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anger management in 3 year old -please help ( long)

(31 Posts)
spooly Mon 30-Jun-08 13:54:11

Hi all, I have posted before with little success, please read on although long and advice will be gratefully received

My 3 year old son has issues with anger...
to explain.. what is nomal is a feisty stubborn active silly and gregarious nature. He has lots of friends and is a great talker.

His lovely nursery experienced difficulties when he went up to pre school. He is defiant about changing activities, doesnt like the structure as much and is on the naughty chair/ in the middle of incidents alot!

This abiding by the rules is improving and he knows right and wrong and will say sorry etc.

The problem is he experiences extreme bouts of anger/frustration over seemingly quite unrelated things from an advert to the wrong music!! to more typical sharing issues. It is wrse when he is tired and he does have long days at nursery due to my work.

It has been brought to a head by the teacher advising to bring in a early years officer. She does not want to label him any more than me, but says the extent of his anger and the venom in his words ( no swearing!- I want to bite you hit you etc... but litlle actually doing this)is beyond her.

We do not think he has a 'disorder' but his anger is very personal to his character. I was an angry child yet sociable and popular and I do understand the feeling.

There is now a new CAFform to be filled in for any child intervention in all areas. I do not want to have an official report wrtten as I feel this is wrong and could be detrimental. However I am DESPARATE for advice on anger management techniques.

I have been to the doctors and she has referred me (6-8 weeks and form filling ) but recommended private observation to get things going if I wanted answers.

I have researched a turtle technique ( canadian) with the aid of a puppet!! to get him to stop, think, go in his shell, count to 3 deep breaths and come out and think of an answer( nwith help) he kind of understands this and can verbalise emotions, but the incidents of so spontaneous he cant pre empt them or act independantly on controlling it.

HE IS ONLY 3, what can I do?, I have to abide the nurserys advice, but I am loathe to label my child. I honestly dont think he is the worst I have seen...BUT I have to deal with this now, otherwise school could be a nightmare.

Techniques, recommendations for help in london, similarities, ANY ADVICE PLEASE?!

PS his father and I have had some problems in the past, we are ok and we are pretty united in the love and support of our child and in dealin with his behaviour, although this can be stressful at times.

Many thanks


oneplusone Mon 30-Jun-08 15:07:53

Sorry not much time but why do you think he is angry? He doesn't like being at nursery for long days (your words) and would rather spend more time with you?

LittleBella Mon 30-Jun-08 15:15:43

Um, if the nursery has a naughty chair, I'd change nurseries.

I'd be bloody angry too if I was constantly being made to sit on a bloody naughty chair at the age of 3.

It's the nursery that's the problem, not your poor little DS.

What anger management techniques are you and your DH modelling him?

HonoriaGlossop Mon 30-Jun-08 15:22:33

so glad you said that, LittleB, was just going to say the same thing. Nursery shouldn't have a naughty chair.

I have to say that I think he sounds utterly normal. Many 3/4 yr old boys can have violent and explosive anger; it doesn't mean, as you say, that he is 'label-able'! Trouble is nowadays, kids spend longer in childcare and it CAN be tempting for more challenging children to get labelled by the staff. My ds was at home with me or granny for his first three years and I am DEAD sure that if some of his angry outbursts could have been seen or heard by childcare workers they would have been able to view him in this way too (many incidents of him saying really violent things in his anger, hitting, etc). Many kids go through this, it's part of them learning to govern their emotions.

Nursery MAY be contributing to the problem; obviously you work, he has to go, but I think it could be partly tiredness from the long days and from being somewhere where perhaps their approach ('naughty' step etc) is not too nurturing.....

I would just say personally that there is no better 'anger management' for a 3 yr old than letting them go through it and being ready with a hug when they are calm.

Don't let them make you think he has a problem; I'm sure he doesn't, and it's too early to tell anyway!

Egg Mon 30-Jun-08 15:23:11

I was also a bit surprised at a naughty chair for 3 year olds at a nursery. Am not sure exactly what DS1's nursery does when children misbehave, but there is no naughty chair.

My DS1 is a bit younger (2.4) but he can have really bad tantrums / screaming sessions esp when he is tired. It is a surefire way of knowing how tired he is when he does it. Does / can he sleep at nursery? Is he really worse than any others?

HonoriaGlossop Mon 30-Jun-08 15:23:33

have you considered a childminder??

2Happy Mon 30-Jun-08 15:27:10

This is why i am keeping ds1 (3.1) at playgroup for another 6m and not putting him into nursery this August as I should (apparently the Nursery teacher thinks I am Not Conforming hmm). At 3, a child should be playing not obeying. I mean, yes, I do keep harping about wishing ds1 would do as he is told a little more often, but within reason. They shouldn't have a naughty chair for a 3 year old. And the more of an issue they make of it, the worse he will become; I am a big believer in positive reinforcement, thus ignoring the bad behaviour (within reason), not giving attention to it.

bergentulip Mon 30-Jun-08 15:30:49

Someone told me recently that all little boys have an enormous rush of testosterone around the age of three, and can behave very aggressively from time to time.
I have no citations or websites to back this up, but have just had the conversation recently with someone.

What you say, and certain behaviour I have seen in my own little boy make me wonder if this is true. Sounds plausible enough.

HonoriaGlossop speaks a lot of sense when she says -
"My ds was at home with me or granny for his first three years and I am DEAD sure that if some of his angry outbursts could have been seen or heard by childcare workers they would have been able to view him in this way too (many incidents of him saying really violent things in his anger, hitting, etc). Many kids go through this, it's part of them learning to govern their emotions."
In a nursery/school environment I can see it would be very easy for staff and officials to label it as an issue, or disorder....

I think he just needs you at the moment, and reassurance from his parents. Mummy time. Love, cuddles.....
I know, not always possible 24/7 in today's world where a great majority of us have to go out and earn a bit more cash, whether we want to or not!

Egg Mon 30-Jun-08 15:32:03

At home, when DS1 is really bad, ie if he hits me or his baby brother or sister on purpose etc, he does go to his room for 2 mins. Then he always says sorry and we have a cuddle. Will ask them at nursery when I collect him what they do when one of the children is particularly bad...

HonoriaGlossop Mon 30-Jun-08 15:36:45

I think there is a huge pressure on kids who don't somehow fit the mould for whatever reason. Of course, human nature being what it is, nursery staff would far rather NOT have to deal with a boy who is issuing death threats, but this doesn't mean there is anything wrong with the boy!

Off the top of my head, one incident with my ds when he was three - ranting furiously, at the top of his voice, he ran down the corridor into his room, coming out seconds later brandishing a toy sword and threatening to kill me and put me in the bin outside and shut the lid...

There was a thread on here about RANTING once! I was really heartened to read that loads of 3/4 yr old boys do this - get SO angry and go round saying the most violent things....

To us, it has meant nothing; ds settled into school fine ( some tears and difficult times being left, but no issues re behaviour at ALL) and has had two years of school reports now where they state what a delightful boy he is, impeccable manners, delight to teach etc. Don't say this to boast, just to show that this stage is normal and means nothing in the long term. Don't let them 'medicalise' your boy!

cory Mon 30-Jun-08 20:20:11

When I was at secondary school in the Seventies, we were made to read a book on child development and one of the developmental stages they mentioned was the one about age 3 where the child moves from hitting out to saying "I'm going to kill you". They saw this a positive step forward and so it is. He is learning to control his anger- good for him!

Lots of nursery children are still at the biting and hitting stage.

His nursery sound a bit clueless tbh.

LittleBella Thu 03-Jul-08 04:59:55

Actually I get really angry when I hear these awful tales about idiot nursery staff labelling perfectly normal toddlers future ASBO material. Of course, they make it a self-fulfilling prophecy by making the "anger" shock horror, into a major issue instead of treating it rationally as a perfectly normal phase.

Stupid, harmful bastards.

spooly Thu 03-Jul-08 12:42:07

Dear all,

Its great to read rational comments and get a different perspective

Sorry Ive been away re couping up north at my mums with lots of fresh air and space and my son was great! everytime we met a new child he was eager to play and generous.

I think I have done the nursery a disfavour, it is not a naughty chair, but a form of time out, which I do follow as well. Sometimes it works....! Its strange though all the kids from 3-5 seem so well adjusted ( ie non of them hit out/lose it like him)

You know I also believe what most of you are saying about normal behaviour, I believe some little boys are just stuffed with hormonal rage!

I had an incident with his best friend yesterday where they screamed and hit each other ( fuelled by tiredness ) I was waiting for a lift home it was bed time and he scratched and fought me so badly I was mortified!.He could barely remember it this morning and said oh mummy did i scratch you? sorry, followed by a huge rahhh as he chased the cat with a dinosaur and threatened to kill it!

Its really hard if not impossible to shorten his days at the moment and i think being overtired is really a problem.And no he doesnt sleep. Although even if he does ( out and about at times) it doesnt make alot of difference.

I think some of the anger may be reflected from bad times with me and my partner, it is such a struggle, it makes you feel so guilty if you have lost it in front of him!
Its sometimes hard to judge what is normal behaviour and what we may have f*** up on.

The ranting things sounded interesting.. You know I think its his words that are so harsh that is what is scaring everyone, oh yes plus the fact if he does hit or throw other kids get injured ( and none of us would like our kids battered by another, you would think that kid is a thug if it happened more than once... that is my labelling fear) I remember his cousin once at 4 threatening to burn his pre school teacher and she flipped.

I really think it is all about perception. the nursery he is at is ALL about positive behaviour, it is beautifully run with lovely caring staff, loads of activities, big garden etc. BUT he seems the exception to the rule, he is NOT perfect..

Why is one persons normal, so different to others? My sister is a primary school teacher and she has so much trouble with behaviour problems, she said it is such an issue with children being so aggressive and disruptive, that teaching is all about crowd control...

rant rant rant

Anyway I am going to have to be so careful about all these official records, itsnot right for this sort of incident..but what can you do?

Thanks all, please still give any advice/comments.. Im confused as to what to do.

HonoriaGlossop Thu 03-Jul-08 12:56:02

Hi spooly

I can only say what I would do in this situation...

I would look at whether the childcare suits the child.

It COULD be that he is just one of those people who function better in a smaller environment. I would certainly look into using a childminder instead to see if the more homelike atmosphere helps him.

The other thing I would do is have a good chat with my partner about keeping any adult 'conflict' away from DS....on the odd occasion, I suspect most people have argued in front of their kids - but if this is more often then it simply can't be good for your ds. And at least if you and DP do not row in front of ds, it gives you peace of mind that any difficulties he has ARE just normal and not to do with you - peace of mind is worth a lot! Don't give yourself things to stew on!

Sibh Fri 04-Jul-08 00:25:57

Spooly--it sounds as if you really needed to have a break and recoup. I hope you are feeling stronger. Your DS has lots going for him, and your love for him and faith in him are loud and clear in your emails.

I'm writing, because what you're saying reminds me of the kinds of thing we were dealing with with DS two years ago. Also, I dealt with DS's outbursts using a made-up thing that sounds very like your turtle research so it might help to say how that worked out. We'd had a lot of change with house moves etc., me starting to stay at home, being pregnant again and so on, and he suffered from what we took to calling 'severe plot loss.' Time-out stuff just seemed to escalate it after a while, so I started to use the same response to each outburst.

Over about three weeks, when a tantrum started, or ideally before when I saw that the touchpaper was lit, I reminded him to take a few deep breaths and to think about something outside the situation that was winding him up. I also pointed out to him what the triggers were, saying things like: 'I can see that x is starting to make you cross so lets take a few deep breaths now ....' He ignored this slightly icky self-help stuff for a while but it did start to have an effect on how he responded to stuff that bothered him.

I also got him to put his worries in a 'worry box' (made out of my cupped hands) so that he could put away stuff that was aggravating him. This was especially helpful as the tantrums waned and he'd get upset about losing it when one overtook him.
He had a real sense that they washed over him, so putting him in charge of them through the breathing and setting things aside was helpful.

I was coming up with schemes in a frantic way by the end and threw in an idea borrowed from Tanya Byron. We had a chart and drew a smile for each hour that had been great and a sad face for where things hadn't gone so well. This only lasted one day in fact, because he was so upset at the idea of recording the wobbly moments and 'seeing them' from the outside. Now, I hate the whole chart thing, but the brief go at it had the immediate effect of making him self-conscious about what he was doing and got him to see that other people were affected by his feelings. It sounds as if DS was in some kind of weird parenting lab, but we were at our wits' end. The number of 'approaches' was dwarfed by the numbers of hugs offered along the way ...

The other major thing I did was to make sure that I apologised when I got things wrong which helped because it built up a sense that everyone makes mistakes and that's ok
as long as you try to learn from them ...

It was a hideous time and I ballsed up often, not least because the tantrums were so extreme I was worried sick.

I think that what struck me about your email, is that your DS sounds great in so many important ways, and it reminded me that some of the things that seemed frightening in DS's behaviour are the things that make him fab too, especially as he gets older. He has a great imagination, is enthusiastic, is great at persevering at things and has a strong sense of who he is. He is brilliantly sociable, kind and sensitive to the feelings of others. He's fantastically perceptive about everything that goes on around him, and often gets stuck only because he hasn't quite got the maturity to process how he feels about all of it ...

He can still throw truly fantastic wobbly spells when he chooses, but they are shorter and further apart each time. This last time (just finished) there had been a six months gap. He had an angry week, and got upset with himself about it not least because he now knows that not all children have his capacity to get furious. But I was able to say to him that he'd steered himself clear of tantrums for the first time and used words more to sort himself out. He was v. chuffed about that.

Now I've ranted I'm afraid ... sorry about that. Your version of what's normal in a three-year-old sounds spot on to me and doing all you can to stop anyone labelling him as 'outside' normal sounds like exactly the right approach. Good luck.

spooly Sat 05-Jul-08 01:02:51

Thanks guys for your comments, it is REALLY helping!

Honoria, your comments about a child minder has crossed my mind, if things come to a head at nursery it would seem a logical answer. My reasons for keeping with the nice nursery were thinking on the lines of him getting used to a system, wether I like it or not, he will have to conform to at school. Thats wether I get him into a local school ( another issue!!)

And yes the friction between my partner and I is certainly not a good thing, it is a classic mistake and reason behind messing up your child...I know this should not ever happen and will have to change any bad habits.. blummin heck the GUILT.

Anyway, you are right, we can only assess if this has effect if we become peacable and never expose him to anger from ourselves.

Sibh... your comments have really made me think and have been really enlightening. I am still on the manic what do I do role.. looking for any practical help method. I thnk he is a bit young to truly understand controlling his anger, but I know he feels remorse and gets embarrassed. Its also strange, because I sense he also lets its escalate as if challenging the verocity of his own emotions ( my own amateur pyschology)
When he was younger, he used to look in the mirror at himself when angry.!

Anyway I might pursue the icky deep breath self help stuff..although it seems to add fuel to fire at the mo. Also casting aside worries sounds interesting.

I have an 'unofficial' meeting with an early years officer next Tuesday at nursery and I am so unsure about it, but i will listen and digest before judging.

Your comments on your growing into the strength of character and imagination overdrive, sociable skills etc. strikes such a chord. I can see this and a large part of me doesnt want this quashed. its just a pity that our systems of life, education and work cant except this.

I have the rebel and defiance inside me to defend what many are saying is normal and indeed healthy to an extent, but I am resigned to the fact he cant behave like this at school next year.

Gosh i never thought i would have to deal with bureacracy so soon in his life!

On a diary excert note, he did a classic tonight !( tired again, although it was quite early )He went nuts because he wanted to play, not have a bath etc. started hitting ranting..even made up a strange collection of aggressive sounding words. I put him in his room and then walked off, he kept following me so I ignored him and kept walking to another room. I eventually thought Bug* this and got in the bath ( prepared for him) and put a cloth over my face..he kept removing it and ranting although a little less. I didnt look at him or say anything. I then put his sea creatures in the bath and had a little chat to them, the humpback whale chatised the eel for being grumpy and said the ithers were upset and didnt want to play with him. He looked at me asked to remove his clothes and could we play together, I had to be the voice of whale...eel wasnt popular, but we wrapped him in a cloth to chill out!

ANYWAY, he went to bed after stories with ease. GOSH I hope I dont have to be role playing all the time but hey, whatever works...

Signing off!!

Thanks again and keep talking Im more than willing to listen


HonoriaGlossop Sat 05-Jul-08 19:16:39

spooly, that was genius the way you dealt with him with the bath issue


good luck with the meeting. I think you should feel re-assured by this thread and remember that there are other mums out there whose boys have said the most AWFUL violent things and had awful, ranting tantrums and it means nothing, it is normal and they go through it at this age! Just because ALL kids might not be like this doesn't mean it's anything to worry about so don't let the nursery make you feel that way.

I honestly feel if this was me that if I felt the nursery were trying to 'label' him and 'medicalise' it somehow, I would remove him, stick him with a childminder and not agonise about it!

And also wanted to say, school is not NOW, he will develop alot before school starts so don't worry too much about it being just the same then, it is very likely not to be.

HonoriaGlossop Sat 05-Jul-08 19:17:49

meant to add, we removed ds from his first nursery due to an unsympathetic approach from the 'teacher' - best thing we did! It feels a big step to move them but it was SO worth it for ds.

Hopefully it won't come to that for you anyway!

spooly Mon 07-Jul-08 16:04:34

Thanks Honoria,

will sign in again after meeting. Yes feel calmer...hopefully this will last after tomorrow.

Spooly x

Sibh Mon 07-Jul-08 23:42:16

Hi Spooly,
Just wanted to wish you luck for tomorrow--I have been away for a few days and hadn't had a chance to catch up. The bath thing sounds, as Honoria says, like a victory in the campaign!

I'd also say that taking DS's out of social contexts, however generally pleasant, where they aren't happy or where they are being labelled in some way can help. DS coped much better when he was in more one-to-one situations while he was unsettled.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. We moved to Ireland a year ago, and DS has been to playgroup here (they start school later). When I've mentioned his old tantrums to the women who run the group they clearly don't believe I'm talking about the same child.

Anyway, do keep us posted on how you get on.
Take care.

tink3rb311 Sat 12-Jul-08 21:28:11

Sorry to jump in on your post but I'm also having problems with my son. He is 4 in September and goes to nursery 5 days a week from 8 till 6. The nursery also has a time out chair which he picks up and throws at staff, I am told he punches, shouts "shut up" and "stupid" at staff, hits them and kicks them. An early years advisor has visited nursery several times and says what a lovely boy he is. She has never seen his bad behaviour.

I get greeted each day to be told how bad he has been and that he has hurt other children. He doesn't display this violence at home. 2 health visitors have visited me at home and said there is nothing physically or mentally wrong with him. And again said that he is a bright and lovely young boy.

I had to collect him from nursery the other day as they said they could no longer cope with him and now they have banned him from going for goodness knows how long. I have changed his diet to take more dairy, changed his sleeping arrangements so he has a long sleep whilst there. We thought this was working as the incidents were becoming further apart.

Any advice as to where to turn next would be helpful. How do you make them behave when they are out of our care?

HonoriaGlossop Sat 12-Jul-08 22:17:21

I just think that's a long, long day for a 3 year old at nursery considering it's 5 days a week. Would a childminder not be worth considering? Many children thrive in a more home like atmosphere...and it sounds like you have done absolutely everything you can in terms of giving good diet/making sure he's getting some sleep etc. So maybe it's time to change his environment?

I just think as well that a CM will have children of her own and may take a more realistic view. I've been in a few nurseries and there were only one or two parents on the staff - they were mostly very young girls...

tink3rb311 Sat 12-Jul-08 22:26:58

Hi I'm contacting some childminders on Monday but can only find 2 in our area and one of those is in another village! I don't want to bring him totally out of the situation as he will need to get used to the idea when starting school next year. I have looked into testosterone surges for his age too. May try and split him between the two so he has a quiet latter part of the week with the childminder.

I do find that the nursery make you feel that they don't want the hassle of him though and the so called professionals won't do anything to help!

HonoriaGlossop Sat 12-Jul-08 22:32:15

I honestly don't think you need to get him used to nursery because next year he'll be going to school

A) Children's development means that they BECOME ready for things, IMO, which means that 'practicing' for something you have to do in a year is pretty worthless because the child is so different developmentally by that time

B) a child starts school in reception - which exists to PREPARE children for school, that's what reception is for.

If this was me I'd try him with a childminder and maybe once he's very settled with her she could take him to a couple of sessions at a local pre-school so that he still gets some experience of big groups if you want him to have that.

good luck tink, whatever you decide. Hope this thread has been useful too in showing that many lovely little boys have these violent outbursts!

tink3rb311 Sat 12-Jul-08 22:53:24

Thank you so much for the replies and advice nice to know people are on your side for a change!! THanks again x

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