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4 yr. old boy has aggression problems and is sassy to his parents
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4 yr. old boy has aggression problems and is sassy to his parents

First, our son does have a mild speech problem(articulation) which he is being treated for by a speech pathologist. He has a 2 yr. old sister. He does not have any boys in the neighborhood to play with, just girls. Just resently, he started day school, where before he stayed at home partly with me. But his problems began before he started school. He sometimes will hit or yell at his little sister, mostly when she irritates him. When playing outside, he mostly shows aggression towards an 8 yr. old girl. This mostly occurs when she bosses him around. This sets him off. He has hit her a few times. On a few times he has said " I want to get a gun and shoot her". Or he says he wants to run her over with a car. Now we don't have any guns, not even toy guns, so we asked him where he learned such a thing. He says he saw it on TV. Still, how do you best deal with this? Also, when my wife and I try to correct him on misbehavior, he talks back to us and mocks us. Time-outs have not been effective. I told him that the next time I here him threaten to shoot someone, I will take away one toy permanently. Well, I had that opportunity the other night. Please give us other ideas for disipline. Could all of this be related to his speech(articulation) delay? Is he just frustrated?
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Dear Stephen,

With any display of physical aggression, time out should be employed immediately, coupled with solitary play for a period after the time out has been completed. If you need ideas about how to implement time out, use the SEARCH function on this site and you'll find a number of replies that address the issue. Over the years, when I've heard parents comment that time out 'doesn't work', I usually learn that it's the implementation that is the problem, not the technique itself.

Now, it's not unusual for a four-year-old to display some aggression - one of the tasks at this age is to learn to manage anger and other emotions. This is a process, and it will take some time.

Your technique of taking a toy away permanently is not going to be useful. Children at four years don't have the capacity to store the 'message' in a way that allows them to learn from it. Their life is made up of more immediate concerns.

If a child of four mistreats a toy, the toy can be removed for a time (i.e., no more than one day). This can help a child learn to take care of the item, and it conveys the message that you won't permit mistreatment of property.

If you examine some of the replies to past questions, you'll see that I frequently recommend a book called S.O.S.: Help For Parents (by Lynn Clark, published by Parents Press). You will find in it a reliable, practical approach to behavior management, ideal for addressing problems of noncompliance and aggression.
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