Help, My Four-Year-Old is Broken!

child on step, black and white photo with words help, my 4 year old is broken in a text box

Ok, so tell me this. How come I heard so much about the terrible two’s and then the Threenager stage but why has no one ever mentioned the four-year-old to me, eh?! The last two stages were nothing compared to what we have hit right now and I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say my four-year-old is broken!

Is anyone else’s child around this age happy one minute, having a meltdown the next, then angry, then storming off to their bedroom, crying, then suddenly happy again? He threw himself on the floor the other day because he said he had nothing to wear! Is he 4 or 14?! I have been left mentally and emotionally drained from watching it, from being reactive to it (BIG mistake) and from repeating myself over and over and over…

It is like watching a drunk friend gradually getting more pissed and becoming more and more emotional, only thing is there’s no sobering up from it! I have asked pre-school how he is there and surprise, surprise he is fine. He is happy, chatty, helpful, puts the toys away and has no meltdowns whatsoever. Those joys are saved for me… Lucky Mummy!

So, what have I been doing? Everything wrong it would seem. I have shouted, I have tried reasoning with him, I have cried, I have stropped too (don’t forget I also have a newborn so lack of sleep has turned me into a hormonal loon as well). We have come to loggerheads and I have lost the will. I know full well he is doing some things just to get a reaction. He is lashing out because he is completely frustrated with what is happening in his teeny body and he is definitely craving some extra attention from having the arrival of William, which is all understandable. The biggest problem for me is how hard it is to watch your happy-go-lucky child change and display all of these new emotions and personality traits. I miss my cute little lad who didn’t have a care in the world. I miss having a laugh with him without it turning into a disaster and then resulting in him having a huge tantrum. I miss how effortless it all used to be.

And then I read a blog about four-year-olds and I just sat there nodding along…

For the most part, we have found the boy or girl of this age to be joyous, exuberant, energetic, ridiculous, untrammelled-ready for anything.

Four loves many things, but his emotions tend to be definitely extreme. He loves a lot and he hates a lot.

The typical Four-year-old is also speedy. Each thing he does, he does quickly, and he is also speedy as he moves from one interest to the next. For the most part, he does a thing once, and that’s enough.

Emotionally, too he tends to be extremely out-of-bounds. He laughs almost too hilariously when things please him; howls and cries more than too loudly when things go wrong.

He can, on frequent occasion, be extremely silly.

Excerpt from the book Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful by Louise Bates Ames

Oh my god, this is Jake all over! It isn’t just him, it’s all of them. I had to read this aloud to my hubby whilst giggling with relief and he completely agreed too. And even better, the writer had some solutions.

  • Involve him more in the tasks you are carrying out, give him ownership
  • Turn everyday tasks into something fun e.g. making lunch, baking a cake, dusting the house. Find new fun ways to do these things together
  • Ignore the behaviours that really bother you
  • Don’t react to the wildness
  • Don’t try and reason with him during one of the loud crying moments. Instead, make him laugh. Blow a raspberry on him, tickle him, change his attention
  • Remain as calm as possible so not to fuel the behaviour

I have already started to put some of these pointers into practice and am beginning to see results. I feel a little daft now over the way I was reacting to him before but when you are immersed in it most days, you are sleep deprived and wound up yourself as well as struggling to keep up with your housework etc, the last thing you need is a tiny angry person adding to your stress. But I am taking a step back and realising I am the adult and that I am the one who is in control and not him. I find making him laugh works really well to extinguish certain situations and the ignoring of him storming off usually results in him coming back after a while and then he’s fine. I am still finding ignoring the triggering behaviours hard because these are usually displayed by him throwing things around, not listening and even hitting. He isn’t a bad lad though, he is a frustrated one and he is going through some changes that his brain and body can’t seem to work through together. Instead, his body is on go, go, go and his brain seems to be having an emotions overload.

This is a learning curve for me but I feel as though in the last week I have made a breakthrough and we have started to become close again. I’ve missed having my Jakey cuddles but they are now creeping back in. I just need to understand him and he needs to realise that certain behaviours won’t be tolerated. We’ll crack this, I’m sure.

Four is one who loves adventures. Share them with him. Create them for him. A simple trip around your own neighbourhood, with its inevitable points of interest, takes on new lustre when seen through the enthusiastic eyes of a Four-year-old.

Excerpt from the book Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful by Louise Bates Ames

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*You can purchase Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful over on Amazon using this affiliate link.

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2 thoughts on “Help, My Four-Year-Old is Broken!

  1. Oh my God, I am going through this right now. And have been since months!!! Now I know why they call the fours the ‘four’nado – they are like tornados waiting to explode! But you’re so right – there are extremes at play here, and even though they have so much attitude and anger, they are emotional wrecks at the same time. So confusing!
    But the strategies you mentioned are great – am trying to play along too. Listening and comforting rather than shouting back makes a difference (as difficult as it seems then!!!). Great post.

    Here’s a post I wrote a few months ago, along the same lines, if you fancy a read…

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