Sunday, June 3, 2012

My 4 year old granson is out of control!

Dear Kay,

I recently visited my three grandchildren who live out of state. 4 yr old grandson, 18 mos old granddaughter and a 2 mos old baby grandson. My older grandson use to be the sweetest little boy. After spending a week I saw a drastic change. He would not listen to adults. He would hit and push adults and children with his hands or an object like a bat. It hurt.

My daughter and her husband give him time out. He stays in another room while they watch him nearby. During this time he screams & pounds the floor & cries. She has taken away toys until he earns them back. He told me the entire week I was there that he wanted me to go back home.

He wouldn't interact with me at all unless it was negative. He does love his baby brother. He hugs and kisses and feeds him. There is no animosity. He gets in spats with his sister but nothing abnormal.
Could this be sibling rivalry?

If so, how do you show my grandson how much we love him. How can we stop him from acting out. When he hits it's hard and it hurts. How do we get him back to the sweet little boy he was? Any information will be useful. Thank you.

Dear Patricia:

First of all he is four years old and he has not one but two siblings under the age of 2. He sounds MAD to me. You didn't say if he is attending any outside care. Often children hit more when they are exposed to hitting. This can be from adults (no I am not implying anything here) or it maybe just other children hitting. Even small children hit each other on occasion.

Overall he sounds like his world has been totally displaced. He went from being the only child for what 2 or 2 and 1/2 years to being the oldest of 3? As for what you can do...ignore him when he acts out. DO NOT AT ANY TIME try to placate him or respond to him when he is acting out inappropriately. No eye contact, no talking unless you are directing him to time out. (there is much debate now on how well time out works).  Do keep trying to engage with him in a positive manner. Eventually he will take your lead. Sometimes it is helpful to start playing a game by yourself and ignoring him let him see how much fun you are having. Children rarely can resist a good time for very long. Also it might be a good idea to see if there is time you can spend with him outside of his sharing the limelight with the younger siblings. Or the opposite see if he can be engaged in helping with the younger siblings.

The thing is it is easy to have nothing but negative interactions with a child who is acting out and many times this leads to a negative feeling about the child which is not helpful to their sense of who they are, it is critical to turn this around.

See if you can find something he is doing you can praise regularly and do so consistently.

Best Wishes!
M Kay Keller

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