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Exuberant 2 Year old - need advice... desperately

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

The best word I can think of to describe our son is: exuberant.  He just turned two (two weeks ago) and I am running into challenges disciplining him.


Before I get to the challenges, I need to give you the easy parts: he will sit and look at his books for 30-40 minutes, he loves to sit and be read to for at least an hour at a time (he wakes me up by giving me a book to read), he loves to color and will sit at his table and color by himself or with me for at least a half an hour, he will play outside with his trucks in the sand pit for hours (checking in and asking for me to play periodically), and he loves other people.  What I am trying to say is that he has a nice balance of moods, activities and activity levels.


The challenges we are facing is that his zest for life/exuberance/excitement sometimes include un-desireable behaviors:  hitting children to get their attention (especially those who aren't as socially engaged as he is), hugging other kids too much (combined sometimes with jumping), throwing objects, playing rough and just getting over-excited.


None of these behaviors are done in anger; he always has a big smile and is happy.  (I have seen him frustrated when he can't have a toy another child is playing with, and he will say 'I want' in frustration, but never hits or gets physical - completely different behavior.)


There are certain kids in our play-group that are frequently the recipient of the unwanted behaviors, and they tend to be (as I said before) the less engaged kids.  This doesn't happen with kids 5 months older than he is, or when it is 1:1.  I do see this over-excited behavior at home too - usually when he is getting tired, waiting for Daddy to come home, adult friends who he really likes visit, or is just bored.


One side of me wants to keep him out of the playgroup situations that present the biggest challenges (both for me and him; I get extremely stressed and hyper-vigilant so I can redirect him or try to teach him that these behaviors upset others).  The other side of me worries that I am not presenting him with enough of these situations and maybe that is why he gets so over-excited.  (To clarify - we are out in the community frequently during the week; I try to have one day a week when we stay home the entire day, but we are out varying amounts of time for various activities the other days).  We eat organic, mostly home-made foods, no television in the house, lots of outdoors time, family bed transitioning to his own mattress next to ours, still nursing, very stable household.


Is this his age?

Please help!


post #2 of 4

I would say it's his age.  My almost-2-yr-old sounds very similar.


You say you redirect and explain that it hurts.  We do that, too.  Do you do anything else?  

In a playgroup situation I scoop him up, take him away from the group for a minute, talk about the rule, and then hold him firmly for a while (about a minute) to "think about it."  And I explain the consequence for doing it again, making sure that I can live with the consequence.  (I learned that the hard way by saying we'd have to leave if . . . and then having to go home.)  


Giving a specific alternative in the redirecting helps, too. For example, he loves to throw playground material---recycled rubber tires, gravel, or wood chips.  He's not allowed to throw it, but ht's allowed to pick it up and drop it.  He likes to scream, so we practice our "inside scream."  Jump here, not there. Eat this, not that.  Friendly fist bumps, not overwhelming hugs.  Over and over and over again.  

post #3 of 4

I think it is helpful to analyze what you are *really* communicating to your toddler in these situations.


For example, when he hits someone, and you say, "We don't hit.  We touch like this."  And then you help him do it right, and then, do you resolve his problem?  Does he get the attention he needs?  Is the other child to compelled to play like your son wants?


Because, if that is how you handle the interaction, you are actually teaching him to hit.  Sounds crazy, huh? 


But, if he is hitting to get a response, and he gets it, then all the stuff you do in between is just the stuff he has to go through to get what he wants. 


Let me say it another way.  Children learn things contextually more than verbally.  When you put your shoes on, does your ds get excited to go outside?  When you pick up a book, does he run to sit on the couch?  Why?  Because that's what you do. 


So, if he wants his friend to play or give him a toy, he hits them.  The child screams, you intervene, and he is told "we don't hit", etc.  And then his friend plays, or he is distracted by another toy or whatever.  This is what he has been TAUGHT to do in this scenerio.


Try this instead:


Stay very, very close with him.  Watch for his cues.  You can either leave immediately (no shame for the boy, this is all about management until he is more mature), or you can prevent the issue.  Both options are valid.  But, let's say you stay.  So, he starts doing things that you know are going to lead into an issue.  Step in THEN, before there is one.  Take his hand so he can't hit, and walk him through what to say and do.  You have to teach him to do what you want, NOT react and correct afterwards.


If he does hit or hurt someone, I would stop explaining.  I would be certain that he does not get anything out of the exchange.  I would just say, "If you hit, you sit."  And plop him down beside me for a few minutes.  No other words, nothing interesting, and certainly no benefit for his frustration.  If he gets up, just sit him back down again.  Make sure he gets up on your terms, not his.  I wouldn't look at him, or engage him other than to put him down if he gets up.  Don't make him sit long, he's little yet, a minute is plenty.  When you send him back to play, be RIGHT with him, and don't let it happen again.    I would also say that if you have an issue with him, it is probably best to stay until you have the chance to work through a few without him hitting.  You either need to leave before it happens, OR stay until you've worked through it for the day.  Anything else is confusing, I think, to one so young.






post #4 of 4

Okay, sorry.  I read your post, OP, through my personal filter.  We have a little boy hitter in OUR playgroup, and he is constantly hitting my younger kids.  I watched him for a day or two when his mom needed to run out, applied my above mentioned method, and the hitting completely stopped in my presence.  Completely.  There were no tears on his part either. 


But, your little guy isn't doing it for attention, and in that case I would avoid scenerios where he is going to have trouble.  I wouldn't want him to learn bad habits there.  Give him 6 months of so, and the issue will probably go away.  I would jsut prevent it as much as possible.

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