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2.7 year old being aggressive with other children and really, really difficult

(28 Posts)
2ndDestiny Fri 24-May-13 13:51:11

I have a gorgeous, funny, loving, wonderful 2.7 yr old son whom I love to pieces but I am feeling at the end of my tether with his behaviour. Yes, I know he is only 2, but it seems to be so much worse than any of his peers that we mix with. I'm not sure if I'm handling it the right way, it feels like whatever I do makes things worse, and/or makes both us feel bad. I'd like to hear from others who have experienced similar.

The worst problem is the pushing, shouting at/bossing around and sometimes hitting or kicking other children. The nursery mentioned this to us when he had just turned 2, when I was heavily pregnant. It has been up and down, but has definitely got worse since his 4 month old sister was born. It has got to the point where I am considering not taking him to social activities such as his pre-school dance class which he loves. Today I had to intervene about 8-10 times to stop him from being aggressive to other children. Sometimes it's deliberate, I don?t know why - he often shouts things like, 'it's my umbrella', 'they're my shoes' as if he feels threatened, even though no-one is trying to take his things, or he doesn't want other children standing/playing close to him. At other times he wants to play with other children but is too physical and accidently hurts them - he's quite big for his age (98th percentile for weight since birth). For as long as I can remember has been accidentally headbutting or bashing me but usually looks genuinely concerned and says sorry. The deliberate aggression is newer and more difficult to deal with.

I always intervene, explain what he did wrong, and encourage him to say sorry to the other child. Sometimes intervening means literally pulling him off another child which can be really difficult while I?m holding the baby. He acts like he is listening to what I say but then does it again almost immediately. I have tried calmly taking him out of the room and talking to him. I have told him if he is not gentle with the other children that we'll have to go home or he?ll have to sit out of some activities and on a couple of occasions I've had to follow through on sitting out, cue big angry tears. Today in desperation when he jumped on his friend for the umpteenth time I did not let him have a sticker at the end of dance class. Big, big sad tears and I felt absolutely terrible - no idea if I am actually helping to teach him anything, or just making him feel penalised and crushing his self esteem.

We do not model aggressive or bullying behaviour at home and we don't generally shout, although sometimes as a family if we get over excited about something we can all talk in quite an animated way. Sometimes when we get really exasperated we (DH or I) will speak to him in a short, cross, irritated voice that sounds a bit harsh and I know we shouldn't really do that and try really hard not to show anger or negative emotions. I am just so exhausted with it.

I have read 1-2-3 Magic and found it utterly useless. I did try the technique but he was just constantly in 'time out' without understanding why, hugely upset, very upsetting for me too, I don't think it works for 2-year-olds (at least not this one). I found How To Talk So Kids Will Listen much more useful but the strategies in there are barely making a dent in his aggressive behaviour and I am having trouble sticking to them because I'm so desperate I find it hard to think straight and stay calm and consistent.

He is also very uncooperative at the moment but goes into complete meltdown if we apply any immediate consequences (naughty step, taking away a toy for a few minutes, ending bath time early, etc.). I just feel we keep getting into a cycle of making him feel bad and behave even worse. I'm sure the aggressive behaviour is because of something I am not managing right but I have no idea what to do. My mother (who is very close to my son and absolutely adores him) casually mentioned that my cousin was like this when he was little and because my brother and I were quite compliant, she thought my cousin was 'just awful'. My fear is that he will alienate himself and other adults and children won't like him and I really, really don't want that to happen to him sad

Any advice very welcome.

pickledparsnip Fri 24-May-13 13:59:36

I completely understand. My son is 3.5 and exactly the same. I've just started taking him to see an osteopath & in 3 sessions the difference in his behaviour is amazing.

pickledparsnip Fri 24-May-13 14:02:30

It was getting horrendous, would not play with others, very aggressive behaviour. I was at the end of my tether and felt we couldn't socialise with anyone.
It is definitely getting better.

pickledparsnip Fri 24-May-13 14:08:30

Ah just reread & see you have a new baby too. You are coping with a lot, it must be tough. Are you still able to spend 1 to 1 time with your son? Appreciate that may not be possible, just wondering if it may help.

Personally I kept any social interaction to the bare minimum and left if there was any aggro. I appreciate that isn't possible if there are issues at nursery. How do they deal with it?

member Fri 24-May-13 14:08:34

I'd want to rule out any physical cause; I'm thinking particularly of hearing. When my dd was much younger (she's now 8) she wasn't too aggressive BUT did seem to misinterpret other children's intentions - verging on paranoia- purely because she had glue ear & couldn't hear properly.

2ndDestiny Fri 24-May-13 14:08:49

Thanks for your reply parsnip. An osteopath? I know nothing about this (except that I saw one for a bad back problem!) - how is it supposed to help? [ignorant emoticon] I am open to anything right now...

2ndDestiny Fri 24-May-13 14:15:46

I kept any social interaction to the bare minimum and left if there was any aggro

Yes I can see why you did this and it may come to this. But that means keeping him cooped up indoors on rainy days, and less structure = more chance of me getting to the end of my tether. V lonely for me too although I will put him first, obviously.

Are you still able to spend 1 to 1 time with your son?
Hardly any, and I miss it so much. I think this is important and need to figure out with DH how to rectify it, even if just once a week on the weekend. He is much closer to DH now but I don't think that compensates.

Thanks member - hearing seems ok but may get it checked just to rule that out.

2ndDestiny Fri 24-May-13 14:18:40

nursery were not using punishment last time it was discussed (because he's still too young, in their view, I think), just intervening, explaining and letting him see them comfort the hurt child. Not hurting other children is one the goals they are currently working on with him. I feel a bit vague about what they're doing actually, maybe time for another chat with his key worker too.

pickledparsnip Fri 24-May-13 14:21:31

Well I always meant to take him for cranial osteopathy when he was a baby, but never got round to it/couldn't afford it. I did a bit of research and turns out it can help with behavioural problems. Apparently some people think it is a bit woo (there's a thread in active convos at the mo), but personally I don't.

The one we go to was recommended and is fab. She took a lot of details about his birth and health. Checked him over & said there were restrictions on his spine (probably birth related). She has been working on them. Never made any promises, but as far as I was concerned I wanted it sorted anyway. Last session she said that his system feels less tense. He has been far less frustrated and angry.

I was willing to try anything.

pickledparsnip Fri 24-May-13 14:25:45

You don't have to keep him cooped up on rainy days. We still went out every day (would both go mad otherwise), just kept interactions with others to a minimum.

Also made sure that if we met with others, it was somewhere where my son could run around & not expect to behave in away I knew he couldn't manage (eg sit quietly in a coffee shop).

I know it is hard, sounds like you are doing a great job. Be kind to yourself, it is hard work!

pickledparsnip Fri 24-May-13 14:26:56

Yes think talking to your dh about 1 to 1 time with your son is a good idea. Just taking him to the park once a week just the two of you would be great I'm sure.

Soupa Fri 24-May-13 14:34:36

Yeah my huge boy was awful to others, we were not welcome all over the place. Fast forward a bundle of years and he is genuinely one of the nicest calmest children on the planet. He took lumps out of us all between 2 and 3.5, no idea what worked really other than staying kind and letting him grow up! We did all the usual leave as soon as there was an incident, made sure well fed, rested but really nothing worked much other than time.

Your boy has had lots of change, he will come through it too. Do what you both enjoy, repeat to self...tis just a phase...

ProphetOfDoom Fri 24-May-13 14:35:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Soupa Fri 24-May-13 14:36:11

Oooo allergies, my boy did have a low level one and seemed to improve after we changed his diet. Worth thinking about too?

Soupa Fri 24-May-13 14:37:33

And if yours is verbal don't despair, mine was an excellent talker...didn't make any difference to the buggers aggression!

Thisisanoutrage Fri 24-May-13 15:00:58

I could have written this. I think my DS hasn't learned quite how to play properly yet. He also gets very aggressive at silly things. I'm not sure I can be any help as I'm in the same boat. I even have a 5 month old baby daughter. He has started going to bed earlier which has helped. Also, I have ordered a few children's books about playing nicely to read with him. He is a delight with adults. Hopefully it will pass.

2ndDestiny Fri 24-May-13 19:34:26

thanks for all these replies
have been busy with kids all afternoon, now bf dd but will reply again later
my ds also an excellent talker
at least i'm not totally alone in this

pickledparsnip Fri 24-May-13 21:52:45

You are most definitely not alone.

pickledparsnip Fri 24-May-13 21:54:31

I found other threads on here about agressive boys & found them reassuring.

There is a book about raising spirited children that I keep meaning to get. It is supposed to be brilliant.

post Fri 24-May-13 22:52:05

What worked for us , and ds1 was very very similar at the same age, and also had a new sib, was me committing, and keeping to, one warning, then me calmly picking him up and leaving, instantly, no discussion, no anger from me, just explaining that we weren't going to stay if he hurt anyone.
But it has to be EVERY time, I think, to work, which was sometimes really gutting for me, if we'd had a whole faff to get out that morning and I really wanted to be there. I also had one really supportive friend who helped me set up some playdates which we could just abandon. I just decided that I was going to totally prioritise dealing with it.

It took two weeks, and then rarely ever happened again, not never, but it definitely stopped being a 'pattern' he was in.

And he's now the loveliest 16 year old I know grin

tigersmummy Sat 25-May-13 07:22:48

My DS was like yours at that age (still is on occasion) and its the easiest thing in the world to retreat from those situations and avoid them. Sometimes that's best and I definitely support the 'one warning then leave' method. However just be careful you don't become withdrawn and isolated from social situations because at 5 we're still worried about taking DS places, ie out to lunch, because he's rarely had a chance to learn how to behave in those situations due to how he was as a toddler. I also advocate the osteopath/chiropractor as its worked wonders with DS. So many problems from birth can lay undetected and aggravate a problem. It's expensive but well worth it.

NessaYork Sat 25-May-13 07:33:29

My son (now 14) was 3 and quite articulate when I became pregnant with his sister. We had 'prepared the ground' beforehand by reading him story books like 'Spot's Baby Sister' and talked about 'when the baby comes' but nothing - really - prepared him for siblinghood. He was thrilled the day he first met his baby sister, and they now get along fine but it was a juggling act in the first couple of years to make sure they both got sufficient 1-on-1 time with each parent or we would give one some 'granny time' and have 2-on-1 with one of them. I suppose it's really just helping the DC to feel that they are safe and their position within the family is under no threat. My son now has 3 little sisters and is a really fantastic, perfectly normal and loving big brother.
It sounds like you're doing alot of the right things. I hope this helps.

lljkk Sat 25-May-13 08:13:55

Glad to read you also found 1-2-3 magic useless; I loathe that someone wrote a whole book about such a simple one-paragraph idea. (Which either works or it doesn't).

2.5yo is an age for height of aggression in my experience.

My small nugget is to scale back expectations and to praise and comment on everything he does well or right, any small gesture of affection, any helpful action, any time he quickly does what you asked, if he does the smallest nice thing for other people, too. Doesn't have to be a direct "Good boy!", better if you can Comment how nice it feels to do nice things for other people, how much you appreciate him, tell him Thank You if nothing else. Need to reprogram how he goes about getting attention and how you see him and how he sees himself.

2ndDestiny Sun 26-May-13 09:33:16

Thanks for all these lovely replies, lots of useful suggestions to look into.

We sorted out some proper 1-to-1 time with me yesterday and it was lovely. I doubt if it will be a quick fix but think this may be an important factor so plan to make it a weekly thing. His behaviour instantly reverted back to 'difficult' mode when we got home and I had both of them again while DH was busy doing something else.

I think I'm going to try to one-warning-then-calmly-leave approach - thanks post. Will have to psyche myself up for it and prepare other mums at playdates (I feel a bit awkward with the ones I have only just got to know, but hopefull they'll understand).

I take the point about not retreating from all social situations tigersmummy which is why I haven't done this til now. Ironically, he's very good in some situations which would seem impossible - e.g. sitting and having lunch in a cafe is rarely a problem (maybe cause he loves his food!) - although he plays up a lot at home, too, it's really dealing with other children that's causing the biggest problem.

I will be trying to couple this with lots of praise as you suggest lljkk - in addition to which, DH has just made him a reward chart and he got a star for being very gentle to a greenfly - of course I'm more concerned about gentleness to people (and the cat), but I suppose he has to start somewhere!

And in the mean time I'll look into the cranial osteopathy.

'Spirited child', very much so - anyone know the name of that book? (as mentioned by parsnip) - I will try googling it.

2ndDestiny Sun 26-May-13 09:38:17

Thanks to Schmaltzing, Soupa, outrage and Nessa too. Very reassuring to hear stories of older children who have come out of this phase with their social skills intact!

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