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Argumentative four year old....

My 4 year old son argues abot everything! It's so bad that the other day he was playing in the playpen. I said, "Stay out of the playpen, you're too big for it." His reply, "It's not a's a playpen!" ??? He's arguing about the facts with the exact same facts. What the heck do I do about it??

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Asked by budgie1117 at 10:05 AM on Jun. 25, 2012 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 1 (2 Credits)
Answers (9)
  • Don't tolerate it for another second. EVERY time he back talks, there are to be repercussions. Whether it's a time out or loss of a privilege. When he speaks nicely to you, make sure you bring that to his attention about how much you appreciate his civil way of speaking to you. Maybe a behavior chart & a reward system. For example, if he can speak kindly to you for a week, then he earns some kind of prize.  Nip it now before it gets any worse.  GL!


    Answer by mrsmom110 at 10:09 AM on Jun. 25, 2012

  • LOL my DD does this right now, I think its the age. Tell him not to talk pack and put him i time out if it continues. If timeout wont work slowly take away his favorite toys for a few days at a time.

    Answer by LostSoul88 at 10:28 AM on Jun. 25, 2012

  • I would call it disrespect for his mom, and you have to teach him that it won't be tolerated. It's not just about his arguing with you; it's about his desire to be smarter than you, more powerful than you, and to have always the last word with you. He's not able to articulate those things, but that's what it's about. You must teach him that he is under parental authority so that you can later be able to transfer your authority to teachers, coaches, and other authority figures who will be coming into his life as he matures. I think the bullying that we are seeing today is an outgrowth of children not being taught to respect authority in their homes. They in effect have bullied their parents and so bullying another child comes naturally to them. Don't allow yourself to be bullied. Break his habits now. I promise you it will be worth all the effort you will have to put into it, and that will be considerable.

    Answer by NannyB. at 11:37 AM on Jun. 25, 2012

  • Oh dear. Sorry. My DS (who will be 10 later this week) does not handle being wrong or corrected well at all. Believe me, it has nothing to do with a lack of parental oversight or an unwillingness to parent. It has everything to do with his inherited stubborn streak (ahem, I plead the 5th), his immaturity and his perfectionist nature. The boy will argue that the dictionary is wrong if it does not agree with something he's absolutely certain about. A few different thoughts --

    For me, it's been important to realize that *I* can contribute and/or exacerbate the problem. It is NOT something that's easy to see or admit and frankly, it's not something I'm always good at correcting. The first step, however, is to recognize that some of this is simply a power struggle - your preschooler WANTS the power. He's trying to seize it. Don't get in the ring. Pick your battles and focus on what MUST be addressed only. (cont)

    Answer by ldmrmom at 11:49 AM on Jun. 25, 2012

  • eg - in the example you shared, I'd focus on the fact that I wanted him out of the playpen. I'd ignore his comments. "Whatever you want to call it, get out of it." Second, remain calm. For me, when I get frustrated (and stubborn) my response tends to raise the tension. If I remain calm and matter of fact, however, it can diffuse things. I start by acknowledging what he's feeling, "It sounds like you're jealous / mad / sad / scared..." Then I calmly tell him what behavior or response is not working for me: "However, the way you're talking to me right now is very rude and disrespectful." Then I give him both an option and a consequence: "If you can speak to me calmly and respectfully, we can discuss this. If not, you can march your butt to your room and chill until you are ready to speak in a more appropriate manner." You amend all that to be the right word choice and phrasing for your child, of course.

    Answer by ldmrmom at 11:57 AM on Jun. 25, 2012

  • I am willing to hear my child out. Believe me, our household is more strict than most of their peers. I just think that part of my job as a parent involves teaching my children to articulate their thoughts and feelings - and at being able to explain themselves in a situation they wish to change. I do not compromise if it's not appropriate, but I do at times. Believe it or not, this lessens the debates because my kids learn when that a firm no is a firm no. They also learn, however, that they do have some say over their own world and so they aren't busy trying to seize more of it. I give them choices where I can. Again, it gives them control in a way I'm comfortable with and in doing so, it keeps them from grabbing control on their own. When they were preschoolers I might have said "It is not safe for you to be in the playpen. do you want climb out or do you want me to pick you up?

    Answer by ldmrmom at 12:12 PM on Jun. 25, 2012

  • Would it help your feelings about it to consider it from a developmental perspective? (To consider that what he's doing has a purpose toward his growth & maturing and it can be channeled positively. And to consider that HE experiences the interaction much differently than you do.)
    I looked up some of Dr. Gordon Neufeld's comments about this sort of oppositionality/arguing. Quote:
    A 5yo safely grounded in his relationship with his parents might react to a "the sky is blue" kind of statement by retorting adamantly that it is not. It may seem to the parent that the child is blatantly contrary or trying to be difficult. In reality, the child's brain is simply blocking out any ideas or thoughts that have not originated within him. Anything that is alien to him is resisted in order to make room for him to come up with his own ideas. The final content will most likely be the same--the sky is blue--but when it comes to being one's

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:15 PM on Jun. 25, 2012

  • own person, originality is what counts.
    When counterwill is serving the quest for autonomy, it operates much like a psychological immune system, reacting defensively to anything that does not originate within the child.
    Basically, automatic opposition to what someone else says is a push-back to gain the space in which to DEVELOP a Self that originates ideas, convictions, values, goals & aspirations. These small humans start out virtually as extensions of us but their task is to achieve autonomy as persons, independent & with a (true) will of their own--a "true" will in contrast to automatic oppositionality. Oppositionality & defiance (often described as "strong-willed") indicate immaturity & LACK of actual will--just resistance to ANOTHER'S will.

    If we see the statements as expressing feelings (don't like being bossed around) and the desire for independence & "self" (to say for himself what's what), we give room

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:22 PM on Jun. 25, 2012

  • for that fledgling "self" & those feelings. This is pretty much letting it be "okay," without letting it change things that can't or shouldn't be changed. So, it wouldn't mean "letting him" stay in the playpen if that is a problem for you. But it would mean not engaging his unhappiness about being limited as wrong or unacceptable, and it would mean seeing his arguing for what it is & not engaging in reactivity or a power struggle. (You can just say "Oh," or "Really?")
    In this way, he's encountering the limit (getting out of or being removed from the playpen), but you're acknowledging & allowing his perspective about the situation.
    If we offer emotional containment in this way, they do learn to regulate their emotions. But they don't learn self-regulation through being punished for expressing feelings "wrong" or through being pressured out of expressing them. (That teaches them to stuff or repress unaccepted feelings, instead.)

    Answer by girlwithC at 1:32 PM on Jun. 25, 2012

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