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Need help with my 4 yo

When he gets upset about something or if he feels something is hard or someone will laugh at him (I am sure there is more), then he completely shuts down. First, he will cry, then he just stop talking until you prod him into talking.

We have tried being sympathetic and ask him what is wrong and explain that he doesn't always have to be right and that things are hard but we are here to help and teach him. He is doing this at home and school.

Today the teacher called and he is the worst he has been all year. He completely refused to participate in the activity. They were not doing anything he doesn't know how to do.

I am not sure what could be causing him to not want to participate. He has commented that he wants to do things when he is ready, but even taking away playtime, and things he likes does not encourage him to do the requested task.

Any suggestions are welcome.

Answer Question

Asked by AngZacc at 12:11 PM on Apr. 11, 2013 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 14 (1,515 Credits)
Answers (16)
  • Sounds a lot like my 4 year old. Good luck! I'm really curious if anyone else has the same problem.

    Answer by baconbits at 12:15 PM on Apr. 11, 2013

  • I think that's pretty typical of a 4 year old. Some are more sensitive than others. I wouldn't push anything on him at this point. Just take it slowly.

    When granddaughter turned 4, she moved up a class level in preschool. She wanted nothing to do with the new class! It seems when she gets used to something, it's very hard for her to change. Preschool spent the first two weeks taking her back and forth to the new class until she felt comfortable enough to stay in the right one.

    Answer by m-avi at 12:18 PM on Apr. 11, 2013

  • i just ended up leaving my kid alone.
    think of it like this, you're having a shit day and just want to be left alone for a while. but someone is telling you to suck it up and do whatever. are you receptive or does your mood get blacker?

    i would tell my kid ok. here's the timer. you have x number of minutes of alone time and then we need to move on...
    it worked and still works pretty well. it validates them, puts them in control and all that other touchy feely stuff.

    it also meant i didn't have to spend time attempting to cajole a cranky person. because That is draining.

    Answer by feralxat at 12:23 PM on Apr. 11, 2013

  • He's a quiet little guy that keeps his emotions in. That's just his personality. He told you straight out, "he will do it when he is ready". I was like that as a kid. I refused to get off the bus to go into school for the first few days. So the Principal let me sit in his office with him the whole day. (First grade, I was 5). Then he got an older child to walk me to class & be there to go to the bus with me. After a few weeks I was good to go on my own. I think your little guy is just insecure. Maybe he needs a Preschool with a smaller class & more one on one attention. If he feels that he can rely on someone there he may be more comfortable to participate. He is only 4 & if he continues this at 5 he should start kindergarten at 6 or he'll just be left in the dust. Teachers in Kindergarten don't have the time to give attention to one child. Make the most of these Preschool years. Try & teach him emotions. cont:

    Answer by ILovemyPaulie at 12:29 PM on Apr. 11, 2013

  • Cont: many kid shows spend time & have songs on showing your feelings. Maybe get some kid books at the Library with pictures. My Son is the complete opposite with emotions. He spills them as fast as he feels them which isn't great either. He can become very upset if he feels he has been ignored or slighted in any way. He will demand to discuss his issues with his Teacher. She cracks up but he can be high maintenance too. He's 6. But he isn't the norm by what his Teacher said, most kids have a hard time expressing their feelings. So I would start with more one on one contact in Preschool & reading "Feelings" books. He just needs to mature a little & everything will be OK! :)


    Answer by ILovemyPaulie at 12:30 PM on Apr. 11, 2013

  • He will be 5 in June and he did not have these issues at the beginning of the school year ( in K-4). Once the material got a little harder, he started the constant crying and not wanting to give his answer or participate. Sometimes it happens in fron the of the class and sometimes when he is just sitting at his table doing an exercise alone. He is always looking to see how someone else is doing something before he starts.

    I am just at a loss b/c he will tell me later that he felt mad or was upset or ask me why I am mad at him when I get upset that he won't get in the bathtub. This morning he was upset b/c I asked him to flush the toilet and he didn't want to. But he didn't do his pouting thing until after he flushed it.

    Comment by AngZacc (original poster) at 12:41 PM on Apr. 11, 2013

  • Normal!

    Answer by ILovemyPaulie at 12:42 PM on Apr. 11, 2013

  • does he have any siblings?
    I am a middle child and grew up feeling the need to do things perfectly. My older sister got in trouble all the time, my younger sister was an attention hog. And I went about trying to do all things right to stay out of trouble and to gain some attention. I also didn't know how to express my feelings so I would shut down if I felt like I had disappointed others or even just disappointed myself because I couldn't do something. And like your son I would have to watch others before I began a task (tied into not wanting to fail - if I could pin-point how to do something or what NOT to do I felt I had a better chance. At the same time if I watched others and thought I couldn't do it as good as them, I would freeze. Because of all of this, to my mother, I was "the impossible child". All I really needed was patience and much encouragement.

    Answer by daylily888 at 12:58 PM on Apr. 11, 2013

  • He has a younger brother. Daylily that does sound a lot like my son. Patience and encouragement. We have been trying that. We started him in a TBall league this week. Which he is loving, but we get to bed later, so I am sure that is attributing to his shut downs as well.

    His teacher is worried this will affect him next year when he is actually graded on his work in kindergarten.

    Comment by AngZacc (original poster) at 1:23 PM on Apr. 11, 2013

  • Perfectionism in a young child can reflect anxiety about "needing" to be perfect. If a child's performance (his intelligence & capabilities) are praised a lot, he can get the message that he's only valued when (and because) he does things well. He can become more conservative about trying, because of the risk involved. He can want to stick to things he "knows" because he can control the outcome. He can become focused on product rather than process, which creates self-consciousness & unwillingness to participate. If you consider the possibility that he feels conditionally valued or accepted, you can grasp the anxiety & accompanying disinclination to risk or do anything he hasn't already mastered.
    Consider it a matter of the messages he's absorbed, and work on correcting those. Look at what your communication with him emphasizes, and whether you show acceptance for him that isn't contingent on good behavior or good performance.

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:13 PM on Apr. 11, 2013

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