Disciplining a stubborn four year old

My four year old son doesn’t seem to understand the consequences of his actions, he can’t compromise and he doesn’t like to lose. Even when he is punished, he will repeat the bad behavior straight away.

four_year_old_boy

What should a parent do when disciplining a stubborn four year old

Question from Reader:

My four year old son doesn’t seem to understand the consequences of his actions, he can’t compromise and he doesn’t like to lose. Even when he is punished, he will repeat the bad behavior straight away.

We have tried both a soft and hard approach but nothing seems to work. Can you please advise the best way to make him understand and follow our instructions?

Answer from Dr Janice Wong:

Between the ages of three to five, children start to begin making connections between actions and consequences, and also start to understand the context of things happening around them.  At this age, it is important for you to explain to your child the context of what he has done wrong, and why.

One good way would be to explain to your son what you expect of him in that particular situation before punishing him. Explaining to him what would an adult or yourself would do and why, would enable him to understand why you are punishing him in a certain situation. Children also tend to make connections to things that are relevant to them, or mirror another part of their everyday life. For example, making rules at home and comparing them to rules at school, may help your child understand better.

Also, different children react differently to different kinds of punishment. Some children take to discipline well, while in others it doesn’t seem to make much difference. Others are able to understand their mistakes if explained properly. A tool that some parents find effective is to restrict the use of a child’s favourite toy or their viewing of a television program as punishment for bad behaviour.

Remember, discipline is not only about punishing bad behaviour, but recognizing good behaviour as well. Praising your child for positive actions help to reinforce the standard you expect.

Answered by: Dr Janice Wong, Thomson Paediatric Centre

About Dr Janice Wong
Dr Janice Wong graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree in 1996. Her post-graduate qualification includes a Membership of The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, United Kingdom, with a distinction in paediatric medicine. She is also a Member of the Singapore Paediatric Society, Asian Oceanic Child Neurology Society and Australia/New Zealand Child Neurology Society. Dr Wong has undergone advanced training in paediatric neurology and neuro-rehabilitation. In Singapore, she is the only trained neuro-rehabilitation physician, and the first paediatrician in private practice able to perform botulinum toxin therapy for spasticity disorders in children.