The persecuted preschooler

by DaniGirl on April 19, 2006 · 38 comments

in Uncategorized

Ahem. I would like to register a complaint.

Back when parenting was just a theory, people told me all sorts of things to watch out for. They said I should sleep when the baby sleeps, and that no matter how many receiving blankets we had, we’d need more. Check.

They said that when baby learned to walk there would be lots of bumps and bruises, and that when he started to talk he would melt my heart every single day. Check.

They said I should stop wearing white shirts because they would be spattered by an endless parade of leaked substances, from breastmilk to the alarming neon orange residue of alphaghettis. Check.

They said I might have to learn to let the baby cry, and that the first day I left him at daycare would be the day I came to understand what heartbroken really feels like. Check.

They said that a smiling, gurgling six-month-old is perhaps the most endearing creature on the face of the planet, and that the tantrums of the two-year-old are like thunderstorms in a perfect summer day. Check.

They said it would be the most rewarding, difficult, exhilarating, frustrating, heretofore unimaginable experience of my life, every. single. day. Check.

What they didn’t tell me is that my four-year-old would be more moody than a menopausal woman deprived of chocolate and coffee crossed with a lovesick fourteen-year-old girl.

How can a child who is so sweet, so good-natured, so clever and so loving be such a tremendously unpleasant creature? Within the same hour?? This is, by the way and in case you haven’t figured it out, one of those posts where I pretty much beg you to say, “Oh yes, me too!” Please.

I expected the “He’s looking at me!” kind of complaint at this age. I expected to referee a lot of roughhousing, and settle a lot of disputes over toy possession. I didn’t expect the “Everybody is mean to me!” whine on a daily basis. (Uttered whenever he is compelled to do pretty much anything, from eating his dinner to taking off his shoes before coming into the house.)

He has more than one weapon in his martyr’s arsenal. When he is contradicted (“No, you cannot ride your bike in the house.”) he yells, “FINE then!” and runs up to his room to sulk. He will look at me with his stormy grey eyes brimming with tears and tell me he’s “not having a very good day” because of one small thing that has happened in an otherwise near perfect day. It’s both frustrating (especially for an infernal optimist like me) and disappointing to see him fixate on the negative aspects to the exclusion of the positive.

If this is just a phase, I don’t mind riding it out. I’ve tried to sit down with him and explain all the wonderful things that happened in a day to offset the single bad thing, but he just squirms and is obviously having a hard time listening to it. I’ve tried to reason with him that everybody is not so much being mean to him as enforcing rules that we all have to live by. None of it seems to sink in.

My friend Twinmomplusone wrote a post the other day about four-year-olds that got me thinking about this. She has TWO of these mysterious creatures – imagine!!

So, for those of you who have four-year-olds, or have recently endured the phenomenon – please tell me: is this moodiness typical of your average four-year-old? And how do you deal with it? Most importantly, is five better? Or (cringe) worse?


{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dean Dad April 19, 2006 at 1:59 pm

The Boy is four, and he has his moments. The only technique I’ve found that ever works is to out-whine him in a comically exaggerated way, and to say ‘nobody likes a whiner.’ Apparently, exaggerated parental whining is even more annoying to him than his genuine whining is to us.
I figure it makes the house livable, and imparts a valuble life lesson. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it…

2 Dean Dad April 19, 2006 at 1:59 pm

The Boy is four, and he has his moments. The only technique I’ve found that ever works is to out-whine him in a comically exaggerated way, and to say ‘nobody likes a whiner.’ Apparently, exaggerated parental whining is even more annoying to him than his genuine whining is to us.
I figure it makes the house livable, and imparts a valuble life lesson. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it…

3 virtualT April 19, 2006 at 2:17 pm

Yep, I’ve got your son’s evil twin, in female shape. She’s about to turn 4, and up until a few months ago I would have described her as the happiest person I know. Really! However, we now have exchanges such as the following, once a day or more:
“Are you biting your nails?”
Silence.
“You know, biting your nails is very bad for them, you should stop.”
“I HATE YOU SO MUCH!” possibly accompanied by tears.
I also often get the teary-eyed “I’m having a bad day” when awful things happen like she has to take a bath, or I limit her cookie intake to 4.
I really am at my wit’s end, having tried to explain to her that her behaviour is inappropriate, ignored her, and tried to provide extra TLC to get her through an apparent rough patch. I’m due another baby in 7-8 weeks and had hoped this phase would end.
My guess is that the children are trying to provoke a reaction, basically experimenting to see how best to capture attention. I don’t like to think that mine is just developing an awful personality – that would be my fault, wouldn’t it? horrors!
Anyway, sorry for the schadenfreude (sp?), but I’m delighted to hear that other children at that age besides mine can be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Most of the moms I know would rather eat nails than admit their children are not angels from heaven.
let me know if you figure out how to solve this –
T

4 virtualT April 19, 2006 at 2:17 pm

Yep, I’ve got your son’s evil twin, in female shape. She’s about to turn 4, and up until a few months ago I would have described her as the happiest person I know. Really! However, we now have exchanges such as the following, once a day or more:
“Are you biting your nails?”
Silence.
“You know, biting your nails is very bad for them, you should stop.”
“I HATE YOU SO MUCH!” possibly accompanied by tears.
I also often get the teary-eyed “I’m having a bad day” when awful things happen like she has to take a bath, or I limit her cookie intake to 4.
I really am at my wit’s end, having tried to explain to her that her behaviour is inappropriate, ignored her, and tried to provide extra TLC to get her through an apparent rough patch. I’m due another baby in 7-8 weeks and had hoped this phase would end.
My guess is that the children are trying to provoke a reaction, basically experimenting to see how best to capture attention. I don’t like to think that mine is just developing an awful personality – that would be my fault, wouldn’t it? horrors!
Anyway, sorry for the schadenfreude (sp?), but I’m delighted to hear that other children at that age besides mine can be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Most of the moms I know would rather eat nails than admit their children are not angels from heaven.
let me know if you figure out how to solve this –
T

5 Marla April 19, 2006 at 2:21 pm

GASP! It may be possible that I have a four-year old in a two-year old’s body!
I don’t know, Dani, perhaps you’re just being tested by a hidden camera-type show and you’ll be getting an awesome prize for going through this. Maybe that prize is the sweetest five-year old ever.

6 Marla April 19, 2006 at 2:21 pm

GASP! It may be possible that I have a four-year old in a two-year old’s body!
I don’t know, Dani, perhaps you’re just being tested by a hidden camera-type show and you’ll be getting an awesome prize for going through this. Maybe that prize is the sweetest five-year old ever.

7 suze April 19, 2006 at 2:29 pm

i have no words of wisdom, but lots of encouragement. You’ll get through it!

8 suze April 19, 2006 at 2:29 pm

i have no words of wisdom, but lots of encouragement. You’ll get through it!

9 Phantom Scribbler April 19, 2006 at 2:48 pm

“Mama, this is the worst day ever.”
“Fine. Take all of my toys away! I don’t want any of them!”
And, most chilling: “OK, then! I”ll never watch TV again!”
I’m just going to keep checking back, hoping for reassurance from the parents of five year olds.

10 Renee April 19, 2006 at 3:06 pm

Dani,
I don’t want to bring you down, but your four-year-old’s behavior reminds me a lot of the girls when they were four . . and five . . and six . . and seven . . and now eight . . oh, and ten too.
Um, sorry about that. Resume your day.
Love,
Froggiemom

11 moe April 19, 2006 at 3:11 pm

I remember 4 as a hard age. I have a 15 year old, that’s fun too. My 8yo ad 6yo have their moments and I have a 2yo and a 1yo. I have moods of all stages, ages and genders.
I like to go on and on about all the fun things we do. You know model good behavior.
I do the exagerated whining to try to show them how they are acting.
I’ve also been known to say “Go to your room until you are ready to change that look on your face.”
What works? Time. I am sure once they move out when they are 22, they will not call me up to complain they are having their worst day ever because they have to eat broccoli for dinner.

12 Yoda`s Papa April 19, 2006 at 5:33 pm

D,
I need info on compiling, printing and binding my blog. Wife said that you knew of a service that could do it for you?
Thanks,
J

13 UberGeek April 19, 2006 at 6:00 pm

For the record I have always believed that the 4s were harder than the terrible two’s.
For some reason I can understand the mindset of a 2 year old… I know what to do to diffuse the situation, or for that matter what to do to let the storm pass.
But 4 year olds… that is the hardest age( that I have had yet ).

14 UberGeek April 19, 2006 at 6:00 pm

For the record I have always believed that the 4s were harder than the terrible two’s.
For some reason I can understand the mindset of a 2 year old… I know what to do to diffuse the situation, or for that matter what to do to let the storm pass.
But 4 year olds… that is the hardest age( that I have had yet ).

15 Sharon April 19, 2006 at 7:01 pm

4 yr old moodiness? Can we talk? OH Dani I have the same creature living with me. Funny thing is I left him with Brenda today and she said he was GOOD! Good with Someone else? Why can’t he be good for me? In the last 2 days I’ve Heard Your the meanest mommy in the world When I stopped him from pouring motor oil down the dogs throat. (He thought he was thirsty AND don’t as how he got it) AND I gave him chocolate you think that would account for something! I’ve heard Mommy Your not my best friend anymore. Mommy You never let me do anything fun. (Yeah right pumpkin) And can we get into the temper tanturms that I THOUGHT (fooolish moi) were gone. He’s testing and I may just be above failing but I’m trying. Counting the days TILL School. I’m told it gets better…ANd I’m looking for that beacon at the end of the tunnel!
We should talk. compare notes.

16 Sharon April 19, 2006 at 7:01 pm

4 yr old moodiness? Can we talk? OH Dani I have the same creature living with me. Funny thing is I left him with Brenda today and she said he was GOOD! Good with Someone else? Why can’t he be good for me? In the last 2 days I’ve Heard Your the meanest mommy in the world When I stopped him from pouring motor oil down the dogs throat. (He thought he was thirsty AND don’t as how he got it) AND I gave him chocolate you think that would account for something! I’ve heard Mommy Your not my best friend anymore. Mommy You never let me do anything fun. (Yeah right pumpkin) And can we get into the temper tanturms that I THOUGHT (fooolish moi) were gone. He’s testing and I may just be above failing but I’m trying. Counting the days TILL School. I’m told it gets better…ANd I’m looking for that beacon at the end of the tunnel!
We should talk. compare notes.

17 Madeleine April 19, 2006 at 7:04 pm

Oh Dani, it is four. Really it is. “Four is two all over again,” was what I was told by my wisest mama friend. And it’s true. Independence issues. Dependence issues. Etc.
I had enormously good results with a sticker chart (positive statements only) for about a week and a half, until she started arguing with me about every sticker. But by then the cycle had broken and the horrible tantrums were gone for a while at least.
Now, at nearly 6, she is still doing Jeckyll/Hyde imitations. My blog-commenting nickname for her has become Snuggly Girl, but I’ve been waiting for a chance to trot out the pre-prepared alterna-nickname, Scowly Girl. “This is my best day ever!” and “It’s too hard being a kid” are her alternating moods. Scowly Girl actually growls at me! I have to laugh, if I haven’t already lost my temper at that point.

18 Madeleine April 19, 2006 at 7:04 pm

Oh Dani, it is four. Really it is. “Four is two all over again,” was what I was told by my wisest mama friend. And it’s true. Independence issues. Dependence issues. Etc.
I had enormously good results with a sticker chart (positive statements only) for about a week and a half, until she started arguing with me about every sticker. But by then the cycle had broken and the horrible tantrums were gone for a while at least.
Now, at nearly 6, she is still doing Jeckyll/Hyde imitations. My blog-commenting nickname for her has become Snuggly Girl, but I’ve been waiting for a chance to trot out the pre-prepared alterna-nickname, Scowly Girl. “This is my best day ever!” and “It’s too hard being a kid” are her alternating moods. Scowly Girl actually growls at me! I have to laugh, if I haven’t already lost my temper at that point.

19 nancy April 19, 2006 at 7:16 pm

I have one!!! My sweet, little B, 20 days shy of turning 4, has morphed into EXACTLY what you describe. The last 2-3 weeks have been intolerable at times. The fits of rage, the tantrums, the tears, the “I don’t like you” (which breaks my heart) or the sarcastic “Great. Just great.” **Poof** gone is my sweet little boy. SO far we are hanging in with Mr. T, but getting prepared.
A dear friend of mine always warned me about the “Fucking Fours” which she always said were the hardest for her with her two kids.
So yes my friend, right along side you on this one.

20 nancy April 19, 2006 at 7:16 pm

I have one!!! My sweet, little B, 20 days shy of turning 4, has morphed into EXACTLY what you describe. The last 2-3 weeks have been intolerable at times. The fits of rage, the tantrums, the tears, the “I don’t like you” (which breaks my heart) or the sarcastic “Great. Just great.” **Poof** gone is my sweet little boy. SO far we are hanging in with Mr. T, but getting prepared.
A dear friend of mine always warned me about the “Fucking Fours” which she always said were the hardest for her with her two kids.
So yes my friend, right along side you on this one.

21 Jeff April 19, 2006 at 10:53 pm

Nice to hear that others have tempermental kids as well
My five year old is like this too. She will kick and scream and I don’t know what to do with her. If I scold her or try the fake whining trick then the hurt feelings and tears come. She is just out of control.
What I end up doing is pretend that her behavior doesn’t effect me and put her in a chair (sometimes holding her) until she settles down.

22 Jeff April 19, 2006 at 10:53 pm

Nice to hear that others have tempermental kids as well
My five year old is like this too. She will kick and scream and I don’t know what to do with her. If I scold her or try the fake whining trick then the hurt feelings and tears come. She is just out of control.
What I end up doing is pretend that her behavior doesn’t effect me and put her in a chair (sometimes holding her) until she settles down.

23 Lisa April 19, 2006 at 11:31 pm

we often comment that we think our four year old daughter has hit puberty ealry! she can be like jackyl and Hyde any day of the week. I like you hope that five is better!

24 Lisa April 19, 2006 at 11:31 pm

we often comment that we think our four year old daughter has hit puberty ealry! she can be like jackyl and Hyde any day of the week. I like you hope that five is better!

25 DaniGirl April 20, 2006 at 1:03 am

Thank you, my bloggy friends. Thank you!
Ubergeek, I agree – I ‘get’ the two year old issues we’re having with Simon, but the four year old issues are somehow more difficult to accept and understand. They seem to be more emotional than behavioural, maybe??
Madeline, funny you should mention stickers – I was toying with that, because they were gold for the whole potty thing. But treats as a reward for eating your dinner has come back to bite us in the ass in a big way, so I’m still on the fence.
Phantom, have you been eavesdropping at our house? ALL of those phrases have been uttered around here in the last two weeks. Could you *imagine* if they went on a TV strike? Kill me now.
Oh, and hello and welcome to Jeff and Virtual T!
Anyway, I am endlessly grateful for the fact that we are not suffering this stage alone. Does it make you feel better to know I’m happy that you’re miserable too?

26 DaniGirl April 20, 2006 at 1:03 am

Thank you, my bloggy friends. Thank you!
Ubergeek, I agree – I ‘get’ the two year old issues we’re having with Simon, but the four year old issues are somehow more difficult to accept and understand. They seem to be more emotional than behavioural, maybe??
Madeline, funny you should mention stickers – I was toying with that, because they were gold for the whole potty thing. But treats as a reward for eating your dinner has come back to bite us in the ass in a big way, so I’m still on the fence.
Phantom, have you been eavesdropping at our house? ALL of those phrases have been uttered around here in the last two weeks. Could you *imagine* if they went on a TV strike? Kill me now.
Oh, and hello and welcome to Jeff and Virtual T!
Anyway, I am endlessly grateful for the fact that we are not suffering this stage alone. Does it make you feel better to know I’m happy that you’re miserable too?

27 twinmomplusone April 20, 2006 at 3:44 am

O H Y E A H !!! In the same boat as you Dani.
What gets me through it: deep breaths, a dose of humor when I can, sending them to their rooms OR calling a time out on myself.

28 twinmomplusone April 20, 2006 at 3:44 am

O H Y E A H !!! In the same boat as you Dani.
What gets me through it: deep breaths, a dose of humor when I can, sending them to their rooms OR calling a time out on myself.

29 liz April 20, 2006 at 3:47 am

Me too!
Muffin Man can be the politest sweetest boy on the planet, or the rudest…within 5 minutes of each other.

30 liz April 20, 2006 at 3:47 am

Me too!
Muffin Man can be the politest sweetest boy on the planet, or the rudest…within 5 minutes of each other.

31 Bobita April 20, 2006 at 5:53 am

Oh, oh! I sooooo feel your pain…and joy!!
My son, five years old, is very similar in his mood swings. He recently had a hair-cut and now REFUSES to go to pre-school unless he has a hat on his head. If anyone (at pre-school) tries to remove it…he is mortified! So, I try to explain it in the most simplistic way…if Gabby (she ADORES my son) tries to take his hat, I explain that she really likes him and much like his baby brother, she doesn’t know how to express her adoration…so she takes his hat to get his attention! And Justin…he loves the hat and loves my son, so I explain that he wants to play and shows his playfulness (like baby-brother) by doing something that will get his attention!
When I explain things simply…my son is able to re-frame the (seemingly awful) events of his day to reflect his understanding that his friends aren’t yet able to express playfulness…except by taking his hat!
But otherwise, I spend an extraordinary amount of time cuddling my moody boy! Because sometimes life is just too hard for a five-year-old! (Maybe I should follow his lead and get some much needed cuddling myself!!!!)
Great post!

32 Bobita April 20, 2006 at 5:53 am

Oh, oh! I sooooo feel your pain…and joy!!
My son, five years old, is very similar in his mood swings. He recently had a hair-cut and now REFUSES to go to pre-school unless he has a hat on his head. If anyone (at pre-school) tries to remove it…he is mortified! So, I try to explain it in the most simplistic way…if Gabby (she ADORES my son) tries to take his hat, I explain that she really likes him and much like his baby brother, she doesn’t know how to express her adoration…so she takes his hat to get his attention! And Justin…he loves the hat and loves my son, so I explain that he wants to play and shows his playfulness (like baby-brother) by doing something that will get his attention!
When I explain things simply…my son is able to re-frame the (seemingly awful) events of his day to reflect his understanding that his friends aren’t yet able to express playfulness…except by taking his hat!
But otherwise, I spend an extraordinary amount of time cuddling my moody boy! Because sometimes life is just too hard for a five-year-old! (Maybe I should follow his lead and get some much needed cuddling myself!!!!)
Great post!

33 Becki April 20, 2006 at 6:13 am

Yes. Me too.
Actually, my boy started showing evidence of human DNA again sometime in his fifth year, and he was a delightful five year old.
So far, though, six has shaped up kind of moody. Maybe it’s an every-other-year thing?

34 Becki April 20, 2006 at 6:13 am

Yes. Me too.
Actually, my boy started showing evidence of human DNA again sometime in his fifth year, and he was a delightful five year old.
So far, though, six has shaped up kind of moody. Maybe it’s an every-other-year thing?

35 Beanie Baby April 20, 2006 at 12:48 pm

I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve read in a few of my books that four is a hard age–actually I think Penelope Leach said that most parents find their four-year-olds incredibly annoying. And I think there are some good explanations, too–a developing memory that is probably now more able to compare and contrast present moments with previous ones, more fluency in expressing emotions and preferences but still very little control over them and very little ability to make preferences into facts. (Since I have absolutely no experience in this please do feel free to hit me over the head at any time.) I mean, when you think about it, most adults are still learning the trick of perspective, of putting their own experiences into the proper light. I am still capable of throwing an internal temper tantrum if I get stuck in a traffic jam.
I think it is a learned skill to be frustrated or disappointed and be able to remember a prior, worse situation or think of someone else in a worse situation and prevent oneself from saying “this is the worst day of my life!” And a pretty complicated one, too, if you think of all the steps involved in it.

36 Beanie Baby April 20, 2006 at 12:48 pm

I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve read in a few of my books that four is a hard age–actually I think Penelope Leach said that most parents find their four-year-olds incredibly annoying. And I think there are some good explanations, too–a developing memory that is probably now more able to compare and contrast present moments with previous ones, more fluency in expressing emotions and preferences but still very little control over them and very little ability to make preferences into facts. (Since I have absolutely no experience in this please do feel free to hit me over the head at any time.) I mean, when you think about it, most adults are still learning the trick of perspective, of putting their own experiences into the proper light. I am still capable of throwing an internal temper tantrum if I get stuck in a traffic jam.
I think it is a learned skill to be frustrated or disappointed and be able to remember a prior, worse situation or think of someone else in a worse situation and prevent oneself from saying “this is the worst day of my life!” And a pretty complicated one, too, if you think of all the steps involved in it.

37 Alissa April 20, 2006 at 1:09 pm

Oh, I am so glad to see this post. In the minute it took to read it you made me feel SO much better.
I have a 4 year old (almost 5). He used to be so sweet, but now the sweet moments are crossed with a horrible little boy.
Last night he threw an absolute fit because he wanted cheetos for supper. Told me he didn’t like me, that I was a bad mom, and that he wanted to go live with Ms. Trish (his sitter). Then, at bedtime, he told me he loves me and that I’m his best friend. Ugh.
You are definitely not alone.

38 Alissa April 20, 2006 at 1:09 pm

Oh, I am so glad to see this post. In the minute it took to read it you made me feel SO much better.
I have a 4 year old (almost 5). He used to be so sweet, but now the sweet moments are crossed with a horrible little boy.
Last night he threw an absolute fit because he wanted cheetos for supper. Told me he didn’t like me, that I was a bad mom, and that he wanted to go live with Ms. Trish (his sitter). Then, at bedtime, he told me he loves me and that I’m his best friend. Ugh.
You are definitely not alone.

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