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4 year old just started hitting - I'd like some advice please as I really what to nip this in the bud.

(9 Posts)
mckenzie Tue 26-Jul-05 21:22:05

N+Bit of background. DS was 4 in June. DD arrived in March of this year. He ignored her to start with but now is cuddling her and showing her his toys etc. DH and I make a huge effort to give him attention and luckily for us, DD is quite a placid happy little thing who doesn't require my time much other than feeding and nappy changing (bless her).

18 months ago I was worried about my son being a bit of a pushover and wanting him to be a bit more assertive. NOw though, he is starting to become the child from hell.
No, that's not fair, he's not that bad. But, he is definitely really starting to push the boundaries and yesterday he hit me once and DH once and today he has hit me again. I really dont know what to do?
I do think it is attention seeking perhaps but he just seems to get so angry over so many little things at the moment and I'm worried that there is a bigger issue here that I'm not aware of.
I know that I have raised my voice to him more times in the last 4 months that I had done in the previous 3 and half years whcih cant have helped and my new resolution is to stop that completely and I've found some ideas on other threads that I'm going to try re general behaviour.

But the hitting and his anger (sometimes he comes at me with a look on his face of pure rage and with his fist clenched making the most awful noise but stops well short of actually hitting)

I want to get my gorgeous cheecky happy little boy back but I dont know how to. Any tips please?

tiredemma Tue 26-Jul-05 21:27:57

hmmmm, do you have my ds?
Think its an age thing, i posted a very similar post a few days ago (" is anybody elses ds bl**dy cheeky?")
all of a sudden my "little angel" has also turned into the devil himself. Someone said that 4/5 yr old boys get a testosterone surge around this time. Hope thats all it is as i dont fancy putting up with this till he is old enough to leave home.

sorry i have nothing else to add, but maybe we could share tales of despair? see if its just a phrase??

Lou898 Tue 26-Jul-05 21:51:35

I have a 6 year old who went through a stage of pushing boundaries every 6months or so from around same age. I found it was most important to be consistant in the rules ie if you decide something is unacceptable then it must always be so ie don't allow him to get away with something just because it isn't convenient to stop it because you're tied up with something or anything for a quiet life! as given an inch he would take a mile. He would even test out hubby to see if rules applied with him. Looking back I think it is just part of growing up and it has all but stopped now. I have a polite well behaved boy. I also used time outs which were very useful and not as hard as I expected. An interesting book I read was 'Children are from Heaven'. Any way good luck it wont last forever

mckenzie Wed 27-Jul-05 11:40:24

now that you mention it Tiredemma, I had heard about the testosterone surge - maybe that is it. He's being a delight this morning so far - fingers crossed the other incidences wont happen again.

Time outs haven't worked for us up to now Lou898. I shall try and get hold of a copy of that book though. As it's a rainy day a trip to the library might be just the thing.

tiredemma Wed 27-Jul-05 11:53:42

found this while looking for stuff about devil kids on internet - very interesting


tiredemma Wed 27-Jul-05 11:54:15

damn-- can NEVER do links...

mckenzie Wed 27-Jul-05 16:21:39

even if I cut and paste Emma it's not working, I just get as far as Junior magazine - which article is it?

tiredemma Sun 31-Jul-05 11:13:58

here is whole article, ive copied and pasted from website......
its a long read but VERY interesting
The testosterone effect?

Author: Nikki Sheehan

This feature first appeared in issue 50 of Junior (more details)

What is testosterone?

It’s an anabolic (muscle- and bone-building) hormone.


We all need testosterone, but males usually have a lot more than females.


It is initially produced by the cells of male embryos, then by the testicles.
Women produce it in their ovaries.
At birth a male baby has as much testosterone as a 12-year-old boy.
Testosterone doubles at age four and goes down again at five.
Between 11 and 14 a boy will have 800 times as much as a toddler.
It’s not until his mid-20s that a man’s body becomes used to its high levels.
It starts a gradual decline after 40.

It causes male-type brain patterns that lead to masculine behaviour.
It boosts growth of muscle and bone.
It gives energy.
It affects mood – it’s associated with aggression and competitiveness.
It makes certain parts of the brain grow and others slow down.
It can make men bald and bad tempered.
High levels in pregnant mothers can cause tomboy behaviour in girls.

In 50 per cent of teenage boys an overload of testosterone will be converted to oestrogen (female hormone), which will make their breasts swell. In women, female hormones counteract testosterone, but when female hormones decrease after the menopause,women can become more aggressive and assertive and grow more facial hair.

Natalie, who is six, loves riding her junior-sized motorbike. “It’s definitely her favourite thing,” says her mother, Karen. But Natalie’s daredevil hobby has not turned her into a typical tomboy. “Natalie enjoys a mixture of activities,” says Karen. “She likes the girly things too, like ballet lessons and Rainbow guides. And, given the opportunity, she’ll always choose pretty clothes instead of trousers.”

So is Karen, who has ridden a motorbike herself since she was 16, influencing her daughter towards more traditionally boyish activities? “No,” says Karen, “I try to give her a balance. She’s quite exuberant, and enjoys physical activities, and I simply want to give her a chance to experience different things.”

While many little girls like Natalie enjoy typically male activities, little boys are rarely allowed the same flexibility. Although my son loves dancing, my suggestion of ballet lessons horrified him. This lack of crossover leaves boys open to being stereotyped as, in the words of Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray, “testosterone-fuelled unguided missiles, trailing aggression and destruction in their wake”.

For his fourth birthday my son Eddie got a skateboard, some Playmobil pirates, a 100-piece jigsaw and a huge dose of a mind- and body-altering substance. This substance is so potent that it can turn girls into boys, make the stick-thin muscle-bound, and give the tamest toddler the strength and social skills of the Hulk. But this is no grim tale of drugs in the inner city; it’s the story of testosterone – and it may be appearing sometime soon at a home near you.

Eddie is now nearly five, and his jigsaw remains in its box, the skateboard is locked in the shed, the Playmobil is in bits under the sofa, but the testosterone is still pumping like new.

Eddie had always been gentle and sensitive, much less physical and competitive than his big sister. He played with dolls and cars, and had friends of both sexes. He was happy to dress up as an animal or a superhero, or to wear a taffeta party frock, put his hair in bunches, and call himself Poppy. He could even pass a puddle without jumping in it.

Eddie kicked off his fourth birthday in style. Before his party guests had even arrived he had found the piñata that we had spent weeks making, and smashed it up with a sword to get at the sweets inside. Half an hour later he was wailing because he didn’t win pass-the-parcel. And then, for good measure, the birthday boy walloped one of his young guests.

Strength, impulsiveness, competitiveness and aggression: these are aspects of normal childhood behaviour. But they are also side-effects of a hormone known by bodybuilders and scientists as ‘T’.

So if a child is acting under the influence of testosterone, should we chastise him or empathise with him? And are little girls immune from its influence, or, beneath the sugar and spice, could that be a puppy-dog’s tail peeping out?

The number one suspect when it comes to influences on behaviour, ranging from endearingly boisterous to downright anti-social, is testosterone. But it’s also essential – it causes growth, gives vitality, and without it we wouldn’t have two distinct genders.

Here’s the science: all embryos start out female, but, at about six weeks, Y chromosomes stir in half of them, and they develop cells which produce male hormones, the main one being testosterone. A male embryo’s testicles and penis start to grow and his brain changes from the female, or neutral, brain structure into a distinctive male pattern, predisposing him, it is believed, to behave and think in a masculine way.

At 15 weeks his fully-formed testicles start to produce more testosterone. And by the time a little boy is born, he’s packing as much T as your average 12-year-old pre-pubescent male! Of course, as a young baby, he is unlikely to run through the house in muddy wellies chasing an imaginary dinosaur. But from birth to six months, when the hormone levels are highest, baby boys do get erections, which they have an uncanny knack of timing for nappy changes, and then wee expertly on their own heads.

Boys don’t get all the fun – girls have testosterone, too. A normal female foetus produces tiny but necessary amounts of male hormones. Moir and Jessel in their definitive book Brainsex: The Real Difference Between Men And Women, describe how little girls exposed to higher levels of male hormones in the womb (because of a genetic disorder) show athletic prowess, a preference for toy cars and guns, choose boys as friends, and wear masculine clothes.

More recent research at the City of London and Bristol universities discovered that the variation in levels of testosterone during pregnancy could have a direct effect on the way little girls act. They found that mothers of very feminine little girls had the lowest levels of testosterone in their blood during pregnancy, while mothers of tomboys had the highest. In the future, as well as finding out a child’s sex in advance, a simple blood test may tell us whether we should put our daughters’ names down for ballet or karate.

From six months to about four years old, boys’ testosterone levels are low, and both sexes enjoy a brief period when they can play together with the same sort of toys and don’t even have to divide the Ikea plates along strict gender-stereotypical lines. By about two years, children know if they are a boy or a girl, but full understanding that gender is permanent comes slowly. At this age little boys discuss having babies, and little girls might just consider a beard.

But this harmony does not last. For most four-year-old boys, school is just on the horizon when their testosterone levels suddenly double. Overnight my sweet son developed the strength of Samson, the stamina of a long-distance runner, and the concentration span of a goldfish. Much of what he had learned in the previous years seemed to vanish. Girls were now yuk, soccer was great, and fighting was fantastic. It seemed I had spawned a miniature football hooligan. But I was worried he might not live long enough to see his first pitch invasion. The testosterone made him feel invincible. On the way to school he would bolt across roads without warning, reporting proudly that if a car hit him he would hit it back even harder.

According to Steve Biddulph, author of Raising Boys, this increased va-va-voom is not unusual. “Boys actually get signals from their bodies saying ‘Move around. Use me’,” he observes. Eddie obeyed his body. He launched into rough and tumble, throwing himself at his dad when least expected. Like Inspector Clouseau and Kato in the Pink Panther, my husband became wary of turning his back, as an attack could come at any moment. My instinct told me to discourage Eddie’s interest in fighting, but Steve Biddulph disagrees. “It’s an essential lesson for all males: how to be able to have fun, get noisy, even get angry, and, at the same time, know when to stop,” he says. “For a male, living with testosterone, this is vital.”

But girls shouldn’t miss out. “Both boys and girls seem to demonstrate more confidence in their social interactions when they play in a boisterous, yet controlled way,” says Dr Charlie Lewis, Professor of Developmental Psychology at Lancaster University. “Rather than being ‘a testosterone thing’, I suggest it’s more about learning rules of appropriate conduct in social interactions that demand a negotiation of rules and power.

I was finding it hard to relate to my son’s changing interests. Our hall bristled with his impressive arsenal of weapon-shaped sticks from the park. And when my children played with Plasticine, the gender divide was a gulf: where my daughter saw a pineapple, my son saw a hand grenade. She made her sausages into a snail family, while he fashioned his into a sword, a cutlass and a cat-o’-nine-tails. And when they had finished, she put her Plasticine creations carefully to bed in the pot, while he subjected his to a slow, painful death by rolling pin.

Eddie’s taste for violence seemed to have come from nowhere, but was it an expression of his cave-man inheritance, triggered by testosterone, or was he being influenced by his same-gender role model, his father?

I don’t think so. I can’t think when my husband last had to fight a lion or dual to the death on his way to the office.

“While girls continue to identify with their mothers, boys, in the vast majority of families in the industrialised world, tend to identify instead with a cultural stereotype of the masculine role,” says Angela Phillips in The Trouble With Boys.

If boys need stereotyped superheroes couldn’t we create more positive role models for them, such as Not-Scared-To-Do-The-Ironing-Man, or Breakfast-In-Bed-Man? Or, at the risk of shattering their illusions, we could allow our boys to see what their fathers actually do at work all day. Boys’ play might start to include stressful phone calls, staring at a computer screen and sitting in meetings for hours. But I doubt it.

And what about a mother’s role in the emergence of gender-stereotyped behaviour? Numerous studies show that mothers treat girl and boy babies differently. For example, when a baby cries, a woman will jolly a boy baby along and tell him not to cry, whereas the same woman will comfort, hug and kiss a baby girl.

So do parents unconsciously reinforce gender? Almost certainly. I admit that I enjoy brushing and plaiting my daughter’s hair, while I’m happy to leave my son looking like Ken Dodd. And I caught myself recently praising my baby boy when he picked up a bath toy and hit me with it. (It was actually the dexterity that I was praising, not the behaviour, but I’m not sure he understood the distinction.)

If you think human mothers dote on their sons, consider what rats get up to. Mother rats need to lick their male babies’ genitals to make their brains fully male, but if the mother rat licks a female baby she will grow up to behave like a male.

As any mother of boys knows, the testosterone-fuelled behaviour is a reality, but it’s only part of the picture. “Why do we assume that the male is dominated by his hormones when we reject the idea that women are rendered utterly useless by PMT or the menopause?” asks Jenni Murray. The existence of testosterone is not an excuse for such blatant sexism. “Just like girls, boys need to be treated as individuals to grow into fully-rounded human beings.”

On the other hand, while we expect, and sometimes condone, boys behaving in a boisterous, competitive, even aggressive way, research shows that we punish girls for similar behaviour. Jenni Murray resents the double standards. “Girls can be noisy, messy, aggressive and difficult – it’s just that we tend to make it less acceptable for them to express those sides of their character. There’s no female equivalent of the ‘boys will be boys’ syndrome. It’s an expression I loathe – disapproving of what’s traditionally seen as male ‘bad’ behaviour, but sanctioning it at the same time.”

So we may be partially responsible for promoting antisocial behaviour from boys, but once they start school, isn’t it time to sit back and blame those rough types they hang out with? Angela Phillips claims boys are indeed more prone to peer pressure than girls, learning gender-appropriate behaviour from their peers.

Unfortunately, gender-appropriate for small boys often means rest-of-the-world-inappropriate. To fit in with his mates, one small boy I know spent his reception year trying to master the three basic skills: whistling, clicking his fingers and making rude noises with his armpits. Boys have to learn the rules, and, sadly, one of the most important seems to be ‘No girls and no girl stuff’. While little girls can choose skirt or trousers, Harry Potter or Barbie, skipping or tag, few boys would dare to be different and take My Little Pony to school on treat days.

Being among other hormone-addled little boys does seem to lead to a perfecting of ‘boy-type’ behaviours. But school may also provoke a rise in testosterone. Steve Biddulph tells how challenging environments can cause a rise in hormone levels. One school that introduced a more supportive regime saw boys’ testosterone drop measurably.

So why do we need this troublesome substance? What would humans be like without it? We can get a glimpse from studies of women with a rare chromosomal abnormality called Turner syndrome. They are born lacking the working ovaries that supply women with small amounts of male hormone. Physically they grow up to be small, averaging 4 foot 7 inches, and although their intelligence is usually unaffected, they have poor maths and spatial skills. Their interests, free from the marauding influence of testosterone, are exaggeratedly feminine.

Moir and Jessel describe one little girl, called Caroline, with Turner’s syndrome. “She played with dolls to the exclusion of virtually anything else. She loved to imitate her mother doing the household chores. She was ultra-romantic, yearning to be married, and dreaming constantly of having babies – something, alas, which she never would.”

My son Eddie is nearly five now, and we’re looking forward to signs that his levels of testosterone are dropping, and glimpses of the calm, sensible child re-emerging. The legacy of this testosterone surge will probably be a stronger, more exuberant boy, with a tendency towards laddish behaviour that we will just have to learn to deal with.

I hope that our awareness that he is, to some extent, a victim of his own biology will give us patience with him, and encourage him to express all sides of his character to become a happy rounded person.

Twiglett Sun 31-Jul-05 11:15:37

say No immediately and ignore him for 4 minutes

zero tolerance

but it is testosterone surge

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