aggressive behaviour in 4 year old


I am new to this, and any other forums and not sure how it all works. So hello and here goes.

I am a granny and part time carer to my 4 year old grandson who has not actually been diagnosed with autism but is only half a point off being so.

Recently his behaviour has become more and more violent to other close family and we are at a loss as to the best way to deal with it. At present he has only targeted his immediate family, mum,dad, little brother and me. Anything can set it off, usually small things such as his tea not being ready at exactly the time he thinks it should be. He punches, kicks, scratches, pulls hair and bites. It is a controlled action, not done in a frenzy and he almost seems to enjoy hurting us. At present we are just trying to talk to him once he has stopped to try to understand his feelings and to explain that it is unacceptable. He does not want to apologise and doesn't seem to understand that he upsets us by this behaviour. His brother now cringes every time he comes near him.

I would be grateful for any advice anyone may have.


  • I have been in your position and had my arms bitten black and blue

      Is your grandson the kind of child who is amazing out in the countryside where he can run and use up a lot of energy?  Did he do amazing feats of climbing at a very young age?  He might have some abilities that can use up the frustration he feels.  He might even be calmer helping you with your gardening, and really enjoy that, or maybe he is suddenly calmer when he is on a train, but terrible on buses?

    I am sure an expert will help you better than me.

  • Hi Sophia

    Thanks for your reply. My grandson is a very bright boy and likes doing all sorts of things both inside and out. It is more difficult now as when he gets home from school it is too dark to go outside and he gets bored very easily. We give him as much attention as we can and play constantly with him but you never know what will set him off so we feel as if we are forever walking a tightrope trying to keep him happy. My arms are covered with bite marks and bruises from a particularly bad episode yesterday. We love him so much and really want to help him through his problems but are finding it difficult to get any help from anywhere.

  • In my experience you are 99% of the time on your own dealing with autistic spectrum disorders.  Occasionally and at the desperate last minute you get a bit of help.  I wish I had taken these things more seriously, not allowed anyone to trivialise and be more demanding and assertive.  Your grandson probably has amazing abilities, many of them physical and in a big outdoor space without a lot of people around he could be calm and happy.  Cooped indoors he is probably upset by small noises and the proximity of people in his personal space.  Does he enjoy being taken to the local swimming pool and using their flumes and water slides?  Soft play room or gym?  Climbing frames.

    Does he hear sounds that are so quiet you can't believe he can hear them?  The sound of rustling paper through a closed door or from inside another room?  He my find these disturbing and desperately need to get away from these sounds.

    I remember this child being exhilerated by outdoors places.  Another strange characteristic was how much he liked eating fish, and seemed to know that he needed the nutrients in it, fish oils not in tablet form but would eat oily fish straight out of the tin.  That might have just been a personal trait.

    From my experience, don't be cowed into trivialising his condition or doubting the diagnosis of ASD, you will likely later on realise how incredibly accurate it was, and he can't help it he isn't doing these things out of spite.  Do notice how sharp his senses are, how upset he gets by tiny sounds that you can't hear, how he spots tiny visual things - such as noticing that the shoes the assistant brought to him in the shoe shop don't actually match and have a slightly different pattern, that you had not noticed.  And there are so many positive aspects to this, things he can do really well which will also make him feel calmer, which would be sad if they were always overlooked in the name of just barely coping - which is inevitable to an extent, don't beat yourself up.

  • Hi scooby doo,

    We have a page on our website about challenging behaviour in children, including physical violence, that your can see here:

    It discusses some of the causes of violent behaviour and some strategies for managing a physically challenging child, as well as links and phone numbers for further assistance.

    I hope that is of some use to you,


    Ross - mod

  • Hello, where to start?

    My little girl is 8 and I finally received her confirmed diagnosis of ASD on 31.08.16.  It took me two years to get it.  I knew I fighting an upward battle because of her gender, making it much harder, school didn't believe me.  I researched as much as I could and provided the forum with as much information as possible about her behaviours both present and past, in the end it was enough.

    You mention he was 1/2 point away, so did that make him Aspergic?  if not, think about all the little things when he was a baby and growing up.  My daughter (lets call her Jane), wouldn't get in a car seat, wouldn't hold my hand, would run off all the time.  I would pick her up from nursery and she wouldn't come home, she wouldn't stay in a car longer than half an hour. lined toys up, grouped everything in colours and shapes, like Easter eggs.  She was addicted to jigsaws and now does 500 pieces on her own in 1 - 2 days.

    I would firstly keep notes on his behaviour, have a think about whether anything was missed before.  Maybe in a year, go back for another diagnosis.  4 is I think still early to diagnose.  In Norfolk they often start the process around 6, becuase the behaviour has had more time to develop.

    In regards to the challenging behaviour, i am sorry to say that I can completly relate.  Only tonight was I kicked about 10 times.  This is called a 'meltdown'  If you research on this and some other sites they give you the differentiation between a meltdown and a tantrum.  In a meltdown, they have no control, it has to play itself out.  I have been finding different things to help us out.  Do you have a good neighbour, who understands?  In my case, I run or call a neighbour who pops round.  it almost distracts her from what was going on, and allows her to regain control.

    I have been pinned in my bedroom, the stairs and the kitchen because of the number of things being thrown across the room (heavy things like books, full juice bottles etc.)

    Another thing I try is to hold her tightly, it is supposed to help - but generally doesn't for us.  I try changing the subject onto anything and everything, It takes about 10 mins sometimes, but it eventually wears her down enough to break through.

    In regards to being active.  My daughter runs and runs miles probably round in a track like motion.  She has to use the trampolene for hours at a time and she loves to dance, often putting spins in.  I found out only yesterday that this is probably becuase she has a disorder called Sensory Vestibular.  It sounds as though your grandson has the same.  They need the activity and motion of circles and running to reset their system every 2 hours or so.  We are now on the Occupational Theropists waiting list of 18+ weeks to find out more.  But basically, 'Jane' needs as much exercise as possible.

    School told me I was 'making' her run to much, and should stop her, so I tried to keep her in for a few days.  That was one of the worst meltdowns ever, and resulted in calling for help.  the meltdown was about an hour of pure violence, no thought for our or her own saftey, and once I had managed to get out of the house to ask my neighbour for help, it took about another 3 hours to calm her down sufficently.

    The reason he is hurting you guys, is because believe it or not, you are his 'safe' people.  

    'Jane comes out of school at 5 on a Weds and Thurs, so I tried letting my daughter run to and from the car today, then drove to another school to pick up my boy, let her run as much as possible there and back, knowing it was too dark when we got home.  It was not too bad, but by 9.00 we were in full meltdown, I had managed to stop several.  So when she throws something, she raises her other arm to aim it.  I now go up to her, and put her arm down.  She doesn't like it, but i have less things thrown at me.

    Another thing, Has he had some type of change (new baby, moved, bereavement, school), these all impact and as I am finding out take a long time to process.  So my 'Jane' has only just started to process the funeral of her dad from May this year.  This is the main reason for her stress, along with many other factors I shall not bore you with.

    Any way, I hope I have managed to provide you with something useful.  Please rememebr these are my own experiences, and what works one child, wont the next.

    Anyway, waffling as normal.wishing you good luck, take care,