Subject: 3yr old acting out
My 3yr old son is acting out. he has been getting into a lot of trouble lately at daycare. He is hitting a lot and biting some. I have been disciplining him at home a lot more because of it. I have noticed a slight difference in how he reacts when I discipline him but he has not changed at daycare.
I am embarrassed by his actions because they have nothing but a bad report for me every day. How can I get him to express his feelings in a non-violent way? is there any way to get him to understand how to deal with them? I feel like I am out of options right now and I do not want him kicked out of day care.
He will play rough with his sister and I have put a stop to that but I still don’t see any difference in his behavior. Please help.
Answer: Dear Jenny:
He is 3 years old. Something is causing him to act out and it sound like he is very angry about something. When you say your are disciplining him what exactly does this mean.
Why is he getting into trouble at daycare what is triggering this behavior. Not all daycares pay close attention to what is happening with the children. This too needs more information.
Next, separate yourself from your child. You are embarrassed by his behavior because they have a bad report for you everyday? He is not responsible for your feelings and I strongly suggest you work through these feelings or every time something goes wrong over the next 18 years you will be emotionally exhausted. All children act out from time to time. The daycare does not sound like they are handling the situation well. What actions are they taking when he acts out?
1. Check his environment is someone rough with him? Is someone to physical with him? Do the adults in his world express their emotions in a responsible and appropriate manner? Is he watching violence on TV?
2. Next, get some books on feelings and help him to identify his angry feelings. I suggest you do a google search on the word “feelings” and see how many different feeling words there are for angry. He needs a large vocabulary of feeling words to choose from.
3. Reward him when he is behaving appropriately with lots of praise of his behavior, eye contact and more one on one time. (Is he jealous of the sister?)
4. When he is acting out punishment is not going to get rid of bad behavior long term…check out our local prisons if you need convincing. Ignore him, no eye contact, no speaking to him other than to say I will talk to you when I see big boy behavior. (Please do not allow him to hurt himself, someone else or destroy anything, ignore only verbal acting out).
5. Boys do develop differently than girls. Their large muscles do a lot of growing during their childhood. I often suggest activities like Thai Chi and other non violent physical activities for children. There are DVDs and tapes you can play for him that teach yoga, exercise for toddlers that sort of thing which may help him calm down some.
When a child acts out and we focus on what we don’t want them to do sometimes we create more of what we do not want and our perspective of that person changes too. Try to focus on his good qualities as much as possible.
M Kay Keller
———- FOLLOW-UP ———-
QUESTION: I have tried it all. I started out with time out(which I just didn’t see any results with it and I was very consistent with him) I spank him, take things away. You name I have most likely tried it. I am embarrassed because I feel like a failure. I am not taking these feelings out on him.
The day care is doing what they can do. They will separate him from the class, put him in time out and I have them keeping a log of when he gets in trouble what the situation was. They noticed that the kids will be playing and my son will walk up and hit one of them out of the blue. He gave another child a bloody nose last week.
As far as being rough maybe, his sister. I do not think he is jealous like that. I mean if she sits on my lap they will compete but it always works out, you know what I mean. When I ignore him and he does something wrong while I am ignoring him I know it is to get my attention…what should I do then? I am just at a loss right now.
I love him a lot, he is my son and I would give my life for him but I don’t want him to hurt others. i know some of this behavior is normal for his age but how can I make him understand that hitting others is not right. At home I told him when he gets mad he can hit is pillow, what should I do about at day care?
Answer: Dear Jenny:
My point is that time out, punishing by removing items and especially spanking do not work. Why? Because it makes them ANGRIER.
My point about your feelings and feeling like a failure are a separate subject. You are a parent. You have not failed unless you do not get this message at anytime during the next 15 years. You are posting and asking me questions which means you are still trying.
They daycare also is not helping. Keeping a log of how “bad” he is? Why not start keeping a log of what he is doing right?
“I mean if she sits on my lap they will compete but it always works out, you know what I mean.” They are competing for your attention. They need, require, separate one on one time without each other. It is not a maybe it is a must.
These two things are connected:
“I started out with time out(which I just didn’t see any results with it and I was very consistent with him) I spank him, take things away.” = ” I love him a lot, he is my son and I would give my life for him but I don’t want him to hurt others.”
When we hurt out children = they hurt others.
“When I ignore him and he does something wrong while I am ignoring him I know it is to get my attention…what should I do then?” KEEP IGNORING HIM. The behavior will get worse before it gets better and as the adult in this relationship you need to out wait him. IGNORE him some more until he stops.
“I know some of this behavior is normal for his age but how can I make him understand that hitting others is not right. At home I told him when he gets mad he can hit is pillow, what should I do about at day care?”
His behavior is normal for his age and it is normal when he is taught it is okay to hit someone else. He needs to be told it is not okay to hit others and you will not hit him either, ever. When a parent hits a child to spank or to slap, it is about their own frustration, impatience and embarrassment it is not for the child’s own good. It teaches children it is okay to hit others when they do not get their needs met or are angry with someone else’s behavior.
I don’t think he needs to hit his pillow. I do think if you read the previous response that helping him find feeling words and expressing his feelings in a appropriate manner will help him. I often hear parents say I tried all that when in reality they tried a few things for a few days.
I know some of this is not what you want to hear however, children are not born bad, they copy what they see from us. As parents we need to take a look in the mirror and ask how we contribute to their behavior whether it is modeling it, or encouraging it, or approving of it etc…