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3yo hitting us, and saying we hit him

(11 Posts)
SoonMeansNever Sat 01-Nov-14 00:43:15

I'd welcome any advice please, feel all at sea at the moment. Apologies for the essay, I'm longwinded...

DS1 is 3.6, and not good at dealing with problems verbally. When he's upset he lashes out, and used to have a big biting problem but fingers crossed this seems to have passed (hasn't bitten another child for many months, tho has bitten me recently).

He's currently in a stage of hurting DH and I quite a lot - he hits me in the head/face, hair pulls, kicks, headbutts etc. Usually prompted by being told no, or told off for hitting which then gets worse. He also does it during night terrors.
It happens every single day to some extent, sometimes several times.
He's also a screamer and will do fake crying for a hour if I can't persuade him out of it - I can see he's putting it on (he'll pause to check things out), but he sounds like he's being murdered, it makes for a horrible stressful house.

I'm pretty sure this is a power play for attention - his brother is 6mo, and while he's adjusted very well in most ways, he does want more of me than I can now give. He is very protective of his DS2, to the point where he tries to hit any child that comes near him.

However, he's started saying that we hit him, which we don't.
We did try smacking a couple of times when he was smaller and found it completely pointless - I know it works with some kids, but it achieves absolutely nothing with him.

When he hurts us or is trying to, I restrain him or move him away depending on circs, and say clearly "No hitting, we don't hit" then something along the lines of "Use your words, tell me why you're upset".
We apply consequences, so he can't do/have something until he's said sorry etc.

As with the biting tho, none of this makes a blind bit of difference, I wonder if he's just going to grow out of it at his own pace.
Sometimes I can jolly him out of it, other times bribery might work, but sometimes I just need to deal with the baby and leave him to it.

I'm just beyond frustrated and totally lose the plot some days, which then makes him worse as my being upset makes him even more stressed.
Him then talking about us hitting him really worries me, I guess in case he says it at preschool and they believe it (which I hope they would in case it was true and he needed help!).
Any suggestions or experience gladly welcomed. thanks

MexicanSpringtime Sat 01-Nov-14 00:48:04

Sorry, I've experience of this particular problem, but is he getting enough sleep or could he be having a reaction to any foodstuff?

MexicanSpringtime Sat 01-Nov-14 04:40:04

Duh, sorry, meant to say, "I've no experience"

StupidFlanders Sat 01-Nov-14 06:53:26

I'd suggest getting specialist help at this age.

My ds had poor hearing (picked up by an audiologist around 3) which affected his speech which made him frustrated. He has also been seeing a speech therapist for the past year (since 2) and we'll be looking at a behaviour specialist in a few months (would have gone straight there if he didn't have the hearing impairment).

My sympathies-some days are really hard.

Out of curiosity is he better while in childcare?

addictedtosugar Sat 01-Nov-14 07:19:01

not good at dealing with problems verbally
What is his speech like in general?

If it is generally OK, I'd say he is getting what he wants by lashing out. You restrain him, talk to him. The crying - you persuade him, bribe him, cajole him. Sometimes you leave him to deal with baby.
So, by playing up, he gets your attention. Its negative attention (mainly), but still focused on him rather than his sibling.

What happens if you just put him in the corner with a sharp "NO!", and then go back to having fun with baby - start playing a game which sounds exciting. I guess at this age it might be tower building for baby to knock down?

We found hearing baby stir from a nap, and saying "Oh, baby is awake, lets leave him while we finish XYZ" worked really well - baby was being ignored (he wasn't screaming, just stirring).
Also, when doing something with baby, and the oldest is doing something really nicely, commenting on it. So attention for the things you want to encourage, and ignoring the things you don't want to happen?

Life for us got much better when the youngest was mobile. brew and cake to get you through.

Spookgremlin Sat 01-Nov-14 07:43:28

Agree largely with above. We had this at same age with younger sibling. It stopped when I stopped feeding it with attention, including consequences and protracted explaining.

It's so hard because you get so emotionally drawn in to it.

The thing that finally worked for us was to gently but firmly anticipate his hit by taking hold of his hand, looking him in the eye and saying, "no, don't hit" matter of factly, then turning straight around and becoming occupied with something else. Not necessarily the baby though, I felt uncomfortable with making it directly about the baby.

It would usually turn into him approaching me for a cuddle and apology then we'd have the chat about why it's not nice etc, just ask if you want Mummy to play, then I'd lavish him with attention for five or ten minutes, get down on the floor with him etc.

Also one on one time with him without baby is important if you can get it. Little trip out to the shop together or swings, even quarter of a hour, all helps to build up the relationship.

Obviously make sure you get speech/hearing issues checked.

flowers one of my toughest times was going through this with my ds. Couple of months down the line he has the odd episode but it is of short duration now as I deal with it consistently.

BazilGin Sat 01-Nov-14 07:54:24

Hi, didn't want to read and run...my DD is 3.4 and started hitting since DS was born 4 months ago. She is very verbal and actually, the hitting phase is almost over, she only does it when she is overtired and frustrated.
She was also saying we hit her (which we never have!) and I reckon she did it for attention or she was copying my reaction to her own hitting.
What helped (I think) was trying to be completely calm when it happens, I take her hand away, look her in the eye and say I will not let you hit me. Then remove myself if she does not stop (walk away) until she is calm and then she apologises, we have a cuddle etc.
Trying to give her undivided attention also improves her behaviour, lots of praise (e.g. When she is in bed, I often pick something from the day she did well and tell her I liked when...(she did something nice) and thank her for helping me etc.
It's so hard sometimes, I symphatise especially that ds hardly naps so I am struggling giving her attention. When he naps, instead of catching up on chores, I sit and play with her.
I hope it gets better for you OP. wine

Spookgremlin Sat 01-Nov-14 09:04:17

Just want to make clear, I wasn't 'cold-shouldering' him at all when I walked away, just breezily getting on with something else, if he spoke to me about other things I would answer, not like the silent treatment. If he didn't offer an apology himself I would try and prompt one after perhaps chatting about something else and giving him time to calm down a bit.

I found the more I hung about trying to reason with him initially the more he would keep hitting.

SoonMeansNever Sat 01-Nov-14 10:30:49

Oh thank you everyone - MN is so bloomin HELPFUL! thanks [choc]

To answer questions:
Mexican He usually sleeps 11-12hrs a night, hasn't napped since 18mo, sometimes gets overtired in the afternoons.
He has bowel probs, toddler diarrhoea, currently being investigated.

Flanders We have seen the HV team quite a lot and discussed the possibility of ASD, it was eventually decided that he doesn't have those issues and is just an awkward bugger.
The preschool staff have some issues with him, hitting etc, but have told me they think it's because he's v bright. He is generally well behaved there, certainly has never hit the staff.

addicted His speech is really good, huge vocabulary, sometimes struggles to describe things but generally very chatty.
I think you might be right about the negative attention thing, but in the past found "no" and ignoring didn't work. He's that much older, it's def worth another shot.
We do a lot of positive reinforcement.

Spook Very hard to have time alone with DS1 - no help here, just DH at weekends, and an EBF baby I can't leave for predictable periods as he doesn't nap or feed with much of a pattern.
I know you're right tho, I need to make sure I take him to the playground or something today, I've been lazy on that score as am just so shattered. Plus I hate rewarding bad behaviour, and he often kicks off shortly before a treat.

One of the worst things is that he constantly wakes DS2 up if I actually manage to get him to sleep - naps are the only time we get together and he sabotages them every time!

I forgot - ATM we 'tell' his bedtime bear if he has hurt us and won't say sorry etc then 'bear is sad and doesn't want to sleep in your bed tonight'. So the bear has kind of become behaviour moderator. A bit weird, but we were desperate. When DS1 kind of attacked me in front of DSis (kicking screaming spitting hitting) she was so shocked she suggested Bear stayed at her house for a week. It kind of worked, but really upset DS1 so I don't want to carry on with Bear sanctions really.

I think we need to try the "No!" and ignore method again - got to get DH and I completely consistent on this tho.

Spookgremlin Sat 01-Nov-14 16:47:03

I know it seems counterintuitive to reward the behaviour, but once I started viewing his hitting as coming from being scared at all the changes, rather than as bad behaviour, it really helped me take it less personally and realise he was just looking for reassurance that I was still his Mummy too, even if he tried to push me away.

The more you tell them off for 'bad' behaviour, the worse they feel and the easier it is for them to behave badly, as they have nothing to lose ifyswim. When they're acting out it's when you feel least like treating them and hugging them, but it's when they need it most.

I know what you mean about kicking off at nap times, so frustrating.

I get the position you are in, ebf baby also, and it happened between 5-6 months here. It doesn't have to be long, but it does just have to focus on him, without the baby. When DH was here on a weekend I would pop to the corner shop with him and have a chat on the way, or go out on a 'mission' to collect leaves or something. Or just get on the floor and do playdough. Just ten minutes here and there made all the difference. Once he knew I would sometimes leave the baby to focus on him he was much more amenable to leaving the baby to sleep in the week.

I think you're right not to follow on with the bedtime bear stuff, it's likely to make it worse if he loses his comforter too.

Sorry don't mean to get on at you, but I was tearing my hair out with this, and it was amazing how it turned around with just a bit of good attention, I'm evangelical about it now grin

SoonMeansNever Sat 01-Nov-14 17:43:08

Thank you Spook I think you have it exactly.
Really annoyed with myself, didn't manage to get out with him today due to DS2 Just Not Sleeping!! Tomorrow we're visiting FIL, I'll take Eldest out for a walk and leave Small with DH and FIL regardless of sleep etc.
I'm going to stay with my DSis again later this week, she'll happily watch the baby while I take DS1 to the playground.

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