Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hitting, kicking, & biting

If that is something that is frustrating you as well, here are a few ideas and resources.

First, we can do a variety of things to try to prevent hitting.


  • We can provide lots of positive attention when the child is behaving appropriately.
  • We can spend periods of the day giving the child our full attention (that usually means NO CELL PHONES OR TELEVISIONS!). Set a timer if that helps you.
  • We can identify what we are trying to teach, so that we know what our goal is. We can use 5 positives for every one negative. We can say what we DO want more than what we DON'T want.
  • We can distract. Redirect. Ignore the little things. Give lots of specific praise for the good things.

    Secondly, when a child hits we can provide natural consequences with sadness and very few words. Even though it's hard, it's better to let our calm actions (such as simply removing the child from the room) speak louder than our words. Take a deep breath. Yelling or punishment may help the adults to feel better for a moment, but in the long room we need to ask ourselves if we are teaching what we want to be teaching. If children learn by example and we are hitting them in our anger, what are we teaching?

    When I searched the Love & Logic site (another one of my favorite sources for behavior help) to see what they had to say about hitting, here's what I found:
    Handling Sibling Rivalry
    Just about every family with more than one child experiences sibling rivalry. If your kids ever argue with each other, complain about each other, or tussle a bit, it means that they are normal. Listed below are some tips for saving your sanity and turning sibling rivalry into a wonderful learning opportunity for your kids:


  • Stay out of the problem whenever possible. Avoid teaching your children that fighting with each other is a good way to get your attention.
  • Say to them, “It looks like you guys have a problem that you need to solve. I’ll be happy to give you some suggestions about solving this problem when both of you are calm."
  • Separate them if necessary.
  • If your kids continue to hassle your eyes and ears with fighting, say, “I’m going to have to do something about this. We’ll talk when everyone is calm.”
  • Expect them to replace the energy they drained out of you by doing extra chores, hiring a babysitter so that you can go out and relax, staying home instead of being driven to their friend’s houses, etc.



  • Next, we want to remember that emotions are something that we all have. Every one of us sometimes is happy, sometimes sad, sometimes angry, sometimes frustrated. And we all need to remember to identify our emotions and to think of appropriate ways to deal with them. We can practice saying, "I feel sad because I miss my friend. When I feel sad it helps me if I ask for a hug or take a break or drink some tea/coffee (or for a child, if I get my favorite teddy bear or blanket)." For our children, we can read books about emotions and social skills. We can look at faces in books or magazines and talk about what emotions the people are showing. I also love a song called "When I Feel Mad" that talks about different things that we can do when we feel mad.

    Lastly, we want to remember that just because our children have tantrums does not mean that we are bad parents.
    “You could be totally committed to your child from the moment of birth. You could read all the best parenting books. You could take parenting classes. You could do absolutely everything right. In fact, you could be a truly magnificent, spectacular, utterly faultless saint, and your child would still misbehave. The truth is all children misbehave. All children make mistakes. All children will whine, fuss, and have temper tantrums. This is true because all children are human beings - young, inexperienced, naive human beings. And to be human is to be fallible - to make mistakes, to make poor decisions, and, hopefully, to learn from these....

    “It is our duty and privilege to love our children and to guide and direct them, to be committed to them, and to be devoted to parenting them in the best way we can. And it is our duty to understand that our children are perfect - a realistic, human perfection that allows for mistakes and misbehavior along the way to growth and development. These mistakes are necessary to ensure that learning and growth take place, and that is the beauty of parenting. Our children to not have to be flawless to receive our unconditional love and support” (Pantley, 2007, p. 9).


    For more information:

  • Elizabeth Pantley has a great article about strategies to use when a child hits, bites, etc.
  • Elizabeth Pantley also has an article discussing the issue of spanking.
  • Love & Logic
  • Pantley, E. (2007). The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums, and Tears. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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