How to stop aggressive silliness - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-05-2010, 09:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Someone else must have had this problem? I have searched all though this forum. I need HELP.

DS is about 2.75. He will come up to me and just start hitting me. He thinks it's funny I guess. He will just start flailing around, hitting and kicking and just being overall obnoxious. And he will.not.stop. Or he will scream and scream and squack and yell until my head feels like it will explode. Or he will just flail around when I'm trying to brush his teeth or put him to sleep (and it's not that he doesn't want to, he's just being silly, but it's a type of silly that I just can't handle because it doesn't allow me to get the job done and it HURTS when he slaps me).

I am at the end of my rope. I have tried putting him in his room when he gets silly like this. He just comes right back out, silly as ever. Or he cries, and then I hug and talk to him and he promises not to hit anymore and then he comes out, silly as ever. I have tried ignoring it (with the screams only, I can't ignore him hitting me). Not only does ignoring not stop the behavior right then, it doesn't seem to have had any effect on the frequency of it. I have tried slapping him to show him that it hurts people when you hit them (I KNOW I KNOW it's awful). No effect, he cried, we hugged and made up, and 7 seconds later he was back to hitting me. I have tried just moving away from him to stay out of range - he either chases me or gets upset until I come back, at which point he resumes aggressive silliness.

I really cannot handle this. Someone, please help...what can I do?

I should restate one more time in case it's not clear - he's not mad at me when he does this (at least not usually he's not) - he's just being silly and annoying.

ETA: I just thought of another thing I've tried. Holding him to keep him from hitting and kicking. Not only is it next to impossible to get all those silly body parts down but it works about as well as putting him into his room, which is to say...for about 4 seconds.

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Old 04-05-2010, 10:46 PM
 
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Could he be bored? What's he got going on during the day? Can you find something for him to be intensely involved in on a daily basis? Preferably something very physical.

Get him a mini trampoline!

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Old 04-05-2010, 11:08 PM
 
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My daughter went through this phase, and the thing that worked for us actually was an accident. I was so tired and fed up, then she slapped me in the face really hard (while laughing). I just broke down crying and ran to my room. I think she was just so shocked that she actually had hurt me that it sort of broke her out of the behavior. Not that it was a really wonderful way of responding to the situation, but I guess in retrospect it worked. After that, when she hit me I would make a sad face and say "Why did you hit me? Hands in this family are not for hitting!" and she would stop.

The flailing around continued for awhile until I just stopped making it a game by just walking away. So if I was trying to dress her, and she was flailing about, I'd just say "okay, no clothing. But we can't go to the park until we are dressed. So I guess no park. When you decide to get dressed and go to the park, let me know." Then I would walk away. When it stopped being a game, she stopped doing it.

Good luck. I know how hard it is to deal with that behavior.

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Old 04-05-2010, 11:32 PM
 
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I absolutely agree with a pp who suggests providing him with lots of very physical activities throughout the day. The indoor trampoline sounds awesome. Dancing is another good one.

Besides that... what about re-directing the silliness? When my kids (mostly I'm thinking of my 2.5 yr old) are screaming or making crazy loud noises (being silly) I try to nudge them into other forms of vocalization. I might try to get them to do animal sounds, or sing a song, or I might even give them a recorder to play, or suggest they go in the music room and make music (we're professional musicians which is why we happen to have a music room btw ).

For hitting can you try to channel it into a game? Like "oooh.. hitting! hitting! let's hit the couch! Here's a cushion - grab it and bonk it on the couch!" (you bong cushions with him) Then try a transition... "What about jumping? Can you jump like a kangaroo?!?" (said while jumping like a kangaroo) Of course this takes no small amount of energy on your part... but sometimes when I force myself to play like this I actually get energized and start to enjoy the silliness of it myself.

Show him that it's ok to be silly, and show him acceptable ways in which to express his silliness.

Toothbrushing can be silly too. We play a game of "catching the cavity bugs" where I name the kind of "cavity bug" that I see and then I try to brush it off. Like "ooo there's a monster cavity bug - I better get it", and then I'll throw in a silly one like "there's a cat cavity bug!" and my ds will think it's hilarious (because cats are "good guys"). If your ds insists on flailing around I would say "I'm sorry - we have to brush your teeth" (for me tooth-brushing is as non-negotiable as staying in the carseat in the car - I'm sure other mamas here feel differently) and I would put him on my lap, wrap my arm around him to hold him still and get it done as quickly as possible.

The bedtime flailing is tricky. That would definitely push my buttons too. I wonder if you have enough physical and silliness outlets during the day if he might be less likely to act out like that at bedtime? Or at least you can get across the idea that silliness is ok (appropriate silliness that is), and most of the day it's great to act silly, but now it's bedtime and it's time to relax. Not a time for silliness.

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Old 04-06-2010, 12:15 AM
 
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I have 4.5 yo twins who both have major over-the-top silliness issues and they feed off of each other to push it beyond over-the-top. When they were younger the only thing that could get through it was distraction with something more interesting than the silliness, and quite honestly I couldn't always find something. Like pp mentioned, games for toothbrushing and getting dressed were good, telling stories while combing hair or doing other tasks, from dinner time on never focusing my attention on anything but them (a 5 minute conversation that they aren't involved in over dinner and they're off and running), if there isn't some task we're trying to get through that needs to be done then sending them or taking them outside usually calms them. For them it was all about keeping them engaged.

As they've gotten older the distraction doesn't work quite as well as it used to but just recently I asked each of them separately in a calm moment what I could do when I need them to reel it in a bit. One said for me to say "Stop it now -- and I'm really serious." The other said I should give her a big hug without saying anything. So I've been doing these things when distraction has failed and they've actually gotten the message for the most part. It definitely wouldn't have worked when they were under 3 but at least now I have hope that there will someday be some self-regulation.
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Old 04-06-2010, 12:32 AM
 
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My cousin had this issue and she enrolled her little boy in Karate. he was 2.5 yo when he started. The first thing they taught him was respect and and self control and then how to harness his energy for good.

He has a healthy outlet for his physical exuberance and he just got his yellow belt, which is pretty cool for a 4 year old!

Maybe look into a martial arts program.

and maybe also one of those blow up punching clowns that fall down and rock back up...then he could attack the doll instead.

As for the teeth thing, you could, if you are not above scare tactics, show him a video on Youtube of a dental procedure. His friend had to have a root canal and the story she told scared him so much he asks me to brush his teeth for him now. My mom, convinced that children over three should do everything themselves, tried to convince him in January that he was too big to have his mommy brush his teeth and I swear I almost killed her! I reminded him of Hannah's story and he lets me do it again.

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Old 04-06-2010, 12:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you everyone so much for your input.

Quote:
Originally Posted by journeymom View Post
Could he be bored? What's he got going on during the day? Can you find something for him to be intensely involved in on a daily basis? Preferably something very physical.

Get him a mini trampoline!
Yes, he absolutely could be bored and I'm not really sure how much I can fix that. He has a whole bunch of toys he never plays with, he's always getting into my stuff! We are getting our house ready to sell so I have not been as available as I have been in the past (not that he DIDN'T have silliness issues before). I know it is probably not the best thing for him to have me cleaning and fixing all day long, but it needs to get done. I will have to think about the physical stuff and see if I can come up with some ideas. We had gymnastics class today though and he still went nutso!

Quote:
Originally Posted by lunarlady View Post
My daughter went through this phase, and the thing that worked for us actually was an accident. I was so tired and fed up, then she slapped me in the face really hard (while laughing). I just broke down crying and ran to my room. I think she was just so shocked that she actually had hurt me that it sort of broke her out of the behavior. Not that it was a really wonderful way of responding to the situation, but I guess in retrospect it worked. After that, when she hit me I would make a sad face and say "Why did you hit me? Hands in this family are not for hitting!" and she would stop.
Tried that too - maybe my reaction wasn't extreme enough.

Quote:
The flailing around continued for awhile until I just stopped making it a game by just walking away. So if I was trying to dress her, and she was flailing about, I'd just say "okay, no clothing. But we can't go to the park until we are dressed. So I guess no park. When you decide to get dressed and go to the park, let me know." Then I would walk away. When it stopped being a game, she stopped doing it.
Yes, this actually works for us too, when we're in the middle of something like that. It hasn't stopped the behavior completely, but it allows me to kind of nip it in the bud SOME of the time - if we're doing something like the example you provided. Often I have to do it many times though. Sometimes, like at nap time (I lie down with him) I really don't want to get back up out of bed several times in order to convince him to lie still.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pianojazzgirl View Post
Besides that... what about re-directing the silliness? When my kids (mostly I'm thinking of my 2.5 yr old) are screaming or making crazy loud noises (being silly) I try to nudge them into other forms of vocalization. I might try to get them to do animal sounds, or sing a song, or I might even give them a recorder to play, or suggest they go in the music room and make music (we're professional musicians which is why we happen to have a music room btw ).

For hitting can you try to channel it into a game? Like "oooh.. hitting! hitting! let's hit the couch! Here's a cushion - grab it and bonk it on the couch!" (you bong cushions with him) Then try a transition... "What about jumping? Can you jump like a kangaroo?!?" (said while jumping like a kangaroo) Of course this takes no small amount of energy on your part... but sometimes when I force myself to play like this I actually get energized and start to enjoy the silliness of it myself.

Show him that it's ok to be silly, and show him acceptable ways in which to express his silliness.
Thank you for these suggestions. This kind of thing is tough for me, especially when my buttons are being pushed. I am going to try harder. I had some success tonight with redirection - I had him spinning big and little circles and running from the chair to the wall and back again. Apparently he likes to feel the air, which is part of the reason he likes to flail...at least that's what he said tonight. So I'll have to consider that when thinking about what sorts of physical activity might help...

Quote:
Originally Posted by crowcaw View Post
from dinner time on never focusing my attention on anything but them (a 5 minute conversation that they aren't involved in over dinner and they're off and running), if there isn't some task we're trying to get through that needs to be done then sending them or taking them outside usually calms them. For them it was all about keeping them engaged.
Evening is when the silliness escalates here too. Maybe I should talk to DH and see if at least one of us can be focused on DS the entire evening. Hmm.

Thanks, you all have given me some things to think about. I also just put Unconditional Parenting on hold at the library, I don't know if that even comes close to addressing toddler issues, but I know it's one many here seem to like. If anyone has any other GD book suggestions you think would help me I am open to hearing them, and I think I am going to read more often on here too. Because obviously I am not good at GD. If it is going to work for us I am going to have to really try much harder.

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Old 04-06-2010, 12:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by hakeber View Post
My cousin had this issue and she enrolled her little boy in Karate. he was 2.5 yo when he started. The first thing they taught him was respect and and self control and then how to harness his energy for good.
Thank you! I had no idea you could start karate this early, I will look into it. I don't think we could start it right now because we may be moving soon, but maybe once we get resettled, wherever we end up.

Quote:
As for the teeth thing, you could, if you are not above scare tactics, show him a video on Youtube of a dental procedure. His friend had to have a root canal and the story she told scared him so much he asks me to brush his teeth for him now. My mom, convinced that children over three should do everything themselves, tried to convince him in January that he was too big to have his mommy brush his teeth and I swear I almost killed her! I reminded him of Hannah's story and he lets me do it again.
He usually is not opposed to me having a turn, just not before a good deal of silliness.

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Old 04-06-2010, 12:54 AM
 
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Hun I don't have tooo much advice, as my baby is only 16 months. But I wanted to suggest "without spanking or spoiling" by elizabeth crary. I'm most of the way through it myself and so far I like it.
I think the book would suggest that possibly this is his way of getting any kind of attention he can get. Maybe try praising/rewarding him for other good behavior (choose a few specific things maybe) and he'll stop being silly for attention?

You're doing a great job mama. And it sounds like you have an adorable DS, albiet boisterous.

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Old 04-06-2010, 02:00 PM
 
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it definitely sounds as though he may need some form of physical activity - maybe a sport or karate... something to let him get his energy out. this will probably help a lot (though it may not solve the problem completely). my toddler started getting super wild too (not hitting me, but hitting his brother) and i decided to make a chart for him - i give him an x every time he does something not nice and a check when he cooperates and helps. then we add them up at the end of the week and he gets small prices (stickers and silly things) based on his check marks. it has actually worked wonders! he realized that he was hurting his brother and stopped hitting. he still gets wild, but now it is different - it's more controlled and fun sillyness. he actually works towards getting more check marks!
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Old 04-06-2010, 02:40 PM
 
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My son has/had this exact same problem!! Exactly! He would take his silliness to a physical point both at home and at preschool. Lots of hitting and pushing while laughing. We tried EVERYTHING!! Nothing seemed to get through. Finally after a couple of months of this I tried putting him in a timeout (4 min for 4 yrs) at home for hitting/pushing behaviors. If he would hit, I wouldn't say anything to him. I just took him by the hand and set him down on the step and left to set the timer. After 4 minutes was up we discussed "What are hands for?" Then hugged and went on with our day - this ended the behavior at home. The school used a sticker chart. He earned a sticker for each part of his day that he "Kept His Hands and Feet to Himself". He loved earning the stickers and the immediate "reward for good behavior" worked for him.

I will tell you that I DO NOT use sticker charts or time outs for anything else. I don't want to overuse them to the point that they don't work.

Hope this helps.

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Old 04-06-2010, 02:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My son has/had this exact same problem!! Exactly! He would take his silliness to a physical point both at home and at preschool. Lots of hitting and pushing while laughing. We tried EVERYTHING!! Nothing seemed to get through. Finally after a couple of months of this I tried putting him in a timeout (4 min for 4 yrs) at home for hitting/pushing behaviors. If he would hit, I wouldn't say anything to him. I just took him by the hand and set him down on the step and left to set the timer. After 4 minutes was up we discussed "What are hands for?" Then hugged and went on with our day - this ended the behavior at home.
One question - how did you keep him on the step? My DS would immediately get up and run off and keep being silly.

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Old 04-06-2010, 03:23 PM
 
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I would just say, "You need to stay on the step" "You need to be quiet". If he got up or would talk, I would add one more minute and calmly but firmly say - "That's one more minute". He understood that if he stood up or talked or played on the step, he would have to stay there longer.

That's it.

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Old 04-06-2010, 08:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I can see that turning into a huge battle with my DS. When did you start that...did it work when your DC was only 2? I'm glad it works for you, don't get me wrong...it just sounds like it might not work for us.

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Old 04-06-2010, 08:23 PM
 
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Yeah. . .we started this only 4 months ago or so. My son is 4.We never did that at 2. Sorry. He might not get it at only 2. I think at two I just took his hands and said "gentle touch" and tried to stop it before he hit.

What about sleep? Do you think your son is getting enough sleep? My son would act out like that when he was tired at two years.

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Old 04-18-2010, 10:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What about sleep? Do you think your son is getting enough sleep? My son would act out like that when he was tired at two years.
Sleep....sigh. That's a whole other thread...

I am still really, really struggling with this, so I thought I'd bump up this thread. For some hugs, if nothing else. Nothing is working, he still thinks it's funny to hurt me and my DH. I don't know how to get across to him that it's NOT FUNNY. He pokes at my eyes when we're lying down to nap, he pulls my hair, pinches, kicks, hits, etc. etc. ARGH! He seems to have no compassion or remorse. I'm beginning to wonder if he's a little sociopath.

I'm so sick of being attacked all the time.

I don't know what to do.

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Old 04-19-2010, 12:23 AM
 
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Okay, this is going to be a totally unpopular response, but...here goes...

Ds was awful about this. He would push and shove and hit ALL THE TIME. From birth, practically (the pushing). He started deliberately smacking me in the face as soon as he was able. Nothing worked. And he was very difficult about just about everything all the time, too. Lots of screaming, lots of not sleeping well. Lots of, well, arg. It was a long 2 years...

Then one day, at about 26 months, on a whim, I decided to trade punches with him. I showed him how to make a fist, and helped him hit my arm. Then I hit him back on his arm. I'll be honest..it didn't hurt him, but I wasn't overly gentle about it. He hit me back. I hit him. He thought it was GREAT. He giggled, and hit me again. He still, at nearly 3, regularly comes up to me and asks me to "boop me on dis arm." And we'll play the game. I kid you not...his aggression towards me stopped immediately. It was a sensory need he had...to be hit and to feel pressure...and as soon as I gave him an outlet he took it and the problem was solved. I couldn't believe it worked.

He's still weird about this. Today, I (VERY GENTLY!) showed him the pressure point between your thumb and index finger. He thought it was hilarious.

Try to stop veiwing him as a little hitting criminal, and try to see him as a little boy who craves hard physical contact. He probably thinks it's funny, and your reactions are just interesting. So, play his game for a while, and don't attribute adult feelings to his little boyness.

By the way...ds doesn't hit other people. He knows this is a game, and he knows he can't play it with just anybody. It's really helped him a lot.

"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

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Old 04-19-2010, 01:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Just1more.

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Old 04-19-2010, 10:12 AM
 
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Maybe when he gets physical, just grab him and bear hug him and say, "Hands are for hugging". Maybe that type of physical contact will work.

Maybe completely leave the situation and ignore it. Don't give him any attention. Just say something like, "Use kind hands" and leave. Maybe all types of attention that you're giving him is feeding this behavior.

Keep trying and don't expect instant results. If one thing doesn't work, try something else.

Good luck

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Old 04-24-2010, 02:26 PM
 
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I have a 5yo & 3.5yo boys and know your pain! We're also selling our house which adds the extra stress element. Here's my 2cents:

Walk away. Go do something else in another room. If he follows you to continue the silliness, dangle a carrot: if you do xx, then mommy will play xx game or go to park when I'm done. I've been dangling a carrot for yrs.

You may need to just stop what you're doing a give him attention for 5 min. I've worked with my guys on asking for attention instead of the silliness.

For energy get a Smart Cycle! I swear by it!!

For cleaning the house for a showing, I've engaged mine by saying we need to make the house "nice & neat" (this line is from a Curious George book they like) so we can play in the new house! Helps for cleaning up toys too.

Also for selling, I'm sure you've already done this, but if not, clean out half your stuff to Goodwill, yard sales so you have empty drawers to throw toys & laundry before a showing.

Just hang in there, I'm still dealing with it at 5yo! I mean not me but my kids !! LOL!
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Old 04-24-2010, 10:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Nansense and others who responded. Things have improved a little lately.

Actually, Just1More, when I first read your suggestion I was thinking it was a little crazy, but I thought about it more and more that night, and I have tried it and I think it's helping a little. If he comes up and starts swatting at me I remind him he needs to ask to play the punching game, and that he can only play it with mommy. Then we go into the living room and punch each other.

It sounds bad, but he really enjoys it and it usually devolves into a tickling match, he burns off some extra energy, we both get a break and he gets some attention from me. It hasn't stopped the behavior but I think it has decreased the frequency of it. That and actually being able to pay attention to him now that the house is all cleaned up and on the market (actually, we got an offer today!).

I'm trying to really understand him and what needs (attention? sensory? energy?) he is trying to meet in this way, etc. Trying to get to know him better as a toddler and as a person I guess. This is the first really big discipline challenge I've had to face as a parent, so I keep reminding myself I'm just starting this journey...that helps too.

So thanks everyone again for your suggestions, and please keep them or the commiseration coming if you have more!

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Old 04-25-2010, 12:10 AM
 
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I know it's weird...and awkward to confess. And totally the opposite of what we'd like to teach them...

I'm glad maybe it's helping a little.

"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

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Old 04-25-2010, 12:00 PM
 
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Just wanted to say I thought of this post last night after I had a tough bed-time with them! They were running around the house laughing, screaming and I felt like an idiot trying to get them to calm down for bed. My mistake for making bed time too early - they were falling sleep eating dinner, but I guess the food kicked in and they got their second wind. I yelled and said not-nice things and finally had to stand at the door for 20min and they finally feel sleep.

It never fails that I have some good days and post my advice and then we fall apart and have bad-mommy moments. I guess we're all hanging in there.

btw, congrats on the offer! We have a buyer too, but they still need to sell their house.
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Old 04-26-2010, 12:09 AM
 
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I wanted to add that you might want to look into some sensory processing disorder articles/books/sites. I'm not even suggesting your little guy has SPD, but some of their ideas to fill his craving for roughness might be more palatable for you. (Like, wrap him up tight in a blanket and roll him across the floor like a steam roller.) There's tons of ideas for providing that need in a controlled way. Instead of telling him to ask for the "punching game", you could suggest he ask to "play rough", or that he's "feeling like he needs (whatever)."

"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

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