Dear Savvy Auntie,

When my 4 year old nephew gets angry, he throws and punches things. He won't talk about it.

My sister is single parent with live-in boyfriend. As far as I know, my nephew has never seen anyone act this way. I believe in spanking when its a serious matter and danger is involved. My sister spanks him if he doesn't listen or reacts this way. I want give her advice. My nephew's never been in daycare or anything like that. I'm very concerned because he will be starting school soon. Plus, he is still wearing diapers.

Preschool Anger Management

Dear Preschool Anger Management,

Spanking is a vivid example for your nephew to imitate! The lesson he gets is when you don't get what you want, hit, throw, let it out destructively... just lose control in an effort to regain it.

I suggest you help your sister find a professionally led parenting group in her neighborhood or consult with a parenting expert who can help her find other ways to discipline him. You can also be of help by looking at the literature on discipline of four year olds in books on development. The one I suggest is "Pre-schoolers" by T.Berry Brazelton.

Four is a typical age for outbursts by males and should be addressed. He is old to not be using the toilet and it may be another aspect of issues around control.

I propose your sister think about the concept of time-outs. She might be able to control her behavior by taking a deep breath and counting to ten before she reacts. She could designate a time-out spot for him to go and think about calming down.

I like making a "punching pillow." He tears up old newspapers, you save them in a large plastic bag, he draws on an old white pillow case, stuffs the pillowcase with the torn papers, you tie a rubber band near the top, and he can punch it when he gets angry.

You don't mention any interaction with his father. This is a time when little boys usually turn to their dads and away from their moms.

I hope this is helpful,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

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