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Feeling lost with my 3.5 year old's behaviour

(8 Posts)
amyboo Thu 19-May-16 16:04:53

DS2 is 3.5 and generally can be a lovely, cuddly, funny little boy. But we can't seem to get him to stop hitting when he gets frustrated and DH and I are really lost with what to do.

A bit of background - he's been in school (well, pre-school, but we're outside the UK and it's somewhere between school and nursery) since September 2015. He struggled at the start with not getting enough sleep and doing as he was told, but has generally made good progress. He still struggles to be understood sometimes, as he really mixes up his two languages (he speaks EN at home and the language of the country where we live at school). He naps still around midday and generally gets 10/11 hours sleep a night.

Our biggest problem is that he hits the other kids - even ones he's friendly with - when he gets annoyed with them not doing what he wants or when they bug him. He can go weeks being well behaved and then boom - we'll have a period of terrible behaviour. Today, for example, he bit another girl in his class "really hard". At home if he behaves like this (he often gets into arguments with DS1, age 6) we do time outs, and he gets something similar at school. He always says what he's done wrong, will say sorry spontaneously, and listen while you tell him off. But then he'll do the same thing again minutes or hours later.

DH and I are really lost with what to do with him. School have tried to be patient with him, but you can tell they're getting a bit fed up now. DS1 is the complete opposite - generally calm, reserved and focussed - whereas DS2 has always been energetic, outgoing and distractable. We also have DD1 who is 7 months, but I wouldn't say her arrival has affected things in a specific way - DS2 was like this before she arrived.

Can anyone offer any words of advice? Is it just because he's 3 years old? Should we try and get his behaviour assessed or something? (they don't tend to do that here until kids are 4/5) Should we try a new reward/punishment? Feeling lost.

Torchlight86 Sat 21-May-16 06:58:46

hi, I can relate to your problem, my little boy is nearly 4 and thankfully, everything crossed has grown out of or been snapped out of this behaviour. he went through a period of doing similar things at pre school, it was embarrassing, upsetting, frustrating and everything else in between! he's a lovely little boy and the thought of other children and adults judging him on this behaviour was awful, I work with adults with challenging behaviour and found it particularly distressing to see my son displaying similar behaviours.

he would show shame and remorse when I talked to him about his behaviour at school but I found it hard because he was so young I think he had trouble connecting the 'telling off' to the behaviour, so actually in a twisted sort of way I was pleased when he displayed the same behaviours towards me when in trouble for something unrelated, it meant I had a chance to immediately reprimand him and issue a consequence he could fully understand the origin of!

it all came to a head during a fateful visit to a supermarket, I, like my boys dad and grandparents, aunties etc was guilty of spoiling him sometimes and have come to realise I am doing him no favours with this behaviour. anyway long story short he wanted a toy which I said he could have, he then wanted another toy which I said no to, he then proceeded to hit me with the original toy, I remove it from him and calmly told him no toys now for hitting, he lost it completely, hitting screaming kicking, behaviours I had never seen before and did not wish to again, I finished the shop with a red face and stares from everyone else, a woman actually came up and told me well done for being strong and all I could think was please go away before he hits you too! lol anyway once in the car I had a little cry to de-stress, once I had calmed a little and with my little one still very agitated, I explained to him 'mummy is crying because shes really sad about what happened today, and look, youre crying too, the way you behaved has made us both really upset' I didn't intend to upset him more or 'blame' him but I felt it was important he knew how his behaviour had made us both feel, I then explained that because he was spoilt (I didn't use these exact words) and because of the hitting kicking etc when we got home I was going to remove all his toys until he could show mummy he appreciated them and learnt that hitting and hurting anyone was wrong, he remained upset, I followed through and removed everything, he was obviously upset by this and I think shocked too, I didn't keep punishing him, I explained I still loved him and it was finished now and we would just concentrate on being really big grown ups and get his toys back from now on, over the next few weeks he earned a lot of toys back and actually played with them a lot more than when he had thousands in his room. touch wood he has not done this again and the only problems we have had at pre school have been normal, boys play fighting with something and one of them got hit a bit hard type of things which I can certainly live with. that's just my experience and I certainly don't claim to be an expert, but I do believe in children understanding when they have done wrong and that there are always consequences. I also found more supervised play dates with children his age helped, getting him playing with another child who doesn't always do what he wants, but in a much calmer environment than a pre school which I think can sometime over stimulate children of that age. we also did purpose trips to the supermarket to snap him out of expecting a toy every time (totally our doing) I would tell him all the way there no toy today remember, just looking, no toy, really drummed it into him, and to be fair to him he coped really well and accepted it!

I know its awful when your going through this and I thought it would never end with mine, but looking back now It doesn't seem half as bad as it did at the time, and it did end! I'm not saying he's perfect now, but I'm not holding my breath everytime I go to pick him up waiting to be pulled to the side! remember schools are trained in things like this and if you are concerned, request a meeting with his key worker, or equivalent, and discuss some strategies/possible trigger etc together and try and put on a united front.

BlueUggs Sat 21-May-16 07:19:58

My son was like this and can still be when tired or hungry. As parents and his teachers at school have worked really hard to do a lot of praising of good behaviour and he had a reward chart where he got red stickers if he hit or kicked, orange stickers if there had been a small incident and green stickers if he had been good.
At home, immediate time out for hitting/kicking etc, lots of small cheap treats for good behaviour and we also had the same reward chart and put some things on it that we knew were achievable for him to encourage him further.
He's now 5 and his hitting and kicking is much more under control and he now goes and tells the teacher if someone is upsetting him rather than punching them.
It's frustrating and hard work!

DoinItFine Sat 21-May-16 07:45:06

No words of advice as such, just flowers for a fellow parent of a 3.5er.

They can be such hard work at that age. They are getting complicated and smart, but they are still so little.

Remember to enjoy the lovely things about this age while you get through the trials! smile

I have known other 3 year I love who have done a lot of hitting and kicking at 3 and have grown out of it and been taught to stop.

That's not to say you shouldn't get him assessed if you are worried. He'said your son. Trust your instinct on that if you think he needs help.

Even if the baby hasn't noticeably affected his behaviour, it is a huge thing for him. It can be really though being the middle kid. Lots of praise and as much 1 on 1 time with a parent as you can manage is IME good for making newly minted middle children feel secure.

Good luck. He sounds like a lovely little boy.

NorthEasterlyGale Sat 21-May-16 20:12:47

Yeah, my DS1 (he''ll be 4 next month) went through a real phase of hitting and we did the usual: saying 'we don't hit', gently holding his hands or arms down to stop him as we said it, time outs, lavish praise for behaving well etc. The only other thing I can suggest is trying to teach an alternative reaction to anger - we worked on getting DS1 to say 'I'm angry' and stamp his foot when he was cross, instead of hitting. I think it helped a little. He did eventually grow out of it - now I'm trying to deal with DS2 (just turned two) who is a biter....happy days grin

minipie Sat 21-May-16 20:22:38

I agree with giving him an alternative thing to do when he gets angry.

DD was a hitter and occasional biter <sigh> when other children did something she didn't like (eg taking toy away). Like your DS she doesn't sleep much at night which contributed to short temper. We kept telling her (every morning before nursery) that if she got cross she should go and tell a teacher. It worked - not perfectly, there's still been one or two aggressive incidents (usually when very tired) but pretty well. You could try that? Or like the PP you could tell him to stamp and say "I don't like that"/"I'm angry" or similar.

Good luck. He will very likely grow out of it, it just takes some kids longer than others, especially (I think) the ones that don't sleep as much...

amyboo Sat 21-May-16 21:19:32

Thanks so much for the comments. It's such a relief to hear that I'm not alone. I spoke to school on Friday and they seem to feel it's a phase and will pass as he grows up and perhaps after the 9 week (!) summer holidays. His teacher said that all the teachers say he is a nice kid, but just with a short temper.

It's true that he sleeps a lot less at night than DS1 did at the same age, and has never been a great sleeper. I do think that contributes but I don't think it excuses his bad behaviour... We've planned a week or so over the summer when he'll be home just with me (siblings elsewhere) and have a few DS1 free days coming up, so I think we'll try and make sure he gets some Mummy/Daddy time ti himself. And be better at enforcing the time outs. Hopefully it'll work eventually.

minipie Sun 22-May-16 08:52:21

Tiredness isn't an excuse and he'll have to learn to control his temper obviously, but it does provide a reason why it's taking him longer to learn (ie a reason which isn't adhd - actually I have read that tiredness can look very similar to adhd in young children).

By the way another thing that helped us, which nursery suggested, was to tell them if she was particularly short on sleep so they could keep an extra eye on her. That way they could see likely flashpoints and get in there and talk to her about the right response, before she lashed out. Also they could give her 'quiet time' if she seemed to be getting a bit tired/hyper.

Good luck

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