Preschoolers Hitting

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions 


Three-year-old hitting mom when he's upset

Oct 2007

My three year old hits when he is upset about something. The firm ''NO'' and timeouts don't seem to work. This is not acceptable behavior and I need a rational way to deal with it. This behavior is limited to home (not preschool) which I should be thankful for, but the behavior is getting to everyone in the house. Emily


Easy. You install a baby gate across the door to his room. You tell him ahead of time, calmly and without anger, that hitting is not ok, and if he hits he cannot be with you/other people. When he hits, calmly pick him up and place him in his room with the baby gate shut. He can either shut the regular door or not. He will probably kick and scream and kvetch which you must ignore and not give him any more attention. Tell him you will get him in xxx minutes, and that then you'd be happy to have him rejoin you. Try not to be angry, sarcastic, etc. Just calmly enforce the consequence. Repeat as necessary. If he hits at the park, no discussion, you immediately pack up and go home. Also get the book ''Setting Limits for the Strong Willed Child'' by Robert MacKenzie. Loved it. anon


Three-year-old hitting other kids and her parents

Sept 2007

Are there any parents of spirited kids out there who can help with some advice? Most of the postings about hitting etc. seem to be from the perspective of the one getting hit, not the hitter... I need help understanding whether my daughter is a ''spirited'' kid, or something more problematic. Much of the time she is delightful, happy and charming. She is very bright and extremely verbal. However, she has a low tolerance for frustration, and gets upset quickly when other people don't understand what she is saying or the game she is playing. She is an only child and spends most of her time with her parents (no nanny, no playgroup, not many play dates). So even though she likes being with other children, I don't think she is used to dealing with them. She yells. And about 9 months ago she started hitting. (Both her parents and other kids). We have a no-tolerance policy and she gets an instant time out when she hits. We leave the park, revoke privileges if she persists, etc. But she still loses her cool with other kids (usually yelling, but also sometimes hitting). As a result, we feel worried and isolated (it seems like people don't want to make play dates with us, and we are concerned about what will happen in school). Our closest friends dropped us many months ago when our daughter hit their child. I feel sad and worried for my daughter because she wants friends and this explosive behavior undermines that desire. I also feel like she is judged for her less appealing behavior and not appreciated for her wonderful side (except by us). How can I know whether or not what she does is within the range of normal, cranky three-year old behavior? We are peaceful people, we don't yell or hit and she does not watch violent TV. I have no idea where she learned to hit, or even where her anger comes from. In our limited circle (park, classes, friends) I don't see other kids doing what she does. Any advice would be appreciated... Sad and worried


Well, it certainly sounds like you have your hands full. Let me take a minute to state that I work with this type of behavior everyday as a children's therapeutic behaviorist. I do positive behavioral modification and teach parenting classes for a living. I work with the MOST severe behaviors that result from children who have experienced the MOST severe traumas. Here's a couple of tips:

1) Pay very close attention to the way you react to your child when they demonstrate negative behavior. Kids LOVE attention and on some level either positive or negative attention can fill that need. It's easy to accidentally reinforce negative behaviors by giving up a lot of your energy during those times.

2) Remember that no matter how long the behavior seems to be dragging out or how frequent the behavior occurrs it STILL does NOT occurr most of the time. In a 24 hour day, even a child who tantrums 8 hours of it is not tantruming 16 hours of it. Use THOSE 16 hours to teach your child the rules and reinforce their good behavior with SPECIFICS. Immediately reinforce after noticing when a child is following a rule or acting compliant (i.e. I notice your keeping your body safe right now. Give me a hug.). The ratio of positive comments (and overall reinforcement) to negative comments should be AT LEAST 5:1.

3) MODEL MODEL MODEL!!! If your child is doing anything you don't like, seriously ask yourself where they picked it up. Children are incredibly intuitive and observant. If your child attempts to resolve feelings of hurt or anger by yelling and hitting look around at where they learned how to do that (i.e. *TV, siblings, were you maybe yelling at the operator on the phone because of the $200 cell bill your husband charged last month? =0) )If you stay calm and show your child it is possible to use good coping skills (take deep breaths, give yourself cool down time) during intense situations it will help your child, of any age, learn to do so as well.

Well, there's a million other things I could say and I could easily customize an in-home behavioral plan and have you running it in your home with 12 hours of your time spread across 4 weeks. I am available for private work and offer a free 45 min. inital consultation, where I am happy to travel to your house. No packing up the tykes and attending another appointment. Good luck and best wishes. Shera


I feel for you!! I was blessed with a spirited child who has yelled at, hit, and bit others when angry...well past the age where it was ''developmentally acceptable''. We are also a family that doesn't hit or allow her to watch violent tv/movies. My husband is a former teacher, and I am a former nanny, so we have lots of experience working successfully with other people's children. I can relate to losing friends because of my child's temperement. It's also been hard to make new friends when my child hits theirs during school or a playdate. I've heard the following too many times to count: ''WE don't allow that in OUR house'' (as if my family thinks hitting and biting is okay!!!) I've learned to ignore the stares as I carry my child kicking and screaming from activities because she had hurt another child. (Parents of ''easy'' kids have no idea how hard it is for us!) It's been almost a full time job trying to teach my child acceptable behavior. I can tell you that you will have success if you work on it. It's been slow for us,but our child is changing and growing. We've made major changes in our family to help her. We switched preschools in order to get teachers who were better equipped to handle our child's issues. I changed jobs so that I would have more time to spend with her, and I've enrolled her in fewer hours at school. We consulted with Philip and Miriam Gross, a husband and wife team that work with families of challenging children. They gave us more skills and reinforced the positive parenting traits that we already had. Each kid is so different, and you just have to be consistent. The most important thing I have done is to fill my social circle with friends who are non-judgemental. It's much easier to work on your issues when the people around you are supportive (or have been through the same thing). Feel free to contact me for moral support: our circle is never closed!


I know exactly what you are going through. I think you are doing exactly the right thing by not tolerating her behavior. She will eventually understand but in the meantime, she is probably very frustrated and still very reactive, as most children are. I''m sorry about your friends responding the way they did. It seems to me if you are doing what you can to respond to her behavior, they should be understanding. What I've discovered when people do this is if they get a second child, usually they can then understand that it isn't the parents discipline necessarily, but the personality of the child. I know you are worried but your child will outgrow it sooner than you think. Her lovely side will reveal itself to others, too. Worry not. kim


I also have a son who got frustrated and has a temper, also an only child. With him, I learned early on I could see the frustration coming and would try to head it off. On the occasion where he got frustrated and threw something, hit me, etc.. I would tell him ''it's okay to get upset, but it is NOT ok to hit(bite)'' and I just kept repeating this. Also, I told him if he's gets frustrated, don't get upset - just come ask for help and I will always help. This has done well for us, after only a few times of me reminding him to ask me for help before he gets upset, he started doing it and now routinely does - so we have few outbursts now. I think they need to know it's ok to ask for help, they don't have to be able to do everything on their own, it's okay to get upset, but it's not OK to act out on it. Repetition of this message was the key to our success. Don't sweat ''friends'' who ''drop you'' over an occasional misbehavior - if it's really only occasional, then they're really not your friends because any parent will tell you that each kid has their own horrible days, it's part of growing up - and if they say theirs don't, I wouldn't believe it! Good luck!


If your child is as ''extremely verbal'' as you say, she may be hitting out of frustration that other children can't understand her. Just a thought from a preschool and after-school teacher of 20 years. rita hurault


This sounds like a very frustrating ordeal for you. It is actually more common than you might think for children to act out in this way out of frustration or anger. However, time-outs and revoking privileges often can cause more frustration for her rather than deter the behavior. And the sense of isolation of course sounds like it is just compounding the situation. One of the most helpful things you can do for her is to show her what to do when she is frustrated and continue working with her on it rather than punishing her for it, as difficult as this may sound in any given moment. The time-outs help stop the immediate situation, but don't do much for teaching her new ways of dealing with the emotions that she is feeling. Keeping our own hands ''on our own bodies'' is an important idea for kids when they are feeling upset. Finding a safe way to express the frustration is key here & is different for each child. I have seen children in my office who have tightly bound faces they make when they are expressing their frustration or kids that have a squeezy ball that they use to put all of their frustration into. There are creative ways to show kids how to express their more challenging emotions.

And of course, coming from the alternative medicine mindset, I always find that it helps to seek some alternative care when kids are having difficult times with transitions, or managing their emotions. A lot of personality extremes that children experience are helped with acupuncture (does not have to be with needles- though the children I see often like them) & herbal remedies. Both of these things help to gently bring the child back to a healthier state of emotional balance without changing their wonderful and ''spirited'' personalities. Jill


I know exactly what you are going through. My son had similar issues when he was 3. He would hit other children and me when he got frustrated and/or angry. I learned that he had trouble verbalizing what the problem was so I worked with him to use more words in order to let me/other children know what he needed. I have also used some of the techniques in 'Raising a Spirited Child' and more importantly '123 Magic'. This book really is magic. Good luck. Jackie


There was a similar question asked in one of the Advice newsletters in June, but regarding a child who was about 4 or 5. There were many great responses, most of which concluded that it's normal behavior for a LOT of spirited kids [my own included]. Sometimes, no matter how they're disciplined, kids will react in ways that remind us of how hard it can be for them to control themselves in ways we expect. In our family, we tried everything short of smacking him back, and all it eventually took was time. He's 6.5 now and soooo much more mature in his responses.

Meanwhile, the books I appreciated the most:
* The Difficult Child [bad name, great book]
* Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child
* How to Talk So Your Child Will Listen...
* Raising Your Spirited Child
* Kids, Parents and Power Struggles

-anon


Hello there. You have my sympathy. There are a tons of titles of books out there that I'm sure other posters will provide. Basically, what it comes down to, it's important to be aware of the body signals your daughter is providing to you that you must heed before she has a melt down. She'll outgrow this with your help. Try to hang in there and be persistent with your love and support. Been There


I think that you have a spirited child! My son -- a very empathetic child in a peaceful, no-TV family -- went through a similar hitting period (mostly hitting Mom, but a few times his preschool playmates) when he was about 4. Unfortunately, kids don't need to learn how to hit. They seem to just know. And it's very hard, as a parent, while it's happening. I'm sorry your friends aren't more sympathetic. We did everything we were ''supposed to'' -- cool-down period, revoking privileges, etc., but frankly, I think he just outgrew it. I'm guessing your daughter will too.

The thing that was most helpful ''in the moment'' was to stay absolutely emotionally uninvolved. One wants to get upset with a kid who is hitting. For us, that was the wrong thing to do. All went much better if I said in a calm (almost bored) tone of voice ''Oh, gee, I guess you need to go sit on the couch (leave the park, whatever) now. You're hitting people, and that's not OK.'' Then take him by the hand, or pick him up if necessary, and put him somewhere that he could sit, by himself, until he was calmer. He usually started crying after a minute or two, and then I would go sit by him, saying nothing, just putting my arm around his shoulder until he felt better.

Just an editorial comment: I think that sometimes especially intelligent, empathetic kids tend to have this sort of problem. It's related, as you've noticed, to a low tolerance for frustration. They're used to being able to do things their way, quickly, without much effort, so they haven't had a lot of practice dealing with frustration, plus they feel things very intensely.

My son quit hitting after about 6-8 months. But at 6 he still has real trouble with frustration tolerance. Now that he's older, we talk more about it, and we've been working with him on ''taking a chill pill'' (a couple of deep breaths) when he starts to feel frustrated. It's helping a little. Karen


A certain amount of hitting is normal 3-yr old behavior, but the way you describe it, it seems that your daughter is having a really hard time dealing with her frustration and her emotions. My daughter (nearing 4 yrs) also has been known to hit me on occasion (or threaten to hit me), but it was mild and she always expressed regret. She now has an alter ego/imaginary friend she turns to in frustrating situations. You might want to seek help from a preschool teacher or child psychologist (as well as the BPN list) who could help your child to find other ways to vent her frustration more appropriately. Be heartened that this is a phase she will probably grow out of, but she might just be happier if she can find a way to be calmer and get along better with others now. Easier said than done. I know. I found the following books very helpful in understanding and communicating with my daughter.
- Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy (ISBN: 0440506492)
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (ISBN: 1853407054)

Good luck! (Note that once you solve one problem, though, the next rears its ugly head. My daughter now loudly threatens to run away several times daily whenever anything doesn't go precisely her way. Sigh. This too shall pass.) -Mom of the Runaway Bunny


As the parent of a challenging or spirited kid, I am very sympathetic to your plight. (brief aside, the 'where did they learn that' question is just so irritating, I mean really, what parent is at home teaching their kid this stuff?) I assume you have 'Raising your spirited child'--we use it like a bible for our little boy--the book helped us to understand his temperment and by controlling his environment we've greatly reduced tantrums and problem behaviors.

My first thought is that if you are seeing more than one or two families shying away from doing things with you and your child, I'd be a little concerned that her behavior is more than 'typical' outbursts, and worth paying special attention to. I would start by trying two things. First, I would get her involved in some playgroups or parent/kid classes, so she can get more exposure to other children. I'd make these short events, 1-1.5 hours max, as as a spirited child, they are likely to be stressful for her, even if they are supposed to be fun. During these playdates stay right near her to help facillitate any issues that arise. Next, I'd call Meg Zweiback. She's a fantastic parent resource, located in Oakland. She works with parents and young children on behaviorioral issues, and is also good at doing an initial assessment for your child. Most families see considerable improvement with just a few visits. In our case, we continued to have challenges so she referred us to a behavioral pediatrician, so she can't solve all problems but is a great first step in working with a spirited child. Her number is: 510-836-1450. Good luck. Stephanie


maybe your daughter is hitting and yelling to communicate something when she isn't able to make herself ''heard'' otherwise. instead of ''instant time outs,'' try talking to her about why she is behaving a certain way. she is getting old enough to understand more complicated concepts about why hitting is wrong. maybe she just needs help expressing why she is frustrated. you can help her with that! also, it sounds like your ''no tolerance'' policy may have turned into a guaranteed way to get your attention. it might be consistent, which is important, but it sounds like a strategy that isn't really working. if so, it's time to change the strategy! also, it might help to get her into pre-school to be with more kids and with adults who are trained to negotiate conflicts between young children. i am constantly amazed by the expertise of the teachers at our preschool! good luck!


I can imagine how sad and worried you must feel. I agree with the zero tolerance, but I'm concerned that if she is rarely around other children, it'll be harder for her to learn the correct behavior, either by watching other kids, or giving her a chance to try again.

A 3 yr old at my child's preschool started hitting, and she was immediately removed from the situation calmly yet firmly ''You cannot play there because you hit Susie. You cannot hit Susie. You will do this puzzle alone right now, but you will have a chance to play with Susie later and you will not hit her.'' End of discussion. No long-winded explanation or rant or lecture.

So perhaps next time you're in a social situation, could you modify that sort of script? Separate for a short time, but let her watch others and then give her another chance - and help her figure out the right way ''I see that you got really upset. Next time maybe you can use your words, or stop the game, or get a grown up to help - what do you think?'' And then when she gets it right, praise her accordingly. Mom of Two


Your post sounded EXACTLY like our family, including the happy child with a low tolerance for frustration, people withdrawing, feeling judged, being the only child and isolation of the family.

My son is now 3 years and 7 months old, and has made huge improvements due to time, mirroring his feelings so he feels understood, ''That tower fell over and you are SO frustrated that you felt like hitting, because you have BIG FEELINGS!'' said in a non angry but enthusiastic and empathetic way while someone else tends to the other child. Of course we explain that hitting is unacceptable. Usually when he saw that we got how frustrated he was, it shortened the duration of the outburst. We then asked if he wanted help and then helped him figure out some other ways to act out his frustration, like banging on something soft or being held while crying or going to a different spot and yelling.

I think one big thing is not to forget that a big outburst means very big feelings that are overwhelming for a child.

For me, It was easy to be thinking about the behavior I wished was happening instead while the world was watching me deal with my child, and I was feeling bad for the other kid and hoping everyone wasn't thinking what a bad parent I was or what a problem kid he must be, all while seeing my kid feeling horrible while I'm feeling misunderstood and desperately trying to make things right.

Mostly I had to shut everything else out for a moment and mirror feelings, help him do it over if necessary, ask about the hurt child, get mine to ask how to make the other feel better and try to move on.

One other thing that helped to stop the outbursts before they came was teaching and modeling how to take a deep breath when things are just a little bit frustrating. (breathe in deep through the nose, hold it a moment, and let it out very slowly through a small hole in your lips) It was amazing to see this little guy take a deep trembling breath with tears in his eyes and try again, only to finally succeed and cry and laugh at the same time that he did it. We still take family deep breaths sometimes and are occasionally told, ''Mama, Daddy, take a deep breath'' if he catches us arguing!

If the behavior happened in a place we were visiting, we did the above steps and if it happened again, we would leave. Understand!


I too have a ''hitter'' although only 2 and a half. I do the opposite of you - we are out there, connecting and interacting with kids. Play groups, toddler & mom stuff with other kids, music etc. I stay right with my child if I think hitting/hair pulling etc may happen. And I don't do the leave immediately thing - then there is no chance to apologize and try again - ie, I am sorry I hit you, lets try to play together again - usually other kids (if you have a relationship with them) will try again too. I wonder if its less to do with the hitting then smomething else in terms of losing friends - my child has done some terrible things (hitting with objects/hair pulling/pinching) to other kids and we keep working on it & he still has lots of ''friends'' who want to come to our house & be with him. I have done tons and tons of apologizing/asking for advice/taking advice/trying new things. I think its really really hard to parent a child who is hitting so I hope none of this sounds in any way critical -- its just hard. We talk about not hitting/pulling hair before we are with kids, and praise our child when he does not do this after being with kids. Its hard but my main advice is to get out there & interact - its the only way they are going to learn. good luck


You are being a good mother to try to help your child develop social skills. And she has a lot of strengths to build on.

A variety of things can cause low frustration tolerance. Children are very affected by their physical states, so be sure she gets enough sleep, has food at sufficiently frequent intervals, etc. Your child's health and hearing have, hopefully, already been checked out. Assuming you've already consulted a fine pediatrician to no avail, I hope you'll think this problem through with competent people who have a wide range of experience. Miriam and Phil Gross of Albany might be terrific for you. Mrs. Gross is a wonderful social worker who specializes in such issues, and her husband, Phil Gross, M.D., is a renowned play therapist for children. After a number of visits, they will tell you whether they think that she would benefit from more visits to their office, further evaluation by someone else, or nothing more. Mrs. Gross works with the parents and Dr. Gross sees the child. You can look them up on BPN. I would further suggest that you don't make your first or second stop a ''behavioral pediatrician''. Although that may be quite appropriate down the line, it is likely that the outcome of the evaluation will not be as individualized as you would receive from the Grosses or another excellent team.

I am an adult and child psychologist who has done a lot of teaching about different kinds of children's problems. The Grosses are not the only way to go, but they would be my first recommendation after your child has a thorough evaluation at your pediatrician's office. (If you have Kaiser, you will need advice from someone who has used them.) You need to rule out physical sources of low frustration tolerance and, if appropriate, to focus on psychological development. The latter could be extremely useful. In the meantime, ''empathy training'' (e.g., asking what her teddy feels like when it gets hit) is worth doing, if you haven't. And helping her to label her feelings, too. At her age, she doesn't realize that she can survive frustration, and hearing this helps (e.g., ''I know it feels awful, but you'll be okay. Really.'' You might want to keep this up until she's 5 or 6.) Please don't use these as a substitute for further evaluation and help to think this through with competent, experienced people. Your child is on the verge of a wonderful stage, where she learns to make valuable connections with others as well as with you, and probably needs help from you to make the invaluable transition. Judith


I don't think punishments and timeouts help with this age group. They're not logical beings so they don't see the connection between the punishment and they're 'crime'. If your daughter isn't dealing well with frustration, does it make sense to put her in a time out and make her more frustrated or help her deal with what is frustrating her on a case by case basis. It may be that you need to watch very closely when she plays with others and anticipate and redirect before she gets to the hitting. You can't tolerate the hitting, but if that's the tool she uses to deal with her frustrations you've got to replace it with other tools. It may take awhile. Be creative. Maybe she can give you a signal, yell out when she wants to hit. You say she's verbal. Does she have your permission to express her negative emotions without hitting? You could encourage her to tell you and others when she's mad or upset. A good book is 'Raising a Daugher' by Jeanne and Don Elium. Good luck to you both. anonymous


I think you need to get her in a good preschool program. Start with a few half days a week and then build from there. I think you and your husband may be doting on her too much. A preschool program will help her get ready for school, but even better, it will expose her to the reality that she's not the center of the universe. She'll see several little children, waiting their turn to get their juice and snack, sharing toys, etc.

I wouldn't worry about whether she's ''spirited'' or not. Sounds like she just needs to get some exposure to larger groups of kids, and a preschool setting (with a good teacher) will give you a break too.


Your post really hit home with me; my son is also extremely bright and verbal, and loves to play with other kids but often seems not to know how to do so ''nicely.'' Being the parent of the ''hitter'' isn't easy for lots of reasons, and it certainly doesn't help that others do sometimes make unwarranted assumptions that you must let your kid watch violent TV or that you must yourselves be abusive! I did, however, find it pretty easy to find kids with similar behavior at playgrounds and in classes and similar places, so that reassured me that my child wasn't so far outside the normal range. Perhaps you need to try some different parks! ;-)

We did go through some counseling, both privately with Philip & Miriam Gross, and via a ''social skills playgroup'' at the Ann Martin Center. I read the Ross Greene book, ''The Explosive Child'' and the Cathi Cohen book, ''Raise Your Child's Social IQ'' These things were of some help.

But by and large the answer is time. I think some kids just have a big lag between their advanced verbal and intellectual skills on the one hand vs. their slower-to-develop social skills on the other. Low frustration tolerance and other problems in peer relationships result. Improvement comes with time and greater maturity. As someone who struggled with similar issues herself as a child, I can assure you that your daughter is not doomed to a friendless existence for her entire life. :-) And at age 6, my son is already showing huge improvement in his social skills over where he was at 3-4.

Meanwhile, you're on the right track with immediate ''withdrawal'' consequences for hitting or other aggressive behavior. It's also helpful to discuss CORRECT behavior BEFORE you go to the park or to a playdate. Also, more closely supervised playdates (perhaps with kids a bit older than your daughter), and organized groups or classes which emphasize self-discipline and social skills (such as Jim Beatty's movement classes, some martial arts classes) can help teach a young child how to better relate to peers. Try role playing, talking about conflict resolution and relating aggressive behavior to concrete negative consequences (if you try to tell everyone what to do, no one will want to play with you)...and try to be patient. Most likely your daughter will learn to read faster and more easily than most of her playmates...but will have a harder time and need more support in making friends. Think of it as an area where she just needs a little more help, rather than as her being ''bad''...and it will be easier for others to think of it that way too. Have a Hitter Too


3 1/2 yo boy hitting at preschool

April 2008

Oh my gosh. Please help. My son is three and a half and I recently--a month ago--returned to work after staying home with him since birth. I found a great, very small home-based Montessori and he goes there three days a week, half day. The rest of the time he is at home with my mom. He was/is very excited about going to school, hasn't cried or asked to come home even once since starting school. He talks frequently about the kids and what they do at school and seems to really enjoy it. My mom takes him there in the afternoons and either I or my husband pick him up. The last two weeks nearly every day when we pick him up the other children tell us that he has been hitting or pushing. We have talked with him many times about hitting/pushing--we don't hit, hitting hurts, when you feel angry/mad/frustrated walk away, and the like. We have purchased some books about ''how to behave'' ie the Cheri Meiner series, Hands Are Not For Hitting, and read them frequently. We talk after story at night in bed about how to be a friend, how to make a friend, how we don't hit, we touch gently, etc. Yesterday--no hitting. Yay. Today, all over again, three kids rush me at the door and tell me he's been hitting and pushing. Sigh. This is SO upsetting. I know its his first time in a preschool setting. I know he is an only child. I know, I know these things. But I feel like it is getting worse and not better. His teacher wants to meet with us and I'm terrified it is to say ''um, take your kid out of our school.'' My son is incredibly smart and articulate, can easily read some words and sound out lots more, knows a ridiculous amount about ocean animals & talks at length about animal habitats...he's a pretty smart, funny kid.

Help! I really feel at a loss and am utterly depressed about it. My husband and I were set to go out for a drink tonight post bath/bed routine and after the preschool pickup I feel like getting in bed and pulling the covers over my head! Sigh. I'm going to bed. julie


I don't understand why your source of information at the preschool is the other kids. Where is the teacher? If there was an incident that day, wouldn't she talk with you about it? Toddlers are not the most reliable informants! My daughter oftens say ''Marcos hit my head,'' as if it was something that just happened, or happened again, instead of something (dramatic and exciting!) that happened once months ago. If the teacher hadn't asked to meet with you, you should ask to meet with her to discuss the issue and get her advice on how to handle it.


Get those covers off your head! This is not your 'fault.' It sounds like he is just making a transition, learning the ground rules, etc. No where in your post do you talk about trips to the playground where your kid hits every kid in the sandbox or how he is a huge discipline issue at home. Talk to the teacher. She handles kids every day. She probably has great advice and is probably also going to tell you how she is handling things at the school. And, don't stress too much about the other kids. This age group LOVES to tattle (especially when there is the chance of getting another kid in trouble). I watch my own children turn inadvertent bumps into another child into major 'he did it deliberately' drama events. -don't stress


Our son is 4 and goes in fits and spurts with this behavior. We tend to nip it in the bud but I have to wonder why you are only relying on the reports of children and not the teacher. I'm not saying the kids are lying but they could be exaggerating a bit. I also would worry that they are doing some sort of name calling. i would talk to a teacher about this and work out a plan.

When this flared up the first time at our school, I talked with the teacher and I ask them every day for a report on behavior. We also discussed language we'd use to discourage the hitting so he'd get the same reaction and words at home as at school. We use ''we don't hit our friends.'' We do not use time outs for this but when we see hitting we tell him hitting hurts and if he keeps hitting other kids they won't want to play with him.

Now, also when this flared up, a few kids referred to him as the hitter kid and would say things like ''XXX hits me.'' This was after things had settled down. So, I asked the teachers if XXX was being singled out for hitting and were the kids calling him names because of it. The teachers said absolutely not and started teaching the other kids about name-calling and the thing died down. I check in every day with the teacher to discuss his behavior that day. When he has a good day, we tell him ''the teacher said you were a good friend today and you listened and set a good example'' and when we hear the opposite, we talk to him about it. It works.

If your teachers are not discussing his behavior and the kids are reporting to you about this, I'd get to the bottom of it pronto. Kids at that age are cute, but they are not the ones who should be evaluating your child's progress and I'd question a school that wouldn't talk to you about hitting right away. anon


I had the same problem. My boy was hitting at preschool including the teachers. Behavior started right at age 3. I also learned he was covering his ears at story time, and his social skills were non-existent. I had told my husband that a ''hitting'' genetic ran in my family. He argued that it was learned behavior. My father hit. My brother hit. I don't hit. Now my son hits, unlearned from 2 gentle parents who do not allow him exposure to hitting or TV violence. I was right. It was genetic, and he's diagnosed Asperger's disorder (autism spectrum). Turns out 1 in about 150 kids (majority are boys) are being diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, Asperger's or Autism. Please try getting him evaluated (ask pediatrician for referrals). We also went route of school system too (IEP - Individualized Education Plan), but didn't work for us as he was assigned to worst school known for violence and poverty. IEPs work if live in good school district, though (we're in SF). Important to know what you are dealing with first. Also try removing gluten from diet (bread, crackers, etc), then casein (dairy products), see if helps behavior too. Good luck. Suzanne


ugh. my 5 year old is hitting too, but trust me, it is NOT a bad thing the teachers want to meet and talk. You need a plan with them to handle this. It's good you're reading and teaching about it at home but you need to know it's being handled well in the moment too, and you need all their insight on how it happens. So thank goodness the teachers are meeting with you so you can all be more effective! berkeley one