19 Aug
Terrible Twos, Tantrum Threes and Fiendish Fours

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I have a 4-year-old boy who doesn’t listen to me or to his dad. He acts out in church, in the store, and then in church again. He is really cocky and you can’t spank a child anymore, so what should I do? Please help me.

Thank you,



Dear Ashley,

“Terrible twos” is one of the most misunderstood terms in parenting.   We think, okay, this means the age of two is terrible. No problem, we’ll deal with it because it’s two and it’s terrible, but it ends when they turn 3.

You might want to sit down, Ashley, possibly with a glass of bourbon (make mine neat) to help recover from the shock of what I’m about to tell you:

What none of us realize going into this parenting gig is that “terrible two” means two years of parenting hell, minimum, possibly forever if you don’t learn to adapt your parenting.

I’ve been where you are now. I expected the terrible twos and all the authority testing that comes with it as our sweet, innocent baby gained an identity outside of mom and began to spread his wings. But by the age of four, I expected the stage to be over, only it wasn’t and that sweet baby who spread his wings suddenly resembled a cherub strung out on crack. Will. It. Ever. End?   (No.)

The key to disciplining a 4-year-old seems to be strict consistency, which is what all the books and experts will tell you. Unfortunately, it’s easier said by experts than done by parents, believe me.   However, I did find a rundown of discipline tips that might set you in the right direction, and also some discipline traps to avoid.

My boys are almost nine and six now, and not only   have they not stopped testing limits but they are getting more sophisticated at it.   What I’m trying to say is you’re allowed up to 2 years of a sweetness in a child and after that, you’ll find yourself frequently reminding that child exactly who is in charge, so you need to get used to it.   Parenting is a constant challenge and we have to grow along with our children.   Like right now I’m growing gray hair from the stress of raising two boys, one of whom is what is politely called “spirited,” but is impolitely called…well, not even a Mouthy Housewife can say it publicly.

It’s also possible your son simply hates church and shopping. It’s a common genetic trait carried on the Y chromosome, you know.

Heather, TMH

7 Responses to “Terrible Twos, Tantrum Threes and Fiendish Fours”


Comment by The Laughing Idiot.

My youngest is almost four. Her tantrums drive me nuts, but not giving in (which is soooooo hard) is important.

I can’t tell you how many times I have walked out of a store because of her tantrum. To the chagrin of shoppers, I have also ignored her tantrum, strapped her into the “baby” seat, and continued shopping.

I’ve taken things away, sent her to her room, and yes, I’ve given her a spanking (in the privacy of our home, not in public).

It bites, but it eventually pays off – my almost six year old went through that phase and now all I have to do is give her “the look”.

You gotta hang in there. All parents have been there. So when it feels super embarassing at the moment, just remember we’ve all gone through it. NO ONE is immune.


Comment by K-Line.

My kid was a nightmare tantrumer from 1 – 5 (really) and she’s still volatile at age 9.5. It’s her nature. I do what I can to adapt to an extremely willful personality that seems to moderate only under the influence of fear. Not that she’s the remotest bit fearful. I think the development of rational faculties really helps. But it’s a very long road in some cases. I wish I could be more upbeat.


Comment by The Shake Shake State of the Union Address | Queen of Shake Shake.

[…] yeah, I up over at The Mouthy Housewives today, answering a question about how to control an unruly 4-year-old. I tell you this because […]


Comment by Ashlie- Mommycosm.

I totally agree with Heather. Consistency is the KEY…and is not easy.

I got to review The Total Transformation Program last year and it helped tremendously. It’s pricey though – check out my posts for some free tips.


Comment by Karin.

I firmly believe in bribes – not all the time but for certain things like good behavior while we’re out. I start out with 5 m&m’s payable after church and they can loose them (I also add extra rewards for particularly good behavior too). I also bring something entertaining for the kids to do in church – religious themed coloring books, a children’s bible that I have marked the readings with tab post-its, saint books, a children’s mass book w/ bookmark and for my 2 year old, I bring a truck coloring book b/c he doesn’t care about pictures of people (saints, Jesus) but he’ll be quiet for a truck. Furthermore, I sit in the cry room where there’s a bit more space for the kids to color. Finally, I found a church that I like (singable songs, uplifting homily, friendly parishioners) and is family friendly.
As for stores, I ask the kids for help with grocery shopping and if they misbehave, I cut my trip short and have my husband pick up the basket from the cold storage (yes, some grocery stores will do this, make friends with the manager and make sure you have a note prepared in your handbag with your name and a time that your husband or yourself later that day can come get it) and finish the list on his way home. I do not take my kids shopping elsewhere unless absolutely necessary.


Comment by Liz.

All the articles and blog posts I have seen talk about 4 year olds. Any advice for my 2 year old? Hes not even 2, not until the end of the month! Hes aweful, horrifying even, but hes barely 2 so talking to him does no good. Help!


Comment by Kate.

I think once they turn three they are usually a little more sophisticated with the disobedience. Less flat-out screaming, more sneakiness!
The thing I hated with the terrible twos was the idea that it started at 2! I have 3 kids and only 1 started the tantrums around 2! The others around 1 1/2! It’s like this cartoon: http://www.toddler-tips-and-tricks.com/terrible-twos-comic.html . Yep, my kids were advanced for their age! 😉

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