Kids Who Hurt Others Need to Be Stopped


Extreme behavior calls for extreme measures; don't allow your child to get away with mean-spirited tendencies.

Q. Our 4-year-old son is hitting others at preschool and has to spend the afternoon in his room for this. In soccer, he's pushing kids down and tripping them. My husband wanted to pull him out of the last game and take him home to sit in his room, but I didn't want to teach him to quit on his team in the middle of the game. How should we handle this?

Getting him to stop hitting and pushing is the priority. Taking him out of a game in which he is being a problem is not going to teach him to quit. It's going to cause him to think twice the next time he's in a game and feels the impulse to hit or push.

Your husband has the right idea. The next time your son hits or pushes in a game, I'd take him out, take him home, and confine him to his room until the next game or practice, then give it another try. I'd keep doing that until the hitting and pushing stopped.

During his confinement, he can come out of his room to do chores, eat meals with the family (assuming he behaves himself at the table), go to preschool, and accompany you when you leave the house. This behavior is very serious and requires a very serious response.

Cruelty means tough response is in order!

Q. How should we deal with a 5-year-old girl who joins with two other girls at the bus stop in calling her 7-year-old disabled sibling a wacko? Talking hasn't worked.

I recommend kicking your budding sociopath out of the Garden of Eden. By this, I mean when she is at school one day, remove from the home everything that "belongs" to her—toys, books, nonessential clothing, and so on, from her room. She comes home from school to a life that is stripped down to its bare essentials. In addition, all after-school and weekend activities are suspended for the duration of her rehabilitation.

Tell her: "This is how you are going to live until you have learned to not only treat your sister with respect but also to defend her against others who treat her with disrespect. No matter what, so that you will never forget this, you are going to live like this for two months. If you are cruel to your sister during this time the two months will start over. We sincerely hope you figure out how to get your life back."

My experience tells me that there will be no more incidents and she will be begging for reprieve in two weeks. Accept her promises, but stick with the two-month plan. You need to make sure she has a story to tell to her grandchildren.

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