Thursday, July 26th, 2012
Recently, my neighbor told me her 4-year-old was making her crazy. I was all like, “That’s her job!” After I advised her to buy ear plugs and a fifth of vodka, I thought of something else I could tell her.
An old book, part of a series, helped me tremendously through that age of outbursts, potty language, independence, defiance, earnestness and cuteness. I’ve had three 4-year-olds, and I found that sometimes old-school advice is the best. That’s where the book Your Four-Year-Old comes in. First published in 1976 (when I was 2), it has a groovy, John-Denverish tone. The deceased author, Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D., must’ve been a relationship miracle worker. After reading her advice–which is basically all about empathy and kindness–I understood my wooly preschoolers and treated them better.
Here is some of my favorite advice:
1. Four loves many things, but his emotions tend to be definitely extreme. He loves a lot and he hates a lot…One can never be quite certain what it will be that will stimulate his hate, but whatever it is, his feeling should be fully respected, at least within reason.
2. Don’t feel that you should be teaching your four-year-old to read. [This is a big competition thing in my town.] Be sure that any interest in reading or numbers that may be shown is his and not merely your own.
3. The best way to calm Four down when some of his wilder ways (his profanity, his boasting, his supersilly way of talking) bother you is to ignore him…An opposite technique, perhaps equally effective, is to join in and enjoy.
Full of insight, this book fully explains why this age group behaves the way they do. The advice is so retro that it seems new all over again. My neighbor agreed when she returned the copy I lent her. She said, “Thank you. The ’70s were so much more relaxed. This was very helpful.”
Reading Your Four-Year-Old makes me want to sing the song, Sunshine on My Shoulders. And it made me–and my kids–much happier.