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4 Year Old Behavior Problems

My son will be 4 in January. He has had an aggresive temperament since he was around 2 years. He was in full-time daycare until I quit work recently in July with the birth of our daughter. Even in daycare we had constant visits with the director about his behavior (biting, hitting, etc. of other kids his age). He has just started preschool this year and has been exhibiting similar behavior. He throws toys, pushes and hits his other classmates. His teachers do a good job of keeping me informed of his behavior on a day to day basis and he has had some good days. They do place in him in time-out in the classroom for bad behavior, talk to him, and he has also been sent to the preschool director's office. Recently though, he is back to his terrible behavior both at home and at school. We set limits at home and use discipline techniques such as time-out and spanking, but he just doesn't seem to care. He laughs when he is spanked and sits in time-out until we tell him to come out (usually 3-4 minutes). He is fine but then starts right back to the bad behavior. I always have to keep a very watchful eye on him because he will run off (yesterday towards the road with a car coming.) I dread birthday parties because they always end with us hauling him out of there for bad behavior.

My husband and I are at our wits ends to try and nip the bad behavior for good. He is a smart boy and has quite an imagination. He plays really well by himself but can't seem to handle playing with other kids. He is nowhere near potty trained. He just doesn't seem to understand why he needs to use the potty. It all makes for a very frustrating environment. Is there something medically wrong with him or is it a disciplinary problem on our part? I need any advice I can get! I feel like such a terrible mother right now and dread taking him to school and subjecting the other children to him, but how else is he going to learn to socialize?
26 Responses
242606 tn?1243786248
You probably could make some change in your management of his behavior, but you should also seek evaluation by a child psychologist or other mental health professional. Is there a family history of mood disorder on either side of the family? On the behavior management front, I'd offer two suggestions. First, when you place him in time out, do so for approx. five-ten minutes, and track the time with a portable digital cooking timer. Do not strat the time until your son is (a) seated in his time out chair and (b) quiet. Second, refrain from spanking him - it's not helpful - time out is a sensible discipline.
Avatar universal
You're not alone in this. My son is 4 as well will be 5 in November, and also been displaying these signs since he was 2. This is going to be long but let me tell you the road we have been down. He started banging his head when he was 2 when he would get mad, and he would bag it VERY hard. Well his pediatrician told us it is nothing to worry about, kids do that. And then he started to bite the wooden end tables when he would get mad, again the ped. said nothing to worry about he would grow out of it. NOW TODAY....He hasn't grown out of it, only has gotten way worse. He hits, bites, scratches, pinches, other kids. We have had him to therapists and they have put him on all different kinds of meds to help the aggression. He has been diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder, mood disored, sensory integration disorder, they think he may be bi polar but can't diagnose that yet being he is so young, but it runs in the fathers side of the family. He has also been doagnosed with adhd, and seperation anxiety, and maybe a little bit of obsessive compulsive disorder!! Whoaa that's alot!! He recently chased a kid down the street with a knife, so that ended him in the mental ward at childrens hospital, that place was NO GOOD AT ALL!! SO I took him out of there and he started seeing a new therapist well he upped his meds to a dose that should work, well it hasn't!! So I know where you are coming from. It's hard and very hard at that. The only difference is my son is excellent in school, helps the teachers, plays with kids, he does everything, when he gets to my moms she babysits, he is a terror, he dosen't like playing with the kids there, and unless he is getting all the attention then he is out of control! And sometimes when he is getting all the attention he is out of control. And also like yours he will take off running down the road, he walked a half a mile after i dropped him off one day to follow me, and he darted faster than my Dad could catch up with him, hes a busy little man, and like your very very smart. He only likes to play with cars, and keys, and things that turn like tires used to be his favorite, he got in my moms van and started it. We have been through, and tried everything, like you we're at our wits end! But what do you do? We do time out, we spank, we use a reward system, does it work? yeah for the five minutes following, that's it!! SOunds like we're in the same boat here. I just wish I could find one Dr. to diagnose him correctly, and so we could get this under control. I hate medicating a kid at 4 years of age, but we have no choice, he is going to hurt himself or someone else. I'm sorry I haven't given you much of an answer, but I wanted to let you know you aren't alone, and it's very hard. I would say though that you do need to take him to a Dr. that specializes in these behaviors, because they have helped, we just have more to figure out with him and what exactly is wrong. But no it's not "normal" behavior, and you don't want him to hurt someone elses child because that will come back on you, and you don't want him to hurt himself, and if your is anything like mine he is very spontaneous and you just never know whats next! You will be in my prayers, as I know that's all I feel I have left is praying praying praying!! There's a reason for everything I guess. Good luck to you!! And to that little boy, I know they're such a special blessing and as frustrated as we get, each minute of the day we need to remember that! Be blessed, and feel free to write back, i'm on here everyday, and will respond!
                                     God Bless,
Avatar universal
My son too has behavior issues. He's nearly 5. His are mostly at school (hitting, pushing, etc) and very rarely at home, so I know that most of what's happening is primarily related to SOMETHING at school- I just can't figure it out. He's also the biggest kid in his class which doesn't help any.

Stay firm on your rules/expectations of him, then REWARD him for good behavior. My child feels remorse and hates timeout, but in the long run he doesn't learn much from time out.

Our reward system is if he keeps his hands to himself and for 3 out of 5 days he gets to go to the toy store. So far it has worked one time, however, I will also have smaller rewards set up for two days in a row of good behavior. This has been very difficult with his new teacher as she seems to be pretty negative with most of the boys. When I talk to her at the end of the day, it's all negative, but if I ask about other things, then I find out positives as well.

On the days that he can't keep his hands to himself he has no treats, tv, can't play with our neighbor. There have been a few times this past year that I have literally taken every single toy he owns (not books, I refuse to discourage reading), put it in a garbage bag, and placed them in the attic. It's a lot of work and very hard to do, but it gets the message across.

I'm trying to change the behavior and teach him new behaviors at the same time. We talk about what other kids are doing at school and I give him scenarios as to what he should do if _______ happens, and remind him that hitting will only get him in trouble. We talk often about school behavior too.

He's been to the child psych once and goes again next week. I'm hoping my son will tell this guy what is bothering him since he won't tell anyone else. So far he doesn't have any major disorders (opp defiance, etc).

Hopefully some of this will help you. 4 seems to be much harder than 3 was. And 2 was a piece of cake!

Hang in there, be consistent and firm. If you are still concered, talk to your ped, or the guidance counselor at your local elementary school for a child psych recommendation.

Avatar universal
I'm in the same boat with you here- The only thing different is that my son was  potty trained at about 3 years . He will be 4 next month, is very smart and has an excellent memory- except he cannot seem to remember that we don't allow him to smack people.
Same as yours , my son began at about 2 with the aggressive behaviour, and head banging- And although the pediatrican said it was normal, and he would grow out of it, he didn't - and he still does it to this day. My husband has repaired 2 walls that he actually bashed holes in with his head. His tantrums are monumental- and he is physically abusive to both his 1 year old brother and myself. We use firm limits and time outs, which work to a point . Time outs rarely result in the desired effect, he usually screams, trashes his room , kicks the walls and door, and bangs his head the whole time . The next day, it all begins again. We have had him evaluated, which was sort of a dead end, as they told us he was too young to diagnose with anything concrete. The possibility that was brought up was bi-polar.
Like you, I was working full time, and he was in daycare ( where we had our share of reports of behaviour problems there ) .  We had a second baby last summer, and I put my career on hold about 4 months ago to stay home with them. I was surprised to see just how bad things were , especially when his brother began walking. Now, I have to seperate them with a gate, or use the pack n play for the little guy's own safety. I know that the arrival of a second child sometimes throws the first into a tailspin, but..

The only good days we have are when he is kept occupied all day long. Which is impossible - we all need a break sometimes!

It has been suggested on this board,  that fish oil may help to calm them down, as a natural alternative to meds, ( which some days, I would gladly welcome ) but am trying to find out if there is a pill form, or one that is appropriate for children.
I am going to GNC today to see if they possibly can be of help.
Will let you know.
Hang in there, it helps to know that yours is not the only one.

Avatar universal
I'm at my wit's end with my 4-year-old as well, and just don't know what to do with him. He's my youngest (he has an 8-year-old brother), and very strong-willed to say the least. He's small for his age, and not really aggressive or violent. But all means of discipline have failed miserably so far. I've tried spanking (my husband thinks it works... I feel differently), he doesn't seem to care. Time-outs aren't very effective either. I've tried rewarding him for good behavior and taking priveliges (toys, TV time, etc.) away for poor behavior. He's simply mouthy and defiant; he won't listen to a thing I say at home or away. I explain to him how he to act when we go somewhere ("You will sit nicely in a shopping cart or we will not go get a cookie,") and I give him alternatives when I tell him he can't do something ("No, you may not watch Blue's Clues right now, but you may go play with your puzzles or read a book instead..."). He doesn't get into much trouble at school, it's mostly when he's with me. He argues, whines, and pushes me to my limits... lately he's started wetting his pants during the day, and has discovered how to lie about things. Today my mom and I were out and about with the kids and he was just a nightmare all day long. I looked at my mom sadly and said "I just don't know what I'm doing wrong." She just shook her head in disbelief at his behavior. We have an appointment with his pediatician this week about the wetting accidents, and I'm going to discuss these behavior problems with her as well. I too feel like a failure as a mother, and sometimes I don't know what I did to deserve this. When he's sweet, he's the most lovable creature on earth. Like so many of you have said about your kids, he's really smart. He's generally a happy kid, loves to sing, says his prayers and leans against me while I read him a bedtime story every night. The days are just so long and stressful... I hope we can get some help.
Avatar universal
I have three year old and a eleven year old.  I also am a teacher.  

I am a firm believer in setting rules, making charts, time-out and using rewards for good  behavior, but I am also a firm believer in following the bible's instruction of discipline.

I used a chart with my older son.  When he received 10 stickers he was able to choose an activity to do with just me.  I found his behavior to be attention seeking.  When he displayed  bad behavior I would always warn him first,  time-out, but if that did not work then he got a good swift spanking.

My three year old is a little pistol.  He is into everything  and if I tell him not to do something he has to do it just to see if I mean what I say.  Consistency is a big  thing when trying to teach your child correct  behavior.  I am following the same technique with him and it is working, slowly but surely.

Now is the time to stop it, I would rather see you set a firm discipline plan into action (There is a difference in discipline and abuse)I know you would rather spank him than have him on medication for the rest of his life. I know some children need medication, but it is used as a cop out in many cases.  Most of the kids in special ed don't need to be there they just need someone to care enough to discipline them

Because if you truely love your child you will want to see him behave before he gets to school.  I know you do  or you wouldn't be asking for advice.

I wish all the parents of my kids  cared enough to ask for help and to spank their kids when they needed it.

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