I was having trouble connecting with my four year old. He’s my youngest of three, and doesn’t get me as much as he deserves. I had the luxury to sit down and do many lessons with his older siblings but not as much him with him. He is also a much more physical creature than my other two. He needs physical stimulation and lots of it. This can exhaust me, to be honest. But I admit I’ll miss our near constant closeness when he was aged 0-4 someday.
I decided that was it. It was time for Henry time. Every day, for an hour, was Mommy and Henry time. “Mommy and Henry time!” “Mommy and Henry time!” That’s how I approached him every day. He was at first confused, but quickly caught on that this meant an hour of fun.
I was going to do lessons, etc., but I decided to just go to our local playground. Someone updated it from the lame one that comes from the home builder as they sell their model homes. Truly, it takes committed neighbors to make a nice play area for children.
At 4, children really do need to out. In their threes, they are hard at work on core personality integration. They develop a sense, in the early 3, of how to get around and at new places. In the later threes, they are hard at work developing a mental image of who they are. With these skills automated and under their belt, it’s time to go “out.” It’s time for adventures in the world.
My youngest is a bit quiet. He’s not “shy,” not that this is an issue. He is actually quite the thrillseeker. I think his older siblings intimidate him more than we know. But on the walk to the playground, he was a total jabber jaw. “That truck has an extra window!”–about an SUV. When we got to the playground, he told elaborate stories about steering a ship and avoiding icebergs.
I thought I would plan something different each day, but the playground was such a hit, we kept doing it. And he kept telling his stories. And eventually his older siblings, who had previously intimidated him, came with us. They ALL told an elaborate story about the ship. My oldest son looked for enemy ships. My daughter powered the ship with her swinging:
After this week or a bit more of playground days, we had a different boy on our hands. Granted, the early 4s are about taking on such daring adventures. I called the first Four Year Old Milestone, “What If?” and “Watch This!” But here are some things he started doing: sometimes he would see his older siblings were having lessons and basically come and ask to be part of it. Before, he was intimated. Now, he knew he was safely part of the group. He warmed up to his father a bit more. Before, everything was Mommy. But now he would pat beside him, asking his father to sit there, as they watched his favorite movie (Wall-E), and he told his Dad all about it.
People often ask me how to handle their child. In truth, I’m not there and can’t give good advice. My general recommendation is an hour of exclusive time with the child or a “yes” day. I’m aware this isn’t the end-all, be-all answer to all issues. It’s my hope that by spending time with a child like this, some kind of magic happens. Maybe you see where they are having issues. Maybe you get to know more what they are thinking as you talk with them. Or maybe just your physical presence will invite them to you, more often.
But, either way. It is possible that a park day or seven may help connect with your child.
See my latest book Misbehavior is Growth: An Observant Parent’s Guide to Three Year Olds