27 answers

Advice on Very Energetic Boy Keeping His Hands to Himself

Ok, I'm looking for some advice here or maybe just a "you're not alone and it passes" response:) I am the mom of the most wonderful little almost 4 year old boy. He is so sweet, smart, terribly funny, listens very well, kind, shares well, takes turns well, honestly just so much fun to parent. However, he has SO MUCH ENERGY. He never stops moving. Its a joke with my friends how if you ask him to get you something he runs to grab it and runs back to you. He runs everywhere he goes. He has a very hard time sitting still & standing still if nothing is going on. This leads to him always touching other kids! Makes me nuts. If he's in line at preschool he is always touching other kids. Playfully hip checking them or pushing them. It is not done mean spirited at all. His teachers point this out to me, its done in a playful giggle way. He & the other boys are always rough housing and touching each other.

Please no responses to have him tested for ADD. I've researched it and spoken with his teachers, he does not have one sign except his trouble sitting still. He can only NOT sit still when there is nothing to do. He is very focused at school when working on projects, he learns easily, doesn't interrupt people, etc.

My main problem is he is an only child so I can't "catch him in the act" so to speak. I can't discipline him at school, I'm not there. I should point out he's only had 2 days in a whole year where he had time outs for this behavior, its not to an unbearable degree, but it makes me nuts. Today they said he had 3 TIME OUTS because he kept pushing or touching kids, I was so embarrassed. Its only the second time this school year but still. He's been punished, play date for tonight canceled, he cried for 20 minutes about it. However I feel like its a habit sort of thing. I'm not convinced that the post punishment is gonna help him break his habit.

We have a birthday party this weekend. I've already warned my friends I'm gonna be on him like a hawk if he touches the other kids, lol. Its just hard cuz they all play that way, fake ninjas, star wars, you name it. I don't want to make too much out of it, but I want to make sure I'm on top of the behavior as well. He just can't behave that way at school.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

My oldest son is the SAME way!! Does he do it more at a particular time? My son is very touchy when it comes to transition times, so they are supposed to be giving him something to help keep his hand to himself, like Playdoh, Silly Putty, or a stress ball.
Talk to his teachers and find out if there is certain times he is doing it, and suggest at least trying one of the above things.
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Can you wear him out a little before school, so he doesn't have so much energy? Play out in the snow or walk to school. When the weather is nicer, just get out and have him go nuts, that way he may be calmer in school.

My son now 8 was exactly the same way and my nephew who is 4 is also very much like you described. I remember worrying so much about him. Kindergarten was a little rough, a few trips to the office for minor things and it was never any "mean" behavior. Really minor things like goofing off in the halls and talking loudly in class or being pusshy in line. I loved his teacher, she kept right on top of his behavior and he knew she meant business. He was very smart and ahead of others in class and I think he may have been bored. Now he seems like a completely different kid. Very well behaved sometimes a little too quiet. He is teacher this year seemed a little disbeleiving when I talked about prior issues we had. I don't have advice just letting you know a few years can make a huge difference and try not to stress too much!

More Answers

You've gotten a lot of responses already, and I only skimmed them. I work with kids for a living and my second son has sensory dysfunction, so I really felt like I should respond as well. Right to the point, there are some red flags I'd look into so you can help him better handle himself and I'll tell you why. It sounds like it's an issue that is beyond his control, as you described it. Whether it's sensory dysfunction, ADHD, sensitivities to chemicals and dyes in foods/allergy, all those diagnoses include the "symptoms"/behavior struggles you describe, so a professional evaluation could really give you some good insight as to why it is such a struggle for him to control his body. It's hard for us as parents to admit there could be "something wrong with our child", and yet ignoring it or discounting it as typical does not help the child. Trust me, I cried when we went through the evaluation with my second son, struggling with admitting to myself that something was wrong/that he wasn't "perfect", yet reminding myself that it is so important to help him so he's not so frustrated/struggling to function or follow rules! So try to take it in stride and figure out what is giving him a hard time. Put bluntly, him having trouble controlling himself, having an extra hard time controlling his impulses is not "typical boy behavior". Since it is beyond his control (or near impossible for him to control) punishment is not going to work and the longer it continues without helping the underlying issue, the problem can compound to social and emotional issues, meaning he could really get down on himself for something beyond his ability to control (because it feels like a battle impossible to overcome) and peers could get really frustrated by it (and kids are not so gentle all the time when frustrated by another kid or what not). That was my biggest concern with my second son when I had him evaluated, the one who was diagnosed with sensory dysfunction (also called SID/Sensory Integration Disorder as others mentioned). My son is the opposite end of that spectrum since he is a sensory avoider/gets overwhealmed VERY easily, but I've worked with sensory seekers in my career, and my heart goes out to them as well because they can try to the best of their ability to control themselves and it's just near impossible for them. It's very hard on the child, as well as the teacher who needs to CONSTANTLY be on top of it guiding this one child...EXHAUSTING when you have others to teach as well! Yet, understanding their struggle, punishment is not going to help if the impulses are SOO strong. They need other tools to help them control themselves. That's how the occupational therapist has really helped us! My son has been in occupational therapy for a few months (started once a week and is now to every other week) and it has made a WORLD of difference. Friends and family have commented on how much happier he is now because he can regulate his sensory system SOO much better now. Great books I read from the library on it are The out-of-sync child : recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder Author: Kranowitz, Carol Stock. & Sensational kids : hope and help for children with sensory processing disorder by Lucy Jane Miller with Doris A. Fuller. You may want to read those 2 books...the leading books on the topic of sensory dysfuncion (which I'm sure you'll find your son described in the book and smile, as I did), and then bring your son for an evaluation, as it will help him SOO much to deal with it now, rather than pass it off as "normal boy behavior" or "energetic", so the difficulty controlling his body does not frustrate him into emotional issues or social problems in terms of having a hard time keeping hands to himself and what not. I would go for an evaluatuation (either through the pediatrician office or through the school district...we did both and the pediatrician's office route was much more helpful so we stuck with that, but that's with our insurance covering the OT) to enable him to help himself better. As my son was evaluated, all the professionals agreed that working on it early as we were (he was turning 3 when we started with everything in October)makes it possible for him to regulate his system and not need any services/not struggle nearly so much if at all with his sensory dysfunction by kindergarten! Best wishes to you and your son!!!

1 mom found this helpful

Some little boys have such a hard time with this! Your son sounds very sweet and I'm sure he just needs some time and help with this issue.
I would really encourage you to focus on what is ok to do rather than what you don't want him to do. For example, in line, discuss what he can do with his hands - fold them, put them in his pockets, hug himself, drum at his sides.
Also, aside from the fact that rough play is usually not allowed at school, it is important for your son to know the reason for this which is that some children don't like it and no one likes it all the time. It can be scary and invasive and sometimes kids get hurt. He needs to be able to stop himself if someone asks him to and he will need to start learning how to read social cues so that he has an idea if someone is receptive to this type of interaction. This can be very difficult for a preschooler who is still very egocentric. the good news is that most preschoolers are very altruistic and fair-minded. It is sometimes a good start to have him ask another child if they want to play that way (ex: on the playground - is it ok if i chase you?)
try to keep it positive, though. encourage and praise his efforts to respect the feelings and physical boundaries of others. when you see him touch inappropriately, give him a reminder and a chance to practice the behavior you want him to use. discuss the times where he forgets and give him a chance to make ammends. i would try to avoid punishment, though, especially a punishment at home for something that happened at school. there's just too big of a disconnect.
remember, too, that he's learning. it's hard for a kid to differentiate sometimes between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. help him with this. a hip check isn't ok, but is a handshake ok? and when is it ok? as long as it's gentle? as long as he asks first? he needs help figuring these things out. there are plenty of friendly ways he can interact with his classmates and still be appropriate. unfortunately, it will be more difficult for you to help him with this since most of his peer interactions will be at school.
i know a lot of people mentioned si, and his sensory needs are definitely something to consider. before he goes to school or a big party with lots of kids, have him jump or stomp his feet a few times, give him a big squeeze, massage his shoulders, so that he is getting some of the input he may be needing to stay organized.

1 mom found this helpful

He sounds wonderful - he might be a "sensory seeker". Ask your pediatrician about it and in the meantime, google sensory integration disorder and check out some of the signs for SID kids that are sensory seekers (mine is one). It might be so mild that you just need a couple of fidget tools for him to stop touching and as he grows up, he will learn social boundaries. If it's SID, he really can't help it! Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

My oldest son is the SAME way!! Does he do it more at a particular time? My son is very touchy when it comes to transition times, so they are supposed to be giving him something to help keep his hand to himself, like Playdoh, Silly Putty, or a stress ball.
Talk to his teachers and find out if there is certain times he is doing it, and suggest at least trying one of the above things.
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Maybe talk with the school about giving his hands something to do during down times. For example, having him squeeze play-doh or some other fine motor activity. I have seen that done with students, and it is a positive way for him to be successful. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


I too have what is called "a spirited child". There is no medical reason to question this behavior. It's quite simply energy. I had it. And one of my daughters does.

There is actually a book called "How to Raise Your Spirited Child". I think it helps you feel not so alone in your quest to raise a positive, playful child who is NOT labeled, "ADHD".

We continue to have problems with the "hands to self" rule. We do often also talk about "The Golden Rule". I have to remind my daughter how hip checks, grabbing toys to engage others (to play with her), etc. IS NOT how she wants to be treated. I think this constant reminder of "how would you feel if I (Mom) did _____ to you?" More often than not, my daughter says, I wouldn't like that, you're so much bigger, or it would hurt...this helps me make the point.

We also have the problem with the running, LOUD talking, etc. It has never been a problem at school and no disciplinary action has ever been taken at school. However I FEEL like a mother hawk.

My advice, other than reading that book, is simply, Keep Hand to Self, Follow the Golden Rule and if/when these fail, sit him down - immediately, remove him from the situation, let HIM tell you what he did wrong. I think sometimes for our kids, STOPPING the world for a few minutes MAKES THEM THINK. If all else fails, leave the party/playdate/restaurant. Our children know that "bad behavior" is not acceptable. That children who don't behave do not get special privileges such as dinner out, etc.

Also, you mentioned not being able to catch your son "in the act". Why not? Have a playdate? How does he behave with one friend? What about the birthday party? See how he is in a group.

I have noticed my child seems better with kids older than her since THEY keep her in check. The tell her not to push or "be bossy". With her peers, she needs a grown up to help manage the situation.

Since your child is energetic AND an only child maybe he is also struggling with how to behave without your presence - as in, in a group? Does he play alone at home? Does he do puzzles or have "quiet time" in his room WITHOUT engagement from you? If not, I would suggest starting this practice. It may help him to NOT have attention. I think "quiet time" every day has helped child to step back, slow down and LEARN patience. I think that's part of the process with our "spirited" children - is teaching them boundaries and patience.

Best of luck. Let me know if I can help with anything else.


1 mom found this helpful

He sounds like a normal little boy to me. I have 3 sons and a daughter and 2 of my sons were very active. My youngest son did grow up to have ADHD...the doctor told me for years that he didn't have it but in 7th grade he needed to start medication. The doctor said my son was so smart he was able to control his ADHD in school until he got to puberty. I'm not saying that is going to be the same story with your son. I think what you are doing sounds great. Try having a lot play dates for him where you can watch him and give him guidance on when touching is appropriate. You sound like a great mom and he's lucky to have you!!!!

I realize your concerns about ADD and medicine for it. No one would be more concerned about it than me. Although there are children for whom that is the only solution, I applaud your eagerness to look elsewhere to control your son's behavior. I'm guessing that 'time-outs' are like a torture to him, sinse he doesn't like staying in one place for long. (At his age three minutes is a eternity)!

You could be dealing with an allergy issue. Also, many people are sensitive to the chemicals in the home (cleaning products, personal care needs, etc.). I do have a great potential, natural solution for you that does not involve meds, but has been know to help in many areas, incl. over-active children.
Check out my site here and give me a call:
I'll be glad to help you.

1 / 3
Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.