Intervening when children are hitting

Many young children will try hitting their parents. One mom wrote about how her daughter started hitting her when she was 9 months old. Mom was very surprised and responded by calmly saying “no hitting, nice” and rubbing the girl’s hand gently on her face. However, she continued hitting her mom and mom resorted to sternly grabbing her hands and saying “No hit”. This also didn’t change her behavior.

She is now 18 months old and hits, scratches and pulls hair too! She does this with mom, dad and other kids. When she hits mom now, she immediately says “nice” and rubs her hand on her mom’s face. She’s learned something but not what mom had intended!

When parents respond to misbehavior in a way that doesn’t effectively set a limit, children’s misbehavior usually not only continues but escalates in an attempt to find the limit. In this case, the consequence of hearing “no hitting” and rubbing her mom’s face did not discourage the girl from hitting. Instead, it actually encouraged her to try pushing the limits even further.

It’s important for parents to respond in a kind yet firm way to discourage hitting. Read this article on stopping toddler hitting for other ideas on how to deal with this situation.

1 comment:

triana said...

It's important to recognize that hitting & biting are primative means of communication to a child who is not yet able to express himself verbally. He may be expressing that he's tired, stressed, overstimulated, feeling ignored etc.
Most material on the subect suggests that hitting is not an act of violence, but the earliest form of action/reaction. When I do this, I get a reaction. In fact, kids try it out on different people just to see if they get the same reaction every time. It can be a simple curiosity, or a way to interact with a another child. Since they simply havent yet learned to say " Hi, want to play?"
The key to moving past it, rather than putting all your your energy into to correcting the hit, is to offer other means of communicating. Simple phrases, even simple signs can replace a clobbler. "help up?" , "all done?", "more?"

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