The “Terrible Fours?”


     Lately, my four year old son, “E”, has been engaging in some shenanigans that I am going to chalk up to the fact that he is a little boy and that he is testing the waters. You guys have to realize that, although “E” is my second son and I have gone through this age with my older one, my two boys couldn’t be more like night and day. As a result of this, my husband and I find ourselves experiencing things with “E” that we never experienced with my oldest son. Let’s just say that it has gotten to the point that we have to be very vigilant of “E” because he is constantly up to something and rarely has any qualms about concocting elaborate stories and explanations to defend what he has done.

    Let’s begin with what I like to call the “Soap Incident of 2010.” I like to keep a beauty bar on top of the sink in the bathroom that I wash my face with daily. I’ve never had a problem with the kids touching it or playing with it and they know that it is Mommy’s. One particular night, last month, I awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and I noticed that the toilet was flushing kind of funny after I went. The water was going down but very slowly so I figured that the kids had used up too much toilet paper and clogged the toilet again. Since it was the middle of the night, I decided that I would address the issue in the morning by using the plunger.

     The next morning, I finished brushing my teeth and reached over for my bar of soap to wash my face. I suddenly realized that the soap was gone and I couldn’t find it anywhere.  Call it Mother’s intuition or something but I called “E” into the bathroom and asked him if he knew what had happened to my soap.  He immediately began to say, “No, it wasn’t me, really!”  Now, I know my son so I put two and two together and asked him if he had put the soap in the toilet.  He continued to deny it until I asked him enough questions that he could answer to describe what had really happened.  You see, my son is very literal so asking him direct questions that do not match his version of the events will just elicit what might seem to be lies but, in his eyes, he is telling the truth.

    According to “E”, he woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.  It must have been before I woke up and he did not call me to turn on the light for him as he normally does.  After he used the toilet, he reached out for my soap to wash his hands since he could not see the liquid soap dispenser in the dark.  Since his hands were wet, the soap slipped out of his hands and flew in the toilet.  He then proceeded to tell me that he was not about to stick his hand in the toilet to retrieve the soap so he just flushed it.  I’m sure you are probably chuckling at this point but, I can tell you to plunging that soap and unstopping the toilet was no laughing matter for Hubby.

    This brings us to the “PB&J Fiasco” that just occurred two days ago.  I asked the boys what they wanted for lunch and “E” asked me for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  He is a picky eater so I try to accommodate his meal requests whenever possible.  After making the sandwich and serving it to him, I supervised to make sure that he was eating because he tends to play games and take forever to finish any meal.  He ate about three quarters of the sandwich at a snail’s pace and I had to keep reminding him to finish it.  I received a phone call which lasted about two minutes and, when I looked over at him, the sandwich was gone.  I asked him if he had finished it and he smiled and nodded.  My older son and I were so happy that he had finished his food that we even told him what a great job he had done.

    A couple of hours later, my husband sat down on the very part of the couch where “E” had been eating his sandwich on a TV table.  I don’t know what prompted him to do this but he somehow stuck his hand in the side of the couch and came up with a handful of peanut butter.  It seems my dear boy had shoved the remainder of his sandwich into the cushion of the couch while I was talking on the phone.  After a strong admonishing and punishing him from playing video games for a couple of days, I’m not sure that this will be the end of my little guy’s mischief. 

    I realize that all children are different and that is why my two boys have such different personalities.  I’m at a loss as to how to deal with my little guy’s storytelling and mishaps.  It’s important that he understands the importance of being truthful and not being deceptive.  I just wonder if he understands what lying is at this age or if he truly believes in his version of how events took place.  This is one of those things where I would love to hear feedback from parents of older children or siblings to see how they dealt with their little four year old characters.  Is there such a thing as the terrible “fours?”

© 2010, Tough Cookie Mommy. All rights reserved.


  1. My girl friend tells me that is just get worse until they hit 5 and then it levels out… if that’s true you’ve only got a year… but I don’t know about that logic at all.

  2. YES, Virginia, there IS such a thing as Terrible Fours. My cherubs sailed through their Threes without a hitch and made the Fours a bear in our house. Enjoy the ride…it’ll only last a short while. Gotta admit, the little guy IS quite creative.

    • Hi, Sue. I’m not sure if you are referring to me as “Virginia.” My name is Maria and I have never really considered myself to fit the bill of a “Virginia.” Lol Believe me, I am enjoying every minute of every experience that I have with both of my sons. I know all too well how quickly time can pass.

  3. Lol – My son was an angel until 12 months, then we had obstinate 1’s, followed by terrible 2’s, then trying 3’s, fearsome 4’s, and finally fighting 5’s. He’s 6 now and I see a slim possiblity that we may both survive his childhood. When he was 3, I told my hubby that one of us wasn’t going to make it. I wasn’t sure yet if it was him or me, but one for sure would perish. 🙂

    Now he’s back to being an incredibly considerate, helpful and engaged kiddo. This behavior ONLY shows itself when he is alone with you however. When either of his sisters are around, he has somehow decided it is his purpose in life to make them scream. Why? I wish I knew.

    I have been exasperated with “shenanigans” and have definitely caught each kid in lies or half truths. I just had a conversation last night with my 9 year old. J – I asked you to clean your room yesterday. You said you did. I said it wasn’t enough time and to go clean it some more – meaning nothing on the floor, bed made, dirty clothes in laundry room and clean clothes all put away. You went away and came back and said it was done.

    Today, I saw your room. There isn’t a single thing that I asked you to do that was actually done. I really don’t want to have to patrol you after every time you tell me something – to go inspect to make sure you really did what you said because I can’t trust you. Is that really what you want?

    Last night she cleaned it for 2 hours and it looks fabulous! Granted she was trying to get permission to stay up to see the eclipse and it IS the week before Christmas, but I think every kid relates to wanting to be trustworthy. Explaining it to them in matters of “I can’t trust you.” seems to work pretty well.

    It is a constant cycle though and reminders!

    • Daria, I think you are so right. I have to use all of these mischievous moments to instill the importance of being truthful and maintaining good communication with both of my boys. I suppose every age is an adventure and a learning experience for us parents and for our kids…

  4. Found your blog on Blog Frog and I am really enjoying it. New follower, and I must say that if as a parent I am in for what “E” is now doing, I am not sure if I can handle having kids!!!

    Hope you have a fantastic holiday. 🙂


    • Hi, Casey. I love that you are enjoying the content here. Don’t get me wrong, “E” is a handful but he is my love and I wouldn’t trade being his mother for anything else in the world. I hope you have a fantastic holiday too.

  5. I am really behind. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog a few weeks ago. I’m finally following you back!

    Around here we call them the Terrible Twos, Horrible Threes, Ferocious Fours….so it seems. 😀 For my son is goes in spurts. He’ll be an angel for weeks on end, then he’s the biggest troublemaker. We’re in the trouble maker part right now, and I’m about ready to pull my hair out. This too shall pass!

    PS Mom Reviews

  6. Maybe the couch was hungry and he was just sharing his sandwich!

  7. As I read this I found myself thinking that maybe you have the twin of my sisters 2nd son! He is a handful and then some! I’m pretty sure that if your son and my sisters were ever together then hell would surely break loose!

    • Jackie, I can’t even imagine the two of them together. It is amazing how different children can have such different personalities. My older son never did anything like the things my little one does…


  1. Maria says:

    NEW POST RT @toughcookiemom: The "Terrible Fours?"

  2. […]     A good method for older children is the STOP acronym: Slow down, Think, Options, Proceed. A conversation could go something like this: “I know you’re upset you couldn’t go to the sleepover, so you hit your sister. Next time you get upset, slow down and take a breath. Think about how you want to respond. Review your options, and then proceed to action. How can you react in a healthier way next time instead of getting into trouble?” […]

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