Saturday 21 September 2013

The Sunday Parenting Party - Preschool Aggression

Taming the Goblin

Its time for the Sunday Parenting Party. Please link up any parenting posts you have. We try to keep this linky exclusively for parenting issues (anecdotes, advice, pleas for help) so please don't link kids activities unless they are specific to a parenting issue - eg how to calm your child or how to deal with messy play fears. Thanks. This week I'm linking the following: 
Goblin is nearly 4

Goblin has been getting really aggressive. For a while now the tantrums have been amping up. Lots of yelling and flailing - Over really petty things (in my opinion - obviously they aren't petty to him).
But recently the attitude has shifted from sadness to anger. He gets furious .... really ragey. 
He snarls and growls and throws things at us and hits and kicks and if we try to pick him up and move him we get head butting and scratching too. 
While away with my mother-in-law Goblin also added spitting to his repetoir - yeah because I really need you to show me up in front of my MIL Goblin, thanks for that one. Spitting for goodness sake! Its like my worst nightmare come true - I have a spitter.
We spent a week in Wales and Goblin was on his worst behaviour ever. Hublet was despairing and I had run out of ideas. The aggression felt so constant. Of course it wasn't. There were moments of harmony, but they were so few and far between that by the end of the week both of us were holding our breath when we asked him to do anything because we knew that there was a high probability of it triggering a defiant onslaught of rage.

What the hell happened? ...... Where did this anger come from? ...... And why is it all coming out in one go? ...... What are we doing wrong?

I started to read parenting forums for some answers and rapidly stopped when any parent describing this behaviour was met with "helpful" comments about getting their child a psych evaluation. Now I realise that Goblin's behaviour has been extreme but I am pretty sure he doesn't fall into the category of needing psychiatric help - he is three years old, I am guessing he needs to learn how to deal better with his emotions, not be pumped with medication or attend counselling. So I backed away rapidly from those pages and instead asked on my Taming the Goblin FB page whether this behaviour was normal. I also asked my wonderful group of Kids Blogger Network friends.
I was surprised to discover that this behaviour, while extreme, is considered totally normal in both girls and boys of this age. And this comes both from parents, and from teachers and childcare professionals who have seen many kids go through it.  

Really?  This level of aggression and anger is normal? Where are all the books about this then? There are books about the terrible twos and books about toddler taming but you don't see many about quelling the wrath of the preschooler. 

I don't like writing about things until I feel they have turned a corner, but I'm breaking that rule on this one because .... well, who knows how long this will last! Plus I'd love any advice you have on what to do with preschool rage.

In case you are wondering, some of the advice that KBN offered, which I will be putting into practice included:
- lots of exercise
- lots of opportunities for sensory play, to get out aggression
- lots of sleep (probably for parents as well as preschoolers)
- a robust routine (something we are focussing on)
- a healthy diet (we are trying to improve breakfast for a start)
I'll let you know how we get on. 
Welcome to The Sunday Parenting Party, hosted by Dirt and Boogers, Play Activities, Crayon Freckles, Taming the Goblin, The Golden Gleam, Prickly Mom, and The Tao of Poop. The SPP is place for readers to find ideas on nurturing, educating, and caring for children, as well as honest posts about the stresses of being a parent or caregiver. Links to reviews and giveaways are welcome as long as they are relevant to the topic. All parenting philosophies are welcome with one exception: please do not link to posts promoting physical discipline, as this is something we would feel uncomfortable having on our blogs. (P.S. By linking up you agree that your post and photos are Pinterest, Sulia, G+ and FB friendly. We will be showcasing ideas on The Sunday Parenting Party Pinterest board.)


  1. I hesitate to offer advice because I'm sure you've heard it all.. but.. (and take this with a grain of salt, like all advice from random internet people you haven't met)

    Red dye 40
    Yellow dye 5 and 6

    These three additives have been shown to cause some pretty horrific behavioral issues in kids. The problem is they're in EVERYTHING these days. It takes some research to find food without it.. or shopping at places like Whole Foods.

    It might be worth trying a week without it and seeing if it does make a difference? If not, you can always go back to normal eating.

    1. it might be worth a try, but if Goblin has been eating that stuff all his life why would it suddenly affect his behaviour?

    2. It could be an age thing. It affects the nervous system. Kids tends to process things differently at different ages. I do know a couple of women who went off the dye and did notice a change in their kids. It could be coincidence, of course. Heck, I think tiny boys are a mystery!

  2. Have you read Raising Boys? I'm reading it at the moment and it talks about an increase in testosterone around 4. Hope things settle down for you!

    1. I have read Raising Boys? and I jumped at the testosterone thing - until I did a bit of an on line search to try and find some medical pages that backed it up. I couldn't find any medical advice that agreed with Steve Biddulph's assertion. Its been mentioned so many times on people's blogs that I'm thinking about writing to one of the medical royal colleges to see if I can get a definitive answer as to whether its something that really happens to 4 year olds.

  3. I have no helpful advice, but I do have a comment. I have many family members with mental health issues and have dealt with depression myself. Psych evals, while maybe not what Goblin needs, shouldn't be a scary, horrible idea. The medical industry has blame in this with over medicating and over diagnosing. I hope some day we can get to a place where mental health for both big and little people can be looked at like physical health - something that we should check up on and try to improve. Sometimes we can fix it with lifestyle changes and sometimes we need intervention and all options should be ok to look at.
    Little bit of a soap box for me. Like, I said, I'm not suggesting Goblin needs one, just wanted to put it out there that mental health shouldn't be a boogie man.

    1. you are right that mental health checks shouldn't be something to be feared, and I don't. But I find it very concerning how quickly people go there when any parent seeks help with troublesome behaviour. It worries me that people seem to think anything except utter obedience must be the result of mental abnormality.
      So yes you are absolutely right that we shouldn't fear psych evals where they may be helpful, but we shouldn't suggest them as the first and only solution.

  4. I think the fact that people so quickly jump to saying "eval" and "meds" is scary. My son is on the autism spectrum and when he's acting aggressively, we use an Applied Behavior Analysis method (given to us by his teacher - he's also four by the way). The way she explains it, we have to break through the static he hears in his head when he's been (or feels) slighted. So very loudly, in a very deep voice, we say "NO!" and then "HANDS TO SELF." It's actually been working really well. And yes, it's totally normal for kids to get aggressive at 3 or 4. They feel slighted/angry/frustrated and just react. It'll get better!!
    Also, thanks so much for the shout-out about my entry last week. I really appreciate that, so much.

  5. I want to have my husband read this post. My daughter is only two, and is a biter. He REFUSES to believe that it is normal and that she doesn't need some sort of "consequence". I keep trying to explain to him that kids a) have not developed the emotional regulation that we have and that b) it's just how they learn the difference between right and wrong. On the other hand, I COMPLETELY relate to his feelings of despair around it. It is NOT fun to be bitten, and it's hard to see her behave like that. It sounds like you are going at this in the best way that you can. It's just going to be messy. No getting around that.

  6. I remember my oldest, now 7, going through a super angry spitting phase. In addition to that, she would aggressively blow snot out her nose during tantrums. Lovely, eh? I remember wondering if she needed preschool mood stabilizers. So hard to tell what is a typical development stage and when we need extra help. Hugs to you!

  7. Oh so hard when they are going through phases ... I do find getting fresh air as early as possible in the day really helps. On Fridays we always ... come rain or shine .. meet friends in the park by 9am - it's always a massive struggle to get out but it so helps.

    As I said before we went through a big phase of totally struggling with transitions and in some cases I just cheat by skipping them out - Sunday mornings we have to get to church before swimming which was becoming horrid so now I deliver breakfast in bed & cleaning teeth in bed ;-)

    Do come over and share this at this week's Empty Your Archive - we're linking up on helping kids with aggression, Alice x


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