Four year-old acting up (new baby due)

I was a pre school teacher once! Now I have an almost 4yr old and I'm stumped. We are expecting a baby boy in October. Up till now my daughter has been very sweet, but she is displaying that "teen-ager" attitude. We have revoked privileges when she acts up. She calls me names, hits me, kicks me, sticks her tongue out, screams at me and disobeys me 8 out 10 times. She breaks out in big tears when we tell her to listen.

I know it's most definitely the changes coming in her life and her turning 4 soon. But boy I'm at at end of my rope right now. She goes to pre-school 2x a week and she loves it there. Any suggestions for me how to handle all this?



Dear Marjoleine,

Since you were a pre-school teacher once, I'm sure you know that your daughter is exhibiting signs of extreme anxiety, probably due to the impending birth of the baby. And, as you said, she is acting out in a way common to anxious four year-olds. You need to do several things.

First, toughen up your discipline. This is no time to simply revoke privileges. No child should be allowed to hit or kick a mother, especially a pregnant mother. This must be stopped immediately. If she hits or kicks, she goes into her room. If you are in public, you go right home, and then she goes into her room. No ifs, ands or buts. If you have to hold the door closed to make her stay inside, then do it.

Interestingly, this is just the security that your daughter is asking for. She wants to make sure she is still loved, and consistent discipline is an important way to prove it to her. You know that children are often extremely sweet and well-behaved after a tantrum where the parent has stood her ground in discipline. That's because the child feels safe and cared for.

In addition, this child needs to be told with words that she will always be loved by you even after the baby comes. If you have told her, then tell her again, at a cuddle time for just the two of you. Words like "you'll always be my baby" and other sentiments of that sort will go a long way to calming her down.

Best of luck,
Patti Greenberg Wollman

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