We all hear about the terrible twos and we’re all warned about it but no one talks about the whining and tantrums threes and the “I know everything there is to know about life so, no I don’t want to do that” fours. To be perfectly honest, I’d take the twos any day compared to the threes and fours!! What a struggle these ages are.
My middle child is a boy and is 2 years old. While he’s supposedly in his terrible twos, they aren’t THAT terrible. I mean, there’s whining and crying about EVERYTHING under the sun but he’s cuddly, loving, and helps around the house when we ask him to – “Can you put the toys away that you were just playing with?” “Ummm…SURE!” And off he goes, happily putting away his toys. He is motivated by hugs and kisses and high-fives.
My oldest, a beautiful drama-full 4 year old. Not only does she whine and cry about everything under the sun, she also says things like “I KNOW! UGH!” and constantly tests our patience. Her favorite is an emphatic “NO!” when she’s told to take a shower, eat her vegetables, clean her room, etc. When she was three, we could say “If you don’t start cleaning up by the time I’m done counting to three, you’ll go to time out!” and she would move her butt immediately. Now that she’s four her response is “What will happen if I don’t do it by then? Oh, I’ll go to time out, that’s okay – it’s like quiet time. I like quiet time.” AHHHHHH!!!!
I hear things get better when they hit about 5 or 6 years old but I witnessed a 6 year old recently speaking like a baby and whining. I might be bald by the time my daughter turns 5 from all the hair I’m pulling out. Anyway…
According to PBS.org, four year olds “want to be more self-reliant and seek to expand the areas of their lives where they can be independent decision-makers.” The website goes on to say “Emotionally, four-year-olds continue to learn what causes certain feelings and realize that others may react to the same situation differently. They have learned to better manage intense emotions with coping strategies like talking it out or drawing a picture.” I’ve noticed that my daughter expresses her feelings a little bit better. My husband yelled at her one time last week and she said “Daddy, you hurt my feelings and my heart.” We were both surprised by her expressing her feelings and were proud of her at the same time. My husband acknowledged that he hurt her feelings and her heart and apologized then explained to her why he became frustrated.
So what’s my game plan? Appreciate that my 7.5 week old is not yet high maintenance and enjoy every second of his cooing, keep giving high-fives to my 2 year old, and pray that I find a solution to deal with my 4 year old BEFORE she turns 5 because I know at that point, I’ll have to find some other way to handle her.
Seriously, with our daughter, I think I’ll try
- to encourage her to continue expressing, in words, how she feels as well as have her draw or do artwork to express her feelings.
- remain calm when she throws a tantrum or whines. Inform her that what she’s doing is whining and continue to ask her to use her words.
- follow through with consequences. Last night, for example, my daughter refused to eat her dinner because her turkey meatloaf had vegetables in it. We told her that if she didn’t finish her meal by the time dinner was over, she couldn’t have any brownies. We actually followed through with this and to drive home the point, we (my husband, my son and I) had our dessert at the table where she was sitting – she was excused but she didn’t want to leave the table. We’ll see how the next meal goes.
- to continue to not to give into her tantrums. This is tough but I have noticed that she behaves more positively if she knows I am serious when I tell her something and she doesn’t do it.
- to remind her that I’ll speak to her when she calms down. Most of the time when she’s upset, she won’t hear anything I’m saying and I would get frustrated. Going forward, I will inform her that I will speak to her when she stops crying and follow through.
These are the steps I’m going to start with. There are more you can find here. How do you handle tough situations with your young ones?