My 4-year-old would rather play with older kids: Advice?

Hi, I’m looking for some advice. I have a 4yo boy that I struggle with frequently. He is defiant with me (only me - not dad), and I struggle with a lot of simple things like eating dinner, bedtime, etc… But lately, we have noticed he gravitated towards older kids whenever we go somewhere to play (daycare, play centers, etc.) and always wants to play with older kids. He usually won’t play with kids his own age. But he becomes a part of the group instantly like he fits in. These kids are frequently 8-10yr old and sometimes older. I worry that he is going to be one of those kids always playing above his age. I’d love to hear from others like this as they get older. Do they eventually settle into their own age group and stop looking toward older kids that may not push him the right direction?


4 year old with a 10 year old, I’d say no and if you’re already having problems with rules, good luck when he’s a teenager!


Take away the extra rewards and give him the basics. Don’t give in to tantrums. Reward only good behaviors. Also stick to schedules as much as possible.


My son did not get along with peers until college when they grew up. Not uncommon especially for an only child.

Kids always act out more with their moms because that’s who they feel comfort from. It’s how you handle it that makes a difference. My daughter is 3 and loves playing with the neighborhood kids. We live in a quiet neighborhood with a ton of kids. And they all treat her very well like a sister. My son always hung around with adults (family) and older kids. He was mature for his age and is in the talented and gifted program. Nothing wrong with it. Its how you react and handle the situation that will make a difference

Honestly it would be no different if he was playing with a 10 year old cousin. Or a 10 year old brother… if he’s not doing anything wrong or inappropriate I wouldn’t worry


Mixed age play can be conducive to a child’s learning. I wouldn’t worry as long as the play is appropriate.

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Give your son more choices. You choose 2 outfits, 2 snacks, etc and ask him which one he wants. My son and I seemed to argue over everything at that age. Then I read an article that suggest giving him choices in every reasonable way. We had some rules of course that when I told him he had to do as mommy ask then he was expected to. I even gave him choices on which chore he wanted to do first. He was sooooo much more willing to do what I ask him. I also suggest finding a team sport. My son was my only child and he saw himself as an adult. Team sports changed that.

I would be more concerned with why he is being defiant toward you. Is he being negatively influenced by playing with the older kids thinking he doesn’t need to listen to you? I can only say from experience with one of my brothers, if his defiance isn’t addressed and corrected it can lead to serious problems the older he gets. My brother was defiant toward our mom. As he got older, he hung out with boys 4 years older than him. Long story short. He ended up being tried as an adult at the age of 16. He spent 17 of 25 years in prison. It stemmed from my parents not dealing with his behavior problems and allowing him to hang with older boys. By the way the 3 boys that were arrested with him turned states evidence and they didn’t spend any time in prison. Sucks to hear yet important.

Nothing wrong with him playing with older kids, as long as it appropriate.

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I generally noticed that kids who don’t play with kids their own age, and prefer older kids are a bit more advanced in some ways than those of their own age.


What’s wrong with that? I never got along with kids my own age and to this day a lot of my friends are older than me.

My daughter always did and does this i think its cuz they are funner and bigger understanding like for example i babysit an 9yr old and they are like best friends they play all day without any issues and happens to be into the same things ect she will play her age but no less then that and selective if its her age

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I have a 12 year old girl who struggled with this a bit as she grew. She still would rather have friends beyond her years and did indeed get into some scary stuff and we had to homeschool and hand pick friends after she ended up in an inpatient mental crisis. BUT… In my opinion the age of the friends isn’t necessarily a problem. The quality of the friend and the content of play and conversation is what matters. I would suggest just watching the exposures and filtering as possible and needed. Don’t interfere too much until or unless needed. Some kiddos are just old souls.


My son is still like this and always been like this.

. It’s nothing to worry about. He may just like being part of the big kids and he might connect with them better.

I was this kid. By 12, I got along better with adults. It’s probably a high IQ, leading him to want be around people closer to his intelligence. Defiance is also a sign of high IQ. (And mommy is a safe place, so he’ll defy mommy.) I still get along best with more intelligent people. Intellectual challenges are important for growth.


My daughter is like this she had one bad experience with a mean girl her age and I think since then she stays aways but loves the kids on the street because they are older

My 4 year old girl does this well. She feels shes a lil sister it seems, and they except her. Those are my feelings in this example. Note she has no siblings, and they dont fight over her toys with her lol.

I was like that. Even now most of my friends are 4+ years older than me.