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My 4 year old son, a generally loving, funny articulate clever boy is driving me
demented with aggressive behaviour directed largely at me. It has taken me some
time to eliminate a biting habit (nothing for about 6 months) with consistent
consequences. He has now however moved on to pinching, poking and pushing. I
havetried the same tactics previously used with biting but am now faced with an
addedweapon on his part. As I attempt to calmly take him to sit on the top step
(time out spot) he will attempt to (largely successfully too) pinch, kick and
whole way to 'time out' in a 'I might as well get a few more goes in while I
attitude. I've resorted to stating that is he continues the behaviour I will
to move him from the step to the car seat (I can lock him in - but for how
to give me some breathing space while I pace the floor often in tears. I have
increased the time in time out per pinch in attempt to reduce this (which I
think is the best solution but am at my wits end about what else to do). I'm
thinking of trying a form of "No hurting" behaviour chart (a house rule anyway)
strongly suspect that he'll rationalise that as a pinch (or shove or...) means
can't get a spot/tick/sticker for that particular time period/day he might as
go hell for leather and get as many in as he can and worry about starting again
later. If you have any ideas I would appreciate it so much. Regards Sandra. PS
son is considered a well-mannered, clever amazing little kid by just about
outside the family!! -Sandra, Australia
First, you should be commended on your patience and creativity while handling
your son's difficult behavior. It's very, very hard to stay calm and consistent
during aggressive outbursts, and you are doing a great job! You also seem to
know your limits and when you need to give yourself some space from his behavior
during especially trying times. That's also incredibly important. If you let him
push you to the point of blowing, then he has "won" and may feel a sense of
control and reward.
First off, has anything changed in your household that may be triggering this
type of behavior? Things to look for might be a move, change of daycare, new
school, new baby or sibling entering the family, or divorce. Might he be
reacting to something that has changed? If so, you need to address that issue
with him. He's pretty young to articulate verbally but may respond to drawing
pictures related to his feelings. A family counselor can be of assistance if he
is struggling with a change in his life.
Or, your son may just be going through a nasty behavioral phase as many children
do. He may be testing the limits and you are the safest person with whom to act
out. Kids will often act out where they feel safe, loved, and accepted. As a
result, we may see wonderful behavior in other settings but very difficult
behavior at home. For some kids, it's a challenge to "keep it together" in other
settings, and they need a place to let loose or act out. Unfortunately, you are
the recipient of that behavior!
Time-outs are a great consequence for aggressive behavior. A good plan for
effective time-outs is to tell the child that the time-out cannot start until he
is sitting calmly in the time-out spot. Then, use a timer and set the time for
one minute per year of age. Your son's time-out would last four minutes. If he
begins again to act out while in the time-out chair, start the time-out over and
remind him that the time-out will begin when he is calm. This may be trying in
the beginning as kids will test the limits and stretch that time-out to 30
minutes or more when it could have been done in 4 minutes! Also, try to use a
timer that he can read so he can see how much time is left. Digital timers with
big numbers work well.
You may want to think twice about using his car seat for a time-out. You don't
want him to feel negatively about getting in his car seat, and he may start
disliking his seat if he associates it with time-out. Just a thought!
A behavior chart can be a great idea and is worth a try. We have made up a
couple types of "no hurting" charts. You can find them on this page.
Behavior charts don't work for all kids, and you are correct to assume that some
kids go all out after they have blown their chart for the day. That's why you
may want to begin by breaking up your chart into periods of the day so he has
another chance to succeed later in the day. You can use morning, afternoon, and
evening periods (see
this chart). Then, as behavior improves, you can graduate to an
chart. You can also try using a bag of little rewards such as
cars, stickers, pencils, and markers that he can earn when he makes it through a
period without being aggressive.
Most important, you need to get some support for yourself. Is there a spouse,
partner, family member, or friend who can help give you a break from your son's
behavior? When the times are tough, can you call someone to come over and sit
with him while you go out for a breather? One of most difficult challenges as a
parent is keeping calm and not getting caught up in the negative behavior though
it sounds like you have that under control! Take a look at our article on
Stress Management Tips.
Also, remember to give him lots of positive feedback when he is behaving...catch
him being good. Kids respond wonderfully to positive words and if you need some
hints check out our article entitled "75
Ways To Say Good Job".
Finally, if you find that you continue having difficulty managing your son's
behavior after some time, you may want to see a family counselor for support and
problem solving. Also, our website promotes two great parenting programs. We
The Total Transformation and
The Total Focus. The Total Transformation is a program
designed to help parents with general parenting tips, ideas, and tricks and
behavior. The Total Focus is geared toward parents or caregivers of kids with
ADHD. Both have free trials. Just click the name of the program in purple within
this paragraph for more information. You might also check out additional
articles on our site about Biting,
Tantrums, and Hitting.
Best of luck and let us know how it's going. We
are happy to give some more suggestions if you need!!
My four year old son is always talking in a
whining voice. I have no idea how to
make it stop. I try explaining to him I can not understand him when he whines,
he needs to talk normal. I now tell him try saying it in a normal voice...
am sorry for whining. May I please... that works for getting him to stop at that
momen but how do I get him to stop all together? It does not matter what it is.
will start every sentence in a whiney voice. Whether it be that he wants
doesnt want something etc. -Christal, MA
It's easier said than done, but you will help the situation if you completely
son's whining. Sometimes it's hard to ignore annoying or difficult behavior in
because parents feel the need to stop it through words or some type of
Ignoring doesn't seem natural to parents. But in your case, you need to ignore
whiny voice consistently. You are on the right path by explaining to him that
respond when he speaks in a normal tone of voice. But, until he stops whining,
you need to
completely ignore him when he speaks in a whiny tone...don't talk to him, look
at him, or acknowledge him in any way. You may even choose to walk away from him
and engage in some other activity. If you remain fiercely consistent (and it
will be challenging), your child will eventually speak to you in a normal tone
of voice. At that point, let him know that you hear an improvement and give him
some positive feedback such as, "I like how you asked that question in a normal
If you give in and continue to talk to him when he whines, then you are giving
for the behavior and reinforcing it.
My son is 4 years old. I am having an issue
with listening both at home, in public
and at school. He is very smart and a very loveable child. I feel because he is
smart I expect better behavior. He is always remorseful when he acts up and he
knows when he is doing wrong. I share custody 50/50 with his father and we have
very cordial relationship, however when it comes to our son's behavior his
lets him get away with misbehaving......That leaves me to always be the one who
disciplines him and the "bad guy".....this is not the role that I would like to
play as a parent. I would like to be the one that gets the expected best
behavior from my son and the respect that I know he can give. I am told by his
teacher that his behavior is normal however; I know he is capable of more. I
want him to listen to what I have to say on the first time he is asked, will any
of your charts help with this issue? I would love to know what has worked in the
past for any of your readers or anyone that might have dealt with something like
this. I have tried so many things and feel that I am at the end of my rope with
this. -Amanda, Missouri
Remember that your son is only four and expecting
him to do what you say the first time is a bit unrealistic at this age. A
child's job is to push the limits, so he is doing what is normal for a child his
age. Here is a reminder of some developmental behaviors to expect from a
Social interaction with peers- Preschoolers become very social and move
away from playing alone to playing with other children. Peers become
much more important and influential.
Sense of self- Preschoolers tend to be egotistical and see the world as
revolving around them!
Independence- Preschoolers develop a strong sense of independence and
will express this by a desire to do things for themselves. They may
want to dress themselves, pour their own drinks, help do chores.
Curiosity- Preschoolers develop an interest in the world around them.
You may hear the question "why" frequently!
Influence by others- Kids this age are impressionable. So, be aware of
major influences in their lives such as media, peers, other adults.
Phobias-Preschoolers may develop some new fears and phobias.
So, when looking at some of these preschooler behaviors, your child is
developing normally. Sounds as if he is experiencing a sense of independence and
egotism which may include continuing to do things for himself instead of
listening to you the first time!
Here are some helpful hints when trying to communicate with your child. First,
don't yell or lecture. If you are visibly angry, your child may get some type of
reward from pushing your buttons. Children this age are gaining more control
over their environments as they are transitioning from "babies" to "big
children". Your son's sense of control may be in controlling you...getting you
to react when he doesn't listen! Don't create a power struggle or you will
invite your son to win.
Next, don't forget to give him choices. With choices, you will be contributing
to his sense of independence in a positive way. For example, instead of saying,
"you need to clean up your toys now" say "you can clean up your toys now by
yourself or in five minutes with my
You mentioned that your son is a bright little boy. Don't be fooled by that!
Though intelligent, he is still only four years old. Your expectations may be
too high. Remember to view him in a realistic way as compared to other children
An additional difficulty your son may experience is the inconsistency in
parenting between you and his father. If his father is more lenient, then he
will continue to have difficulty following your rules when at your home.
Optimally, you can work out some standard rules and
expectations with your son's father...rules that you both share and enforce at
home. You and your son's father would benefit from a joint meeting with a family
therapist. Sometimes having a third party available to help mediate is
effective. You may not need more than a
couple sessions to help work out some basic inconsistencies.
Also, behavior charts are very effective motivators. At your son's age, it would
be best to use a behavior chart to target one specific behavior at a time. You
don't want to overwhelm him, confuse him, or set him up for failure. You want
the behavior chart to be a positive experience. So, if there is one behavior
that you would like to eliminate, try a chart. For instance, if your son has
difficulty going to bed when told, you can set up a chart that targets this one
behavior. When your child goes to bed nicely (and clearly define "nicely"), he
gets a sticker on the chart. When using charts with kids this age, you need to
be very clear about the expectation and give immediate rewards. Rewards don't
need to be large. In fact, the best rewards are time spent with family and
friends such as playing a game with mom or a trip to grandma's house. Remember
also that we are happy to make up charts for you that match your child's
interests and behavioral issues. Just
drop us a line.
Best of luck with your little boy. You are doing a great job and remember that
kids go through difficult phases that will end. They are constantly testing
parents, so you need to be ready, supportive, and patient!
We have a discipline routine set for our kids,
ages 7 to 12. This summer, my mother in law will be watching our kids in our
home while I work. She wants to sit down with the kids and come up with her own
discipline rules--what the kids can't do and what the discipline will be. It
this a good idea? I have no concerns about the kids following different rules
when they are at other people's homes (for example, following grandma's rules
when they visit grandma), but I am concerned about the kids getting confused
with two sets of rules in their own house. Am I off base? FYI, I suspect that
grandma's will be stricter than we have been, so this is not an issue of grandma
letting the kids get away with things that we would not let them do.
-Kay, South Carolina
We have to side with you on this one. Consistency is very important in
establishing effective discipline routines. The more consistent the routine, the
better the kids will respond. In addition, setting up 2 different discipline
routines will open up the opportunity for your kids to manipulate the situation,
possibly dividing you, your husband, and your mother-in-law. Kids are very good
at this. The last thing your mother-in-law needs to hear on a daily basis is,
"but mom and dad let us...!" And it would be quite disruptive and confusing to
your kids, also, to adjust to different rules three times per day...in the
morning before you leave, during the day, and in the evening when you and your
husband are back home. Our vote...keep the rules the same for all of you! Give
yourself a pat on the back for thinking this through and doing what's best for
Do you actually have a chore chart filled in?
We do not have a filled in chore chart as each
household has different expectations. If you would like us to make a
custom chart for you, we'd be happy to. We do this free of charge.
drop us a line and let us know what you
would like in your chart! Thanks for your question!
I have an 8 yr old son that will not listen to
anything that I tell him to do! In the
end I do it myself just to keep from arguing with him! I don't know how to get
listen to me without nagging him all the time! Please help!
First, don't forget that kids are good at pushing buttons, and your son has
yours figured out! The minute you start arguing with him, he has won the battle
getting you upset. And eventually, he will be rewarded when you do
work for him. It's a vicious cycle and when that cycle stops, change will
begin, stop the arguing. When you notice that you are becoming angry enough to
even if the situation is not resolved, stop and put some distance between you
son. Let him know that you will deal with him later, but for now you need to
At that point, go into a different room, make a phone call, pick up a magazine
read...do something to help you cool down.
Next, you may need to change the way you are communicating with your son.
Remember that you want to teach him how to make good choices. By giving your son
choices, you will put the responsibility back on him instead of owning it
yourself. For example, let's
say that you want your son to pick up clothes on his bedroom floor. You
command that he picks up his clothes by saying, "Pick up your clothes, NOW".
controlling, commanding language only invites conflict. It's better to say, "You
to pick up your clothes some time before dinner tonight. You can go to your
house after your clothes are put in your laundry basket." In this way, you
encouraging your son to take responsibility and make the choice of when to pick up his
clothes. If he doesn't pick up his clothes, he makes the choice not to go to his
friend's. In addition, this type of communication is much calmer and does not
conflict. Just walk away and let him make the choice. Most important, be
If you say that he can't go to his friend's, don't let him go. And if he gets
calmly state, "You didn't pick up your clothes, so you can't go to your
That's a bummer". At that point, the discussion is over...no arguing, no
Depending on your situation, a reward chart may be helpful, too. If your son is
difficulty completing a task on a daily basis, a reward chart can reinforce good
behavior. For example, if he refuses to brush teeth at night, use a reward chart
mark off when he brushes. If he brushes every day, have a reward set up for him
end of the week. You can look at our list of possible rewards, here. But, when using
reward chart, you want to work on very specific behaviors and only a few at a
Don't overwhelm your son by listing too many behaviors at once. You can find
reward charts here.
Next, examine your lifestyle. Are you spending enough positive time with your
Sometimes, kids act out and argue to get attention. Negative attention from a
can be better than no attention. Between work, school activities, and family
responsibilities, parents may forget to simply spend time with their kids. Make
time to go for a walk, build a snowman, see a movie, or read together. If you
you are not spending enough time with your son, change your lifestyle a bit and
time for him. Sometimes, negative behavior changes when parents and kids
spend quality time together.
Most important, give your son positive reinforcement. Catch him being good!
parents forget this step. People like to hear positive feedback. We all do.
is a reward in itself. You may have to work hard on this one as you are in a
negative cycle with your son at the moment. But, any time you catch him doing
positive, let him know. Check out our
"75 Ways To Say Good Job". If you
your son's positive behavior, he will want that reward again and be motivated to
another positive act to please you.
If you need some additional guidance, you may find some help with James Lehman's
Total Transformation program. You can try it for free and get professional parenting
the privacy of your own home.
We are having the hardest time getting my 2
year old daughter to go to sleep for nap and at night, I don't know what I need
to do to get her to go to sleep at a decent time -Jennifer, UT
At this age, a child's sleep habits may be in flux due to changes during toddler
such as potty training, transition from crib to larger bed, transition out of
and increased language and physical development. Has your daughter experienced
any changes in her life? Has she transitioned to a different room or bed?
Have you had another child? Is she potty training or is her schedule
different for any reason? Even minor life changes can affect a child's sleep and
you may be able to pinpoint the change that is affecting her.
A child needs about 10-13 hours of sleep during toddler years. That sleep can be
combination of nap and night or just nighttime sleep. If your daughter is
amount of sleep during the night, she may be transitioning out of nap time. You
to skip nap and help her adjust to nap free days while moving her bedtime a bit
earlier. This transition can be difficult at first as kids are often cranky
the day without a nap. This crankiness should only last a week or two. Don't
to adjust overnight. She will eventually get used to a different schedule. You
your daughter best. If she doesn't get enough sleep during the night and seems
a difficult time getting through the day, then she still needs her nap.
Also remember that at this age, a child is becoming increasingly aware of her
environment and may be more easily distracted. It may be more difficult for her
"settle down" and rest. As a result, it's even more important that you establish
consistent nighttime routine. You can also maintain a nap time routine. Create a
by picking out a few activities that your daughter can do before bed every day.
example, you might read a book together and drink a glass or warm milk before
every day. It's best not to let her watch television right before sleep as that
stimulate her and make it more difficult for her to settle down. Keep the
for a good 30-60 minutes before sleep. For bedtime, you might include brushing
and bath in the routine. Keep this routine the same and consistent every single
day. You can find a bedtime routine chart on our website here.
Have her color a mark or place a sticker on each activity she does before bed.
The chart can be a fun way to reinforce consistency in your home! And remember
that if the chart doesn't quite work for your situation, we'd be happy to make
up another chart that is more suited to your daughter's routine.
You might want to consider getting your child a special stuffed animal or "bed
friend" if she
doesn't have one already. You can use the stuffed animal in your bedtime
stuffed animal can read with you, brush teeth, get pajamas on, etc. Then, put
stuffed animal in your daughter's bed so it can "go to sleep".
Next, if you have noise issues in your home, you may want to get a white noise
for your daughter's room. As mentioned before, kids at this age are more easily
distracted and tuned in to their environments. A noise machine may block out
sounds that are keeping her too stimulated to sleep.
Most important, remember not to engage in power struggles over sleep. Parents
exhausted by nap and bedtime and look forward to that break. When a child
doesn't go to
sleep easily, it can be frustrating. Getting angry won't solve the problem, and
do, your daughter may get a reward for staying up...your attention, even though
angry attention! Stay calm and consistent, and once she's in her room, leave her
Another consideration is transitioning your daughter out of nap time and into
"quiet time" as she may still need down time but doesn't require a nap.
You may get some additional pointers from our article "But
Mom, I'm Not Tired".
Remember that this stage will pass. At some point, your daughter will have more
consistent sleeping behavior. You may just have to ride this out until she
settles into a new
phase! Best of luck.