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At my wits end - 3 year old is violent and difficult

(19 Posts)
thedame71 Wed 30-Apr-03 20:22:22

My 3 year old is regularly violent towards other children. Mainly hitting.

This happens in social situations with kids of the same age and is happening regularly at pre-school where it has got to the stage he must have a teacher with him at all times. It has been reported to me that this happens when he loses interest or becomes distracted in what he is doing.

This problem began when his sibling appeared 6 months ago which unfortunately coincided with him beginning pre-school.

I am a nervous wreck in social circumstances particulary with unsympathetic parents and I feel like the naughty schoolgirl when the teacher reports his behavior to me!

Any advice would be gratefully received. Should I look at his diet for example - clutching at straws now!!!

sibble Wed 30-Apr-03 21:00:48

My DS3 has done biting at 18 months and hitting recently. He only did both when he was bored, tired or not getting anough attention. Personally I think he learnt both behaviours at nursery. I always seemed to be signing the incident book prior to him starting hiting or biting because he had been hit or bit himself. I also used to get very upset and frustrated with him, watching constantly when in company. If it helps I told close friends that he may hit and to either tell me or him if he did it, whichever they were comfortable with. I spoke to the nursery about what was happening when he did it and for what it't worth it stopped on its own both times. Maybe the novelty wore off eventually, I don't know. Not much help I know but your 3 year old is not the first to hit other children, the preschool should be set up to cope and hopefully they will just grow out of it. If you want to look at diet have a great book have been frantically hunting down in my tip of an office, will post name if ever find it.....Must get off PC and tidy up....

hmb Wed 30-Apr-03 21:05:21

Ds was like this 6 months ago (he is now 3 and a month). With him it was linked to slow development of language. He would become very angry and frustrated and lash out. The nursery gave us some advice, and his language has improved, and with it his behaviour. How are your ds's language skills?

I'm sure it will pass.

Jimjams Wed 30-Apr-03 21:13:52

What's his diet like? Cuting down on additives wouldn't be a bad idea just to see if they are having an effect. Something that can really help with all sorts of developmental problems is fish oils. Efalex has some double blind research backing it up (sell it in Boots).

Wills Wed 30-Apr-03 21:18:56


I don't really have much advice but can sympathise as my dd is getting increasingly aggressive. So far she's only doing this to family but I'm not niave enough to think it wont go further afield. I'm permanently having my face pinched or slapped and she flatly refuses to say sorry when we tell her she's hurt one of us. She too is 3. I shall be very interested in what this thread has to say although I've already started to change her eating habits so I'm not sure that's the answer for us. In addition I'm expecting our second in August but surely that can't be it???

thedame71 Wed 30-Apr-03 21:37:01

My sons speech and development is in my opinion quite advanced ( but who knows - he's my first).

I hope he does grow out of it but I do sometimes worry that its a more serious behavioural problem. At what stage do you decide that the behaviour is not normal?

cazzzz Wed 30-Apr-03 21:58:04

Hi - My son is only 2yr1m but I have been through several biting / hitting / pushing / "mine" phases - none particularly severe, but enough to keep you edgy in social situations and illicit pretty hurtful comments from other mums (- so joyous when their child enters the same phase isn't it?!) Just two suggestions - I found that my child was being put off from having any physical contact with other humans by me because I was so edgy: I found encouraging stroking a useful thing. I ignored him and averted my eyes when he hit me (but didn't stop him) but then praised and encouraged him to stroke me (and others). Hugging can be used too. With babies I encourage him to tickle their toes - keeps him away from the head end! Good luck.

WedgiesMum Wed 30-Apr-03 22:11:38

Lots of familiar stuff here. My DS is nearly 4 and we have been having problems for about 6 months now. He started getting worse (sorry about this) when his younger sister got more interesting - walking, talking, being cute - and this is coupled by the fact that he is really bright so gets bored quite easily then copies the younger children at nursery to get attention. I've found that giving him some personal one to one time without DD around a couple of times a week, including a whole afternoon a week, has worked well, as well as doing more challenging things at home (see my thread about starting school early for stuff to do, it's been really useful for me). It might be that he is looking for attention because he feels (however unreasonably) that he is being 'replaced' - he is just the right age to make these erroneous connections, especially if he is bright.

Completely sympathise, and hope that this helps. xx

jodee Thu 01-May-03 08:26:10

Hi thedame71, my son was similar to hmb's - he is now just over 3 and the hitting is (almost) over, mainly because he can communicate better.

But have you considered speaking to your HV? I have a friend with a son (aged 3.5) who sounds a lot similar to yours (and his language is very advanced) and they have been offered parenting courses to give them some advice as to the best way to deal with his behaviour - that might be worth a try?

WideWebWitch Thu 01-May-03 09:17:28

Hi Thedame, much sympathy. My ds wasn't a massive hitter, although he did it often enough that I know how horrible it can be. He went to pre-school with some boys (and it was always boys) who were big time hitters and I watched how it was dealt with so I do have some views on how it should and shouldn't be handled and on what worked for me.

You're right I think, it does sound likely that it's related to the new sibling and starting pre-school and is classic attention seeking/boredom. I saw one boy at pre-school who was threatened with being taken home every time he hit but since this was EXACTLY what he wanted he just carried on! So:

* if you are going to make threats I'd suggest you make them once, very firmly and make sure they're something *you* are happy to do (so don't threaten going home from someone's house unless you want to).

* Always, always follow through if he doesn't comply. He has to know you mean business.

* Make sure the child who is hit gets the attention for being hurt, not your son, although he should be told off and disapproval made clear. Too much attention for the hitting though and it becomes a great attention getting strategy for your ds!

* You could also try a star chart for good behaviour and ask the pre-school to do the same.

* Distraction might work if you see a hitting moment brewing, as might keeping him fully occupied as far as possible at pre-school. They KNOW it happens when he loses interest so they should be watching for it.

* Don't feel bad, it's not your fault! You're not doing it and it is pretty normal in boys this age I'd say.

* Keep telling him hitting is wrong. He will eventually get the message.

That's all I can think of for the moment but it will pass, honestly, although I do know how hard it is at the time. Good luck.

Copper Thu 01-May-03 09:29:50

And make sure he gets lots and lots and lots of attention and praise for good behaviour

judithscoggins Thu 01-May-03 11:21:07

Try smacking his bottom...

tigermoth Thu 01-May-03 23:29:21

Hello, thedame71

Can't add much more to the advice here. My oldest son went though a hitting phase around 3/4 so you have a fellow sympathiser. He did grow out of it. Boisterous though he is, he did not become a bully and now at 9 years old, he and his friends are far too busy having beyblade battles to fight each other.

I think you must ask the nursery if they think your son's behaviour is real cause for worry. Don't rely on a quick chat when you pick him up - ask if you can arrange a meeting. You might have already done this, so hope this isn't teaching you to suck eggs. But don't just plump for the nursery's opinion of your son. Ask around - friends, babysitters, your HV etc - anyone who knows children and knows your son well. There may not be a clear consensus of opinion, but at least you'll know where you stand with everyone on this.

I found my son hit more when he was overexcited in social situations. If this is the case with your son, could you limit the length of time he spends with friends?

Can you see when your son is building up to a hitting spate? If so, can you take him to one side and give him some one to one attention to distract him?

I wish I could help more - my sympathy is with you!

Beckscott Wed 24-Sep-03 20:47:05

Is there anyone out there that can give me any advice? I have a little boy, who will be 2 years old next month and I am having a terrible time with him hitting and pushing other children. It tends to predominantly happen when other children are competing for the same toy or if they have come to me for any reason. James is an only child and I have spent many hours deliberating whether it is because he normally has me to himself so much (I don't work) or if it is in his nature or the stage that he is at. However, it seems to have been going on for at least 3 or 4 months now. Just recently he has started to really push and smack (sometimes with whatever he is holding at the time) and he just does not seem to be responding to my repeated 'no's' and shouting. I do also give him lots of praise if he manages not to hit or push but these times are few and far between at the moment. James has a lot of involvement with other children through the NCT (I am part of the North Staffs NCT), toddler groups, pre-school and creche etc and I quite often feel that other parents must be judging me on my ability to cope with my own child.
Has anyone been through this and can anyone give me any advice?
Thanks for taking the time to read this.

expatkat Fri 26-Sep-03 14:30:24

Sorry you haven't gotten much response Beckscott.

Ds's best friend was energetic and prone to *constant* hitting when he was your ds's age. Each time he hit someone he was required by his mum to apologize and perhaps give a little stroke or hug to the person he hit, even if it required physically dragging him back to the child. (My ds was often the recipient of the hitting, so I remember this well.) That little boy is now almost 4 and--though still extremely active & physical--he's outgrown the hitting and is a lovely little boy. I hope that's encouraging to hear.

I think a lot of boys are biochemically programmed to be aggressive. One friend with 3 boys says it's extraordinary how much "beating out of bad behaviour" (she didn't mean that literally, by the way) boys have to go through. She argues they need to be changed into something they just are not in order to be socialized.

(My son, by the way, is far too gentle for his own good & loves his barbie--so I worry about that!)

Oh--and I've been advised on mumsnet not to give a toss what other mums are thinking. They just don't know the full story--they never do.

WideWebWitch Fri 26-Sep-03 20:50:58

Beckscott, sorry no advice to add to my previous post but I just wanted to say hang in there, it is horrible isn't it? Much sympathy and remember, it will pass, eventually. Good luck.

SoupDragon Fri 26-Sep-03 20:58:05

You could try removing him from the situation when he hits. Just sitting him on a chair away from the "action" for some time out to calm down. Stay calm when dealing with it - shouting just gives him a reaction.

tonsasbit Fri 26-Sep-03 21:35:56

first time on mumsnet and sooooo reassured by your messages that my hitting toddler(who has caused many a sleepless night, with worry) is perfectly normal and this crazy stage IS likely to pass. thank you!!!!!!!

robinw Sat 27-Sep-03 07:18:42

message withdrawn

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