How To Win A Test Of Wills With A 4 Year Old

It started as a normal Saturday. The usual weekend errands and activities. Then, it was as if all the forces aligned to form the Perfect Storm, or in this case, the Perfect Four Year Old Meltdown.

Around 5:30pm, Thing 1 got into a scuffle over a toy with his brother, Thing 2. Again, nothing new here. Except this time, after I took the toy away, Thing 1 expressed his anger by peeing in front of me, soaking his pants and creating a puddle on the floor. There were previous incidents where he had “intentional accidents” to get our attention. But he had never been so bold as to look at me while he was doing it! The test of wills had begun.

He was immediately sent to his room to change his clothes and stay there until I finished feeding Thing 3. It was pretty quiet for the next 20 minutes so I was prepared to go up to his room for “the talk”. Getting angry = OK. Peeing on the floor because you are angry = not OK. But when I went into his room, he had pulled all the sheets off his bed, and the mattress was wet. The conversation went like this:

SuburbanDaddy: “What happened to your bed?”
Thing 1: “I took the sheets off because it was wet.”
SuburbanDaddy: “How did it get wet?”
Thing 1: “Somebody poured water on it.”
SuburbanDaddy: “No. You peed on it.”
Thing 1: “No I didn’t. It wasn’t me.”

At not quite 4 years old, this was a nice display of imagination and storytelling, except it was a blatant lie. And, he had just intentionally peed on his own bed. It’s hard to see the silver lining in that one.

Instead of “the talk”, I told him he was to stay in his room until the morning. No dinner. No story time. No television. Thing 1 was NOT happy with this turn of events. He tried to get out of his room, but each time he opened the door, I was standing there to put him back in. This went on for some time. Once he saw this strategy was not working, he stopped opening the door. SuburbanDaddy had won! At last I could eat dinner. Or so I thought…

We heard some loud noises upstairs. Thing 1 had dumped all the books and clothes out of his dresser and closet, and spread them all over his room. SuburbanDaddy was NOT happy with this turn of events. I took the clothes and books and removed them from his room. To prevent him from leaving his room I held the doorknob shut. The kicking and screaming intensified, then calmed down again. Some more strange noises. I opened the door and found he had pulled the mattress and box spring across the room. So, I removed the entire bed from his room. Each time he threw something, I would calmly remove it from the room. Garbage can, night lights, toys, pull ups, you name it.

After two hours of this I realized my son is very, very stubborn. I also realized where he gets it from. After all, SuburbanDaddy was perfectly happy to keep doing this all night, and remove every last item from his bedroom, if necessary, until there was nothing but four walls left.

So how did it end? Who won the test of wills? I’m not sure anyone did, but I’m sure it would still be going on if SuburbanMommy hadn’t intervened. Playing good cop to my bad cop, she was able to get him to calm down and agree to go to sleep. It looked like the night was finally over, but then Thing 1 got really sad.

SuburbanMommy: What’s wrong? Don’t you want to go to sleep?
Thing 1 [on the verge of tears]: I do want to. But I don’t have a bed anymore!

9 thoughts on “How To Win A Test Of Wills With A 4 Year Old”

  1. Damn, I think this post should have had a question mark at the end of the title because you aren’t helping me here! ;) Rather, you are just spooking me for what I have ahead of me with two little boys.

    Good luck to you, guy. The peeing thing is a challenge for sure. Especially when it makes beds disappear.

    Stumbled into your post through BlogRush and I’m looking forward to looking around. I see your vacation post title below and I’m there. I just wrote about our first family vacation and my illusions being shattered as to what “vacation” must now mean. Happy to have found you!

  2. It’s great to know we are not alone! Look on the bright side — maybe your son will use his strong-will to run a successful business one day (and take care of his parents).

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  4. Dude….You are quite the lifesaver for my husband and I! We were convinced we were alone in the Strong-Willed Boy, Pee-Pee Wars department. Our (almost) 4 year old has taken to waking us from a dead sleep to tell us that his bed is “all wet”. It is such a deliberate act that I was certain it had to just be an issue with our kid. Thanks to your blog, my hubby and I removed the bed with no explanation to the Boy Child! I mad him take all of his bedding to the washer and, by the time he returned from the laundry room, his bed was MIA! Oh….the look on his face was PRICELESS!
    Needless to say, 24 hours later, his bed was back, bedding was washed and returned and all was Right With the Toddler World once more!

  5. My not quite 4 year old strong willed son decided to pee in the middle of the floor tonight in retaliation to being sent to his room to calm down. He said “mommy I have something to show you” and just went. I thought I was alone in the world and that there must be something terribly wrong with my little boy. So glad to read there are others out there.

  6. I’d like to leave a piece of advice my mom followed with me when I was growing up that has stuck with me while raising my two young daughters. Never punish children with food! Sending a child to bed without dinner, is not the way to handle bad behavior, nor is locking, for all intents and purposes, a child in their room. I find that telling a child to go to their room to calm down and not coming out until they’ve finished their fit, usually works. Once they’re calm- they need a short discussion to explain what has just occurred.

  7. This happens atleast twice each day with my 2 yr old. soon as he doesn’t get his way or get attention the moment he wants it he pees or poops. nothing seems to work in stopping it so far. will be trying putting him in nappies next time which he will hate because theyre for babies.

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