Project Genesis

Family and Relationships


The “Awful Fours”

Question: Hello!  My 4 year old daughter is a love-able, sweet child with tons of energy.  She literally can’t stop unless she’s tired, which usually doesn’t happen until nighttime—and then she’s wiped! She will scratch and bite her sister, and when she is busy, she won’t listen—I need to carry her in from outside.  What would you suggest as a good way to deal with her?

Answer: You should keep on carrying her into the house. Tell her to come in, and go straightaway to carry her inside.  Insure that she is a “success” in that every time you ask her to come in, she does so (for now, by being carried, and later, by walking). There is a clear need for her to feel that whatever you tell her to do, that’s what happens next. She doesn’t have to agree, nor should she feel like a failure for not following through. Yet, she has to know: Mommy says something and that’s what happens. When that is consistent (and for that you must refrain from requesting things that you cannot guarantee the outcome), then she’ll relax and go along with it.

To the extent that you are able to supervise, I would try to prevent her from injuring her sister.  Again, she does not have to change her attitude—only her behavior, and that can be “guaranteed” only by the adult on site. Don’t deal with her sister’s complaints (other than by offering her comfort and a kiss where it hurts), but rather by blocking the aggressor from the behavior when it is happening.

Best wishes,


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