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Could my son be "spirited"

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
He is fine with transitions. Very well-behaved at nursery school, swim class and any other sports lessons. In these situations he is focused and a better listener than any of his peers.
At home it is very different. He is 4 years old. He yells often when he is upset, at small things that have nothing to even do with him. When I gently model how to talk to others, or remind him that hitting is not ok, he becomes unglued and falls into a 20 minute tantrum complete with crying, screaming, kicking, his little body convulse with rage it seems like. All over me gently saying, ow, it hurts when you hit.
If his little sister accidentally bumps into him or runs into him with his book, he has to get reveenge even if both dh and I are there telling him not to retaliate. It is like he has no control over his emotions.
We are baffled and have started putting him in his room. We have never done timeouts, but I am so worried that he is going to think it is ok to scream, name call and basically be mean.
He is now doing this at outings like the zoo, the grocery store, and in the locker room at swim class. It is mostly around me. I have modeled how to use our words, tried to set up a calm down corner, tried to help him get out his aggression with pillows, nothing works.
As soon as he hears something he doesn't like from me he tailspins into a "mommy be happy, you mad be happy" but it is through tears and yelling. I tell him over and over I love him even if he is mad or I am mad. Sometimes he does this even if I am not at all mad
I am at a total loss. He has never been a great listener, or a super mellow kid, but this behavior and these tantrums are very new. It just dawned on me, maybe he is spirited.a..
Please respond, I need help.
post #2 of 9
Oh mama, I am right there with my almost-four-yr-old dd. Since she turned three she has had major tantrums, been aggressive, you name it. She has always been very intense, very emotional. Spirited, definitely. Now I have a 4mo dd2and she is even more sensitive. Poor kids.

Has there been any big change lately? I'm mainly commiserating with you and hoping to get ideas for me, too. Hugs.
post #3 of 9
if he's well behaved in other areas, might it be that the boundaries are too loose at home? That's the only think that jumps out at me from your post. It kind of sounds like you're not expecting enough of him. At 4.5 IMO a child doens't need to be reminded that hitting hurts. They need to know in no uncertain terms that it's unacceptable.

The other thing that springs to mind is that he might be tired. How much sleep is he getting?
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank you for both your responses. It helps to know I'm not the only one out there in this situation. And I agree I am too loose at home. So I guess my question is: how do I show him his actions : yelling, hitting and un acceptable. Do I start consistently putting him in time outs, take away privileges or toys...those things don't sit right with me but then again I am at a loss.
Also I think he is tired. He stopped napping a few months ago. But he sleeps 12 hours at night...
post #5 of 9
I'm right with you and DS is almost 4. I don't like timeouts and "punishments" either so one of the things I just started is putting myself in time out, by which I mean I go to my room and close the door if he starts hitting, or climbing on me while I'm eating after telling him not to, etc. It helps me not lose control and it seems to evoke sympathy in him (he stands at the door and asks if I'm ok and says he wants to play) instead of anger. If I try putting him in his room he just gets upset and loses it even more.

BTW, I don't think this is ideal but I'm really trying to set some hard boundaries before I completely lose control. It is so frustrating to have a very physical kid hitting and jumping on me all of the time and then screaming when I say it isn't ok. Good luck and hope everyone has some ideas.
post #6 of 9
Originally Posted by seamama11 View Post
So I guess my question is: how do I show him his actions : yelling, hitting and un acceptable. Do I start consistently putting him in time outs, take away privileges or toys...those things don't sit right with me but then again I am at a loss.
Why don't they sit right with you? I don't want anyone who hits me in the same room as me. Same goes for someone who yells at me. It's a bad vibe in the house and there is no place for it in the communal areas.

If someone yells and hits then I am not in the mood to take them to the park. Why would I want to do something fun for my child after they scream at me?

I never understand the whole 'no punishment/no consequence' thing. It seems so fake and illogical to me!

I also would not be putting myself in time out. I am the boss (well, me and my DH) in this house. I make the rules. I'm not going in MY room because my 4 year old is acting out! I think that has the chain of command completely backwards. I don't think it's healthy for a child to think that they are in control. They are children. Here to learn and we're here to teach them.

(Then again I totally get that people read my posts and think I'm some kind of tyrant! Which I'm not).
post #7 of 9
I'm with D_McG. I don't understand why people are anti-time out. I'm open to reading about it, and learning more, but kids need to know that when they hit, there are consequences. If its time-out that teaches them that, so be it.

I don't know that taking away privileges would be a good discipline method at 4, but removing them from the people they hurt seems like a pretty good natural consequence. I also don't think just gently saying "ow that hurts" will get across the message that they are hurting you - there need to be clear boundaries, and clear well laid out consequences that are the same every time. I don't have a 4yo yet, but my 21mo has to have clear consistency or nothing works - I can't imagine that being inconsistent with an older child would work either.
post #8 of 9
I actually think walking away from a child who is hitting is a lot more of a natural consequence than time out. After all their friends aren't going to put them in time out if they act up and neither are most other adults, they're just going to walk away and they're going to have to prevent that and make amends when it happens.

We both know I'm the one in charge so I'm not really concerned with demonstrating my authority all the time but trying to teach a lesson about how to behave - that hurting people means they don't want to be with you (and btw, calm myself down too. I think its sometimes lost that some of us are still dealing with tempers of our own).

I think people should do whatever works, but I don't use time outs because it doesn't work for the kids I've seen - except for immediate compliance when an authority figure is around (and after much threatening).
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
I think there is a difference between punishments and consequences. I try my best to have logical consequences to my son's actions: If he hits me, I move away from him. If he yells at me, I don't want to be near him. If he is mean to his friends at the park, we leave the park. If he throws a toy or book, the toy or book is put away.
What I struggle with is punishment. It is obvious to me that he is going through a phase in his life where he feels emotions, anger, and frustration strongly. Ideally I would help him handle his emotions in the moment, rather than punish him afterwards. I actually have been consistent up until a month ago when I changed the plan and started trying to use timeouts or putting him in his room, which made him furious, more aggressive, and didn't change the behavior I was targeting.
I am not sure how you see that as fake, but ok.
The reasons timeouts, taking toys, priveleges away doesn't sit right with me is I feel like rather than helping to prevent the blow up, or teach him to better deal with his frustrations, I am punishing afterwards....
Like the last person to comment, I really don't have any interest in "showing him whose boss" He knows I am in charge, and in most cases he is respectful, follows directions, and can transition well. The trouble comes when he thinks I am mad, he is in trouble, or I am sad. He is very sensitive. I may be wrong, but I feel like locking him in his room, or forcing him to sit on a chair while his so upset isn't the way I envision building trust, respect, and a good relationship with him.
However, the hitting, yelling, and rage he feels over the smallest things are not ok.
I was hoping someone would explain how they show that these behaviors are not acceptable, families that don't use timeouts.
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