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3 year old hitting as a habit

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

My son will be three next week.For over a year he has had a bad habit of hitting particularly me when he is frustrated or mad. Now it has escalated to pinching and trying to bite. I've tried several different tactics, walking away, holding his arms away from me, talking to him about it (hitting hurts, we don't hit each other, giving words to his feelings), we've threatened taking things away (which I don't really like but until I read Unconditional Parenting I didn't really know what else to do). Unfortunately none of these things seem to be helping. When my husband sees him hit me he gets extremely angry and yells at him. I am not a fan of this tactic. It may stop him in the moment but at what cost? Also, the few times I have yelled, the yelling seems to have no effect and frankly I don't want to be a yelling household. I am really trying to implement gentle discipline and unconditional parenting tactics but I'm at a complete loss as to how to handle this. It has gotten pretty bad and it is really causing strife in my family. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated at this point. I just don't know what to do. 

post #2 of 5
My DD responds better to being given an alternative. If she hits or pinches me, I take her hands and calmly say "no hitting/pinching please. Gentle touch only" and gently stroke her hand with mine. She then usually gently strokes me cheek or wherever she was trying to hit/pinch before. She also has something she can (and loves to) hit: a little drumset. I don't know if that helps her but she really wails on it pretty intensely most days and I like to think that it gets some of the tension out of her. I hope you find something that works. The odd time I've raised my voice in frustration it only escalated the situation so I agree that yelling isn't a long term solution.
post #3 of 5

The best advice that I have ever read (and it was from this forum) Is that it's easier to teach someone to do something than to not do something. My son was 16mos old when my daughter was born so we wanted to nip the hitting in the bud. We practiced a lot of gentle touch when things were going well, and when he did hit (or bite) we had a 'zero tolerance policy'.  If possible, we moved him into another room, and had him calm down, sit with us, practice gentle touches, talk about why we didn't hit people. (This all took about a minute, which is for.ev.er to a toddler). We also talked about what do do when we get mad. It all worked really well, and it was so nice to have a plan in place as to what to do instead of just yelling at him.

post #4 of 5
A lot of toddlers go through an aggressive phase. Sometimes it's associated with needing better language skills, but it often seems to be around some kind of frustration. Kids that age can get frustrated when they're not understood or when they feel powerless, and if they can't talk about what they're feeling and what they want, they can lash out. So one thing to consider is whether he can verbally talk about how he's feeling and what he wants, and try to get him into the habit of using words to say what he wants.

The frustration over feeling powerless can be handled by trying to give him autonomy in any way you can when practical. Have him choose his own clothes, dress himself, put his dishes where he can reach them and let him get them himself, put snacks where he can reach them and let him choose what he has and when, have him help sort laundry or match socks or do other little jobs around the house. Whatever works in your family that will make him feel more autonomous.

Another thing I try to do is to say what I want in a positive way rather than negative, so I might hold the hand and say "gentle." Then, I'd go to my first point, and ask if he is angry, or frustrated, or whatever it looks like. Then, depending on how much he's paying attention at that point, empathize with his feelings and give him a suggestion of a way to handle it.

This is an issue that comes up very very often, so you aren't alone!
post #5 of 5

I didn't start this thread but I am having similar problems with my 19 month old. I plan to start some of the suggested tactis as soon as he wakes up from Nap.

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