I have a 5-year-old boy, with two younger brothers (1 year and 3 years old). He is intelligent, sensitive (easily stressed) and shy. I would definitely label him an introvert, but he does not like to be on his own and has issues when someone leaves (e.g. one of us parents).

He can be super kind and loving to us and his brothers, but often he is not. Multiple times a day he can get hostile at us or his 3-year-old brother (insulting and sometimes even attacking physically) for the smallest things not being as he wants or as he expected them to be. We try to stay calm and kind (of course, we mess up sometimes and get angry, but not very often). I struggle to handle the physical attacks when he gets into a fury, keeps attacking and won't stop. It usually ends after a while when he gets hurt (unintentionally!) by one of my defensive moves and starts crying and blaming me for hurting him. I don't know how to stop him before. He won't react to any words at this stage. I usually stay calm.

We try to spend time with him alone, without his brothers. This mostly works, but of course, the time we can give is limited. He likes sports, but is easily frustrated (e.g. for not catching a ball) and always wants to play against others while getting angry if he is not clearly winning. And every few days he has nightmares in his sleep.

From watching him closely I think he is mentally exhausted from the time at the kindergarten, being with friends or simply with us and/or his brothers. Something I as an introvert can relate to very well. But he is lacking a proper way to relax through the day. He actively refuses to do something on his own and has a hard time to busy himself. We have several toys great for playing alone, many books, a music player with audiobooks, a place with a lot of stuff to do handicraft work and many other possibilities. But he always wants someone to be with him and additionally seeks activities frustrating him (e.g. playing against others, crafting a perfect paper plane).

What can I do to help him relax on his own and develop some resilience?

Edit: I just had the yearly talk at the kindergarten, he is like the perfect child there. He plays with everyone, shares, solves conflicts, has a sense of the needs of others. He cares for himself and can do things on his own.

  • 1
    It sounds as though your son hasn't been given the chance to learn how to control himself/ spend time on his own. He needs to know that violent behavior won't be tolerated, but that you understand his frustration. Challenge him to use words instead of fist and it might help him build the confidence to be more independent.
    – Cody Pace
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 23:38
  • 3
    I don't have a child that age to give first hand experience, but perhaps make him a 'personal cozy space' in a child's teepee or a small tent, or some kind of fort that is just for him. Good things to place in this space are glitter calming jars, soft pillows and/or fuzzy blankets, special 'no sharing' toys and small sensory toys or fidget toys. If it isn't too frustrating for him, a pad and pencil to draw or write his feelings is good too. A safe place all his own where no one else is allowed might appeal enough to overcome his anxiety about being alone.
    – Meg
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 18:14

2 Answers 2


There are two possibilities.

  1. He is happy in school, and the stress he's feeling has to do with something in the home environment.
  2. He's expending tremendous energy to be the "perfect child" in school, and he's taking out his stress at home where he feels safe.

To consider:

  • What's his class size? Is he getting any individual attention at school?
  • Does he express reluctance to go to school?
  • How does he feel about his teachers? Are they warm or aloof?
  • On days with no school, do you notice an improvement in behavior?

If you're suspecting the stress originates at school, you'll first want to meet with the school and see how his needs might be met.

If you find that the school is unresponsive, or some time has passed without improvement, you might want to consider moving him to a Montessori-style classroom. They are more condusive to the teachers building a warm and caring bond with each student.

In either case he would likely benefit from meeting with a child therapist who can help him with strategies for when he's feeling out of control.

All the best.


You need to address his physical behavior when he's calm and can reason, as that part of his brain is likely shut off by the time it comes to him acting out. My approach would be to have clearly defined and meaningful consequences for him attacking others. Think about it this way: you wouldn't want to live in an unsafe neighborhood where the police do not enforce the law in order to keep you safe. Do you think that your 3 year old wants to live in a household where he can be attacked, seemingly (to him) at random? It's also unfair to your 5 year old not to teach him the lesson that losing control of your body has grave consequences. After an episode, when you are administering the consequences you discussed, you can reiterate how much you love him and how you would not be doing your job as a parent if you weren't doing everything you could to teach him self-control.

If you don't already, you could try play wrestling with him regularly. This could allow him to exert some physical energy, deal with not always winning in a safe environment, and practice playing physically without crossing the boundary into hurting others.

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