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Bonnie, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 2189
Experience:  and pediatric nurse practitioner with 30 years of experience counseling parents.
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My two and a half year old boy is very strong willed and stubborn.

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My two and a half year old boy is very strong willed and stubborn. Over the last 4 months now his behaviour is getting worse and he is becoming more violent. Over the last 2 months he has been found punching other kids and one of those times he made the child bleed. He also has scratched another kids face so hard that he drew blood. I can tell that my babysitter is getting to the point where she might let him go and I'd have to find another sitter. I like my sitter though. She takes the kids out 2-3 times a week and almost everyday in the spring/summer months. I have read 2 different parenting books and have searched articles online and I can honestly say that I cannot find a trigger for it. And he's not just violent to other children. He has no problem hitting or pinching an adult. You can be on the complete opposite side of the room minding your own business not looking at him and he'll walk right up to you and hit you. I'm loosing patience and my sitter doesn't know what to do either anymore. HELP
Hello and thanks for consulting with JA about your parenting dilemma,

All 2 year old children have some behavior problems. That is why they call it the terrible two's. Thanks for explaining that your son has a strong-willed temperament in general because that may call for a different approach.....a very consistent and predictable approach.

First of all the target behavior we are working on is "hitting". So he must not see any role modeling for hitting. Unfortunately, that includes spanking. A 2 year old sees spanking as hitting. So we need to find another method for this behavior.

First, we will work on prevention of hitting. The usual cause is frustration, being uncomfortable or not getting something they want. Frustration can come from a speech delay. So if he is not yet speaking or able to make his needs known, have his speech evaluated. Make sure that he does not become overstimulated, overtired or hungry. Make sure that he is not sick (stomach ache, trouble breathing). He is too young to learn about sharing so if he cannot have a desired object give him something else that he really likes.

You are right to assume that explaining will not work. Few words are necessary: "The rule is 'no hitting'." Then, when he hits, matter-of-factly state the rule, and put him in a time out that he cannot get out of. This can be a room (or area) with a gate on it so he can still look out but can not get out. Then ignore him for the 2 minutes. Most 2 year old children (especially strong willed) will not sit in one spot for time out. Be consistent about this behavior plan and ask babysitter to use it too. Let her read this response.

I hope this helps and good luck...
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

He is just finishing his session of speech with a speech pathologist. He has learned lots but he still cannot tell you his name if you ask him, or if he wants something he cannot most of the time tell you what it is that he wants. Yes, a lot of his outbursts at home are from frustration either because he wants something he cannot have or for really no apparant reason. This weekend he spilled a cup of milk on the floor on purpose and his cereal. He looked me in the eye and did it. I made him help clean it up and told him "No spilling, now we are cleaning the dirty floor." I'm a single mom of 2 boys but I can tell you that are situation has not changed nor does his brother show the same temperment. It seems though that his behaviour is worse when my sitter takes the kids out. He is seriously hurting other kids which is embarrassing to me and I really don't know how to fix it. I can tell you that my sitter is stern but kind and she doesn't have a problem with any of the other kids there. Should I try a new sitter or would this still just continue? She's loosing her patience with him and everyday he's getting at least 4 or 5 timeouts.

So this validates that he is may be frustrated by not being understood or being able to communicate better. He also may get overstimulated on the outings or if he is taken out when he should be napping. If she cannot handle his behavior, then maybe it is time for a change to someone who has fewer children and is told about his behavior. Do expect an increase in behaviors during the adjustment period to a new environment.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
So other then being consistent with discipline and cutting out the spankings you cannot give me any other insight? Do you think that I should get him tested for behavioural problems and how would I go about doing that? Something is not right with him. He is like denis the menis and problem child mixed together (if you understand and/or know who these characters are). He can be perfectly fine and happy and within seconds just snap. I do understand that it's normal toddler behaviour but my gut is telling me that something has to be wrong with him. My other son went through bitting and hitting phases, but they didn't last this long. I understand it's not fair to compare the two because they are two completely different children but this has been going on for months now and it's just getting worse. He seriously going to hurt some child one day worse then he already has.
I really think that the speech delay has a lot to do with it.

But maybe there is something else going on (I believe in mother's intuition). You can seek out a child psychologist for a complete developmental and behavioral evaluation. They would check for other causes such as cognitive delay, attention deficit problems, oppositional defiant disorder or disruptive behavior disorder. Then they would expand on the behavior management plan which we discussed here. These are the common childhood diagnosis. The older child diagnosis are such as Childhood Bipolar Disorder are usually not made at such a young age.
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