Childhood Diseases

Posted by: Peas | 2011-03-25


Challenging 4 Year Old

Hi Professor,

I have a 4 year old that will not do as I ask. I ask him to put on his shoes for school, he answers no, I ask him to eat his cereal, he says no. Is this just a stage or there is an error in our parenting style? He does this at school as well. We ask four times and then we start getting angry and start shouting and have to threaten to smack him and then there are big tears.......

Expert's Reply



This kind of behaviour is rather unusual for a little boy of 4 years especially as he is carrying this through to school as well. It may just be a passing stage, but it it may also be the signs of a fairly common psychological problem seen in children called 'ODD' for oppositional defiant disorder. I recommend that you take him to see a child psychologist.

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user comments


Posted by: Purple | 2011-03-25

That is pretty normal for a four year old.

At this age a star chart works very well. Let him earn stars for listening to you and doing things without arguing. When he''s got 5 stars let him earn a sticker and when he has 5 stickers let him have a treat such as a sweet or a small cheap toy or a family outing.

Shouting and smacking just make things tense for everyone and as you have seen dont'' actually solve the problem.

Sometimes phrasing instructions differently helps too - instead of " put your shoes on"  - hold out takkies and crocs and say " which ones would you like to wear?" . He''ll probably choose a pair you weren''t holding out, but then he''s still getting his shoes on without argument.

The book toddler taming is very helpful with understanding behaviour like this.

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