Should I Be Worried About This Behavior?

Updated on March 28, 2007
T. asks from Rockford, IL
13 answers

My son is just over three years old and he's showing behavior that is making me concerned. He chases and corners and tries to scare my three small dogs (all of whom weigh 10-15 lbs). My dogs are good and don't bite him, but he's been caught several times hitting them. We have told him not to do this several times along with time outs when this occurs, but it's not detering him from doing it. Tonight I caught him trying to poke my 6 month old grand daughter in the eye with a hair clip that he took out of her hair. I may be over reacting, but is this type of behavior normal for a three year old? My husband says that it is and that we don't need to take him to see a doctor, but I feel we should. Anyone have experience with these types of problems? What did you do to help correct it? Any thoughts or ideas will be greatly appreciated.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much for the awesome responses. We've been doing things a little bit differently the past few days (we praise him on a normal basis, but we've been going overboard the past few days) and this seems to be helping. This is such a great board...thanks again to all who responded.

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answers from St. Louis on

I don't think the behavior is abnormal, since he's probably too young to have truly developed empathy yet. However, I would try to help instill it by talking to him about why he shouldn't do those things. I'd ask him how he would feel if someone hit him, poked him, cornered him. I'd talk to him about how animals and infants feel fear and pain just like he does, and that it is not nice to make them feel that way. I'd discuss those things after the time out and make him apologize to the dogs and the baby. Good luck!

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answers from Kansas City on

It's been my experience in my daycare that almost all children go through a stage where they are mean. It is something to be concerned about. But I don't think it's something you need to get outside help from yet. If you work on changing this behavior and he still is doing these things in a few months then I would definitely get him some help.

As for what's normal.. This can start as early as 18 months and or not start until later like your dealing with now. I could tell you stories all day long about the types of things kids do. It's just crazy.

As for what to do about it.. I am big on being very direct with kids. I HATE it when I see parents talking to their children in a babyish voice and sugar coating the things they say. In no uncertain terms I tell kids they are mean when they are being mean. I tell them that no one wants to be around someone that's mean and then I put them in a room by themselves. This is not a time out as in a few minutes. This is a time away to play and be by themselves. If they are young enough I'll use a crib. But at your sons age I'd keep him in any room the dogs and or your daughter are not in. You could put him at the table with colors, playdough and other table activities and tell him he is NOT allowed to leave the table because he is dangerous around your daughter and the dogs. Make it clear that you won't have him hurting them and that if he keeps doing this he's going to be playing by himself for as long as it takes for him to start being nice again.

In this day and age a lot of people have grabbed onto new theories that it's somehow wrong and will hurt kids to tell them when they are bad. I swear if people don't wake up we are going to have more and more narcasistic people than we know what to do with. It's not about them it's about their behavior. As parents and caregivers we need to be liberal with our praise when they are good and we need to be liberal with our scolding when they are bad. If a kid is hearing how wonderful they are when they are good, they aren't going to be scarred for life when someone tells them they did a bad thing. I tell kids all the time that no one wants to play with or be around a bully.

I really hate what I see in the world today. The so called professionals out there are scaring parents so bad and confusing them so deeply that no one seems to know how to parent anymore.

You sound like a good mom that really cares about your son. Just remember that kids aren't born knowing right from wrong. And it's fairly apparent by just watching the news or spending some time in any courtroom accross America that kids aren't learning right from wrong like they should.

Sorry for the diatribe! :) I'm going through a stage in my daycare now where some of these kids are incredibly mean to each other and I'm on high alert/guard duty from about 7:30am to 8pm every day. I hate it when I see them being mean to each other and I hate it even more when some parent white washes it by calling them "onry". Hrumph Onry is just a word parents like to use when they are covering up BAD.


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answers from Kansas City on

T., I wouldn't worry too muh, as long as he is not showing that he truly gets pleasure form hurting other people or animals. Three year olds are mischevious and will test the boundaries to see what they can get away with. He may also be feeling threatened by the new baby in the family. Just be firm and consistent with the consequences for hurting others and maybe try spending some extra mommy time with him to make sure he is getting enough positive attention. My son was the same way at this age when we brought his new brother home from the hospital - he is now five and has pretty much grown out of this type of behavior. If you are really worried, though, it can't hurt to talk to his doctor to put your mind at ease.



answers from Wichita on

It may just be a phase, and you will have to consistently crack down on the behavior at hand. Make sure you are covering all the basics: proper rest (night and nap), nutrition, down time, and one-on-one time with both mom and dad.

Sometimes if there is some new change in the family - or event that causes stress (good or bad), this can trigger little ones to behave out of wack. Routine and structure are important, as well as covering all the basics.

If this has been happening since you can remember, and it is a chronic way of behaving - then he may be prone to being impulsive. Which is only one symptom of ADHD - many other symptoms have to be present as well - not just impulsiveness.

It sounds like it may be a phase - and you and your husband will have to work as a united front to teach him how TO behave.
Remember - look for all those things he is doing well (most of the day our kids do great things - which we often take for granted) and praise him.




answers from Lawton on

One reason small chidren hit is because they are frustrated because they can't communicate verbally. Your son may just be playing and he might not know that he is hurting the dogs. My boufriend has a miniature Lassie dog, I can't think of the name of her breed. My daughter is almost 21 months old and the dog is the sweetest thing and my daughter will start out petting her nice and eventually she tries pulling out fancies hair or laying on top of her. She doesn't know that she is hurting her she thinks she is just playing. We put Sarah in time out when she does that but she continues to do it until we put fancy outside to give fancy a break from Sarah. I think he will grow out of it. I hope Sarah will.



answers from St. Louis on

Your doctor may have some good tips for you, so it's worth a shot. Doctors see all kinds of kid behavior and they have good practical advice on what works. If your gut is telling you to see a doctor, you are probably right! Even if you don't make a special trip, you can ask at his next visit.

I have a 3 year old also, and I find that he hits, kicks, yells, etc. when he is trying to get attention. So, if I am trying to get something done, like laundry or billls, he will do something like that to pull me back in. He hits hard, too! We always remind him to use gentle hands, inside voice, and until he does so, we will not acknowledge him. This works for us. Part of it might just be that he is 3!!



answers from St. Louis on

I honesty don't think so, just re-inforce good behavior. Boys will be boys!!



answers from Oklahoma City on

Child psychologist!!!! Early intervention is the key here to make sure it does not develop something like conduct disorder or anti-social personality later in life.

If you have any questions please personal message me i will give you more ideas, I am worried for you all I have a son who has bipolar as well as many other marticies, feel free to ask I am not ashamed and my son has given me permission to speak about him




answers from Wichita on

Hi T., looks like you have your hands full, i am a mother of four boys and we just had our first grand baby, and its our first girl. But, i know what you are talking about, my sister first son was just like this, he would do some of the most ugly things, and he did out grow it, so your husband is right, just keep a close eye on him, what i would do is have my pastor talk to him and pray, i know people think pray, but it does work, prayer changes things. Is this normal, every child is different, and ask your doctor what he thinks, it will not hurt. Hope this was of some help. My sons are older, 30, 27, 24 and 23. I have the most wonderful sons, three serve ther lord with all their heart, thats why we moved from denver to wichita, it was to be in church, been going to church out there for 26 years, and mu husband is getting ready to retire and i moved me and our three yougers sons out there two years ago, i come back and forth still until my hubby retires. But god id great, i will keep you and your son in my prayers. Always, S....



answers from Tulsa on

I wouldn't immediately go to a behavior specialist but you need to pay more attention to him now. Not negative attention. Make sure that you are spending at least 20 minutes alone with him a day, reading. Plus he needs one on one play time where you do nothing but praise him "Johnny, I like the way you stacked those blocks!" and describe all he's doing and repeat everything he says, no questions and no commands.



answers from Wichita on

These are unfortunately normal behaviors, although that does not mean you want to tolerate them. The 6 month old is your granddaughter right? Maybe he is used to being the "baby" of the family and is jealous. As far as the problem with the dogs, I would get that stopped quickly although they are not biting him back or anything, you never know and that can lead to a very dangerous situation. I don't know what you have tried with him already, but one suggestion that I would have is to just put him in time out for 3 minutes (1 minute for each year he is old) every time you see him do something hopefully he will get sick or it and straighten up. I would suggest using a corner not sending him to his room, then they usually have the opportunity to play in his room and it is not quite punishment. We use the kitchen table, the kids hate to sit there!!



answers from Kansas City on

Hi T.,
Well first I will say that I agree with everything Suzi said. I do in home child care also and I've dealt with kids and parents that dont want to make their kids mind. It makes me so aggravated with parents.
When I first start watching a new child I lay down the law with the kids and their parents and let them know bad behavior will not be tolerated in my home for any reason and they can work with me and we be on the same page or they can find other child care. I hate being this way but if im not I will get walked all over.
For your child I think I would not allow him to be anywhere near other children or the dogs. If you have to you make him sit right next to you the whole day I've done this with kids that won't be nice to other kids. I've made the child sit in the kitchen floor why I do the dishes or sit in a chair while everyone else plays outside and then let them up for an hour to play and if they are mean the sit somemore after a day or to of this they quickly get the message. I dont want to say this situation would happen with your child but I watched a little boy that was doing the same type of behavior to a stray cat that hung around our house we would feed it and stuff. The parents of this child got him a kitten and within a couple of days he had killed the kitten in a malicious way and then the child came to my house bragging about it. We know kind of what we believe led up to this and it was the mother not wanting to deal with a situation between her brother and her child and still hasn't to this day. (This was a year ago)
And also I am not saying in any way this is your situation but I would sit down and make sure nothing stressful has happened in your childs life recently like moving anything like that. But it could also be just a stage I've dealt with it in my daycare and my own children. I've been doing daycare for 3 years now and just when I think I've seen it all I haven't. Good luck to you and your child and I'm sure it will all work out. W. mom of 4 and home child care provider.



answers from Springfield on

I don't know you or your family situation, but everyone else in the house is an adult or near-adult. Is your son getting plenty of time just to be a playful three-year-old? Maybe he needs some more attention/activities on his level and this is his way of acting out. I don't think it's something you can afford to just ignore. You have to face it head-on and let him know you are concerned about this behavior. I think there's a fine line between giving this situation the attention it merits and rewarding this behavior with more of your attention. If he sees doing this gets more attention from Mom and Dad, he might do it for that reason. Maybe you could get some advice from a family counselor or child psychologist.

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