Terrible Twos Times Two?

Our pediatrician is a master at prepping parents for the year ahead. So after hearing what he had to say about 4-year-olds, I am bracing myself.

Kids this age are independent, willful, determined and dogged. All of these would be qualities I’d prize highly … if they weren’t already being employed in getting a cupcake for breakfast or two more games on the Wii or an extension on bedtime.The doctor’s advice was to cut my losses when the battle is over something small, like an animal cracker before supper. But throwing the remote at his older brother’s head? That’s gonna be worth the fight.

The older brother is part of the problem. Not because he’s done anything wrong. It’s just a simple birth-order thing. When you’re striving for independence and there’s always someone ahead of you, well, I can see how it would kind of stink. (Being a first-born, I found it helpful to turn the PBS Kids Web site “It’s My Life” to get a kid’s perspective on being the youngest.) The youngest tends to avoid taking the same path his older sibling(s) walked, and he’ll often resort to comedy antics to get himself noticed – which is probably why my 4-year-old already shows way more of a sense of humor than his 7-year-old brother. The downside is that younger kids are less likely to be identified as gifted, even though their IQ scores may be within five points of their older siblings’ scores. Partly it’s that parents don’t notice their achievements as much, and partly it’s their quest to stand apart from their siblings.

Then there’s the whole issue of persistence. The doctor warned me that no parent has as much willpower as a determined 4-year-old. When it’s getting on toward the end of a long day, our inclination is to give in. Theirs is to dig in their heels. They are eloquent and imaginative, so it’s hard to argue with them. They are also still maturing, so they’re quite capable of dropping into a tantrum at a moment’s notice.

Just how tough does he think my year is going to be? He says he gets more calls from parents about 4-year-olds than any other age group, teenagers included. Wish me luck.

By Amy De La Hunt, Health Blogger for SmartParenting

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Amy De La Hunt is a journalist and editor who lives in the St. Louis metro area and works across the country as a writer, copy editor, project manager and editorial consultant on everything from fiction books to monthly magazines to blog posts. When she's not chauffeuring her teenage sons to activities, Amy is an enthusiastic amateur cook, landscaper, Latin dancer and traveler. Follow Amy on Instagram @amy_in_words

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