Toddlers: 24 Months+

4 Year Old Behavior

This is a little bit of a rant, but also seeking advice.

I play step mother to my boyfriend's 4 year old daughter four or five days a week. I'm also currently pregnant with our first child together, and absolutely miserable with morning sickness, and as selfish as it sounds sometimes I really just want to be left alone. I spend all day long with her, and we do lots of fun things like going to the pool, arts and crafts, playing with toys, and watching movies together. She is in absolutely no way shape or form lacking attention. She has an awesome bedroom full of more toys and dolls than me and my two siblings had combined. But she REFUSES to play in her bedroom. She will not leave me alone for TEN minutes. I understand she loves me and wants to play, but what I don't understand is why she can't comprehend that when I ask her nicely to go play in her room for a little bit, it isn't a punishment. I do a lot of work from home, and I'll try to say "Go in your room and play with your dolls for a little bit while I get this work done, and then after lunch we'll go to the pool." I don't feel this is outside of the boundaries of reason by any means, and she understands much more difficult concepts much easier. But when I ask things like this ovf her, she stands in the hallway and cries and screams and shrieks like she's in physical pain. If she isn't doing that, she'll stand there fiddling with her hands and not speaking, but looking like a wounded kitten. I've calmly explained to her "You aren't in trouble, playing in your bedroom is not punishment, I just need an hour to take care of some adult things" multiple times, and she'll just stare at me like I'm speaking in another language. I honestly think she plays dumb on purpose because she isn't getting her way. She'll tell me she's tired, and then I'll say "then go take a nap" and she says "I don't want to take a nap" so I'll say "then go in your room and play" and she'll say "I don't want to play" so I'll ask her what she wants to do and she just stares at me and doesn't answer the question. I feel like being an only child she's in serious need of a playmate, but that isn't something I can make happen over night, and I feel like I'm going to rip all of my hair out of my head before the end of this pregnancy. 

I've tried everything I can think of, but I'm swiftly running out of ideas. It isn't my intention for her to be the kind of child that stays in her bedroom all day long, I just want an hour or two a day to myself. She fights with me on nap time, and sometimes I literally have to put her down for a nap ten times before she'll stay in the bed. I just don't understand why she's so clingy. Is this a serious issue? Does this sound like an anxiety disorder or something? Or is she just a really clingy kid and she'll be different once her new little sibling is old enough for them to play together?

Baby A 
EDD: March 15th, 2015 <3
Aurelian Jameson or Ailey Rae 



Re: 4 Year Old Behavior

  • Honestly I think she seems normal.  Your expectations seem high.  She cannot comprehend because she is a 4 yo and not an adult.  I cannot imagine a 4 yo playing by themselves for an hour so you can do "adult things".  My DD is 3.5 and there is no way she would do that.  She can play independently but she does so in the living room while I'm in the kitchen or something.  

    Will she watch a movie/tv by herself?  If you turn a movie on will she stay there if you go do laundry or whatever adult things need doing?  

    Do you ever start her off with a craft or puzzle or blocks and then say "I need to do X for a few minutes.  I'll be back in a few minutes"?  I do this with DD and DS.  I'll start them off with something and then go grab a load of laundry or whatever.  

    I know you think this is a simple concept but a 4 yo is hearing "can you go play by yourself now in your room without me?" and is feeling sad that you don't want to play with her.  A 4 yo is still pretty egocentric and is not very good at understand that you NEED a break just that you are sending her away.  I would definitely change that approach.  I don't really understand why she needs to play in her room versus in a common room where you are.  

    Also, 4 is old to still be napping.  Maybe she is done napping and that's why you are having issues.  Maybe you can start having quiet time instead where 1 hour each day is spent doing only quiet activities.  

    I understand it's hard to be pregnant and taking care of another child.  My LOs are 19.5 mos apart so at 9 weeks pregnant I had a 12 mo who was obviously very dependent on me.  It sucks but you have to power through it.  
    [Deleted User]
  • Emerald27Emerald27 member
    edited August 2014
    She sounds normal. DS is with me all day...I mean he'll wander into another room for a few minutes, but honestly, if he doesn't come back right away I start to get nervous. Lol - if he's not with me and is happy about it then he's up to something!!

    An hour also sounds like a really long time to expect a 4yo to play independently. Maybe if you had some special activities for her that you just used when you had work that needed to be done, that would help. She could watch a TV show sitting next to you and then could color or do puzzles or play something else there with you, and if she asks you to play too, you could tell her that you'll play as soon as you've finished your work. Even offer a snack or change of game to her as an alternative to playing with you.

    I SAH and get tired and burned out and sometimes want to run away for an hour or so and just be by myself. When I start to feel that way, I make sure to let DH know that I need some down time and I let him have some time to play with DS while I go somewhere to just chill. Maybe you need a break too! Let your BF know that you're feeling overwhelmed with work, pregnancy, and watching DD, and that you need some you time to recharge.
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  • Ditto pp. Your expectations are off (you are expecting too much).

    J. just turned 4. He plays independently sometimes. It usually involves me setting him up doing something (it's crayon time. You color while I fold laundry. Then I fold laundry right there next to him. And pick up a crayon and color from time to time to keep him engaged.)

    I get your frustration. I do. (We have a 4 yo, 2.5 yo, and almost 1 yo.) But you just have to be the adult and power through. 
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  • My daughter who is her age never leaves me alone. Like n-e-v-e-r. She talks endlessly. She needs to do what am doing.

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  • our living room opens into a play room, DD, who's 4, will play in the play room for an hour or so by herself, but I'm on the same floor and visible.  I don't know of any children her age who play alone in their room for an hour or so.  Why don't you find an area for her to keep some toys down stairs?  Or rather than watching a movie together, let her watch a movie while you're doing what you need to.  DD was 4 in March and hasn't napped in close to a year.  DS, who was 2 in May, only naps about an hour most days.  She probably doesn't need a nap anymore.

    It sounds like she may be a bit bored.  Playing with you may be fun, but certainly not like playing with kids her own age.  Does she get out for play dates or maybe you can enroll her in preschool to give you a bit of a break.  

    Good luck with the play mate idea.  It's about 2 before they really play with others.  My nephew is 6 and he and my son do seem to enjoy spending time together, but that's once a week.  With my daughter they're the best of friends and killing each other with kindness, or fighting and ready to beat the crap out of each other.  I have to watch them more closely when they're together. 
  • I agree that your expectations seem perfectly reasonable to you (who wouldn't want an hour alone to get things done!). She doesn't understand that because she is 4. It's totally normal 4 year old behavior. I really find that our days go best when I let the kids help me get things done, rather than trying to get them to play so I can get it done myself. The task takes longer, sure, but there's less fight and we're all less stressed. 

    Does she have a structured nap/quiet time after lunch? 
    S- March 09 E- Feb 12 L- May 15

    ashiscute[Deleted User]
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