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I was happy to see this post because this is something I’m dealing with right now. The only difference, however, is that my son is hitting adults, not kids (at least not yet). So far, he has hit me and my husband as well as my mom (the dog too). He seems to do it when he is frustrated, but sometimes I don’t have a clue why he hits.
As far as understanding why he hits and trying to eliminate the reason, I don’t know what to do. One example of a time he may hit is when I try to hand him over to daddy. He loves his daddy, but he is on a real mommy kick right now an sometimes will snub daddy. A few times, he has taken it as far as swatting at daddy’s face. How can I stop that? I can’t just let him have his way and not give him to daddy.
Sometimes he hits for seemingly no reason at all. If I’m holding him and I look at his face and make eye contact for too long, he swats.
Here is the scenario: Right after he hits, our innate reaction is to gently grab his hand away from our face. But, he doesn’t always just swat once…he will continually swat and with both hands. So you are trying to protect your face, tell him No and isolate him in the playpen all while he is swatting at your face. In addition, our “reaction” of trying to get him to stop sometimes makes him laugh. He is the kind of baby that loves to get any reaction out of you he can. The more you tell him no, the more he laughs and does things again. That’s bad enough when he is pulling on the curtains, but it’s really awful with the hitting.
So by the time you get him in the playpen, it feels like so much just happened and you aren’t even sure he heard you saying “No we don’t hit” let alone understood what you meant and the “hitting” was the action he had just taken. Once in the playpen, he does cry because he doesn’t want to be isolated, but I really don’t think he realizes that it is because of what he just did. (By the way, he is 16 months old, so the talking to and reasoning with you mention in your post, really won’t work here).
I am basically at the end of my rope. This has been going on for a while. We’ve also tried to teach him “gentle” as well (rubbing his arm or face softly while saying the word.) He just hasn’t gotten it.
I would really love some suggestions. Everything you mention in your post sounds good, but none are really relevant to my exact situation. You were able to tell Kaitlyn that as a result of hitting, she no longer was able to play with Brayden. How can I apply such punishment in our situation?
Lisa, when I worked in a daycare I had a problem with a one-year-old little boy who was hitting another child. You said your boy “is the kind of baby that loves to get any reaction out of you he can.” It was the same for this boy. What worked with for him was to watch him when he was playing and give lots of positive attention when he was doing well so he wouldn’t need to hit to receive attention from me. I would minimize the attention he gets when he hits as much as possible.
My son sounds exactly like yours and we have dealt with it in a similar manner. I always noticed that it was worse if he was over tired or overstimulated. Avoiding the triggers helps but you can’t always and they need the opportunity to learn. I would say a firm No, grab his arms and gently rub them on my cheeks (or whoever he was hitting as he sometimes hit his baby brother too) and say gentle several times. He sometimes thought was a fun alternative to hitting but if he didn’t comply, he went right to time out. We always used the word time out firmly several times when he was in time out so that he would begin to make that connection and before he got out of time out I would grab his hands and rub them on my face again and say gentle again. I’d also say “are you going to obey?” He’s two now and still has some offenses but he immediately shows me gentle and says “Obey”. It may take time of consistency.
The problem I am having now is what to do with bedtime discipline issues. Jumping up and down instead of laying down to sleep. He only does this for his naps but I can’t put him in timeout before nap, that will only delay naptime!
Thanks for the comments. I’m working hard to be consistent and I’ve taken the advice about the repetition of the words “time out” and also asking “are you going to obey?” when taking him out. I guess time will tell.
A few ideas:
when you give him to Daddy and he hits Daddy, I would take him back and say, “That is a no. You do not hit.” I would then go put him in a playpen to have a time out. Use a timer so if he cries, he sees that the timer, not his crying, gets him out.
Be sure to keep your emotions even. Don’t act hurt, mad, or happy. Just be firm but without emotions.
McKenna is 16 months old, and I am positive she would understand that when she hit and went in isolation, it would be because of the hitting.
I would continue to teach him “gently.” Do it when he isn’t mad. So when you are playing, touch him gently and say, “gently.” When he is happily petting the dog, say “gently” and demonstrate gently.
One point on the dog issue, my vet once told me to never discipline a child in front of the dog because you don’t want the dog thinking it is okay to get mad at the child–you want the dog to respect the child. I haven’t thought much about it, but just thought I would mention it to you. When he hits the dog, I would pick him up and carry him out of the room away from the dog immediately.
I could also post this as a “help a reader out” question if you would like. Let me know if you want me to. If so, I will run it this Saturday.
Thanks for the advice. I will also pay attention to not disciplining him in front of the dog. That is actually becoming more and more of a problem everyday (him going after the dog).
It’s also okay with me to post this in the “help a reader out” section.