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Four-Year-Old Thinks I Don’t Love Her


Good day, My name is Lorika I'm from South Africa and would like your help with a situation. My daughter is 4 years old. She is very cheeky and hardly ever listens to me. I have tried reward cards, hidings, sending her to her room, taking away toys even a naughty mat nothing seems to get through to her. She thinks that I don't love her but I do. Something that makes the situation a bit more difficult is she has two twin brothers who demands allot of attention. How do I discipline Jayd if she misbehave I don't know anymore
Please give some advice


Hello Lorika,

My name is Melanie Miller and I am one of the Positive Discipline Associates that answers questions sent to the Positive Discipline website.  I also teach Positive Discipline Parenting Classes in my community and work as a Parent Coach and Counselor.  I am also a mother of two and remember when my daughter was a “cheeky” four year old!   At times I was amazed and awed by what she knew and what she was capable of.  At other times I was baffled and confused by some of her behavior.

As you have noticed, the reward cards, sending her to her room, taking away toys and the naughty mat have not been helping.  For a minute, get into your daughter’s world.  Imagine what she might be feeling, thinking and deciding about herself and about you, as she gets yet another punishment. The results of punishment are often rebellion, revenge and retreat. Rewards can have the same affect.  Not receiving a reward is like receiving a punishment. The child sees him/herself as failing to reach a goal and therefore feels punished by not receiving the reward.  As you can imagine, and perhaps as you have seen, punishment builds a cycle. The parent punishes, the child rebels, gets back or retreats, the parent then punishes again…thinking if I just make life miserable enough, he/she will make better choices! 

Positive Discipline is about moving from making kids feel worse to recognizing that children do better when they feel better.  (This goes for adults too!)  It is moving from rewards and punishment to kind and firm parenting.  Kind and firm parenting includes problem solving, mutual respect and encouragement. It believes that children do better when they feel better.  Positive Discipline is about long term parenting that builds respectful relationships within families.

So the next time your daughter misbehaves, keep in mind some of the following concepts:

*A misbehaving child is a discouraged child.  Believe it or not, she is not just trying to push your buttons.  Her misbehavior can be an indication that she doesn’t have a sense of belonging or significance in the moment.  Seeing her as discouraged, can help you take a minute to calm down and parent with compassion instead of frustration.

*Validate her feelings.  When she is sad, angry, embarrassed etc., notice her feelings and say something like;  I noticed you felt really sad when I didn’t have time to read your book to you.  Sometimes kids just need to feel like someone “hears” how they feel.

*Ask curiosity questions.  Get into your daughter’s world so that you can better understand where she is coming from.  With a kind tone of curiosity and loving body talk, ask “how and what” questions.  Be truly curious and see what you can learn.

*Take time for training.  Four-year-olds have learned so much and have so much more to learn.  Take the time to help her use helpful words, ask respectfully for what she needs, express her anger with her words, ask for help etc.  At four years old, she has so much to learn about how to get along with others.  A strong social foundation at home will help her immensely in the future.

*Problem Solve.  Ask your daughter for help.  Let her know that you don’t know what to do anymore when she “hits her brother”.  Ask her if she has some ideas or if you could offer some ideas.  Let her pick a solution and try it.  If it doesn’t work, calmly (with no shame, blame or pain) go back to problem solving and brainstorm some more solutions.  Children feel better when they can be a part of the solution and not just the problem.
The answer I have provided here is just a small sampling of Positive Discipline. You might find it beneficial to read one of the Positive Discipline books.  (There is even one for parents of pre-school children!)  By moving from punishments to kind and firm parenting, your daughter will begin to see you as a mom who listens and who works with her to solve life’s many four year old problems.  She will begin to trust and listen to you and know that yes, you do love her!

My best to you!

Melanie Miller, M.Ed.


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