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Lori Gephart
Lori Gephart, Licensed Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 259
Experience:  Licensed Psychologist and Hypnotherapist 20 years of experience helping clients of all ages.
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My four year old has become very rebellious, he whines for

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My four year old has become very rebellious, he whines for everything, complains and fusses. Now it's gone so bad that I just hit him for him to listen. He complains about everything and everyday he does this. I feel bad for hitting him so I spoil him by buying him toys. My husband can't stand his behaviour and blames me. Now my husband also started to hit him. His vocabulary is very bad. How do I stop him from speaking so bad, stop him from whining for everything and mostly stop me from hitting him.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Lori Gephart replied 5 years ago.

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I am sorry to hear about the problems you are experiencing with your son. He is most likely trying to have power over his world as he is beginning to be able to do more than ever before. You may want to pick your battles and offer him choices on the things that you are willing to let him decide. Then on the others, rather than giving in, yelling or hitting him, you can either try to distract him or matter of factly refuse to debate with him and go about your business treating this as a temper tantrum. As difficult as it may be, try not to show emotion at these times. Keep in mind that any behavior that gets attention is likely to continue happening. It has been called the law of the soggy potato chip in that if a child thinks that he has a choice between a soggy potato chip or no chip at all, he will choose the soggy chip. If your son feels that he has the choice between negative attention or no attention at all, he will choose the negative attention and so he will act out until he gets it. The only way for this pattern to stop is to begin to catch the good behaviors and reward them with attention, and to calmly and matter of factly give consequences for the negative behaviors with as little attention as possible. Hitting, yelling and bribing will only increase his bad behavior. A very good book on this subject is Win the Whining War & Other Skirmishes: A Family Peace Plan by Cynthia Whitham MSW. The more consistent you become with this positive parenting, the more secure your son will begin to feel and the more his behavior should improve. One of the things that you can do to avoid hitting is to take deep breaths, walk away if you need to and remember that you are modeling the behavior that you want to see in him. I hope this answer is helpful. Please let me know if I can clarify further.

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
But he gets my attention. He is very intelligent. When I say to him "good job" for something he has done, he gets defensive and starts to scream saying "I don't like you".
Expert:  Lori Gephart replied 5 years ago.
I'm certainly not saying that you don't give attention for the good behaviors. The problem is that he has learned how to get the negative attention and has gotten into this cycle of seeking the negative attention instead. When he screams at you, calmly walk away, taking the attention away from him for this behavior. If you can be consistent with this you will begin to see improvement once he sees that you are not going to continue to play the game of rewarding the negative attention. Please let me know if I can help further.

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