Hitting is one of those behaviours that can pop up commonly within children. The causes are wide and varied, but often we look to eliminate the behaviour in our children, without fully exploring the trigger.
Although hitting out is something that is widely accepted as being normal behaviour for children, it is possible to work through this issue quickly and gently, to prevent it continuing. In this short video I talk about not only the triggers, but how to deal with the underlying needs.
Along with the key point we need to remember that there are some other tips to keep in mind when parenting a child who is hitting.
Practice “Gentle hands.”
Reinforce the message that when we touch another person, or a pet, we always use gentle hands. It is a good reminder, and demonstrating “gentle hands” yourself can help to solidify the idea within our children. Take your child’s hands gently in yours (If they are happy for you to do so) bringing them up to your face and using a gentle pressure, as you demonstrate how you like to be touched, whilst saying “gentle hands.” Each time they hit, repeat and reinforce the message, “I only like gentle hands thank you.” When touching animals or younger children, we can talk through our own actions, explaining that “I am using gentle hands so that I don’t hurt him.”
Name the feelings
Teaching our children to name and talk about their emotions is very empowering for them. By saying, “I know, it was really frustrating when that happened, I can see you are feeling really angry/hurt/disappointed,” you enable them to own their feelings, and this prevents the emotion from controlling them, and leading to undesirable behaviours like hitting. Instead, they can voice what is happening and you can help them to work through it in a more healthy way. We can start to talk to our children about what they are feeling right from their first year. Of course, they won’t be able to articulate their feelings from the start, but repetition and keeping a cool and calm head to support them through the rollercoaster of emotions will benefit them, and ignite the habit of taking note of these intense feelings. This will enable them to take responsibility for where that feeling takes them. It needs to become a habit to really take effect, but it is really worth the effort. One of my proudest moments was when my toddler, at 18 months old, began to scream from the top of a small hill when told it was time to go, before quickly stopping himself to tell me “I am very angry now!” It gave him power, and gave me the ability to know what was going on and how I could help him through his anger.
So those were my tips for parenting gently when children hit, but I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Has your child been through this phase? What did you identify to be the cause and what was your reaction at the time?
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