When a 4 year old thinks discipline is funny, the entire family can suffer. Here are a few solutions…

 

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Is your Preschooler Demonstrating Bad Behavior? 

 

A stage that is common with young children is when a 4 year old thinks discipline is funny. 

 

At this age, they have gained more independence in their life than they could ever imagine! Suddenly they are potty trained, can communicate clearly and are probably in some form of school. 

 

This stage is important, but hard. When your child begins demonstrating bad behavior, it can feel like a personal attack. What is more likely is a power struggle. 

 

What Do Power Struggles Look Like for a 4 year Old?

 

One example of a power struggle with a 4 year old that thinks discipline is funny is when they eat dinner. Whether they are picky eaters or not, serving new things can create surprise, which removes a feeling of comfort and power.

 

You want them to eat the steamed veggies, they want a PB&J. Based on what the toddler eats is who has the power (in their eyes). 

 

Depending on your child’s personality, this can result in an insulting reaction like laughter. Please don’t overwhelm yourself- just because their reaction to you threatening to throw away every one of their favorite race cars and all they did was laugh like a guy running the mob, it doesn’t mean much. 

 

As a mom of four kids, I understand how challenging this season can be. My best advice is to get a deeper understanding for what power struggles look like. 

 

Power Struggles Explained

 

A lot of the time, children’s behavior is controlled by big feelings. Are they anxious and overwhelmed because they are starting kindergarten in a few weeks? Are they excited and exhausted because of a birthday party this weekend? Maybe they are disappointed because it’s time for bed and they want to stay up and play?

 

With these big feelings comes a feeling of little to no control. Combine that with the little impulse control that preschoolers have and it can result in a laughing child.

 

What I have found is that removing them entirely from the environment where the tantrum works best- also known as time out. 

 

4 year old thinks discipline is funny so he is put in time out. Boy is standing with his face in the corner of a room with light brown walls. He is wearing black pants and a white shirt.

Time out for when a 4 year old thinks discipline is funny

 

Time outs are a tool for parents and kids to calm down after difficult situations. Whether they are having a temper tantrum or aren’t making good choices towards others (like hitting or not sharing), the best way to handle the situation is to calm down first.

 

In order to encourage good behavior when your 4 year old thinks discipline is funny, separating them may be the best solution. Oftentimes, when a child laughs at your discipline, it might be to cover their own embarrassment. Even for 4 year olds, you can make your child feel embarrassed.

 

A good idea to encourage appropriate behavior is to remove them from the situation, let them calm down and then discuss it at the right time.

 

 

 

What about Positive Reinforcement

 

When it comes to older kids, the important thing to remember is that your relationship is more valuable than a quick discipline. This means that you might want to look at how you are reinforcing behavior and try something else.

 

Try rewarding positive behavior the second you see it.

 

Instead of saying “Don’t leave your plate at the table after dinner” say “You are so good at putting your plate in the sink”.

Instead of saying “No hitting”, a better way might be complimenting them on what a good friend that your child is in the first place.

 

Take into consideration your child’s feelings before they make a mistake. Try to compliment your children’s behavior the first time you notice it. In the long term, it will help your kids behave on a regular basis.

 

Ask Yourself: 

 

  • Are they having a hard time expressing themselves?
  • Were there clear expectations set for how they should behave?
  • Were their basic needs met before the tantrum began (are they tired/hungry/thirsty?)

 

 

Ways to help them behave next time

 

1) Consider your child’s social skills. At a young age, it is normal for 4 year olds that think discipline is funny to not understand how to share. If their little sister is just a newborn, how can they have that skill mastered? Next time you enter a situation where sharing will be involved, it might be a good idea to practice at home.

 

2) The first thing I do when my children are practicing defiant behavior is look at Maslow’s pyramid. Are their needs being met? Oftentimes, my kids are just hungry and the right thing to do is offer them a snack.

 

Different Ways to Change your Child’s Attitude

 

There are certain things that you can control to help you change your child’s attitude. 

 

  • When addressing them, are you making eye contact?
  • For young children, get down to their level by physically kneeling so that you are equal to one another
  • Watch your tone of voice. It’s easy to be scary but that often leads to your child blocking you out
  • Consider when the tantrum came up. Was it under stressful situations like their little brother constantly poking them at the grocery store? 

 

If this doesn’t work… 

 

Ask for help. 

 

Talk to your partner, mom friends, their school and even a licensed childhood development therapist. 

 

All kids go through challenging times and we all need help sometimes. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help and support. 

 

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