Problems with my 4 year old?

Hi everyone.

i have a 4 year old, turns 5 in March. he has just started school, Already his teacher has told me he has trouble listening. We we're told by his pre-school teacher last year that he may have ADHD. I got fairly upset by that and took him to my doctor who said he's just being a kid.

He is very hyper, all the time. Whenever I try and take him anywhere, it's like a switch goes on in his head and he just plays up constantly. No matter what I say or do, he just keeps on going. I've tried the whole leave when he plays up, time out, taking away favourite toys, but that only works for a day, then it's back to the same old thing.

We can't get him to sleep earlier than 10 or 11 at night, no matter what we try he just stays awake!

Im thinking of looking into his diet, cutting out all sugars and things, but not sure where to start.

If anyone has any ideas or advice for me it would be great.

I just don't want him to start having problems in school so young.

12 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I think you have first figure out if he has ADHD or not. He either has it, and the doctor didn't diagnose it last year (maybe because the doctor had limited exposure to him, unlike the preschool teacher; or maybe because you were upset and didn't want that diagnosis you presented the facts in a little bit of a slanted way); or else he doesn't have ADHD, and there's something in the way ou are talking to him that he isn't taking seriously.

    Little kids (particularly boys a good part of the time) are really active, and if their mother didn't start when they were really young, telling them things like, "Don't run around while I'm in the bank. You can run around later, but the bank people don't want children running around," children just kind of get used to running around everywhere they go. Then the parent starts kind of uselessly calling the child's name, and the child ignores the parent, and the parent does one thing or another (its sometimes different each time), but before you know it the child is running around "crazy" again, the mother is kind of half-heartedly and fruitlessly calling the child's name, and on and on. The child has learned that he doesn't have to take his ever-talking or scolding mother too seriously. Is there any chance this is how it is for you? Are you super-syrupy-nice to him all the time because he's little? (They don't see that as authoritative enough.) Are you instead always just kind of yelling and nagging but allowing him to ignore your words? (They tune that out after a while.) Do you generally act like a leader and present the rules (nicely but not syrupy-sweet and baby-tone) as if there is simply no option but to go with them? (That's what children respond to.)

    When children (who don't have ADHD) have a mother who just kind of firmly explains to him, "We're going to the Post Office. While we're in there you need to stay right next to me, and when we get to the mall I'lll buy you a little treat," they usually just accept the rules that have presented as if there is no option but to follow them.

    If you tell a child there are places he can run (out in the yard, at the park, maybe in the family room, etc.) and places he needs to sit or stand next to you until you complete your business somewhere, it makes his brain start to process the idea that he must control his own behavior.

    Children do well with some basic rules. When my kids were little I pretty much let them do whatever they wanted as far as playing or leaving the table went. I had the few, basic, rules, though, that they were just expected to follow: No running around crazy in the house except for in the family room, no throwing balls in the house, no hitting anyone. They knew that they could run around as crazy as they wanted outside or run around "slightly crazy " in the family room. They also knew if I were bringing them to a "business place" the visit wouldn't be long, but while they were there they were to stand right near me and not be running around or being loud. They knew if we visited someone who had children they could play but follow the rules of that house. When we were in stores they needed to stay with me. (I'd explain, "I don't want to lose you" and "The store people don't want their things knocked over.")

    My point is if a child knows he isn't being told he can't run around like a wild man and that he's just being told he needs to be a wild man in the right setting he has both freedom and structure; and structure is something children who are very active need - just some guidelines that are all "written in granite" so the child doesn't have to figure out what the rules are or aren't by himself.

    When children do have ADHD one thing teachers do is provide a certain amount of structure. Too much structure isn't good, but just those basic and unbendable and fair rules help children get used to the idea of self-control but also helps them to be children people don't hate to see coming. As a result, it helps their self-esteem because people respond well to them and welcome them more than they do with a child who doesn't behave.

    If you just tell him, too, that he has to hold your hand when you do something like walk through the mall or cross the parking lot, or if you ask him to choose between standing on the front of the shopping cart (while you hold it at all times) or sitting in it he gets to choose but one of the options isn't running through the store.

    When you go out with him, do you enjoy being with him and treat every trip out as a pleasant thing? It sounds strange, but a child that little can enjoy a morning afternoon out with his mother, doing errands, if it feels to him as if its special time together. Just because you're going to the bank it doesn't mean you can't make it nice time together. The other part of telling a child something like that he can't run around the bank is to talk in simple terms about what the bank is or why you're going there. ("We're going to go get lunch, but first I have to go to the bank for just a minute so I can get money." or "Hey - would you hold onto this card we need to mail for Freddie's birthday? We need to go to the Post Office. Do you think you can remember to tell me I need to get stamps too?")

    If you treat every place you bring him as a little field trip, and treat your time together as if the two of you are not only a team but a great team together it can make children feel more special and be more inclined to want to behave because they enjoy being treated as your little buddy.

    If you behave as if you're the leader of the team, he will look up to you and want to follow the plan (provided, of course, he doesn't actually have ADHD). If you take the approach that "I'm not always after you or on your back but for the little while we are in the car insurance office you do need to sit quietly" he may start to see that as fair, but also it won't be as if he's being expected to be a little, oppressed, silent, boy all the time but instead his usual self (except for those brief visits to certain places).

    Usually, this type of approach works well. Don't expect him not to act like a Buckingham Palace guard but also don't give him the chance to start running around or climbing over desks. Hold his hand (not like you're confining him - like you like him so much you enjoy holding hands with him).

    When it comes to sugar, I always doubted it when people said sugar made their children hyperactive because I know, myself, that there have been times I've been a little hungry and not been able to sleep, so I'd take a cookie and find I could then sleep. Several months ago the program 20/20 had a show on about myths; and John Stossel talked to doctors or scientists or whoever, and it was said that sugar doesn't make people hyperactive. The thing on the show was how even with experts explaining that the was a myth all kinds of people still believed sugar made them nutty. They noted that some people think kids at birthday parties are nutty because of all the sugar, but it was said that it is because a bunch of kids are together that they get so loud and sometimes crazy acting.

    Also, although it isn't good for anyone (particularly adults) to have too much fat, children need a certain amount of it for their brains. My son, who used to be a little tense in school, would come home and have a big glass of whole milk and feel calmer when he was ten/eleven or so. He was a slender kid, so it didn't pack pounds on him. So, if you're thinking about adjusting your son's diet you may want to check with the doctor about his/her opinion of whether whole milk is what your son should have.

    Another thought: Make sure time of day (as well as place) has a few basic rules. Active play is for all day, but after dinner tell him that its time to do something like play L'egos, look at books, or just play something that isn't running around and jumping. That helps an active child start to calm down before bed. You know, yourself, that exercise makes people feel invigorated. (By the way, a lot of seemingly hyperactive children will suddenly sit for long periods of time when they have a big pile of L'egos to play with. Maybe that's one way to figure out whether he's really got ADHD or not - how long will he sit and play L'egos.)

    If he has things like building sets or play sets or even things like playing trucks or PlayMobile people after dinner, from there you could give him his bath (also calming) and let him watch television or a non-action video until bed (at 8:30 or so - 9:00 for now if he absolutely must).

    After dinner, too, if you kind of make sure your house doesn't have all kinds of loud talking and bright lights and loud televisions etc. it can help. You don't have to have it be like a museum, but keeping things a little quieter than you may have them at 3 in the afternoon can help make a child wind down better.

    Well, I don't know if any of the thoughts I've offered are things you already do or not, or whether anything I've said is at all useful or informative, but I know how much mothers want their children to enjoy school and thrive in school. I just thought I'd offer you as much as I have just in case even a small part of it will help in some small way. (I have a "thing" about children and school.)

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  • 1 decade ago

    I think most 4 year olds have trouble listening, and I'd be wary of a teacher labeling a child ADHD so young. Sometimes it's actually the teacher who is having the trouble because they don't have enough discipline and coping mechanisms in their own toolbox for every type of personality. My 4 year old ran rings around her first teacher, who labelled her troublesome, willful, undisciplined, the whole nine yards. We moved her to a teacher who had a different approach, and she's one of the brightest in the class, loves her teacher, loves learning and is well behaved during class play times.

    I think you're right to look at diet though. The main things I've tried to cut out are refined sugars and carbs, sodas (even non-caffinated) and anything with a large amount of artificial dyes, including those almost-glow-in-the-dark yoghurts! Try replacing them with fruit, water and 100% fruit juices, and whole grain breads and pastas. But, especially if your doctor is OK, then try not to worry too much, there are a lot of hyper kids out there, just being kids.

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  • Minx
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    OMG, I have a little boy who just turned 5 and he's exactly the same as you just described!!! Wow!! I've had heaps of success with doing just exactly what you said, cutting out sugars, white bread, icecream, junk food. Problem is that there are soooooooo many chemicals in those types of foods and their bodies are so tiny that the reactions they have to the chemicals are far exaggerated on what adults would have. Start out by cutting out fruit juices, cordials, soft drinks, flavored milks etc. Just offer milk, freshly squeezed juice or water. Believe me, he'll kick up but it'll only last maybe a couple of days, if that, and the behavioural changes are huuuuuge. Be tough girl, these littlies can only drink and eat what we give them so just lead by example. So, that means you can's buy the lolly drinks at all!! Sounds tough but boy it works. Also, put him onto a multivitamin and a Vitamin C tablet each so you're sure he's not missing out. Make sure you're including fish, tuna, salmon in his diet too. That's the best way for them get all their essential fatty acids that, without them, cause so much moody and antisocial behaviour.

    When you have your first success with the drinks you'll be excited and then you can start investigating all the food options. Basically with my children's food, the only snacks they have are fruit, chopped vegies like carrotts and celery, cheese and dry biccys, wholegrain sandwiches, yoghurt.......

    Base their meals around the good old meat and 3 vegies, actually makes life a whole lot easier!! Increase his milk intake cos with all the growth spurts they go through their calcium needs are increasing all the time. Give him a glass of milk 2 - 3 times per day. Milk will also help tame his little tantys. Works for me. If he doesn't like the taste of full cream milk don't force him to drink it cos he may be lactose intolerant. Just use an alternative like soya milk or rice milk or goats milk.

    Wow, I could babble on for ages, hope I've not bored you and actually helped a bit. Best of Luck.


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  • 1 decade ago

    First, get a second opinion from the doctors...

    Second, Talk to his teacher about his maturity level compared to his contemporaries, he may be better served by staying back another year.

    Third, try cutting the sugar. Beware of hidden ones such as those in fruits.

    Fourth, Let him stay awake, as long as he is in his bed and quietly looking at books or playing.

    Fifth, Try working out a reward system with the teacher. She reports everyday and after so many good reports he gets a treat.

    Lastly, Don't get frustrated...eventually he will outgrow the behavior

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  • 1 decade ago

    I understand, I have a 5yr old girl who was the same way she was so hyper and stayed up until 6am everyday barley slept any and was at it again a couple hours later. I had her checked by several doctors and they agreed that it wasn't adhd. she was having problems in school at preschool and now in kindergarten she wouldn't listen there as well but her teachers worked with her and had her participate in more activities to keep her busy and focused like taking the attendance,serving snack,watering plants, I had her rechecked and her teacher assured me it was normal she is just active. from personal experience i say rest while you can because shes about to turn 6 and she only calmed down some. I learned to deal with it. Try giving him small chores, taking him out more to the library or to the park some where that he can do child like things and tire himself out, trust me that works. REST UP AND GOOD LUCK.

    Source(s): been there ,done that
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  • 1 decade ago

    I think it's a good idea to look at his diet. I bet he eats foods that are highly processed and contain dyes. Often times people think that sugar is the culprit but it's not, it's the dyes in the foods children eat that cause them to be hyper and act out. Give him a well balanced diet of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains and proteins. Cut out all processed foods (for example: chef boy ar-dee, frozen dinners such as pizza ect, and lunch meats high in nitrates) These foods are proven to cause hyper activity, inability to focus, short attention spans and non-conforming behaviours in children. After just 2 weeks of a well balanced "fresh" diet I bet you will see a big difference in his behaviour if it is indeed his diet that is causing his problems.

    I think that teachers are too quick to jump on the ADD and ADHD bandwagon and that by labeling these kids as such they overlook the real problems causing these behaviors.

    Good luck!

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  • 1 decade ago

    Kids have problems in school because schools are poorly designed and have nothing to do with the needs and capabilities of children. The problem is really with the school, not your son. It's against all medical indicators to diagnose ADD in a child so young. It shows the real inexperience and mean-spiritedness of the preschool.

    No 4 year old boy should be in school at all. Kids learn with mommy, in the context of the relationship with mommy, hanging out and playing. That's how kids learn best.

    So, take him out of school. Stay home with him, read to him lots, go on adventures, hold stuffed animals and act out scenes with him, write down the stories he tells you.

    Our youngest also stays up later than we're used to. I often fell asleep reading to him.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Be warned of any ADHD diagnosis. It's so simple for doctors to write it off as that and prescribe a pill, collect their money and move on. I don't buy it. It's over diagnosed and i'm glad your doctor said otherwise.

    You're smart to look in diet, and also, maybe he is simply ready for a regular, routine activity llike soccer or something.

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  • 1 decade ago

    the first thing you need to do is not panic or get too overwhelmed. i think that the first thing that i would do is change his diet. cut out sugar and artificial colors and no soda. i have a 3 year old and if she has too much sugar or artificial colors she is bouncing off the wall but if i watch what she eats she is much calmer. good luck and if you need to vent let me know.

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  • 1 decade ago

    There are childcare providers who want to put a label on a child because he is active. It sounds to me like you have an Aries child on your hands. Which means they can't sit still for long periods of time. There is always something new to be explored. Pick up Linda Goodman's astrology book. The one that will tell you what to expect for your child.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    WOW...Your kid is four and my two year old acts like yur kid!

    Is this what Im in for???

    I have cut out sugars too, but it hasnt done anything at all.

    Maybe you could get him into sports to excert all his energy up...or make him do the laundry!

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