Preventive maintenance for 4 year old who shouts over attempts to console

Dr. Laura,

I always try to use positive parenting techniques and love your emails, website, and facebook posts. They are so incredibly helpful! We are having a really hard time right now with our older son, who is 4. Lately, if you say anything he doesn't like, his automatic reply is to shout "No!!" as loud and long as he can. I try to respond calmly talk to him (like saying "I can tell that upsets you but I can't let you yell at me like that, maybe we can talk about it...") but he cuts me off saying "Stop talking!"

Thus, I cannot try to get him to calm down, comfort him, or anything. If I continue to try to talk to him it just gets worse. Basically, he just keeps shouting, crying, and even hitting etc. I have no idea what to do and feel so helpless. Do you have any advice? 

Thanks so much!

That sounds so hard. Kids act like that when they feel powerless and are trying to assert their will by any means necessary. I see by your Facebook photo that you also have a little one in the house. I wonder if your four year old is feeling a bit displaced and disconnected? 

The best way to prevent the scene you're describing is preventive maintenance, meaning time alone with him, and roughhousing time. He still won't like everything you say, but he will be a lot more cooperative. And then, if he does respond by shouting, it's more likely that you can divert it. If he is actually crying, then it sounds like he is at the end of his rope, and anything is setting him off, and he really just needs to cry. I would drop the "I can't let you yell at me" for now, and just listen and reflect and acknowledge: "You don't like what I said....You aren't ready to stop playing and go in for lunch....I hear you....You want me to know how mad that makes you" Once he is done yelling, you reflect again, "You were so sad and mad, you were shouting and stomping...I hear how much you don't want to X....I'm sorry it is so hard right now..." I hear that you feel helpless. Believe it or not, he feels helpless, too, which is why he is asserting his power in this way. Feeling understood will help him feel a lot less helpless, and more like cooperating.

Here is my article: 5 Preventive Maintenance Habits to Keep Your Child Out of the Breakdown Lane

Good luck!
Dr. Laura

Click here to watch Dr. Laura's video "Preventive Maintenance for Every Family." 

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