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Nip Physical Aggression in the Bud


We have been doing the ticket system with our four-year-old for the last four days. He has one targeting behavior, “refusing to listen,” and five tickets. Every day since we started, he has lost all tickets due to hitting or pinching his younger brother or classmates at school. He has been put in his room, which has been cleaned of all entertainment except some books. He cries when he is told he has to go to his room but seems to handle it okay once he is there. He has not tried to come out and seems to respect the boundary of staying in his room. We have not seen him hit or pinch anyone in a long time until just recently when we started the ticket system. The teacher told us that they have not seen this at school either except for the last two days. So my question is: Am I doing something wrong or is he just trying to “test his boundaries”?


Thank you for reaching out to Parent Guru.

The fact that your little one is respecting the boundary of staying in his room is a good sign. By age 4, children have moved forward in many areas, but it is not unusual for 4-year-olds to continue struggle with impulse control, which can include aggressive behaviors like hitting, kicking and biting. You state that the one target behavior is “refusing to listen” but that every day since you started, he has lost all tickets due to “hitting or pinching his younger brother or classmates at school.” Your son may not be making the connection between the wording of your target behavior (refusing to listen) and not hitting or pinching.

When it comes to being physically aggressive with others, children need to clearly understand that such behavior will absolutely not be tolerated. I would change the wording of the target behavior to “no hitting or pinching others” so that there is no misunderstanding what you expect. Additionally, if you decide to go with two target behaviors, changing the wording from “refusing to listen” to “listens and follows directions” or just “follows directions" is recommended.

You are on the right track! I hope this helps.

Sharon Lamberth
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach

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