Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

"My 5-year-old started preschool this year, and he has become very aggressive. For example, when he has a time out, he storms out of the room and hits things or screams that he hates everyone. We've tried to ignore it, but that only seems to make it worse. I've taught my children that they can talk to God about what's bothering them. I've told them that they can ask God to help them when they feel angry. His angry outbursts are happening more often and in public. I could really use your help."

A. It is completely understandable for you to be concerned and frustrated over this change in your son. Your effort to redirect him to God is a caring and compassionate response.

Since it sounds like your son has not been this aggressive in the past, the sudden intense change seems to be linked with school, which is significant. Talk with his teachers and see if they have noticed any particular academic or peer situations that are causing your son stress. If the problem is social, ask the teachers how they are handling the situation, then ask for their input on ways you can support the classroom policy at home. This will give him a consistent set of expected behaviors he can start to understand and practice.

Take your son for a walk, just the two of you, and ask him what he likes and dislikes about school. Tell him about a challenging peer situation you experienced and how you handled it.

You might also try role-playing difficult social situations with your son. I find that this is an effective way to give children the words they need to handle the situation with a peer. For example, let him be the bully while you role play ways to be assertive. Then let him practice being assertive. Close your time in prayer, asking God to protect and empower your son to handle situations as they arise. Offer lots of encouragement and follow up as your son works through these situations.

Continue to tell your son that hurting other people when he's angry or upset is never acceptable. Set clear consequences for his misbehavior and follow through. Model appropriate emotional behavior, and keep praying for and with your son.