destructive toddler - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 3 Old 01-04-2007, 06:03 PM - Thread Starter
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anyone else have a toddler who seems like he must destroy everything? ds is always stomping on his toys, cats, dogs, etc. he throws, hits and kicks. i'm not sure where he's learned this behavior. we don't watch TV or endorse any sort of hitting and kicking but he loves doing it and thinks it's funny. he loves coming up to me and hitting me in the face. he'll laugh hysterically when i say "that hurts mommy". we've tried doing time out but now he just hits us then goes and sits in his time out spot. he shreds books and throws blocks. i'm at a total loss at what to do. i tried taking away the toys if he can't "be nice and gentle" to them but he doesn't care. normally i would ignore the behavior but there's only so many times i can get lobbed in the head with a 2x2 wooden block. most of his toys are pretty sturdy so he can't break them but a few have been injured. with ds2 arriving in February, i'm worried he might smack the baby with something and it will have a much more tragic outcome than when he hits dh or i. any ideas? he gets plenty or exercise and outdoor time. we do lots of different activities but all of them tend to end violently. this also applies to eating. food is just another object to throw. we've also made sure he has lots of balls to throw and we constantly demonstrate "throw the ball not the block" in hopes of satisfying his need to throw and kick in a positive manner.

anne, mama to Isaak (6.13.05) Joe (2.24.07) and Eli (8.17.09) wifey to J since 2002 petparent to our retired racer "Under Rated" aka Jango.  help put an end to dog racing! 
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#2 of 3 Old 01-04-2007, 06:19 PM
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I have destructive DS too. The I handle it is observe him. If he hits me or anyone else, he's removed to another room. Hitting is not tolerated under any circumstances. I don't call it a time out, I just tell him he needs sometime to be alone for a minute.

Also, is the time of day. When he starts getting nuts, he's usually tired or hungry. IF he's tired I get him ready for bed. It helps to set a nap time and bed time and stick to it. This way you can head off the destructive time.

IF he's hungry, he also starts to act out. Somethings that help are having three meals a day at approximately the same time. Plus regular snacks. I also have things he can get to on his own, without my help if he's really hungry.

Finally, throwing is something my DS observes me doing all the time. No I don't throw in anger, but sometimes i will toss something from a far into the sink in the kitchen, or throw the pillows onto the couch. So he does she me throwing, so I haven't had much luck in changing that behavior. Mostly giving him the chance to throw things when its appropriate, like when I throw clothes into the bathroom.

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#3 of 3 Old 01-05-2007, 09:05 AM
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My ds can get like this at times (and we too have a younger to worry about). Things that have helped:

1. Making our environment more calming. We keep *very few* toys out at one time. The rest are boxed up in the garage and we just rotate them weekly. We keep the main room he plays in as clean as possible. The more stuff we have out, and the more toys there are to pick from, the more likely he is to get like this.

2. If he starts hitting, it usually means he is tired or needs to be bottlenursed (ds is adopted) so that he can regain his equilibrium. Often, if I put him down for a nap as soon as he starts getting tense, that curbs the violence.

3. Deep touch and heavy work. Some kids who are like this are "sensory seeking." That is definitely the case for ds. An occupational therapist would likely recommend deep touch and heavy work. Deep touch means that they need to be squeazed in bear hugs, have their joints compressed (my ds loves it when I start at his shoulders, go to his elbows and wrists and hips and knees and ankles, squeazing away as I go), have some weight on them (such as a weighted blanket), get wrapped up tightly (ds likes being a "burrito" in a blanket while mommy pretends to eat the burrito), or get squished in a "sandwich" between pillows. 10 minutes of deep touch play alone a couple times a day can make a world of difference. Last night we played like this for a half hour with ds before bed, and it eliminated his usual before-bed meltdown (that happens no matter when we set bedtime). Heavy work means things like pulling a wagon filled with heavy books, carrying a heavy jug of water from one parent to another and back again, pushing a cart with a brick in it, and so forth...all in the spirit of fun and play, of course. Heavy work and deep touch provide the child with proprioceptive input, which is calming for the sensory seeking child who needs this input neurologically to process information.

4. Things to aid with transitions are helpful. ds does not do so well with transitions, so it doesn't matter if we do three great activities in the day because the transitions between the activities just make life hard for him. So, rather than cutting the activity out, we do things to aid transitions. Visual signals that they are coming, talking him through them, and so forth...we are still working on this.

5. ds benefits from routines that he can manage independently. For example, his coat is hung on a low hook he can access by himself, and he is slowly learning to put it on by himself (Montessori method). His boots are low on a shelf in a closet he can open on his own. He has snacks and water that are accessible to him in the kitchen, on his level. He thrives the more order and structure there we do things like teach him to clear his place after eating, and so forth. Order. Structure. Independence. OSI...three *key* ingrediants.

6. Limiting access to stuff he teds to destroy. For example, he has lots of board books low on a shelf (though he has destroyed a couple, he doesn't destory them nearly as easily as paper books), but most of the paper books are up high where he can't reach them. We get them down to read them to him. This helps him be successful, which creates some momentum of its own,

7. Concentrating activities...this means stuff that takes concentration. ds thrives if we give him an activity that requires focus, as otherwise he flits from thing to thing (lowest attention span known to man, I swear!). It has to be stuff that I know he can be sucessful with, but also stuff that has some challenge to it. For example, at IKEA we found this peg that you stack wooden rings onto that has some rubber grip to the pegs, so it takes a little more focus to slide the rings down the peg. When he was a little younger, he could spend 10 minutes with this! I am not thinking of a more current example off the top of my head, but hopefully you get the picture.

7. ds is a kid who gets easily frustrated. His frustration doesn't show in typical ways though. When he can't do something the way he wants to do it, he will go do something else...but *then* when doing the other thing, he is more likely to toss it around even when he isn't frustrated with that particular thing. Sooooo, we work hard to balance having appropriate challenges for ds (toys he still has to work to do what he wants to do with them) while also keeping frustration to more of a minimum than we might for another child.

8. With a younger one in the house, I have come to have zero tolerance for violence. We have dealt with it using a multi-pronged approach ranging from working with him (when he is not feeling the need to hit) to practice gentle touches (rubs, etc.), redirecting him to hit the couch when he wants to hit (he thinks it is hilarious, especially if I shout "bang" everytime he hits it), having him take a break (not time out...he gets up when he wants) by sitting on a chair when he hits...followed often by a nap or bottlenursing because usually he is tired or needs some help getting some equilibrium, being very firm when he hits, and so forth.

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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