My 4.5-year-old often insists on certain things that seem to suggest he has some issues with flexibility. For example:

  • He wants the green straw not the red one
  • He wants to wear a different shirt to bed
  • He wants a very specific toy
  • He wants to sit in the same spot at circle time in school

In most of these cases he gets pretty emotional and upset until he gets what he wants. Now I realize this is somewhat typical behavior for his age, but at the same time I'd like to help him adapt some more flexibility to these type of situations.

What we've been doing til now is mostly just using a method of distraction, kind of like what people do with babies when they try to calm them down - e.g. "hey look at this cool new pen I just found" but I'm not sure if this is the right approach. Also, in some cases, I will simply just give him what he wants because it's easier.

But I came here to ask for advice on what the right approach is, and how you think I should deal with these types of situations. Appreciate your inputs!

3 Answers 3


I think distraction is exactly the right approach.

I have a 4.5 year old and whenever possible, I simply let her have her choice. If her choice is going to be harmful or impossible, then I use distraction.

Prior to this age, the child had only "one channel of attention" but recently, she is able to come back to a prior idea and make connections, e.g. "Hey, we didn't go to the croissant shop yesterday like we planned!"

But still, distraction is possible to "unlock" her mindset and brighten her mood. Here's a typical example:

  • (walking to school) "Look, a rainbow coloured bus. I want to ride on that bus, right now."
  • Me: "OK. I'll take a photo so we can show Mama. (take photo of bus, look at photo together) "Now, I am going to see if I can hop like a bunny, from here to the lamp post. Who wants to hop like a bunny?" (start hopping)
  • (daughter joins in, and we are laughing and having fun)

It depends.

We also had that with all 3 kids ... This seems to me normal. In some cases, they just want to have the red/green/whatever something. Sometimes it is more about testing the parents: How much can I kick them around without getting them angry.

Our daughter currently does it a lot. And she will not stop until we get angry. Actually, getting us angry seems what she wants. She tries out how often she can change her mind or how many details she can dictate. So getting angry very fast is our solution in this situation. Then when we get angry ... she is happy! Really, I saw her smile! And then she stops demanding.

On the other hand, I agree with Dougles. If it just does not matter ... "I want the green spoon!", yes ok, she will get it.


That is exactly what my son was like, he would throw a fit if he didn't get what he wanted. While the things he demanded were minor I didn't really mind granting him but i worried that he would grow up stubbornly believing the world will give him exactly what he wanted.

If it is important: i point out all the benefits of the green instead of the red and when that doesn't work i tell him point blank that if he doesn't want the green one then he wont get any (mind you me sometimes he refuses both lol) and i really don't give him.

But as Maze & Douglas said if it is not a choice of major importance I tend to give him what he asks for (it builds their self confidence and ability to choose)..

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .