When your toddler hits you what can you do to stop it? We are just finding our way out of this phase so I thought I would share my experiences and what I found to work.
The first and most important thing to do is to address the way it makes you feel. For me, being hit by my child raised intense feelings of anger and frustration within me. It was an enormous trigger and my automatic response was to want to shout, punish and do whatever it took to stop this behaviour. It can be really hard to step outside of yourself and look at the situation from a calm perspective when you are triggered so strongly, but if you are going to work gently through this phase and resolve the issue of hitting, you must do exactly that. This article I wrote for Peaceful Parenting may help you achieve this.
The next thing to do is to try and identify an unmet need within your child. Sometimes you will be able to find an obvious trigger, sometimes it will be something you can fix – hunger for example. However, often the reason behind the hitting is complicated or not in your power to control, and so the following techniques are useful to put an end to the hitting.
1.Work it off. You know that feeling of pent up energy we get when we go a bit stir crazy? In children, when they need to release this energy this can often come out in aggressive behaviours. To disperse this energy, we need to ensure they are getting plenty of exercise. Time to run around, walk, jump and expel energy in a positive way will get rid of those pent up bubbles of frustration.
2.Encourage language. Often hitting is used as a way to express feelings. When your child hits you, tell them “No, I wont let you hit me. I can see that you are feeling angry.” Repeat this each time, and name the feelings so they can learn to share their frustrations in a healthy way. It is OK to feel angry, and it is our job to help them work through this – Not to suppress it.
3.Find other ways of letting the anger out. Give them a cushion to hit, show them how to stamp their feet, or throw beanbags around until they feel better. When they seem to be heading into that state of frustration, get in early by suggesting they work it out with one of these activities.
Set your boundaries. Gentle parenting is NOT permissive parenting. You do not need to be hurt and you deserve to be safe. If your child is hitting you, make it clear that this is not OK. It is perfectly acceptable to ask that they stay out of the kitchen until they are ready to be gentle. This is not a time out – they are not being punished, restrained or restricted. You are simply removing yourself until you feel safe and calm and they are ready to interact gently.
REMEMBER – If you are feeling triggered, always go back to step one and get yourself on an even keel before trying to communicate with your child.
And for anyone stuck in the middle of this difficult phase, let me reassure you that these techniques do work, and hitting is now a very rare occurrence in our home. It will pass.
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Image courtesy of [David Castillo Dominici] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net