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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Here's solution for aggressive preschoolers

By John Rosemond

At the end of last week's episode, in which I aimed withering criticism at the American Academy of Pediatrics for its generally "soft" stand on discipline, I promised to provide a tried-and-true solution to a problem that is, by all accounts, increasing in both frequency and magnitude: children age 3 and older who aggress violently toward other children in preschool and day-care settings.

Aggression after the third birthday indicates that the emotional and social development of the child has not progressed beyond toddlerhood.

Contemporary parenting practices are failing, generally, to move children out of emotional toddlerhood and into creative childhood. Thus the significant number of 5- and 6-year-old children who come to kindergarten still exhibiting toddler characteristics "focusing" problems, impulsivity, inadequate self-control, defiance, tantrums, aggression, and so on. The AAP encourages cultural denial by calling this problem by various quasi-scientific terms, including "attention deficit disorder" and "oppositional defiant disorder."

Parents and preschool/day care staff have reported the greatest success rate (nearly 100 percent, when both are on the same page) with a procedure I call "Separate, Isolate, and Relocate." Immediately after the target child commits an act of aggression, the teacher separates him (more often than not, these kids are boys, but aggression by female children is rising) from the group and calls the designated parent. The child is kept separate from the group in a non-stimulating area until the parent arrives to take him home (relocate). At home, the child is isolated to his or her room, which has been stripped of most "play value" until dinner, for which the child joins the family. After dinner, the child is sent immediately to bed, but no earlier than 7.

It generally takes two or three experiences with SIR to persuade an aggressive preschooler of the benefits of non-aggression. When the choice is clear behave or be removed these kids make the right choice, and keep on making it. Not surprisingly, these children are always observed to be much happier and relaxed after their aggressive impulses are exorcised.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions at www.rosemond.com.