Intelligent child bites HARD when out of control

(BC, Canada)

My intelligent 26 month old is losing control during playdates, and biting & pushing other children at daycare when frustrated. He is very verbal and intelligent. He speaks better than most 3yr olds, expresses himself by saying "I'm so angry (sad, frustrated)" and recognizes emotional states of other kids & adults by saying things like "Don't get so frustrated/angry". He's had a tough time lately with the arrival of his brother who is now 5 months old. He was aggressive with the baby but now seems to have redirected it to everyone else.

Recently he has been losing his control very easily and really flys off the handle and screams, grabs and has started biting and pushing. One of my problems is he doesn't bite or push when he is with me, but rather at daycare (a small daycare with max 6 kids at once). My daycare provider is really great, but is reluctant to do time-outs as she doesn't want to establish that kind of a relationship with her kids. She uses empathy and redirection instead (We don't bite, it hurts. Lets play with these toys over here instead.) Do you have any suggestions? I am worried he's going to turn into a bully, and also I feel badly for the other kids.

My other problem is how to deal with his flying off the handle at home when his friends are over. His screaming and grabbing is so disruptive that I spend the entire time (literally) putting toys away and taking him aside to calm him down and talk to him, that no one gets a chance to play (kids) or talk (moms). Also it's embarrassing. I'm considering stopping playdates at our house for a while until he seems more in control of himself (he's fine at someone else's house but not at his own). Is this a phase or do we need to work through it by continuing with playdates (and hope I don't lose any friends over it)?

Dr Maud Answers

This is not an uncommon problem - you might want to check out the information on the Biting and Hitting page.

Your son sounds as if you could use rewards for good behavior - so before a play date, let him know that if he plays well and there are no outbursts (be specific about what you mean and what you expect) he will get a reward. And make sure he doesn't get the reward if he has an outburst.

Also use time out when he does lose control. And don't forget lots of positive reinforcement when he does play nicely.

It might be useful for you to go through the ABC to try to see if you can figure out what is driving some of his behaviors - it will then be easier to change them. See the Understanding Behavior page.

All the best.

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