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Rosemond: Serious response will curb child's behavior
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Question: Our 4-year-old son has a problem with hitting other children at preschool and has to spend the afternoon in his room for this.

We recently signed him up to play soccer and he is pushing kids down and tripping them during the games. 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?

Answer: It seems to me that getting him to stop hitting and pushing other children is the priority item.

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.

In short, I think your husband has the right idea. I would amend it as follows:

The next time your son hits or pushes in a soccer game, I would take him out, take him home and confine him to his room until the next game or practice, then give it another try. And 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 type of behavior is very serious; therefore, it requires a very serious response, one that creates a lasting memory.

Q: How should we deal with a very intelligent 5-year-old girl who joins with two other little neighbor girls at the bus stop in calling her 7-year-old disabled sister a wacko?

We have talked ourselves blue in the face to no avail.

A: I recommend what I call “kicking (in this case, your budding sociopath) out of the Garden of Eden.”

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.

Say, “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, during which time, if you are cruel to your sister in any way, the two months will start over again. 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.

John Rosemond is a family psychologist. Questions of general interest may be sent to Affirmative Parenting, c/o The Times, 345 Green St. NW, Gainesville, GA 30503.