Need Parenting Advices

Updated on May 25, 2009
A.C. asks from Monterey Park, CA
17 answers

How can I stop my 4-year old boy from intentionally hitting his classmates at school? My husband and I have been explaning and talking to him that his behavior is not acceptable. We have been taking away toys/dvds from him as a punishment. We have been very gentle and patient with him. So, he has not changed and has been hitting his friends out of no reasons. We are hopeless and need help. Please advise us.

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D.D.

answers from Los Angeles on

my son was a hitter and biter..and then i read him these books..
"Hands Are Not For Hitting" "Mouths Are Not For Biting" and "I Can Share" read them to him every day...and watch him change..totally changed my son..my son also watches Yo Gabba Gabba and they have a sharing one..and i hear my son repeating "sharing is good" he has no problems anymore w/ hitting..biting or sharing :) and i didn't have to harsh him.

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V.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

I read the book, "Parenting the Defiant Child" by Kazdin, the head of Yale's Child Behavior Institute. It was very helpful.

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J.D.

answers from Los Angeles on

Kids that age often hit because they are still learning to properly express their anger and frustrations. Encourageinsto him to talk about what's making him feel like hitting, and brainstorm about more acceptable ways to express himself. It's not the feelins that are an issue, it's his response to them. Good luck.

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J.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Give his as much positive attention as you can and make sure he is still getting individual mommy/daddy time. Praise every little good thing he does to get his confidence back up. A new baby is a big adjustment for the older sibling. There is a reason, you just have to dig a little. Have things changed at school? A classmate not there anymore, different routine? Is this daycare or kinder? With the end of the schoolyear, it could also be boredom. When he does something wrong, address it swiftly with consequences but pile on the love other times.

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J.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.:
You've received some good advice here. I am A advocate of reinforsement. If your child is striking out at school however,that is when and where it needs to be addressed.I'm not advocating a teacher punishing,however,if one waits long enough to handle a problem,the child won't remember what the punishment is for,and no one will have gained anything from it.While growing up at home,with seven siblings,mom was one to always make dad the fall guy. (Wait till your father gets home)She'd threaten,then A few minutes latter we'd forget about it,and go run and play the remainder of the day.Daddy would get home, after missing him all day and I'd
run to greet him.We hadn't even hugged,but mom had already broke the news of my misbehavior. He had a belt in his hand. It use to break my heart.Even at my young age,and as much as it hurt,I felt some sympathy for my daddy,who seemingly dreaded these moments. It was Pathetic and sad. How fair was this to either of us? I'd long forgotten what I was even being spanked for,and daddy dreaded coming home,as he always was expected to be the disciplinarian.The point i'm trying to make here,is that A child cannot be expected to sit and ponder all day,or remember what crazy thing they may have done at eight in the morning. You don't teach your child a thing,by taking away toys or privileges hours after the fact. When they have forgotten,what your act of discipline is for,then they simply believe they are being treated cruel or unfairly by someone who's suppose to love them. I would request,that the teacher put your son in a time out,when he hits another child,and because it would appear,that sometime during his day at school,your son begins to miss you there,it sounds like this is how he releases some of his frustration. Try to plan some one on one with him,right after school.I wish you and your darlin son the best.J. M

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T.F.

answers from Los Angeles on

http://www.turnthepage.com/articles.php?pid=2

That's a great article on Conflict Resolution and that is the technique that is used at our preschool.

You may not be able to stop it, but at least it can be handled better.

- stop the children,
- take both to talk it out,
- teach the "victim" to use their words
- help the aggressor acknowledge what she did wrong (without guilt, blame or punishment) and find a way to perhaps fix it.

There is some occasional hitting at our preschool. There is one child who chronically hits or takes away things, but that is because he is the youngest child in the class and very babyish. So while we can't "stop him" we can teach him (and his classmates) how to STOP YOUR BODY and handle the whole thing.

My son was 4 when my daughter was born and he did great in school, but became VERY aggressive with me (and the baby). It took me MONTHs to figure it out and how to stop it. Basically my awesome preschool director said "ALL MISBEHAVIOR IS DUE TO UNMET NEEDS."

http://www.awareparenting.com/misbehav.htm

So instead of "consequences" I focused on unmet needs. What he missing? A connection with me. I made one-on-one time.

My daughter was born in June. That summer, I put in him a lot of NEW (half-day) summer camps, trying to keep him busy, but perhaps in his mind, he thought I was trying to push him away from me so I can be with his sister.

It worked like magic. He went from acting like a fire-breathing dragon to a normal child again.

I take "you might not be able to stop it" back. If you deal with his unmet needs for mommy/daddy time (with me, my son really missed mommy, handing him off to daddy didn't help at all) it can be helped a lot.

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G.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.,

Your son's reaction to a new sibling is 100% normal. Imagine if, after 4 years, your husband told you that, while he loved you, he wanted to bring home another younger, smaller and cuter wife. :)
Obviously, you would not approve. You would be jealous and would undoubtedly respond by acting out in some way.

Punishing your son for his aggression is not going to help. His behavior is just an outward expression of his inner emotions. In fact, punishing him will compound the problem, in that it doesn't allow you to validate his very reasonable feelings. He needs to know that Mom and Dad love him very much. Both you and your need to put time aside to spend with him, alone. He needs to feel special and to know that your love for him will not diminish with a new sibling. This takes action, not just words.

Good luck. If I can be of further assistance, feel free to contact me.
www.GilaBrown.com

G.

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S.H.

answers from Honolulu on

1) how is his Teachers Handling it? Perhaps, you need to keep it all consistent... and do the same thing at home too, If, the Teacher's technique "works" at school.
**OR, is something at school causing problems for him? Is other kids giving him problems? Is he being bullied? Is he being treated fairly by the Teachers? ANY problems at school that is "TRIGGERING" this in him???
** Is it ONLY at school that he behaves this way?

2) A new child, is a BIG change for an elder child. ANY "regression" or behavioral change (for better or for worse), is probably triggered by the new baby, for your son.
His "regression" and physical lashing out... in any child, is a SYMPTOM of stress/frustration in a child.

3) Getting used to a new baby, takes time, for the existing child... the "hierarchy" in the family has changed, many things has changed, for the child. Your son "had a baby" too, not just Mommy. Yes, your baby is now 11 months old, but your boy is still acting out... he has not adjusted yet, which he is obviously showing.

For me, my daughter was just about 4 years old when I had my 2nd baby. The whole time prior and then once the baby came home, my Hubby and I explained to her that: "tell us anytime you feel unhappy or frustrated... having a baby will be different, but tell us anytime you have a hard time..." or, "we don't expect you to be grown-up, you are a child yourself, and you will always be our FIRST baby...so tell Mommy or Daddy whenever you need help with your feelings or if you feel upset..."

The thing is, although my daughter LOVES her little brother to bits... there were times she just felt SO frustrated and IRKED, by the baby... and she "felt" as though she HAD TO BE "perfect" because she was now the eldest child. So... we observed her and KNEW that about her... so we always made sure we talked with her and told her that by no means, does she have to be that way because we do not 'expect' her to be perfect or any different just because she is the "big sister" now. Nor did we 'punish' her for frustrations she had... we just 'consoled' her and help her through her feelings... we always talked with her about it. So, we didn't focus on 'punishment' or telling her she was 'not acceptable' but rather, we used the technique of "empathizing" with her, showed her that we understood where SHE is coming from... then explained that there are other ways to show frustrations... that we are a FAMILY and we are a TEAM... and we ALL love her very much...and understand that this is not easy for her either. I even told her "It's not easy for Mommy either... a baby cries, a baby can't do things by themselves, I wake up at night, I get frustrated too... but Mommy still takes care of both of you... because I love you.... don't worry."

There were a few times she resented her little brother... but is was not her 'fault.' She was just needing us.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with a child wanting more attention. Its normal, once another baby comes into the picture.

You want to teach your eldest child, HOW to be a sibling now. They do NOT automatically know how. AND, don't expect the eldest child to be "perfect" nor use them as an "example" for the baby... it will always be resented. No child likes being compared.
Teach him how he can help and love his baby sister.... and that even Mommy has good days and bad days... but that "we all love each other.... no matter what."

My daughter would ask me "Do you still love me, you spend so much time with brother...." And I would pick her up, hold her in my lap and tell her "YES, I always love you no matter what... you are my FIRST baby, and you are special for that, don't worry... Mommy always loves you even if you are grumpy or not... Mommy isn't perfect either...." And telling her this would always maker her feel better, and that even her own Mommy had 'grumpy' days too. So she felt understood. I even told her a few times " If Mommy forgets to kiss you when you wake up, you be sure to tell me... I don't mean to forget or make you upset.. I know it means a lot to you... Mommy is so busy, but you can remind me anytime of what you need...." and she liked being able to "remind" me of things to and that I understood.

Let your son adjust... still. Don't punish him for valid feelings that he has... let him talk to you about it candidly without judgment. Children, girls or boys, NEED to vent and be able to tell their Parents how they feel, no matter what and even if they are grumpy. They need to feel "accepted" in light of the new baby.
This is what helped our daughter...

All the best,
Susan

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B.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

Here is what I know…
I know that parenting involves rules.
I know that parenting is not always “nice” but it is always win-win.
I know that parenting is about setting guidelines for health and safety.
I know that parenting is about being in the lead, not a follower, not a friend and for sure not a servant/door mat etc.
I know that parents who set boundaries for their children, and stick to them, parent more, love more and enjoy their children more.
I know that kids respect consistency, love and boundaries, even if they tell you otherwise.

Parenting is not always easy. But truly when you know your morals, your principals and your values, parenting is EASY. Stand firm in your beliefs.

If you BELIEVE that a child should be praised, then praise him, it is not difficult when it comes from your heart.

If you believe that a child should _______________ (fill in the blank with your belief) then stick to it. No amount of complaining or arguing should change what you know to be true. (from your or your child)

So know what you expect as a parent, so that your child is clear with what to expect as your child and there will be no need for “discipline/punishment” only love and parenting.

And as for "We are hopeless and need help." Know that he is your CHILD, he deserves your love and understanding even when everything looks hopeless. It is not about what is easy or hard, it is about your role as a parent and his role as a child.

You and your husband have to know what you both want. You have to be on the same page and you HAVE to communicate that with your son. He is not in control, you are. Take a stand, be direct, be consistent and most of all love him.

Words like: "we don't hit in this family". If he hits, remind him of your family ethic, no hitting. Now you are wondering what the consequesnce is if he hits...here's the thing, there is no consequence. Your rules are no hitting. He must learn that, bottom line. (Of course, you may have to physically remove her from a situation where he is hitting someone or you remove that person from his range until he fully understands). There is never an either or, it is what it is. no hitting. That is what is. When you are consistent and he is removed from "fun" or "family" because he does not repesct the family rules, he will learn. They all do. Kids are craving boundaries and guidlines and consistency. Be the parent, always, there is no rest for this job, it is full time, forever. I am 40 and my mom still "parents" me and my decisions. It is what we moms do, we lead, guide and inspire.

If you want more suggestions, email me.

B.
Family Wellness Coach

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M.T.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.,

As a preschool teacher I hope I can help you with this. You are probably right that your 4 year old is a little jealous and seeking attention. I need to ask how his teachers respond when he hits another child at school. Is he reprimanded and sent to a "time out"? While I don't want to undermine the school if this is their approach, you might ask them to try the approach I will lay out for you instead and see if it works for your child. I have great success with it in my classroom and believe it is a much better way to educate our children to be kind to each other.

The best way I can describe this method is to make up a situation. Say Tom and Bill are playing and Tom hits Bill on his back. Bill is upset and hurt and maybe crying. The teacher might say "I see there's a problem between you two, why don't we sit down together and see what we can do" Instead of reprimanding Tom, she says "Tom you really hurt Bill when you hit him on his back" while she is saying this to Tom she can gently touch Bills back. Then she says to Bill "Bill can you tell Tom how you felt when he hit you" At this point Bill will say he was really hurt or that it made him mad or however he felt. But he will be telling Tom, not the teacher, and this is important. Then the teacher will ask Tom, "Tom, was hitting Bill a kind thing to do?" Tom will hopefully answer that no it was not a kind thing to do even if he just felt like lashing out at that time. (Don't ask Tom why he did it because most times at his age children do not know why. And never force an apology, since they are rarely sincere.) The teacher should then ask Tom "Well Tom how do you think you could make Bill feel better since he is hurt" By this point Tom should be calm and respond with a sincere desire to help Bill feel better. Some of my students have said, "I can give him a hug" or I can let him play with my toy" The teacher then asks Bill if this solution is all right with him. If he says no, then ask Bill what would make him feel better and ask Tom if that solution is all right with him. The teacher might have to let the two talk together to find a good solution they can both be happy about, but it is worth it in the long run. The boys will learn that hurting someone is not nice and that they can talk about how to solve things and make things right.

This may seem more time consuming then just a reprimanding the child, but it is well worth it. This way both children have worked together to resolve the hitting, and whatever triggered the hitting, and both leave feeling good about themselves. This will probably take patience on your part and the teachers part because this technique will have to be repeated every time your son hits another child. But hopefully, it will put a stop to the hitting as your son learns that he is really hurting the other children, because the other child has told him in a calm way and face to face how hurt and sad he felt. The other children will also get some validation of their feelings other then just an apology that your son probably would not mean.

At home you can say something like this to your son, "Son, I know you don't like being unkind to others, so why do you think you hit Bill?" He might not have an answer and that is all right or he may say that Bill took something of his at school. In either case you can say "how do you think Bill felt when you hit him?" Then say "I think it really made Bill feel sad when you hurt him, maybe next time you can ask Bill if you can play with his toy when he is done or try to trade him something for it, instead of hitting him." He might say all right or he might say "but what if he says no" Then you say to your son "Well, son, he had that toy first, right? So you can do the right thing and be kind and play with something else for awhile. I'll bet when all the children see you being so kind to everyone they will start being kind too, just to be like you. You know you are such a terrific little boy and we are so proud of you, and the new baby told me she loves you so much and can't wait to be big enough so you can show her how to play and teach her how to be kind to everyone like you are.

Put things in your own words top sound natural. You should know that I am also in school keeping up my education in Early Childhood Education. The method I described is being taught to Early Childhood educators because it makes children aware of others feelings and solves a lot of problems before they even arise. Children learn to respect each other and work better together, its a win win for the children.

Please let me know how this works out.

God BLess, M.

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N.W.

answers from Los Angeles on

Good Morning,

Your son may be prodigy or advanced level and feels not attended to in school. You may want to look into books on indigo and crystal children. They are very brilliant but they have problems when not be communicated with and heard. You may also want family counseling to learn how to find out what he needs to feel safe, and able to express himself. (art, music, writing, etc.)

Be well.

N.

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T.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

Okay, I might get some backlash here, but beyond trying to figure out WHY he is doing this, it is great you are asking for advice, because you DO need to do something about this.
If it was my kid that was being hit by this kid at preschool, and it continued to happen, I'd be pretty upset. If it kept continuing, I'd either remove my kid from that classroom, or ask the school for your kid to be removed. It's not public school, and people are paying for this. And kids shouldn't have to go to school worrying every day about being bullied physically, especially a school the parents are paying for.
Now if it was my kid that was doing the bullying, the most logical consequence I can think of for a continuing problem, would be to not allow him to attend school for a day, every time he hits someone. I know it would be hard to give up your "free time" while the kid is at preschool, but if you keep your kid home for a day, because he hit another kid, and remind him why he is at home and not at school that day, it might really make an impact. It might take a few times to break that behavior, but once again, it's a logical consequence. Basically tell the child, if you can't exhibit self-control with your classmates, then I am going to temporarily remove you from the situation until you CAN exhibit self-control, because it's not fair to your classmates for you to be there, and physically hurt them.
I have actually done this before with my own kid when he was in preschool, although it wasn't for bullying another child, but trust me, he did not repeat the misbehavior again. Missing a day of fun at preschool was enough for him.

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C.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

A.,

Might want to check if he is being hit and therefore now thinks its acceptable due to no telling an adult in order to stop the hitting to him OR now has the impression that its the way to do things... and its ok...

That happened to our little Sebastian and eventually he stopped.

Another method to use, is to ask if they would like to get hit by someone else? like a friend or someone else. If they think its ok for someone to hit them? My son understood at an early age so it helped us in that aspect.

Good luck...

C. B.

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C.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Instead of always punishing, give him something to look forward to/earn if he has a good day at school w/o hitting. Example: If you don't hit today at tschool, you'll earn a sticker, if you don't hit all week, we'll go get an icecream you earned... Then once he's consistently being 'good' slowly take away the 'treats' so you're not always rewarding him for expected behavior, but reward for wonderful behavior.

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L.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

A.,

Congratulations on seeking some advice on this. It's a tough one. And I cannot add much to Tanya F.'s reply below -- All behavior IS due to an unmet need.

If you can determine the need, without judgement, (and get your child talking) then you accomplish 2 things: you can modif the bahavior to one that will meet his needs, and 2- you will establish even closer ties with your child. You will establish closer communication, which is what we all want, isn't it?

I have pasted one of my blg posts below, in case you want a little more insight.

Good Luck, and Lots of Love,
Linda
www.RivieraPlaySchool.com

"miss" behavior, not "misbehavior"
Every misbehavior is a symptom of a need that is unmet, or "missed."

In the words of Ruth Beaglehole, CNVEP, "Every behavior is a tragic attempt to meet an unmet need... tragic because the behavior in question will NOT result in the need being met."

It is our challenge, every time our child "miss" behaves, to determine what that unmet need is, and then help them to find a behavior that meets that need, rather than misses it!

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J.Z.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A..
Sounds like you may be on to something as you link your son's behavior to the event of the addition of a sibling. You and your husband have been patient and clear about his acting out behaviors, which is very important.

If you are in fact correct (or even if there is something else that is upsetting your son), it will be equally important to talk to him about his feelings. You can reassure him about how much you love him even though he has a sister now...That is was a big change for him and that it can take time to get used to....That everyone gets upset or feels sad sometimes and that's ok. It's the (hitting) behavior that is not ok.

Hope this is helpful and that the hitting stops soon.

J. Zexter, LCSW
www.judyzexter.com

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C.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.:

I'm the mother of a 7-old girl and it took her a while to learn appropriate behavior and interaction with her peers. If you sense that the birth of your daughter has heightened your son's need to "hit" you might want to consider taking special time with him to show him extra special attention. Also, at 4-years old he does not have the ability to emphathize, so stress the inappropriateness of the behavior, but don't badger - he'll outgrow it. Cheers.

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