Parenthood is challenging yet exciting. There are many things that you will discover along the way. And perhaps, you’re also growing along with your child in terms of character development. And once your child reaches the preschooler age range (3 to 5 years old), you will notice behavioral milestones as fast as their physical milestones. But with these milestones, comes some challenges, especially when raising a 4-year-old.
Challenges in Raising a 4-Year Old
Wanting to Be Independent
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children at the age of 4 shows more desire to be independent. And while this is a good thing, it can also be dangerous for a young child. They do not have a perfect grasp of what is acceptable or not, so their choices are not always reliable.
This desire to be independent can also lead your child to try new behaviors and test you. For example, it’s pretty common that they alternate between being helpful and stubborn to assert their independence. And it might actually surprise you, but preschool children are also prone to lying. But don’t worry, because this is normal.
Another given behavior of 4-year-olds is the fact that they love being active. As they start developing different motor skills, they will experiment with various combinations of movement as well. This is why parents have to be watchful because children can hurt themselves by accident. As you can see in this useful source, the correct car seat for 4-year-old will keep your little one safe and even well-behaved during a car ride.
How to Conquer It
First, you want to offer them limited choices. This way, they’re less likely to expand their “experiments.” A useful example is by establishing a fixed routine every day. Just like when you put them in a car seat, a routine will “keep them in place.” They will be limited to the things that they might do and test. At the same time, your child will know what exactly you expect him/her to do for each day.
If you want your child to do something, you can offer him/her a few choices. For example, instead of saying “Go pick up your toys”, add the option of when he/she can do it. This redirects him/her from the fact that he/she can say no. If your child is still being stubborn, you can lay out potential consequences (e.g., keeping his/her favorite toy away.) And speaking of consequences, save time-outs for those instances that felt like major violations.
A clear daily structure will also allow you to open different rules. Other than limitations, these rules will make your child aware of how they should behave. For example, if you set Saturdays as trips to the playground, then they must be well-behaved with other kids. This also means you will be one-step ahead of any potential problems because you know what will happen on the day.
However, when giving your 4-year-old any direction, make sure that you have your child’s attention. You must also remain calm yet assertive as getting frustrated and yelling to a 4-year-old will lead you nowhere. You can also check if your child has understood you by asking him/her to repeat what you just said.
Other than disciplining your 4-year-old, don’t forget to praise and reward him/her. This is excellent, especially for those times where he/she does something good without being told to. Other than a calm demeanor, validation is also helpful for curbing bad behavior.
Frustrations and Defiance
Because of their desire to be independent, 4-year-olds are also prone to showing defiance and frustration. They would want to do certain things, and if they can’t do it or if they are told not to, they can act out.
You’ve seen the examples even before you become a parent. Exhibit A, a child is throwing a tantrum in the grocery aisle because their mom won’t buy them candy. Or exhibit B, a child throws a toy at the wall angrily because he/she doesn’t know how to use it.
The point is, their desire for independence combined with their limited communication skills results in them acting out. Preschoolers will also be more defiant, so it’s not a surprise that he/she will say no to some requests. They will do these things because they want to push boundaries and sometimes even test their authority.
With frustrations also comes whining. Four-year-olds assume that whining will get them what they want. It is an annoying habit, but that is exactly why it works for them. Their parents will get annoyed and just agree with what their kids want just to make them stop. However, when this happens, the takeaway of the preschooler is that whining will get them what they want.
How to Conquer It
Four-year-olds still need to develop their impulse control to prevent such temper tantrums. Similar to how you can conquer the first challenge, what you want is to make your child realize the consequences of his/her undesirable behavior.
An easy strategy to control frustrations of preschoolers is the prevention of a significant factor. As their parents, you have an easier time noticing instances where your child will more likely be throwing tantrums.
For example, do you notice that your child is grumpier when he/she is hungry? Then bring some snacks! It might seem too simple of a solution, but you will have an easier time instilling better behavior on your child if you removed a significant influencer.
Other than preventative measures, you can also make use of the tips we’ve discussed earlier for a child’s desire to be independent. For example, give him/her limited options and stick to a consistent routine. Instead of him/her going grocery shopping with you without any rules, limit his/her options to disobey you.
Before going out, tell your child that if he/she behaves during shopping then you can let him have his/her favorite ice cream. This way, you have limited his/her options to the things that he/she might want in the store. It also acts as a reward for good behavior, so two birds with one stone!
Lastly, establish consistent rules and routine. Communicate with your child’s caretaker and even with his/her teacher about the rules that you want him/her to follow at all times. A routine every day will also make your child used to following orders compared to random bouts of discipline.