My 4-year-old shows impressive stubborness and singlemindedness. While it is sometimes clear, often I find it hard to tell if I'm looking at: "I'm four years old and surprises make me insecure" or "I'm the resident dictator, all shall bow to my will". My gut feeling tells me these are different things and should be dealt with differently.
Two examples: we go to the zoo and I see the parking lot nearest the enterence is almost full so I drive to the next parking lot with many empty spaces. Son starts crying he wants me to park at the parking lot "where we always park". I hate parking so I go to the empty one.
He cries and screams, I have to drag him out of the car (first I run around the car trying to catch him, while he is inside the car and tries to evade me). He continues to cry in the parking lot on his bicycle on the way to the zoo, so I finally cave in. I put him and his bike back in the car and drive to the parking lot with few empty spaces. All is well. I ask him why it's such a big deal and he cannot really tell me why but he says it's a big deal.
Now the other one: I put jam on a slice of bread for breakfast, I'm almost done as he declares he wants me to put peanut butter on the other half. I tell him I have finished this slice of bread I will put peanut butter on another slice. He starts moaning and crying: he wants me to throw it away and do one half-half. It ends with time outs on the stairs, lots of crying and him throwing stuff and finally he eats his breakfast and we're late for school.
Sometimes it starts out when he asks for something I will happily accommodate, then slowly increases his demands until he either wants something he cannot have or he has annoyed me so much I decide I will not give in to everything he asks. But when he only gets 80% of what he has asked for he will think of something new. Rinse repeat.
Should I not seek confrontation when he displays quasi-autistic behaviour (like in the parking lot)? How should I deal with unreasonable demands and are they the result of too much freedom to choose in general? I have always believed that he can do what he likes as long as he is not doing anything dangerous or terribly inconvenient. If he wakes up and says he wants to go to the swimming pool, and we are free to go, then we'll go.