For Parents slightly OT.. very strong-willed 4 year old- might take some time off from gym

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dani4

Proud Parent
Feb 21, 2013
269
My younger daughter is driving us all crazy now. She is turning 4 in a few days. She is so difficult about everything. She is always tough, but right now going through a massive control-freak episode. It seems to have escalated over the last month and I'm really ready for it to be over. Now it is having an effect on gymnastics and other activities. I'm posting here to figure out what to do about the gymnastics part, but it's all inter-related so I'm going to give some other details too.

-DD has always been strong willed, this is not something new. But she gets more obstinate and combative at times, and somewhat easier to live with at other times. Right now I think she is at her worst.

-We have had a very rough month of childcare transitions in our house- our old au pair left a month ago, then my mom came and did childcare for 2 weeks, then for 2 weeks we had 2 different babysitters (one familiar and one new), and now finally our new au pair has arrived and she is great- but DD is understandably resistant to the new au pair and it seems to be a problem for her. I think a lot of things stem from this transition...

-DD is advanced for her age in every way (except maybe emotionally?). She is extremely articulate, she uses adult vocabulary very convincingly even though she doesn't always know exactly what she is saying (example: "mom something is wrong with my body. it feels like my lungs are unraveling when I talk." --not exaggerating!) I am proud of this child and she is endlessly entertaining in public, but these same characteristics make her extremely difficult.

-Gymnastics: She has been in gymnastics continuously since she was 18 months old. DD has always loved gymnastics. She is focused and listens well in class, and she does well. Her coaches love her.

Lately things have changed. DD fights me in the morning getting dressed- whether for school or gymnastics. She doesn't want to leave the house. She just wants to stay home and play. One morning she said she didn't want to do gymnastics, so I said "ok, we'll just go and watch, and if you change your mind you can put on your leotard." We had to go to the gym for older DD's class, and as I predicted she decided to go to her class, and she did great. She did the same thing at swimming lessons, so I don't think it's necessarily related to gymnastics. Then last week I was watching her class and she was in the foam pit and she did this whole "I'm helpless, mommy come get me out of the foam pit" thing. She started crying. Of course I didn't get her- parents aren't allowed on the gym floor, and she knows that. I think what set her off was reminiscing about when she was in parent & tot. Well she finally got out of the foam pit herself and ran out of the gym, into my arms. I held her and told her she could go back whenever she was ready. She said she didn't want to go back in. I waited a while, and when she still didn't want to go I said that we had to leave the gym then, we weren't going to sit around there and not do gymnastics (older DD was done). She said she wanted to go home, so we did.

The next day she also refused to do swimming lessons. And she has a cold. So maybe it's related to that. But she has been resisting more and more over the last several weeks to everything- school, gymnastics, going outside to the playground when it's nice out (happens about twice a week in the winter where we live), swimming, etc. The only thing she wants to do is stay home and play with her toys, or watch a video (screen time is strictly limited, but she demands it a lot). I feel that at her age the extra activities aren't really necessary and they can be her choice, but school is not a choice- I make her go to school (it's only 3 mornings per week).

I talked about not signing her up for the next gymnastics session (spring session) and she says she wants to do ballet instead. I think I might drop her from gym and put her in ballet, because it's her activity and she should get to try something different... but it makes me a little sad because she's so good at it. And of course, I like gymnastics (more than dance). And I wonder if the same thing will happen with ballet. But I don't know.. she's just turning 4, it's not like it is such a big decision at this age. She also asked about piano lessons.

I just wish she would get out of this funk- she is driving me and everyone else in our family CRAZY. Gymnastics used to seem like the one thing that was guaranteed to bring her happiness, and now it is not.

I know there's not much to be said- after writing this all out I realize that it might be time for younger DD to leave gymnastics, if only for a season, she could even come back at 5 and it wouldn't matter... I want to encourage older DD to stay in gymnastics because she loves it and it is so good for her. She wants to be on the team someday and I have no idea if that is possible for her, but so far so good. Let her try.
 
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sce

Proud Parent
Mar 11, 2014
6,149
I talked about not signing her up for the next gymnastics session (spring session) and she says she wants to do ballet instead. I think I might drop her from gym and put her in ballet, because it's her activity and she should get to try something different... but it makes me a little sad because she's so good at it. And of course, I like gymnastics (more than dance). And I wonder if the same thing will happen with ballet. But I don't know.. she's just turning 4, it's not like it is such a big decision at this age. She also asked about piano lessons.

I just wish she would get out of this funk- she is driving me and everyone else in our family CRAZY. Gymnastics used to seem like the one thing that was guaranteed to bring her happiness, and now it is not.

I know there's not much to be said- after writing this all out I realize that it might be time for younger DD to leave gymnastics, if only for a season, she could even come back at 5 and it wouldn't matter... I want to encourage older DD to stay in gymnastics because she loves it and it is so good for her. She wants to be on the team someday and I have no idea if that is possible for her, but so far so good. Let her try.

Lots going on here. First, she's young let her try ballet, it does not mean she's done with gym forever. Many kids don't start gymnastics until a much older age. She may decide she wants to do gymnastics again at some point, or sticks with ballet, or does soccer or karate . . .

All those childcare transition are unsettling for a young one. She is crying out about it, by her behavior and lack of wanting to go to gym, swimming etc. Also, kids go through developmental ups and downs. They get more insecure when they take a developmental leap. A 4yo acting up is so normal.
 

dani4

Proud Parent
Feb 21, 2013
269
Lots going on here. First, she's young let her try ballet, it does not mean she's done with gym forever. Many kids don't start gymnastics until a much older age. She may decide she wants to do gymnastics again at some point, or sticks with ballet, or does soccer or karate . . .

All those childcare transition are unsettling for a young one. She is crying out about it, by her behavior and lack of wanting to go to gym, swimming etc. Also, kids go through developmental ups and downs. They get more insecure when they take a developmental leap. A 4yo acting up is so normal.

Everything you say is what I had in the back of my mind, but I needed to see someone else say it. Thank you :).
 
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alr83

Proud Parent
Jun 24, 2014
22
With all the home /sitter changes, she may feel very insecure. She likely feels that she has no control and acting this ways makes her feel in control of something. She doesn't have say in a lot of big decisions that affect the family as a whole. Sounds like she is trying to get some say somewhere.

We are dealing with similar with out 6 y/o. She isalso strong willed, but generally well behaved. We are having some struggles that started within a wk of another incident that happened to her. She is trying to control certain things and testing the waters of if we will allow her to behave and treat people in the way she was treated. We will not, but for our situation we have to be very careful in how we handle it and respond (she is getting out a lot of feelings during this and we need to be listening, but also try and work with her in talking about the feelings in a different way) . We fully understand her need to feel like she has control or say in something, but we need to redirect it to something positive.

Nothing wrong with letting her try ballet. She may love it or hate it. But I wouldn't see having her continue gym when she wants to try something else beneficial and possibly make it harder for the other kids in her class. She may just act out more if told she has to stay.

Good luck! I feel for you and 4 can be a rough age!
 
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my4buffaloes

Proud Parent
Apr 14, 2010
5,287
Midwest
Ok, first I will tell you a story. When my youngest was 4 I had her in gymnastics. She is very strong-willed as well and if she didn't feel like going somewhere (which was almost always, the child hated to leave the house) then she would unbuckle in the car because she knew I wouldn't drive if she was unbuckled. So we missed a lot of gymnastics and in the end I pulled her out. She begged for a year to do it again before I finally signed her up. She is now a level 5 and is doing great. The break was good for her.

Now, you have a fine line to walk as far as what to do. Consistency would be very good for her right now, because she has had so many changes. Thinking of it that way makes me inclined to just having her keep doing gymnastics. But, also letting her have some control over her sport or activities might help her sort through the mess right now. There is nothing wrong with trying a new activity and/or dropping an old one.

The childcare situation you described would cause upheaval for any child - especially a strong willed 4 year old. I always found 4 years old to be the worst with my kids. Gets better at age 5 I think. I can't tell you exactly what to to, or even what I would do, but hopefully can help you think through things to make a decision that will work for her and your family. it sounds exhausting!
 

hienergyhouse

Proud Parent
Aug 9, 2014
69
I feel for you. My daughter is EXACTLY like yours and we have gone through a similar "funk" a couple months ago when we moved to another country. It is amazing how change can unravel these little ones. Be patient (deep breaths) and ride the wave. My daughter acted out at her new gym for a bit...it was VERY embarrassing! She looked like a 2 year old screaming, kicking and hitting. She was trying to figure out the new coaches (and deal with all the other changes in her life). But she did get over it and now is back to normal :)
 
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Rockygym

Proud Parent
Aug 6, 2014
886
48
I agree with all of the above, I am sure all the transitions especially in this particular age range has to be unsettling. I also wanted you to know you are NOT alone! I have almost pulled DS, 4 going on 5 next month, from gymnastics at least a half dozen times. He is "spirited" and at times not attentive in class and even to the point of being disruptive. However, he loves the class and has not resisted going at this point. DH is his coach and handles things well. We have stuck through it and he is now having more good days than bad days, so I am hoping 5 will be the magic age!
 
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COz

Proud Parent
Jan 21, 2014
1,484
Yep, sounds like it's the constant (recently) changing childcare situation.

Sounds like she's having a bit of separation anxiety, which probably wasn't an issue at all before, I'm guessing she's always been quite outgoing and a generally vivacious confident girl.
Her wanting to be rescued from the pit, not wanting to go anywhere - she wants to be looked after, made to feel secure, has a fear that other people will leave her.

It's a lot of upheaval and she's a bright child. You're probably used to treating her like a much older child, because it's easy to forget when they are that articulate and mature. She's just giving you a small reminder that she IS in fact 4 and probably needs a bunch of cuddles for a week and then now that everything is settled, all will get back to normal shortly.
She is probably worried about bonding with the new au pair, expecting that she too will leave.

She'll get over it. Eat lots of chocolate in the meantime :)
Let her try other activities if she wants. Ask her if she wants to continue the existing ones. Time off will not harm anything.

Also, have you sat her down and had a good talk about all of the changes that have been happening? I find when they're lying down in bed to be a good time. Talk about what's happened and why. Give her details. She is smart and has probably not been able to ask but wants details. Reassure her that you're not going anywhere and that the new au pair will be around for a while. Reassure her that the other people liked her and it wasn't because of anything she did that they only stayed a short time.

Also, I wouldn't connect the childcare situation and the activities in her mind if I could help it. Talk about them separately.
 

dani4

Proud Parent
Feb 21, 2013
269
Oh man my phone ate my long reply. Thank you, Coz you are spot on and everyone has helped. Patience and chocolate, and allow her to act her age.
 
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dani4

Proud Parent
Feb 21, 2013
269
Oh, and she's THREE!! Not 4 :)

SO TRUE!!! It's hard to believe that she is 3... we went somewhere last weekend where it was cheaper for kids under 4 and the person who sold the tickets had a hard time believing my husband that she wasn't 4.. we already think of her as 4 and we need to stop. She seems like she is turning 5, not 4 next week.

And my4buffalotoes, your story about the car seat made me laugh- DD did that last weekend on the way to her swimming lesson. We missed her lesson (which I was ok with) but thankfully not her big sister's, because she was crying that she really wanted YDD to cooperate so we could get going and she could swim. I did pull over and get out of the car and talk YDD down... it took about 15 minutes and a snack (and I let her get out of the car for a minute to stretch her legs and get some air- even though we had driven literally 2 blocks). She completely missed her lesson, but that's ok, she didn't want to go anyway. After ODD's lesson YDD said "Ok now I want to swim" so I told her she could.. at her lesson next week!

I just hope this all calms down... I am resolved to be patient and see her as a 3 year old. I know that our new au pair is fantastic and things will be better when YDD gets attached to her. As long as we try not to pressure her.. she's the kind of kid who pressures herself, but we need to have lower expectations of her than she has for herself. If that makes any sense.
 

dani4

Proud Parent
Feb 21, 2013
269
And I did talk to her about the changes last night. I lie down with her at bedtime every night (or DH does), and we always talk about stuff but usually it's pretty random- this time I talked specifically about how our last au pair left and we miss her and we have had so many people take care of the kids since then. My kids share a room so ODD contributes to the conversation too. YDD said that the new au pair is bad and she doesn't like her.. my gut reaction is to disagree with her and tell her she will eventually like her.. but I know better, instead I validated her feelings as best as I could - "I know it's hard for you to like your new au pair, and you miss your old au pair."

I also told her that DH and I are not going away ever and we will always take care of her. Somehow the subject of divorce came up... ODD has a friend in kindergarten whose parents are going through a divorce. So I told her that DH & I love each other and will stay together, and that we work hard to talk about everything and be nice to each other. I talked more about this with ODD, she really wants to know why some parents get divorced. It's tough to be honest and reassuring at the same time... but in these areas I err on the side of reassuring and not 100% honesty. Same with death- YDD is obsessed with mortality lately... she knows that everyone will die, and she often asks if different things can make her die... I feel like I'm walking a tightrope with this one. I want to be honest but not scare her. So hard.
 
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COz

Proud Parent
Jan 21, 2014
1,484
Yeah. Good job!

I know about forgetting how old they are, believe me!
Remind yourself that she is three, for now. Then she is "just turned four" after that :)
 
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dani4

Proud Parent
Feb 21, 2013
269
Also one other thing- I remember that last year I didn't sign up ODD for gymnastics in the spring at first, because she complained about it EVERY WEEK. She said it was too hard, and kind of boring. Then when I told her I didn't sign her up she flipped out! So I signed her up and she never complained again. She had just turned 5. Now, at 6, she loves gymnastics and has such a positive attitude about it that it's hard to remember that she used to complain.

So I know that these things change. But it helps the kid to feel some sense of control over things. I have a couple of weeks before registration. I will ask YDD if she wants to do gymnastics. If she says no I will not sign her up. And I will tell her that. And if she changes her mind I will try to get her in, though it's not always possible, these classes fill up. I get a little nutty about this stuff.. I must take a deep breath and know it will all work out, even if we miss getting her into the right class.
 
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