Obviously four years old is too young to diagnose ADD; however, my daughter has always exibited ADD symptoms and it would not be surprising if one of our children has ADD as it runs in the family.

We are finding that she is fine in Pre-Kindergarden (according to the teachers; although keep in mind that activities in school at that age only last for about 15 minutes), but once she gets home in the afternoon (4:00) she goes crazy. She can't hold her attention and she loses her cool. Crying, tantrums, frustration. Too tired and going crazy. It seems that she is holding it together at school but is unable to once she gets home. She is much better on the weekends.

How do I deal with the afternoon behavior understanding that it is caused by her working to hold it together at school?

  • Talk to a physician who can get you hooked up with a psychologist. 4 is very likely too young for a full diagnosis, but if there's a family history (as you state) there's a good likelihood of her having it and a trained psychologist will be able to start steering you in the right direction in terms of behavior coping strategies. As for us, it's usually to allow our oldest 'chill out time' as they see fit...typically a bit of TV or video games on the days they don't have heavy physical activity after school (sports).
    – DA01
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 22:01
  • 4
    can you be more specific? I am having a hard time understanding what "in the afternoon she goes crazy" means in practice. Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 2:07
  • 1
    I'm not sure I understand the connection between "over tired" and "she goes crazy". I think further clarification would help.
    – user420
    Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 13:27
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    Have you tried an after school nap?
    – Chad
    Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 22:01
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    A nap can help with getting a better sleep at night! At that age ours did have a brief after school nap, then a bit of play before dinner, then bath and bed.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 9:44

4 Answers 4


My wife's and my general experience is that as a child tires there will be a notable decrease in attention span and attentiveness to authority. This is perfectly normal and should be expected in young children. One way that we help address this is allowing the child playtime — give your daughter a chance to run out the energy she held back while at school.

I am not a psychologist (though I do have ADD) but I will say that this does not sound like the symptoms of ADD. ADD is something which is consistent throughout the day, which means that her teachers would have noticed something too.

Of course, this is not to say that she definitively does not have ADD, merely that this is not something commonly considered a symptom. Only a trained medical professional can truly evaluate whether your child has the disease. If you are still concerned about this as a possibility, you may be able to go in and have her tested. (At this point, I will note that my ADD was diagnosed only after the second set of tests, so they were not the most conclusive twenty years ago. I have no idea what their state is right now).

  • 1
    Of course we give her a chance to play after school, with me, with her siblings and by herself. I am talking about increased tantrums, crying, and short fuse. In terms of ADD, I am not asking for a diagnosis right now and it would be a waste of time to get her tested as it may just be age appropriate behavior, although I don't think so. I would not medicate her this early anyway. We are trying to teach her skills but it can be very frustrating for her and us, so I was hoping for some suggestions. Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 13:47

What's your post-school routine? Children that age love predictable, tidy, daily plans that they can count on. Also, what time of day are we talking about? I'm assuming that it's a half-day being a 4yo.

I would suggest that you really tie down the first 2 hours after school into steady blocks, (:15 is great) regardless of what the activities are. Sure people will say "No TV it rots bla bla!" when the reality is that at this point, if you're not already doing it, a hard-set routine would be more beneficial than any particular activity. However I would say, since you're at home, keep it light and fluffy topics... things like helping with lunch/snack (with cleanup can be 2 segments), a walk outside (weather permitting) or tv/computer (with specific media every time, like 1 ep of Blues Clues for example), reading together followed by reading alone, color/drawing, etc... stuff like that. If you work it right, one of your segments may very well turn into cat-nap time.

I'm no psychologist, but it would stand to reason that you'd be able to see if they're having early attention issues.

Now here's the caveat . . . the adult problem with a routine for the child is that it's a routine for the adult as well. 100%. You cannot expect success if you're not there with them. That means if you're a work-at-home parent, this is a 2 hour block that you'll have to convince yourself is worth more than the 2 hours of work, and that is difficult. You can't 'sneak away for a couple minutes' to check msgs... you not only lose control, but are tempted to take :20 instead of :02.

  • Unfortunately the school day is from 8:30-3:30. Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 12:56
  • actually, that's a good thing, it means less time to have to fill. if it was a half day, you'd really need to deal with lunch to dinner. but at that time of day, you can really focus on light and interactive things... snack and cleanup, a walk, a little reading, etc . . . 3:30 to 6ish is a much more manageable block than 12:20 to 6ish. If there's a significant other that comes home after work, that's a good time to 'end' the child-centric routine.
    – monsto
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 15:53
  • @morahhochman, I'd say that for a 4 year-old, your problem is right there staring you in the eyes...
    – Benjol
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 6:53

On the drive home, be a listener. Ask about her day. If you get one-two word answers, let it be and let the ride home just be quiet. She is decompressing.

Once you get home, instill "quiet time" as part of the routine. This is time to do anything she wants that is silent. It'll help her brain turn off the "noise" from the day. I know you have other kids too, so it would probably be helpful to have this quiet time for all. Read books, meditate, sit individually and listen to calm music in headphones - whatever (15-20 minutes at least - longer if you can and it helps her).

Follow this with 15-20 minutes or so of active play. This will get the energy up, perk up moods and get the "wiggles" out. Run around the yard, do some kid's yoga if its cold outside (many kid's yoga poses are moving imitations of animals or rolling up in the mat to make a burrito etc - We use "Yoga Kid's" by Kristen Hall, but here are a bunch of options), play tag, have a tickle fight, try to laugh together.

If she needs the physical activity first, switch the two components order is only important once you establish which order works best for her - but many kids need both some "decompression" time (something we often forget about as adults) and the physical activity to settle back in.

Then go about things as you usually do.


She may need to get more sleep or more quiet time. It's hard to keep it together when you're sleep deprived. There is some evidence to suggest that 4 year olds need to sleep for 10 to 12 hours out of every 24.

The 10 out of 24 hours can be divided up, with naps being great ways to give you and her the time you need to recharge, as some of the other answers suggest. Even if she doesn't sleep, having the downtime in the day can help. You can ask her teacher about naptime at school.


You may also want to check out: Sleep in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a review of naturalistic and stimulant intervention studies. by Cohen-Zion et al in Sleep Medicine Reviews, 2004, 8(5):379-402.

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