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out of gentler solutions for 2.5 yo "violence"

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
my daughter turns three in June. she has always been super spirited, and has been physically aggressive towards other kids and her parents since about 18 months (or maybe earlier - don't remember).

as she gets bigger and stronger, i'm having trouble figuring out how to best help/contain her when she lashes out at me and DH. she is in a particularly tough phase of hitting, scratching, pinching, biting and kicking DH and i currently.

our current strategy is to hold her hands firmly and tell her calmly that we won't let her hurt us, and ask her when she feels ready to stop. when she says she's ready to stop, we release her hands.

but the bigger and smarter she gets, the harder this is to implement anywhere near gently. today i spent at least 1/2 an hour going through this routine.  she chases after me (so i can't just turn away or go into another room).  she hits me, and when i hold her hands down she then starts scratching my hands, kicking, and eventually biting.  i end up having to hold her more firmly than i'd like and in some contorted maneuvers to avoid her hurting me in some shape or form.

other things we have tried in the past that do *not* work at all for her are distraction (of any kind), time out, distancing ourselves from her, and offering more affection/touch/connection.  

* ETA: I cross posted this in the Gentle Discipline forum *
Edited by pamplona - 4/1/13 at 5:28pm
post #2 of 49
Totally, totally there with you. I checked hoping for advice on this subject.

I DO NOT SPANK but, for the first time, understand why people do. And this guy's not my first child, either.

My best lousy solution is to put him in a room or put myself in a room and lock the darn door until I can get it together. He usually immediately starts crying and apologizing. I get so mad at being kicked and hit (today, as I was putting wood in the wood stove) that I am considering meds for myself. My kiddo is 3, by the way.

Taking him outside often helps, but I am not always able to play nature hike when he needs it.

I'll check the GD forum, too, since I noticed you x-posted, but unless somebody's BTDT, I don't want to hear it.

This is one of the most maddening and frustrating things I have ever experienced. As an aside and partial defense, I have been in a "helping" profession for nearly two decades and hear all the time how patient I am. Ha.
post #3 of 49
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for your helpful reply!! I am also in a helping profession and often praised for patience - funny! smile.gif

In contrast to your experience, today's primary violent meltdown occurred outside in a peaceful setting in our backyard, so outdoors does not seem to deter the behavior in my case. greensad.gif

I have also not been successful with locking/closing myself in a room, as you mentioned helps your son. My daughter just tries to damage things in the house and/or get on the verge if hurting herself, so that's a no-go.

Your empathy/understanding really helps - thanks.
post #4 of 49
I got nothing but some more empathy. I feel like I've tried everything that's been suggested but we are still dealing with this. Started around 18 months I think and he turns 3 in early August. I have closed myself in a room to avoid hitting him. And I admit to having hit him in the past year (he started this long before the first time I smacked him). I'm past that now and have the control, but that's why I lock myself in a room. Thankfully I haven't yet had to deal with him hurting himself but he has torn apart books and done other destructive things.

We have noticed some things he does that makes us wonder about sensory processing issues. Nothing obvious, just some things to make us want to get him checked out sometime this spring/summer. And we wonder if there is any link between the 2 for him.
post #5 of 49
I was just reading in the GD forum and it led to a thought. If your family is anything like ours, you've been trying these different gentle solutions probably for the last year or more. Which means the first thing you tried was over a year, maybe close to 2 years ago. It didn't work then, but I wonder if it would work now? I'm going to try something "new". I'm going to pretend I've never heard of GD and have been mainstream parenting for the past 1.5 years. And I'm going to start from the beginning again. And I'm going to post a reminder to myself somewhere about what I'm trying to accomplish (like, when DS does XYZ my goal is to ZYX). Maybe I will print out some info about what our kids are actually going through/why they are doing this so that I can read it daily. Maybe it will give me the strength to persevere through this daily trial.

Not sure if these thoughts will help you, but I hope they do!
post #6 of 49
Thread Starter 

thanks for the empathy and suggestions, neoalee!  sounds like our kids have had some similar behaviors at similar ages!!  


i have looked over the symptoms for sensory processing disorder a few times in the last several months, but in our case it really doesn't sound like our daughter.  i hope you're either able to rule SPD out as an issue, or start getting help for SPD soon if your son does have it.


also, i was trying to understand your thoughts about starting something new, or maybe trying some older techniques for deterring violent kid behavior.  any specific examples that have come to mind since you started thinking about that idea?

post #7 of 49
I found the no more hitting course from hand in hand parenting to be helpful. Honestly the best thing I did though was cut out trigger foods. For my son it is artificial anything, gluten, casein, sugar, mold, and berries. It has made a huge difference!! He has set backs when he is stressed or there is a major change in routine, but so much better. He does have spd and lots of physical activity and roughhousing help. He looks like a
normal kid though so people don't get it.
post #8 of 49

More empathy here. I could have written that OP! So, if you want to know what is going on in my house refer to it. wink1.gif 

I just keep wondering is this normal? She is my first so I'm not sure if these toddler tantrums are off the scale of normal or not. The other day she spent more than 3 hours combined tantruming during 3 different "episodes". So, my question to you all, just to gain an understanding for myself, is how long does the hitting and being mean go on at a time? My most recent strategy is to hold her hands/arms down as well. So, she hits, I hold them down, she hits, I hold them down ect... I never know what might end the behavior, but usually in less than an hour she will actually calm down.

post #9 of 49

Great thread... Sorry we are all going through this though!  My DS began having some of these challenging behaviors at 18 months, and he's 2.5 right now. Some weeks things are going pretty well, and then other times not so much. Luckily for us, the episodes don't last too long. I just can't stand it when he resorts to lashing out physically, at all, period. He does have SPD-- we knew that something was up ever since he was a baby-- I thought he was simply  being spirited, as he has always been pretty intense in everything. But as time has gone on, we started thinking it was SPD. We had him assessed by an OT last fall, and will be doing another assessment with a different OT and consulting with a pyschologist about some behavior management approaches in about two weeks. We need strategies!  I can mostly discern when a challenging behavior is completely a sensory issue, and when it isn't related to that at all but a developmental thing (a friend of mine says that age 2 and 3 are the most challenging ages, ever!)-- but I say 'mostly', because sometimes it's really hard to tell. And then sometimes it's like it starts out as one and then the other is brought into it, so they are morphed...arggghhh!  I'd say for us, the SPD is our biggest thing we have to deal with-- but then when it comes to the normal developmental stuff, some days my patience is pretty thin... so I will be watching this thread carefully for ideas. (And I'm in the helping profession as well, btw! Sometimes we need help ourselves!)

post #10 of 49

I logged onto this thread hoping to get some good advice, because my 2 yr old is also out of control!!!

Tonight he chased his big sister around the house trying to hit her with a toy vacuum cleaner.  He held it high in the air like a club.  After having that taken away he went into the bedroom and tore down all her posters and ripped them up before we could stop him. 

When it's someone bigger than him who he's picking on I stay patient but he also tries to club the 1 yr old who I babysit.  As soon as I turn my back or walk across the room he pushes her or tries to sit on her as she crawls.  So he has to sit in the high chair when I am busy and can't supervise closely.  When the 2.5 yr old boy comes, DS gets himself beat up but doesn't seem to understand why.  I love the ideas you guys have about holding their hands for an hour but I have too many kids in my house and the other kids would get into mischief while I spent 1 hour with this one. And the lunch wouldn't get cooked/ laundry wouldn't get done etc etc.   So into the high chair he goes when he can't control himself.  I explain that I won't let him hurt others/ destroy the house so he has to sit in the high chair where I can see him while I'm busy in the kitchen. At other times I try to keep it positive, praising him when he's had a good morning (or half-hour) without hitting anyone.

I'm not sure if your daughter might be too big to sit in a high chair, play pen or stroller when she's out of control? Or if she is too spirited and that would just make her angrier? My son calms down after a minute and he also knows if he struggles the chair will fall over on top of him so he has no choice but to calm down.  

post #11 of 49

I have a 3.5 year old, and he is not terribly aggressive, but now and then he does grab my arm or hit, and I get so angry I feel like I am losing control. I have grabbed his arm and felt surprised by my own strength, I have raised my voice and felt surprised at its volume, I have stormed out of the house, gone fetal and started sobbing...basically, I am very very triggered by violence, and when my child is violent, he becomes the bully, I become the child, and...well, I don't have to tell anyone how dysfunctional that is. So I have done a lot of work on myself, trying to heal from childhood bullying, understanding the bullies, knowing how out of control their lives must have felt, etc. Then I try to very carefully pick up my son's warning signs so I know when he is likely to strike out. For my child it is when he wakes up from a nap hard, when anyone corrects him, or when anyone denies him anything. So when he is in one of those lashing out phases, as soon as something happens where I know he might get set off, I immediately get down to his level and brace myself, while looking him right in the eyes and connecting with him. Sometimes I'll say, "I see that look in your eye that I see when you want to do something uncomfortable with my body. I'm going to give you a lot of love and support right now so that that doesn't need to happen." That usually softens things and he doesn't end up lashing out. Another tactic of mine that works is lightening the situation--now this is only possible when I'm not hooked, when I'm not reactive, when I see what he is doing, almost as an observer (and I can only do this when I see it coming by the way). What I do is I put out my hands to protect my body, but don't try to hold his hands. I smile, and ask, "Are you TRYING to make me grumpy?" This lets him know I'm on to him. He usually smiles and says yes, and then asks if it's working. That totally breaks the tension and then I order him, in a silly way, NOT to do something and we play a power game. Like, well I can't let you do anything uncomfortable with my body, but you BETTER NOT take any toys out of the bin or you are in big trouble! I use a silly voice so he knows I'm not serious, and he jumps for the chance to be "naughty" in the context of a game. I have tried holding his hands and going through that whole cathardic emotional release, but it just doesn't feel right for us. He seems to react to it with more violence. In fact, when I started holding his hands more until he calmed down, the first night, he started attacking me in my sleep! (That was a first...I would wake up slowly, realizing someone was shoving and pinching me, and it would take a while to even figure out what was happening, let alone know what to do about it!) So there is my two cents. I really hope it helps and my heart goes out to you all!!!

post #12 of 49

I hope this doesn't come out wrong but when it comes to this sort of stuff, the best advice I ever got was the do what you'd do with your dog.  Bear with me.  When a dog constantly jumps on you when you come in the door, the quickest way to correct that behavior is to turn your back toward the dog and give it no reaction, give it no currency.  This is the one of the few areas where kids are, well, pretty much like puppies.  If there's no currency in the behavior, the normal healthy child will give up.  Quickly.  Behaving a certain way is no fun if no one reacts.  Now, I know it is incredibly difficult to not react when a child hits or bites.  It is infuriating and it often hurts like hell!!  But.  If you can muster up the last of your patience and simply walk away, turn to the sink and wash a dish, make a bed, do anything but speak to your child, no eye contact even, there's a very good chance you can nip this in the bud in a hurry.  If you child is in your lap and smacks your cheek, simply set her down without eye contact or a word, and leave the room.  It may get worse at first.... she'll be furious that her agenda isn't working.... but soon she'll likely move on to behavior that does get your attention.

Huge hugs to all of you going through this. I promise, before you know it, they'll be over it and back to being your gentle sweeties. 

post #13 of 49
Corrina - My first thought reading your post was, that doesn't work he just gets more angry and ups the ante so to speak. But as I continued to read I tried to take a step back. And I wonder, what would happen if I could hold out longer? Because really, that's pretty darn logical. If they don't get a reaction and then we make absolutely sure to give a lot of attention to other behavior, well... that *should* work. It's just a matter of figuring out how long it takes. I'm not sure if I'm at a place to make this work yet, but maybe soon.

Pamplona, I'm not sure that I have a specific example yet. It's more like this. Remember in the beginning before we got to this stage, or maybe when your LO was still a tiny infant or even during pregnancy? If you are anything like me, you spent as much time as you could reading and taking in info in order to be the best parent you could. I read about cosleeping, baby led weaning and extended breastfeeding, gentle discipline and attachment parenting, baby wearing, etc. I had all these ideas about how to handle the difficult stages, based on reading other mama's experiences. THAT's what I'm going back to. The ... optimism I guess.

Someone linked to ahaparenting in one of the other threads so I signed up for the newsletter and then read this, which I found helpful. http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/Parenting-Strong-Willed-Child
Today's issue really made me smile too: When Kids Simply Won't Cooperate

So I guess what I'm saying is I'm approaching this as if I haven't been beaten down by the past year + and pretending I'm just starting out this phase, looking for advice with the optimism that one of these things will help and trying them (even if I've done them before). Because maybe one of them will work this time. Or, maybe by the time I'm done cycling through some of them again the behavior will finally smooth out on its own simply because DS has matured a tiny bit. Also, reading the newsletter and focusing on strategies reminds me daily that he's not a bad kid, he's trying his best to learn and deal and cope, even if it doesn't look like it!

Not sure if any of that was helpful, but I'm feeling a little more positive (on the days I get enough sleep) orngtongue.gif
post #14 of 49

I think with any approach, and I know this is trite and repetitive at best, long term consistency is the key.  Kids need predictability, especially the more spirited. 

post #15 of 49
FROM CORRINA: "If you can muster up the last of your patience and simply walk away, turn to the sink and wash a dish, make a bed, do anything but speak to your child, no eye contact even, there's a very good chance you can nip this in the bud in a hurry.  If you child is in your lap and smacks your cheek, simply set her down without eye contact or a word, and leave the room.  It may get worse at first.... she'll be furious that her agenda isn't working.... but soon she'll likely move on to behavior that does get your attention.

Huge hugs to all of you going through this. I promise, before you know it, they'll be over it and back to being your gentle sweeties. "

I appreciate any advice anybody takes time to give, honestly I do. But I have to ask this poster whether she's ever been through this before. Prior to having the 3-year old I do, I might have given this same advice...but I can tell you, it is just not possible for most parents, regardless of temperament or gender (of both the adult and the child) to ignore this particular behavior over and over. Throwing a toy, ignore and have the child pick it up later...spitting on the floor, ditto. But ignoring repetitive whacking/hitting/biting? No can do. I am occasionally able to ignore and re-direct, but for me, it's just not always possible.

And, as much as I love my son, he has never been a gentle sweetie. He can be affectionate and wonderful, but you can't return to being something you never were to start with.
post #16 of 49
Originally Posted by samhope View Post
Honestly the best thing I did though was cut out trigger foods. For my son it is artificial anything, gluten, casein, sugar, mold, and berries. It has made a huge difference!! He has set backs when he is stressed or there is a major change in routine, but so much better. 


yeahthat.gif  When mine was 4yo the tantrums were SO bad and lasted so long that I actually videotaped them in case someone came knocking on my door.  It was no joke.  The mainstream parenting books were a full-on joke and I was suddenly looking at books directed at the adoptive community for Reactive Attachment Disorder.  surrender.gif


Other things that helped:


* A book called "Montessori In The Home" (really, really short and to the point about how to set up your home in ways that foster a lot of independence).  You can get it from the online store called For Small Hands.  Once I did that, probably about half of the problems disappeared.  They were clearly (although by no means obviously) some repressed control issues.  Who knew?  Not me!


* Aside from removing food irritants, we got to looking at his blood sugar regulation.  And honestly--that put it to bed.  He's now 9yo and we still have to be really careful about it.  We ate very healthy foods, we just didn't balance starches/sugars and fats and proteins so that simple sugars or starches (like fruit) were absorbed slowly instead of hitting the bloodstream fast causing an insulin spike and putting them on an emotional roller coaster that can cause serious behavior problems (even depression problems).  So he can never have anything that resolves to a simple starch/sugar without fats and proteins.  A banana has to happen with peanut butter.  Lots of sugar/starches just went (so we rarely have breads, pasta or sweets).  Desserts like ice cream have to be after a meal that has a lot of fat and protein in it (as opposed to being after a meal of pasta).  Sweet veggies like carrots are with hummus.  If we ate tortilla chips, they'd have to be with guacamole.  And a fruit smoothie in my house always has half of an avocado in it (which picks up the flavor of whatever it's mixed in with).


It's not that he ate unhealthy foods, he was eating them out of balance with fats and proteins that were needed to balance the insulin roller coaster.  And in my work, I'm seeing this to be a MUCH more common problem with children than people ever imagined--and the source of a lot of tantruming.  In fact, I really didn't even consider it for my own kid until it started cropping up so much in my work. Ya know, the cobbler's kid and all...   redface.gif  But that put the last of it to bed and really, that's pretty easy to figure out.

post #17 of 49
heatherdeg - that's really interesting and something I'm going to look into. We are already planning to get a strong handle on our meals for various health reasons. DH has never tolerated sugar well. When I met him, eating an ice cream sundae could put him fast asleep in bed an hour later, just completely conked out. As we get older it seems to happen easier. And he doesn't have diabetes. I wonder if it's the food mix for him as well? And if it is for him, then certainly why not for our son?

I should probably also get that book. DS goes to a Montessori school and I see that need for independence and control really starting to come out.
post #18 of 49

It sounds like we've all had trouble with the tantrums, hitting, kicking and throwing by our children! Boy is that so frustrating and hard. And as a parent, I used to feel so incredibly powerless, get so mad and irritated that I was in no way part of the solution, I became part of the problem. But I don't live there anymore. And my 6 1/2 year old twins sometimes still hit, sometimes still have tantrums. 


I needed a new way of looking at this situation. I, too, went to Hand in Hand, and took a Building Emotional Understanding class online and it changed my parenting. My twins were hitting, kicking, screaming. Nice kids, for the most part, except when they weren't. And I'd get so irritated with them. 


These were the things I learned.


Children by nature want to get along, want to cooperate, to share, to be connected to their parents. When they feel like they've lost connection, mommy is cooking dinner, daddy is changing the baby, the phone rings and a parent goes to answer it, all of these are places where the connection breaks, the child’s behavior changes. They may cry, tantrum, whine, or do a number of other things to get a parent’s attention. Being connected and good communication with their parents is vital to children's good thinking. Young children know instinctively that their life depends on a good, close connection to their parent. So, if they lose the connection, their ability to think goes off track and they do the nuttiest things, like hitting, biting, screaming. They can be petting the cat nicely one minute and pulling the tail the next. The difference in the child is the sense of connection. I'll call the hitting/tantrums/crying/rigid behaviors as a group "off track behaviors."


As you've been careful to connect well with your children, they also go off track when they feel really close to you and safe. This creates a pickle for parents, until we learn that the off track behavior is merely a signal that the child is showing where they hurt. It's a sign, a road map to their inner state. It's messy and not much fun for us, but it can be read.


With that as a background, this is another way to look at the situation. 


Children hit when they are afraid. Something scared them, either recently or in the distant past, and the road sign is the hitting. They are either feeling disconnected, which happens many times a day through no fault of the parent, or  they feel well connected, which allows for the old hurt to bubble up.  


If when that happens a parent goes in and gently, calmly stops the hitting - a hand on a chest, firm but gentle, to keep a little one from striking her sibling, or locating your body so that the child can see you but not kick you, like sitting behind them, works well. Then usually the child will cry and protest. This is good. 

These are the hard feelings that need to be offloaded, and allow the child to come back to his/her good nature. Why? Because crying is a healing process, and if the child is allowed to cry out the fear in the presence of a loving adult, they can release the old hurt and return to their good natured self. 


There’s more to it than this, and if you are interested, there are good articles on the HiH website. 


One is this: http://www.handinhandparenting.org/news/199/64/3-Tools-To-Stop-The-Hitting


I hope this perspective is helpful. Now that I’ve listened to my kids, they seldom hit, me or each other. They’ve also become braver in the world, take risks like speaking out in school, standing up for themselves when they feel wronged in situations that would have intimated me at their age. I won’t say the hitting goes away forever, there’s still more life to be lived, but I have tools now that help me help them.



post #19 of 49
Thread Starter 
@ Texasfarmom - to answer this: "So, my question to you all, just to gain an understanding for myself, is how long does the hitting and being mean go on at a time?"

For us that sounds about right - usually less than an hour. You also asked whether this behavior is normal. My understanding is that it is for many kids, while for other kids the behavior may indicate another issue. GL!
post #20 of 49
Thread Starter 
@ heatherr30: wow, that sounds tough!! In response to "I love the ideas you guys have about holding their hands for an hour but I have too many kids in my house and the other kids would get into mischief while I spent 1 hour with this one."

That makes total sense to me that you would need different strategies. For us, DD's highly spirited nature is one of many reasons why she will either be an only child or a few years older than a younger sibling. smile.gif
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