If you were pretty happy with the three-year-old be prepared for the fact that the four-year-old may have some letdowns. Nature has a way of correcting things and the four-year-old can provide a time of very great testing. The commonest advice we find ourselves giving mothers of four-year-olds is: do not allow your child to make you lose confidence in yourself.
The four-year-old has a great tendency to go out of bounds, but as Drs. Gesell and Amatruda said years ago, “How can the child learn “within bounds” if she or he does not go out of bounds?” The four-year-old often exaggerates; may be dramatic; and may “act up.”
The four-year-old brings to an end what we call the sentimental period of child raising. The four-year-old makes realists out of us and tends to bring us “down to earth.” Your child needs discipline. By discipline we mean the positive, correcting, instruction action that helps a child understand what she or he needs to do for their own security and satisfaction. The four-year-old cries out for limits and if they are not set, is left confused and unhappy. Your child may then pursue the testing behavior to a greater degree until finally some limits are set.
Do not take this behavior as a personal defeat. Do not feel that somehow you have made a serious and irreversible mistake and have lost your way. This is how the four-year-old can make a parent feel sometimes, and does not view – his or her behavior as evil or bad. Your child is simply asking questions, looking for answers, and wants you to provide those answers. If you understand what your four-year-old is trying to do it will save you much frustration and anger. You will avoid overacting with your child and losing confidence in yourself. We are not attempting to be pessimistic about the four-year-old. This age has many periods of fun and excitement. It is just that there are more fluctuations than you were used to at three or that there will be at five.