4 Year Old That Cries a Lot?

My 4 year old stepson has started crying when he is told he can't have something or is told to do something. He even does it after he has had his nap. His father, mother, and myself do not know what to do about this. Any help would be appreciated.

By tpmarie

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May 14, 20100 found this helpful

I would not try to fight with him about it; no one wins in a power struggle with a four-year-old. I am sure it is a stage that will pass quickly, so long as you respond consistently. (And I am thrilled that the 3 of you are working together, so good for the child when all the grown ups are on the same page. Congratulations on that maturity.)

If he were mine, and he began to cry without a good reason (pain, true sadness, or disappointment, etc.), I would take him by the hand and calmly walk him to his room or another designated time out spot and say something to the effect of: "I know that you wanted to _____, but the answer is no. Crying will not change my mind, so I need you to stay here until you are done crying. When you are done, I will be happy to_______" and fill in the second blank with something you feel to be appropriate to the moment. (For example, if he wanted a cookie before supper, I might offer a carrot; or if he wanted TV and it is not time for TV, offer a book; and so on. Good luck. Just keep reminding yourself, this, too shall pass.

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May 18, 20100 found this helpful

Sounds like he is testing you all if he is crying because he can not have what he wants. Do not give in. If he is not to have it then stick to your guns. It does not take children, but one time to learn how they can get by with things and get what they want. I have been teaching 4 and 5 year olds for 20 years. As long as you know he is not hurting or hungry then just let him cry this will pass.

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May 14, 2010

Please someone help. I have a 4 year old granddaughter that cries when she doesn't get her way. It's getting to the point where I'd rather have her not come and see me. Her crying really bothers me. She'll cry over the simplest things. Not opening the car door, Daddy going outside to get something out of the car and he tells her he'll be right back in. She cries because she can't go out with him.


She'll cry because everyone else is watching a program on TV and she wants to watch funnies, she's told to sit on the couch after being told 3 times not to run in the house. Plus telling her it's time to go home, that's a big one, and bed time is another. These are just a few reasons of her crying, but like I said, it really bothers me.

Is this normal and will it every stop? Do any of you have some advice for a grandma on how to cope and advice I can pass on to her parents.



4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

Does she get things when she cries at her own home? If she does, she may just need to be told nicely that at your home she needs to use her big kid voice to tell you things. I myself couldn't bear whining, so I told my children I would listen when they used another voice. To this day my older daughter (now 26 years) says she believed I actually could not hear her when she whined. Like a dog whistle, I guess.


One other thing I couldn't tell, is that if this is a new thing with her, she may be troubled by something new or different in her life, and this is a temporary set-back. (06/05/2005)

By Lori

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

I have 3 children and it is normal for them to go through a stage, but it sounds like your granddaughter is crying because that is her way of getting attention. Is it possible that when she was younger she cried at night and mom or dad ran in to check on her right away? If so she learned to get attention by crying.

It could also be the lack of structural activities. Let your granddaughter do things so she feels like a big girl. My 3 year old loves to do "dishes". He gets more water on the floor, but feels big about helping and has fun doing it. When it comes to leaving grandma's he still cries about it and I feel that is perfectly normal. Hope I helped. (06/05/2005)


By fyrgril

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

This is certainly not professional advice, but from a grandma who's been there plus worked with small children in Head Start. I can tell you that this will pass, but you need positive reinforcement to help them work through it. Yelling and fussing only makes matters worse. Like the person before me said she is old enough to understand that you will listen to her, but crying is not the way to get your attention.

With my grandson at that stage I found that praise got a lot of good results. I'd do things with him and say, "Hey, that' s really good" or "You're such a good helper, Mamaw's really proud of you." And always let them know that you think they're really special.

Most of the time kids really just want the added attention that maybe they're not getting, and you know what? No one better than Mamaw to give them that undivided attention. When I've got him with me I ignore everything else until he goes home. We can do that, we don't have them 24/7. Also do try to get her to talk to you about the problem, there could be deeper seated problems that are causing the crying.


One thing is for sure, if you'll listen, kids will talk about problems. I admire your willingness to ask for help. Grandparenting is wonderful it gives you the chance to make up for all the mistakes we made raising our own children. (06/05/2005)

By MamawKC

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

I have a four year old niece that also crumbles at the slightest thing. First of all, her parents (my brother and his wife) are older, her mother is a complete pushover when it comes to discipline and making her mind, my brother is the "bad guy" and has to do all of that. She is 4 and still in diapers. I think mommy won't let go of her babyhood and there is a lot of turmoil in their home (fighting and arguing about the child). Children are very sensitive and intuitive. I get tired of her endless crying as well, and pouting, but have to take into consideration what her home life is like. (06/05/2005)


4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

I have 6 children, one of whom was something like your grandchild. Annoying, isn't it? The first thing that popped into my head is that she might just be a naturally whiny child. Doesn't make it any nicer, but some little personalities are just like that.

The second thing I thought of was wondering if her behavior gets her the desired results. If she whines long enough, does she get her way? If so, that is the reason she is whining. Make sure that you are fair and firm and don't give in due to all the whining.

My whiny child is 15 now and still a bit whiny, but it has improved a lot over the years. (06/06/2005)

By Katie

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

Have you ever watched "Super Nanny" on TV. One method used for behavior modification in children is to put them in the naughty chair/corner/place each time they misbehave. They are old enough to understand they will not get their way if one is consistent and firm. You need to explain to the child what you require of them and what will happen if they do not do as you ask.


Tell them about what is going to happen if they misbehave, in this case crying when they don't get their way. Show them where the naughty chair/corner/place is. It is not somewhere where they can do anything or enjoy themselves.

Tell them they have to stay there for 4 minutes or so until the timer you have near there goes off. When the timer goes off, they can leave the naughty place, however they have to be cautioned they will be returned immediately if they continue on the behavior. At the end of the segmented time in the naughty place they need to be required to say "I'm sorry". This helps to instill in them their behavior is not acceptable. The child will attempt to do away with this system, but if you stick with it, it can do wonders. Also, if they spend a whole day without having to go to the naughty room, you can give them a small reward for being so good.

Also always praise the child in a positive statement like "You are really being such a good boy/girl today. I am very happy with your behavior" or something like that. Do not word you statements negatively such as: "You weren't half bad today, or "isn't this much better than before", or "See, my way is better". We want the child to feel rewarded for all his hard work. "I know this isn't easy for you, and I want you to know how proud of you I am for your cooperation/hard work". I've seen this work wonders on the show. Both parents and caregivers must remain consistent or it will be useless. Teamwork is the word here. (06/06/2005)

By Joan

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

It sounds like somebody doesn't like not getting her own way. She needs to be taught that is not how to get along in this big world. I recommend the book THE STRONG WILLED CHILD, by James Dobson. Maybe she isn't strong willed per se, but she is certainly learning that her will or no will is what she wants. (06/07/2005)

By Sandy

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

When my oldest daughter was 4, I received a newsletter from the University of Iowa that said it was normal for 4 year olds to cry a lot, and that they will outgrow it, for the most part. After reading the newsletter I felt better-knowing that she was going through a normal phase of growing out of toddler-hood. It seems to me it has something to do with wanting to be a big girl, but not always being able to handle it, and sometimes just still wanting to be mommy's or daddy's little girl.

I remember telling my husband that there was hope. And things did get better. However, she's still a sulker. I think that also has to do with being the oldest child and getting really used to having all the attention until baby number 2 came along. Hang in there. Hopefully this is a phase for her, too. But I like the idea of positive reinforcement for being a "big girl" or "good helper". And letting her know that big girls don't whine and that you respond to her "big girl" voice and not the crying and whining girl. (06/07/2005)

By Shirley M

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

Your granddaughter does this behaviour because it works for her. If you want to change her behaviour you have to make it not work for her, i.e. she's not going to get what she wants if she whines or cries. My son knows that if he wants something he has to ask and ask politely. In the beginning he would complain loudly, but I took the time to teach him how to get what he wanted. I didn't simply say no, but I told him how to make me say yes, by being polite, being patient, etc. Too many parents say "no" without giving the child any indication of how they could have done better.

After a bit of practise I no longer have to give my son any reminders. If he forgets to say please or starts to complain when he has to wait a minute for something, he gets ignored and quickly remembers what he has to do. It didn't take him long to change his behaviour. It was the only way to get what he wanted. Even if his parents are supporting this annoying behaviour, the child can still learn that grandma has different rules. So long as you are consistent when she's in your company, she'll change her behaviour for you.

And a warning about the idea that this is a phase: while it may be true that this is a phase that some kids go through, kids only pass through a phase because they learn the skills necessary to pass through a phase. You can't just sit back and wait for them to change, you have to help them develop the skills they need to pass out of this phase. Your granddaughter isn't just going to grow out of this, she will leave this phase only when it stops working for her and/or she's taught better interpersonal skills. For a lot of kids this won't happen until they're in fulltime school (no teacher will put up with this sort of thing when they have so many other students and therefore the kid will have to outgrow it) or you can teach it to her now. (06/07/2005)

By anon

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

My niece seemed to cry at the drop of a hat. Her parents wanted to curb this behavior, so had come up with a solution that allows her to cry whenever she wants. If she feels like crying, she has to go to her room, and close the door. If she is hurt, she needs to tell them why she's crying, and she gets the appropriate attention (reassurance, kisses for "owies", etc.). She doesn't seem to cry as long or as loud in her room by herself, and the episodes are becoming less frequent. (06/09/2005)

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

Next time, join her in her antics. Exaggerate her behavior yourself. She'll probably stop and stare at you in disbelief. Then tell her that's what she looks like when she acts that way. She might not stop entirely because she's only four, but it might help a little. Maybe she's just tired, and needs a short nap or rest time earlier in the day, or requires more sleep at night, maybe try an earlier bed time and be persistent even if she cries about it. Or it could be that she has her mom and dad wrapped around her little finger. If so, she could be manipulating them by crying to get her own way. If she does, and it works, why stop? (05/23/2006)

By Laura

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

My four year old daughter cries a lot. Over everything. She even started crying after walking into the kitchen when I was cooking because she said it was hot. She has a twin brother, but he doesn't exhibit these traits. I think daycare and school really help with the crying, because the teacher will not permit the behavior. But, I want to teach my daughter myself and we worked something out that may help others. We actually sat down together and read some of these postings. We both decided which kids were more like her, and talked about why she cried. She said it made her feel better a little bit, but made her tired. So, we decided on a plan.

She has a calendar in her room and she started drawing emotion faces on it. Smile for happy, frown for sad, etc. at the end of the day. When she continues to cry after a hug and reassurance, she puts a sad face on her calendar for that day. If drawing on her calendar still doesn't help, she's agreed with me it may be time for a little nap. After the month is over, she sees what behaviors she showed the most. It took her about two weeks of sad faces to say she wants more smiles and she did it. Good luck. (07/26/2008)

By Erin

4 Year Old That Cries a Lot

I am a daycare provider and I have a 4 year old boy who just started 3 weeks ago and he does the same thing. I told the mom I am going to do consistent time outs for crying over anything and if it works with a 2 week period then I will continue to watch him. I also told her she needs to do the same at home and guess what? It's toned down extremely. Whenever he's about to start I say "excuse me, do I hear whining or crying?" and when he hears that his mouth shuts so fast, it's funny. Try it, and good luck. (09/03/2008)

By Julie

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Parenting Toddler and PreschoolerMay 14, 2010
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