More About the Four-Year-Old

I recently went back and looked at the highest ranked posts for the past year, and was surprised to see  that while the top 10 posts mainly involved Waldorf-related things, the top developmental posts amidst all those were the posts regarding the four-year-old (and then the six-year-old).  Ages four and six are obviously ages where parents are finding challenges and difficulty!

I wanted to throw out a few more words about the four-year-old for you all.  These are random thoughts from my own experience in having two four and a half year olds in our family, so please do take what resonates with you and what works for you and your family!

First of all, if your four year old is attending school, please do be aware it takes A LOT of energy for them to hold it together, follow the rules and listen, not to mention sitting down and focusing.  Most four year olds, according to traditional childhood developmental standards, have the “wiggles”, have short attention spans, and have more physical energy than they know what to do with.  Compare that description to what is going on at school, and plan for lots of outside time to blow off steam when they get home.

If you are homeschooling your four year old with a method different than Waldorf, please be aware of “cramming” facts down your child’s throat, and how many times a day you are asking to do them something passive such as seated schoolwork that is not especially hands-on, how much television are they getting, how many books are they reading.  Do they have lots of time for imaginative play, creative play, crafts, being outside, helping with practical work around your home, and work with repetitive sensory things such as kneading bread, playing in mud or dirt?  These are the most important things for a four-year-old.

How many words are you using?  Many four-year-olds in a stage of disequilibrium actually need less words, less choices, more warmth and more calmness from YOU.

The inner work of your parenting at this time is several-fold.  One thing to do is to make sure you are being nurtured by your own things in some way, and make sure you are getting a break at least every day by yourself for a few minutes without ANY kids, and having a break each week is also essential.  It will make you a better mother if you husband can take all the kids in the backyard for even a half  hour or so,  to give you some time.   If your children have an early bedtime, you can also use this time to recharge and reconnect with yourself.

The other part of inner  work at this time is to make sure you are not viewing your child as “the enemy”, or as some mothers I have heard lamenting, “Where did my sweet, nice child go?”  They are still there!  Trying to learn boundaries, trying to be big, but really being small!  They are not “bad” – they are LEARNING.  Go meditate over your sleeping child when they are peaceful.  Think about all the good qualities they have, see them as they are:   still really very, very small.  Meditate on what kind of adult you are hoping you shape them into.

A four-year-old doesn’t need a lecture or a speech or guilt.  Short explanations, possibly.  Restitution for what they did – fixing it in some way- is so important.  But not the lecture or guilt-trip.  They really cannot comprehend it the way you as an adult can!

If you need a time-out, by all  means gather yourself together.  But, don’t expect a child in “time-out” is going to do what an adult would do – sit there and think about how they could have done things differently, sit there and reflect.  The four-year-old is not cognitively ready to do this from any developmental perspective!  Time-in for calming, WITHOUT TRYING TO TALK ABOUT THE INCIDENT, is the first step.  Then comes the action they must do to fix what the problem was.  And you must be there every step of the way to help.  Did I mention mothers of four-year olds really do need their children to go to bed early, LOL?  This takes a lot of energy to do this all day!

And last of all, be easy with yourself.  Parenting a four-year-old is a lot of work, working to structure your days, working toward less words, less explanation, more warmth, how to fix something rather than just talk about the anger and upset you are feeling at that moment – whew, it is hard work!  Be easy with yourself, love yourself as you grow as a parent.

Just a few thoughts,


17 thoughts on “More About the Four-Year-Old

  1. Loved this article. I’m generally a lurker but this truly resonated with me more than all your other writings. My 4 year old daughter’s middle name should’ve been “Go.” She’s inquisitive and always moving and on the run. Her first question of the day and last of the night is, “Mommy, where are we going?” I homeschool her and I’m always trying to balance making sure she gets something and making sure that she’s outside or just hanging out being creative. Your blog was very encouraging that I’m heading in the right direction. Thanks a bunch!

  2. Pingback: Peaceful Life With A Four-Year-Old « The Parenting Passageway

  3. Pingback: Discipline for the Four-Year-Old « The Parenting Passageway

  4. Carrie, you are my inspiration. I am so struggling with my 3 and half year old and my one year old. My poor little girl has had such a traumatic year with the birth of her brother and its been such a steep learning curve for me. I am riddled with guilt from my lack of understanding of what she must have been going through and the heart ache of my totally inexperienced and sometimes hard way of dealing with her (which is not how I usually am).
    One thing that I am really frustrated with is that she is still breastfeeding A LOT. In fact I can barely be affectionate with her due to her constant request for ‘boobie’. Any suggestions on how I can wean her gently as the situation is out of control with no end in sight. She is truly traumatised at the thought of not been able to have it.
    Thanks in advance.

  5. liked ur a single parent to a just turnd 4yr old[jan 5 2010]…my whole world and routine revolves around her.lets just say u need the energy of 20 horses sometimes!!!!

  6. thanks for the pep-talk Carrie. That was just what I needed to hear. Although I can hear myself making these errors and looking into my 4 daughter’s face and knowing she is not following me, and knowing that I should take a break and stop lecturing her, I only fully realised after the fact, when it’s too late.
    but you’re right I mustn’t be too hard on myself either. Single-parenting is hard.
    Thanks again, it’s good to hear a supportive and intuitive message

  7. My lovely four-year old daughter has discovered Disney’s Tinkerbell. I thought the idea of fairies saving Spring was a ‘sweet’ idea in comparison to some of the other DVD options available. Boy was i wrong!
    Have you seen how hot tempered Tinkerbell is?…and what an attitude! I now have a ‘foot stomping, glaring over the shoulder with arms folded’ four year old in my house. I am living with the real life Tinkerbell!

    • Kathy, Quick! Read the comments on my latest post “What’s Comin Up in May” and I responded to a very similar question as your Tinker bell problem!
      Thanks for reading and blessings..

  8. Pingback: A Few Fast Words Regarding “Defiance” In Children Under the Age of 6 « The Parenting Passageway

  9. Some of this I agree with but come on! I have 3 boys 4 and under. All 3 feed off of eachother. They absolutely,know they are being defiant. There has to be times of extreme parenting or some one ends up hurt. Breaks are laughable.

  10. Pingback: This Will Keep You Busy: Links By Age « The Parenting Passageway

  11. Hi,
    I have been reading a lot on the net about parenting and dealing with 4 year olds. I have a 4 year old daughter and trying my best to make her a good human being. I have had issues with certain things, specially when she listens to some our family friends more than me. I have literally threated her sometimes in anger saying she can go and live with them. But I feel terrible all the time. I love her soo much that when she ignores me when someone is over it really troubles me.

    Your write up is one of the most inspiring and helpful ones that I have read in a few years. Can you please advice.

  12. I have just printed several articles on 4 year olds from your posts to share with my husband. This one is such an encouragement to me. Thank you for sharing that it really is hard work, no one really prepares you for that. Thank you!

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