My 3 Year Old Boy is VERY Aggressive

Reader’s Question

I am searching for some sort of help, I am all out of ideas. I have a 3-year-old boy who is a wonderful child with a big heart, but he is VERY aggressive. We attend play dates 3-4 times a week, and he always hits/pushes other children. He does it sometimes for no reason at all, and usually laughs about it. He feels no pain, and is not afraid of anything. We have lost many friends due to my “bad parenting”, and have had many people say he needs therapy. We have tried everything from spanking, time out, to taking things away. He places himself in time out, and laughs at me when we spank him. I have ruled out many things that I have heard contribute to negative behavior. We eat a very organic diet, and he takes daily vitamins. He also watches barely any TV, and when he does it is strictly monitored. He can be loving as well, and act as a normal 3-year-old. I just am sooo worried because I don’t know any other 3-year-old that is as hyper as him, or as aggressive as him. On the other hand, I don’t know any children as smart and advanced as him. Is there something wrong with him? What am I doing wrong? Please help me…

Psychologist’s Reply

All three-year old children, especially boys, exhibit some level of aggressive behavior, but what you are describing probably moves into the range associated with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As you describe, these children aren’t actually “mean” or hateful — they’re just very impulsive, aggressive, and unable not to attend to people around them. In ADHD children, when other children approach within arm’s reach — the ADHD child must touch them, poke, or attend to them in some manner. These ADHD children also become more hyperactive as their environment becomes more exciting. Alone in a room, they simply squirm. The more people that enter the room, the more hyperactive they become. At playtime, their level of hyperactivity matches the level of physical action in the room. ADHD children also don’t respond to discipline very well. In fact, your confidence as a parent is quickly destroyed as all methods that work for other parents are ineffective with your child.

I’d recommending reading up on ADHD in children. You can also read my article on ADHD on my website at www.drjoecarver.com. It describes many of the nonclinical characteristics we see in ADHD children. As he approaches age 4, I’d recommend consultation with a child psychologist for testing and assessment. This website also has information about ADHD, including some ADHD screening tools.

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