Q: I am seeing some signs of aggression in my 4-year-old that worry me. His father has had anger issues (we are no longer together), and I wonder if it is too early to start worrying about this? Some of my friends say I am overreacting, but they don’t see what I see and I wonder if they’re just being nice.
A: You might be overreacting; it’s hard to know. Some kids go through developmentally normal pushy phases that soon work themselves out; other times, today’s preschool shoving turns into tomorrow’s out-of-control punching.
But the penalty for overreacting is a lot milder than the penalty for underreacting when it comes to aggressive and perhaps violent behavior in young children. Talk with his pediatrician out of his earshot and get the name of a behavioral specialist — hopefully a psychologist — with whom you can get a consult.
But don’t view your child’s genetics as destiny. The way you raise him (and that, of course, includes how you let his father influence his life) will likely be far more important than his DNA in terms of his behavior.