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Please help me with my 4 year old!

17 replies

TimeToPullMyHairOut · 14/11/2019 21:04

Desperate for some advice and perspective!
I have a summer born boy who has started school in September.
He is highly strung and always has been.
Lately his behaviour has been appalling.
He seems intent on annoying or hurting his younger brother and at school has been hitting and pushing other boys in his class. When I’ve asked him he always says they did it to him first but the teacher says she hasn’t always witnessed this.
He seems to get a kick out of annoying his little brother which I hate. He never does anything really bad to hurt him but lots of sneaky little things like poking him, pushing into him, winding him up etc.
I don’t understand the behaviour at school, don’t know why he’s lashing out sometimes for seemingly no reason.
At home he gets time out if he’s done something to his brother. He also has a reward jar or marbles - a marble added for being kind and one removed for being mean. His teacher has started doing the same at school but the frequency of his bad behaviour seems to be getting worse at school.
He didn’t do it at nursery often at all, it’s much much worse since starting school.
I’m at my wits end with him and don’t know what else to try.
When he’s calm and I ask him what he should do if he’s wound up or someone else hurts him he always gives the right answers- tell his teacher, walk away etc. He just seems to frequently have this impulse to hurt others sometimes.

OP posts:

TimeToPullMyHairOut · 14/11/2019 21:06

Forgot my AIBU bit - should i seek further help with him (I don’t think he is normal in this behaviour) or see if he grows out of it (my husband seems to think he will)

OP posts:

OrangeZog · 14/11/2019 21:06

Is he hungry or tired, or both? Could you ask the school to give him an afternoon snack if you send it in and enforce early bedtimes? Once we implemented both of these our summer born DC’s behaviour dramatically improved in Reception.


Makesmilingyourbesthobby · 14/11/2019 21:25

I think most kids around this age go through this stage at some level or another but often is short lasting and afew chats with them often ends the behaviour a week or two, it only takes one in the class to do it and a good lot of them start repeating the behaviour with each other, obviously something is amiss if DS’s teacher has felt she needs to be doing the same reward with marbles as you do at home while he is in school for good behaviour to me though, how long has he been hitting out and pushing? I also agree with pp did he use to have nap during the day before starting school, school is a long day for them to get use to and a good night rest is so important to them what time is he going to bed and how long does he take to go to sleep and is he sleeping all night, if he isn’t getting a good 12 hourish in i would certainly consider this a contributing factor to his behaviour but not the full reason, also another good thing to do is make sure you explain to him he has hurt his brother and to ask him to apologise to his brother for hurting him as that isn’t nice nor do we treat each other like that in our home does the teacher have him to apologise also?


Stayawayfromitsmouth · 14/11/2019 21:37

Have a chat about how his brother is very special because he is his very own brother and loves him and that brothers have a very special/ secret relationship. He should look after and be kind to his brother and have the same chat with his brother in front of him. Lay it on thick and keep reinforcing. Have a read of 'siblings without rivalry'. See if any of that strikes a chord.
With school my lad certainly got a bit carried away, joining in with rough games and then getting hurt and navigating all the new stuff at school. It's also very tiring for them.
Mine wants lots of hugs and quiet time when he gets home.
At one point my boy got a bit too boisterous with another child and I had to get very, very angry with him. Sometimes the gentle approach doesn't work. I told him he must never ever do such a thing again. He was very shocked because I rarely get furious at him.
It's so difficult to know what truly is happening at school with them.
Good luck.


Areyoufree · 14/11/2019 21:42

Do the school have any kind of nurture group? Children often struggle to settle in at school, so it's worth talking to the school to see if they have any provision for this. My children both went to a group in Reception that gave them a few hours out of the classroom a couple of times a week. This is the absolute worst school term though (in my opinion), my kids really struggle with the weeks leading up to Christmas. They are tired and impulse control just goes out the window!


GrandmasMeatloaf · 15/11/2019 07:07

OP, so sorry to hear this. School can be really overwhelming and bring out the worst in little boys. My DS used to come home in a terrible mood and wind up DD (younger ) when he started school and this went on for a few years. I think he took all frustrations out on someone he knew loved him.

I used to hug him at pick up, hold his hand all the way home and send him to play on his own for about 30 min, this worked for us and they actually played really nicely after, DS just needed to calm down.

I cannot advise about the hitting in school though. I know one of his friends went through a year where he behaved similar to what you describe. I think there were endless meetings. He hit DS multiple times (I was furious) until I told him to hit back hard and aim for the nose. The were fighting for about a week (school tried to discuss, but I played ignorant) and then the boy stopped hitting DS. Six week further down the line they were good friends. I think he kept hitting others for months Confused


Diy2019 · 15/11/2019 07:22

Hi OP, it sounds like you and the teacher are really on the ball with trying to get to the bottom of things.
My ds is under a psychology service and when he was around the same age I did a behaviour course which the psychologists ran. It helped me get to the bottom of what was causing his behaviour, why he was doing it.
Aside from finding out what was causing the behaviour, we started using reward charts etc and the psychologists said NOT to take away stars etc for bad behaviour (which I would have always done before). So in your case, you wouldn't take away the marble for bad behaviour.
I started using consequential discipline which massively helped, he quickly understood it and the behaviour lessened quite quickly. (Again the psychologists advice)


TimeToPullMyHairOut · 15/11/2019 13:42

Thank you all for taking the time to reply.
He eats well, sleeps well. He could definitely however be tired as starting full time school IS tiring. I’m thinking of suggesting to his teacher that two or three days a week he just does half days to see if this helps.
We’ve had soooo many chats when he’s in a calmer mood about how it hurts people, we should have kind hands, how it hurts us if people annoy or hurt us, that his brother loves him so much and it makes us so sad to see him hurt etc etc etc. He says he wants to be kind when I’ve asked him and says he doesn’t know why he hits or that he “forgot” to be gentle.
I’ve tried everything I can think of and his teacher is very good at communicating with me. We are using the same approaches both at home and at school for consistency.
She’s also tried doing some role play situations with him about other ways to react if someone accidentally bumps into him and how to interact with peers.
Just nothing seems to be changing his behaviour.
I’m so sad about it. He can also be greatly caring for his little brother at times and cares about me a lot.
I think he needs some external help from a behaviour expert but don’t have a clue where to start. I’ve been wondering if I should pull him out of school altogether and delay him a year, maybe he just needs another year to mature but he would have to go back to nursery while I’m at work so it possibly wouldn’t help the situation at all!

OP posts:

SnugStars · 16/11/2019 22:53

I’m having the same problems with my 5 year old, so no advice sorry, but solidarity 😔
He’s a Summer born and we held him back but he’s still really tired after school, and is struggling to fit in and even remember the other children’s names. I’ve been trying to make more time for him, his baby sister is very jealous of any attention I give him, and that’s obviously hard for him.
I hope you find something that helps!


Dragongirl10 · 16/11/2019 23:14

I am going to swim against the tide here op, and say a zero tolerance to even the slightest aggressive behavior...think firm words, immediate withdrawal of favourite activity and an apology...every single time.
I don't believe it is acceptable to say 'its just a phase'

My DD has a serious joint problem and was very tiny and fragile until 9, my Ds, (a naturally rumbunctious character) was taught from toddlerhood to NEVER push, shove or touch her except in the gentlest way possible....It was so risky for her to have any roughousing, there was no choice but to be very, very firm with our ds....
We rarely shouted and don't believe in smacking ever, BUT at the slightest physical behavior DS was stopped in his tracks in no uncertain terms. It was perfectly possible for him to learn to curb his boisterous boy energy around his frail Ds.
Consider a firmer consistent approach one his teacher can carry out to.


Waveysnail · 16/11/2019 23:43

Try looking up 1,2,3 magic - worked well with mine. I'd also change marbles to just being rewards and no taking away any marbles as you are taking away the good henhas done. Instead of taking a marble I would use consequence that you decide together. In our house we use time out of the stairs as they hate it as its dull.

We have a traffic light wall sheet with counter for each child so first naughtiness that childs counter goes to green, second naughty behaviour- amber and third is red and consequence. Physically violence, spitting is automatic red and time out.

I also remove mine from any situation where they kick off and we go straight home


Dodithedog · 17/11/2019 00:43

Talking to him in simple terms is good, but try not to over-do the language. Children his age don’t have the reasonig and self-refulatory ability to fully understand ‘being kind’ and put general principles into action.
All little children instinctively operate on getting their needs met (physical and emotional) and if ‘being kind’ clashes with that then being kind just will not happen, through no fault of the child.
Don’t look to your child to lead the change or provide you with answers. He’s too young. You need to look for the answers and lead the change yourself. Look at the function of the behaviour (it will be unconscious, but it’s there). What is the child getting when he is “mean” to others? Attention? (Give him more) Interaction? (Give him more) His own way? (Does he have the language & understanding to express what he wants in other more acceptable ways? Maybe not- he’s young in his year. Lead by example and talk and play with him a lot, and he’ll grow out if it).
As always, avoid making things worse by starting a negative spiral of punishment. Minimal focus on the bad behaviour, lots of reinforcement for the good.
Good luck!


Dodithedog · 17/11/2019 00:44

(Sorry my paragraphs disappeared!)


Dodithedog · 17/11/2019 00:53

FWIW from your description he’s seeking interaction with his brother and being ‘mean’ brings the most exciting and stimulating sort of response (reinforced also through attention from you, even negative attention fires up brain receptors).

Try setting up some interactive supervises games where he can entertain his little brother- make him laugh or surpise him. Teach positive forms of interaction that bring intrinstic and immediate social ‘reward’ - smiles, laughter, hugs are all ideal. Make sure you respond as strogly to these behaviours as you would ‘mean’ behaviour.
You might think you do this already, but if you keep a journal of how you interact with your son you might be surprised Smile


AndNoneForGretchenWieners · 17/11/2019 01:05

How old is his brother? Has the behaviour started since the little one hit any milestones that may have pulled your attention away from your older boy (eg starting to walk and you having to be always keeping an eye on him)? It does sound like he is wanting to interact with others but isn't sure how to do it so is doing what gets him attention.


notnowmaybelater · 17/11/2019 01:31

He may well be jealous that his brother has more of your time than he does, if you're part time and he's home some days with you or if you drop him off first.

How old is his brother? Be careful about accidentally casting your older one in the villan role and your younger in the precious victim role as it can become a spiral/ self fulfilling prophecy. As someone else said even if your younger child is too little to be deliberately naughty be careful to show your older one that you have the same rules for both of them and "tell off" or sit on the naughty step with the little one if he pulls the big one's hair or breaks his Lego model or scribbles on his picture, even if he's 11 months old!

If your 4 year old is a bit overwhelmed by school it may be unbearable that he has to be the understanding big brother at home and not your (and his dad's) baby.


TimeToPullMyHairOut · 18/11/2019 13:12

Thank you everyone.
Yes just to clarify we have a zero tolerance approach to physical violence (pushing/hitting/pinching) at home. He goes immediately onto the bottom step for timeout for four minutes and must cuddle and apologise to his brother before he comes off. He always does this.
We have the same rule for his brother who is only two so less time in time out but same principle.
We are very consistent with this and his behaviour isn’t too bad at home.
But at home I can intervene early. Obviously I can’t be there at school and that’s where the worst of it is happening. He KNOWS physical aggression is wrong. But doesn’t seem able to stop himself at school. That’s what I’m really struggling with. His teacher is also using time out when she sees him being aggressive and also has her own marble jar for him/praise for kind behaviour etc. It just doesn’t seem to be clicking with him yet!

OP posts:
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