Happy Stay at Home Dad Day!

Happy Stay at Home Dad Day

Father’s Day is this weekend and I’m inventing Stay At Home Dad Day! We should get an extra pancake because being a stay at home dad is a lot tougher than you can imagine. Anyway, it’s been a while since I wrote about RB40 Junior so I’d like bring you up to speed. Life has been pretty good in general, but we have some bumps in the road too.

Summer is here so there are a ton of fun things to do around town. The first 2 weeks of June was really tough, though. Preschool ended in May and we spent the whole 2 weeks together 24/7. Summer camp started this 3rd week so I have a little breathing room. Man, those two weeks were rough. I don’t know if I could be a 24/7 stay at home dad. Okay, let’s see what happened since the last update.

Shy Kid

Earlier this year, RB40 Junior became very shy. He didn’t want to talk to any adults and I was getting worried. He wouldn’t say thank you when an adult did something for him or said it so quietly that no one could hear. I didn’t want him to be super shy because life is so much easier if you’re a little bit more outgoing. The comments on that post were very helpful and gave us some direction. I backed off a bit and let him have some space and it seems to have worked out. He’s back to being a chatterbox again. He chats with neighbors in the elevator. He can ask the librarian to use the iPad. He can communicate with his new swimming teachers with no problem. I wonder if it was just a phase he was going through. It’s okay to be a little shy, but I’m glad he’s back to his old talkative self.

Frequent number 1

Another thing that seems to have resolved itself was the frequent urination problem. In April, RB40 Junior started going to the restroom every 5-10 minutes and we wondered if he got a urinary tract infection. We went to see his doctor and they couldn’t find anything wrong. Anyway, he gradually went to the restroom less frequently this month and he is back to normal now. I have no idea what changed so I guess it was just another phase.

Stay at home dad doesn’t like to get mad

Things were so much easier this week because Junior went to preschool from 9 am to 1 pm. I love him dearly, but thank goodness for the summer sessions. The 4 hours at preschool makes a huge difference because it gives me a chance to calm down. It’s hard to keep my temper around him all the time. I know he is just a kid, but he really wears us down. It’s hard to describe how he does this, but I’ll try.

  • Listening skill. His listening skill is terrible. I have to tell him repeatedly to do things. When he doesn’t want to do something, he would delay and he gets distracted very easily. He is also very fidgety and can’t sit still. For example, when we brush teeth. I’d have to ask him 3-5 times to come to the restroom to brush his teeth. When we brush teeth, I’d have to keep telling him to stay still. He’d move is arms and legs about and makes it difficult to brush his teeth. The only time he sits still is when he is watching a movie or playing a game on my phone.
  • Nonstop play. He is 4 so he just wants to play all the time. He tickles people, mixes the word poop into every sentence he says, jumps around, chases the cat, and is just a general nuisance. I like playing too, but not every waking minute. A couple of days ago, we took the streetcar to the library and he kept swinging on the pole. I repeatedly asked him to stop because it was crowded, but he just couldn’t stand still. Eventually, I had to wrap him up on my lap, then he cried.
  • Timeliness. If we need to be somewhere at a certain time, we’d need to build in a big padding of time. He just dilly dallys so much, one of us is bound to get mad at him. We know he can eat breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed and get out the door in 30 minutes if he would just cut out the tomfoolery. Instead, he goofs around and delays until we have no time left.
  • Back talk. Yes, the back talk has started. Me – “Don’t even think about it.” Him – “I’m thinking about it.” He also endlessly bargains for time. I’d tell him we’re leaving the playground in 5 minutes and he’d say 7 minutes. Every kid seems to do this so I guess we’ll have to grin and bear it until this phase is over in 14 years or so…

Anyway, I guess every 4 year old kid is difficult to deal with. I’ve been trying to give him more warnings so he’d know a blowup is coming and that seems to be helping. I don’t want to get mad at him, but sometime I just can’t help it. Having a few hours of calmness really makes a big difference. I don’t know how other stay at home parents do it. Many moms have 2 or more kids and it must be crazy. Being a stay at home dad is great, but I need a little break too.

Do you have any tips for dealing with a crazy 4 years old? Dads, how do you keep your temper with the kids? Happy Father’s Day!

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

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38 thoughts on “Happy Stay at Home Dad Day!”

  1. Some of the points you mention about your kid are so recognizable. My kids are 3 and 5, I the same happens all the time.
    They need to develop a lot of skills: social behavior, run, climb, eye-hand coordination, language… All of this takes time. They also see the world totally different from us… Sometimes, it drives me crazy. Don’t get me wrong: i love them. But I can be happy if it is just me, myself and I.
    Atfer some weekends or holidays, I actually am happy to be at work, to speak to adults and not having to deal with kids. Should i postpone my FIRE plan?

    One of the things that I am strict in: Ask things not a zillion time. If they do not listen, I get down to their height, and explain that I mean it and that i will count. On the count of three, I tell them they will get punished. I apply this strictly. Not started at 3 means going to the time out corner. And it helps… They now know when I mean it. It already saved me a few times in public places…

    Sometimes, I do quite to opposite: They do something that is not allowed, but I do not feel like making a fuzz… I fully ignore what they do. Not getting a reaction is such a good tool to take away all their fun og being bad…

    Good luck in being a daddy

    • Thanks for the tips. The counting thing works most of the time. Dealing with kids in public is tough. Usually I don’t mind, but sometime when it’s crowded, he needs to be under control…

  2. Happy Father’s Day, Joe! You’re doing great. Check out the book “Playful Parenting” for some ideas on other ways to get your kid to cooperate. I’m not a naturally “playful” type of person but this book helped me add more tools to my parenting toolbox for my 4 and 6 year olds.

  3. As a retired teacher, I think I can offer you some concrete advice:
    -love the charting idea
    -you tell/request him to do things too many times. He’s figured out you don’t really mean it the first time–he’s clearly a smart kid and he’s capitalizing on your wavering. After you make your first request, figure out what you will do when he doesn’t comply–the first time. When you picked him up and he cried, pick him up the first time he doesn’t listen, not after many times. He’ll soon figure out that you mean what you say–the first time.
    -there are many ways to correct his behavior. If you are at home you could give him a time out. In other words, when he doesn’t listen to you, say, ” you didn’t do what I asked so you’ll need to sit for one minute in the time out chair.” If he keeps getting out, keep putting him back in. He may scream, kick and cry at first, but he’ll soon understand the cause and effect relationship between his behavior and the time out chair. He’ll soon go there quietly, and eventually, won’t need it at all.
    – if you are on an outing and he won’t stop his behavior, the first time you request it, pick him up, or simply, take his hand, and just leave. Don’t reprimand him, don’t talk to him, just end the fun activity. Don’t get upset, he needs to see this as simply cause and effect. He didn’t listen, so the fun ended.
    -It’s going to take a bit of time, and consistency on your part, but soon he’ll see that if he doesn’t listen there will be consequences. Consistancy is the key. You can’t waver. Don’t worry about him hating you or you being percieved as mean . Kids crave consistancy and structure. It makes them feel safe. When you allow his behavior to get out of control, he feels the chaos and it makes him feel insecure. You are not doing him any favors by allowing it to continue. You need to teach him self-regulation, so that he can calm himself down and see that there are predictable consequences to his behavior.

    • I know. I’m not a good disciplinarian. I need to be more strict, but I don’t like doing that. I like to give him some space, but he is getting out of control.
      He gets plenty of time out and it’s an effective tool. End of fun activities is going to be difficult. That’s tough.
      I will try to be more consistent. Thanks for the advice.

  4. Yes, rules are important. Threes hear the rules and forget about it, but fours hear the rules and begin to set their boundaries. And, they have to set their own boundaries, you, as an adult only get to guide and encourage them. By the time they are five, they have a keen idea of what is right and what is wrong. At least, that is what is supposed to happen. You need to set clear boundaries and follow through with it. As they get older, the boundaries blur and children begin to understand and discern the gray areas.

    I think you are doing a great job, Joe. You are looking into sports that involve team work and Jr. has many opportunities to jump, run, play and express himself. I enjoy cooking. Maybe, you could try some simple cooking activities so that Jr. can observe the if-then process, and some problem solving processes. Also, lots of science in cooking. Then, he can eat the finished product!

    I envy you, that you can stay at home and be a father who is available to his child. Happy Father’s Day, Joe!

  5. This is normal for four year olds. You will not go crazy. You are the adult, so you can exercise the most control of yourself, although it seems as if little Joe is controlling you. Here are some techniques to use:

    When brushing teeth, try charting. A sticker for every time it is successfully completed, at first, then add a time element or number element to it. For example, completed successfully in 5 minutes, or number of times you brush your teeth (20?). When the stickers or stars add up to 5, 10 (you mutually decide), then you can get a treat such as I padding, or small French fries. I know food is not a good idea, but if it works….

    Three years olds are into themselves. They can play for hours on their own. But four year olds are branching out. They are seeking interaction, and if you are the only one available, they will interact with you, push your buttons because you are an adult and they are figuring you out. Fours need others their age to socialize with and to learn how and what to do and say to get what they want or need. Yes, they need adults to let them know when they need to use the bathroom, but they also need to learn how to ask another child how to give up their toy. Communication and negotiation is big for fours. Sometimes, a Friday Friend is a good idea; spending time with a buddy on Fridays. Or, a Saturday Slumber Over is a good idea; having a buddy over for the evening, or a “camp” out, inside the house. Lots of work, lots of time, but it is worth all the effort and time as you see them get grow up.

    You have little Joe in swimming and that is a good idea. You can begin to look into other sports that involve team work. Interactions. But, it is a good idea to also keep in mind individual more creative activities such as artistic expression, creative movement, and just plain run and climb. Developing stamina and muscles is just as important as negotiation.

    If I think of anymore, I will write again.

    • Charting sounds like a good idea. I’ve been too lazy to do it, but I’ll try and see if it works.
      Jr never liked playing on his own. He always wanted to play with other people since he was young.
      I’ll probably sign him up for soccer when it’s available. He does creative stuff with his mom and physical play with me. Sports will be good when he can follow the rules.

  6. I’m super skeptical when it comes to someone recommending a book, but I’m going to do it anyway. 🙂 We’ve really found the “Love and Logic” stuff to be so good. I only read the first chapter or two of the one devoted to young children, but that’s really all you need (i.e. 30 minutes of reading, tops). Search for “love and logic for early childhood”

    It’s been like night and day since we put it into practice!


  7. One cant expect more from a 4 year old. Trying to find solutions that fulfill both the childs and the parents need is the best. Maybe it would be fun for the child to decide where to brush the teeth one evening? I recommend the author Jesper Juul.

  8. LOL, our older one is 4 years old too, and he does *exactly* the same things you described for your kid, down to the detail (e.g. the “brush teeth” experience). I think it can’t be avoided 🙂

  9. Joe, I have two sons, separated by 5 years. Each required a lot of time and effort on my wife’s and my part. We went through a lot of what you described. There were times I thought I would not make it. I always seemed too tired for work, to go to a movie, or even to stay up past 10 pm. Fast-forward: One is now married and in graduate school and the other is in his 3rd year of college and lives on campus, so I don’t get to see them as much anymore. Believe me when I tell you, I WOULD GIVE ANYTHING TO HAVE THOSE DAYS BACK AGAIN! Though I’m a very proud “dad”, I long to be “daddy” again. Enjoy these tough times, you will look back fondly and miss them.

    • Really? Thanks for your perspective. It is difficult, but we have a lot of fun moments too. I wish he’d listen a bit more, though.

  10. I’ve been ER’d for about 9 months now. Everyday is MY OWN do with with as I please. Complete freedom.

    From what I have read from those who have “retired” with young kids…it really isn’t the retirement that I am familiar with. If I was a cynic, I’d almost be tempted to say that stay-at-home-parent early retiree’s aren’t retired at all. I will never experience the “magic moments” that parents apparently do…but they will also not know the wonder of complete personal freedom in early retirement. For the child-less early retiree’s out there, this is our “magic”….

    I DO admire what the ER’ed early retiree’s sacrifice in order to raise their families…you seem like a great dad Joe. But damn, that looks exhausting…

    • You’re right. Being a stay at home parent is not ER. You have a lot more responsibilities.
      We’ll know real freedom in 14 years… 🙂

    • The non stop playing is exhausting and can get annoying sometime. I know it’s funny to a 4 year old, but adults don’t want to be tickled all the time. Or hear the word poop constantly…

  11. I have a 3 year old that dilly-dallys.
    Started to time him, and race him.
    Along the lines of, “Can you change your clothes in less than 60 seconds?” and just start counting. Sometimes you have to count slow…

    The back talk has started here as well, but you can try to compensate. Just say 3 mins, to get him to say 5.

    • The racing idea works on some stuff, but usually not. I’ll try it more. He is very competitive so maybe it will help. I compensate already, but it still takes a lot of time to go anywhere. Other parents are much better than me with the counting down.

  12. I can relate to this article. My wife and I have 3 year old twins and a 7 month old. We love them dearly but some days the twins are so disagreeable about everything and resist every attemp at order and it leaves us exhausted and shaking our heads at the end of the day. I hope it gets easier eventually.

  13. Sounds like your kid could use a sport. It doesn’t have to involve an Eastern European gymnastics coach and 16 hour training days. Just see if you can find something he loves that he can do for an hour a day or so with other kids like basketball, swimming, or tee ball. That’ll give you some more down time while giving him a way to both make friends and burn off some defiant energy—a triple play, so to speak.

    • I think we’ll start organized sports next year. He’s terrible at following direction and I hope it will improve next year. This year I’m content to run around and play. I’m sending him to swimming lessons this summer so he’s already busy.

  14. One child is much harder to deal with than three!!!!
    I prefer to add siblings as it seems to calm them down BUT 21st century kids are not easy to deal with. Mine were born at the end of the last century and I’m just coming up for air – youngest is 18 this weekend!
    I do not encourage/discourage people to be parents…..its the toughest job I know!

    • That’s what I’m thinking. A second kid would be nice so they can play with each other, but I’d have to spend another 5 years being a SAHD. 🙂
      Congratulation with the 18 yr old! Send her to college and you can get your life back. 😉

  15. Age 4 is when we realized dc1 needed more stimulation. An hour of thinky work and an hour of exercise (minimum) to keep him bouncing off the walls. Also we started him in kindergarten early, though excess energy was only one factor leading to that decision.

    • He gets a ton of exercise/day. Even at home, he is always running and jumping around. He has way too much energy. What kind of thinky work do you recommend? We play Uno and other board games and he likes that. He’s not much into art and craft.

  16. Oh man, the comment about “dont even think about it” and the “im thinking about it” reply had me rolling and also empathizing. I only have a 2 year old and a newborn but i already see my 2 year old getting defiant. He will get a look out of the corner of hos eye like “ok i know you told me not to touch this but how close can i get to it without touching it”

    • Haha, it’s the same with my kids. What Adam wrote, but also what RB40 wrote.
      It feels better to know that other parents have the same problems.

    • He is a cheeky little dude. 🙂 Yes, he pushes me on almost every issue. It was nice when he did whatever I told him. I guess we’ll have to deal with this defiance for 14 more years…


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