Awful behaviour from DD (3 years 8 months)

(3 Posts)
monstertufts Mon 22-Jul-13 14:18:50

Hi everyone. We are having real difficulties with DD. For the past few months every day has been a battle! She goes to playgroup 15 hours a week and often lashes out at other children in a completely unprovoked way (pulling hair, scratching, pushing). She attacks her little brother (who is 2 next month) and twice has scratched his face dangerously close to his eye. Every meal time she moans and whines and it's a real battle to get her to eat anything - often she eats nothing whatsoever. And she very often has huge, prolonged screaming and crying fits that are really quite disturbing (as well as highly stressful) and makes us seriously worried about her happiness.

In between all these things, she is a wonderful little girl. She is quite motherly to her little brother, full of cuddles, funny, intelligent, cheeky, adventurous ... we're at a loss to decide how to tackle these behavioural problems. Being calm and understanding sometimes seems not to be enough (not that we always manage it anyway!), especially regarding attacking her playgroup friends: we are really worried that the other children dislike and fear her, so we wonder about taking a harder line with DD for her own good, to ensure she does not become a pariah at playgroup! But then, if this is all down to some natural developmental stage, it seems unfair and pointless to try and punish her for it ...

If anyone else has been through something similar and can offer advice or information, I'd be really grateful. Is this normal?!

AcrylicPlexiglass Mon 22-Jul-13 18:34:37

Frequent hitting/scratching/lashing out would worry me. The rest sounds at the outer edge of normal, though the tantrums sound particularly wearing. Poor you. They can be hard and worrying work, children.

IMO, for a normally developing child from around 2.5 years old violence needs an immediate consequence- time out/naughty step/go home from playground/telling off followed by apology to injured child/whatever it is that you do to underline that there is no way on earth you accept that behaviour. What do you do if you see her attack her brother/another child? What do the playgroup workers do?

Does she seem to understand that she shouldn't hit/scratch etc? Is she sorry afterwards? Can she say what has happened and why?

I would try a few weeks of being very firm, with zero tolerance to violence, unless you think she really doesn't understand/can't help her actions. If that's the case I think you should have a word with your Health visitor or GP and the playgroup workers to see what they think too. It's very hard to tell what's happening over the internet but it may be worth exploring whether there is a developmental delay of some kind that affects social skills.

monstertufts Tue 23-Jul-13 10:33:22

Thanks for your perspective AcrylicPlexiglass smile We do all the usual stuff (pretty much exactly what you mention in your second paragraph). She will say sorry and does understand that it's wrong, I think. I'm just wondering whether we need to try a different approach (in which case I've no idea what's best) or sit back and let her grow out of it (hard given that she's losing friends and hurting other children).

Sometimes when she's quite calm she will announce that she wants to hit someone. I've tried asking her how she feels (i.e. trying to identify the emotion she's trying to express) but generally get nonsense in return :D Her playgroup staff are excelllent. They have been reassuring that it is consistent with her stage of development ... but sometimes she just seems so unhappy (i.e. during her huge crying fits) that I wish I could find a way to help, and it's difficult to dismiss it as just a phase.

As for the possibility of a developmental delay, I had a long talk with her playgroup leader once and he explained that children don't necessarily leap from one 'phase' to the next in a smooth succession. Sometimes, when they're in the process of making quite a big leap, it becomes overwhelming for them and they regress to a previous stage because it's comfortable and reassuring. Maybe this is what's happening. Also possible is that she regresses a bit because she has a younger brother (he's nearly 2).

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