How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Charlene Hertzberg Your Own Question
Charlene Hertzberg
Charlene Hertzberg, Child care provider, parent, teache
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 44
Experience:  22 years of experience working with children, formerly worked as a parental advisor
Type Your Parenting Question Here...
Charlene Hertzberg is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I have a four year old who has the ability to dominate the ...

This answer was rated:

I have a four year old who has the ability to dominate the activities of the house hold simply because it is to hard to motivate her once she has made up her mind she will not cooperate. How do I reverse this behaviour to regain the dominant position in the house?

Hello Kazza,

What people live with her (parents, siblings, etc)?

Can you give me an example or two of her behavior?


Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Today was a good day with my 4 year old, however it is not always like that. It is school holidays at the moment so there is no reason for her to have to conform to a busy schedule. During the schooling term i am busily driving her and her sibbling who is seven to and from school (1/2 days for 4 yr old) and after school activities. My four year old has a strong determined personality and will not always respond to my firm but fair request to comply with what ever needs to be done to get on with the daily activities. Her sister on the other hand has a plasid personality and will eventually do as she is told without to much of a fuss or carry on needed. However she (7 yr old) sees that my husband and I are much firmer on her because she is older but also because it is easier to get her to comply than her sister. This probably does not seem fair to my seven year old that the four year old is constantly rewarded by her determination not to comply.

My method begins by asking nicely as we try to keep a positive cheer in the house. The four year old will say "no I dont want to", then I usually say something like "oh well then you wont get something" or "be able to go somewhere" that she likes to go. However this seems to fall on deaf ears as she goes into this silly hypo mood where you cant talk to her she refuses to be reasonable. So the next course of action is to carry her into her room (if we are lucky enough not to be in a hurry to get somewhere else like after school sport.) We are now locked into a long battle of me having to hold the door while she is violently bashing and wrecking her room in a tantrum. I tell her "the sooner you calm down then we can talk and you can come out of your room". She usually has to go through the tantrum before she will be reasonable enough for me to go in and give her cuddles and a talk about her behaviour. However by this time she is not able to relate the whole fasard to the fact that if she had only complied in the first place it would have saved her a lot of trouble.      

As we are usually busy trying to get somewhere for the other daughter, I have to tone down my requests to the four year old or bribe her with treats in order to get her to go along smoothly with the plan. I feel like I am walking on egg shells it should'nt have to be like this. I feel that I have failed her and myself by not being able to take the leading role. Where have I gone wrong and how can I turn things around. She (4 yr old) actually enjoys her extra activities after school once she gets there. I am on her side but she cannot see that.

Sorry if this was too long an explanation, are you able to help?
regards Kita

Hello Kazza,

I'm going to try and make this as easy as possible for you, because it does seem like you are doing most of the right things, but that they may need a little tweaking.

Sit both girls down and say, ok, here's the new rules. Everyone has to behave from this point on, or these will be the consequences. I will tell you do something one time, if you don't do it, i will tell you a second time, after the third time telling there will be a time out and you don't get a star for the day (or lose a star they already gained). Ask them if they understand the rules, if they have any questions and then you can even shake hands on it.

Take a simple calender, each day that's a good day they get a star and at the end of the week, they get a prize. Take a shoe box, and fill it with dollar store items.

Punishment should consist of time out. If she will not stay in her room for the time out, then fine, take a chair, put it in a corner, or a hallway and her time out is sitting in the chair. If she gets out of the chair, pick her up and put her back in the chair, even if you have to do this 100 times. Even if she is kicking and screaming, you tell her she has to stay in the chair for her time out.

If she goes for more than two days completely not listening. Consider taking items she really likes, even if it means taking a ton of stuff out of her room. Let her know if she can't listen then she cannot have extra privileges.

Be sure to take out at least 15 minutes, twice a day, to sit down and talk to her about how she's feeling and how her day is going and if there's anything she wants to talk to you about.

Praise the good. Let her know when she has behaved well. Ask her sister to praise her when she does well. Praise her sister when she behaves well, especially in front of the 4 year old, but do not direct the comments to the 4 year old (look how good your sister is behaving) instead, just speak to the sister (thank you for behaving so well, or thank you for taking the plates to the trash, I really appreciate that) and don't even look at the four year old. She will desire to have that same praise.

Whatever you do, you have to stick to your guns, be persistent and be patient. She didn't get this way overnight and she will not change overnight. I welcome your thoughts, let me know if you want to talk more.


a few other things....

I mentioned being consistant, this is mainly with threats and punishment. If you say your going to put her to bed then do it. If you say no ice cream, as much as it hurts do it. This also teaches you not to make threats that you are not willing to go through with (no christmas).

If she gets a 5 minute time out, stick to it. A child needs to know exactly what the consiquences are when she does something wrong. And also make sure she is really doning the punishment. If the punishment is to sit on the step or the chair for five minutes, but the whole 5 minutes she is yelling, standing up, kicking feet, it doesn't count. Get an egg timer. She has to sit until she actually sits for a whole 5 minutes straight. It might take bit, but eventually she will see that you're serious. Kids test you. And even if you get her to listen now doesn't mean she won't test you again later.

ALSO..... be careful how you phrase things. If you say can you pick up your toys it leads then to believe they have a choice whether they want to do it or not. Instead say, lets go clean your room, or time to go clean your room. Do not use passive phrases like will you go clean your room.


Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Thankyou Chase for responding to my question, I have come accross D.J Siegel and M.Hartzell (2003) "parenting from the inside out". and thier theory of a parents role to facilitate the childs developement and ability to "balance the brakes and the accelerators which enable the child to delay gratification and modify their impulses". I am also familiar with the 1-2-3 Magic parenting programme which is similar to your suggested methods. In hindsight these methods seem very appealing, and would probably work very well with my oldest daughter who may push the boundaries a little at times but is accomodating when it comes to these sorts of punishment/praise methods. However to try these sorts of methods with my 4 year old is like wageing a war which can go on for some time. To engage in the strategies (battle) you suggest will compromise a positive family environment. I know my method of trying desparately to keep the peace is not working longterm and is only reinforcing my four year old that she is capable of taking the driving wheel so to speak. But how do I get her to accept the punishment not just the rewards with your method when she does not seem to connect reaction to her actions she can only see here and now and that I am the enemy when trying to enforce this.

The other problem with trying your methods are with the time to carry out praise/punishmnet and make deadlines to busy school and after school activities. Should my seven year old wait for her lessons while I am giving time out to the four year old. The four year old would see this as a reward as she loves the attention being on her positive or negative. She has often violently lashed out at my seven year old and I have put her in her room for it and since she will not accept punishment I hold the door instead of being able to console my crying seven year old. Four year old wins again all the attention on her.

My strategy was to try and create a positive relationship with my four year old so that hopefully she will be a willing companion rather than an arch rival. To carry out my method I have tried to give positive attention to my four year old while the other one is at school by playing games and such but I often end up leaving her to her own. If she cannot control everything she is not happy, this becomes tyresome and I feel i need to remove myself away from her as she almost seems to want an argument.

The other thing I did not mention was that her farther works away on a nine and five day roster. He appears to be more succesfull in getting results from her by playfull dominance. But this only works 50% of the time. He aslo comes home with a positive outlook having been away and refreshed from the draining situation I face every day.

Sorry I have written a novel here. How do I implement your strategy under the conditions and constrains I have?
regards Kazza.

Hello Kazza,

My apologies for the delay. I consulted with another of our experts and I'm going to have her give her opinion if that's ok with you? She should be with you shortly.


Dear Kazza,

Chase asked me to come in and perhaps add some more to her answers. I understand your desire to keep your relationship with your daughter as positive as you can. I have a few suggestions for you, that are very positive and should help her develop the control you desire for her. What you'll be doing, as you had mentioned, is trying to make her part of the "team" so she'll want to cooperate. Here are my suggestions, you could try all or any one individually:

1. Ten minutes before it is time to get ready to leave, let your daughter know that you will be leaving in 10 minutes. This gives her warning and gives her a chance to finish up what she is doing. Give her another warning 5 minutes before it is time for her to get ready and remind her that she should finish up what she is doing.

2. When it is time to go, make it fun. You can either use a timer and encourage her to be faster getting ready than she was the prevous time, or do it as a race to see who can be ready to go the fastest.

3. Make sure the outings are fun for her too. Set some special toys aside for taking to her sister's outings, or have her pack a bag ahead of time of things she'd like to take to play with. That way she has something to look forward to when she is there.

4. When you see either of the girls doing well, make a big deal of it. If your youngest daughter is having trouble getting ready, instead of focusing your attention on her, praise your oldest daughter for being ready to go so quickly. When you do see your daughter making the effort, comment on how much you appreciate her getting ready quickly so that you can get her sister to ... on time (or whatever the task you've asked her to do is). This redirects the attention to the positive,encourages your oldest to continue doing well, and takes the "attention" reward out of not doing what has been asked.

5. Let her know about the issues, and ask her what you can do to help her be able to do what needs to be done. Be specific, and then try to do what she tells you she needs. At four, she might have trouble articulating what she needs, if she does, make suggestions, but first give her the opportunity to tell you. If it is something she can control, let her choose (ie I need you to make your bed before we leave, do you want to do it before or after breakfast).

I hope this helps. It sounds like you are off to a great start. The preschool years are not easy, and with a strong willed child they can be even harder. Hang in there, and if I can be of further assistance, please don't hesitate to ask.


Charlene Hertzberg

If this answer is helpful to you, please be sure to click the accept button.

Charlene Hertzberg, Child care provider, parent, teache
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 44
Experience: 22 years of experience working with children, formerly worked as a parental advisor
Charlene Hertzberg and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Thankyou chase and Charlene I will try to be more organised and give your methods a go. Perhaps you are right about my daughters behaviour being a preschool stage. I suppose a reasonable approach would be to incorporate your methods but remain flexiable with her responces and hope that she will develop and become more resonable with age, with a bit of luck.
regards Karen