As a child enters the age of 4, you will see a lot of apparent changes in their behavior. Although some might be quite happening for you, some may test every inch of your nerve. Ignoring is one such behavior that frustrates the parents to the core.
As a 4-year-old starts preschool, he becomes more independent and wants to hear things that excite them. So they sometimes try to ignore you because they do not like what they hear. Also, by this age, the child starts to develop his own priorities and ignores what he finds has no value.
So keep calm and avoid getting annoyed when your 4-year-old ignores you most of the day. The important thing is to know why he is ignoring you and how to work on such behavior.
Why does my 4-year-old ignore me?
Here are a few reasons why your 4-year-old might be ignoring you:
1- He is doing it because of his temperament/Nature.
Some kids naturally are obedient and listen to their parents from an early age. But some kids do not listen in one go as they keep themselves busy exploring things around them. These kinds of kids have other priorities instead of paying attention to what their elders expect from them.
2- He is more independent and dislikes being dictated to.
When a 4-year-old child entered this phase of his life, he started to do many tasks independently.
For the first time in his life, he goes out (to school) without his parents, which makes him more independent and confident.
When he recognizes this independence and confidence, he may dislike being dictated to by his parents most of the time.
So he might reply that he does not want to do such and such thing when you want him to do it.
But when he sees that you kept commanding, again and again, he might start ignoring you by pretending that he cannot hear you.
3- He could have trouble paying attention.
Some kids have a problem because they can only focus on one task at a time.
Therefore, there is a possibility that when you ask your child to do something, he may be already busy with something more important to him like,” watching a cartoon,” or “playing his favorite game,” etc.
4- He does not like repeated commands.
Your child may not be listening to you and keep ignoring you because he simply does not like your habit of repeating the command.
Sometimes we elders do not like it if someone keeps asking us to do something we are not in the mood to do at that moment, so we simply say, “I will do it when I feel like it.” But a 4-year-old is not that good at expressing his feelings, so he keeps ignoring what he doesn’t want to do.
5- He simply cannot process your request.
Sometimes we, as a parent, start to expect a lot from our children, but in reality, we don’t realize that what we are expecting isn’t appropriate for their age.
For example, a 4-year-old cannot tidy up his whole room on his own, but if you ask him to clean up the mess, put the laundry in the cupboard, and tidy up the bedsheet, he will not be able to process so much information and end up ignoring your request.
6- He could be testing his boundaries.
At age four, your child isn’t trying to be rude by ignoring you.
Instead, he tests his boundaries to see what happens if he doesn’t obey you immediately.
If he finds that his parent is not asking him to do something after repeating it 2,3 times, his mind will know that keeps ignoring is the key to getting rid of responsibilities, but if he knows that there will be consequences, he might start listening in one go.
7- He may have developmental delays.
Your 4-year-old might be ignoring you because he is simply not at the stage where you expect him to be.
Children with developmental delays or ADHD tend to ignore things they either don’t understand or are incapable of doing.
If your child is ignoring you most of the time, it is better to get him checked by his doctor.
8- He could have a hearing problem:
If the child is ignoring you only when he doesn’t want to listen to you, that is different but if he ignores you all the time and does not pay attention to others as well, this could be a different case.
Before judging that your child is purposefully ignoring you, it’s important to ensure that medical conditions that could affect a child’s hearing or comprehension have been ruled out.
If a doctor gives a green signal that there is nothing wrong with the hearing, you must work on his behavior.
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How to get the attention of a 4-year-old?
Here are a few tips that might help you get the attention of your 4-year-old.
1- Give him reminders:
This is my best tip.
Giving a remainder is the best way to catch the attention of young children.
Tell them a few minutes before about what’s next. For example, we’ll go to bed in 20 minutes. After some time, remind them again.
Giving advance notice will prepare them mentally and they will listen to you. Do something that creates an urge to respond when you are talking to them. For example, counting to 10. Counting really works for kids this age.
I also recommend a sand timer, it’s one of the must-have things when you have a 4-year-old.
Put a sand timer of 10 minutes, and tell them, “please come to me when all this sand goes down”. These kinds of activities make your child excited and they will most likely pay attention to what you are saying.
Want a super cool sand timer for your little one? Click here to get it on Amazon.
Instead of speaking, try whispering. If your 4-year-old ignores you and doesn’t respond, then whisper. He will become curious and may turn to you to listen to you. Take advantage of their curiosity.
3- Stop repeating the same command again and again.
The first and most important step is to stop asking for something more than twice.
For example, if you have asked your child to put his toys in the bucket.
Say it once or twice; if he does not listen, after some time, change your words (change words only, not the command like instead of saying, “clean your room”, say, “Pick up your toys” and add a consequence with it, like “ please clean up the toys until I count to 10.
If you don’t, do it till then, you won’t be able to play with these toys for a couple of days”.
It is not necessary to add negative consequences every time.
For example, if you see him ignoring your request, approach him calmly and say, ”How about Mama and my baby do the cleanup together? You can clean this area while I clean the other side.”
4- Yelling, shouting, and nagging won’t help.
I understand it gets overwhelming when the child does not listen to your requests and keeps ignoring you.
Still, if you yell, shout, or nag about it, he probably does it out of fear, but it won’t send a positive message in his brain, and he will adopt such behavior of yours to get his things done.
Patience, politeness, and dedication is the key to overcoming such behavior in children.
5- Make sure he can do what you have asked him to do.
Be realistic when you make a request. You cannot expect that a 4-year-old will clean the whole of his mess alone; you need to help him.
Similarly, make sure your approach to making a request is humble.
For example, if you want him to come to the dinner table, ask him, “Can you please wash your hands and come see what mama has made for you” instead of saying, “ Wash your hands and come to the dinner table.”
6- Don’t give 2-3 instructions at one time.
Giving so much instruction simultaneously might get more complicated for your 4-year-old to understand.
So instead, use simple words and 1-2 instructions, which seems doable for a 4-year-old.
7- Put yourself in his shoes.
Your 4-year-old might be ignoring you because he might be tired of so many instructions from you the whole day.
Think about yourself; how would you feel if someone bossed around you all day and expected you to do something the next moment?
Children also have feelings that get hurt, but they cannot express how they feel about it, so they find ignoring the best way to get rid of their responsibilities.
So, understand your child and be easy on him.
8- Give him a warning for the things he usually ignores and then sit there:
Notice your child on what requests or commands he usually ignores you.
Suppose he ignores you at the bedtime routine; calmly tell him to go to the washroom and change into his PJs in 10 minutes.
Then sit there and wait for him. Give another reminder after a few minutes and tell him that I’m sitting here waiting.
Most probably your 4-year-old will pay attention because he will feel the urge to respond because of the reminders and you sitting there and waiting.
9- Reward, Praise, Highlight.
Young kids loved to be praised and rewarded.
So whenever your 4-year-old listen to you in one go or even the second time, praise him and highlight his response.
Tell him that it made you so happy that mom will get you something your favorite.
10- Overcome your “because I said so” behavior.
You would agree that being parents, we somehow develop this” because I said so “behavior where we think our children cannot say No to us.
But remember, this behavior becomes the most toxic as you grow older. Your child may not answer you in return, but he won’t like it either.
11- Stop ignoring him if you do so.
Analyze your behavior with your child; if you ignore him most of the time, he might have learned from you to ignore and get rid of the situation. Kids somehow portray what they see around them.
12- Don’t overuse the word “NO.”
Children hear “No,” all the time, which may cause them to stop listening to your requests since you mostly decline what they ask for.
Of course, it is necessary to say no sometimes, but try to say yes when it’s reasonable; for example, instead of saying, “No, We cannot get ice cream today,” try, “Ice cream sounds yummy but we can’t have it now. Would you like it this Sunday or the next one?”
13- Make a request when you are sure he is focused.
Avoid making any requests when you see your child is deeply engaged with something. Avoid calling from the other room if your child tends to ignore you.
For example, instead of yelling across the room, go to the child, get on his level, make eye contact, and talk to him.
Your child should feel your presence and should be able to listen to your low voice.
14- Be consistent.
To eliminate negative behavior from the child, the parents must be patient, consistent, and friendly with him. Sometimes some habits or behaviors take months to overcome.
15- if nothing helps, take him to the doctor
If you think none of the above tactics are helping you, you must see a doctor to see if he has any medical issues.
It is natural for 4-year-olds to ignore parents and their commands as they reach this age. They are more independent now and do not want to listen to what they don’t want to listen to.
Try the tips I mentioned above. I highly recommend keeping a sand timer as it excites the children about their activities and make them aware of the time.