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Baby is Hitting

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Baby Boy is 15 months old, and very intelligent and verbal.  However, he seems to run with a full head of steam, and when he gets frustrated, it seems he is always already on the brink.  He loves to say words and make signs, but he doesn't have a sign or word for things like "I don't want to, I don't like that, I want my personal space", etc.  So when something happens that he wants to express disappointment over or rejection of, he does it by hitting.  I feel pretty confident that if I could offer him an alternate word, action, sign, or activity, he would embrace it, but I don't know what that would be.  I'm hoping for a whole bunch of suggestions here!  smile.gif

post #2 of 9

I didn't teach signs to my baby, but he's 14 months old and hits sometimes, too.  I'm interested in what responses you get!

In my ideal world (you know, the one where I'm always calm and able to think and always behave and speak according to my textbook standards?), I would reflect via words the emotions back to him, that I think he might be feeling. "Oh, you are angry that Mama didn't let you have another cookie!" and then model a more appropriate behavior to do with that emotion, like stomping my feet or hitting a pillow instead of a person.  But... I don't always have the presence of mind to do that!  I often just tell him, "don't hit!" and put him down away from me so I don't get hurt.  Sigh.  One of these days I'll get my act together!

post #3 of 9

ok, i'm a first time mom of a 14 mo old as well, so i have no real idea what i'm talking about, but this is what i do.


my mother (who's a developmental psychologist) tells me that babies cannot hear the word "don't" in the heat of the moment, and so if you say "Don't grab that electrical cord!" they hear "Electrical Cord!" and grab it.  Same w/ hitting it seems to me.  So she suggests giving an alternate positive suggestion. "grab the ball of yarn!" in order to redirect.


So in that vein, when my daughter hits me, (which is becoming more often), i try to redirect.  if she's angry and hitting i say, "hit the wall" "hit the pillow" "hit the chair" (whatever is close) and follow it by saying "Hitting people is wrong, and it makes me sad when you hit me"


Finally, sometimes she just hits me when we're playing, like she doesn't get that it hurts me (feelings more than anything).  So sometimes when we're not playing, doing something completely different, i ask her to touch my face gently, or touch me nicely.  i feel like if she can practice soft touch it will be easier to relate that during the wild times.  


i'll get back to you all in 5 years to let you know if this strategy works.



post #4 of 9

That makes sense!  I'm going to try those things too!

post #5 of 9

I've got a slightly older hitter, and I'm wondering about strategies, too.
post #6 of 9

You can try to teach him to shake his head.


The problem, though, is twofold: He doesn't have a verbal way of indicating unwillingness or rejection and even if he did, he's too young in terms of emotional development to be able to use words when he's really frustrated.  There's some really interesting work on toddler language development that shows that kids are most able to use language when their emotions are neutral. When they're really upset, or sometimes even when they're really happy, they can't coordinate language + emotion. It takes too much of their cognitive resources. That's why toddlers screech. And hit.


The best way of dealing with it that I found was to catch them just before they're about to hit (so they don't get the 'satisfaction' of hitting) and gently take their hand and say "no, be gentle". Then you can try to give them a word to describe the emotion or feeling. Keep it short and very simple. It does work. By age 2, our son was able to distinguish between surprised, startled and scared.

post #7 of 9

Children learn from what they see, so we need to display the most appropriate modeled behavior.

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Yes, that's so!  So I guess I have to model how someone reacts when they are suddenly slapped in the face!  Lol!  But I also would like to walk him through what HE should be doing, when he feels like hitting.  I've been trying to teach him to shake his head and say "no" instead...  That's about all I can think of right now.  If I was angry or despondent, I would probably vocalize it, but not resort to violence.  : )  So that's what I want for him, I suppose. 

I think his frustration is that he understands things that he can't express verbally, and that skill will come with time.

post #9 of 9

I wouldn't try to actively teach him anything, as in, require a response, at this point.


What I would do is be right with him, and do the scenerio FOR him, and preempt things as much as possible.  I'm also a big fan of do-overs, even at this age.  Rather, especially at this age.  I firmly believe that what we do and how we interact with our young children sets up our interactions for years to come.


Here's how a similar scenerio would look at our house...


It's hard, but I keep very close to the littlest all day.  So, when 2yo dd has something that 1yo dd wants, before any grabbing, screeching, etc starts, I initiate.  I say, "Dd3 wants (item).  It is for dd2.  Let's go find one for dd3!"  And I scoop her up and off we go.  Again, I don't wait until she has made a single move for the toy.  The second I see her eyes lock on the object, I'm there. 


Once their minds are made up, I think it's too late to do anything but file an after-action report.  Anything I do then is just some form of me not letting them what they have, and trying to teach them how to be polite, make amends.  My goal is to not let it get to that point.  It is to teach them what to do when they see something they like (or don't want to do or whatever).  I don't have to let my littles get to full on feeling before helping them deal with it.


As far as do-overs...  If I was too late to the scene, I would break it up, with not much comment.  Something like, "Uhoh...let's try that again."  And then I would take dd3 over to where she had been before, and then I would start from my previous paragraph.  If that wasn't possible, she was too worked up or something, I'd just scoop her up and move on without much comment.


I think it's easy to blame the child, or to make a big deal out of something when they, frankly, don't know what else TO do.  And they aren't ready to have to remember what to do.  That's why I make the actual behavior, at that age, a total non-issue, and work very hard to preempt the thought process entirely.  It isn't the same as redirection.  It is teaching them how to think through a problem before it actually happens.


Just reread the OP.  His main issue is angry for not getting what he wants.  I would frequently say, "no thank you" in a singsongy voice TO him when he is doing things for me.  And, like I was saying before, the very first glint in his eye of disappoval, I would say, "no thank you" for him, and change course.  I know there are some things he has to do, but, for a time, until he gets the idea, I would work very, very hard to preempt, and to show him that those words work. 

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