Aggresive Behavior in 3 Year Old

Updated on May 16, 2009
A.V. asks from Chicago, IL
8 answers

Our 3 1/2 year old boy has always been on the aggresive side. Has never seemed to understand where the playing stops and the hurting begins. So, I've always tried to get him to not touch other children. He seemed to be getting better. However, there's been a lot of changes lately at home. His dad was out of work for 2 months and was home everyday. Daddy's now back at work. In those 2 months, I got a job and started working evenings. Now both of us work and grandma's been filling in w/ babysitting. But that's gonna change too. I know it's been a lot of changing for him and I hate it. I've always wanted to be a SAHM. However, in order for us to keep the house now...I must work.
My son has seemed to get even more aggressive. At a play place in McDonalds, I saw him holding a kids shirt and punching him. Then he wrestled the kid to the ground for a ball that wasn't his. He is also a big kid for his age. He's usually guessed at being about 5! So, I know he doesn't understand his own strengh either. But he needs to...before he seriously hurts somebody! And he doesn't listen. I have to say stop 4 or 5 times before he even notices that I'm talking to him. And the naughty spot and 1 2 3 don't seem to work anymore either. I really want to get a handle on this before he starts preschool in the fall. Any advice??????

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answers from Chicago on

Obviously he has no consequences that he cares about.

1,2,3 only works if it is followed by immediate consequences he cares about.

Here are a few things to think about:
1.) Do you follow through. If you say it, do you mean it, do you follow through immediately

2.) Have you thought about stepping up the consequences to a point in which he cares. (my daughter will fall asleep in time-out but hates standing in the corner) And if the circumstances warrent it (like direct defiance...telling me no, or breaking a rule repeatedly for days regardless of consequences, meltdowns, or hurting someone intentionally) she will get a spanking.

Guidelines for a spanking:

1.) Always in private so you aren't humiliating them in front of peers.

2.) Talk to them about their behavior and make sure they understand why they are getting spanking.

3.) After spanking them, make sure you give them a little time to cry.

4.) Go back re-explain why they got a spanking. Explain that you love them and they have to behave and follow instructions. They must obey you or they will be punished. (I know most don't like the word obey, but that's what they are doing when they follow instructions so we just need to get over it).

5.) Hugs and kisses and a final firm but loving reminder that there are always consequences for our actions and we must think before we act.

He's not responding because you haven't found what he cares about.

You have to do some soul searching and figure out what you want from him, how to get that, and decide that you will always be consistent, fair, and unwaivering.

PS My girls had to endure a bully for almost two years before he grew up enought outgrow his aggressive nature. It was very frustrating for us as parents since we didn't like to see our girls get abused and tortured when they just wanted to play. It took all the strength we had to try to deal with the problems in a calm way. I finally had to teach my girls to throw a punch so that the bully would realize that there were consequences for his hubby had to jump in on a few occasions to put the fear of God in this little guy. No child should have to endure a bully and then see the bully get away with it.

Our criminal justice system is full of that. More rights and concern for the criminals than their victems. He needs to know that it's not acceptable to bully other kids. It's natural for some kids to be aggressive....he's a boy and I would rather see an aggressive boy than a whiney, cry baby. But you have to make sure that other children are safe and if you have to step in between him and the other kids every second then that may be what you need to do. He has to suffer in some way that makes him want to curb his behavior.

I hated having to follow my girls around trying to protect them from being whacked over the head with toys or their head being stepped on when they were just crawling. It wasn't fair or right that they had to endure scratching, hitting, and pushing at every turn.

Honestly, it really didn't stop until the little guy in question got a little brother that he started abusing and then he suffered some consequences he understood (spanking) and he stopped. He rarely if ever hits anyone anymore. He's actually a pretty sweet guy now.

Spanking does not make violent children. It teaches them that hitting hurts and it's not something we want to do to others or that we want done to us. And if they know that is the consequence for their behavior they will stop.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi A.,

My second son was also big for his age when he was younger. As soon as he started to show aggressive behavior I explained to him what a bully was - someone who is bigger than someone else and uses their size to be mean to them because the smaller person can't fight back. Then when he'd show aggressive behavior no matter where we were or what was going on, he was removed from the situation. There were many times we left parks, grocery stores, picnics - whatever - because of his actions. I also really reinforced his positive behaviors at the same time with praise, and sometimes rewards, like staying up later, renting a video, or going to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone. Within about 6 months of consistently stopping when he showed negative behavior and reinforcing the positive, the aggression stopped.

He's going to be 20 in a few weeks and is no longer bigger than everyone else, averaged sized and athletic. The only downside to how I handled his aggression is that he became the victor for the little guy. He was often stepping into someone else's fight. But maturity taught him when it was wise to step in and handle it, and when to get help.

I know a few have brought up physiological reasons for this. I'm not going to say that these things can't be caused from something biological but I don't think that's the norm. Doctors now seem much more ready to label medical problems, allergies, etc for what happens with people - not just children, but everyone. Only you can gauge the source of your son's aggression and only you can come up with the correct remedy. But for me, I've always started with the simple approach when behavior is involved, and have done this will all my kids. If consistency doesn't pay off, then I look further, and in my twenty-two years of parenting, I can count on one hand the times behavior had an outside source and consistent reinforcement of the rules didn't work. This doesn't mean turning into a tyrant, but simply, and with love, setting the boundaries and not wavering from them, while not making threats or promises you don't keep.

Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

It seems like a time of a lot of changes and stress for you and your husband. I feel for you. Child behavior problems are the worst stress - it makes a parent feel really helpless.

I think it's very good that you recognize the problem and you're honest about what he's doing. People have posted here about Tuesday's Child, which seems like a great organization to help families and kids. Also, check with your pediatrician for advice on possible biological causes. For example, my son has sensory issues that made noisy environments like a McDonald's play place very difficult for him to deal with at that age (but it wasn't obvious at all to us what the issue was - he would just start misbehaving and not listening. It took a while to make the connection that loud rooms were related to the problem.) Luckily, he wasn't aggressive. The behavior you describe seems pretty intense and someone will get hurt. I'd definitely keep him away from those types of play interactions, and keep a close eye on him when he's around other kids for the moment.

Also, give him lots of reassurance and positive attention. I know how hard it is when they're misbehaving and making life more stressful! I didn't do a great job myself when my son was going through a bad phase at about age 4. But try to find ways to spend time alone with him in a positive, active way. He obviously feels stress with the schedule change.

And forgive yourselves (for being human and imperfect, as we all are) - it's a rough time for everyone right now with the economy. I wish you the best.



answers from Chicago on

I would suggest being very very firm with him and have his father do the same. If it takes a spanking, then do it. But get through to him before he hurts someone or picks on the wrong kid and gets himself beat up or kicked out of school. They dont tolerate bullies anymore.



answers from Chicago on

ASounds like he ishaving a yeast proble, google it and start lowering sugar intake and up protein. everytime he eats make sure he has a protein with any carb . Start giving string cheese or yogurt or apples with peanut butter or if he has crackers make sure he eats cheese with it or lunch meat etc. look it up too much yeast causes aggressive behaivor , now so does sensory issues. you can have him evaluated thorough the school. it is easy and they do the work you just bring him in to be tested , this causes aggressive behaviors and hgih frustartion at times too. Thrid I would get him in a preschool camp program before school in the fall becasue you will notice a huge difference when he has to listen to someone else and stay structured that way. Does his preschool have a summer program so he can get usedto the school before sept? that would make for a smooth adjustment too. Good luck, hope this helps



answers from Chicago on

sounds to me like daddys' being home probably brought the agressiveness out of the child. Boys (men) will be boys so to speak. Talk to daddy and make sure he's on board with the child becoming too aggressive. Dad will have to stop and discipline the child as will you and grandma. If you have to put him in time out or take away a toy each time he acts out or whatever your discipline is, do it and remain firm with it.



answers from Chicago on

The issue is not really w/ your son but w/ your parenting. Please, read "1,2,3 Magic" and put it into practice. it works!! (IF YOU work it!) YOU are the parent, not him. Be firm and consistent, and loving. Tell and show HOW to be/act, not just what not to do/act. Praise the behavior you want him to continue.

Pete and Re-Pete we sitting on the fence - Pete fell off, who was left? Re-Pete. Pete and Re-Pete.....And on and on and on it goes!xo



answers from Chicago on

wow that's rough. when i was expecting and my son was confused and angry he went through a real hitting and screaming issue. We discovered time outs didn't work for him. Typically he gets one warning and then we leave... however. w/more serious situations it was time out immediately.

we discovered instead of consequences, rewards worked better. 1. make sure you give TONS of positive attention. I explained the different between good attention and bad attention and he's now very good at telling me he wants attention.

the other thing is find what he loves. for us its music and the drums. so if he's using his words all day he gets drum time, if he doesn't, he loses it. it worked. wow did it work. so find what he loves.
and give him special time regardless of his behavior.
he obviously feels out of control of his surroundings.
good luck

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