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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1168
Experience:  Licensed as psychologist and marriage and family therapist
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Hi there, I have a 4.5 yr old son, and he has recently entered

Customer Question

Hi there, I have a 4.5 yr old son, and he has recently entered a stage that my husband and I do not know where to begin handling. The most recent thing is his behavior at his t-ball games. He was very excited about it in the beginning, LOVED his coaches and put in a effort. Now he's the kid that annoys the coaches, misbehaves, stands in the outfield chewing his glove, drags his feet when he runs, acts silly when he's up to bat and makes a strange voice when he talks to the coaches. It's really embarrassing; and I can tell it irritates the coaches! I want to discipline him somehow, but then I know he's only 4.5 and I don't want to make playing sports a bad thing. I also don't want to pull him out because then it is teaching him that quitting is the answer. AND I would love for him to experience the benefits of being part of a team (both my husband and I grew up playing team sports).

He acts like this at home too. Just generally frustrating. Silly voices, aggravating others, not listening to adults and the like.

I worry that there's more going on that just a phase. He used to excel at everything and now I'm wondering if he's starting to fall behind the rest of the kids his age (he goes to preschool). I know he's worried about Kindergarten, and I am starting to worry too, I hope that this behavior can be nipped before he starts!

Any advice is MUCH appreciated!

Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. L replied 4 years ago.

Dr. L : Hello,
Dr. L : I would like to help you with your parenting question.
Dr. L : I can understand how frustrating and worrisome your son's behavior is to you and your husband. It is baffling to see a child that excels all of a sudden hit a slump in motivation and begin to act unusually.
Dr. L : The reality is that he is 4 1/2...and at 4 1/2 his ability to stay focused and on task is not going to be consistent. There will be periods where he is attentive and engaged and other periods where he is off in the clouds. That's part and parcel of childhood development.
Dr. L : You have done the right thing by playing ball with him at home as a way to keep up his interest. You might also encourage an interest in sports by taking him to a ballgame or two of older children...or better yet a professional team. Perhaps getting him a special ball, bat or glove might also be a motivator.
Dr. L : Truly it is normal and natural for kids to cycle through different levels of attention and motivation. You are right on the money by saying that you do not want to spoil his interest in sports by being punitive....what he needs right now is your patience...and your praise for when he stays on task in the outfield, up at bat, or even sitting on the bench.
Dr. L : Partly what you need to keep in mind is that every parent will experience multiple moments of embarrassment when their child acts up, doesn't follow instructions, ignores the requests of elders and so forth. This is our issue and we need to get past the embarrassment and accept that the child is just that...a child. I know this is not easy...but no child will have perfect behavior in every occasion.
Dr. L : You brought up the issue of his fear of kindergarten. Do you know why he is fearful? Has he visited the kindergarten classrooms to see how they look, what goes on there, etc? Many schools offer opportunities for pre-kindergartens to spend part of a day in the classroom to help them acclimate to the new environment. Perhaps you could see if this is possible for him.
Dr. L : You also wrote that you worry if he is falling behind. First, there is great difference in the development of kids...usually girls develop faster, those with older siblings also seem to have some advantages. However, by the time children hit 7 or 8 years old those differences disappear and the kids are on a more level playing field. Second, you could ask his pre-school teacher how he is doing overall.
Dr. L : It seems to me that your son has hit a phase where he is less attentive and more independent. While this may be challenging, it is normal.
Dr. L : I am going to suggest a very good parenting book that will be helpful in looking at his development and how to manage the changes you are witnessing:
Dr. L : Parenting With Love and Logic by Dr. Cline and Mr. Fay
Dr. L : Also see their website:
Dr. L : I see you are offline. When you come online I will be notified.
Dr. L : Thank you.