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Old 04-09-2009, 03:36 PM   #1
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How do you get a 4 year old to understand danger and death

I'm at the end of my rope. I have tried a hundred different ways of explaning to my 4 year old the danger of holding things over her sisters face, and how scary it is. But she just doesn't seem to get it.
They were playing in there room and having what I thought was a good time, while I was fixing dinner. They were getting along really good and not fighting. Then I hear my oldest laughing and not a peep from my youngest. So I go back to check on them and my 4 year old is holding my 19month olds head against the mattris and will not let her up. I screamed "stop" and ran in and grabbed my 19mo dd off the bed, and she took a deep breath and it took her about 15 sec. to recover and breath normal. This is not the first time this has happened. She is constantly holding pillows, blanket, stuffed animals, ect. over her face... I just can not seem to get her to understand that when she does this that she can really hurt her sisiter,....even kill her.....

Help please....I'm so upset....I just don't know what to do anymore...

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Old 04-09-2009, 03:52 PM   #2
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Re: How do you get a 4 year old to understand danger and death

Well, at four, she doesn't understand death. She can't, I don't think there is a way to make her understand it. Even experience won't make her understand it.

But... sadly, she is doing this to hurt her sister. She's getting power, it makes sistre cry, and she KNOWS it isn't O.K, because she's old enough to understand that you said never do it again. Four year olds are very smart.

She just doesn't understand the danger in what she's doing. She just knows she's being mean, and she likes it. Being mean and tormenting her sister is her job. It's what siblings do.

About the only way you can make this stop is to make it unpleasant for your four year old.

I'm not a big believer in time out. I have never seen the traditional "you sit in a chair and think about what you have done" kind of time out work.

But, instead, making her talk about it to Dad at the dinner table. Bring it up as in "four year old.. do YOU want to tell daddy what you did to your sister today, or do you want Me to tell Daddy?" (make sure daddy has a heads up before though, or he might not handle it well)

Then have daddy ask a lot of questions about the little one.. "Is she O.K?" "Should we take her to the doctor?" "Oh, poor little sister... Oh, I feel so bad that happened to you". "Do you really think she's O.K?" (show major concern for poor baby sister) THEN after he has effectively gushed over poor baby sister... then he can say to big sister "I am very mad that your sister was hurt. I WILL NOT allow you to put things over her head, or hold her down like that". There's no reason to yell at her, or make her angry at you, because she won't be learning if she's angry.

For a while, I don't think you should trust them alone for very long. It's a good thing you had your mommy instinct turned on, or who knows what could have happened.
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Old 04-09-2009, 03:54 PM   #3
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Re: How do you get a 4 year old to understand danger and death

I don't know that you can teach her. Some things kids can't grasp until it happens to them. And I certainly don't recommend putting a pillow over her face! However, come to think of it, maybe she already has. Ask her if she's ever put her face in a pillow. Most likely she has and she has found that it's hard to breathe. Use that to help her understand why it's not good to hold things over her sister's face. And discipline her for it. When she does it, put her in time out or whatever you do for something naughty.
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Old 04-09-2009, 03:54 PM   #4
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Re: How do you get a 4 year old to understand danger and death

Oh.. and that picture of her? She doesn't look like she could ever DREAM of mean things. Much less carry them out.

I think you are making it all up, she's too adorable.
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Old 04-09-2009, 03:56 PM   #5
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Re: How do you get a 4 year old to understand danger and death

I am wondering why you let them alone at all?!?! OMG thank goodness you walked in on them in time.
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Old 04-09-2009, 03:56 PM   #6
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Re: How do you get a 4 year old to understand danger and death

If it were me I think I would show her what it feels like. In an instructive and kind way of course. I would sit down with her and explain that it hurts when you can not breath and it can even kill someone. I would explain that I want to show you what it feels like for baby when you put something over her face so that she can't breath. I would say....ok I want you to hold your breath for me and then I would pinch her nose and let it go long enough that she understands wanting to stop having to hold her breath but not being able to just for a few seconds. I would explain everything I was going to do before I did it. After I showed her I would then explain again that if you can't breath like that for a really long time then it can make you really really hurt or even kill someone so its really important to never do that.
It just seems to me that if she doesnt understand what if feels like she may not really understand she is hurting her.
I really think it depends on the child if this would do any good or not. If not, maybe explain that its the same thing as being under water and not being able to breath....
That is a tough one though Mama!
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Old 04-09-2009, 04:10 PM   #7
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Re: How do you get a 4 year old to understand danger and death

Shes a really sweet girl, I just can't understand how she thinks this is funny. I've tried the whole hold your breath, it doesn't feel good to not breath does it. But as soon as she gets to breath again she laughs. And she does do it to herself, and thinks its funny. And Daddy won't be home for 3 more days, maybe a talk from her Granny will work, we go there tomorrow.
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Old 04-09-2009, 04:20 PM   #8
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Re: How do you get a 4 year old to understand danger and death

I agree that there is probably not a way for a 4 yr old to understand death. I guess maybe just make a huge deal about how bad of a thing it is that she did and don't let her alone with sis. Hopefully having others talk to her will at least let her know how many people think its really bad!
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Old 04-09-2009, 04:31 PM   #9
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Re: How do you get a 4 year old to understand danger and death

I would just sit down and explain it to her. I have a 4 year old, and although she doesn't know what exactly death means, she does know, that if someone dies, she'll never see them or be around them again. I've had to have this talk with her because she used to do things to Jules. When I explained that if one day she hurts her really bad, that Juliette can die, and she would never see her again and never be around her again. She started crying, and said she didn't want Juliette to die, but she never tried hurting her again.
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Old 04-09-2009, 06:48 PM   #10
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Re: How do you get a 4 year old to understand danger and death

I know I'll be unpopular here, but if nothing else gets it across, I would spank. DD1 is barely three, and she knows we will spank if she does something that would endanger her or someone else. We tell her, "Spanking hurts. It's our reminder to you. When you are tempted to bang Mika with a block again, you remember the spanking. That would hurt her just like the spanking hurts you -- but the block is dangerous because it's hard. Spanking only hurts for a second, but the block could hurt her badly."

ETA: I only use the first two sentences of that explanation at the time, while she's upset from the spanking. The rest comes when she's calmer.

She is now extremely thoughtful around her baby sister, won't go into the street by herself, and now leaves her seatbelt buckled! (She's only been spanked about 6 times in her life, btw.)

FWIW.
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