A handy guide to pleasing a 4-year-old

by Janelle Hanchett

When Georgia found out Arlo got to write directions for how to please him, she decided she wanted in on the action.


Dear Mom,

When I wake up in the morning, I need you to be ready to party. Right now. As I enjoy it. I like partying. I like furniture jumping, yelling and being naked. Basically I’m you when you were 20.

I need you to make me pancakes. I like pancakes. I only like eating things I like.

Stop talking about protein. I don’t give a shit about protein. What I give a shit about is pancakes on my plate.

If you put something on my plate that I’m not sure I like, I will tell you I don’t like it and do pretty much everything other than try it. If you play a super stupid game with me I may try it. Yeah, I’ll try it, but I might spit it out. But you can’t get mad at me because you said I just needed to “try one bite.” At some point you’ll give up because I’m so fucking annoying at the table nobody can stand me.

Don’t hate yourself. I’m just better at this. I’m actually having fun.

That’s your downfall. You don’t think this is fun.

I think this is fun. That’s why I always win.

Speaking of food, I like fruit, so please mostly or always just feed me fruit. Sometimes I like chicken but I don’t like any other meat that isn’t chicken so just call all meat-like substances chicken and you’ll have a better chance of me eating it.

Chance. I said “Chance.” Calm down.

I like to do everything myself always unless I need your help. If you try to help me when I don’t want it I’ll throw a temper tantrum because I hate feeling belittled, but if you don’t help me immediately when I need help I’ll cry really, really hard because obviously you’re never there when I need you and I’m pretty sure nobody has ever loved me ever and I am a forsaken, lost child alone in a cold dark world.

I’m a complex, mercurial human you can only hope to understand.

I like doing chores that I like doing, which you’ll recognize because they’re MY idea, and I like getting dressed when I want to get dressed but if you want me to clean up a mess I made or get dressed when I don’t feel like it I just won’t do it. Ever. I’ll sit down. I’ll turn around. I’ll walk backwards. I’ll do a thousand things but I won’t do that. Why do you bother convincing me? We can do this all day.

I like swinging.

I like swinging.

Basically I like doing things that I like. I like the park. I like swinging, and I like running. Because they’re fun.

You know what’s not fun? Naps. I fucking hate naps.

Naps are for assholes.

But if I don’t get a nap I’ll act possessed by insane demon spawn by 3pm. Not napping actually makes me more wild and unpredictable, and really quite miserable in general, but since I hate naps you need to figure something else out, maybe drive somewhere 30-40 minutes away around 1 or 2 or 3pm. Maybe I’ll sleep then. Give it a shot. But if you have somewhere to be and you’re relying on me napping in the car so I’m not demon spawn, I definitely won’t nap.

That’s for damn sure.

Why are you crying? I love you.

I’d love you more though if you’d stop letting me down. If you tell me we can do something and then we can’t, I’ll remember it around bed time and hold it against you. You know, like if you tell me I get a bath but then I don’t get a bath for some reason I’ll throw my head back and wail so you’ll wonder if perhaps I have been seriously injured, physically, but actually it’s just my heart suffering under the weight of your bullshit.

Also that one time you told me I could have a playdate with my boy T but then you cancelled because I had the flu? We need to talk about that. Now.

If you’d stop letting me down I wouldn’t have to act this way right before bed, when I’m tired and worn out because I didn’t take a nap, because naps are for assholes.

You also bother me when you fail to adhere to the random incoherent patternless rules I invent, including, but not limited to: 1.) Which days are doughnut days; 2.) Who pushes the elevator button; and 3.) Who gets the blue cup.

I fucking hate the blue cup.

We’ve been over this. I feel I’ve been pretty clear on my cup-color needs.

Let’s go have fun. Can we go the park? You promised yesterday.

It was sure cute when you tried to establish the “talk it over chair” thing in our house because you saw it in the preschool and thought it might work here. You’re so cute.

Nothing you see or read will actually work in real life.

I’m glad I’m here to help you.

Want to take a picture of me? I feel like smiling unnaturally.

smiling unnaturally

smiling unnaturally

Are you in a hurry? That’s weird. I suddenly can’t move my body.

We’re going somewhere? I need to hide under my bed.

Is it raining and muddy? Awesome! This is the first time I’ve ever wanted to wear that expensive white tank dress you got me last Easter.


Let’s go snuggle.

And then, after that, I can tell you the next way you can please me.

Later, I’ll give you a big ass grin and say something hilarious, or I’ll do something that makes me seem big and growing too fast and you’ll say “Hey kid, get over here and hug me!”

And I’ll say “Sorry, mama, I gave all my hugs and kisses to daddy and his hurt hand.”

And you’ll die.

Don’t die. I need you.

At least I think I do. Sometimes. Sometimes I need you.

The rest of the time I’m wondering what in the hell you’re still doing here.

It’s cool though. We’re friends. I’m 4. I’ll be 5 in August. Then I’ll go to kindergarten. Why are you crying, mom? Why do you look at me like I’m your favorite tiny insane roommate and couldn’t take a breath without me?

It’s alright, mama, I love you too.

Wait. Is that the fucking blue cup again?

Peace out,

The 4-year-old



(Hey! There are 5 spots left in my writing workshop that begins next month. Get with it. Get on it.

Fuck your damn blue cup. Wait. Sorry.)


  • Rebekah Nemethy

    HAHA! This is great! I love the last picture too, the pose, the outfit, and the mismatched shoes are priceless!!

  • Aimee

    George is hilarious. I live this too. Her name is Adelle and she is 3. George is informing me that I have a lot to look forward too. I better stock up on wine.

  • Meagan

    my pits are sweating as I read this, my four yr old follows that same handy guide, waddy a know!

  • Bonnie

    Janelle, I have been having a bad time today. I am not a mother, but I have had people and creatures who have been my responsibility, and today I have been feeling the weight of every time I have let them down. What is making me feel worse is that I have never been judged by them for my failings; if I did then I guess at least I could agree and get on with justifiably bludgeoning myself a little more.

    Anyway, today I feel bad, and I am glad to have you in my life, because your words, your honesty, your experience, your husband, your kids…YOU, you help.

    Thank you.


    • katy allred

      You are enough <3

  • Leigh

    “Basically I like doing things that I like.”

  • Sarah

    Did you steal my kid?! Or maybe they’re clones – mine’s also born in August and will be five this year. This is her. Completely. Except she MUST have the blue cup. And blue plate. And blue spoon. If you give it to one of her sisters expect a meltdown similar to Fukushima. Did I mention her hair looks like fire? Yep, our kids would be beasties.

  • Sarah

    So that just just autocorrected besties to beasties. Lol I love it. It works 😉

  • Anna

    This is my 5-year-old girl too and has been since she turned three. Terrible 2s? Nope. When she turned 3 I started to wonder who this was and what had she done with my easy-to-please child. Pretty sure now that this is who she was all along. Happily her mercurialness means that her happy self usually comes back quickly.

  • Michaela

    Ha ha ha! ‘I WANT TO DO WHAT I WANT TO DO’ – my 4-year old’s favourite statement, preferrably yelled loudly from the top of the stairs before storming off to her room, slamming the door… (sigh)…

  • Shay

    This. This is my life right now.

  • JuliePowell

    Thank you for making me laugh so hard I cried. I love how you speak for your kids, bad language and all. Fucking hilarious post!

  • Jessica

    Love this so much! This is exactly my 4-year old.

  • Abby

    This just made my day!!! You are awesome. Putting all the things into words I think in my head daily. 🙂

  • Abby

    This just made my day!!! Putting all the things into words I think in my head daily. 🙂

  • Abby

    Not sure why it posted twice, but you are awesome was missed on the second. 🙂

  • Danielle

    I am laughing so hard right now. You are talking about my newly turned four year old. He challengers me to no end. I love your posts. Keep them coming.

  • Marcy Young

    This is my 3-year-old. That is all.

  • Al

    Wow, well that’s my boy 12 years ago and has it been a helluva ride since then! Roller coaster baby! He’s still gotta do things the hardest way possible and can’t be told – he’s still the kid who needs physical affection even when he’s pushing me away…. He’s just turned his life around from a world of poor choices, again, and I’m still forever waiting for the other shoe to fall because that’s how I roll. My heart bleeds and burns for the little punk and always will.

    • Maeve Broadhurst

      Have faith mom. It took a long two and a half years but I got my hug…and my “little boy” back.
      He always tended to take the scenic route his WHOLE life. Birth to thirty in about 2.2 seconds. Many ER visits for those adventures! Have faith. They are just more daring then we were! Breathe and Breathe and Breathe and wait for the hug. IT will come back to you.

  • Gaijinmama

    Thank you very much! You made my coffee go up my nose.
    My DD (that stands for Demon Daughter) is 11 and so much of this post reminds me of her. The fashion sense, too.
    I still regret (about 8 years later) not taking a picture that morning when I walked into the dining room and she was eating a yogurt wearing purple heels and a tiara and Thomas the Tank Engine Jammies.

  • Emily

    Yay, you’re back. For a while you were blocked here at work as “pornography.”

  • Maeve Broadhurst

    I cannot stop laughing! Reliving my own four children at this age is funny enough! However to see this action with my four year old grandson is hilarious! You have found the words we never could as we were too busy trying to outsmart the little darlings!
    The first person I will share this with is my poor daughter who gets out smarted every blessed day. Her son is on such a higher distract, destroy and delight scale than she ever was at four years old!
    Then, this is going to all of my Mimi, Nana, Gram, Nina, Granny friends I can think of!We finally can let go of that guilt trip of disappointing all those four year olds all those many years ago!
    Oh, those four olds are just darling and do everything we ask them to do. They know we have earned due diligence!
    Thank you for the best roaring laugh in a long time.

  • Karyn

    After 21 years of teaching the very last group of children I had were 4-year-olds. After that, I quit. That should tell you something.

    Now I have a 3-year-old of my own and I’m counting down the days until her next birthday….we are screwed.

  • Meredith in SA

    Yes. Yes. Yes. My 4yo twins are mostly like this. God help me if they ever decided to stop eating pastawithbutter&cheese and peasstraightoutofthefreezer. I don’t know what I’ll feed them! Maybe yogurt for breakfast, lunch & dinner? But only the kind that comes in a tube. You can put the tube yogurt in a bowl, but if you try to fool them into eating the yogurt out of a tub, they’ll know. Even if they never see the tube or the tub, they somehow know the difference.

    But when this phase is over my one daughter will probably also stop rubbing her hands together and saying, “Let’s make some magic!” when she open her dresser drawer. And the other one might drop our ritual bedtime question: “Mama? What if you didn’t have a nose?” And they might not want me to sing to them anymore and if that happens I will surely die.

  • CraCraMama

    OMG this is hilarious and spot on….really. Great job of capturing the essence of life with a 4 year old. If it doesn’t make you crazy, then you already are.

    • Armanda Kwiatoski

      Here is how I fixed that with all 4 of my kids. As soon as they can crawl smack their diaper put them in their room tell them exactly why and shut the door. By the time they are 4 you have total control.

      • Armanda Kwiatoski

        Lol NOT just kidding! Just talk to them NOT at them! Healthy rewards for good behavior.