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"But I had to hit her, because..."

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

My 3.5 year old is a generally sweet child who needs fairly little discipline. Which means I'm kind of stumped when he does. He usually plays well with his little sister, but occasionally will knock her over, or snatch something, or hit her. When he does, I tell him it's not OK to hit, and he just insists: "But I had to hit her, because she was taking my monster truck!" (or crumpling the map, or sitting in my way, or whatever).


I keep trying to talk to him about why hitting is never OK, hurts, etc.. He keeps insisting that "he had to do it because..."  We can have that conversation forever, with no effect. 


I've tried telling him he has to go outside until he's ready to come in and be nice to us again, but that ends up with me physically putting a struggling child on the porch then holding the door shut against him while he screams and cries, which doesn't feel right, even for a few seconds. And truthfully, once he's gotten the truck back, he's probably done hitting already and no danger to anyone (but no less likely to do the same tomorrow).


I'm kind of stumped as to what I should do when he does something inappropriate like this?

post #2 of 9

DD is going through a bit of a stage like this and I find myself equally frustrated.  With her I have found that giving her more coaching on what the appropriate ways to communicate are - and a reminder that she can always come to me for help - do seem to help more than me reminding her that hitting is not ok.

post #3 of 9

I agree with PP - he needs to know what TO do.  Telling him that hitting is not okay is not enough.  I don't think that time-outs as punishments are effective or helpful in any situation, but that is neither here nor there.  I think you should give him other options on how to handle the situation in the future, and then role-play to practice.

post #4 of 9
Like the pp, I seem to have success with giving DS alternatives to whatever the undesirable behavior is, plus a reminder of what to do if he feels he is about to break the rule. No siblings here but DS likes to knock down furniture (small bureaus etc.) After 100 different ways of trying to deal with this, I finally said, "When you feel like knocking something down, you can push against the wall instead." (Took me awhile to find the right alternative -- knocking down blocks, for example, did NOT help.) We practiced pushing the wall a few times, and then I reminded him, "If you feel like you might knock something down, please come & tell me and I will help you push the wall instead." Worked really, really well for us, but the last part was key, so I could help him retrain his impulse.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the thoughts. Usually, telling him what TO do does work fine, and I do it for most other things.  I'm just stumped on this one. 


He's not breaking the rules out of some uncontrollable impulse, he's doing it because he feels its a practical way to solve a problem.  Problem = little sister in my way. Solution = knock little sister over.


I've told him that he can try talking to his sister first, and he often does.  But she's 20 months, and doesn't always listen. And shouldn't have to feel bossed by him anyway.


I hate to tell him to ask me for help, because his other approach is "Pick the baby up, she's doing the wrong thing!" Which is a better impulse than hitting, but I don't actually pick her up. I can't just remove his sister every time he finds her inconvenient.


Really, I want to just tell him "Hey, calm down and deal with the fact that you have a sibling" but am seeking a more practical approach.

post #6 of 9
I say this gently (and a bit ignorantly since I only have one child) but if YOU don't know what to do when DD is "in the way" or whatever, then of course your DS won't know what to do either!

I do think having him come get you is a preferable response to hitting. Then you can model the appropriate behaviors for each of them. I know to you it's not a big deal if she grabs his toy or stomps across his puzzle, but to him those things are a BIG DEAL. Kids' play is their work, and can you imagine if you were at work and a co-worker just grabbed your computer or crumpled up your stack of mail? Just because they are siblings doesn't mean that the perceived intrusions are easier to deal with.

You can come help remind DD not to take toys, or model having her ask before joining DS to play. You can teach DS to take some space in another room for a bit if he's not enjoying playing with DD (not as a punishment, but as a stress management technique or simply a way to get needed alone time). And if DD's acting crazy, yes, remove her from the play area for a bit, certainly not every time but at least when the situation seems to warrant it. To me this is not about teaching DS not to hit (although of course that is critical!) but teaching both of your kids how to play peacefully and manage their own conflicts non-violently.
post #7 of 9

I'm gonna say "come and get me" has potential to backfire and you'll wind up with 2 kids that still run to you when they're older instead of solving it themselves.  Ask me how I know (says the mom of an 8.5 and 6 yo who still do this and it drives me CRAZY because I have done years of teaching them how to resolve their problems, but that initial refereeing I did was what imprinted on them, apparently).  That was my line to my son when he was approaching 4 and daughter was approaching 2 ("try to work it out but come to me if you need help"), and....well, it backfired and we're still working our way out of it SLOWLY.  


**Note - I am NOT condoning letting them wrestle or beat on each other to solve things, nor to end up with a bunch of broken stuff from tug-of-wars...I'm just letting you know what "come get me if you can't solve it" yielded in our house...though I will concede that my daughter is an INTENSE, strong willed girl so him trying to negotiate with her when she was 2 was pretty useless...it's almost useless at this point and she's 6. 

What the solution is?  I dunno, clearly or I wouldn't be posting the above.  I'd just really think about how much you want him to be able to handle this, and how much you want to intervene, or maybe more importantly how/when you're going to transition them to more independent problem solving.  I've handled many things well as a parent, but this issue is NOT really one of them....I'm an only child, so I had no reference point to work from, and DH says, "it's just what siblings do" so he was no help either on this.  


Good luck!

post #8 of 9

In our house, it works like this:  DS (4) pushes DD (1) away from blocks.  I say "DS, talk to her.  You can say DD, don't knock over my tower!"

- he learns to express himself through words

- she learns from being spoken to

- I keep my ears open to know what's going on and help DD respond to Ds's request, or to at least be there to diffuse a tense situation.


Some solutions that work sometimes:

 - ask DS to build a tower for DD to knock down

- ask DS to bring DD a toy that she CAN have right now

 - explain that whatever he has look really cool to her and she just wants to look at it for a while, it's ok, she won't damage it (ie. relax it's ok)


This is definitely a challenge I face everyday! (but it is getting better ... i think  :)

post #9 of 9

I try to be the mediator. I don't actually "solve" the problem, I try to help them solve it instead. I am trying it so that they won't come in a couple of years anymore headscratch.gif but I don't know if you, Heather, aren't kind of doing the same thing.


I read: "Siblings without rivalry", and that was very helpful.


I actually think it does work, because DD1 and her friend had a fight the other day, and there were loud voices but no name calling, no hitting or violence but clear I-messages and they figured a solution all by themselves! I was sooo proudjoy.gif

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