Nursery and preschool children often push, hit, bite, pull hair and pinch because they haven't yet learned to speak well enough to express their frustration. Once you understand this, it's easier to help your son, rather than becoming angry and frustrated with him. The fact that you describe him as intelligent and caring makes it even more likely that this is the case. In addition, boys (even really smart ones!) take longer to develop the sophisticated language that is needed to express complicated feelings like anger, frustration, jealousy and impatience--so they push and hit instead!
In addition, very young boys haven't yet learned how to control their impulses--it takes a few more years--which can also lead to all the above behaviors.
Your job is to help him to learn patience and how to use words instead of his body--it could be a big job for a while, but it's worth it! Try these tips to help him learn to use words and also how his behavior may be affecting others:
1. When you see him push, jump in and say gently: "it hurts other people's bodies and feelings when you push, please say you're sorry"
2. Watch him carefully and when you see him about to push, step in as often as possible to stop him, saying: 'use your words to say what you want instead of pushing" Then help him to find the right words--even give him the words if necessary for him to copy.
3.When you see him use words instead of pushing, make a really big deal of it, compliment him and tell him how proud you are of him. This will reinforce the positive behavior.
4. Resist the urge to punish or yell. This will only make him feel bad and he is still young and as I explained, his behaviors are developmental and will lessen over time if you help him find better ways of expressing himself.
Hope this helps!
Dr. Susan Bartell
JustAsk Expert www.drsusanbartell.com
NEW book! "The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask"