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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It started about a year ago when he became a "biter". First it was me (on my shoulder, I started carrying him facing out all the time), then his sister (albeit usually provoked). This past spring he started scratching other kids. It started with the odd report here and there, incidents I hadn't witnessed, and I assumed it was the usual toddler tussles. But when I finally witnessed it I was shocked. He would just walk up to little kids and try to scratch their eyes out.<br><br>
I started having to shadow him everywhere we went, and avoided places with little kids as much as possible. For a while it would seem like things were getting better, but then they'd get bad again. Lately he's pushing them and being really rough. Yesterday at the playground he tried to push a little girl down the slide, and when she started freaking out he grabbed her hair and yanked out a chunk of it.<br><br>
He appears not to be angry or frightened when he does this; he's almost smiling. He also appears to have zero empathy. I really get that he has no clue that he's hurting these children, and that he's amused by the reaction from everybody.<br><br>
A few relevant points: first, he's huge for his age. He will be 3 in October and is 40 inches tall and weighs over 40 lbs. He was (is?) also speech-delayed. He didn't say one word until he was over 2. After 3 months of speech therapy where he made lightening progress (and didn't need to continue after that) he is much more verbal, but still his ability to converse, particularly when it comes to talking about his feelings, etc, is limited.<br><br>
The part I don't really understand is why it's small kids. It could be a toddler, or it could be an older child who is just really petite (the girl at the playground was 3.5 but very small). He seems to love being around bigger kids and we've never had a problem around them. It's at the point now where I can spot a potential target a mile away - cute, innocent, and small. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"><br><br>
It's horrible to be the mother of the child who hurts. It breaks my heart that my sweet, loving son is hurting other children. I can't even begin to tell you what this feels like, and what it's like to have other parents look at you like you are a horrible parent, or looking at your precious son like he's a monster.<br><br>
We've had to stop going to many places and activities because I simply do not have the energy of a toddler and I can't shadow him continuously for very long. It also sucks for my DD who is basically abandoned by me b/c I have to stay so close to DS. Fortunately, we are moving to a house with a fenced yard and will no longer have to rely on public playgrounds and parks for our outside time.<br><br>
I guess what I'm looking for is this: I want to try and understand why this is happening. And I'd like to hear from anyone who has experienced this, and perhaps get a hint as to how long we will have to deal with this.
 

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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug"> That is so hard to deal with. FWIW, you're not a horrible parent.<br><br>
I think you should take him to a developmental pediatrician for screening/evaluation. I assume since he's already had speech therapy that he's been involved with early intervention? If so, I would call your case manager and tell them you want an ADOS screening and a general developmental evaluation. If he's not involved with early intervention (I don't know what you call it in CA, it might be called the birth - 3 program), I would give them a call. Cross post this in special needs, there are a lot of Canadian moms there who can tell you whom to call and how to go about everything.<br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug">
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, Finch.<br><br>
He had screening when he entered speech therapy. They immediately ruled out autism spectrum disorders because he engages socially so well with people. Certainly with adults and any child who is bigger/older than him he does just fine. He also has a friend the same age as him, and much smaller by the way, that he's known since birth and they rarely ever have problems with each other.<br><br>
I suppose I'm afraid to find out that there is "something wrong" with him. In every other way he seems to be just your average kid. But I suppose a call to the family doc wouldn't hurt.
 

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Nah, I don't think there is anything wrong with him. Nearly every family I know has one kid who went through a phase of being a "hurter". Heck, all 3 of mine have gone through biting phases. My oldest, who was also speech delayed bit for the longest.<br><br>
At least among friends, I think it is always the parent of the biter who is more upset than the parent of the bitee -- when my kids have been bitten/hit/hurt by other kids, I am able to feel very "kids will be kids" about it. But when my kids are doing the hurting, I feel like crappola mom of the year.<br><br>
(((hugs))). Keep him close, and bide your time. He *will* outgrow it!
 

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UI think is obvious why he does this to smaller children. he is smart enough to reason out that big kids will win a fight.<br><br>
he is going to have to be in social situations in order to learn how to be socially appropriate. However when you are in these situations you are going to have to be right on top of him and really tuned in every minute of every interaction. close enough and paying attention enough to catch his hands before they come down to scratch. and then let whatever consequences you decide on follow consentantly (if it were me the minute he ot into the "must scratch" mode we would pack up and elave. end of story.)<br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug">s<br><br>
I had a biter. it totally sucked. She bit herself too. so she knew good and well how it felt. but she has just always been more physically expressive. fortunately she has learned that it is never appropriate to bite or hit. and is pretty good about it most of the time. at least I can't remember the last time she bit someone besides her sister.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Problem with up and leaving immediately is I have his sister to think about. It just wouldn't be fair to drag her away from the playground or wherever we are because of something her brother did.<br><br>
However, I do remove him from the immediate situation, and I sit with him and try to convey that what he did was wrong. Thing is, DS smiles and seems to thoroughly enjoy being carted off. He seems to feed off the reaction from me and the other adults, just like DD did when she was 2 and discovered the TV on/off button, kwim? But in this case his "button" is not so benign.<br><br>
I know how to prevent it - avoid all targets and don't go to places where I can't shadow him effectively. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"> It's easy to start feeling sorry for myself. Other moms with kids his age are able to gather and chat, but I can't leave DS's side except in certain "safe" situations (read: no toddlers) and I feel resentful sometimes. Hopefully our new living situation will change that - I can let him run free and I can control who comes over to play.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>gus'smama</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/8966386"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Nah, I don't think there is anything wrong with him. Nearly every family I know has one kid who went through a phase of being a "hurter". Heck, all 3 of mine have gone through biting phases. My oldest, who was also speech delayed bit for the longest.<br><br>
At least among friends, I think it is always the parent of the biter who is more upset than the parent of the bitee -- when my kids have been bitten/hit/hurt by other kids, I am able to feel very "kids will be kids" about it. But when my kids are doing the hurting, I feel like crappola mom of the year.<br><br>
(((hugs))). Keep him close, and bide your time. He *will* outgrow it!</div>
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wow! how can you say that that behavior is normal? For a 3 year old? WOW!<br><br>
there is no "kids will be kids" with "trying to scratch someone's eyes out". sorry.<br><br>
I'm wondering... what has the op done to stop this? Has there been a talk? What was his response? My son hasn't ever hurt another child... but a friend of mine has a child that would occasionally get aggressive w/ other children. He was large for his age, between the yeawrs of 3-4. the mom would warn him BEFORE the playing started NOT TO HURT ANOTHER CHILD, and if he did.. she would remove him from the situation and he wouldn't be allowed back at the playground the next day... and she would remind him the next day WHY they were not going. Finally, he learned to control himself. But , this was a child that would get MAD and then be aggressive... not just do it for no reason
 

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The whole "lack of empathy" thing is what struck me the most. I try to temper my radar 'cause I know I view the world through a skewed lens, but my radar totally went off with the OP.<br><br>
I think she needs to get her son evaluated, and if it turns out there's nothing going on, then great. It would be a real shame for something to really be going on with this child, though, and for nothing to be done about it.<br><br>
I want to emphasize that I do NOT think the OP's child is horrible or a monster or anything bad. Not at all. However I DO think there's something more there than a "phase" going on. That's all.
 

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I agree with PPs who state that it is within the realm of normal behavior, and that it will probably pass as he grows older and discovers that other children are fun in other ways besides getting exciting reactions out of.<br><br>
Piglet68 I think your ideas about limiting playgroups, going to the park, etc until this phase passes is a good idea. Did he do any therapeutic playgroups while in EI or anything? DD (2.5) also has speech delays and is doing both individual therapy and therapeutic playgroups - through the playgroup we have met other moms/children DD's age who understand that a child can be aggressive through no fault of the mom, or the child, and when we have playdates with these specific families, either one of us moms will hop in to protect any other child from a bite or hit. Without judgement, or punitive parenting techniques. Its easier because you can relax and not have to be "on guard" every second. If you can't find a supportive playdate/playgroup like this, then staying at home or finding alternate activities that don't involve other small children sounds like the best plan.
 

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I'm interested in hearing what the consequences are besides taking him and sitting with him...
 

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I would say def get another eval. DD has SID and she also had a stroke which caused nerve damage. She doesnt feel a lot. So she could not understand other kids being hurt. Falling didnt hurt her, pinching didnt hurt her etc. So she had no concept of that. We worked really hard with her specialist on gentle touch and socially appropriate behaviors. It was a hard long year but now i can actually leave her on the playground and not hover in fear of her walloping someone.
 

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<div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">It's horrible to be the mother of the child who hurts. It breaks my heart that my sweet, loving son is hurting other children. I can't even begin to tell you what this feels like, and what it's like to have other parents look at you like you are a horrible parent, or looking at your precious son like he's a monster.<br><br>
We've had to stop going to many places and activities because I simply do not have the energy of a toddler and I can't shadow him continuously for very long. It also sucks for my DD who is basically abandoned by me b/c I have to stay so close to DS.</td>
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I know <i>exactly</i> how you feel. Exactly.<br><br>
My son is a biter. And somtimes a pusher and pincher as well. He's about the same age as your son (will be 3 in November). For us, though, he hurts kids when he is provoked. For instance, someone takes a toy he's playing with, or he feels threatened by someone getting too close to him when he's getting ready to go down the slide. Obviously it's not an okay reaction, and he needs to learn better responses in these situations, but so far his impulse control in the spur of the moment isn't good despite talking about it, play acting situations at home, etc. *sigh*<br><br>
With my son, when he hurts someone we leave the situation/place immediately. No questions asked. We just go. It SUCKS because, like you, I have an older daughter to worry about, and it seems (is) so unfair that she has to leave just because her little brother can't handle himself. But I've learned that taking him aside and making him sit out for awhile doesn't do enough. It's not a big enough consequence for him. Leaving makes a bigger impact on him. (And dd <i>usually</i> understands, though it is very hard for her. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"> )<br><br>
We also discuss how we're going to play immediately before getting somewhere. We talk about how important it is to be gentle, and I remind him to use his words, not his hands or teeth, to react to situations. I also remind him that if he gets scared or frustrated to come and talk to me about it and I'll help him solve whatever problem he's having. Sometimes, while we're at wherever, I see him getting worked up and I gently take him aside and remind him to be gentle.<br><br>
When we have playground visits or playgroups without incident, I talk about the specific things he did that were great ("I was really impressed with how generous you were with Jenna." "It was nice that you let Chris go down the slide before you.").<br><br>
Anyway, I wanted to let you know that a lot of your struggles are mine as well, and I know how you feel, never being the mom who gets to sit there and sip coffee while her kids play. I, too, know how the constant shadowing can be so stressful and, really, not much fun. And I know how awful it feels to be the mother of a child who hurts others. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"><br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug">
 

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Maybe you can pair up with another adult (parent, family, dh, babysitter) that can stay at the playground with your dd so you can leave with your ds when he acts up.
 

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Piglet, my 3 year old got hit in the face with a rock with a fair amount of trauma when she was almost 3. The hitting started right after that. Mostly her sister but occasionally one other playmate in particular (who has a bit of an aggressive streak.)<br><br>
FWIW, what seems to be working is dp or I engaging in a lot of one-on-one and family play with her. She always seems really sunny and happy except for seemingly whacking without provocation. The increased interaction is the only thing that's helped.
 

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My daughter is a similar age (will be 3 in September) and while I am VERY thankful not to have the situation you have, we seem to have a mini version in which she mistreats our cat, and tends to push a friend of hers who is smaller and weaker than her.<br><br>
She does not do these things out of anger either, and seems to be cheerful while hurting. When pushing the toddler, she usually just seems excitable. You know, they're running around together and she loses control. However, I wish she seemed to understand or care about the concept that the little girl gets hurt when we explain why we don't push!!<br><br>
The thing is, my almost-three year old is not down with consequences yet. I can say that if you do this, we will do that, but it means nothing to her. I can say we won't go to the zoo unless you're nice all day, but she just doesn't understand yet. I have no idea when this will change. She is very verbally advanced and speaks in full and elaborate sentences, but that doesn't mean she follows this concept.<br><br>
Anyway, I know my daughter is nice and darling and not evil, and I imagine you know these things about your son. So I don't know if consequences work any better with him than with mine.<br><br>
It might be that you need to the leave the park immediately even at the expense of your daughter. Maybe you can give her a treat to make up for it, or find some just her and mom or just her and dad time to go the park once a week, or something. At least you'll have your fenced yard soon and can kick mean boy inside and let nice girl keep playing with friends!!<br><br>
For my sake and yours, I hope it's a short lived phase. Hugs!
 

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I have dealt with a very aggressive little boy and offer you my complete sympathy. I wish a had a magic wand for you, but I don't.<br><br>
Leaving the playground sounds like good advice, and really, I understand it is often the only thing you can do. But I found that it only ended the problem until the next time we went to the playground. It can be sooooo lonely to not have any interaction with other moms because you are either 1) shadowing your DC or 2) on your way home after only a few minutes because your DC acted aggressively. I can't tell you how many times I cried all the way home. And this was for years, not just a week or a month. Arrrrrrggggghhhhh.<br><br>
I would recommend consulting a child psychologist - I found this very useful, not so much for DS, but for myself. I needed to have a plan of action and our psychologist was very helpful for MY mental state.<br><br>
I would also reccommend finding child-free activities for yourself in evenings and weekends. Being isolated for 8-10 hours a day is a little more bearable if you know that that evening you get to go to your book club, or knitting group, or art class, or whatever.<br><br>
And try to develop a thick skin around MDC. It's hard to read advice like, "I just explained to my DC in a calm voice that they should never do XYZ again and they never did!" Or, posts where the OP assumes that an aggressive child at the park must be being beaten by his parents or else where would he have learned that behavior. Another, Arrrrrggggghhhhhhh!
 

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DS is almost 5 and we've struggled with similar issues. He has some sensory issues and is very sensitive to all kinds of things. It's confusing to the observer because he's reactive/aggressive because he's sensitive, not because he's a brute. We've had multiple assessments and it appears to come down to sensory and temperament (he's an extrovert, which makes it all seem "more").<br><br>
Similar to you, OP, I have an older DD and there were occasions where I had to provide her with an attractive alternative when we were vacating a situation when DS was being inappropriate.<br><br>
When all of this started to be a real problem on the playground (say 2.5), I worried about the empathy part. DS seemed to have no empathy and I worried I was raising a sociopath. I did some research and moral development happens on a timeline and it's within the range of normal for preschoolers to have only rudimentary empathy. He is now extremely empathetic and sensitive to others.<br><br>
Strategies we used:<br>
1) Discuss what is appropriate before entering the play area;<br>
2) Ensure the child is fed and watered <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/winky.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Wink"> ;<br>
3) Take breaks occasionally, where the child comes and sits with mom, and maybe a quiet friend or big sis, and have a small snack or drink of water - this keeps their systems balanced and gives them some decompression time;<br>
4) Shadow, redirect, and model appropriate behaviour;<br>
5) Use words - "that's nice the way you're shovelling the sand into the bucket"..."Sally's sure enjoying swinging!"..."you will have a turn in 3 minutes when Billy's finished his turn."<br><br>
There are a range of consequences possible. Leaving is the obvious one, but it may or may not be obvious to your child. If this is a developmental stage for your child, he's going to develop out of it when he's ready. At best, you can expedite when that happens but you can't make it so today. IMO, you have to find a livable balance between avoiding harm to others and providing your son with opportunities to learn socially appropriate behaviours.<br><br>
When something does happen, take some time afterward to reflect on what happened before (like 5-10 minutes before) the incident. There may be some surprisingly obvious triggers.<br><br>
My first child was remarkably empathetic and gentle from an early age. I judged the parents of her peers who hit/were aggressive <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/redface.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Embarrassment"> . Each child is an individual, and in many families there will be one child who is very gentle and one who is not - irrespective of parental influence. I cried many times over my son's hurting another child, and I've busted my butt to help him develop out of it. And one of the things I dislike most of all is knowing that someone's judging us because they've not experienced what we are/have.
 

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OP, I really believe this is within the realm of "normal" behavior of a 2 year old (is that right?).<br><br>
DS went through something similar with younger kids but he grew out of it. Social immaturity. That's all. I only avoided playgroups with other 2 year olds or younger because he didn't do this with Older Kids.<br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug"> I've been there and rest assured he will grow out of.
 

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Piglet...my dd1 (now 5.5) was exactly as you describe Sasha. EXACTLY. Very large for her age, speech-delayed (and some developmental delays as well). She never bit or scratched, however she would push and hit other children and constantly take toys away. She also seemed to "target" smaller kids. SHe was would just go up to kids and push them or grab their toys or hit.<br><br>
However, with her she was DEFINITLY worse in an enviroment in an enclosed enviroment (ie someone's house, a playgroup setting, LLL meeting). She was actually not too bad at playgrounds (although I still had to shadow her)<br><br>
It started right around age 2 and lasted for about 5 months. Then it got better for awhile, however right around age 3 it started up again and lasted for another 3 months.<br><br>
We haven't had that problem since about 3 years and maybe 3 months. She is now 5.5 and plays together beautifully with other kids, is one of those girls who is "always good", very social, loves friends, etc.<br><br>
With her, I think what really "cured" it was when she FINALLY learned to actually play WITH other kids. My "theory" is that she was WANTING to interact and play with other kids, however she didn't KNOW how, so she would be agressive with them instead. Once she really learned how to talk well and interact and play WITH children,the problem stopped and hasn't re-surfaced.<br><br>
In the meantime it did suck. I would just follow her around and intercede in all interactions *before* she could hit. We also basically just avoided the big triggers, playgroups at house, or chuches or LLL or any playgroup type setting with toys.<br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug">s. It WILL get better.<br><br>
Also I see your are homeschooling. Those groups will probably have more older kids and fewer youner ones..right. I know our homeschool groups do have a *few* younger kids, but are mostly older kids. Getting together with moms, might be a "safer" way you can see friends.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>BellinghamCrunchie</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/8967357"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Did he do any therapeutic playgroups while in EI or anything?</div>
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No, I've never heard of anything like that, but it sounds really nice to be around other parents who "get it". My mama friends have been wonderful, even when it's their child getting hurt on occasion. Their sympathy and understanding are what make the tears I'm trying to hold in come pouring out. But at public places with stranger parents it's of course much different. One dad on the ferry tried to get in my face after DS pushed his daugher; luckily DH was there and much bigger than this guy so he backed off.<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Adasmommy</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/8969130"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">The thing is, my almost-three year old is not down with consequences yet. I can say that if you do this, we will do that, but it means nothing to her. I can say we won't go to the zoo unless you're nice all day, but she just doesn't understand yet. I have no idea when this will change. She is very verbally advanced and speaks in full and elaborate sentences, but that doesn't mean she follows this concept.</div>
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To those who've asked about consequences, read above. My son is the same way. He is not yet sophisticated enough to understand. It would be like trying to have that conversation with a 1 year old.<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>joensally</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/8969521"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">DS seemed to have no empathy and I worried I was raising a sociopath. I did some research and moral development happens on a timeline and it's within the range of normal for preschoolers to have only rudimentary empathy. He is now extremely empathetic and sensitive to others.</div>
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Thank you for this. I also did some online searching and also found he was within the normal age range. In fact, in the last few weeks I've noticed him starting to point out when someone is crying, whether he caused it or not. He'll tell me that DD is crying, for example. And at the playground he told me "baby crying" (in a sad voice) in reference to the little girl he hurt. Would you consider that the beginning of empathy? He just seems oblivious to the fact that his actions may have caused the crying.<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">Leaving is the obvious one, but it may or may not be obvious to your child. If this is a developmental stage for your child, he's going to develop out of it when he's ready. At best, you can expedite when that happens but you can't make it so today. IMO, you have to find a livable balance between avoiding harm to others and providing your son with opportunities to learn socially appropriate behaviours.</td>
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This is what I've been going with so far. I'm going with the assumption that when he's fully verbal and more sophisticated in his social development this won't be an issue. It's helpful to hear others' stories.<br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>ameliabedelia</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/8970675"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">With her, I think what really "cured" it was when she FINALLY learned to actually play WITH other kids. My "theory" is that she was WANTING to interact and play with other kids, however she didn't KNOW how, so she would be agressive with them instead.</div>
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I have often thought this myself. He can't really hold a conversation with kids his own age, they don't understand him. However with adults he's great b/c the adults can usually figure out what he's saying. And older kids just let him follow them around; if he tries to "wrestle" with them (a favorite game of his) they are cool with it. He's really into physical play, which may be part of why he loves hanging with older boys. There's this one 5 year old at our homeschool group that loves to wrestle with DS. I've seen DS try to initiate a wrestling game with small kids when he's really excited.<br><br>
Someone, I forget who now, said with their child it was about being crowded. When I think about the latest incidents they have all been when either a young one approached him or when he's been in close confines (at the playground it happens on a particular play structure platform where the kids have gotten right in his space). So perhaps a sensitivity to personal space is an issue (sometimes I think he sees little kids as annoyances, like a fly you would swat at).<br><br>
The homeschooling has been great because there are older kids for him to play with. He learns alot from them. I'm glad we are homeschooling b/c I think an environment of being surrounded by little kids would be awful for him. And I am quite sure we'd be kicked out!
 
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