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How Should I Handle ‘Attacks’ at Preschool?

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My 3-year-old twins started real preschool a couple of months ago, and now they’re really enmeshed in the rough-and-tumble world of boys and play. In those first few weeks, both of my kids had their hair pulled by the same boy, apparently rather aggressively. But, my boys are tough. And they do have beautiful golden locks so, really, who could blame the little guy?

I really didn’t think much of it. When you have twins, you’re sort of used to your children being assaulted by another kid…that other kid being, well, your other kid. Except when my boys hit each other, it’s usually not very hard. I don’t think their goal is actually to hurt the other, as much as to express their frustration. I literally want to laugh sometimes because it often looks like a sorority girl catfight, their hands flopping at each other. Then, just like that, it’s over and they’re best buddies again. I’m not sure if it’s a boy thing, a brother thing, or just a kid thing, but it’s clear that they don’t really want to be fighting anyway. And, as they get older, it’s been happening less and less.

When other kids hit them though, I’m conflicted. Clearly, I don’t want my boys to get hurt, but it happens at this age. Some kids hit more than others, but that doesn’t make them “bad kids” raised by “bad parents.” Those kids just have a harder time managing their emotions, or have sensory processing disorders, or other developmental issues. I feel badly for the little ones, and especially feel badly for their apologetic parents who seem mortified and embarrassed and confused. They’re not sure why their sweet kid keeps lashing out like this, and they’re not sure what to do about it.

Very rarely though, you do come cross a really aggressive kid — one who hits hard, bites hard, and seems really, really angry for such a little guy. And honestly, that’s just scary. That’s a kid that the parents can’t control, the teachers can’t control. That’s a kid that you don’t want anywhere near your kids because even though you know this kind of thing happens, hell no, don’t you dare attack my precious babies!

The truly problematic kids are one thing, but how do you manage just your typical preschool-aged melee? I think if the parents are there, they have to step in and get involved. Separate the kids. Explain to the aggressor that hitting really hurts, and show him how sad and upset the victim is. Personally, I think the best way to curb a child’s aggression is to teach him empathy, point out the consequences of his actions (that crying kid over there), and yes, make him feel badly for what he’s done. I think if your kid has been hit, you also need to say to him, “I’m so sorry that happened. That must have really hurt. That’s why we don’t hit, because it can really hurt someone.” You don’t want your own kid thinking that aggressive behavior is ever okay. And you definitely don’t want to normalize it.

So what if it’s happening at your children’s school. beyond your control? I know that some schools have a three-strike policy where if a kid continues to hit and bite, he or she has to leave, at least for awhile. Is that too harsh? Or is it necessary to protect the other kids? I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do know that I’m counting on the school to keep them safe. Sure, they can assign a teacher to guard the aggressive kid, but then that’s one less teacher who’s watching over the rest of them. Maybe a particularly violent kid needs to leave school, get some kind of behavioral or occupational therapy, and return when he’s better able to keep his hands to himself.

When a child is particularly aggressive, I feel badly for all involved. Nine times out of ten, it’s something that he or she will probably grow out of, maybe with a little bit of help. Still, I don’t think it’s something that any parent should ignore, whether your kid is the aggressor or the victim. No, it’s not the end of the world if one child bites or scratches or smacks another, but if that behavior doesn’t get addressed, it will only escalate. And meanwhile, that child is just going to get bigger and stronger. Yikes.

I’m curious to know how other moms deal when another kid is being aggressive with yours. Let me know in the comments…