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How To Control His Anger - A Three Year Old Boy

Dear Annie,
How are you mam?

I would like to post a question regarding my 3 year old son. I and my husband both are working. My Mother in law and Father in law are taking care of my son. We all live in a joint family.

When I get back from the office (after 6) I am the one who takes care of my son. He is going to a preschool for his Pre Kindergarten.

My son is usually a calm little guy, a little bit shy with strangers. Normally he is very good at home, he can grasp things very quickly, can listen very well and he is having a very good memory power.

But he is very adamant in some cases, for example if his grandfather is sitting in a sofa he will demand for him to get up since he wants to use the sofa as a pretend car to drive.

The main issue is yesterday he beat one of his his classmates, a girl. His preschool Mam was very upset and she has beat him it seems.

But the School Mam didn't inform me about this but she was very angry with my son which was noticed by my husband. Normally it is his father that takes him to the school. Today I went to the school and I asked about how my son is behaving, just like I would on a normal visit.

The School Mam told me that he was behaving very differently for the past one week. Normally he wouldn't beat others and he was the calmest boy in the class. I was surprised why he is behaving like this and she told me that normally he will be very friendly with girls but particularly for the past one week he is beating up the girls.

Apart from this he is very excellent in his academic side & very good at activities, dance etc.

I can also feel nowadays he is not listening to our words in most of the occasions.

My husband told me that he (our son) seems to be enjoying when others get affected. For example if he climbs over us roughly and we say "hey it is hurting, please get down" it means he will not get down and does it more.

I need your kind help and suggestion Mam. I would be very pleased if you can answer my question and suggest me a good way to deal with this.

Thanking you

Comments for How To Control His Anger - A Three Year Old Boy

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Helping Children Learn Good Behavior - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Thank you for your question, it is very common for 3 - 4 year old children to get frustrated and bossy, and very determined to get their own way. They also don't have the emotional maturity to be able to cope when they can't always do exactly what they want. It is actually a development in the brain that has to happen for children to learn control of their emotions. Ideally we want our children to react, but then be able to process how they feel and act appropriately without lashing out at anyone. But sadly many adults don't have these neural pathways in their brain very developed, so we certainly can't expect a three year old to be able to always control how he behaves when he feels frustrated or angry.

That is very much what he is learning now - his stage of development is such that he has mastered many physical development, his language will be getting expanded every day, but now the challenge is his emotional and social development. It is all just part of the process of growing up, he is not being naughty, he is experimenting and learning how to be in the world. Of course we want our children to be well behaved and do well in school, but children have a lot to learn and understand (we all do!) and it is an ongoing process.

I have to say, I am totally against beating or smacking children. It saddens me to hear that a preschool uses this as a way of correcting behavior. It only confuses children. Think about it - getting beaten for beating someone else does not make any sense. It only teaches our children that hitting is acceptable, to be fearful, and that their feelings are not OK. It is much better to help children learn to understand how the other child feels, and to develop empathy and learn self control. He is only just learning to share and to play with others, so there is endless frustration in a pre-school situation when other children have the toy he wants, or don't want to play the same game. It is the job of the preschool teachers to help him learn to share and to learn to play with other children.

It is always very tricky when parents get reports of their children misbehaving in school. But really it is up to the school to deal with it, and of course keep you informed. It is not up to you to "double" punish a child or drag it up again when they get home. Of course you want to help him to talk about his day, to share with you if he is having problems at school, but don't get into trying to make him go over past issues, instead help him to focus on how he can have fun with other children, or what to do if he is getting cross.

Part Two Follows . . .

Helping Children Learn Good Behavior - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

The best way we can help our children deal with strong feelings, is to show them how we do it, and explain our own process. When adults get angry, we hopefully take a breath, or take some time out to calm down before trying to sort out an issue. Sometimes children see us lash out or yell when we are angry, so this is not teaching them better control. We need to explain and show our own way of dealing with upsets, so they learn from us. A smack might show a child they have done something wrong, but it is teaching them to hit, and not helping them to learn a better way of sorting out conflict.

Don't expect your three year old to always be well behaved! A normal three year old has to learn to deal with all sorts of disapointments - not allowed to turn the sofa into a car in the evenings, having to pack up toys when he still wants to play, having to get ready for preschool right in the middle of an exciting game. Part of growing up is learning to adjust and learning to cope with strong feelings, and it all takes time.

He is also learning about his power, and that is why he is getting some satisfaction out of bossing or physically intimidating the girls at pre-school. A three year old tends to have a big part of their day being bossed around by others, get ready for school, get dressed, time for breakfast, time for bed etc. So when they learn they can have power over others it can go to their head. It is difficult for you to have much influence at preschool, since you are not there to observe what happens - and there is also the dynamic of the other children too, not just his behaviour. If you can have his friends over to play sometimes, then you can help him to play nicely, and encourage cooperative behavior.

One good little trick that works well with his age group, is using a kitchen timer. Do it with you all so he learns about taking turns, and accepting he can't always have everything when he wants. As an example with the sofa, maybe he can turn the timer to 30 minutes and Grandad gets to sit there until the timer goes off. Maybe the timer can be 10 minutes each, or 3 minutes until bed time etc. He won't be able to tell the time yet, but by helping him to set the timer, puts him in control to some extent, but you are helping him learn to wait, to contain his frustration, and to develop a solution when two people are in conflict.

Part Three Follows . . .

Helping Children Learn Good Behavior - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

If he is demanding attention - and I suspect that is what the climbing over you and being annoying is - you can make a deal with him that you will come and play with him, or do a puzzle or read a story etc at the end of your program, or after 5 minutes - then help him to set the timer correctly and then he knows you are committed to meeting his needs. He has some power, but is not ruling the roost.

When children start misbehaving, they usually have un-met needs. A preschooler needs heaps of interaction, and boys in particular need physical play, chasing, rough and tumble, hide and seek, tickling and being monsters! Don't do this right before bed, but it is a good idea to burn off some energy well before bedtime so he will settle well. Physical games are also a good way for him to learn self control - there is a fine line between fun, and discomfort - learning how to control his body so he is not hurting anyone, but can still have lots of physical play.

It is much better to use positive reinforcement than punishment. Of course it is not acceptable to hit other children, and if you are the one overseeing the situation, you can calmly remove him and explain that we don't hurt others. Sometimes time out to think about what would be a nicer way to play is useful, but I don't like using time out as punishment.

We want our children to learn and develop the pathways in their brain to help them deal with conflict or strong emotions, so we have to help them learn to think. If we punish them, they are stuck in their feelings - feeling angry, or guilty, or hurt or unloved, or that the situation is unfair or they may be confused. By helping them to think of a better way to play, or to interact in ways that gets them positive attention, we are being much more productive.

Kids will play up to get attention, and being told off is better than nothing. If you can acknowledge he wants some attention, but that there are better ways to get it, and help him get good interactions with people, rather than annoying them. Of course you have to follow through with an agreement to play in five minutes, then he will learn quickly to act more appropriately.

Enjoy your little boy, he sounds like a bright fellow, and they grow up all too quickly,

all the best Annie D :)

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