When my oldest went through the hitting stage it lasted barely a few weeks. When it happened, when she hit another kid, I was shocked. She was about 20 months old and I didn’t even see it coming. she was such a little angel, it really surprised me.
It was at the child watch at our local gym. I went to get her and this other small child was encroaching on her personal space. She nonchalantly smacks this other child and the other child got the message-back off.
Do you have a child currently going through the hitting stage? Yes, I’ve been there and done that.
I knew I didn’t want any of my children immediately resulting to hurting another child. Makes complete sense right? What I did was to teach gentle hands, whenever she became aggressive towards anyone. If she felt her personal space wasn’t being respected, we taught her to put her hand up like a stop sign and say “no thank you.” This teaches your child how to set personal space boundaries without hitting.
My oldest quickly grew out of it but my youngest son?
In some ways it’s healthy and in their nature for boys to want to wrestle or even fight. However, that innate natural desire to physically fight, needs guidance, limits, and boundaries. My Son began the hitting stage several months ago and when he did, it caused my five year old to regress. I’ve had to pull out all the stops.
I started with gentle hands but that sweet little boy laughed in my face. I realized rather quickly, I was going to have to be a little more intentional with him.
By drawing these hearts on all our hands it provide a visual reminder for what are hands are for. A heart represents love and we all love each other. Whenever either children try to hit each other or even us, I redirect them to our heart hands.
If you’re able, intervene before the child strikes, point to the heart.
Ask, “What are our hands for?”
Answer with, “Our hands are for hugging not hitting or hurting.”
With repetition they will repeat it back and change the habit from hurting to hugging.
If the child still hits or hurts we take a time in.
I instruct the child that hit to look the other child or parent in the face. That way they really visualize and process what they’ve done. I ask our children, “do we hurt people that we love?” They always shake their heads no, then we take a time in.
In our time in we read this book:
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Hands Are Not For Hitting is a simple story that demonstrates what hands are and are not for. I have my son repeat the phrase, “hands are not for hitting.” Yes, my daughter does this too but less often.
They also have to commit to restitution, in toddler terms I call it “fix what you broke.” I explain that when you hit someone, you also hurt your relationship with them. For my 2.5 yr old the phrase is, “when you hit, you hurt.” When he leaves a time in, I always ask; “what are hands for?” He walks to his sister, hugs her and says “hugging.”
He goes to nursery when we go to our homeschool co-op, they do time outs and “no thank you.” This exposure is good, he gets to see that it isn’t tolerated by other people either. I made sure to clue in close relatives and if they are staying a while, they get a heart hand too.
My husband and I also provide a healthy outlet for our son. He gets to wrestle with his dad, as does my daughter but he is more gentle with her. I give it a go too but I’d rather go catch up on housework while they rough house. If you disagree with rough housing, it’s actually backed up by science. The Art of Manliness did a great piece on it and you can read it here.
My daughter is a little older and able to rationalize. We read “Talk And Work It Out” with her.
This is a social story written by Cheri Meisners, who has her Masters degree in early education and gifted education. Since Averie is able to rationalize, I knew she was ready for it. This social story goes into various ways to work out a conflict. It not only helps with arguements with her brother but other issues that have come up at playgrounds, community events, the neighborhood kids, and Co-op.
We also explain that she may one day come across someone who is very physically aggressive. If talking isn’t working and there is no grown up in ear shot of her, then she needs to protect herself. Again, I’m not a proponent of violence but I don’t think anyone will argue against self defense.
It’s important to note that this is a phase most kids go through. It can last up to age six and longer if they are a child with special needs. Special needs children may need more intentional parenting and 1:1 efforts but it is so worth the time. It’s nice to have a plan as you navigate through this stage. I feel it’s imperative to really sear this in the formative years. No one wants to raise a bully.
This isn’t a plan that will have immediate effects, it takes time and effort from both parents. Like all things with parenting, consistency is the key. I know if I slip and let something slide, then we’ve gone five steps backwards.
Do you have any positive parenting techniques to share?