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Why does my four years old son show disrespect to his elders?

Q: My four years old son has been showing disrespect towards his elders like his grandparents, neighbours, but not to his teachers. We also have another child – 15 months old daughter. We have tried all the possible methods to handle such defiant behaviour. But, nothing seems to be working. Sometimes he gives nasty looks to elders. Why does my four years old son show disrespect to his elders? How can it be controlled?

A:No parent is able to tell the full story. Possibly important facts are left out and I have to do some guessing! The number of people in the family constitutes the child's immediate world. Their interactions with him are probably the source of some of his behaviour. Since his school behaviour is OK, it is the home in which the root of the problem can be found. I need to know how he was prepared for the arrival of his sister and whether he feels that she gets more attention from the parents. Perhaps, grandparents tell him that the little sister is nicer than he is. This could build up anger, which is then turned on to objects or members of the family. There has to be consistency in the rules. Since there are two generations socializing him, the difference in the methods may cause confusion. Most children learn to cope with it, but some may struggle. So make sure there is some agreement in such matters. But if his grandparents are gentler with him, then you must change your methods a little. There is another aspect to all this. If the child gets attention only when he is naughty, it may tempt him to do something wrong so that he is noticed. I think you should look for his strengths and reward him when he does something right. Parents are often proud of being good disciplinarians, but what the child wants is a human approach and recognition of his vulnerability. An overload of punishments may not be effective - but may simply build up resentment in the child. Discuss things with him gently and ask him why he gets upset. You may find out quite a lot. Make sure he gets enough sleep (about 12 hours). Avoid Cola drinks as they add to the excitability. Please keep in mind that he is only four years old, not 14. The parents should spend fun time with the children, playing with them indoors and outside. Keep the child active for a few hours a day and possibly, there will be no time to be defiant. The next time he is rude, just laugh! He will be taken aback, because he expects anger. Tell him that you prefer being told what bothers him. Finally, your child is a person, not a project. Both parents should realise this. Look at his individuality and find ways of responding to him affectionately.

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