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3 year 8 month DD hitting at nursery

(8 Posts)
FamiliarSting Wed 08-Jun-16 13:27:20

Sorry this is long!

I am having a lot of problems with my 3 year old. Most of it is normal 3 year old stuff, though I suspect she’s slightly worse than most, at least she’s more challenging than my 7 year old was and I thought she was a handful back then.

But now she has started hitting other children at nursery and I don’t know what to do about it.
For quite a while we’ve had problems with her hitting her 7 year old sister. But she had never hurt any other children at parks/soft play etc. until recently.

I put most of the hitting at home down to normal sibling squabbling, she’s always been more boisterous than my 7 year old was but I put that down to having an older sibling that was sometimes rough with her or would hit her when she took a toy, for example. Nothing extreme or worrying, and my older daughter was always firmly told off and made to understand that hitting was not OK.
When they’re both squabbling and one gently whacks the other and the other retaliates I put it down to normal sibling stuff and try to let them sort themselves out, which usually works when it’s 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.
But since we’ve been having more problems with hitting I’m been more strict about any hitting from either of them.

My main concern is the random unprovoked attacks from my 3 year old to her older sister and other children.
Quite often my 3 year old will just walk up to my 7 year old and hit her/whack her with an object/throw something. I think she is trying to provoke a reaction; it happens when the older one is ignoring her or won’t let her join in her games. But it also happens for no apparent reason. And she often looks quite pleased with herself and amused at DD1’s reaction. If it was all due to frustration or toy taking I wouldn’t be as concerned and feel I’d have a better idea how to handle it.

It’s often worst when I am trying to make dinner in the evenings, DD1 is constantly shouting “Mummy, DD2 hit me!”
I suspect my tactics for dealing with it are a load of crap.
I want her to understand that it’s not nice to hurt people/how it makes them feel, rather than stop doing it for fear of punishment, but explaining to her does not seem to help. We’ve tried a behaviour chart with stickers which helps a little, time out, which doesn’t really help. Taking away toys doesn’t really help as there’s not really any particular thing she’s into. The only thing that slightly works is removing screen time, and if I’m told she’s hit someone at school it’s an immediate ‘no TV’ for the rest of the day which to be honest can just make her worse as there’s nothing to distract her in the evening when I’m cooking or cleaning up after dinner.

She’s destructive and mischievous. She gets into things she shouldn’t, breaks things, throws things (another big issue along with the hitting) makes huge messes with drinks and water. One might say she’s just a normal curious three-year-old and I need to shadow her more closely, which I do when possible.

But now she’s started doing it at nursery I need to find a way to stop it quickly. I am not sure what is causing it at nursery. The teacher told me today that she hasn’t actually seen her hit another child, but that lots of children have come to her and told her that DD2 has hit them.
At nursery they deal with it by sending the child to time out. I don’t think it works but I can’t think of a better solution.

I should add that she’s often a friendly, chatty child. She’ll spot her friends and hug them and chat away with them nicely. She’s also good with smaller children.

She is, however, pretty particular and awkward and has a melt down at the slightest thing. But the things she’s particular about change from day to day so I’m not able to predict what might set her off. I remember my 7 year old going through a similar stage though I’d be lying if I wasn’t slightly concerned about autism or similar.
She has random grumpy days where she just scowls at people, often singling out one person to be grumpy with. Yesterday when collecting DD1 the deputy head told DD2 to get down off the climbing frame as it was broken. 3 year old replied “I don’t like you’.
One day she’ll go into nursery and greet the teacher with a big hug; the next day she’ll just scowl at her.
I’m not sure if her awkwardness is anything to do with the hitting, but thought I’d mention it as I never dealt with anything to this extreme with DD1 who was also friendly and chatty, a handful at home, but has always been perfectly behaved at school.

Any tips, tactics or advice to get a handle on the hitting? The other stuff I can deal with but I can’t allow her to be hurting other children at nursery.

Tryingtowait Wed 08-Jun-16 18:32:46

My son is the same age as your dd and he had a similar issue of biting about a year ago. The nursery advised that keeping the same discipline as them was the best option so we did time out like they did. I think he was doing it for partly attention and simply telling him a firm no putting him in time out and ignoring him seemed to work after a while. Nursery also noticed he seemed to bite when other children got in his personal space and he was claustrophobic. He apparently bit a child for going in the wendyhouse and blocked the doorway.

I also kept praising him for anything good he did. Some suggested reward charts although that didn't seem to work for him. So in the end I stuck to timeout and a firm no. And giving him a chocolate button (probably not the healthiest) for being good. I guess it's all trial and error but try to stick to one way so not to confuse her.

Kariana Wed 08-Jun-16 18:59:38

I'm not sure why you don't think time out works, it really does seem like this is an option you should go with. Your explanations clearly aren't doing any good, nor are your other punishments. The best reaction to attention seeking behaviour is to give no attention. A firm "no we don't hit" and then three minutes in time out with no more interaction would probably help you make headway and make her realise there are consequences.

minipie Thu 09-Jun-16 15:21:18

It does sound like attention seeking, at least at home. (As do the messes/destructiveness).

Explanation will backfire as that means she's getting rewarded (with attention) for the hitting. Also I don't think most 3 year olds have much empathy so she's not going to stop hitting just because you tell her it hurts other people.

Straight after hitting, I think I would put her in another room (I guess that's time out) and tell her she can come out when she is going to behave nicely. So give her a chance to decide to be nice iyswim.

But also, I suggest giving her alternative ideas on how to get someone's attention, in a positive way. She's old enough to understand I think. So you could say "If you want DD1 to play with you, don't hit her, try bringing her a game she likes". Or "If DD1 won't listen to you, come and talk to me". Don't have this conversation straight after the hitting but once everything is calmer.

As regards nursery, they really need to try to work out why she is hitting - for example is it when someone is ignoring her (as with your DD1) or is it when someone takes a toy away from her or won't give it to her etc.
Then, again, you can tell her what she should do in that situation eg "if someone snatches from you, don't hit, go and tell a teacher". That has - over time - worked well with my DD who used to get aggressive at nursery.

And yes, lots of praise and maybe a small reward (sticker?) for good behaviour...

FamiliarSting Thu 09-Jun-16 19:37:49

Thanks for the replies.

Time out doesn't seem to work in that she often just hits again 5 minutes later and it doesn't seem to deter her. Sometimes she'll hit her sister then go and put herself in time out!
But we'll try it again more consistently with the full 3 minutes, it's hard keeping her there unless I stay with her the whole time.
Unfortunately the only safe room she can be for even a minute unsupervised is the living room or bedrooms, so time out is the bottom step of the stairs/hallway. The dining room is full of craft supplies so 3 minutes later there would be glitter or something everywhere! And the kitchen is obviously a no no.

About the explaining things to her, I don't really try that after she's just done something, but we talk about how it makes people feel for example on the way to nursery, and she does seem to understand that it's not nice, or at least that it's not acceptable.
She had a good day today, and when we were talking about how the day went she said "I didn't hit anyone today!"

It's strange that she seems to be either totally fine, or she'll hit several people in one session! The staff don't seem overly concerned and have only pulled me aside to mention it once, but I know it's happened a few times as I've asked if there have been any more hitting incidents, only then have they mentioned things.

Thanks, mini, some good suggestions there that will hopefully help with her sister.

ilovesthediff Thu 09-Jun-16 19:41:13

I'd maybe go with reward charts for good behaviour and somehow scheduling some one on one time with her a bit more so she's not doing things for attention?

minipie Thu 09-Jun-16 19:44:23

I read somewhere that with time out, it DOES affect them even if they act like it doesn't.

Can you not put her in the living room for time out - I find that works better for DD than on a step (don't know why) - I think staying with her would defeat the object as she'd be getting attention again?

Do the hitting days seem to be linked to tiredness or a new cold/bug? DD's definitely were... (I feel I am tempting fate by typing "were" but they do seem to be behind us hopefully). If so then you could try a bit more quiet time and a bit more one on one on those days and that might help?

FamiliarSting Fri 10-Jun-16 10:16:35

The living room tends to be where the rest of us are and where the hitting happens so we'd all have to leave for her to be in there for time out, that could work though if I take my older daughter off to do something else.

It doesn't seem to be linked to illness, she's more fragile when she's ill and will have a meltdown over the slightest thing, but she becomes a lot more affectionate and pleasant when she's ill! As horrible as that sounds, she's had a couple of episodes of feeling pretty rotten recently, and we've all noticed when she's started to feel better as she starts attacking her sister and generally being more of a handful again!

Tiredess - maybe! She rarely sleeps through the night and often doesn't want to get out of bed on nursery days. Last night she slept right through until 6am! Woohoo! Then she was wide awake and full of beans so it'll be interesting to see how today goes.

Definitely do need more one on one time, with both of them really. But she can still be destructive when it's just the two of us doing an activity - throwing paint/ripping flash cards are two examples that come to mind, things like that make me think it's not for attention, but on the whole it makes sense that it is.
She can be so lovely when she's in a good mood!

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