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Aggression, Anger & Defiance in Preschoolers
My 3 yr. old son is the youngest of 3 boys 10 and 7 yrs. older than him. At the time of the birth of the youngest, I was a very busy single mother operating a business daily of my own. Much time and energy was displaced and I allowed my older children to take the brunt of entertaining the baby. It was not until a year and a half after that i found out there was cruel mistreatment from the middle child toward his younger brother. Started tharapy.
Soon after my youngest turned two i got married to an individual who has no children. The older boys went to live with their father and the disconnection i felt from my youngest was more apparent when my husband was showing ''No holds bar!'' Physical punishment was almost daily while my discipline was very minimal. Since then we have realized the imbalance and are working to correct it. And have not punished him physically since. As i started to research his behavior, Asbergers was a condition that fit some of his character traits. However more accurately a ''High Spectrum Crystal Child'' seems to be the more accurate label. This invited with my new indigo husband seems to be a challenge.
Academically, he is reading and doing simple math as well as solving complex puzzles. Meantime. our now 3 yr. old has just been kicked out of his 3rd pre-school! This time with his behavior being the worst. He has kicked, hit, even spat on and bit teachers. He does none of these things at home. We have tried play therapy unsuccessfully and we are at our wits end now. Please help us help our sweet loving child. Nicky
PRESCHOOL EXPULSIONS: A SUPPORT GROUP FOR PARENTS Monday, February 7, 5:30-7 pm Are you a parent of a child who was "kicked out" of a child care setting? If you want to talk about your experience, come to this group led by Madeline Riley, MFT, and BANANAS staff, Tasha Henneman. someone wishing you success.
Well-intentioned individuals will probably respond to your post in an emotional way (as I am) because it sounds as if no one is truly protecting your son. You need some support and awareness of how harmful the neglect and apparent abuse has been for him. You can and should do something to change his life - right now. I hope others will respond with specific resources and referrals. My suggestion is general and that is to get family counseling immediately.
Your son's physical safety and emotional well-being is in your hands and what you do or don't do will have a lifetime impact. I urge you to rethink the importance of your needs vs. his needs for the time being. Please think about making immediate changes and the long-term benefits of getting counseling for you, your family, and your 3 year-old. YOUR SON IS ONLY THREE- HE NEEDS YOUR HELP!!!! Worried for your son
I am a mom of three children 9,5 and 3. My youngest presents me with
the biggest challenge yet. He is a screamer. He can start to cry very
easily ;if I say ''hang on a minute'', if I say''eat your lunch'', seemingly
trivial things will bring on huge tantrums.
My other two didn't have tantrums like this or if they did I have forgotten
much like the pain of childbirth. the issue for me isn't so much the crying
but the frequency, pitch and volume. He screams in restaurants, stores,
airplanes and other places that I can only quietly and quickly stop him
and not always deal with the underlying issue (because my nerves get
jangled). At home he screams so much when he is upset that the entire
household is disrupted often. I would like to ask for practical guidance in
this matter from parents who have ''been there'' Thank you so much
My sweet three year old has turned into a bit of a terror lately. Last week he started slapping me in the face. I've been giving him timeouts, but I'm not sure they're working. Any suggestions (aside from spanking)?
Right message - That behavior is absolutely unacceptable. We will be very firm yet very calm about this. You hit, you get removed from situation immediately with only a short, strong ''NO hitting'' NO discussion, explanation, threats of ''You do that again and blah blah blah''. It's simple - NO hitting. That's the rule. Three years old is plenty old enough for time outs and understanding of consequences.
I found the DVD ''1-2-3 Magic'' extremely helpful in providing really good rules on time outs - and how in some cases you don't count it out but wham - straight into a 5 min. time out, and how to make sure they work even with a crying, screaming, fighting child. And, how to keep the parent from talking/screaming too much too! Another Mom
Our normally happy, bright, gregarious and polite 3.5 yr. old daughter has in the past few weeks developed a horribly defiant attitude, began having fits of sobbing, rage, screaming, or a combination of these. All through her ''twos'' we patted ourselves on the back because, unlike her peers, she never had a meltdown in public (or private) and was always so good. Now, suddenly, that has all changed and I am wondering if we spoiled her rotten, or if this is a normal stage of development.
When the tantrums started, me and my husband came up with a discpline and diet strategy and shared it with my mom, who also cares for her during the week. It includes things like ''when you say 'no' stick to it - no caving in to her'' and ''time outs if she disobeys after one warning''.
The problems began with eating. She is picky and many times refuses to eat at mealtimes. We decided that a more consistant schedule for snacks, cutting sugar, etc. would help, and it has a bit. But then came school. She suddenly refused to go and had to be forced, crying all the way and throughout the day sometimes. That has improved somewhat, but still surfaces now and then.
Now that the school thing is getting a bit better, she is waking up in the middle of the night screaming for mommy. Even after I go comfort her, she screams for me to stay with her. She is not sick, and is not having night terrors (been there, done that) so I am pretty sure its just another tantrum. Up to now, she has been happily sleeping in a big girl bed and never had a problem with it. When she explodes like this, after exhausting the ''are you sick, thirsty, etc'' we tell her to calm down and calmly close her door to let her scream or cry till she is done. We also have a 14-month old who is being woken up by all this. Do I let her cry and wake the baby? Or do I go in to calm her? If I go in to her, doesnt that just give her the message that she can get me if she has a tantrum?
My mom spent the night last night during two of my daughter's episodes. As I was waiting out the 5 a.m. crying my mom said to me ''what is wrong with you, can't you see there is something intrinsically wrong with her? You need to take her to a therapist!'' So now I am questioning whether or not me and my husband are doing the right thing. I realize this is all about her trying to control her world, but I am so tired and confused, I don't know what to do or think anymore. Any advice from someone who has been there would be so helpful. -Sleepless in Oakland
My daugher and I both grew our first gray hair during this 6 month period (no kidding). She had the night crying fits too, and her pediatrician said that is was probably in part to her not getting enough attention (she has a younger brother) and her anxiety was coming out at night. I don't know how accurate this was, but nevertheless a LOT of anxiety was coming out in the middle of the night and it was quite draining for everyone. The best approach for us was to just hold her until she fell back to sleep so that she would feel as secure as possible. That usually took 20 min.
This emotionally precarious stage lasted about 6 mo. and then as swiftly as it came -- it left and we are all a bit wiser now. GOOD LUCK. Your daughter sounds very very normal! Angela
Add to that normal developmental stage the adjustment to preschool. My son is also having trouble with his adjustment to school. Even though he has been comfortable with a babysitter, school is a much harder separation. He may be fine, even joyful while at school, but at home his emotions come out in wild mood swings, from tearful and clinging to angry and kicking. He also has had tantrums in the middles of the night, and those seem to be a mix of fear and exhaustion. I have found ways to lovingly reassure him that I am here, love him, and will ALWAYS come back for him. When he is calm enough to listen, I also make clear that he needs to find calmer ways to talk about his fears and frustrations and that will listen. It's taking time, patience and respect on my part, but we seem to be turning a corner.
Besides the above mentioned book, it might be helpful for you to talk with a therapist to find some strategies that will work for you--also to discuss your own reactions to your daughter's feelings and actions. But it sounds like your daughter is behaving in a very normal 3-and-a-half-year-old manner. Good luck to you. I'm sure things will get better. Us Too
If you do indeed wish to take your child to a therapist, you might try UC Berkeley's psychology clinic. I, too, took my daughter to a therapist, only to be reassured that her behavior did not look too severe, and her treatment was short-lived. Good luck and be well, anonymous.
One of the things we did, which has helped a lot, was to let go of every discipline issue except the really core stuff. We made a list of the things she absolutely has to do or not do. Things like ''wear clothes to school'' and ''take a bath at least twice a week''. There were no more than 10 things on this list. (Eating wasn't on it. Brushing her hair wasn't on it. Those things went on a list of behaviors we try to encourage.) Then we agreed on a consistent discipline strategy for the ten key things, which is 2-3 requests followed by a phrase like, ''I'd like you to do x by yourself, but if you can't do it (or stop yourself from doing it) then I'm going to have to do it for you. I don't like doing this. It would be more fun for all of us if you could do it yourself.'' Sometimes this had to be followed with gentle but firm physical redirecting.
After about a week, we saw a real improvement in compliance with these core things. And now slowly, we are seeing a better attitude towards behaviors we are encouraging but not requiring. Of course, this is not scientific. It may be that letting time pass would have brought these benefits anyway -- who knows. Also we try to compliment and appreciate her whenever she is helpful, self-restrained, etc. We haven't found that the punitive approach works very well, and we only use time- outs when she really needs to get a grip on herself during a tantrum. Good luck! Dana
My once sweet-natured 3-year-old has now decided to push the limits of what he is and is not allowed to do to the point of my losing my mind!
He is told not to run away when we are out in public places and he will just bolt off ane when I call for him he will look at me and laugh and keep on running. When he throws rocks or I tell him to do something and he ignores me, I do the standard ''count to three and then remove him, move him or sit him down, etc.'', except that now he just yells ''stop'' at me, points his finger and goes back to doing what he was told not to do.
I have taken away priveleges, I have sent him to bed without dinner, I have talked and talked and TALKED to him, all without results. We do the time out chair, now he has to stand with his head facing the wall until we say time-out is over, because he would be put in his time out chair and if we turn out backs, he would get up, get a book and start reading.
I grew up with corporal punnishments and swore I would never spank, but I am losing my mind. What am I supposed to do? I know a lot of this is testing boundries, but with safety issues like running into the street, or in some cases, running into a store and hiding in clothing racks so I can't find him, I can't pick my battles. Ideas? Sandra
In the past month or so, our formerly sweet and easy 3 1/2-year- old daughter has become a different person. Where she used to be calm and reasonable, she now has frequent tantrums and meltdowns (but does still have calm, easy times as well). Where bedtime used to be a simple matter of routine, it has now become a nightmare that begins as soon as the lights are out -- she claims to be ''restless,'' yells and screams, pops out of bed endlessly, etc. And, the most disturbing of all, she has reverted to having problems at the beginning of the school day, being reluctant to join in at best, and horribly screamy and panicked at worst. We haven't seen this sort of thing since she first started school, at 2. She's also refusing to take her swim lessons even though she loves to swim with us in our pool at home.
Now the complications: 1) We recently returned from a trip to visit doting grandparents and family, and much of this behavior started when we got back. But that was in June and she's never taken this long to readjust before. 2) After some recent difficulties with her preschool director we find ourselves in the unhappy position of looking to change schools, but not being sure that we're doing the right thing. We talked with the director, and things seem to be okay for our daughter there, but we don't trust that similar issues will not come up again. So, despite our desire to keep her in for another year so she can preserve the attachments she's made to kids and teachers (and that took a long time to establish), we think we should probably go somewhere else where we feel welcomed as a family. (The problems centered around religious intolerance -- of us -- in a supposedly secular school.) We're obviously conflicted about this and it could be affecting our daughter, though we've done what we can to keep it away from her.
We are completely at our wits' end. We want nothing more than to figure out what is at the root of the sudden behavior changes so we can help our daughter deal with them AND so that we can figure out some effective strategies for dealing with them ourselves. As a bright, perceptive child, she's very good at pushing our buttons and we find ourselves reacting with anger and frustration more than we would like -- which then leads to guilt and sadness. We know that some of the changes are developmentally appropriate, but it also seems to us that much of the behavior we're seeing is related to separation issues. But do they really come up again at 3, after lying dormant since toddlerhood? If so, what can we do to help our daughter? And if not, what else could be going on?
Any insight or advice would be welcomed Frustrated and confused mom
And walk, don't run, to the library or bookstore to pick up a copy of ''Food Fights and Bedtime Battles, A Working Paren'ts Guide to Negotiating Daily Power Struggles'' by Tim Jordan, MD. It may save your sanity! In addition to providing good insight into developmental issues your child is experiencing, he gives some spot-on examples of exactly the incidents you are dealing with and provides solid, practical and meaningful tips and steps that address the needs of both you and your child. I have recommended the book to several friends, all of whom found it as valuable as I did. Best of luck to you. In spite of this storrmy stage, your little tornado will likely eventually evolve back into her former sunny self (and so will her parents ;-)) Lived Through It
I've been trying very hard lately to be consistent in what I say, not giving mixed messages, implementing swift justice, and introducing consequences, but sometimes I feel it all falls on deaf ears. I've even resorted to picking up my son and putting him outside the house (in an enclosed backyard) to stop his behavior. Please, all advice welcome.
I have heard a little bit about the PET ("Parent Effectiveness Training") from a mother who tried it on her 10-12 year old boy. It backfired on her and her problems with her son only got worse and she told me she was going to quit using the PET approach. Granted, I don't know much about the PET philosophy, but it just didn't ring true with me (at least not the way she described it to me). Maybe it works for some people.
I recommend The Discipline Book, by the husband-wife team by the name of Sears. It's yellow with a close-up picture of a child on it, holding the hands of two adults. These authors have 8 children (so they have much personal experience), and their philosophy for raising children seems to be much like mine. Basically, the whole idea (in my mind and theirs) is to respect the child as a person-- which means respecting where they are at in their developmental process. A parent must get into the mind of a child and understand where he/she is at. I'll give an example of this from my own experience. At about age 3 or 3-1/2, my son got very very frustrated; he was at a stage where he was capable of doing so much more than previously, but he felt like he was not *allowed* to do "anything". His frustration was leading to aggression. In a serious moment, he once opened a discussion with me: "I never get to do anything I want!". I seized the moment; I acknowledged how frustrating that must be; that he is so much bigger and capable of doing so many more things that it must be really frustrating to not be able to do whatever he wants. I continued: "But there are things I cannot allow you to do because you might get hurt. It's my job to take care of you. You know, there are lots of things Mommy can't do, either!" Then I asked him, "What would you like to do right now that you feel you cannot do?" He thought for a moment and then said, "Fly a plane." I said, "Do you think I can fly a plane?" (Of course he thought I could indeed.) I said, "Nope-- I can't fly a plane! (I used humor, because I saw he would respond favorably to it.) The police would arrest me! A person has to have a special liscence to fly a plane. I also cannot just get in a big truck and drive it. I can't just go and be a diver (something he wants to do)." He was very surprised-- and it really helped him-- to know that even *I* (a *grownup*!) couldn't do anything I wanted. I explained the reasons behind some of these things ("It is hard to fly a plane-- it's different than driving a car, with different controls and levers and buttons-- and so to make sure you won't crash and hurt yourself or others, you have to take a class to learn how to fly safely". To which he would respond "Oh." And it seemed to sink in.)
I explained that if I really wanted to fly, or be a truck driver, or be a diver, that I could decide to take a class that would teach me how to do it, and *THEN* I would get a special liscence that would allow me to fly or dive. So you can do anything you want, but sometimes you have to go to school to learn it first. If you really want to be a diver when you grow up, then you will choose to go to school to learn how to do it. It will be your choice."
When my son was at this stage, I knew I had to make a conscious effort to relax some of my previous restrictions and allow him the opportunity to test his own limits (on appropriate things, ones where no serious injury was possible), and that I had to look at ways and opportunities to give him CHOICE in matters and OPPORTUNITIES to do more things. This would alleviate (I hoped) his frustrations. As an example, this was when I started asking him what he wanted to wear that day (some days he didn't care and I selected his clothes; other days it did matter and he chose). I began reconstructing events in our lives to be ones in which there was a choice, and I let him make the choice. It gives him a sense of freedom and responsibility and control. Now in the morning, when it is hard for him to listen to what I say we need to do (bathroom, wash hands, dress, brush teeth), I say, "Ok. There are four things we need to do now: bathroom, wash hands, dress, brush teeth. Which do you want to do first?" It seems easy for him to decide and then to do it! It seems incredible to me, that while nothing has changed (in essence), he is so much more cooperative when I simply allow him to *feel* like he has some choice in the matter!
In my mind, at the stage it sounds like your son is at, he will only keep "acting out" in frustration until he feels like he has some control in his universe. I fully understand your own frustration. My son is getting so strong now (at four) that when he hits (usually just in playing), it really hurts! You cannot allow that, else it won't go away (and he doesn't learn how to respect others). To my son, I say in a stern voice, "Don't hit me! I *don't* like it. It is *not* O.K. to hit! If you do it again, you will go right in time-out." He is getting old enough that I am beginning to put him in time-out immediately if he hits me or anyone else (no "next time" warning).
Regarding time-outs, I dole out different length time-outs depending on how serious an offense it was. 2-minute, 5-minute, 10-minute, 15-minute time-outs are the ones I use. Recently (at four years old), I have once or twice "threatened" a 20-minute time-out if he did some serious thing. Hitting a person gets a 10- to 20-minute time-out, depending on how out-of-control he's been. How long a time-out is appropriate? I have heard of some people (including the daycare teachers who take care of my son during the day) who give children 1-minute of time-out per year of age. I have found that my son can handle longer time-outs and that he is learning the concept of seriousness of behavior by the consequences that result, as measured by length of time-out.
I feel strongly that a child deserves respect as all humans do, and that in order to respect a child, we must understand his stage of development (which changes regularly!). In respecting the child, we teach him or her to respect others. Please don't let your son hit you, but also teach him why-- he wouldn't like to be hit either, "it makes you feel sad and hurt and angry. It's ok to feel angry, but it's NOT ok to hit. If you are angry, tell me! Use your words! Say, 'Mommy, I don't like that I can't do that.' Then I know how you feel and we can find a way to make it better, we can find a solution, so that we are both happy." It has taken awhile for my son to learn appropriate alternative ways to show that he's angry, and I still sometimes have to remind him of the alternatives, but it has been well worth the effort. I find it helps him if I give him examples of how to express things he might be feeling. I believe children need to learn to express how they are feeling, and that it is important to let them know that it is *OK* to be angry-- just that it is NOT ok to hit or hurt or say mean things.
I apologize for the length of this. I hope it helps a little. Feel free to email me if you wish to vent or discuss more. Good luck and hang in there! Peggy
So far as we've been able to figure, the behavior comes from two distinct urges. The first, and most common, is he's upset about something and can't find the words to express it. Asking him, "are you upset about something?" (or better, if you can guess, "are you upset about X?") often helps -- it lets him talk a little bit -- and combined with a long hug after the talk, often sharply reduces the hitting and throwing.
The second is that, occasionally (though rarely) he's just confirming that the house rules are still in force and pushes until he has a timeout to confirm that the rules are still the rules. But this is much less common than misbehavior as a form of dealing with distress. Craig
You may find you have to do it often because he may have a great need for this kind of reassurance. However, this kind of direct physical intervention is more effective at his age than the positive discipline strategies you describe, which require language and thinking skills he has not yet developed.
The other thing that you need to do is be consistent with the daily schedule and, as you are already being behavior expectations. Of course there will be times you don't manage to be consistent. The point is to keep returning to how you intend to do things--that is your standard and the other stuff is exceptions. This is another way of communicating to him that you are in charge, you are taking care of him, and he is safe. This is what he is trying to find out from you with his challenging behavior.
I don't know why some children have such a need to test boundaries. I don't think anyone knows. Louise
First, it's important to separate the issue of the child's actions from the issue of his feelings, and how you may (or may not) have hurt them. Children are very adept at changing the subject. When responding to out of control actions such as you describe, your possibly having hurt the child's feelings in disciplining him can't be allowed to be made the issue. Keep the focus on his behavior until you're satisfied you've resolved it.
When this comes up for me, I say, "We can talk about how you feel I hurt your feelings afterwards. But no matter how you feel, hitting (etc.) is not acceptable behavior. You may not hit your brother/sister."
Usually, I then try to talk with my son about whatever happened to set off the incident and to get him to put himself in the shoes of the person being hit. I try to explain that to be angry about something (e.g., a brother's teasing) is good and that I want him to feel free to be angry, *but* that there is a big difference between "O.K." angry feelings and "not O.K." physical violence and similar actions.
Second, I have tried to become more aware of the things that lead to these explosions so that I can step in before the child has gone over the line and coach him to respond appropriately, rather than impulsively. As he has grown older, he seems to have internalized this somewhat and become more able to control his responses independently.
Third, sometimes you have to let the child cool off before any of this will be possible. That is the only real function for "timeouts" in kids older than toddlers (IMHO). I don't call them timeouts, I just say the kid needs to be by himself until he can be in control and have a talk with me.
As for punishment, follow Gilbert & Sullivan: "Let the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime." I've wasted a lot of energy on punishments unrelated to the conduct in question, like the all-purpose favorite, "No video games for a day/week." Now I try to keep it focussed on the behavior if I can. But beyond that, I've come to believe that punishment is often unimportant; what matters is the child's *understanding* of exactly what they did that was wrong, of why it was wrong, and of how it affected the other child and those around them. A child who understands this suffers appropriate remorse that is punishment enough.
Finally, this response wouldn't be complete without mentioning that
uncontrolled and impulsive behavior is sometimes a symptom of entirely
different problems that can't be addressed with a discipline model alone.
In particular, children with learning disabilities often manifest behavioral
problems as a result of the understandable (and all-too often unrecognized)
frustration they are experiencing. Similarly, impulsiveness and lack of
control can be a sign of attention deficit disorder, a real problem
notwithstanding all the controversy about over-diagnosis and the like. Age
5 may be too young to make such diagnoses, except in severe cases, as a
certain amount of such behavior goes with the territory of that age. If it
persists at 7, or if you feel that the situation is unmanageable before
that, I'd suggest talking to your pediatrician or (better yet) a
psychologist or family therapist who is knowledgeable in such things (Sheri
Glucoft Wong on Solano is excellent in spotting these problems).
3.5-year-old hitting parents
Help. My delightful 3.5 y.o. son is a parent abuser! Here's the usual
scenario-We've returned from a full day of childcare/work. We have
some play time. I'm cooking dinner in between. We're playing, laughing
etc. He starts doing something not ok (jumping on a book tonight). I
try explaining why that isn't ok. He gets mad, starts calling me names,
gets more books, I take them away. He starts hitting, calling more names.
I tell him I don't like that. I try to redirect him into another activity.
Eventually he gets into something else but then the cycle starts up again
when he doesn't get his way- name calling and hitting. I find it infuriating
to have my calling me "stupid" and hitting me. Yes it's mostly when he's
tired and or hungry and had a long day. I've tried sending him to his room
or leaving the room myself when I get too angry. He doesn't hit or name
call school at apparently and plays really well with the other kids. He does
the same negative beahvior with his dad though my husband doesn't get as
upset with it as I do. Sometimes he's able to concoct silly responses that
distract our son from whatever his objective is. Still at the end of a long
day I often don't have wh\345t it takes to come up with witty, imaginative
distractions. I just want him to listen and not\240be mean. Will he just
outgrow this? Any strategies? (we dont' yell (much) at each other by the
way and never spank or call names....)
It seems like you already do that, but I will mention it anyway... I find it helpful to pay attention to my daughter's daily cycles... she tends to loose control right after school and then close to dinner times. I often have healthy snacks like nuts, vegetables and fruits that I offer her right as I notice her loosing steam. I also allow for quiet times during those times. Play dates are over, TV is off, puzzles and playdough or other quiet activities are available for her do do alone. I also find that she loves to listen to music during those times. She also can help cook by washing the lettuce or the vegetables (cool water is very soothing, by the way).
Parenting is so hard, be gentle to yourself! If you need breaks from your child tell him. I hope this helps!
Help. My delightful 3.5 y.o. son is a parent abuser! Here's the usual scenario-We've returned from a full day of childcare/work. We have some play time. I'm cooking dinner in between. We're playing, laughing etc. He starts doing something not ok (jumping on a book tonight). I try explaining why that isn't ok. He gets mad, starts calling me names, gets more books, I take them away. He starts hitting, calling more names. I tell him I don't like that. I try to redirect him into another activity. Eventually he gets into something else but then the cycle starts up again when he doesn't get his way- name calling and hitting. I find it infuriating to have my calling me "stupid" and hitting me. Yes it's mostly when he's tired and or hungry and had a long day. I've tried sending him to his room or leaving the room myself when I get too angry. He doesn't hit or name call school at apparently and plays really well with the other kids. He does the same negative beahvior with his dad though my husband doesn't get as upset with it as I do. Sometimes he's able to concoct silly responses that distract our son from whatever his objective is. Still at the end of a long day I often don't have what it takes to come up with witty, imaginative distractions. I just want him to listen and not be mean. Will he just outgrow this? Any strategies? (we dont' yell (much) at each other by the way and never spank or call names....)
I have a strong willed and very persistent three and a half year old myself, and it is so hard to keep calm at times, but I find it more effective when I do keep calm and consistent. I strongly recommend not allowing any hitting, and continue to separate the child from you when this is happening. Just keep repeating to him "we do not hit in our family". Now, what is most important, after the crisis is over is to go back to the incident and talk it over with your child when he is calm and rational. Make lists of what might work when he gets angry or when there is something you need to tell him that he won't like. Then, when the next crisis happens, you can refer back to the conversion you had with him: "You are getting angry again... remember what you and I have decided? You said, and we wrote this down, that when you got angry you would... instead of hitting people (my child and I decided that she can hit pillows). As far as the strong words go, you might want to talk about strong words that are OK to say, like "I am really mad right now! Or (my daughter's favorite) I am fuming right now... Children's books that deal with anger are also a great way to open doors for conversations with children, during times when they can listen...
It seems like you already do that, but I will mention it anyway... I find it helpful to pay attention to my daughter's daily cycles... she tends to loose control right after school and then close to dinner times. I often have healthy snacks like nuts, vegetables and fruits that I offer her right as I notice her loosing steam. I also allow for quiet times during those times. Play dates are over, TV is off, puzzles and playdough or other quiet activities are available for her to do alone. I also find that she loves to listen to music during those times. She also can help cook by washing the lettuce or the vegetables (cool water is very soothing, by the way).
Parenting is so hard, be gentle to yourself! If you need breaks from your child tell him. I hope this helps!
My 4 year old son has started having problems at school - he's playing too rough with the other kids and now he's started hitting some of them. At home he tries to play rough with his 1 year old sister, but we are constantly around to remind him how to be gentle or put him in time out when he won't listen. At school, he's been put in time out and when he gets a bad report we don't give him a special sticker after school. In addition, he can't have a popsicle or a video if he's been bad at school. What else should we be doing to break him of this rough behavior? Jenny
Our son has just been suspended from preschool due to frequent incidents of hitting/throwing things/scratching/etc. The teachers want us to send him to ''some kind of counseling.'' As someone who has always been very skeptical about psychological therapy of all kinds and who sees this kid's behavior as not out of the realm of normal, this is unhelpful. But they think he ''has a lot of anger'' and hey, some fresh approaches just might benefit all of us.
So, who treats young children, coaches parents, WILL VISIT THE PRESCHOOL and advise the teachers, and has a PRACTICAL, short- term and focussed approach that will work for a parent who's skeptical about and impatient with therapeutic navel-gazing, but has experience dealing with kids who don't respond well to behavior-management tools like sticker charts? Ideally, located in Albany, El Cerrito or North Berkeley, but we'll go farther if we have to. Someone who deals with other ''life transitions'' and does career/life coaching also might be helpful to my husband as well, which is sort of another subject (he is currently a full time at-home father not by choice), although of course it's probably related.
I've checked the website, but can't find quite what I'm looking for, and many recommendations seem to be outdated. anon
I don't know of a therapist to recommend, but you made several comments that took me back to my own experience with counseling as an out of control teen.
My school also recommended that I go to counseling and my parents, especially my dad, were as skeptical as you seem to be.
I sensed my parents' disapproval when I began counseling. At the time, I also felt as if the counselor was the only person on my side. It lasted only a couple of sessions, as my parents were also impatient with navel-gazing. I spiraled even further into self-destructive behavior.
You know, your child's experience and needs are definitely different from my own as a teen, but I can tell you that 30 years later I did take the time to talk to a therapist and she has helped me to be at peace with myself and my past. I am sorry that you are going through this but even more sorry for the child who is desperate to express something and has no one to interpret for him. I think it's a wonderful sign that you are open-minded and willing to suspend your disbelief. I wish you and your child well. navel-gazer
Our four year old son is extremely challenging with my husband and me (as well as others he is close to). He almost never does anything without being asked/cajoled/ordered multiple times, is often verbally unkind to us and both verbally and physically aggressive with his brother. More often than not he is cranky and negative, even when we are doing something/offering to do something fun. He is often very defiant towards us and has absolutely no respect for our authority or interest in pleasing us. We have been to a therapist, which has helped my husband and I come to a unified approach on dealing with his behavior (pretty firm, sort of the 1,2, 3 method then time out or toy removal). The therapist's conclusion at this point is that we have a temperment challenge rather than an organic problem (like bi-polar disorder)--he does very well at preschool, they are somewhat amazed when I tell them how difficult he is at home, and while very difficult to deal with he seems very much in control of his faculties/behaviors most of the time. His language skills are very strong and we are often told by others-- teachers, therapists, etc. that he is very bright. I don't know if this is part of the problem/challenge...
My husband and I feel so frustrated, angry and sad at what a difficult time we are having with our son. A large percentage f the time I would say we are not enjoying parenting him at all. My questions are: How have other people dealt with very challenging children? How do you deal with feeling like though you love your kid, you really don't like him that much? Is there hope that he will become easier to manage, or are we in for 15 more years of this? I have heard of something called Oppositional Personality Disorder and wonder what it is/if he might have this. Thanks. frustrated mom
I don't know if we'll ever have a clear ''diagnosis''. And parenting her is rarely joyful. However I have learned alot in the process - being loving but firm and not taking in her anger for example. There are some good and easy times and I suppose I have lowered my expectations. I know she won't tell me she loves me and hug me and happily do what is asked of her (as my younger child often does). But I have learned to recognize the ways she shows affection and appreciate those. I ignore a lot of her negativity and just don't take it in. I notice that while she may argue about what she's told to do, she ultimately will do it if I hold firm. I try to enjoy the good days - and there are some. And I hold out hope that things will shift. I hope this is helpful and look forward to reading the other response. Anon
After much networking, reading and talking to therapists, I'm pretty convinced he's what's called a Sensitive Child. He's overly sensitive and was very tempermental. He could become violently angry. Time Out was a joke. Holding him (at age 4) he'd use his head as a weapon, hitting me with it. Or kick my shins with his feet. I'd carry him kicking and thrashing up to his room and have to use all my strength to push him into his room and hold/pull the door shut with all my might. He would pull it from the other side, climbing up on the doorknob to leverage his body weight against the door frame. He'd kick the door, throw things at it, etc. When he'd get angry, I'd hold him away from me, to stop him from kicking me, he'd bite into my hands and wrists. I say all this to underscore how intense he was. Another aspect of his temperment was that he was always one step behind. In the morning, I'd wake up the kids, then get their breakfast ready. At breakfast time, he still hadn't woken up. At the time to leave for school, he was just ready to eat breakfast. He was very slow to adapt to changes in environment, etc. I learned to always give him time warnings: 15 mins until X; 10 mins until X; 5 min until X; 3 min until X, 1 min until X, time for X. That seemed to help. That went on for several years. He's a very, very smart kid (some have said brilliant) so maybe that's part of it, too. Who knows? There's a good book by Elaine Aron, who wrote a book called The Highly Sensitive Child. She also wrote one that's a workbook for dealing with these people. Good luck. Age 4 just is generally a very difficult age anyway. We had the same thing happen with us with his teachers experiencing a different child than the difficult one we saw at home. He held it together really well at school, then let go at home. One thing that everyone told us----teachers, therapists, parents: It's a GOOD thing if he acts outs at home. It means he knows he's loved and feels secure acting out like that at home. They said it was the kids who act out at school that have real problems. Marie
The one thing I have decided is the absolute key to any disciplinary technique is to make sure he gets the least amount of attention possible for any sort of defiant behavior. Standing there having a discussion, or even an argument, with him is giving him attention, and this kid would trade a year's supply of ice cream for attention. I got him to sit in his carseat by telling him, once, ''I will talk to you when you are in your carseat,'' and then standing outside the car, looking off at the distant hills, and faking complete, detached boredom with the whole procedure, while he screamed, yelled, and raged. When his bottom finally made it to the carseat, I talked to him. I tell you, though, I didn't like him much when we got home. That part isn't fun. The thing that helps most with that is to focus, both for his sake and for mine, on any little positive thing he does. He gets lots of attention for volunteering to help me, for saying please, for putting a toy away... any little thing. I'm also teaching him about Mommy needing a time-out (we set a timer for a short period of time, say 15 minutes, and he has to leave me alone; I go in another room and do something to calm down), I suppose this is much harder when the child has always been more difficult, or has much more severe behavior (my son spends about half his time being a total angel with me; the flip side is he's starting to behave badly at preschool). Just some thoughts... Karen
Arghhh!!!I need some help with my 4 yr old. Usually an easy going, fun loving, friendly little guy, he has been acting out at school and been a little turkey at home lately (ie: smirking when being talked to about his 'crimes'.) When the teachers and I ask him what's going on, he either denies it or says I don't know. I started a responsibility/behavior chart over a month ago as an incentive to improve his behavior and that seemed to help quite a bit. But now, he is getting in trouble again and this time, for hitting-in almost a playful way-which is still not okay. He seems to be trying to get his friends' attention during work time (Montessori school thing) but ends up hurting someone. No black eyes or anything too serious, but this upsets me-his teacher mom! Granted, he has had A LOT to adjust to in the past two years -divorce, his dad was in rehab and is currently sober but still not around, his mom's in new relationship with fiance, the arrival of a baby sister 6 mos ago and a new school to boot. I know it's most likely a culmination of ALL these things-poor guy, but I am at a loss for how to discipline him appropriately and effectively. And I am a firm, but loving mom. In the past, ages 1-3, he was very responsive to my discipline and seemed to want to please me. Now, he almost doesn't seem to care. I am not one to spank, but have even found myself go down that route more times than I care to mention. A couple of times he even said 'that didn't hurt'!! The nerve! We've taken toys & priveleges away and it doesn't seem to phase him. On the flip side, I have tried to make solid deposits into his emotional security bank by spending more one on one time with him, but still, he misbehaves! Today, after a particularly bad day at school, a spanking and talking to, he told me to go away. Frankly, I wish I could. Calgon, take me away!! What more can I do? Somebody out there has got to have some words of wisdom for this once single mom, now blending a family with a wonderful man who loves my son, but doesn't feel it's his role to participate in the disciplining of my child. The few times he has went poorly, causing tension in our relationship! I'll take all the advice I can get! Honesty appreciated~ anon
You should probably also work on having a very reliable schedule for your son -- he's asking for more boundaries, and it cuts down on the power struggles when he has more. I also wonder about what is going on at the preschool -- are the teachers setting limits effectively; how can they help you work with your high need child so he has the boundaries he needs, while not getting stuck in a negative struggle.
I think the other side of this is to have as much positive one-on-one time with him as you can, and for his stepfather to have fun with him as well. Give your son and yourself time to work through all the changes. anon
Easier said than done, I know. But as much as possible try to avoid yelling, arguing, and lecturing and try to give him opportunities to please you or be helpful. --mom of 2 strong-willed kids
I am also having issues w/ my 4 year old. We have 4 month old twins and he has become so difficult. On the advice of other twin parents I got the book ''Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles'' by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I'm not that far into it, but so far it is really addressing the issues my son is having.
The book is about coping w/ the everyday challenges of disciplining your child, while understanding the issues behind his or her behaviour and helping them learn to cope with their emotions. Your son must be feeling very, very strong emotions about the changes in his life, and they are manifesting themselves in negative behaviour. Punishing him/spanking will only make the matter worse and give him yet more to be angry about. anon
Her advice was to completely ignore it. That whatever it was that I was doing was giving him something he was looking for, otherwise he wouldn't be doing it. So, what I did (very skeptically and thinking- yeah right) was let him know that whenever he threw a tantrum, I was not going to give that tantrum any attention (this is when things were fine- just to let him know what was up). Then, at the first sign of a tantrum, I'd calm myself down, let him know that I was not going to give him any attention until he was finished, and then I'd ignore him. I'd talk to him calmly if I needed to (like- ''can you put this in the trash for me''), but not about ANYTHING related to what he was upset about, to how he was acting, etc.
If the tantrum got more out of hand I would say ''I'm sorry- but I can't give this tantrum any attention right now and you're going to have to finish it up in your room. go ahead and come back down when you're finished.'' The usually I'd have to carry him upstairs and deposit him in his room. If he came down, I'd just do it again. I NEVER gave the tantrum any attention- not even to say ''stop acting like that'' or ''don't hit'' or anything.
Amazingly enough, it worked wonders within a week or so. honestly! I think after a while he realized that nothing was going to come of his fits or hitting so why do it? Seems simple, but it took me a while to figure it out. That's my advice. Good luck. karen
Meanwhile, I suggest that you find him a psychological counselor. I am not really a big fan of that kind of therapy -- not my style -- but it had some benefits for our son, and I know other moms who say having a neutral party to talk to really helped their children at about that age, and it was helpful for the parents too to have someone to give them a 'read' on their child and ideas about how to approach specific issues.
I also suggest that you do some reading and reflecting on discipline techniques and philosophies. Or, if reading isn't your best learning style, take a parenting class or two. I am not a total convert to ''unconditional parenting'' but I also think that sticker charts, removal of privileges and of course spanking are not teaching your kid anything you really want him to learn. Work on natural and logical consequences instead and I suspect you'll get a better response -- that's what works with my son. Best of luck! Mom of a now-not-quite-so-awful six-year-old
I think you're doing a great job as it is, with a naughty 4yo, new baby and fiance. I'm certain your sweet child remains under the haze of this rough phase. Allow time and perseverance to get him through this; build his self-esteem, and hang in there while he messes up without letting on about your frustration. Things will turn around, because you will set him up to succeed.
Punishments solidify how ''bad'' he is, and he feels like crap, snowballing into more probs. You must show him and continually help him remember how terrific he is (and this is going to be some work for you, since right now he believes you don't like him), and that you love him no matter what he does. When spanked, he is penalized for being angry or scared. If you got smacked everytime you got mad or felt fear, you'd unravel too.
You must alter your reactions when he triggers you. Change your perception of his outbursts (remind yourself always: it's his overwhelm, and I must help him get through it). Allow him to express his feelings while preventing physical harm. Gently and lovingly remind him what he is supposed to do, using roleplay. Don't focus on screw ups, and steer clear of shame. After each report of his ''crimes'', show how to touch harmlessly, not by spanking, but gently stroking his arm. Bonus: you express your love while modeling appropriate touch. Ask how it went with the teacher/kids today, and be validating, regardless his response. He may still act out, but he'll recover quickly when he trusts you're his ally. Say ''We're going to work together to help you be happier. We're a team and I'm on your side.'' Tell him by working on being happy, he will feel like behaving more often. Keep focusing on the good stuff, filling the emotional bank AND the self-esteem bank; then be patient and positive. This is hard when you're pissed off, but I'm confident you'll pull it off. Ali
Help! My son will be 4 at the end of the month, and his
behavior is out of control. Sometimes he is wonderful, other
times he is completely off the charts, hitting, screaming,
shouting ''No!'' running away from me, etc. Time outs don't
seem to be working anymore, (he laughs, which pushes my
EVERY button.) I hate yelling at him, but find myself doing it
out of frustration. I realize this may be his motivation, but I
still go there more often than I'd like to.
Does anybody out there have any experience with effective
discipline?? I do give him positive rewards when he's good.
Any suggestions for what to do when his behavior is bad?
With my son, the thing that worked best was for me to remain completely emotionless, put him on the couch (his timeout spot), and put him back, and put him back, and keep this up until he stayed there, and then make him stay -- alone -- for four minutes. If we were not near the couch, and it was at all possible to leave him alone I did that (My son is extremely social and hates being alone). If all else failed, we sat somewhere (in the car, or wherever) until he calmed down and sat calmly for four minutes. No matter what he did, I remained unengaged. I remember once, in a church parking lot, getting out of the car, locking him in, and standing there, looking off at the distant hills, while he yelled and screamed for almost 20 minutes.
The key was the emtionlessness. The more I reacted emotionally, the worse it got. He's rejoicing in his newfound ability to influence you. Another thing that helped was to provide him with a lot more attention whenever I could -- and attention at a time when he could be the one to decide what we did. For my son, that was usually playing games of his choice, in his bedroom (his favorite place to be). The more I was able to do this for him -- and allow him to influence me in this way -- the fewer problems we had Karen
I would recommend trying a different approach, one that works on addressing *feelings* rather than *behavior.* Some childhood experts I've read and spoken with feel that behavior takes care of itself when we address what kids are feeling and help them learn how to articulate what they are feeling.
Aletha Solter (a child-development psychologist) has written some things about this kind of approach, and NVC (Non-Violent Communication, or ''Compassionate Communication'') also stresses this approach in it's workshops for parents. People I've ment swear that it's extremely effective. My daughter is too young, so I can't speak from personal experience in that area but It has certainly been a big help in my relationship with my husband (we go to an NVC practice group here in Oakland). Seems to me it's at least worth looking into. You can check out the web site at http://www.baynvc.org.
Best of luck to you, it sounds very difficult and frustrating! Alesia
1. The book ''How to talk so that your kids will listen and listen so that your kids will talk'' has been extremely helpful. The emphasis is on the parents treating the kids with respect, and it's truly miraculous how acknowledging the child's problem will often dissipate the whole situation. It isn't a magic bullet, but it certainly has decreased the number of fights. Also, the sibling rivalry book by the same authors has done wonders for teaching us how to teach our two and four year olds to resolve their conflicts.
Amazon gives a description of the book here: http://www.amazon.com/How-Talk- Kids-Will-Listen/dp/0380811960/sr=1-3/qid=1160505752/ ref=sr_1_3/002-5727956-4721603?ie=UTF8&s=books
2. Timely snacks that are fairly substantial (eg yogurt, cereal with milk) has helped us. Our kids are so much more difficult when they're hungry.
3. The series ''Your Three Year Old..'' by Louise-Bates-Ames is a wonderful series that helps our sanity when we understand that these periods are a natural part of growing up.
4. The acknowledgement that sometimes the parents need to give themselves time-outs to restore their sanity.
Looking forward to hearing what others write in as well. Susan
My 4 1/2 year old daughter has always been easygoing, responsible and mature. She has never before had tantrums or any behavior problems. In the last 3 weeks she has changed into a Jekyll-Hyde creature, throwing extreme tantrums that last up to an hour (her personal record) up to 3 times a day. These involve screaming and crying, kicking and hitting (although always gently, not trying to hurt), and being completely uncooperative and uncommunicative. It's usually a tiny, insignificant thing that triggers it, sometimes almost seeming like she's setting it up, insisting on something she knows she can't have or something that would be unfair to someone else. There have been no changes in our lives, other than her little brother starting at her pre- school, which does coincide almost perfectly with the tantrums. She doesn't seem to resent him being there and is very helpful and motherly to him at school, and she has nad no significant behavior problems at school. Has anyone else experienced such a radical change in a child of this age? It seems something must be really bothering her and somehow we have to address it, but we have so far been unable to ascertain what the issue might be. Would love to hear of others experiences and how to deal effectively with both the tantrums and their source. Frustrated and bewildered
My 3-y-o son has spent one day a week for the last year with a boy who is one year older. My son thinks the world of this boy, and while he keeps up with the older boy, will also mimic his behavior. I'm not always happy with the things I see, but have tried to keep cool (I've been reading a lot of the 3-y-o aggression posts, and boys with guns posts, and learning a lot). But lately, I've been growing more and more concerned over the increasingly aggressive behavior my son comes home with from these weekly visits.
The other boy is the youngest child in a family of boys, and at times it seems really crazy there. Today I just about lost my cool. When I picked my son up I learned that the other boy laughed at my son when he fell, cut his head and cried, and then I saw him use a stick like a sword in the chest of another friend and throw things at that friend's face. Tonight, my son used the f-word and said his friend taught it to him. I really need some perspective here--is this just normal 4-y-o boy behavior? Or is this really over the line? Should I be expecting this kind of thing from other boys--including my son--in a few years? Should I be talking to the boy's mom about what I see as a real problem?
My son will start preschool this fall (a different one than the other boy). Right now, we are planning to continue this once-a-week visit into the fall, so as to maintain a friendship. So far, I've tried to put the affection my son feels for this boy ahead of the concerns I have for the naughty behavior that comes home. But after today, I am wondering if that's wise. The two things that concern me most are that the other boy's behavior seems to be getting more violent and frantic, and that for a day or two after seeing him my son's behavior is more aggressive too, and that he thinks his own naughty behavior is funny. Any advice from parents with older boys? worried mom
We have a v. difficult situation with our 4.5 y.o. only daughter, and I am in dire need of feedback and advice.
Someone called this age the ''angry age'' on this site, and that seems v. appropriate for us. Our daughter is GENERALLY speaking, a lot of fun to be around -- funny, bright, imaginative. But when she does not get her way about something, she can devolve into a vicious being. She slaps, bites hard enough to leave bruises, kicks, and just this afternoon, grabbed my breasts and twisted the nipples as hard as she could. (I was lying on the sofa.) Reason: I wouldn't let her eat more than one piece of Easter candy. She also tears down curtains, throws toys, etc. It is as if she is in some kind of violent fugue state, and I hold down her arms so she can't hurt me and rock her and tell her I love her and it always ends after a few minutes with tears and apologies, but I just cannot stand this any more.
She gets glowing reports at school, other parents and teachers adore her, and _I_ adore her, but what is this freaky, painful violence about? A 2 y.o. I can see, but a 4.5 y.o.? Is this normal?
This year has been a dreadful one for us, an upcoming move to a new city, the impending death of a beloved grandparent, and an impending adoption. But . . . what can we do right now? Thanks in advance for your responses. Jenny
The next time she bites you or kicks you or whatever, you tell her that if she continues that behavior something she loves will go away. If she continues, make that item go away. Period. No waffling.
Institute a time-out chair in her room and TELL her to sit there until she can behave herself, or she'll be on time out for the rest of his life. If she doesn't sit down, you put her back. Be more persistent than she is, you're the adult. How do YOU want her to behave? Tell her exactly what you expect in no uncertain terms and remind her until she understands that she is no longer in charge, you are. Don't cave in. Caving in is lack of boundary setting on your part. Children need boundaries. You can do this with love and respect. Caving in to her anger and manipulation is not respecting that YOU are the adult and you set the tone for now and the rest of your relationship with her for the rest of your life.
If you let her injure you and others, what's it going to be when she's fifteen? There's a book called DISCIPLINE. Discipline is not about violence, it's about boundaries and expectations. There is a child at my youngest child's school who bit until the 2nd grade. Now in fifth grade, everybody still remembers and resents her. Biters Anonymous
1) Watch carefully for when it happens. My child's behavior is most likely to deteriorate to this when he is hungry or tired. The combination of both is lethal. I do my best to treat him very carefully when he's tired (I just feed him a snack when he seems hungry, and I NEVER serve dinner late!!!). For example, on an evening when I know he's extra tired, I first move his bedtime up a bit, and then I try to do something in the meantime that I know he will really enjoy, but that won't involve a lot of effort. For him, that means I play with him in his bedroom, with his beloved dinosaurs and firetrucks.
2) Try to identify triggers. For my son (and I would be willing to guess for your daughter, since she sounds rather like my son in many ways), it has to do with my exerting authority over him in an obvious, absolute way. Last night, I was about 20 yards away from him when he started in on the flower bed, and I yelled ''Stop!'' at the top of my lungs. Then, when he laughed and ran away, toward the driveway, I yelled again. When I caught him and told him, without any discussion, to get in the car, that put him over the top. In retrospect, if I had said ''Look out for the flowers!' instead of ''stop'' in the first place, that would have helped. And if I had asked him to ''Please get in the car, so we can get home quick and make that delicious chicken,'' even when I was already annoyed, that would have helped some more. Explanations, reasoning, requests, dealing with him as I would a peer (insofar as possible) -- all of that works much much better than simply exerting authority. I think, by the way, that you are handling the meltdowns in absolutely the right way once they start. Doesn't matter what anyone tells you about discipline, once they have lost it, discipline is useless. What they need is a huge dose of love, not some kind of ''consequence.'' Karen
I'm afraid I'm at my wit's end. Our 4.5-year-old daughter has been in this
terrible hitting (mostly) and name-calling (sometimes) stage for the last
several weeks and I'm not sure what to do about it. She is totally well-
behaved at school. At home, when she's mad at one of us, she gets this
really angry look on her face and either hits, punches or scratches us. In
fact, she punched me right in the nose the other night - it hurt so much
that I shrieked, which made her apologize instantly (unprecedented) as
she got it that she really hurt me. She occasionally adds, ''Stupid! Stupid!
Stupid!'' After reminding her that hitting is not OK, I extract myself from
the situation (go into my bedroom and close the door). Depending on
the situation, I sometimes first take her to her room and close her door
(by the way, none of our doors have locks on them). She has gotten
better about apologizing eventually (better meaning she will apologize
in the same evening rather than the next day), so that's good. I have
talked to her in quiet moments as well to talk about how it's OK to be
mad, but it's not OK to hit. I've tried the ''it's OK to hit a pillow'', but that
doesn't work. So I'm looking for further advice. Any good children's
books out there? She loves books and pays very close attention to them.
We're open to anything at this point. And as a point of information, it
does appear that this happens mostly when she is tired. A friend
suggested some sort of reward system, such as after getting 5 stars/
stickers, she can have a special outing with us or something. She's big
into stickers even at her age, but who knows. Thanks for your advice.
Really Tired of Being Hit
The good news is that this is typical 4.5-year-old behavior. Some people say the 2's are terrible, but I think the 4's are Something Else! Of course you have to figure out how to deal with this, but don't worry that she'll grow up to be an awful person. She will mature out of this.
For starters, I really think it's pointless to demand an apology. Your daughter already knows about apologies and uses them appropriately when she is so moved. A spontaneous apology is worth an infinite number of glib, ''I'm sorry'''s. She also needs to know that words alone do not erase the hurt.
She is not too young to be isolated when she hurts someone. You can say, ''If you hurt people, you can't stay'', and put her in her room or other isolation place. Don't get a lock or even use a timer. Tell her she can come out when she feels like she is ready to be safe around other people. This puts the onus on her to notice how she is feeling and when she is ready to emerge. If she comes out cranky, repeat the procedure, ''I can see you came out too soon. Wait until you're calm''.
When she is calm, you can try to talk to her about why she was so angry. She may have had a reasonable cause for her outburst, but you have to impress on her that hitting and name calling are unacceptable. Talk about how she could have handled the situation better, and ask her what she will do the next time she feels really angry.
I think you are wise to notice that the does this when she's tired. Being tired, hungry, sick or anxious are the usual reasons a child loses self-control. If you learn to watch for signs of stress, you can help her with her underlying problem before she lashes out. Louise
The first two months of instigating these new rules were very difficult as she tested and then adjusted to the rules. We made sure to emphasize that these were the house rules, not punishment. It helped me to have the rules so that I didn't get caught up in an angry response of my own. She understood the rules immediately when we explained them to her (quickly and to the point) and even though she was often unable to control her passion, it was clear that she knew, in the moment, that she had broken the rules and that there would be consequences. I am happy to say that she is learning how to control her passion, the nasty behavior has declined dramatically, and very few toys are removed these days. We are all much happier. For us, it came down to identifying our limits to ourselves, informing her of the rules, and then sticking with them. Best of luck to you. Rachel
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