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Parenting only goes so far..
Published on August 4, 2004 By Draginol In Home & Family

I'm really frustrated with the 4 year old.  We have two children, a 7 year old and a 4 year old.  They couldn't be more different.  Both have traits that make them very lovable. But the 4 year old has been a real challenge to raise so far.

The 7 year old is kind, gentle, and full of empathy.  The 4 year old, to put it mildly, is not.  He's cute and has his moments of sweetness.  But he will also seemingly go out of his way to break things.

This morning he came up on Alex's toy insect collection and simply broke off the legs on some of them.  No reason. He just did it.  Alex was devastated.  He's the kind of kid who takes very good care of his things.  He also readily shares his things with others, seemingly unaware that not everyone is like he is in their treatment of personal things.

When we had only 1 child, my wife and I credited Alex's nature to our parenting.  But the 4 year old, Ryan, shows us that nature conquers nurture in many respects.   It's not that Ryan isn't a sweet little boy. He is. I love him to pieces.  And he is a lot better than many of the children his age that we're around.  Ryan doesn't have a cruel bone in his body for instance.  He's got a kind heart.  But he just seems to inclined to destroy things.  I like to think that he just wants to take things apart to see how they are made.  I'm not sure yet.  I only know what the end result is - the ruining of a cherished toy or object of someone else.

So he's in his room (I'm working from home today). And the 7 year old has that "I'm trying to keep a brave face on" but looks incredibly sad.


Comments
on Aug 04, 2004

I think you are being too hard on the little guy.  I see this same thing in so many second children and have discussed this issue with many parents of two or more.  With the first child, you only have toys around that are age appropriate.  They aren't likely to destroy them because they were meant for kids their age.  With the second child, you have toys all over the place that are meant for your older child's age group.  It just isn't fair to judge the second with the same guidelines as the first since their environment is so drastically different even though you feel your parenting isn't any different than with the first.


Take a deep breath.  Maybe he is rougher than the first.  Maybe he destroys stuff but maybe it isn't with malicious intent.  Maybe he just doesn't handle things as carefully as the first.  But maybe these traits will allow him to excel at things you can't even imagine right now.

on Aug 04, 2004
Oh I don't think there's anything malicious about it. He's a sweet little boy.  But he doesn't show care towards other people's things in the way his brother did.  It's just a difference in temperment. But it's still frustrating.
on Aug 04, 2004
Yeah, your boy is analytical. He wants to analyze things. And your elder one may be more holistic in nature, seeing the total context of things. People are different,dont worry. Your second kid may become agreat scientist or inventor.
on Aug 04, 2004
Hmmmm...even if it wasn't malicious, it still hurt his older brother, you know? And it wasn't right to break big brother's toy...It's probably too late to say something about it now, but if the behavior happens again, I think it's important to make sure little brother knows that its not okay for him to break big brother's toy and that if he wants to be rough, there are other places and things that its okay to be rough in and play rough with.

This is coming from a non-parent, mind you...
on Aug 04, 2004

I feel for you...my middle kid was the same way.  I don't think he was destroying things intentionally, I think he just wanted to see how they worked and what they were composed of...and in the process he ended up breaking them.  He'd only apologise afterwards if we made him, because in his little mind he hadn't done anything wrong. 

It's frustrating, I know...trying to explain to an older child whose younger sibling has broken one of their prized possessions that they didn't really mean to do it is tough.  Punishing a child who's curiosity has gotten them into trouble is tougher.

on Aug 04, 2004
I have found that a good length of leather strap tends to motivate young boys and girls into behaving appropriately.
on Aug 04, 2004
I also have two children, although the age difference is greater. My daughter is 10 years old and my son is twenty-one months old. He hit his terrible twos a couple of months ago and is still going strong. My daughter has learned the hard way that it is extremely important that she keep anything she values out of his reach, either by keeping it in her room which is a little brother-free zone or by watching it at all times.

Like JillUser said about the toy-appropriateness, her toys are not built for the abuse that a toddler can dish out. And it is hard on her when he breaks something. I do what I can to keep him to his stuff, but she's old enough to assume some responsibility and she does this very well. But oh, I know that sad look...it tugs at your heart.
on Aug 04, 2004

I was the second child.  My sister always took care of her toys- I'd rip the heads off her dolls.  He sounds perfectly normal to me.  Your 7 year old will have to figure out that being the older brother isn't always fun 

Think he is bad?  At about 6 years old my husband disassembled his Dads lawnmower.  Can't compare a few broken toys to that one

on Aug 04, 2004
Let me preface this by saying, I'm a non parent. That being said, I am also a masters student of psychology. Your younger son's behavior is normal. Children with older siblings often act out as a way of getting attention. Also, 4 year olds often do not have a sense of how their actions impact others. Maybe try sitting him down next time he damages his brothers possessions and discuss with him how he would feel if someone broke his toy. By making him understand that his brother has the same feelings as he does, he learns compassion and understands that his actions affect others.

Good luck and don't worry--lots of kids go through a destructive phase and turn out just fine. Just keep loving him no matter what!
on Aug 04, 2004
This reminds me of the Judy Blume books Tales of the 4th Grade Nothing, Fudge, Superudge and Fudge-a-mainier
Your eldest sounds like Pete (and he had a turtle too) and your youngest like Fudge/Felix (was that his name... no Farrex - can't remember) - He never wanted to break anything of Petes he'd just be looking at things and he'd touch them and they'd break - he ate the turtle though how that happened I'll never understand.

(If they were girls they could be Beverly Clearys Beezus (beatrice) and Ramona the Pest)

I think you're on the right track when you said you
like to think that he just wants to take things apart to see how they are made

My husband is exactly the same - even now at 21 - he used to have a PDA until he pulled it apart but couldn't put it together again -- he's broken many an electrical appliance in his life. And I have a feeling - by the amount of pieces some of her toys are in that Elana will be the same way.
on Aug 05, 2004
When you are the first child, all the toys are yours until a sibling is born. The first child has the chance to gradually learn the principles of sharing and being generous, they have a chance to learn the easy way (over time) not to be selfish. The second child already has an older sibling, consequently there are toys that aren't his to play with, that don't belong to him. the second child has to learn at an early age to share and not to be selfish... inevitably this process is going to cause pain (both for them, the parents, and the older sibling), because while this child is learning, the natural prey is going to be the prized possesions of the elder child.....

Combine this with different personalities as you said Draginol, and you have a child with alot of curiosity, who naturally finds everything that isn't 'his' by right more interesting than those that he already owns (and has thoroughly explored already) and the fact that his four year old fingers haven't learned deftness and you have a winning combination for destruction... Plus kids always like to test the boundaries right? In an impish sort of way. Be firm and explain the why, ask him how he would feel if it was his toy and his brother had come up and destroyed it, how would he feel if that had happened? Angry? Sad? Why? Because it was his etc... then should it be okay for him to break his older brothers toy? No. He has to think of others before he does what he wants. Having worked with kids I am always amazed at there understanding, even at the age of four. Sure it takes reinforcement, it doesn't work straight away, but your child will learn and they will be a great person.

on Aug 05, 2004
He sounds like a fairly typical 4 yr old to me. I think you might be comparing him to his older brother, and expecting them to react in the same ways....but they are totally different children, with totally different personalities. Just imagine that the older one had been born with the personality of the younger one, and the younger with the personality of the older....you'd be wondering now why the youngest was so laid back, when the older had been such a dynamo!

I think it's important to make sure little brother knows that its not okay for him to break big brother's toy and that if he wants to be rough, there are other places and things that its okay to be rough in and play rough with.


I can agree with this...you can teach respect for the property of others, and try to teach appropriate responses and behaviors...but some kids are just going to act in a more rambunctious manner, regardless.
on Aug 09, 2004
"Reply By: CS Guy Posted: Wednesday, August 04, 2004
I have found that a good length of leather strap tends to motivate young boys and girls into behaving appropriately."

a: you're joking - not funny in the slightest, and completely inappropriate - akin to saying 'a 12-gauge worked for Old Yeller' when someone blogs about their family dog being sick.

b: you're serious - beat a four year old kid with a belt? an eight-to-twelve year old, in response to serious transgressions (stealing, etc), is something that's debatable, but people who use physical violence on a 4-year old should be chemically castrated and flogged.
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