4 year old boy with structured home life


I received a letter from a parent last week. Her first sentence began, “I love my child.”

She went on to say, “but he is a handful. He talks back. I put him in time out and he will spit in his lap. If I make him go to bed, he kicks the wall. When I take the TV away from him, he screams loud and pushes over the chairs. I tell him I am going to spank him. He closes his eyes. Then he runs out of the room and hides. He is almost four years old. His birthday came too late for him to go to Pre-K. His father works at night, and I work at home, but we cannot afford to put him in childcare.”

On our first meeting, this was the conversation:

Jean: The first thing I recommend for the two of you is to purchase and read the book The Truth About ParentingYou can find more about it here: www.TruthAboutParenting.comHave you talked to his father about your son’s behavior?

Parent: Yes, but his father wants to spank him too much, so I stopped telling him. His father is upstairs asleep, so he doesn’t hear him misbehaving most of the time.

Jean: Is this your only child?

Parent: Yes.

Jean: Do you call your son by his given name or a nickname?

Parent: We call him by a nickname.

Jean: When you call him, does he always answer when he is angry?

Parent: No.

Jean: Okay, here is what we will start out with. First, create a play area for him. Put toys and books you will read to him in that area. You can put a TV in there as well, along with building blocks, colored pencils, and a drawing pad. The three of you will sit down together and make some rules. I suggest making ten rules. Number the rules from one to ten on a white board, chalkboard, or large sheet of paper. Following each rule, write the consequences of breaking each rule. Use large print and color code the rules. Do you understand what I’ve said?”

Parent: Yes.

Jean: Teach him the rules and the consequences, because when he breaks a rule, you are going to tell him that he broke rule number 2 or 6, etc. Then make him tell you what the rule says. Place the rules in the play area. When he misbehaves, be sure to talk to him and not at him, to get his attention. When his father wakes up, your son will have to tell him the number of the rule that he broke. Does this sound like something you and his father can do?

Parent: Yes. We can work together on this and create the rules.

Jean: You need to work out a time schedule for him: breakfast, face washing, teeth brushing, getting dressed, reading time, building blocks, TV, nap time, etc. Then create a schedule for after his nap and what he will do to get ready for bed. Be consistent with his schedule. 

Parent: He’s not used to a schedule, and neither are we. I can see how this will create consistency in all our lives.

Jean: One last thing…when you call him by his nickname, and he doesn’t answer, then call him again but this time use his given name with a different tone! This is where we will start. I will see you in two weeks.

                Schedules work well with a child this age!