A mom writes: “Help—my 4-year-old son is becoming the preschool bully!” Show Notes

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 Host(s): Dr. Bill Maier
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Dear Dr. Bill,

Our 4-year-old son started preschool this year and he attends three mornings a week.  He’s a bright and loving child, but also quite strong willed.  His teachers have already talked to us several times about his uncooperative behavior — such as interrupting, ignoring instructions, etc.  And recently our son pushed one boy to the ground and hit two others with his fists.  

This behavior not allowed at home and if he does become aggressive with a sibling, he’s promptly punished.  What should we do?

--Coleen

Dear Coleen,

Many 4-year-olds have difficulty controlling their emotions, particularly anger.  However, given that fact that he acts one way at home but is a different animal at school, here’s what I’m thinking…

It may be that he only obeys you and your husband to avoid punishment.  This may be the case if you are more harsh and punitive with your discipline, with little emphasis placed on relationship.  Your son isn’t internalizing positive character traits; he’s simply obeying so he won’t get punished.  When he’s outside your home in a less rigid environment, his true colors show and he acts out in a variety of ways.

I’d encourage you to examine your parenting style.  Are you providing a healthy balance between love and limits?  Are you affirming and rewarding him for good behavior as well as disciplining him for negative behavior?  Are you helping him to develop compassion and understanding for others, instead of simply adhering to a strict set of rules and regulations?

An excellent book that you may find helpful is “Boundaries With Kids” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Thanks for writing Coleen.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Culture Connection page.
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