stubborn 4 year old - parent needs advice

Stubborn 4 year old

by Aigul Aubanova on October 12, 2010

in Parenting Advice

Parenting advice to a mother of 4 year old son.

A mother says:

My 4 years old, son is smart and stubborn.

He is in daycare. He refused to go inside because he lost a toy, tried to trick me into taking him back home. I had to physically carry him in after two failed attempts of having him walk in himself. He ran to the car, yelled he hates me. Got him in, teacher had to restrain him, walked out. He was crying.

Q.How much time during a day do you communicate with your child?

A.1 hour

Q.How good is your child?

A.He is good with other people, but very incorrigible with me.

Q.How honest is your child?

A.He does not lie, he is very honest.

Q.How kind are you to your child?

A.I am very kind, I show him and tell him I love him. I tend to spoil him and give him whatever he wants.

Q.How fair are you to your child?

A.He always gets his way.

Here is our analysis of the situation.

Your son is at the age called “terrible twos,” which last from 2 to 4 years old. This is a time when children realize their individualities, their identities. Usually they try to do everything by themselves and often encounter parents’ forbidding will. Those with strong character are usually seen as stubborn, when in fact they desire to be independent. Parents must remember that this difficult time will soon be replaced with nicer attitues of oldre chidlren, and it isn’t worth it to spoil the relationship with toddlers.

By the age of 5 children form in their minds a very important image of themselves, and of the world. Especially important for them is mother’s attitude. If you want your son to have less conflicts with people in the future, in his adulthood, you need to make sure he gets enough security of heart and intelligence at the age he is now. What does this mean?

Heart security means that a child is loved. You may think you do everything he needs to learn about your love, but according to the situation you described he doesn’t get enough of your love. That is why he behaves so desperately, hoping you would protect him. When you bring him to daycare and he fights to keep from entering, his sense of security is shaken because the teacher holds him back as though he is a prisoner attempting to run away. As this is going on he watches as his main means of security turns her back and walks away from him.

Intelligence security means a child is trusted. It seems to us that you don’t trust him enough, as you describe him as stubborn and incorrigible. This is what you believe he is, and according to parenting science, he becomes what you believe he is. Not vice versa. This is what your son senses and what he is trying to fight with. Your son senses injustice in your faith in him, so he is upset because of that. You say that you are very kind to him, tell and show him that you love him, yes, it is how you see the situation. He might disagree, even though he can’t express his feelings. But his behavior with you tells us that something that you do is unfair to this boy. That is why you two often struggle for power.

Our advice is:

Gain your child’s trust: talk to him, tell him that you are upset too, and ask for forgiveness for not taking him home when he wanted.

Cheer your child up! (Before that cheer yourself up, be happy, try to be happy, find cause for humor etc.)

However, giving your child whatever he wants doesn’t mean love. Often children ask for material things because they feel not loved enough by parents. In fact what children really need from their parents is big heart, generosity, magnanimity, soul work, where you feel your child’s desires. By yielding to him you increase his dignity. But just giving “things” instead is a kind of “pay off” for not being able to feel his soul. This “pay off” children accept as a substitute for their need for love and justice, but they know it’s not the real thing.

This stuff may seem to you awkward, heavy, too philosophical. We tried to be as truthful as possible, rather than be nice. We apologize if the analysis seems to be wrong due to the lack of information given. In any case, thank you for trusting us. The work we suggest takes great patience, which is a sign of love too.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

sudha February 16, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I am a mother of 4 year old and i think all you have written is correct.when i love my child and treat him like my friend he is behaving very good.


leona correia March 19, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I am a first time mother and I too have a 4 yr old girl, who is getting very stubborn and most of the time very cranky. She cries for everything and any thing.


kulpreet May 15, 2012 at 4:00 am

my son is 4 years old he does not know how to express his feelings either he hits or he starts kissing how should i help him out of this


UpParent May 15, 2012 at 9:33 am

First thing – don’t panic, don’t be afraid of his behavior, don’t be embarrassed for his actions. Often mothers are fearing to be “assumed” as bad mothers and this bothers them most, not the child’s problems. So, work on your own confidence and belief that your child is very good. Secondly, when you are peaceful with you being imperfect mom and proud of your own child, then you can show him the loving behavior, which would help him to discern between good and bad behavior.


Mariam November 29, 2012 at 11:16 am

My daughter is five years old. She is very strong minded and smart. If she wants something she will make her way to it somehow. I try to explain her calmly at first but when she doesnt listen i have to scold her. Sometimes i feel she only listens to me when i get angry on her otherwise she takes me for granted. I feel she is not bothered about me at all and doesnt care for my love for her.


UpParent November 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Dear Mariam!
Parents often feel the way you feel, which is fear of being taken “for granted.” But this is not a problem of your daughter. It is your own fear of not being loved, feeling not good enough, and not approved. When you child grew old enough to speak and seem to have a reason, you start expect your child to love you for your parenting duty. But this is not how children’s love comes. The message you give her now is “I love you only when you obey me.” And of course, she gets it as “I am not loved.” You both crave for each other’s love, and none of you know how to love unconditionally. Therefore power struggle is developing in your case. What is the solution? Ask, who of you is an adult?

I understand that you cannot jump to unconditional love and appreciation from your level of emotion. It’s a process. In the beginning, you would rather get relief by having revengeful thoughts in your mind. You can allow blaming, or revenge, or anger and hatred, in your mind, until you gain some power back. Then you feel less anger and maybe some compassion, some relief, then maybe slight frustration, then you might feel nothing. That is where you can allow yourself a break and rest for a while from any thoughts. Then some positive thoughts will start coming to you and bring sparks of hope, which would indicate that your emotional stage shifted for positive level. Now you can think of wonderful things that may come to your life.

It’s work – to bring yourself to the level of unconditional love to yourself, to people in general, to your daughter in particular. When your daughter senses your emotional shift she will behave differently without you doing anything!


San December 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm

my son is 4 years old now. he is smart but at the same time he is highly stubborn. Never obey and he follows his mood. if he is in fine mood then he will listen and obey to us. He will scream and cry aloud in public to get something that he wants. I had tried smooth way to him but it wont work out to him. So most of the time i will lose my patience and will beat him hardly. I will regret of my behaviour after that. I dont know how to control him in a nicer way. Am i need to be very strict to him? Now his little brother also following his steps. Need guidance to control my temper and my son. Tq


UpParent December 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Dear Tq:
You don’t need to be strict. Please don’t worry about what people think of your child and you as mother. Your son has a guidance in the form of his emotions: good feels good, and bad feels bad. Therefore he reacts with tears when he faces limitation of his desires. It’s normal. And a better way to deal with tantrums is to think of possible consequences and prevent the event itself in advance (for example not to visit some stores). But if it happened then do not be afraid. Tell him that you understand how much he wants something, and that at this moment you cannot buy it, but someday he will have it anyway. Find the way to feel good yourself, and your son will learn from you about feeling good. Nothing is more important that that, said Abraham Hicks. Watch Abraham Hicks on yourtube and what they say about parenting. Good luck!


neeti March 11, 2013 at 11:09 pm

I m mother of 2kids…4year old n 1.5 years old….my son is very stubborn..normally he demands toys….but in excess….I dont want to fulfill all his demand as I feel I m spoiling him myself……I m confused …….If should I fulfill his daily demand…..


Aigul Aubanova March 12, 2013 at 7:34 am

Make a decision and feel good about it. If you choose to give him what he wants and you can afford – do it and feel good about it, not worry that you spoil.. If you choose to not give then feel good about that decision and not feel guilty. Instead teach him how to play long with what he already has. Invent stories about same toys and let him play while you talk. Involve his sibling too. It is not an abundance of toys that is damaging personality but the confusion, helplessness, and fear of parents.


eii May 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

i am mother of 2 kids 9 and 3 . we ve just imigrated to canada for 5 month . i have problem with my younger kid .she turnd 3 years old last week.she is always crying for everything which we dont let her do or we disagree to her.she is crying so loudly and yeiling for long time .sometimes she looks onnormal while she is crying .she doesent listen to us at all.when she stop crying and i ask her why she is crying she tells me she likes to cry .she knows what are dangers but touch them .she does what she wants to do if we dont let her do she hits us or bites her sister and she is crying for long time .i miss the peaceful living that i had before she was born .please help help me what i am doing before i become crazy .thank you and sorry i m not perfect in english


Aigul Aubanova May 4, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Don’t panic! Your child cries out of helplessness. She realizes that not all of her desires are attainable and that hurts. If you start accept her behavior as natural, not abnormal, when you stop being afraid, she will sense it and she will gradually change. But you must change first. All your worries come because of your old belief that children should obey. But nowadays the world is changing toward freedom much faster than you think. If children disobey then maybe it is a good thing? Maybe she is a future leader who doesn’t want to follow someone’s will, but strive for her own sense of goodness?

When you ask your child why she cries, she says that she likes it. Well, tears do bring some relief, therefore it may be likable. But the child cannot express to you her real struggle. She is still quite new in this world and the world started to show her its limitation. Therefore she cries. She yells because of desperation. She feels so powerless that she rebels. That’s natural and instead of worry, try to understand her point of view. Let her be happy as much as possible. And when it is not possible, just look at her wisely and say, “It’s OK, my beloved child, you are angry now. One day you will relax and your dream will come true. It doesn’t need to come from me or your dad. We just do our job. You do your job. Keep looking for your happiness.”


Dina May 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I need your advice please….my 4 years son is very stubborn to the extend that he insists on doing something that he hates just to do the opposite of what I say….sometimes I leave him and sometimes I’m afraid that he will get used to it and will never listen to my advise when he gets older….what shall I do?


Aigul Aubanova May 12, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Dina, your son behaves like you would do too, at his situation, when he feels that you don’t take him seriously. You should take a deep breath, calm down and admit that you fear him. Take a moment and admit that you feel helpless and powerless before your own little boy. That’s OK. Most mothers do feel like you when they first meet the child’s resistance. But remember, your child resists NOT because he wants to hurt you and disrespect you. Your child resists your will, because he defends his own dignity. Calm down. Accept that your child doesn’t belong to you as a thing or toy. You gave birth, but you didn’t give life. It is god’s gift. Your child is equal to you and demands your respect! Yes, your respect.

So, if you stop being afraid and admit that you are afraid that your child will disobey/disrespect you forever. But this is not true, your child will start respect you as soon as you start respect him, at his 4 years! Tell him, that it’s OK to be mad. It’s OK you both were afraid. But you love him, even though you were mad at him too. But you are an adult and you are the one who is responsible to show an example. Breathe, breathe, breathe!

Now, start thinking what is it that you want? You want to see your child peaceful, confident, and happy. Start thinking of your child as you would like him to be. And watch what happens. It’s OK if it’s too late and you have to face the sad relationship between you both. But then keep working on your expectation of your child, as he is the one who will make you proud, the one who will listen to you when it is the most needed. But now, don’t be afraid and lose your mind. Be an adult and love him – unconditionally, no matter what. Appreciate what you have! And dream of a better life for both of you. Become happy. Your child wants a happy mother, then he will listen to you. Not at this moment though, it’s OK. Accept it.


Micael June 6, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Hi, some help please. My 4 year old daughter lately has been crying at the drop of a hat. She will cry when she doesnt get her way and she will cry if I walk to fast. She is constantly telling me I am mean. I am not being mean. I simply told her last night that it was time to go to bed for the evening. She then told me that I was mean. She seems very unhappy in general. Please help.


Aigul Aubanova June 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Dear Micael,
You are writing that you daughter seems generally unhappy. What about you? Are you a happy person? What thoughts are you thinking most of the time?
Some children are very sensitive, perhaps your daughter is one of them.
General advice – ask yourself what is it that I really want? And start focusing on it, look for answers, dream of your dreams. Get happy and watch your child changing for better.


Micael June 7, 2013 at 8:43 am


Yes I am a happy person and reaching my goals and dreams. Is there any way to help a little child help to not focus on the negative 100% of the time of her little life? I dont want her to live her life like this and I live her adult life like this either.



Aigul Aubanova June 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. Your child has a temporary difficulty and it doesn’t mean that she will behave like that her adult life. You being happy in your life may be unhappy when it comes to your child’s temporary behavior. So, be aware of your expectation of your child’s behavior: expect positivity, anticipate her smiles, be attentive to her words. You can help her, if you really want to.


Nesreen July 18, 2013 at 2:48 am

Hi, I am a mother of 2 kids, 4&half years old, and one-year old. My son is very stubborn, always crying and having angry tantrums. I was consulting a behavior therapist for a while, then I stopped. after being improved, my son is getting worse, never listen to me. As such, I should repeat myself over and over, an he never obeys. Even his daycare, they had to let him go, because he was hitting and pushing his friends and sometimes biting them claiming that it is merely a play!!
I always talk to him and tell him that he is my good, kind, helpful, smart boy, yet he is very stubborn, always answering me “NO” as the first answer or “I DONT WANT TO DO THAT”. Today I had to drop him at the day care while he was crying, Seriously, he is driving me mad. I am afraid also because he is playing with his one-year brother aggressively and also sometimes hit him with his hands or toys. Please advice. Thanks


Aigul Aubanova July 19, 2013 at 8:30 am

Dear Nesreen,
Your son has a freedom-loving spirit. Such child can become a great person because of his strong striving for independence! However society is expecting from you as a mother to fix his behavior to comply to the rules. So, you have little choices: to try to fix his behavior (and you did, but it worked only temporary) or to learn something different but difficult – learn to believe in your son’s good intentions.
When your son listens to you telling him “you are my good, kind, helpful, smart boy,” he hears different message: “but you are very stubborn, No-sayer, and you drive me mad!” Words don’t matter when you don’t believe them yourself. The boy is very sensitive for the truthful you, and you can’t hide from him that you are afraid. That’s a difficult work of your soul, but it will be rewarding in the future, and for both your kids.

Think of the future. Think of your own peace of mind in the future. You won’t get it without changing your beliefs. Start looking for information about upbringing free kids, about unconditional love. Kids like yours are born for reason. They choose their mothers. They believe that you can manage difficulties, you can learn, you can grow, you can accept, you can love unconditionally. Greatest contemporary source of information is Abraham Hick teachings.


Foziya August 10, 2013 at 4:44 am

Hi.. I m mother of my 3 n half yr old boy..I m single parent is full of stress I have 1 5 month gal… I m tired of my son behaviour..he just cry for all things he want.. he cry since morning when he wake up..for all things..when he play wt his cousin he always yiel and cry.. then I lose my patience n I beat him badly.. I dont like to beat him but he make me very angry I want him to become best … plzzzz help me out..


Aigul Aubanova August 11, 2013 at 10:49 am

Dear Foziya, you asked a very common question, the answer to which you may find in the article Three Year Old Crier and its comments.


lubna January 21, 2014 at 9:31 am

I have a 4 yr old kid,and he is stubborn .he never obeys what we want,and he became more stubborn since my second kid is born,as i have to divide my time bet both,my son is giving me hard time,as he now refuses to study,and especially writing. he daily giving me tough time when i going to drop him to school,he is good at playing but not intersted in study at all. and also he does not like to share his toys with sister.he watches tablet at his own.wenever i ask him to leave it for a while ,he is not complying with him.he not intersted in brushing his teeth.he gives him tough time to decsipline him,kindly guide me how to tackle him


Aigul Aubanova January 21, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Dear Lubna, when parents complain to me about their kids it usually comes from parents’ feeling of fear or inner unworthiness or lack of love, and that is what a child senses and behaves correspondingly. Realizing this, I produced a stream of affirmations, which I call Feel Good Parenting, which helps parents to collect their strength and sense of power, that eventually fixes the problem. You can find the mentioned stream inside of the Feel Good Now app in the mobile Apple/Android devices, or you can soon download the pdf files of the same in the website
Sincerely, Aigul


HITESH May 23, 2014 at 10:49 am

I hv a 4 year baby girl. She is a very intelligent and graps things very quickly. But some demerits that we r observing nowdays – 1. she is turning very stubborn . if we doesn’t fulfil any demant she gets irritated and start use abuse language and goes out of control and starts shouting anywhere anytime.

In turn sometime i loose patience and slap to her to keep quite but it doesn’t work. Pls. guide how to tackle her?


Aigul Aubanova May 23, 2014 at 11:04 am

Dear Hitesh,
I am not surprised with your 4 year old behavior. It’s normal and it’s OK. Perhaps you forgot your own age of 4. You were same girl, striving for freedom, but your mother tried to tackle you, didn’t she? And what did you learn? -To struggle for power.
So, you think the power struggle between you and your daughter is the only way to solve the problem?
If you are looking for other ways, start working with your own sense of worthiness, confidence, and your own love skills.


Sf January 18, 2017 at 11:55 am

My elder son is 4 years and we have New born baby boy too 3 months old. Now my elder son always what’s to enter into his room when the baby is sleeping and he makes him wake up by the way kissing and saying my dear and all when I try to explain him he does not at all understand at all
He is very stubborn in eating food too
He is also very stubborn while eating medicine we husband and wife have to really Catch hold of him very tight to make him eat always
He uses bad language to any1
How to.stop him with all this
My pedratic Doctor told me to show sicratix
Which I don’t fell feel like
When he is in school he is a very deceplin child
Even if he is with my parent he is very good
Only when he is with us he acts like this I am worried how to handle him.
Pls suggest me what to do


Aigul Aubanova January 23, 2017 at 1:49 pm

I see your intuition tells you that he is a good boy, and you don’t want to send him to a psychiatric doctor. I totally agree. He is a good boy with some misconceptions about food/pills, but don’t let them to damage his image in your parenting mind. Keep faith in a child and never hesitate in his goodness. For your help I would recommend you, in case when you feel doubts and fears, read the FeelGoood app’s topic “Parenting.” Read it to the highest end. The app is available on the web I look forward to your son’s progress! Write to my email Regarding your son waking up your newborn, I would make it a whole ceremony of your older child to say “good night” to your younger one while you let them sleep, every day, before your son does it himself. Have fun with your kids!


myrrh July 24, 2017 at 1:27 am

hi! my son is 4 1/2 months now. I am a home-based online tutor and my job should be a quiet place but we only have one room. My son doesn’t want to stay outside without seeing me. So he would stay with me in the room and will make some noise because he is playing. I’m always afraid I might get a complaint from my students because it happened before. I tried talking to him and explaining to him he would follow for a short time and do it again. I have tried to get mad but it’s still the same. I’m so frustrated about it. I feel so exhausted. I’m a single mother working at home at the same time taking care of Him. I always cry every day. How should I discipline him? Please help.


Patricia Vogt August 31, 2017 at 10:15 am

My four yrar old grandson demand s i wait on him and he does very little for himself. Tantrums if not obliged. No amount og reasoning works


Alicia Luna February 6, 2018 at 3:26 pm

I have a 4 year old daughter and for the past two weeks she has gone from listening and helping to crying out when we tell her no or scream crying. She is a very smart and very willful child. I’ve done time outs, taken things away which use to work all the time. I use to be able to talk to her as well but now nothing is working and I’m just tired. It is a fighting battle everyday with her. I just don’t know what else to do. I have an older daughter and a younger daughter as well. My 4 yr old is the middle child


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