What to do about my 3 year old hitting - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 10 Old 12-21-2011, 10:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi,

 

My 3 year old daughter has a hitting issue. She will hit me whenever I force her to do something that she doesn't want to do. She has difficulty with transitioning from one thing to the next, so I use a timer so that she knows how much time she has before it's lunchtime, dinnertime or bathtime. This often works, but sometimes, she wants to continue doing what she's doing so I will usually say, "ok, I'm going to count to 10. When I get to 10 you can come over here to eat your lunch or I can come and get you." The hitting will often take place if I have to pick her up and carry her to the table. The same thing happened this morning when I was getting her into the car seat. She was taking her time getting into the seat, so finally I picked her up and put her in myself since we were running late. She smacked me in the face. Today hasn't been a good day because I've gotten smacked twice by her and have responded very poorly, basically yelling at her very loudly the first time and putting her in her crib for a few minutes for a time out the second time. My very loud yelling is totally inappropriate, I realize, but unfortunately there are days when my tolerance/patience is low and I just snap. Then, of course, I feel like the biggest loser in the world, and I'm not even sure how to repair the damage I feel as if I've caused. 

 

The other problem we have is my daughter's treatment of our animals (2 dogs and a cat). I have told her repeatedly for as long as I can remember that the animals are a part of the family, that we need to take care of them, that we must be gentle with them. Yet over and over again, my daughter will push them, make kicking motions towards them, jump very close to them (which obviously is nerve wracking for them) and even do this growling thing towards them. It's not a constant thing, but it is a regular thing. There is always at least one incident a day and usually a few. As with the hitting, I'm sick and tired of trying to teach her and be patient with her, especially because she is very smart, and KNOWS very well that she's doing something that is absolutely not ok.

 

How would you apply gentle discipline in these cases? I want to be the patient, calm mom at all times (and I do try) but I also don't know what to do when all I do is sound like a broken record and the behavior continues. And I don't necessarily know if I'm serving her by not giving her firmer consequences. Occasionally she gets time outs if the behavior is really bad, but usually I just tell her plainly that what she's doing is not ok. It is definitely not a communication/teaching problem. She KNOWS.

 

Any suggestions?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

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#2 of 10 Old 12-21-2011, 08:30 PM
 
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With the pets: I think its about power. They are the only ones smaller than her so she wants to exert her power over them. One thing to consider, if you haven't already is: Are you giving her power over her life as much as you can? Can you give her more choices so that she doesn't feel completely at the mercy of others' whims? Otherwise, can you just keep them separate?

 

ONE approach to hitting is outlined here: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/hitting.html and in a follow up post in the next day or two.

 

My son was doing this for a while and has now mostly stopped. He screams now. And sometimes we need to remind ourselves that screaming is better than hitting. I tried encouraging him to hit other things but he never did. I verbalized his feelings for him "you're mad. you want to eat your candy NOW. you like that candy. you don't want to wait." etc. 

 

Distraction is still a great tool. Playful Parenting is a book that has a lot of suggestions of how to turn difficult situations into funny ones. It takes some creativity but once you realize its possible to turn a situation on its head with a joke, you get a lot more persistent about trying to think of a joke. Another tip that I recently learned and recently posted here in response to another post: from The Science of Parenting: try to activate their "seeking" brain; pic their curiosity and get them trying to figure somethign out. This gets them out of their emotional lizard brain and into their human cerebrum where things are calm and quiet.

As for regretting the yelling. It may help, if you haven't already, to just be honest and straight with her and apologize for your reaction, try to help her understand why you think you react that way, let her know that you don't like doing it and you want to stop it and you are trying. It could even be an opportunity for you both to discuss the fact that you are both actually having the same problem. She knows she's not supposed to hit but she can't stop herself. You with yelling. Try to get enough sleep and "me" time as prevention.

 

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#3 of 10 Old 12-23-2011, 06:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for taking the time to reply, Eliza! I really appreciate it. And I think you're right that what I'm dealing with is a power/control issue, both with her treatment of the animals and with the hitting. She usually hits when I ignore what she wants and force her to do something. And my yelling is rooted in the same issue. I just want her to do what I want her to do for a change without a negotiation. 

 

I do think I try to accommodate her as much as possible. Sometimes it's hard to know where to draw the line as a parent. Am I being a puppet to a 3 year old puppeteer, or am I just being respectful of what she wants? 

 

I did talk to her about my yelling and told her I was very sorry about it. We also talked about how we're each having trouble with anger. 

 

Thank you again, El

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#4 of 10 Old 12-24-2011, 07:38 AM
 
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Dear Katherine4-

 

I am almost in tears reading your post, here on Christmas Eve.  Word for word, you wrote so many issues that we are struggling with right with our 3.5 year old. 

My son not only is hitting, he has begun to yell and scream at his papa and I.  Like 'YOU NEVER DO THAT AGAIN MAMA!!'  Actually, I had to pause in writing this email to address some behaviour. 


I have struggled with his strong spirit for some time, and we are very involved parents.  I am an educator and have tried everything from with-drawling the TV time, have fun and educative games and puzzles, books and painting... however, he never wants to stay involved in something for long unless there is one on one attention (hard to do when you are trying to prep dinner and DH has not arrived home from work!)

 

I have tried to work with gentle discipline and his language giving him the words to say, 'I feel frustrated, I am mad'....

 

He has gone through phases with his hitting, (more so when he could not speak properly) and we have seen it more so again in the last 3 months. 

 

He has gone through a few changes of daycare, (we moved areas etc) and we have taken this into consideration.  However, it is not an excuse for the constant behaviour.

 

We count to 3, we give him two options so that he feels like he has control etc.  We are staying consistent.  Through all of it, the hitting continues and so does the yelling. 

 

And in regards to you saying that your reaction was not appropriate... I feel you. My past reactions to being slapped over and over in the face hit a wall and I have reacted badly by yelling... which in our case only raises his anti.  We have decided to not resort to not yelling back because it does not work for him or us. 

 

I even have seen a counsellor, because I am so at a loss with this behaviour and I feel worn down.  I do not deserve to be hit and abused by my son.  Who I love dearly and has so many amazing sweet and beautiful qualities.

 

As for hurting the pets.  We recently got a new cat in the Fall (after our long beloved cat died) and since then, we have seen him just torment her over and over.... (something he never did with our previous cat).  I am so close to getting rid of her because most of his angry and abusive behvaviour comes out with her and I am exhausted with dealing with it all evening long.  He knows that he is hurting her- he is smart.  What will he be like if I ever have a baby!!???

 

So.... do I have answers.... not really, maybe stay consistent with your family and get support when you can.  We have reached out where needed. 

But I can reach out- even through this forum and let you know that you are so not alone... and neither are we (which I often feel like we are) and lets keep in touch and support each other through what could be a challenging STAGE!!! 

 

Happy holidays.... take each moment at a time. 

 

 

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#5 of 10 Old 12-24-2011, 07:57 PM
 
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Before I say (type) anything, I just want to prefice this by saying that I'm the mother of a sometimes-hitter too. I know how incredibly sucky and HARD it is to be hit in the face. Or anywhere. Or to deal with aggression in your child.

 

Here is what I've noticed/witnessed with my child and my self: it's about her feeling powerless, out of control, disrespected, insecure. When we physically force our children to do things- pick them up, put them here, strap them there, force them to come along with us, try to force them to eat or potty or walk or not walk- they feel small, powerless, afraid. And children react different ways to that. Mine has a strong personality- like I do- and she will respond to what she perceives as a threat or aggression with aggression. 

 

I would try to give her as much choice, power, and respect as possible. Avoid 'forcing' her to do things as much as possible. Give her extra time, extra choice, extra freedom. Bend a little.

 

Merry Christmas Eve!!

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#6 of 10 Old 12-25-2011, 11:15 AM
 
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We have struggled with my now 4 year old hitting his younger brother. Two things come to mind as I read your post. First, letting her make choices/etc. is not just about giving two choices and letting her determine what will happen next or letting her run the household, it's about giving her a feeling of belonging and significance. This is the best preventive method I have found, from positive parenting. The idea is to get her involved in everything, that you need her help. For example, you can wrap a present by yourself, but asking for her finger and having her hold down the ribbon as you tie the other half of the knot makes her feel like she has contributed. The same is true for any activity/chore around the house. Even if you have to invent something that needs to be fixed, it can really contribute to positive behavior. Giving more responsibility leads to more responsible behavior.

 

Second, some kids are determined to "finish" something before moving on to the next activity. Have you thought about saying, "after you finish building that tower, we will have lunch" instead of "lunch in 5 minutes" with the timer set? That might help the transition.

 

With my DS, a lot of the physical stuff has to do with him needing to get energy out, and seeking out deep tactile sensory feelings. So, rough-housing, rolling him on the floor, making him into a pillow sandwich, etc., really helps him meet those needs without lashing out at his brother. I know it's not always possible, but when it is, it can be a useful tool.

 

I am really bad at the playful parenting/finding humor stuff, but I am also convinced it helps! I just wish I knew how to channel that kind of parental figure!! :)

 

Again, I want to stress, we still have our issues, and I am still struggling to deal with them, but these things have helped.

 

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#7 of 10 Old 01-29-2013, 01:44 PM
 
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I see the posts above are quite a few years old so I am nearly certain my reply will not be seen by you ladies, however, I had to write and thank you all for your comments, honesty and suggestions. I have a beautiful 3 1/2 year old son, whom I adore and like some, felt immeadiately connected when reading your posts--I am there now!!. I have always been proud of my son and his sweet, kind, loving behavior and was greatful to feel that we hadn't really had trouble such as the "terrible twos," it all seemed pretty standard kid stuff, whinning here and there, etc...  I am a single mom and we are very close, he has been raised in an affectionate, supportive environment and shows this through random hugs and 'mommy, I love you's'... Over the past 5 months or so we have had two significant episodes where he is, out of control (for lack of a better explanation). It seems to happen at night, he does not do tired well, and the meltdowns have lasted all night, or started at 2am and we are up for the rest of the morning. Each night, our routine is some playtime, supper, bath, teeth and get into bed and read books. All is ok and he's soooo ready to sleep then BAM, he is a different kid. Things start small, not being still, trying to get up, whinning or asking saying he's hungry when he's not. I handle calmly but it seems to progress regardless and the next thing I know he is out of bed, running around crazy, and when I try to get him he will hit, kick and now also has spit in my face on more than one occassion. I try and put him in time out, or at least back to bed but he fights against me and is STRONG and have had to give up on trying to struggle with him at all as I do not want him to get hurt unintentionally. He now also yells and screams loudly, speaks very ugly to me and talks about how strong he is and that he is just going to get bigger.  I have tried many different approaches and have learned that my calmness is a MUST, but I too have reacted in angry ways that I feel awful about and wonder if they have damaged him or us in any way. It is hard to recognize in the middle of this that he is only 3 because the looks he gives, things he says and attitude seem like that of an older person pushing your buttons. I have tried many approaches including what we do in the evening, time to be in bed, what he eats,reacting or not reacting....I am at a loss...I have also tried talking with him about all of it-how he is acting, how mommy acted and tried to ask questions that might lead me to understand what is going on with him to cause such outrage. I asked him where he sa people acting this way because we never treat eachother like that in our home, I also am leary of anything he watches because I think that can be a bad influence on behavior too. Our lives are not as consistant as some but in our situation I do the best I can to be consistant with him. I know I still need to work on that and am doing so. I have also been feeling for a while that his daycare may be causing some of the unsettled feeling/attitude issues and am currently researching for a switch...

 

I know that was a bit long and drawn out but I guess I had more to say than I thought... Your posts above were encouraging, as parents it is always comforting to know that others go through these hard times and we are not alone. I do believe that these times pass, as well. I also felt a bit of relief while reading suggestions each of you had and it gave me a new light to approach things in. I hope that you all made it through and your kids are back to being the wonderful people we know they are. Any other advice or words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, all!!!

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#8 of 10 Old 01-30-2013, 12:02 PM
 
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Oh, she's 3.  She's jockeying for power, feeling her importance, trying to find her place in the family unit.  She has grasped the Power of the Swat as a tool for dominance. (smart little twit, eh?)

 

Stay calm. I'd continue with the timer, seems like a good idea.  BUT if it goes off and she doesn't come to eat, just put her food in the fridge and ignore it.  She'll survive missing a bath, and if you have to pick her up off the floor sleeping because she didn't go to bed, she'll survive that, too.  Going hungry will not hurt her for one meal ( "sorry, you missed it.") and she'll figure out pretty quick what to do when the timer goes off.  Ignore the following temper tantrum or sit her down for a time out.

 

As to the animals, just take the animal away.  Cat or dog will be happy in the laundry or garage for a few hours.  You do not have to say a word, sooner or later she'll ask why.  Then calmly tell her.  She needs some mommy constructive behavior therapy. 

 

When you separate the arguing parties you pick a winner and a martyr.  Avoid doing that because they enjoy their roles and the attention so you just set yourself up for a repeat.  Obviously the dog couldn't care less but see that the little princess gets it.   What she really wants is control of her environment and your attention.  Over time she'll grow past that survival instinct as she matures into being more a part of her social unit (family).  

 

and divert her attention with things she does like. 

 

good luck. this too shall pass.
 

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#9 of 10 Old 01-30-2013, 07:05 PM
 
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I think it's important to remember that positive reinforcement is just as important as discipline. Giving a reward for the behaviour you want is just as important as time outs for behaviour you don't want. Rewards are anything the child values, not just food (which is an easy one to think of). So for your bedtime issues mom82009, find an immediate reward that your little fireball will love and tell him, "if you do this (insert desired behaviour) then we can do this/you can have this (insert reward)". I think parents often forget that little ones need praise and encouragement more often than they need redirection and discipline. I make an effort all the time to say thank you, tell my own little fireball that she did a good job or is a good girl. My aunt always says that for every criticism a person needs to be encouraged and get positive feedback nine times. I think this is wise. 

 

This brings me to my second piece, about attention. I think many times, as much as children want to have control and power over their own life (which is a totally reasonable expectation) they want attention just as much. So, if we are always saying "don't do that", "stay here", "eat this", "say that" then our interactions with our kids have become directive and not interactive. Would you like it if the people you loved the most in the world didn't pay attention to you other than to tell you what to do? I sure wouldn't. Would you like it if you never heard what a good job you did, or that the person you love most didn't say thank you when you were kind or helpful? Would you like it if the person you most admired and wanted to be like ignored you and only said anything if you hit the dog or didn't follow the routine to the letter? Now, I'm certainly NOT saying that this is how any of you mommies do it, I just want people to have a look at it from another angle, extreme as is may be.

 

How often do we play and be with our children? Would negative behaviour decrease if we were to interact with them in the ways that they want and need more often? Maybe. It probably depends on the kid and situation, but just doing a self check to see how your own behaviour (more than just keeping your temper in line when you're tired and frustrated) towards your children is may be enlightening.

 

Lastly, our children model our own behaviour. Lets all keep that in mind too. Be mindful of your own actions, not just what is put on the TV, but how you speak to your partner or frustration that emerges in tense situations. I think it is totally fine for children to see an argument, but they MUST see it resolved. If they don't see the resolution of the argument then it'd be pointless because the point would be to teach about how to solve conflict and not just keeping them away from all things negative. 

 

That's all. :)

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#10 of 10 Old 01-31-2013, 11:33 AM
 
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Good advice Maisigh.  We always used a bedtime routine - Muppets, tub, snack & cuddling, clean night clothes, clean sheet, raggedy Andy and tucked in.  what more could a kid want? 

 

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