Do’s and Don’ts to End Hitting for Good (part 2)

Hitting-Part-2

In Part 1 of Do’s and Don’ts to End Hitting and Biting for Good we discussed the best ways to address hitting and biting in toddlers. This post will address what you should do for kids OVER the age of 3.

Hitting and other aggressive behaviors may be frustrating with younger kids (under age 3) but with older kids who should “know better”-  it’s hard not to feel livid! But rather than seeing aggression as a super-serious misbehavior, we need to look at it as a sign our child could use some training in impulse-control strategies. The worst thing we can do, in fact, is label our child as bad, violent or aggressive, as this will only discourage the child and make the behavior more likely to happen again.

Read on for the do’s and don’ts of managing aggression and big emotions, and helping your kids find more positive ways to interact with others.

Set your child up for success

DO make sure kids are well rested. They’ll be more likely to control their impulses positively if they’ve had enough sleep (aren’t we all?).

DON’T overstay a visit. When kids are at the end of the rope on a visit that’s longer than they can realistically handle, they may be more likely to act out with aggression. 

DON’T skip naps or rest time. Playdates and family visits will go much better when the child has had a little quite time to regroup and rest her body—whether she sleeps or not.

DO fill your child’s attention basket daily. Provide positive attention daily. Take time each day to get into their world, on their terms, to build emotional connections and calm the child’s impulses to lash out.

DO teach positive conflict-resolution strategies. When kids know how to use strategies such as “I feel” statements, walking away, ignoring, finding a compromise, and more, they won’t feel the need to resort to hitting.

DO get involved at the first sign of aggression. If your child is negotiating with words, let it play out. But once the fists get raised, step in immediately to help your child calm down and find a more peaceful resolution. This may require keeping a particularly close eye on your child for a while.

DO encourage your kids when they stay peaceful. When you see your child manage their emotions without hitting, point it out. Say, “You really kept yourself under control when you were frustrated with your brother. I know that was hard. You’re really growing up!”

DO allow plenty of physical activity. Some kids are just more physical than others and need to move. By encouraging movement in a positive way, such as practicing goal kicks, they’ll release some of that pent-up need to move and be less likely to take it out on a playmate.

DO model peaceful communication. The more respectful our environment at home, the less likely our kids will be to turn to aggression. Use kindness and respect, and train all your kids to do the same, and the levels of aggression-inducing stress and frustration will decrease.

In the moment

DON’T spank or slap a child for hitting. Doing so reinforces that hitting is okay and models exactly the behavior you’re trying to stop.

DON’T punish.  Our focus should be to help the child learn positive ways to manage their big emotions.  Punishing the child, telling him he is “bad” or embarrassing him in front of others only furthers his discouragement and makes future aggression more likely. 

DON’T worry about other opinions. It’s tough to parent in front of an audience but whether you find yourself dealing with aggression at the park or your “perfect” sister’s house, tune everyone else out. Focus on your child—not your reputation or others’ suggestions—while being respectful to those in the vicinity.

DO remain calm. It’s understandable to be upset when your child hits you or another child, but you’ll get better results by staying calm. Not only does an explosive reaction give your child a big dose of attention and power for negative behavior, which only serves to reinforce it, but you’ll put her on the defensive. By staying calm, however, you’ll show your kids that you’re in control of your own conduct and are able to help them with theirs.

DO make sure the injured party is okay. If your child is calm enough to do so, include your child in this process so she can begin to learn empathy and how her actions make another person feel.  If she is not calm enough, model empathy by making sure the injured party is okay, but keep your child close so he doesn’t feel shut out.  If necessary, gently (and without anger) remove your child from the immediate situation so you can help her calm down without the distraction of others.  

DO provide empathy and boundaries.  Let your child know you understand her big emotions, then separate the feeling from the behavior. Say, “Wow, you look angry/frustrated/mad/upset.  But it’s not okay to hit when you are mad.”

Practice for next time:

In a calm moment…

DO role-play typical scenarios. With your child, practice how to respond without hitting – using words, asking an adult for help, walking away, etc.

DO practice strategies for calming down.  With your child, decide on a technique your child can use to calm down when she’s feeling angry or frustrated. Consider belly breathing, counting to 10, or anything else you and your child can think of.

DO create a super-secret non-verbal signal.  This is a sign you can show when things start to get tense to remind your child to use the strategies you practiced rather than resorting to aggression.

DO recognize impulse control is difficult for kids.  And it’s even more difficult for kids with ADHD and other differences.  Have patience and remember that training is an ongoing process. 

While facing your child’s aggression may feel like the end of the world, it isn’t. Take heart that you can use this challenging time as an opportunity to practice peaceful impulse control strategies that will help your child now and far into the future.

 

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.