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Stealing at 4 years old

my 4 year old has a terrible problem with impulse control. he is constantly stealing food, sneaking into his sibling's rooms, stealing toys, fighting, hitting, yelling, ect. he understands that he is doing "wrong" because when he gets caught, or hears us coming, he runs to his room & hides. he is into everything and we have to keep locks on everything to keep him out (which he sometimes still breakes through). we have tried all types of discipline, but nothing seems to work. it isnt like he does this every once in a while.. its an every hour to every cpl hours that he is into something he knows he isnt suppose to be in. like the fridge, cupboards, candy, cleaning supplies, knives, older siblings rooms, parents room, ect. (he is a sweet boy... very loveable when he is getting one on one, but no self control when he is alone) he has started testing for ADHD, but the psycologest doesnt seem to take his behavior problems seriously... is this normal for a 4 year old? or should i be talking to a doctor about his behavior?

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Asked by sarahlu at 1:29 PM on Mar. 20, 2013 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 14 (1,504 Credits)
Answers (3)
  • He's 4 and he's left alone? Am I reading this correctly? Why is he being left unattended? You are the Parent. YOU must lock up dangerous items. If he can access these items then it is YOUR fault. My Son is 6 & I am a SAHM & there was not one second of time that I did not know what he was doing at 4. He is acting wild because he has free reign & probably has too much alone time. At 4 they must be watched at all times. Put a bell on his room door in case he opens his door at night or put a bell on a gate in front of his bedroom door for at night. Night time is THE only time he is left out of your sight, to sleep. Get a monitor for his room too. You are asking if you should talk to his Dr. about his behavior & he is already testing for ADHD without the knowledge of his Dr. When was the last time he went in for a check up?


    Answer by ILovemyPaulie at 1:37 PM on Mar. 20, 2013

  • Fear of punishment drives the sneaking & the secretiveness. The punishment does not actually prevent the behavior (particularly in a young child, and also in one who has extra difficulties with impulse control), it just promotes greater efforts to avoid being caught.
    I understand how a child can be out of your sight in the home sometimes, especially when there are other children in the family. I do think it's important to increase the supervision & engagement, as well as your positive one-on-one attention. Focus on connecting with him, not on trying to "reinforce" good behavior in him. You want to plump up his sense of unconditional love from you, not to suggest that he needs to be a certain way to earn your love or approval.
    I'd try to create the safety that makes the "need" to sneak or steal irrelevant. Acknowledge how much he wants these things; tell him you want him to come to you when he's feeling like sneaking something.

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:02 PM on Mar. 20, 2013

  • Make sure your response (either when he sneaks again, OR when/if he actually comes to you first) is the kind of response that will reinforce his willingness to come to you, rather than making him LESS likely to come. That means, even if (when) he "does the wrong thing yet again" after you TOLD him to come to you, you respond non-punitively, DEMONSTRATE the safety you're trying to establish, & reiterate what you want from him when he's feeling like doing that. This is how you create the safety NOT to hide & sneak when he's feeling impulsive. You've seen the degree of his desperateness. Those are the feelings you're dealing with. So focus on what you DO want from him when he's feeling that way (since feeling that way is going to happen, at this stage of things), and provide that information to him.
    This will reduce his need to be secretive.
    When he does come to you, I highly recommend a collaborative & solution-focused approach.

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:11 PM on Mar. 20, 2013

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