Characteristics of Four (and a half) Year Old Behavior

Our youngest is well and truly in the disequilibrium phase of four. If you are not familiar with this term, disequilibrium is the half year period before a child’s birthday, (in this instance from 4 1/2 until 5 years old) where children are confused, emotional, temperamental and may have difficulty completing tasks that they previously have easily accomplished. They then move into phases of equilibrium where they seem to have “got it all together”.

Characteristics Of Four and A Half Year Old Behaviour
Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy by Louise Bates Ames.

I have referred to books by Louise Bates Ames when writing these posts:

So once again I went to her age appropriate book, this time called Your Four Year Old: Wild and Wonderful by Louise Bates Ames. The book itself notes:

Age norms (our story of what behaviour is like at the different ages) are only averages. Your child may quite normally be ahead of or behind averages.

Some general characteristics of four (and a half) year old behavior

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For our four and a half year old in question, I could certainly relate to:

For the most part, we have found the boy or girl of this age to be joyous, exuberant, energetic, ridiculous, untrammelled-ready for anything.

Four loves many things, but his emotions tend to be definitely extreme. He loves a lot and he hates a lot.

The typical Four-year-old is also speedy. Each thing he does, he does quickly, and he is also speedy as he moves from one interest to the next. For the most part, he does a thing once, and that’s enough.

Emotionally, too he tends to be extremely out-of-bounds. He laughs almost too hilariously when things please him; howls and cries more than too loudly when things go wrong.

He can, on frequent occasion, be extremely silly.

Our four year old is really great company (most of the time!). He finds pretty much everything interesting and loves to know more about how everything works and what it really does. He likes to fill in the pieces of everything so will ask many questions. He will also go away think about things and then come back and paraphrase what we were talking about to make sure he understood it.

He runs over walks, jumps over sits and when things go wrong he will stop completely. He loves to be part of the pack, but also likes to have time on his own. He has the most gorgeous giggle, that warms my heart every time I hear it.

Now for the more challenging behaviours:


And (alas), all too often Four lapses into outright profanity…even though Four may not fully appreciate what he is saying.

I don’t swear a lot, but I do swear at times, so I need to take a level of responsibility here for him even knowing some of the words he has said over the last few months. We have had discussions about how using language like that outside of the house, like kinder, could land him in trouble.

I did then have to laugh when he used the f-word in context and I told him it was not appropriate for him to say it, he let me know that “I didn’t say it at kinder today.”


Some Four-and-a-half-year-olds can be persistently demanding, especially to secure certain objects

Our four and a half year old is very demanding when it comes to what he wears. He is quite little and like things to be tight fitting. Choosing clothes the night before for him to wear the next day was becoming an extreme battle.

First he was fussy over socks. We found socks he liked, test run them for a couple of days and then I bought enough for him to have a pair for every day of the week. Then as it became colder, he didn’t want to wear any of his jeans or long pants. We found some very cheap leggings he liked, trialled them again first and once he gave them the thumbs up, bought more pairs so we wouldn’t have issues in the evening/morning.

He only has three tops he really likes to wear. Thin long sleeve t-shirts and detests wearing a hoodie or anything warm and I don’t make him wear them. I just pack one in his kinder bag each day and he wears if it directed by the staff. I think he manages to stay warm as his speeding around all the time!

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Strategies for Four (and a half) Year Old Behavior

I have been using these strategies below with our four year old:

Four is one who loves adventures. Share them with him. Create them for him. A simple trip around your own neighbourhood, with its inevitable points of interest, takes on new lustre when seen through the enthusiastic eyes of a Four-year-old.

When we run errands, I make him as involved as possible. I talk about what we are going to do, what he can do to help and where we are going.

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I will turn simple things like lunch into something more interesting. For example the other day he took out all sorts of things from the kitchen cupboards and was playing lunches. I then let him choose real food to serve up for himself and his brother. He loved it and it kept him entertained for hours.

The best way to calm Four down when some of his wilder ways (his profanity, his boasting, his super silly way of talking) bother you is to ignore him.

A characteristic of the wilder ways of our four and a half year old is loud crying when things aren’t working or going his way. I simply tell him I can only help him when he is calm and is using a quiet voice. This doesn’t make him stop straight away, the noise can often go on for some time. But he usually comes around and comes to me in a calmer state.

An opposite technique, and one that is more fun and perhaps equally effective, is to join in and enjoy.

Blowing raspberries, saying poo poo head and the like are pretty fun pastimes for the four and a half year old. I have been know to add some of my own toilet humour to the equation, which he finds hysterical.

Remaining calm is always the best option with the four year old and I remind myself of this when the whining starts. Tapping into ways to engage him in positive behaviours so I have less of the challenging to deal with has also worked incredibly well.

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