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Trying to Connect with 4 Year Old who Destroys Things, Hurts Little Sister

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Dr. Laura,

Thank you for your blog and your book, they are an inspiration to me. As much as I try to connect with my 4-year old son, play as much as possible and try to follow your advice, I feel like I am failing.

When I don't do what he wants he destroys things or tries to hurt me, or his 1.5 year-old sister. I am extremely tired of this behavior. We have guests at our house for Thanksgiving and he decided to spit on a boy's face. I don't know what else to do.

Yesterday he destroyed his sister's water bottle and dumped cold water all over her because she got a new bottle and he didn't. He has his own. I let him take a couple of sips after his sister but that was not enough. She can't have anything new because he is too jealous. I am losing my patience. I feel like I am completely 'absorbed' by this child. At what age do children start to manage their impulses?

Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.


Four year olds are still developing impulse control but your son's behavior is a cry for help. He should be able to manage his impulse not to dump cold water all over his sister or spit in someone's face.

I hear that you are trying to connect with him and it is not enough. When that happens, it's what I call the leaky cup syndrome -- meaning all your connection is not getting to his heart. The reason is that he has some tangled up feelings that he is not able to deal with so he is stuffing them. When we do that, we push ALL our feelings away, including the good ones.

I suspect that your son's upset has something to do with his sister. Have you read my book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids? I think it would help you support your son past these yucky feelings that are making him, and you miserable, and really turn things around.

Good luck!

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