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4 year old violent behavior
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4 year old violent behavior

Since our son was an infant we noticed that he has a difficult time with social settings..  We always thought that he was just "shy" and uncomfortable around people he does not know well.  However, as he has gotten older he has begun to physically act out during these situations.  He has had episodes of separation anxiety, but in the past year those have somewhat subsided.  He is fine when I drop him off at daycare, we have only had a few tantrums when I have to leave.  We have a group of friends that we hang out with on a fairly regular basis.  They all have children ages 9 to 3 yrs. old.  Whenever we are around this group, he refuses to play with the other children and clings to either parent.  However, he becomes very aggressive towards the parents, he refuses to listen, back talks and hits, bites, pulls on limbs and clothes.  The issue is getting worse and no consequence works for my son.  The behavior is not limited to unfamiliar people.  Let me give you an example, this morning my husband and I went to pick our son up from my in-laws.  According to them he was well behaved before we got there.  As soon as we arrived he started to run around, speak very loudly, tell us to "shush" whenever we asked him to settle down and with no provocation what so ever he hit me in the mouth for no reason.  We were sitting next to each other on the couch watching a movie and I was talking, he looked straight at me and hit me in the mouth.  We have also had occassions when we have run into other children from his pre-school while walking through the neighborhood.  While I am trying to speak with their parents, my son will hit me, pull on my arms and clothes, twist my arms or just keep repeating "Let's go mommy".  We are at our wit's end and are becoming so nervous about how he will behave in a social setting that we are beginning to limit our social lives.  Any advice you could give us would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you
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Hello,
   this is a complex situation, and I agree with you that its a matter to be taken seriously. Your son's behavior is well outside of normal limits as compared to other four year olds, and it sounds like he is really struggling. You certainly do not deserve to be hit or bitten, and it will not benefit anyone to cloister yourselves behind closed doors.

I would recommend you call your pediatrican and ask to be referred to a child psychologist for an assessment as soon as possible. A psychologist can determine if your son's behaviors are related to a particular disability, an emotional issue or a neurological condition (or perhaps a combination!). Once a psychologist has determined what is behind these behaviors, he/she can tailor a treatment plan around your son's needs and your families strenghts and weaknesses. Following the assessment, you may get the most benefit from seeking a behaviorally based treatment that includes parent guidance work to help you learn to manage this behavior at home (this treatment is also known as 'parent management training' or parent coaching). Individual play therapy might be a nice supplement once you get the beahvior under some control.

Best Wishes
Rebecca Resnik
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Rebecca Resnik, PsyDBlank
MindWell Clinical Psychology
Bethesda, MD
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