Hold on tightly to your seats, hats, pearls, and Tiger balm, because it seems that experienced parents out there have conveniently forgotten (or have intentionally avoided) giving us poor saps the heads up about this harrowing stage of our child's development known as the Effing Fours!
You'd think that now your little one is officially a preschooler, your days of tantrums and meltdowns are over -- think again, because once your child turns four, she will also be referred to as:
- The Eff You Four
- Ferocious Four
So what else can you call your fiery little four year old based on her developmental milestones at this stage?
The four year old itch!
Here's a painfully honest list most parents of this "blessed" age group can probably relate to!
1. The Incredible Sulk
Even though your four year old is no longer having temper tantrums or colossal meltdowns, you will notice that she can be extra sensitive and easily start to sulk at the drop of a hat.
Just because you told her she has to finish eating her dinner before she's allowed to have dessert, she's pouting like an angry little duck, crossing her arms firmly, talking back, or even quietly sobbing to herself as if her whole world is crumbling down.
According to Nathalie Brown, a Child Behaviour Consultant from Easy Peasy Kids, your preschooler may have a more expansive vocabulary now, but she's still unable to adequately express her feelings.
But just like when she was a tiny baby, you should tune in to your child's feelings and help her work it through.
"It's like a switch goes off in their head and they have no control over that switch; it just goes. The switch can be triggered by many things: if they're slightly over-tired, hungry, over-stimulated, bored or not getting their own way", says Brown.
2. Liar Liar Pants On Fire
You've reminded your four-year-old not to overfeed the pet goldfish, but when you catch her shaking half a bottle of the food flakes into the fish tank for the fifth time that day and confront her about it, she might look you straight in the eyes and tell you that the poor goldfish were hungry and she heard them "ask her for more food".
Of course we know Goldie the fish is just a regular non-verbal pet, and you highly doubt your kid has been blessed with the ability to talk to animals (how cool would that be though?) -- so why did she tell you a bold-faced lie and expect you to believe it?
Or when telling a story to someone, you might even notice your child peppering in exaggerated details which never even happened.
According to some experts, children of this age are still unable to differentiate between fact and fiction, and that they sometimes get the truth mixed up with wishful thinking or fantasy:
"He’s not lying (at least by childhood standards), he’s thinking wishfully — imagining what he wishes had happened. Not only does wishful thinking allow the child the luxury of living in a dream, it impresses his friends and raises his social status", they say.
3. Social Butterfly
Even though you and your partner were your child's very first friends (we know, how cute, right?), as she grows older she will start to play alongside other kids and maybe even have a friend or two she regularly meets up with for play dates.
But once your little one turns four, this is when she will start wanting to be part of a bigger group in a social scene, be it in school, at the playground, or at a party.
Encourage your child to develop her social skills by mixing around with other kids and by making new friends.
You can also teach her how to introduce herself such as by saying: "Hello, my name is ____, can I play too?".
4. Dr Jekyll Junior and Mr Hyde
One minute your four-year-old is singing a song while painting a picture and happy as a clam, but then suddenly she shrieks and punches her easel then dumps all the paints on the floor before ranting about how she ran out of red paint and is now wailing at the top of her lungs.
She can't possibly be having PMS at this age yet, right? So what's with the mood swings and extreme temperaments?
Your little one is still learning how to express her emotions and sometimes she might be a little dramatic, but it's a good moment for you to validate those feelings and teach her how to communicate in a better (and less destructive) way.
5. Your four year old is a Stand-up Comedian
All parents of young children know how to force themselves to laugh at their kid's (unfunny) jokes, because we don't want to break their hearts or shatter their self-confidence so we just pull a face and play along.
You might actually really crack up just looking at how adorable your little one is as she's trying so hard to contain her laughter when delivering the (not so punchy) punchline, that you forget how the knock-knock joke fell flat.
Four-year-olds enjoy spinning silly stories and since their language skills are improving, for them to intentionally jumble up words and make up nonsensical ones is enough to send them rolling around in stitches!
Having a sense of humour and being able to laugh at themselves when things go wrong is definitely better than having an outburst and lashing out at others!
6. Your four year old is a Deep Thinker
"Do hamsters have dreams?"
"Why can't Daddies grow babies in their tummies?"
"How do they make the pictures move inside the TV?"
These are questions a typical four-year-old might ask and you probably will be hearing a lot more throughout the day.
In fact, a study has shown that children generally ask about 300 questions a day and four-year-old girls can ask up to 380!
But this is just her way of understanding the world around her, for her to sharpen her mental abilities, and also use her ever-increasing vocabulary.
7. Mini Manipulator
If you find that your four-year-old is trying to weasel her way out of trouble by negotiating with you, telling lies, or even winning you over with flattery, she probably is just trying to avoid the consequences or is attempting to gain some power over you.
Even though it's only human to test your luck, you shouldn't let your little one get her own way all the time.
Stephanie Deslauriers, a Psychoeducator and Youth Author, explains, "If every time the parent makes a request the child ends up arguing and trying to negotiate and the parent starts walking on eggshells or altering the normal functioning of the daily routine to avoid upsetting him, the child will come to understand that he can manage his parents."
8. Your four year old is a Sore Loser
Now that your child is socialising with more friends and is able to grasp the concept of simple games such as Hide & Seek, Tag, etc, you might notice her competitive streak emerging at this age.
Suddenly she's fixated on being the winner and will not gracefully accept the consolation prize.
She wants to be the best, numero uno, the top dog, and you can certainly expect tears of frustration if someone else beats her to it.
Although you may feel tempted to avoid letting your child participate in any competitive activities, it is actually better to teach her how to better manage failure and to understand that winning isn't everything.
9. Your four year old is a Control Freak
Since your preschooler's fine and gross motor skills have developed, and her cognitive skills are also improving, she will become more self-sufficient and probably insist on doing it all by herself.
Everything becomes a power struggle and it's usually her way or the highway!
To avoid butting heads with your angsty little fournado, try using the When-Then technique:
Instead of saying, "No, you cannot play with your new toy because you haven't taken a bath yet", you can say, "When you've had your bath, then you can play with your new toy".
10. Tiny Thug
Are you shocked by your four-year-old's sudden brutish behaviour when she's upset about something and shoves her friend or even kicks her sibling?
Before you worry whether your child is going to grow up to become a hooligan, fret not, because kids this age have yet to develop their impulse control, so she might be quick to act out before she thinks about it first.
She wants instant gratification, so to solve a conflict, such as getting her toy back from someone who took it away from her, she might instinctively yank it out of the other child's hands while gritting her teeth and glaring murderously at them.
To avoid things from escalating, gently remind your child that her aggressive behaviour is inappropriate and let her cool down before she continues to interact with the other children once again.
Ok, honestly, is having an emo little four-year-old really as frightening as it sounds? Of course not.
Your Ferocious Four is also more independant now so she is able to go to the toilet on her own and wipe up afterwards (just remind her to always wash her hands), play quietly by herself for a long stretch of time, be more open to trying new things, and also have the verbal capacity to actually tell you what she wants or what is bugging her.
Bear in mind that although her vocabulary has improved and she is able to better communicate verbally now, she is still a young child after all so you shouldn't expect her to be wiser than her years or behave more maturely just yet.
So call her what you will, at the end of the day even if your four-year-old is a pouty little ball of emotions, you still love her for who she is and embrace all her qualities -- sulky, sullen attitude and all!
Are you a parent of a four-year-old? Do you agree with this list? What other names or traits do you think should be added? Let us know by leaving a comment below!
This article was first published on AfricaParent.com