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Stopping aggression in a 3 year old

(40 Posts)
cjt110 Thu 29-Jun-17 09:07:09

M<y son turns 3 soon. He's a strong willed boy and whilst sometimes we admire this, it's becoming more and more of an issue.

He's becoming stubborn which is fine I guess and we can deal with that. I take it as just normal toddler shit. But what I am struggling with is the aggression he seems to have.

Two mornings in a row he has been in time out for kicking/hitting me. And when I try to put him into time out, he proceeds to hit/kick me more and try to bite me. He then proceeds to pummell the wall and scream like a banshee. I will leave him to calm down and when I notice the fury has dropped I will go in, explain why he was put in time out and ask him to say sorry. He will not say sorry. This morning I accepted a hug as his sorry. He can say the word. He's said it many times before even when not required but will not say it in these circumstances.

I also witnessed him shouting, as he does at us at home, at a girl at nursery this morning.

How can I help to encourage this stopping?

BubblesBuddy Thu 29-Jun-17 09:17:46

I would try and get professional help. See the nursery staff in the first instance. They should be able to help and will know how they manage him in the nursery. I assume the nursery stopped his poor behaviour. Is he frustrated? What is his language like? Can he express himself? What is he interested in? Can you keep him engaged so he is calmer? What led to him biting you? Have other members of your extended family been like this?

You are right that he needs to calm down and most children learn to co-operate with others but my initial reaction is to see the nursery staff first.

I tend to think that people accept poor behaviour from young children too much and accept it as normal. It isn't. He clearly does not understand what sorry actually means so I cannot see the point in pushing that at the moment. You need to stop the poor behaviour in the first place. Anyone can say sorry and not mean it! I would also look at whether he has empathy and feelings for people. Is he attached and loving towards you or detached and self absorbed? Hope you get some help.

cjt110 Thu 29-Jun-17 09:26:09

BubblesBuddy I've mentioned it twice in a row when dropping him at nursery that he's been in time out before nursery and why. I've said about how he behaves and I've been told to just persevere and it's just one of those toddler things.

His language is really good now and he can usually get across what he wants to us. He has been shouting at my husband and also my mum. He tends to only kick/hit me. He will also say to my husband "No, not you Daddy" if say my husband goes to deal with him and pleads that he wants me.

He literally is never still. Ever. Always doing something or other. And it's exhausting as he wants you to join in too and if you cant/don't want to, this creates issues too.

He can be very loving and give cuddles and kisses. But can also be quite self absorbed.

Allthewaves Thu 29-Jun-17 09:27:47

I used to sit with ds on my knee in a bear hug for time out (so he couldn't hurt me) it was the only way he could calm down

cjt110 Thu 29-Jun-17 09:30:00

Allthewaves That's a good idea and perhaps worth trying.

KimmySchmidt1 Thu 29-Jun-17 09:52:11

Let his dad sort it out - there are some things with little boys where they just need to be scared of a big bloke and will do what they are told for daddy. that's a lot easier than you trying to fix it. But a pair of smacked legs will probably help him remember not to bite.

KimmySchmidt1 Thu 29-Jun-17 09:55:31

I have just read your second post - I do think your husband needs to step in and tell him that he is very cross that DS has been hurting mummy, his wife, and wants him to stop. Learning to be a human can be a painful process but having a male influence is not a bad thing - the fact he does not want his dad to deal with him when he is having a tantrum speaks volumes about how he is feeling. He knows enough to know he is being aggressive but doesn't want to face up to it by being scolded by another male - but the truth is that is what he needs to train his brain to control its impulses.

sparklewater Thu 29-Jun-17 09:56:33

kimmy But will show him that smacking legs is ok, Yay, mixed messages! And not even going start on the 'need to be scared of a big bloke' comment. hmm

user1480334601 Thu 29-Jun-17 09:56:54

Maybe try not letting time out end until he says sorry? He needs to learn that if you ask him to say sorry he needs to do it and will prolong his time out if he doesnt

cjt110 Thu 29-Jun-17 09:57:46

Thanks for the suggestion but I'm not sure I agree with he should be scared of his Dad, or smacking.

It is true that he seems to behave worse for me. I am the parent who gives in - for an easy life. I have depression and anxiety and find myself getting het up when he gets into his ways. The last 2 mornings, my husband wasn't home due to work.

OhWifey Thu 29-Jun-17 10:00:01

Have you considered a completely different approach such as using 'Time In' rather than out. If you google it lots of things come up. Also perhaps look at Rebecca Eames for positive parenting. It sort of comes from the position that 'all behaviour is communication'.

sparklewater Thu 29-Jun-17 10:03:00

Each child is different, but is he old enough to have a toy 'put away' if he gets aggressive? I use the top of a wardrobe, so they can see it, but not have it back until they have said sorry/enough time has passed.

Another incident, another toy!

It is all about perseverance and continuity in the end, which is hard when you're feeling stressed/low and it feel like your days are just repeating themselves. Try and remember the more consistent you can be, the quicker he'll get the message, even if your heart isn't in it at the time.

PhilODox Thu 29-Jun-17 10:04:12

Children behave their worst for the person they're closest to- because they know they can but you'll still love them. He's 3, he has a lot to learn.
Smacking and fear isn't the way.

cjt110 Thu 29-Jun-17 10:05:29

Time in - interesting concept. It could be worth a try. He seems to get frustrated by being isolated from us so this might work.

Sunshinegirls Thu 29-Jun-17 10:06:41

How's his diet? Children can be very sensitive to some ingredients in common foods and these can have an adverse effect on their behaviour

www.foodmatters.com/article/which-food-additives-make-children-behave-badly

cjt110 Thu 29-Jun-17 10:08:22

sparklewater Another good suggestion. But I';m not sure his wardrobe would withstand it! lol

In the heat of the moment the other night, when he was fannying around at bedtime I did say I would throw Iggle Piggle in the bin if he didnt get in bed and he did. And stayed put. So perhaps another good idea.

Smacking and fear isn't the way. I agree with this.

PinotAndPlaydough Thu 29-Jun-17 10:09:47

My daughter has been doing this a lot recently and I got some great advice on here.
First of all when she hits or kicks me I hold her hands and say firmly that we don't hit.
I don't bother with time out for hitting now it escalates the issue and makes us both more stressed, if she's in a full on tantrum I will hold her in a bear hug from behind and wrap my legs around her. It calms her almost instantly and we can the discuss what's happened.
We have strict rules about behaviour and rewards for good behaviour, we try and praise more than we punish.
I would also check for any physical illness, my daughter gets lots of ear infections and her behaviour declines rapidly when she's got one.

Finally remember their age, 3 is tiny, their brains can not deal with their emotions, they simply aren't able to process and deal with how they are feeling. I make an effort to give my daughter a name for how she feels so will say things like "you feel cross and disappointed because you wanted a toy, but it's not ok to hit and scram when we feel like that"
Good luck

PhilODox Thu 29-Jun-17 10:10:04

Modelling good behaviour, letting him see you and DH being kind and speaking nicely to one another, speaking to people politely when out and about, asking if he can use kind words to ask for things etc, constant reinforcement of how you want him to speak will help.
In a gentle, age-appropriate way "soft voice, sweetie" over and over again
He's a toddler, it is normal, and they do grow out of it eventually.
Tell him the boundary "no kicking, DS, we don't kick people.", And repeat and nauseum.

cjt110 Thu 29-Jun-17 10:11:44

Sunshinegirls Overall he has a good diet (he has a dairy allergy so some things are limited) but we have said of late he can only have water or diluted cordial (such as Robinsons or Vimto) to drink. He's seen me drinking pop and wanted some too and of course I gave in for an easy life. Same with foodstuff. Biscuits, crisps etc have all been removed to see if it changes his behaviour.

cjt110 Thu 29-Jun-17 10:13:53

PinotAndPlaydough Good tip about the bear hugs.

PhilODox I must say I am strict on manners - It drives me crackers to see people not using them. I read about inside and outside voices and might try and instigate that. I don't mind so much - he can be loud but that's not the main issue.

PhilODox Thu 29-Jun-17 10:16:10

And, you know toddlers are bonkers and irrational, yes? Their tantrums are very funny sometimes... look on here for threads about broken banana tantrums! Mine would howl if you have them the thing they'd been howling for for the last ten minutes confused
They don't know what they want most of the time, so easy choices- "coat before shoes, or shoes first, DS?" not "do you want to put your coat on?" (Cos you know thats going to be a nope!)
There's a good book - "How to talk to children...." That's v helpful, used to be recommended on here a lot in the past, but I appreciate Parents don't always have time to read books!

cjt110 Thu 29-Jun-17 10:17:59

Im happy to take ANY suggestions PhilODox!

sparklewater Thu 29-Jun-17 10:24:24

Ooh, I've been down the bin route but it bit me on the arse when things didn't go to plan. Wardrobe much safer and means you don't have to choose between backing down or feeling like an absolute monster!! grin

One thing I always (try to) do, is to continue with the negative consequence, but in a positive way, if that makes sense. So still talking nicely as per time in descriptions, but toy still gets put away/screen time gets cut/bedtime is sooner, etc.

"I know it seems unfair honey, but you did x, y, z and that's not a nice way to behave, so this is what has to happen. It doesn't make me happy either. Hopefully we won't have to do this again?"

Obv with age-appropriate language that he'll understand. I'm quite strict, but quite good at keeping calm once the initial drama is over.

Wormulonian Thu 29-Jun-17 10:24:55

Have you tried a different approach to time out? It did not work for me with DD, I think she sort of liked the drama of it all. I also had mixed feelings about it as no one wants to see their child distressed/screaming and I felt I was breaking her spirit. Also I believed she really did not understand what she was doing - it wasn't a conscious choice to be naughty. You need to find a system that chimes with your heart and stick to it - a few weeks is not enough. Things can take a month or two to start showing improvement and progress is not linear.

I found reading The Explosive Child helpful (this was a good few years ago and there are also more recent books like The Strong Willed Child and How to speak so kids will listen etc). Some things that worked for us:
Changing routine where it causes a flashpoint and sticking to a revised routine/structure - e.g. getting dressed before breakfast as changing after breakfast was a flashpoint. laying out the clothes the night before.

"Don't sweat the small stuff" - pick your battles. Does it really matter if she won't wear wellies on a wet day but insists on plimsolls - she will get wet feet - so what? Bring the wellies in a bag. Avoid the meltdown.

Giving the illusion of choice - e.g.instead of saying "get changed" - say "which top would you rather wear the red or the blue?"

Instead of reacting to bad behaviour - super praise good behaviour.

When they are quiet/playing nicely instead of thinking "thank god" and having a sit down - engage and ask questions - what are you building, that looks great , can you show me it when you are finished? and praise him. Attention is given for nice play rather than for bad. Show it to dad when he comes home - so a fuss is made about a good thing.

You know your son's triggers - are there any you can avoid? My DD used to go into meltdown in the supermarket- so I had shopping delivered and DH picked up extras like milk on his way home from work. i had 3 other DC so there were things my DD hated such as school pickups and drop offs for the others which we couldn't avoid but it lessened the load.

Good luck

Sunshinegirls Thu 29-Jun-17 10:25:50

I think that giving them too many choices makes tantrums worse. "Do you want to put your coat on?" This question is unnecessary, "put your coat on please" much better, firm a instructive.
Toddlers feel secure if they know you are in charge, that you are making the decisions. Constantly giving them choices and decisions is too much for them to cope with. The odd choice is healthy, but make them simple ones.

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