My 5 year old daughter has begun to hit me whenever she becomes angry. She gets very angry and threatens to hit or pinch me, and often she does. She was very physical when she was angry when she was 2 to 3, but after working with her, she stopped. Now that same behaviour has returned. She gets very angry and just screams at the top of her lungs. It is often difficult to figure out what sets her off- sometimes not getting her way, sometimes asking her to do something as simple as get dressed. I have always used a light, upbeat voice, and say please to try to reinforce gentle behaviour and acceptable social skills, but she seems immune to this. I threatened punishments such as time out, taking toys away, not taking her to the park, etc. I do follow through, although she dares me to ("I guess you'll just take my toys away, huh?"), and when I do, she breaks into hysterics crying, grabbing me, pleading with me not to take the toy away, and then when that does not work, she begins to get physical. After 5-10 minutes, she is a completely different child- happy, forgotten what she was angry about. She says she cannot stop herself from screaming or hitting. At school she is very sweet, but her feelings get her easily. She is pre-occupied with concerns that the kids don't really like her, they want to hurt her feelings, or think she is "stupid." She also nightmares once or twice a week where she or I get "died."
All children of your daughter's age are learning how to handle the frustration and anger that arise when wishes are denied, limits are set, etc. And, because of that developmental process, it is not unusual to see young children struggle with how to express their anger, how to voice it within manageable bounds. In that sense, your daughter is very much like many children her age. However, having said all that, her aggressive behavior is not within normal bounds and you are correct in wanting it to stop. The behavior invites very firm limits - No Hitting Ever - and predicatble, consistent discipline whener aggression occurs. I recommend a period of time out every time she displays an aggressive gesture. In additon, once the time out is over, your daughter should perform some act of helping or kindness as compensation, if you will, for the hurtful behavior she displayed. If you follow the discipline plan detailed in Lynn Clark's boo SOS Help for Parents you will be pleased; it will provide you with a useful, effective roadmap about handling childhood behavior problems.
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