What do you do when your toddler hits you? And, how would you handle this situation? (See inside.) - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 23 Old 05-27-2013, 11:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My toddler is 2 years and 4 months old. He hits me when he gets upset at me for any reason, doesn't get his way, can't do this or that, whatever.
And we don't have a lot of rules, so it's not like he gets "no" a lot. I say yes whenever I can, and I let him do a lot that others probably wouldn't. I give him choices, and try to let him decide a lot for himself (within reason).
But with toddlers being toddlers, and he has a temper, I still get hit a lot. Not every day, but many times a week.
And this really does get to me, I know he's 2, and I know he does not mean anything by it (he's not wanting to hurt me or anything), but I do NOT like to be hit. I'm an abuse survivor, and that's probably why I have strong feelings about it. Sometimes I really have to count to 10 to not react strongly.
What I do right now is that I get down to his level (or pick him up) so we have eye contact, and I tell him that he is not allowed to hit, that hurts me. If he does it repeatedly, I will stop him by holding his hand.
Well, that's what I do most of the time, sometimes if I'm tired or whatever I might just say "ouch!" and "do not hit me".

If he hits other children, I will tell him it hurts them and also help him "make it up" to them by saying sorry for him and show him how to stroke them gently (hold his hand and help him with the gentle touch).
He only hits other kids if they take his toys away from him or ruin something he's playing with, but most often he will actually just take it back while yelling "no, it's mine" or whatever, or pushing them away.
More or less like almost all the other 2 year olds he's around, so I'm not worried about that, it'll pass when he learns better impulse control and to use his words instead and such.

But he has been hitting me for a long time, and what I'm doing does not seem to be working. Or is it just his age? Will it pass? (If so, when?) Or should I do something else?




Ok, the other thing. Me and someone I work with were discussing a situation here, and I had this bad gut feeling when he said how he would handle it. But I'm not sure why. He is a child psychologist, and I usually think he is very wise with his suggestions.
I'm just not 100% sure it's very AP.
So, the situation, imagine a 2 year old who is in daycare. He likes being there and is happy, when his (single) mother picks him up she takes her time and waits for him to be ready to go.
His older siblings go home from school on their own.
2 year old wants to walk home from daycare, but he does not want to walk the right way. He wants to walk exactly where his curiosity takes him, and any attempts to get him to walk in the right direction doesn't work too well, and it takes them forever to get home. And sometimes, that is fine. Other times, they have to get home. When his mother then puts him in the stroller, he will kick and scream and protest, and he doesn't really stop. He will cry basically the whole way home. And although it's only a 10 minute walk, the mother really doesn't like it. She would much rather talk to him, sing songs, look at things they pass, whatever. Have a pleasant walk. And you know, the crying does something to the mother's instincts.

Now, the child psychologist said he would explain the deal to the child "we have to get home because of x and y, so you have to be in your stroller today", lift the child in, and when he cries just tell him something like "I know you wanted to walk, you're upset that you can't, but I'm right here and it'll be ok". So you acknowledge his feelings, and tell him it'll be ok. But then still walk home, even if he does cry, you don't do anything else, besides talking to him about it.

I don't know why that felt wrong to me, but I know that I couldn't listen to my child cry for 10 minutes without doing something about it. I know it's important for them to be allowed to be in their feelings, but I can't stop thinking that 10 minutes is a long time for a 2 year old. And all my instincts would be on high and I would want to help him. And "just" talking to him would seem like ignoring him, even though it's not really what you're doing. But just the very thought that the 2 year old might feel ignored makes me get a bad feeling.
But I also know that I have a very low "tolerance" for crying, I will want to help them right away.
So, what would you do? And would you be ok with just talking to them and still letting them cry in a situation like that?

(And oh wow, excuse the novel!)
 

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#2 of 23 Old 05-27-2013, 12:07 PM
 
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In theory I would be okay with walking home with them crying for 10 minutes, especially with older children waiting at home. Its similar to putting a toddler in their carseat - they have to sit in the carseat and you have to go somewhere. Granted, when my baby hated being in the carseat for longer than 10 minutes, we never went longer than 10 minutes away from home, and now my husband squeezes in the back seat to sit next to her. 

In practice - I probably wouldn't be able to deal with it. :) I'm not one who tolerates my child crying well. I'm more used to it than DH, since I'm with her 24 hours, so I don't get that instant panic feeling anymore, only if she's hard to console. She also rarely cries for long, she's very easily distractable. 

 

On hitting, no idea and I have the same question. DD is pretty rough with DH. 


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#3 of 23 Old 05-27-2013, 07:43 PM
 
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The feeling of "you gotta do what you've gotta do" has become more comfortable for me as DD has gotten older. When she was tiny I never left her to cry, it made me extremely uncomfortable, and I felt it was important to respond to her as quickly as possible so she learned to trust that. Now she's 19 months old and has some big feelings about most daily situations. She's also (according to my highly scientific mom instincts) old enough to be told no with a brief explanation when we just have to get something done (or she wants to lick something disgusting). She will cry, and I'll be close and empathize, and sometimes even cuddle her if she wants it, but I'll hold the boundary. I feel like she's ready for that developmentally. 7 months ago, I wouldn't do it to the same extent, and 13 months ago, I wouldn't have done it at all because I didn't feel that it was appropriate for her. She seldom cries for 10 minutes, barring extenuating circumstances like we just need to go in the car or the stroller and get home. Usually she'll simmer down pretty quick.

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#4 of 23 Old 05-28-2013, 09:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, you two!

 

And nobody has any good ideas for when your toddler hits you?

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#5 of 23 Old 05-28-2013, 04:49 PM
 
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My approach with hitting has been to say "no thank you. Gentle touch only". I just find my 2 year old responds better when I tell her what to do rather than what not to do. It's almost like the "no" gets filtered out and all she hears is "hitting". I also demonstrate by gently stroking her hand so she hears what to do and feels/sees the demonstration. I've had good success with this but I admit my DD is fairly easygoing. Hth
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#6 of 23 Old 05-28-2013, 05:07 PM
 
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I would take his hand and say "No! I don't hit you and you don't hit me." Of course, that was before I learned about positive speaking. The subconscious does not understand "not", or "try". Anyway, after saying that I would hold him and give a lengthy lecture about how hitting in self-defense is one thing, but if you're not being hit, you shouldn't hit, etc. Now before anyone says a toddler won't listen, let me tell you what he did learn was hitting resulted in a kind of time-out, so he quit hitting and started stamping his foot while glaring and making a fist. It was better. Good luck with your little one!

Oh, about the hypothetical senario, the psychologist's suggestion is something I would never do. My son hated the stroller, and I respected that. What he would accept under those circumstances is being carried, which is what I did many times. I wasn't pregnant or had any other real reason why I couldn't, but that is not true for everyone. The suggested response is disrespectful, in my opinion.
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#7 of 23 Old 05-28-2013, 05:30 PM
 
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About the hitting, our son has recently started to experiment with this as well. He'll be two in September. I make sure we're on the same level and I say "please don't hit me" and then I explain to him that hitting hurts and it gives an owie. It's not nice to give owies, and it makes me sad. I then ask him if he understands (he usually nods or says yes) and then I ask him to say sorry to me, because you have to say sorry when you hurt someone. Then he gives me a hug, which is his way of saying sorry. It seems to be working fairly well, and he doesn't keep doing it after we have that conversation. I think it's been about a week now since we had a hitting incident, so I'm hoping he's learning the message. 


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#8 of 23 Old 05-28-2013, 07:47 PM
 
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My DD is a little younger, so she doesn't have the language to say sorry or track more than a sentence at a time, I'd say. I keep it short. "Gentle hands" and I'll demonstrate for her. She mostly hits when she's excited or wound up. If she keeps hitting I'll switch the situation up (if I can) or just put her down briefly and firmly tell her it hurts. That's the approach I've taken with biting and scratching while nursing and it seems to get her attention with a minimum of trauma.

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#9 of 23 Old 05-30-2013, 12:18 AM
 
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What has worked (somewhat) with us and our son hitting is to try to get him to verbalize - he pushes or hits us when he's upset about not getting what he wants.  For example, he'll be doing some activity and I'll tell him it's lunch time, but he ignores me.  So at some point I say, "Up to your chair, please," and physically sit him at the table, and then he tries to hit me.  Sometimes he'll even announce it, trying to get attention: "See, mom? I'm not napping, I'm hitting you!"  Either way, but especially when he's clearly angry or upset, we get down to his eye level and say, "Woah, woah, woah.  Why the hitting?  What's wrong?"  To which he usually doesn't have much of a response, so we volunteer: "You're frustrated, aren't you?  You're frustrated because you don't want to eat lunch right now  Well, then, say that.  Tell us: I'm frustrated.  And we'll talk about it.  But don't hit."   We thought it was a fool's errand, more to help us deal than anything, until 2 days ago when he started to hit me, and I said, Woah! and he sat on his stool and sighed and said, "I'm frustrated, Mom!" and it was awesome. =)  Because I could then say, "Why are you frustrated, honey?" and start a conversation.  He still wasn't happy about being told what to do, but he felt heard, and I escaped bruises, so win-win.
 

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#10 of 23 Old 05-30-2013, 12:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, everyone!

I'm gonna try and switch it up a little to see if we can't end it sooner rather than later.

 

thursday2, I love that idea. I'll see if I can do that at least most of the time. (Sometimes, you know, when you're very tired or something, I forget stuff anyway.)

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#11 of 23 Old 05-31-2013, 08:29 PM
 
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I really like Thursday2's method, and will use something similar when DS is a bit older.  Right now he's 2.5 and still very limitedly verbal, and I don't think it would be very effective yet.

 

My response depends on what's going on and whether or not I know why he's wanting to hit me.  If I can address the underlying problem, I do, and don't do much about the actual hitting other than maybe saying, "Ouch, that hurt."  Something I've had pretty big success with if I can't figure out what's going on is being incredibly dramatic and silly.  He hits me and I do a long dramatic death scene, flailing around, falling down, 'reviving' myself and 'dying' again.  He usually tries to resuscitate me by pinching my nose and I gasp awake and we giggle.  I think it helps when the reason he hit is that he was desperate for a connection and didn't know how to go about getting it.

 

In your example of walking home - I am very much AP and very into positive parenting, but that doesn't really sound harsh to me.  Ideally, the child would get advanced notice on whether or not it would be a stroller day or an adventure day and have time to adjust to the change.  I think that's the hardest part for a toddler - the sudden change in expectation, thinking that he'd get to go exploring and then not getting the chance to.  So hopefully there would be time to get to the daycare, tell the child that it would be a stroller day, then give them some time to come around to the idea.  I would also tell them that we could go on a walk again tomorrow (or whenever).




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#12 of 23 Old 05-31-2013, 10:41 PM
 
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We used the "ouch-that-hurt" method when the hitting was somewhat accidental.  When the hitting was emotion driven we tried to help DS with that.  For example, if he were crying and hit me/DH when he didn't get to do something, (I would probably say "ouch-that-hurt", b/c it probably did, then...) I would say "Oh sweetie, you sound really upset.  Sometimes when I'm upset I... (insert whatever you think is appropriate, stomping feet, shouting 'CRUD', crying, having alone time, needing to be held)"  We would tell him that he may kiss us, hug us, hold our hands, but hitting was not a way that we touched each other.  Sometimes he would really get going with a pretty good melodrama, and I would offer to hold his hand or carry him, and just keep saying things like, "Oh, you are soooo upset!" and "This really made you feel sad, huh?" 

 

If I could see it coming, like he was really wound up and just kind of being wild, I would try and head him off like how Skycheattraffic would say "No thank you", and then repeat "Mama's love kisses, and hugs, and soft/gentle touches".  After I did that for awhile I would start asking him, "What kinds of things do I love best?" and he would get a big smile on his face and give me hugs and kisses (albeit sometimes a little rough, much better than hitting)!  Also, like pek64 said, I would carry him as much as possible.  If you can't carry him, you could try holding his hand or having him help you push the stroller while you make some sort of contact with him (I think that contact really helps when they can't understand the particulars of any situation).

 

As far as the conversation with your coworker goes, I can understand your feelings, but I don't think the part about talking to him about his feelings is too harsh.  I would NOT tell him that it is going to be okay, because that is your own opinion and perspective.  To your kid it is most definitely NOT okay or he wouldn't be upset.  To say that it is okay, after validating his feelings initially seems like you weren't really listening after all.  So, I would stick to hearing him out, but I would try to figure out a way to not have him in the stroller throughout this.  Even if you are walking behind him and saying that you 'hear him and he is clearly sad about not walking home' he can't feel that connection.  I guess that is where I feel uneasy about the situation.  I used to have a really hard time with the crying in the carseat thing when DS was itty-bitty.  How could he know that I was there for him when he wasn't in my arms?  This feels similar to me.  He may be too big to carry the whole way home, but there ought to be some physical connection, in my opinion. 

 

Hope this is of some help.  Good luck, and this too shall pass!  (ps- My DS is 3yo now and not a hitter at all.  We have bouts of rowdiness, or accidental roughness, but he has learned how to deal with frustration and anger without using his hands!)

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#13 of 23 Old 06-01-2013, 04:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, guys!
 

Mama505, the "walking home from daycare" scenario isn't about me, it's another mum. And she is not someone that'll carry her child, that's why we needed to figure out a solution without a carrier. She does have a stroller where the child faces here though, so that's good, that they can at least see each other.

Thanks for the input, I think you also said some more things that was bothering me with the situation.

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#14 of 23 Old 06-02-2013, 04:32 AM
 
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My DD is 26 months and has just started to hit a little, mostly when she is upset, but sometimes just to be funny. I was having a hard time with it because I would say "Ow, you hurt me. No hitting, hitting gives me an owie", but she just wasn't getting that I was serious, she still thought it was funny and would do it again. Also, she thought it was sooooo funny to pull my hair, and that really hurt! What I've started doing that seems to be working is just removing the situation. If she hits me I say "I really don't like when you hit me, It hurts my body. I am going to take a minute to myself until I feel better", and then I do. I really do feel like I could use a minutes to myself, and that has gotten through to her that it really is not OK. She usually hits with an object, so I take whatever it is away, as well. Sometimes she hits our cat or pulls his tail, and then I say that he needs some time to himself so he can feel better (he does!) and I put him in the other room. I used to give her a warning, like "It hurts me if you pull my hair, if you do it again I'm going go take a minute to myself", but after a week or so I stopped doing the warning because she now understands that it hurts me and does it anyway. She does cry whenever take whatever she hit with away, and that is hard for me because she doesn't cry very often, but I'm still ok with doing it. After I come back she usually wants a quick cuddle and then we go back to normal, or talk about why she was upset for a minute if she wants to, and then she usually says "sorry for hitting".

Also wanted to add that we also don't have a lot of rules, if there isn't a reason not to do it I almost always let her do it. But this is the one thing that is just not ok. I have the right not to be hurt physically by anyone, even my toddler, and she does not have the right to hurt. I really believe that kids need to learn from the beginning that it is not OK to hurt people. I think it is  especially important for boys to learn because our culture teaches them to be more violent in general than girls. 

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#15 of 23 Old 06-02-2013, 09:48 AM
 
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FWIW, I think all kids go through a hitting stage as toddlers. I've yet to meet one that didn't.  I think it has a communication function that eventually is replaced by other words and behaviors.  Fortunately, kids seem to grow out of it around the age of 3 or 4.  I think as long as you find a way to discourage it, it will largely fade.  Barring any major issues, kids usually figure out that there's better ways of communicating.  (About the only time I've seen persistent hitting in older kids, they're either non-verbal, or have behavioral disorders).

 

So keep discouraging it, and know that it WILL go away.   

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#16 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 10:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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RStelle, I like your method in theory, but I have a very sensitive toddler, so if I walk away from him (tried it) he will get seriously upset and hurt and cry, and I would just have to turn around right away and go lift him up. He can't handle that. (It's the kind of cry there is no way you can be ok with.)

 

sageowl, 3 or 4 sounds like FOREVER. But at least there's an end. :) (And I'm gonna hope it's before then. He's a good talker, so hopefully it'll be long before 4 anyway.)

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#17 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 05:59 PM
 
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Now, the child psychologist said he would explain the deal to the child "we have to get home because of x and y, so you have to be in your stroller today", lift the child in, and when he cries just tell him something like "I know you wanted to walk, you're upset that you can't, but I'm right here and it'll be ok". So you acknowledge his feelings, and tell him it'll be ok. But then still walk home, even if he does cry, you don't do anything else, besides talking to him about it.

 

This sounds fine to me. You are explaining what's going on to him, so not ignoring him, while doing what you need to do.

 

 

Quote:
I really believe that kids need to learn from the beginning that it is not OK to hurt people. I think it is  especially important for boys to learn because our culture teaches them to be more violent in general than girls. 

 

Absolutely!


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#18 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 06:16 PM
 
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Hitting could be a food sensitivity.  My kids had food sensitivities when they were toddlers and I noticed a difference in their temperaments when they didn't have the foods they were sensitive to.  2 of my kids reacted to foods with salicylates in them.  It made them whiny and hyper.  We ate totally natural  foods - nothing processed but the foods with salicylates are things like apples, peaches, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.  Just a thought.  It made a huge difference in my kids.


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#19 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 06:21 PM
 
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I have an almost three year old who is going through a hitting phase. On the rare occasions that I am totally on my game (so ideal situation):

1. Don't hit. Hitting hurts and gives owies.
2. How do you feel when someone hurts you? How do you think ____ felt when you hurt them?
3. If you feel like you want to hit you can come talk to mom or dad, go to your room, bang the piano, etc.

Usually I don't get it all in but I try to address the main points: we don't hit, imagine how the other person felt, and give options. To be honest I have felt really crummy about this lately because he is still hitting but I just tell myself that it will eventually click with him. Good luck!
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#20 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 07:37 PM
 
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My kid is going through a bit of a hitting phase at the moment. But it seems to be more about somehow getting closer to me - or maybe provoking a reaction. She doesn't really do it when she's angry. She's also trying to poke me with sharp things all the time! I try not to let her have sharp things...but still she manages to get her hands on them, and then rushes over to poke me with them. It's a little tricky to know how to react! Some of the tips above are great.

 

Yesterday, she bit me in the thigh! She was nuzzling into me, sort of between my legs (I was standing up), and just latched on and bit down - I was wearing so many layers I didn't notice until I felt the pain, and I semi-screamed. She got SUCH a fright (poor thing) - that it took me about 15 minutes to calm her down and stop the sobs. 

This has nothing to do with the OP's post - but sometimes I get the feeling she actually just wants to EAT me or something? Or she hits me as a way of expressing affection somehow. Or tries to 'scrunch' at my eyes. She's even said a few times that she wanted to take my head off and take it to bed with her. LOL.

She's very verbal...so I don't think it's a communication thing per se. And just lately she's been giving out actual hugs and kisses spontaneously, which have never happened before - so maybe she is just experimenting with different ways of 'touching' so to speak.

 

The things kids do and say though....!?

It's such a weird universe they seem to live in.

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#21 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 08:04 PM
 
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Our approach has evolved over time... When DD was still very young (under 2), we did the "gentle touches, please" approach that others have mentioned. Around 24 months (maybe a little later) we began introducing responses like: "in our family we use gentle touches," and "we don't hit in our family." This change, to responding in a way that is inclusive of our entire family and its values, has been important for ME during those times when I'm at my wit's end from being tantrumed at all day!

 

With this toddler discipline stuff, I have to constantly to remind myself that it is my job to keep my family safe and healthy, even if they don't always like my choices.


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#22 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 10:45 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Grover View Post

My kid is going through a bit of a hitting phase at the moment. But it seems to be more about somehow getting closer to me - or maybe provoking a reaction. She doesn't really do it when she's angry. She's also trying to poke me with sharp things all the time! I try not to let her have sharp things...but still she manages to get her hands on them, and then rushes over to poke me with them. It's a little tricky to know how to react! Some of the tips above are great.

 

Yesterday, she bit me in the thigh! She was nuzzling into me, sort of between my legs (I was standing up), and just latched on and bit down - I was wearing so many layers I didn't notice until I felt the pain, and I semi-screamed. She got SUCH a fright (poor thing) - that it took me about 15 minutes to calm her down and stop the sobs. 

This has nothing to do with the OP's post - but sometimes I get the feeling she actually just wants to EAT me or something? Or she hits me as a way of expressing affection somehow. Or tries to 'scrunch' at my eyes. She's even said a few times that she wanted to take my head off and take it to bed with her. LOL.

She's very verbal...so I don't think it's a communication thing per se. And just lately she's been giving out actual hugs and kisses spontaneously, which have never happened before - so maybe she is just experimenting with different ways of 'touching' so to speak.

 

The things kids do and say though....!?

It's such a weird universe they seem to live in.

 

Hahaha!! She loves you SO much!


DD Seraphina born at home on 2/21/2012! 

"Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one."
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#23 of 23 Old 06-03-2013, 10:48 PM
 
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Modeling gentle touches by touching DD softly then having her touch us softly is working for my 15 month old! She gets excited and rambunctious with Dad and tends to scratch his face up, so we modeled gentle touches and then she gently pat dada on the head. It was pretty cute. 

Thanks for that advice, I got it from this thread!


DD Seraphina born at home on 2/21/2012! 

"Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one."
Kaydove is offline  
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Toddlers , Toddler , Gentle Discipline

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