Oh, Behave: 4-year old fighter



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Q: My son, who is
almost four, has been hitting both his father and me whenever he gets
upset with us. Lately, he has been pinching. Today, he scratched a
little girl at daycare who had been his best friend. I don’t know if
it’s a phase, or it’s going to get worse. We talk to him about it
repeatedly. He gets a timeout when he hits us, but it hasn’t stopped
him. He can be such a wonderful loving little boy but if he gets upset
or frustrated, the first thing he does is start hitting. Is there
anything we can do to stop this behaviour?
– DEBBY R, SASKATOON, SK

There’s
a split-second before children act the way they feel. Parents need to
teach children to identify this moment and to make good choices at that
time. Once children can identify this moment, the next task is to help
them name the feeling. Talking, rather than acting out, moves towards a
common strategy sometimes referred to as ‘using your words’.

While
working at this with your child, you could begin to use feeling language
in your day-to-day activities. Say things such as, ‘I’m feeling tired’
at the end of the day, or perhaps, ‘I’m feeling frustrated’ while in
traffic. Most of us find that we, too, are acting the way we feel a
little too often!

When you spot a moment where you think there could
have been a hit, bite or a scratch – make sure to reinforce the
positive. At those moments, saying, “Good boy, I think you could have
hit me, but you didn’t. You’re really getting good at this, now tell me
how you feel” will go a long way in moving ahead.

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