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Figuring out the mind of a four year old

Updated on August 11, 2016

I have been trying to figure out the mind of my four year old recently and its not an easy task. All children are different and special in their own way but some, like my second child, are a little more difficult then others. What do people call them? Active, independent, intelligent, clever but what they really want to say is spoiled, rotten, just plain awful! I went searching everywhere for the answer to why my child misbehaved a lot, why he had no respect whatsoever for his parents, why he thought everything revolved around him and his needs and wants. Finally after many months of searching, wondering and pulling my hair out, I realized it was me! My child expected everything handed to him when he wanted it because I did it. Turns out I am an enabler. I don't want my child to get upset, feel bad, or get hurt feelings and so I go out of my way to make sure this doesn't happen, but what I didn't realize is that all of these experiences that I label "bad" are not bad and they are what a child needs to grow. I witness everyday the entitlement of many college students that stems from parents doing everything for their children! I now see how really easily this can happen.

Changing a Child's Behavior

How can you change this? It's a little bit harder to change at age 4 but I realize it would be even more difficult at age 8 or 10 or 12. I knew I better get started sooner than later. I noticed at preschool my son was very interested in doing projects and felt very good about showing me how he learned to do something himself so one day I told him that together we were going to create a "Big Boy" list and asked him what he would like to start doing on his own like a big boy. I had to make suggestions to get him started...getting a drink of water, getting himself dressed in the morning, putting on his own shoes, he then suggested cleaning the books off his floor and making his bed! When he accomplishes the task I let him cross it off the list. When he falls back into his usual routine of asking me to do something for him I show him the list and that he crossed it off. I remind him that he is a big boy now. It works! He actually looks at it proudly and says "Oh yeah!" and does it! The thing I like best about the list is that it grows with the child, and everyday you can add and/or cross off another thing that your child can do for him/her self.

Consistency is Key

Although this list idea is helping me figure out the mind of my four year old, there is one last thing that I should point out. You have to be consistent with it or it loses its appeal drastically! A lesson I learned big time! But I am back on track and even though it almost kills me sometimes, I let him do these things himself. Even if it means some water spills on the floor (he offers to wipe it up! - we added "wipe up spills" to the list!), or the bed isn't made to perfection (he is so very proud of it). What might be the best thing about this idea is that it has forced me to not care so much about everything being perfect. I have learned a little lesson here too and have grown myself while trying to get through to and teach my 4 year old.


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    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Keeley, as I'm trying to read your article my 4 year old has interrupted twice, trying not to go to sleep. I agree with being consistent, especially when they're young. Great hub!

    • visionandfocus profile image

      visionandfocus 5 years ago from North York, Canada

      What an awesome hub! You're absolutely right about the pervasive sense of entitlement among youngsters nowadays. It always goes back to the parents. Then again, no-one gets to go to parenting school, and you're all supposed to know what to do, as if everyone's born knowing how to parent. Considering it's pretty much the most important job in the world, it's ridiculous to expect people to learn as they go. Parents and prospective parents need to be pro-active and really give some serious thought into how they are going to raise their kids. Hubs like this really help by giving them practical suggestions to follow through. We may have the best intentions in the world but just not the skills and skills can always be learned.

      Voted up and awesome! Thanks for sharing.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Your "I can do it" list sounds like a really neat idea for my 4 year old grandson. It will definitely be something to try the next time he visits.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 6 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Keeley Shea...You make a very strong point, and made a humbling discovery upon which you acted for the benefit of your youngster. Well done! Nice Hub! I enjoyed the lead-in picture, too!

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 6 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Dardia...Yes, that tendency to "protect" can easily get out of hand. They need the freedo to grow, and it can be difficult to realize when that's important.

    • Keeley Shea profile image

      Keeley Shea 6 years ago from Norwich, CT

      Thank you Dardia, for your comment and taking time to read my hub! My little one seems to only learn by making the mistake and often gets hurt (not seriously - as you mentioned too!) but he definitely learns from this and will think twice the next time I remind him of the last time he got hurt. Thanks again! I have really enjoyed reading a few of your hubs and will continue to read more as time permits!

    • Dardia profile image

      Darlene Yager 6 years ago from Michigan

      It is very difficult to let children grow up. We always feel the need to protect them, not realizing that they have to learn to fend for themselves. My son questioned how I was working with my grandson once. He was concerned he might hurt himself. I told him that sometimes we have to let them hurt themselves a little bit so they learn that there are consequences to their actions. Obviously, it was not when he could be seriously hurt. I always try to talk them out of doing such things first, explaining what could happen in the situation at the moment and many times they listen. Often that is all they need to learn, but there are times when they think they know better than you, or don't believe you.

      The most important thing for parents to know is that each child is their own person. Some learn from others and then some need to experience it to learn anything. There are always the ones that don't seem to learn.

      It sounds like you have figured out a great way to work with your son. It can be very helpful to other mothers and fathers too.