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Is My Son Getting Arrogant?

Dear Annie,
How are you?
Earlier I had asked you a question and I found your answer very useful. This is another question about my 2 years 7 month old son.

Now he is going to preschool, and during our last parents meet their teacher interview, the teacher told that he is slowly started to be adamant.(Arrogant?)

She said that she is very good at alphabets, coloring and there was an activity which only he did correctly, the other kids didn't.

Today at his school he beat a guy and moreover at home he used to beat me, his father an grandparents and he is spitting. We ask him why did he do this and he replied just like that I beat him.

Really I feel so bad, maybe there is something wrong in my approach. I don't know that Mam, and I know I am the sole responsible person for his
better growth.

Kindly advise me,

Thank you

Editors Note:
I have edited this question somewhat to make it a bit clearer for our readers, so I hope I have not mistaken your meaning.

Comments for Is My Son Getting Arrogant?

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Aggressive Preschooler - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hello again,

I realize English is not your first language, and you are having to translate what your preschool teacher says for me, so there may well be some misunderstandings about what you are asking, particularly around the word you used in your title - arrogant, but then adamant in your question. My apologies if I have not understood correctly. But I can see from the other things you talk about that your son is showing aggressive behavior and hurting other children and his family, and as a parent, it is really hard when our kids behave badly.

It does sound like he is telling you where he is learning to hit others - when we smack our children when they don't do what we want, then we are teaching them to hit others to get their own way. He is not even three years old yet, so does not have the ability to understand, he is simply copying what he is learning. So don't use physical punishments, they might work to control a child through fear, but they don't work to teach him better ways of behaving. Why would he think it is OK for you to smack but not OK for him?

His is still really young, and developmentally he will only just be starting to learn to share, aggression is really common at this age and many kids get really frustrated when they can't get what they want RIGHT NOW!! I am sure your son is not the only child in preschool that acts up sometimes, he just may be a child with a very strong personality who has a lot to learn to be able to manage his feelings better. The preschool teacher also told you some things he does really well, so don't think he is a terrible child that is worse than all the other kids! Every child is different, and we should not be comparing them.

Don't forget, a HUGE part of the learning in preschool, is socialization. How to get along with others is just as important as learning ABCs and counting. We emphasize academic learning as being the most important, and that kids are being naughty if they misbehave. But Preschool is about the child being in a situation with lots of other children and different adults, different experiences, and learning to cope, solve problems, develop new skills. You can't expect him to already know it, going to Preschool is not about being the perfectly behaved boy, and doing all the academic activities perfectly. That simply is not realistic. Preschool is learning - learning the skills to be able to move on to bigger challenges with school, learning to share, learning to take turns, learning to play with other children, not just alongside. He will be developing his imagination, his language will be expanding, and his physical capabilities will be getting more and more complex. ABCs and counting is just a tiny fraction of what he is learning, and it is not fair to expect he will know it all already.

Part Two Follows . . .

Aggressive Preschooler - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

So don't feel bad, or a terrible parent if he makes some mistakes. We all make mistakes, that is how we learn. We should all be learning all the time. As a new parent, you are learning a lot about taking care of a strong willed preschooler, and some of that is trial and error. That does not make you a bad parent, the fact that you are asking questions and wanting to learn better ways to help your son make you a great role model for him. He is learning from all the people around him, it is not just you who has an influence, though of course parents are the primary "shapers" of our children.

One of the big brain developments in childhood, from about aged 2 years - 6 years, is learning to manage strong feelings. Our strong feelings like anger, aggression, and fear, come from the part of the brain - the reptilian brain, which is about survival. The thinking, rational part of the brain is the part the makes decisions about how to act. So instead of lashing out when angry, we learn to think about what might be a better way to handle our feelings.

In young children these pathways in the brain actually have to grow before a child is able to think before lashing out. Sadly many adults don't have these parts of the brain developed either. So this is not an issue that can be fixed by giving him a stern lecture, and certainly not by beating him.

Your little boy is struggling to deal with frustration and his feelings are very powerful and overwhelming and he takes it out on other children. Physically getting the better of another child will make him feel he his has some power, and he is learning that is the way to get what he wants. If the way you make him do what you want is to physically force him, then you are reinforcing his bad behavior of hitting another child if they don't do what he wants.

Things that happen at Preschool need to be dealt with there. Of course they need to report back to parents and let you know what is going on, but don't fall into the trap of double punishment, or dragging the issue out all over again. In general, for children when the emotion is gone, it is over and done with. For Mom or Dad to bring it up again hours or days later, is not really very helpful. Things need to be dealt with at the time, so they can connect their behavior and actions with new learning. Otherwise all they are absorbing is guilt, or fear of your disapproval, and that just breeds resentment.

Hopefully the Preschool is reinforcing when he is behaving well. If the issue is about sharing or taking turns, praising him when he waits or shares with another child, or reinforcing when he is caring of others.

Part Three Follows . . . .

Aggressive Preschooler - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

You can help him learn those skills at home so he is better able to take it into a preschool environment. When you see him being caring and helpful with his Grandparents or with you, tell him very specifically what is is doing well.

"You are doing a great job helping Grandma carry the washing in."
"I feel a lot better when you come and say sorry, thank you"
"You are being very patient waiting for your turn, well done"
"You did really well getting ready for bed tonight, I'm proud of you.
"I saw you playing so well with that other boy and the cars when I picked you up from Preschool, you were sharing the toys very nicely"
"That was really lovely the way you gave me a hug when I banged my head, thank you for being a caring boy."

Make it a point to look for the things he is doing well, and that will reinforce his learning that those behaviors get him good recognition and positive interactions with others. When we spend more time telling our children off and punishing them, they tend to either rebel more, or we crush their spirit to make them conform. It is better if they learn better skills so it comes from inside and they develop those brain pathways so they are better able to cope in stressful situations without loosing control.

So what can you do when he does have a major meltdown? Firstly, it is not OK for him to hurt others, yourself or other children. If he is throwing a big tantrum, and is out of control and lashing out, then for your and his safety he needs to be calmly restrained. If you loose your temper with him, you are adding energy to it all and reinforcing that is is OK to yell and hit to get people to conform. You can restrain him by holding him from behind, wrapping your arms around his chest, pinning his arms. He will be angrier at first but if you stay calm, and just quietly say, " I will let go when you calm down" - and just keep him safe, then eventually he will quieten down.

Another option is putting him somewhere where he can yell and hit a pillow, but not hurt anyone or anything. You can encourage him to hit a pillow, not people: "I can see you are mad, but we don't hit people, you can hit the pillow instead." That gives him an alternative way to let off steam and let the anger out without hurting anyone else. A rolled up newspaper makes a good whacking noise on the side of the bed!

Encourage him to talk about how he feels rather than taking it out on people or property. His language skills will be developing all the time, and he will learn to express how he feels with words rather than physically hit. Helping him to put words to those strong feelings, is helping the neural pathways in his brain grow. Language interrupts the immediate physical response when he is feeling frustrated or angry. Then as learns to find better ways to meet his needs he will be less aggressive.

Part Four Follows . . .

Aggressive Preschooler - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

But this all takes time. It is not just a matter of punishing him and expecting he will understand better ways of behaving. His angry feelings are not bad, feelings are just letting us know we are unhappy or we want something different. What he needs to learn though, is better ways of dealing with them that don't hurt others.

Time out can be useful to help him take some time to calm down. You can sit with him if he is not hurting you, or you have a chair or step that is used as the 'thinking Chair/Stair' - A place where he goes while he calms down.

Then later you help him, and coach him how to find other ways of meeting his needs. You need to find out what made him mad in the first place. Maybe someone took a toy, or he wanted a turn, maybe someone pushed him, or tried to make him hurry up with something.

Help him to explore and understand how the other children (or you) feel when you get hit. Don't expect him to know the answers, your job is to gently help him to see the world through the eyes of the other child or his grandparents. It is not to make him feel guilty, but to encourage him to think about how they feel, and recognize how he feels.

"I don't like it when you hit me, it makes me sad/angry."
"You can be mad, but you can't hurt people."
"Do you think he was unhappy when you hurt him?"
"How do you feel when someone hits you?"
"Does it make you feel mad? Sad?"
"I think Grandma is very sad you spit at her, what could you do that would help her to feel better?"
"How can we get my happy boy back, what might you do that would
be happier?"

"What do we do if we hurt someone?"
"Are you ready to say sorry?" (not when he is still angry).
"Do you think Grandad likes hugs instead of spitting?"

There is a lot to learn when you are Two and a half, and really for all of his childhood. Children are not mini adults who are just misbehaving. They have to learn the skills to socialize with others, and their brain has to grow to be able to cope with their feelings.

He will be fine, and you are doing a great job. Don't make any negative reports from the Preschool Teacher to mean he is always an aggressive child, or he is the most badly behaved child and you must be a bad Mom. He is a normal preschool boy who is right in the middle of learning to handle strong feelings and relate to others. He has a strong personality and may well be a leader in the future when he masters his feelings, and learns to build good relationships!

Good luck,
and please feel free to comment back.

Annie D :)

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