Normal behavior is a relative term. In one hour, your 4-year old might let a snake loose in the house, get into the glue and spill milk all over the kitchen floor. Most 4-year-olds are high on energy and low on impulse control. But don't assume your little tough guy doesn't want to be nurtured. Little boys need loving, nurturing care, even if they rarely slow down enough to show it.
Social Emotional Development
Your little guy loves inviting friends over, but inevitably, once friends arrive, he cries, refuses to share or even hits another child. You're ready to pull your hair out, but this behavior's absolutely normal. Preschool boys are just beginning to learn to share, take turns and delay impulses. When things don't go their way, fists may fly. The best approach is to limit play dates to just one other friend, plan structured activities and end the play date within an hour or two. A healthy snack or two can help improve behavior. A tired, hungry little boy is a sure recipe for disaster.
Your 4-year-old is fascinated by dinosaurs and can tell you the names and characteristics of hundreds of the extinct reptiles, yet he shows no interest in writing his name or learning to read. Yup, this is normal 4-year-old boy behavior. Most little boys learn best through hands-on, engaging activities, so worksheets and sit-down assignments are sure to elicit yawns. Boys also often develop fine motor skills more quickly than girls, so writing tasks are hard for them. Use projects to develop these skills and you'll be less frustrated. For example, write a story or make a graph about dinosaurs and forget those boring worksheets.
Physical Development and Self-Help Skills
Your 4-year-old boy can jump off stairs, climb trees, run for miles and turn flips on the trampoline, yet he can't seem to button his shirt or put on his own shoes. What's going on here? First of all, boys are all about novelty and adventure. Putting on shoes is a seemingly mundane and purposeless exercise. And, these fine motor activities are hard for boys, whose large motor muscles develop more quickly than small motor muscles.
Sometimes, it's hard to know if a 4-year-old boy's behavior is normal. A parent's intuition is usually spot on, so if you have a concern, talk with your pediatrician. Some common red flags include a child who is barely intelligible, doesn't seem to understand what you're saying or uses only one- or two-word sentences. Consider having your child evaluated if he avoids making eye contact, can't follow simple directions and doesn't enjoy playing with other children. A big red flag, of course, would be a child who engages in self-destructive behavior, such as cutting himself or banging his head against the wall, or who expresses a wish to harm other children or animals.
- PBS: Understanding and Raising Boys
- Transdisciplinary Play-Based Assessment: Toni Linder
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images