Hello marbehshalom, Abba bar Aristotle, and Englishman,
I have run into this situation within the context of developmental delays in my child clients (I am a child advocate attorney).
I can not say that this is a situation of a developmentally delayed child, because I am not the professional who makes this kind of diagnosis. However, in my practice, I have received training from doctors and other professionals about the warning signs of developmental disorders, because part of my job entails asking the court to order certain evaluations on my children clients. Based upon my ten years of training and practice in this area, I can tell you that violent behavior in young children is one of many possible signs of a developmental disability, including various disorders on the autism spectrum. I have spent a great deal of my professional career arranging for special education services and supports for developmentally disabled children and their families.
Contrary to popular belief that persists, autism is not caused by faulty parenting. Moreover, one of the worst possible things a caregiver of an autistic child could do to address the situation is to use corporal punishment, which will only exacerbate the problem.
As some other posters have noted, it is key to get feedback from any teachers or other professionals already interacting with this child. If behavior of concern has been noticed by teachers, an assessment may well be appropriate. Children identified with certain conditions are eligible under federal law (the IDEIA) for services from preschool age (early intervention services) all the way up to age 21, if necessary.
If a child does have a developmental disability, the earlier the intervention, the greater the chance this child has for achieving to his or her fullest potential and eventually living a self-sufficient life.
When I run into this situation in my child advocacy practice, I advise the caregivers to determine if there are any other red-flag behaviors, consult with teachers and a pediatrician, and proceed accordingly from there.
I hope that these pointers are helpful.