How do I get my 4 year old to respect me? — The Bump

How do I get my 4 year old to respect me?

My ds has been disrespectful to me for a while. He yells at me, throws things, hurts his little brother, and tells me things that I would tell him like, "One more word and I shut the computer down for the night." Lately though, he's beginning to disobey other adults, like backtalking my mom and actingf up at her house. His almost 2yo brother is mocking him as well as tearing things up, throwing food, and hurting the cats. I have no idea what to do since taking things away, putting them to bed, etc. doesn't work. Any advice?
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Re: How do I get my 4 year old to respect me?

  • When DH does things like that we talk about how it isn't nice and hurts my feelings. We talk about what he can say do differently. Also we have him take deep breaths and count to 4. That way he is able to listen.
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  • I don't have too much advice other than the basics (time out, no tv, no going out for special treats, loss of any privileges or things he really enjoys, ect.).  I just want to point out the reason why he's starting to disrespect other adults and his brother is imitating him is because you didn't stop it earlier.  If you let him get away with it with you, of course he's going to do it to others.  I also assume that although it is kind of cute when our LOs say things like "I'm turning off the computer" that you're not laughing and take it seriously.  
    My 1 1/2 year old constantly copies my 3 1/2 year old, but if she throws a toy once, he does it non stop.  I don't know if she really cares or not, but I always make it a point to remind her how much he looks up to her and copies her behavior so she doesn't want to teach him bad things.  I also use it to my advantage, since he really does imitate just about everything she does.  If I need him sitting nicely for dinner or in the car sear, I tell her to show him how to sit like a good boy.
  • I've never let him get away with it. There's always been consequences, and I don't laugh when he speaks to me like that. I don't have a DH to discuss things with anymore. He is bipolar and was verbally abusive to the kids. He moved out two months ago are barely visits the kids. He won't stay in time out and I can't neglect the other two kids to keep putting him back all day. I take away as many privileges as I can think of, but none of it stops him. I'm starting to think it's a control phase because he's starting to refuse dinner now, telling me he doesn't like it when he hasn't tried a bite. Thank goodness I got him to eat last night.
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  • OK, it sounds like he has been through a lot lately (as have you all) and he is acting out.  Plus, being four.  Four is a time of snotty back-talk, at least judging by my DD and her classmates.  With DD, when she is too rough with her brother or just generally out of control she gets sent to her room until she can calm herself down.  We will tell her something like "We don't hit other people.  House Rule #1 is Be Kind.  Go to your room until you are ready to be part of the family again."  For general backtalk and sass I try to just calmly tell her to "try that again with nicer words," which she usually will actually do.  Sometimes offering a hug will snap her out of it as well because what she's really after is attention and she may not even realize that herself.  I know it's super hard - four is brutal under the best of circumstances and it sounds like you guys are all under a lot of stress which makes it worse.

    If you are up for reading books, I like the Positive Discipline series and Love and Logic.
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  • Have a zero-tolerance policy for disrespect.  My kids are both on the easy-going side, but they both tested the boundaries of respectful behavior at age 4 (and continue to do so from time to time as they grow, of course.)

    When they were 4, I didn't yell and snap back over disrespectful/sassy behavior, but I also didn't handle it by telling my kids that they hurt my feelings.  I just didn't want them to think they had that much power over me.  At 4, a conversation might go something like this:

    Child: What are we having for dinner?
    Me: Chicken and broccoli.
    Child: Awww! Do I have to eat that? That's the worst dinner!
    Me: [calmly, but firmly] The words you just said are very disrespectful, and I can't let you talk like that. If you don't like the dinner I'm cooking, you don't have to eat it, but that's the only food I'm making you.  Also, you will not be invited to the dinner table if you can't use respectful words.  If you don't like the dinner I'm making, you could say "Oh.  That's not my favorite dinner." or just say, "Okay, Mom."  Let's try this conversation again.

    Then have the child repeat the conversation with the more respectful response.

    I find that about 50% of disrespectful talk pops out without the child really realizing that those words are disrespectful.  The other 50% of the time, they know they're sassing, but they are just testing the limits.  That's why I don't yell or punish.  I just make the child try again until they can find a better way to handle the conversation.

    I also really like the Love & Logic books.
    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • I wish I had advice, my snotty 4 year old is now a snotty 8 year old. :'(
    Racheal- a newly single, student mom to 3 boys 

    CC 10/2005
    NC 11/2009
    DC 08/2012

    and TEAM GREEN 05/2014


  • Because of your recent separation the ladies on the blended family board might have some advice. Don't expect it to be sweet and gentle advice but a lot of the ladies have dealt with the sudden absence of a parent or abusive influence of a parent.

    I am a BF poster myself but I can think of a few in particular who might be better equipped to help you.
  • I completely agree with neverblushed. Disrespect is my biggest hot button and is not tolerated. I feel like the best way to stop disrespect is to teach respect by making them reword their statements and/or redo the behaviors properly. If they refuse, they go to their room and they can stay there until they comply and say or do the proper behavior. I'm not opposed to locks on the outside of doors because I don't have time to deal with that nonsense. As you can guess, I do *not* have easy going kids.

    If you hurt your sibling, you're going to apologize and give a hug. I also don't allow for "I'm sorry" to be the apology. You're sorry for what? They must say the improper behavior and we are going to talk about what they should have done in the situation before hurting someone.

    If you throw your food on the floor, you're going to pick it up and apologize. I attempt to give words and proper responses to the actions. Do you not like the food? If you don't like the food you should do _____. If you throw it again however, you will need to leave the table and will not be invited back to it.

    My #1 was not a thrower, but #2 came along and we implemented the "forever time out box" for that. If you are going to disrespect your things, you do not deserve them. If you disrespect my things, I'm going to go pick out one of your things for the forever time out box. These things can be earned back, but it takes quite a bit of good behavior to do so! If he's throwing out of rage, the anger needs to be addressed and solutions figured out for how to deal with the anger in a different way.

    As for refusing dinner; that's his problem with hunger as his consequence.

    Overall my guess is he's enjoying watching you get so upset over his behavior. If I had to guess, you're doing a lot of yelling out of frustration and would advise you to use "cool as a cucumber" as your weapon. Stick to facts and words in stern tones only. Make him model the proper words and behaviors over and over and over again. Good luck!


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  • We are still working on being nice to his brother and not making messes. However, he is doing better in all other areas now. Since he's realized we are still a family without daddy and that daddy doesn't live here anymore (so no more talking mean to him) he's doing better. We are all less stressed and having less nightmares the longer my husband is away, even tho ds still mentions from time to time that daddy doesn't like him or that daddy is grouchy.
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