15 answers

4 Year Old Boy Who Spits, Hits and Kicks When He Doesn't Get His Way - HELP!!

HI,
My 4 year old can be a very sweet boy....but often when told no or that he has to share with his younger brother, he becomes angry. He has been spitting, hitting and kicking me and my husband when he doesn't get his way. I try to very calmly (and as non-emotionally as possible) tell him this is not ok. He will then go to his room for timeout. We have talked about why this is not a nice way to act and that it hurts people but it doesn't seem to be sinking in. He does not behave this way at pre-school. Advice??
Thanks!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks for all of the great advice. Luckily, he does not hit or kick his younger brother...just his Dad and I. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any favorite toys or activities that I can take away. I think he could take or leave most things. I have taken his little blankies that he sleeps with at night and have taken tv. I may take his soccer practice today if he doesn't stay in his room this afternoon. He is a very emotional and easily influenced child. So, I think that anytime there is something to get upset about he does. And, he uses the not so nice words that he hears from his older friends. Just an example of his overreacting...he got upset this am b/c there were only 2 waffles left in the house and his brother got 1. This was followed by the kicking, hitting and spitting that accompanies most of his tantrums. We never went through the "terrible two's" so I think I'm paying for it now when he's four. To the person who said it's good that he isn't like this at school, only at home....that's exactly what his pediatrician said and also about it being a "safe" place at home. Thanks again for all of the advice! Although I know that other moms go through this kind of stuff, it's nice to be able to commiserate and learn what worked for others!

Featured Answers

If he is holding back his worst behavior for you at home then he is doing really well. Keep being consistent and teach him what is OK and not OK, and step up the time outs with other dicipline at home if it does not become effective soon. That he can control this behavior at school is a very good sign, believe it or not, this is the kind of pattern you want to see, when behavior is more global, or when you see it in public, you have more complicated issues. You are "safe" so he trusts you and he is showing you that he has control, so he is just saving it up and letting it go at home. Keep working on it, and it will improve.

Don't we all kind of do this once in a while? Bad day at work, can't yell at the boss...you know how it is! Not that it is right, just that it is typical and expected and you are doing the right thing with him, so stay consistent.

M.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers

I have to point out, sharing with a younger sibling is not always the right solution. I can understand his anger, and being only 4 he has no other way to show this anger.

I don't know what instances you ask him to share, but he could be feeling like he doesn't own anything anymore. Or that nothing is just "his." Or maybe the younger brother breaks things or ruins what he is playing with.

I only say this because my stepdaughter is forced to share her toys with her younger sister when at mom's house. She shares a room and has nothing that's just "hers." They make her entertain her younger sister, and while that's fine, sometimes she just wants to play by herself. She says her younger sister breaks her toys, or ruins what she's playing with. There was a time when she was physically tackling her sister and pushing her! My SD is NOT a physical kid, she's never violent and I've never seen her angry at our house. It has also created a big dislike for her younger sister.

While hitting, kicking and spitting are never acceptable, I'd just take a look at why your son is angry. Could you give him some time to just play by himself? Are there toys your younger son just isn't allowed to play with because they belong to your oldest? Could you create a box of "toys to share" and "toys not to be shared?" Does he get enough one-on-one time with you?

Sharing is important, but I'd be MAD if someone made me share all my stuff all the time!

I'm guessing that since he doesn't do it at preschool (and they make you share there!) that there is some other issue at home. Solve the issue and you'll stop the anger. Also, you could teach him what to do when he is angry instead of just getting mad at him for showing his anger. My mom got my brother a punching bag and when he was angry he was taught to go punch the punching bag. It always made him laugh in the end!

4 moms found this helpful

I agree with Martha R. He obviously understands that this behavior is not good, because he is not doing it at school. You need to keep up what you are doing. I would also have a talk with him when things are calm (not during or after an episode). Explain to him, that it is not okay to hit, kick and bite. Does he like stickers? Maybe start giving him a sticker at the end of the day when he has a good day. That will make him more conscience of his actions at home.

2 moms found this helpful

If he is holding back his worst behavior for you at home then he is doing really well. Keep being consistent and teach him what is OK and not OK, and step up the time outs with other dicipline at home if it does not become effective soon. That he can control this behavior at school is a very good sign, believe it or not, this is the kind of pattern you want to see, when behavior is more global, or when you see it in public, you have more complicated issues. You are "safe" so he trusts you and he is showing you that he has control, so he is just saving it up and letting it go at home. Keep working on it, and it will improve.

Don't we all kind of do this once in a while? Bad day at work, can't yell at the boss...you know how it is! Not that it is right, just that it is typical and expected and you are doing the right thing with him, so stay consistent.

M.

2 moms found this helpful

Typically, kids know what they CAN and CAN'T do at school. But they are known to push the envelope at home. Just keep being very consistent with your house rules and the consequences he receives for his behavior. You say he 'will go to time out in his room" but does he like it in his room? LOL make sure the consequence is actually something a bit unpleasant or it won't have the desired effect. What REALLY made the point for my son was taking away a favorite toy/lovey/activity/etc. more than a time out. But all kids are different. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Dear K.,

Hopefully he is not spitting, hitting and kicking his little brother. I someone you didn’t know, child or adult hit, kicked or spat upon on you, one would almost have to be “superhuman” or a total passavist to not react with anger or some sort of retaliation. While you and dad are still the biggest, it’s time to do a bit more then telling your four year old “this is not O.K.”.

A few suggestions:

Remove his shoes in the house (as a precaution); tell him no shoes until he learns/understands that there is no kicking.

The next time he hits, spits or misbehaves in anyway, pick him up, restrain his legs and arms by holding him tight as you carry him to a time out place (not his room), someplace there is absolutely no fun, no toys, no other children. Just a little chair is a spot where you can see him. If he gets up, put him back…no talking, no yelling, just put him back until he stays for the amount of time you have given. Using a timer helps, five or ten minutes to a four year old is a long time. When he has completed his time out, he will probably have calmed down enough to talk and apologize.

The only remedy for correcting bad behavior is consistent discipline and love.

Blessings……..

1 mom found this helpful

I'm sorry if this is redundant, though it doesn't sound like it from your update (I haven't had a chance to read all the responses). but I just wanted to say, it sounds to me like being punitive isn't working, and maybe you should re-think your whole strategy. I once read in a book something to the effect of:

when you want to push your child away, try bringing him in instead.

what it means in practice is, at those moments when you most want to put him into time out or yell or whatever, stop, and try and think about what's really going on with your kid, and if there's a way you can give him ~more~ of you instead of less. it sounds like he's acting out b/c he's trying to get your attention, so if you can really focus on giving him positive feedback for his positive behavior, it will help to re-direct his energies.

also, and this is really key, try carving out special one-on-one time just with him that he gets to direct, ie.: we have an hour (or ten minutes, it doesn't matter how long as long as it's as much as you can cobble together) together, honey, what do you want to do? play with trains? read books? go to the park? I'm all yours, we do whatever you want. (the only think you can't do is watch TV or go a movie or do something else that creates parallel play instead of the two of you actually interacting and playing together.)

you may find that the negative behaviors lose their power and so he may start to calm down. just ignore as much as you can. obviously biting and spitting need a response/guidance, but try not to give negative attention, and make up for it by giving as much positive attention as you can possibly muster. every single time you see him do anything positive, tell him you noticed and praise him: johnny, I see how nicely you shared your toy with your brother, that was great! johnny, I see how you really wanted to hit your brother because you were mad, and then you didn't, and I'm so proud of you for that. etc etc etc.

and when you're really mad, think about bringing him in instead of being punitive. think about being disappointed instead of angry. think about including him in strategies for correcting his behavior instead of meting out random punishments from on high (so to speak).

good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

My son behaves worst for me as well, and people have made me realize that I'm too easy on him. Time outs don't have much effect on him, but threatening to take away his favorite stuffed toy definitely has an impact. If time outs alone aren't doing it, see if there's something your son really loves that can be removed for a certain period of time to make the punishment more effective - either an object or favorite activity. I'm also working on keeping our day as structured as possible with daily routines. I think this will be especially important over the summer months. Good luck.

When I became confused as to what to do about my son a few years ago, I thought "what is something that he really loves?" For him it was his cars. So every time he did something wrong (for me it was swearing) I would tell him to go bring me a toy and I would stash it away in my room. Fortunately for me, he would always bring me his favorite toys. He quit swearing within about 2 days. It made a huge impact on him and maybe that could work for your situatiion as well.
He earned back a toy each day that he didn't say one swear word.

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