Teaching a 3Yr Old to Stand up for Himself

Updated on November 12, 2010
C.M. asks from Cincinnati, OH
12 answers

Here's the story... At my son's daycare, there is a little boy, who, from my understanding, has mild autism. This boy goes to a special program through the school district because of this, in addition to going to daycare. Recently, they have been having a lot of problems with this boy hitting and shoving and such. When my husband picked up our son this evening, one of the teachers mentioned what has been going on and that they would be having someone in tomorrow to talk to/work with this boy. She also mentioned that this boy tends to pick on our son a lot, because he does not hit back. Now she was NOT telling us to have our son start hitting, but she wanted us to know what was going on.

From his reports, my son is very well behaved at school and they never have problems with him. My son is not the least bit shy. However, he is very laid back and can be somewhat passive, just like his mom. (I have always had problems with being assertive, and I still do. I would rather walk away from a confrontation than deal with it.) How do I teach my son to stand up for himself? I don't want him getting aggressive, but at the same time, I don't want him to just ignore this either. Are there any books or movies that might help us show him how to handle this? How do I help him from getting picked on? Any suggestions???


1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

Empower (teach) him to use "I" statements. "I don't like that" "I want you to stop" "I feel angry when you do that", etc.

Edit My Answer
1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Los Angeles on

At this age I did a lot of role playing with my son. I would pretend to be the pusher, hitter, etc and I would coach him on what to do. My husband and daughter would help too. My daughter at time would be the receiver and I would pretend to hit. My daughter would role play what he should do. We did this everyday as my son was always the receiver, and like your son, PASSIVE! He never went to preschool but never failed that kid at the park would zone in on my son. Not to mention my son is really tall for his age so ppl thought he was a 4 or 5 y/o at age 3, so bigger than most kids his age.

Role playing: If I was the one hitting I would then tell my son = now you say "No hitting" in a stern voice and walk away. If the child continued you tell me or another adult.

We did this almost everyday and it sunk in!!! I remember the first time I heard my son say "no hitting me!!!!" and walked away I was so proud.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

I would tell my son to tell this boy (nicely) not to hit. If he persists, then he needs to go to the teacher. They're 3, not 13 so I don't think anything further is really age-appropriate and may be too complicated for him to understand at this point. At least the teacher is aware and attempting to deal with the situation by having someone come into the class.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Well...maybe your son does not do anything in reaction to that boy... because deep down he "knows" that boy has something "different" or "wrong" with him....
My daughter had an Autistic boy in her class in Kinder. And she was the ONLY one.. that tried to make friends with him... and his Mom was so grateful. She has him now in 3rd Grade, the same boy... and he remembers her.... it is very touching...
My daughter, has a way... with kids who are... 'different.'

Next... standing up for oneself... is either physical or verbal.... you walk away from the confrontation and TELL the Teacher. TEACH your son that... "how" to react.
Teach him how to say 'cue' words, ie: "stop it NOW." , 'Go away... I don't like that..." , "I am going to tell the Teacher..." and PRACTICE with him and ROLE-play these things with your son. Kids need "practice" to learn... how to do it. So it becomes more instinctual for them. Like anything else. Like learning math. A kid needs to PRACTICE it, to become better at it and understand it. Same for teaching a child... how to stand up for themselves... teaching them and practicing it... on HOW to do it and what to say... and to ALWAYS Tell the Teacher... about it... too.

My kids do stand up for themselves and for others. My son even "corrected" a grown-up at a park once. Her son was not being nice to my son and he marched right up to the Mom and said "Your boy is being mean... why don't you scold him?"
I was proud of him.
My son was 3 at the time.

We teach our kids... that NO matter what age, what gender... no matter who it is... that NO person should cause them harm or bully them.. .and that they 'discern" right and wrong. With PRACTICE.. .a child can learn that.

Just teach your son with role-paying scenarios... and give him the word and sentences he can use... otherwise, a child does not necessarily 'know' what to say... on their own.

all the best,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

another toughy. Have you talked to your son about it? What does he say? Ask him how it makes him feel. Explain that this child has some issues and sometimes it's difficult for him to control himself but that what he does is not appropriate behavior. I think at this point, you just need to get him to tell the teacher whenever something like this happens...for now. My DH would tell him to punch him in the face. (Isn't that a daddy's job?)

When my son was in kindergarten, he socked a kid for pushing him. My DH was praising and in a way, I was happy he defended himself but I did talk with my son about how that isn't appropriate either and violence doesn't solve anything. OK...so it sounded like what a mom should say right?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Let him know to use his words.

Tell him to first say this childs name..
"Charles, I do not like when you hit!"
"Charles, keep your hands to yourself!"
"We do not hit"
"I do not like when you hit me."
"we do not Push."
"I do not like when you Push."
"Charles you are being mean."

Also let him know he can walk away, he can go and stand next to the teacher.

I know this can be infuriating to you. I also know it is difficult to have your son be so kind and this child , who in a way has an excuse for his behavior, but your son also has rights. His right is to be safe and to have his own feeling honored.

One day when I picked up our daughter from day care .. she was also 3.. the teacher told me daughter had "taken down" and pummeled on a kid. that had been picking on some of the other kids..

It was at lunch and she tackled him to the floor and dragged him under the table and told him "WE DO NOT HIT." "Listen to my words.!" As she cried, hit him on his back..
Our daughter had never done this before, but she could not take it any longer.
I looked at our little darling in her pink dress and matching pink shoes, with all of those beautiful curls.. I was so proud of her for sticking up for her friends, but told her not to do that again. To instead tell Ms. Becky or me or her dad and we would take care of it..

The little boys father was furious, I told the teacher he was more than welcome to give me a call if he had a problem.. Of course he never did..

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Muncie on

I'm not sure how verbal your son is and if you are really against him being physical, you can try giving your boy a big voice. A loud and strong, "NO! Don't hit me!" then get him to go tell the teacher. This might be a good way for you and your family.

Something similar was used when my brother met a biter in daycare, my father told him that if the little boy actually ever bit him again he was allowed to push the boy away (the other boy would grab on then bite) and use his outside voice to tell the other boy to go away. The two actually became buddies, the biter never bit Steve again.

Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

at three, my son has a neighbor girl (who is 6) who is similarly rough with him. only she is NOT autistic - just a bully. i was horrified and appalled as well, but then my son for some reason, LOVES playing outside with her. so i drilled into his head that if she is not nice to him he needs to come TELL ME. he has done okay with this so far. but at 3 i don't think there's a lot you can tell them in order to stand up for themselves, really. what is he going to do, reason with this kid? i gave my son a lot of pep talks about how, "NO ONE gets to be mean to you. you don't need to let anyone do that." and tried to kind of spin it like, tattling (ugh!) IS his way of standing up for himself, and i think at this age, it is. you don't want him fighting back, and he doesn't have the logic skills to reason with the kid yet. just my two cents. be interested to read how other moms deal with this...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from South Bend on

We are actually having the same problem with our nine year old. I spoke with her counsler at school about it, she told me that it is just her personality to be laid back. However, she did say that even so, our daughter would eventually stick up for herself if she got annoyed enough. I don't really agree with her because our daughter is nine. On the other hand, my nephew was exactly the same way as your son at age three. He is older now and has learned to stick up for himself all on his own. I think your little guy will figure it out himself and you should just be there to protect him until he gets the hang of it himself and praise him when he does :0)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

2 me, this is something that people just have, kids are included, children are not stupid, by any means, and they dont get the credit they should. if your son is not responding, its probably because he doesnt have it in him, or he doesnt want to. I encourage my kids to fight back, but thats just me. they first have to tell the person to back up, and if that doesnt work, you make them. I know alot of people wont agree with this, but it works for us. A little girl at my kids day care, bit my daughter once, and thats all it took, a couple of days later, she tried to bite my baby again, and my daughter let her know, with a good swing, that she is not the 1 to be bitten, she is not a bully and walks around hitting people, but when somebody is pushing you, your words vs. their hands...... their hands will win. So if it bothers them, they will address it, if they dont. it must not be a problem.



answers from Evansville on

That is awesome that your kid doesn't push back. As long as he knows that the other kid is wrong in his actions, and that your son has the right to walk away, tell on him, or say "hey kid, you are a big meanie and I don't like it when you push me, it's not nice," then, you have done your job. They say it's really good if a child reacts the way your son is, and I wouldn't be too quick to label him "non-assertive" or "passive" yet. He might just be observing this kids behavior and not feeding it (which is good). He might reach a breaking point and punch the kid. My advice is to keep the line of communication open with your son so he talks about it to you and your husband. That way you know for sure how he feels about it and you give him a chance to vent. Go from there. You are doing a good job already though!
FYI My daughter is 5 in kindergarten and had probs with a mean boy. He stomped on her foot and would tell her he could hit her in the face anytime he wanted to, totally bullying her on the playground. The teacher was constantly having to intervene. I told my kid to tell the boy: "My mom says that you pick on me cuz you like me and you want to kiss me." AND, she did. He never picked on her again.
I just read that part about mild autism. Perhaps there is a trigger, maybe he likes your son and he's trying to get his attention. Or, something that triggers the behavior. Whatever the cause, it might benefit you to talk to the parent and observe the kids for a day.



answers from Pittsburgh on

It makes me so mad that schools keep kids in the classroom who hit, tease and torture other students. I don't care what the problem is, and I do feel bad for the parents and would hate to be in the situation, but other kids shouldn't have to suffer. These kids change the entire dynamic of the classroom-from one that is pleasant and instructive to one that is stressful and not instructive at all when the teacher spends her whole day with the 'problem' child. If it were my son I would have him start with telling him to STOP THAT!! If it doesn't work after a few times than it is OK to hit him back. Sometimes in life you will need to defend yourself physically. I believe that little boys need to know this is OK. I found out a neighbor little kids was bugging my son. I told my son that he should not take it from that child. He did not have to sit there and be hit and called names. He could say whatever he wanted to this child and even hit him if he needed to. Well, it was amazing to see how liberating this was for my son. He felt SO much better about things knowing that he had effective 'tools' to solve his problem. He never did hit the kid but ended up calling him some kid name like"poopyhead" or something. I learned a big lesson with this. We spend so much time telling our kids how 'nice' that they should be to everyone that they think that they even have to be "nice" to kids that are being mean to them.

One more thing that may help: play act it out with him. you pretend you are the kid and then he pretends he is the kid so you can rehearse what to do.

Next question: How to Teach 3 Year Old to Defend Himself