2. My Four Year Old is Too Rigid

Mary has a stubborn four-year-old who wants things to be incredibly specific, or else he freaks out. For example, he wants the exact same breakfast every single day, with everything in the same order. Does that sound familiar? Do you want to help guide your child into becoming more flexible and accepting of change and new things? If so, this episode is for you!

It’s common for children to go through this phase. If you’re dealing with it, though, that might not be much consolation! This rigidity and inflexibility can cause a lot of stress and frustration for your family, because you never know whether a day will be great and joyful, or full of difficulty. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean parents are helpless. You can slowly introduce things that will make your child more willing to compromise or accept things that might otherwise cause a lot of agitation.

We all want to raise resilient kids, but they often go through a phase of rigidity and inflexibility. Don’t worry, this is normal! @DrPhilBoucher offers reassurance and guidance for navigating this phase. Click To Tweet

Today, I’ll give some tips and suggestions for how to deal with this phase. First, set the expectations, but remember to do it slowly. For example, aim to eliminate your child’s absolute need for an iPad with breakfast in six months. One strategy for this involves guiding your child in coming up with his own ideas for what to do if problems come up.

After these sorts of experiences, when your child handles a change or substitution well, it’s important to debrief. Don’t do this right away, though, instead waiting for a while. Later, gently and lightly remind them of how they used to throw a fit, but this time they accepted the change and had a good time anyway. Over time, you’ll see that your child gets more and more willing to accept inconvenience.

Remember that this takes time. None of this is going to happen overnight, but it will happen. It’s okay to take things slow, relax, and not constantly be pushing to make things better. As long as you’re making slow, steady progress in the right direction, you’ll end up in the right place.

In This Episode:

[01:15] – Today’s question comes from Mary, who has a question about her four-year-old child.

[01:39] – Dr. B responds to Mary’s question, and requests a specific example, which Mary provides.

[02:42] – Are there any family dynamics in play that make the situation more challenging?

[03:01] – We learn that this situation comes up frequently, with four-year-olds being rigid and inflexible.

[04:44] – Dr. B reassures listeners that rigidity at this age doesn’t indicate that a child is going to be inflexible forever.

[06:47] – Just because it’s normal for a child to be rigid doesn’t mean that we can’t make things better!

[07:08] – Dr. B points listeners to a recent blog post he wrote about worry and anxiety.

[07:29] – Dr. B’s first tip is to set the expectations, and to do it like barbecue instead of grill: low and slow!

[08:43] – We learn what Olympic athletes and parents dealing with a child’s rigidity have in common.

[09:51] – Roleplaying can be a really useful strategy for overcoming rigidity, Dr. B explains. [12:52] – Dr. B recommends debriefing with your child after exposing them to new things and options.

[14:04] – We hear about the importance of taking your time and doing things slowly when it comes to cultivating resilience in your child.

[15:17] – Dr. B offers some final words of advice and reassurance to Mary, who submitted today’s question.

[16:13] – To learn more and stay in touch, join the group Present and Productive Parents with Dr. Phil Boucher on Facebook!

Does your kid ever throw a tantrum because he couldn’t have a granola bar for breakfast? Or the right brand of juice? @DrPhilBoucher gets it, and offers advice for overcoming this rigidity. Click To Tweet

Links and Resources:

Dr. Phil Boucher on Instagram

@DrPhilBoucher on Twitter

@DrPhilBoucher on Facebook

Present and Productive Parents with Dr. Phil Boucher Group on Facebook

Dr. Phil Boucher


Blog post on worry and anxiety by Dr. B

Don’t worry, your kid (probably) isn’t going to be rigid and inflexible forever just because she or he is in that phase now. To help you encourage resilience, @DrPhilBoucher has some words of wisdom. Click To Tweet



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