face as he can muster, sometimes with a tongue sticking out and sometimes with sound effects. I ask again, nicely and maybe in a slightly different way, but there's no change to the outcome. Sometimes, as last night before bed, we get full-on screaming in protest.

As hard as it is, I resist reacting to my son's response and try to remain calm and pleasant. I try not to raise my voice, if anything, to do the opposite and soften it. I try to smile or keep a neutral expression on my face. I persevere and am almost at the point of breaking when I usually, finally get through to him. It's really not easy and sometimes I feel infuriated on the inside and want to shout at him but I know that won't get me what I want and will probably make matters worse.

I've made an extra effort to do nice things with my son, pay him extra attention, give extra cuddles and kisses in an effort to counterract the animosity in the air but to no avail. I recently read a post on Zen Habits about managing the stresses of children, in which we are encouraged to deal with challenging situations with detatchment:
"We don’t get angry at the wind for blowing, and yet the blowing does affect us. Let the actions of your kid be the wind blowing — you just need to find an appropriate response, rather than being stressed that this phenomenon is happening." 
I like the thinking behind it but boy, is it difficult!

To end on a positive note however, I remind myself to step back and look at the bigger picture. Overall, the challenging behaviour I've found myself faced with more recently is not my son's dominant behaviour. He is most of the time a fun, loving, sweet boy, he's well behaved at nursery and whenever we are out and about. It's easy to get bogged down by the difficult, stressful side to parenting but when we do, it's definitely helpful to think about all the good things too and regain perspective. I find that enables me to better face the challenges and with a lighter, brighter attitude.

What do you do and how do you aim to respond to challenging behaviour with your children? Any of your tips are greatfully received!
photo credit


  1. You're telling me 4 is worse than 3? Nooooo!!! Hehe. I've been terrible this week, I've really blown my top a few times. It's not good. It's not the parent I want to be - not at all. And I know that when I give in to frustration it's a failure on my part. SO difficult! It generally seems to be when I'm overly tired or stressed about something - otherwise I'm really quite patient. I guess I need to recognise when I'm not feeling tip top and take a deep breath!

    That's not really very helpful though is it?

    When I'm not being an over-wrought harridan I'm actually pretty good at calming a situation. I do the old getting down to their level - height-wise, not tantrum-throwing :) try and maintain eye contact and use the ol' soothing voice to calm before reasoning and explaining why something needs to be, or can't be (depending on the bone of contention). I then seek to end on a positive agreement, a contract of sorts. I think I learned this in teaching and it has come in pretty handy. When I'm not being ranty-mum, that is!!!!!!!!

    Best of luck :) xx

    1. It got better before it got worse, if that's any consolation! Yes, it's not always easy to be the parent we want to be.

      Thanks for your kind advice. Getting down to their level is a good one I don't always remember and I definitely like the aim of ending on a positive agreement. Will have to try harder at those. xx

  2. It's a tricky time. Children do need to state their independence from us but they also need to know they're not in charge. I used to choose my battles. Sometimes I would let them get their way so they could feel powerful ("it's ok not to clean up tonight as we're extra tired but tomorrow we'll do it again) but most times I would put consequences in place. "It's ok not to eat your dinner but know that there's nothing else for you until you do", for example. My son would tell you that he got his dinner for breakfast a couple of times. Loving yet firm yet respectful.

    Agreed, yelling doesn't help. If you have to do it, go to the bathroom, close the door, bury your face in a towel and scream. It does help. :)

    1. Thanks for your empathy and understanding. You're absolutely right about choosing battles and that's true that giving them some power sometimes can pay off. Consequences are effective too. Sounds like a great way to parent: "loving yet firm yet respectful" - good words to remember. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for this, I will try to remember for when ruby reaches that stage... though probably just as useful to focus on the positives at the moment too!

    1. Thanks for your comment Emily! Focusing on the positives is definitely always good :-)


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