How do you deal with hitting? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 04-17-2014, 02:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Some of you may remember my previous thread on dealing with my 3.5yo's behaviour issues. Things have improved a lot, I'm happy to say. Both her behaviour and my attitude. However, we still have the ongoing issue of hurting her little sister and I don't know how to address it.

DD1 will be four next month, DD2 is 17mo. At least once a day, but usually more often, DD1 will deliberately hurt her in some way. Either hit her, squeeze her cheek, stretch her mouth or kick her. Usually it is a frustrated/anger response to something DD2 has done or has been perceived to have done. Sometimes though it seems to just be DD1 venting her feelings or even just randomly acting. Like we might absentmindedly drum on a bench top or punctuate a remark or action by rapping on the table. DD1 will knuckle DD2's head.

I know I should probably just physically prevent it more but I can't see it coming half of the time. Or things deteriorate so quickly when I leave the room. This afternoon we were sitting in the playroom. DD1 on the step, DD2 on the floor in front of her and me next to DD2. DD2 patted DD1's knee and DD1 kicked her in the face. Not hard, she barely connected but enough to make DD2 cry. I don't know how I could have prevented that. Unless I never allow them within reach of each other which is not realistic. I made an exclamation of horror, hugged DD2 and sent DD1 to her room (which I don't think is a good strategy I just didn't know what else to do).

When DD2 was settled I went and talked to DD1. She claimed DD2 had hurt her. I said it still wasn't ok to hurt back and asked what she might do instead. She said "tell mummy or daddy" which is what I've told her to do in the past when she's hit because DD2 is in her room/took her toy/etc. I suggested that she could say "ow! Don't hurt me." Or "don't! That hurts." And we kind of practiced a bit.

The trouble is, she has all the answers when we talk about it afterwards but can only do it in practice about 1% of the time. I get that she is still young and no impulse control and all of that but I also have to protect DD2 (who has learned this behaviour of course and also hits and bites DD1, a connection which I have pointed out). Just giving DD2 attention and saying "you mustn't hit" or "I won't let you hurt DD2" does not seem enough response to me. Not least because I clearly *am* allowing her to hurt DD2.

She also hurts me sometimes too, although not as much these days.

And the frequency of the "I wish I didn't have a little sister" type comments is also increasing. I always empathise when she says this.

Help! Please! Thank you :-)

Mother of two spectacular girls, born mid-2010 and late 2012  mdcblog5.gif

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#2 of 5 Old 04-21-2014, 10:09 PM
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My kids are the same age and this sounds like what's happening at our house too. I do the same kinds of things and am pretty frustrated and at a loss as to why he does it but a lot of times it's because she has broken his tower or she is kicking him while we are reading a bedtime story...he just doesn't et that she's a baby and doesn't understand. She does know she is annoying him though lol. She is a little turkey just like him. I'm not sure what else to do though:(

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#3 of 5 Old 04-21-2014, 11:27 PM
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DS1 turned 4yo a couple of months ago, and that helped a lot!  ;)  Though he hasn't ever been hurtful toward his brother, 3.5yo kind of sucked for us all around.  My biggest piece of advice has to do with your reaction.  Before you react take a breath, and then (even if you are disturbed, perturbed, or fuming) try and remain a 'pillar of strength and stability' <I read that somewhere.  3.5yos can be really out of control, I think there is a lot of transitioning going on within.  Add to that the changes and stresses of everyday life (new baby, new routine, new rules, etc) and it's no wonder that my son was all over the place with his emotions.  When he would yell/throw/hit something I would (try and) go to a serene place inside myself so that I could be more present with his crisis when he calmed down.  If the baby was crying I would hold him and then call for DS1 to come and sit by my side.  If the baby was fine I would sit him next to me and call for DS1 to come and sit in my lap.  We would sit for a minute or two until I could feel the mood shift, then I would shift our attention (i.e. Weren't we going to do some drawings this afternoon?)


I think if I were in you situation (take the swift kick example), I would pull DD2 into my lap and offer a kiss and then call DD1 to come and sit near you.  If the look on her face is anything but smug I would say something to the effect of "Well, I don't think that will work for any of us.  How about we try again?"  And then if she doesn't say anything offer up somethings that she might... "Hey sister, please don't touch me there."  "No thank you sister."  And then remind her that she can always get up and move.  Often times if I could remain calm(ish), then the less I said the more DS1 would rally and recover the whole situation on his own!


All that said, there were many times that I could not even find that 'pillar of strength', let alone BE it!  But every time I could (and can) be there in that way during our crisis modes the whole day had/has a much better outcome.  Good luck mama!  :)

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#4 of 5 Old 04-22-2014, 08:28 AM
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Your kids sound just like my kids.  Except mine are 7.5 and 9.


It's been a long, long road.  It's getting to be an easier road, but it never seems to end.  Kids need to learn to put the horse before the cart and that can take a long, long time for some.  


I flatter myself to think that you are doing everything right because I did the same and I just have difficult kids.


Say it again, I have difficult kids.  It is not my fault.  I am doing all the right things.


Sigh.  Time to fill up the gas tank because it's a long drive.

"She is a mermaid, but approach her with caution. Her mind swims at a depth most would drown in."
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#5 of 5 Old 04-22-2014, 08:48 AM
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I had two older sisters, so I empathize with how difficult it is to have siblings.  We fought.  A lot.


I empathize with my girls.  They feel like they would forever be on their best behavior and never get scolded if only they didn't have a sister.  Their sister makes them angry and they do the wrong things first and the right things second.  It is not their fault, but the fact they have a sister.  When they were barely old enough to understand, I encouraged them that it would get easier.  That living with others is a skill that is never done perfectly.  Daddy and I don't agree, we get angry with each other (though, be careful with that line of talk not to alarm them).  It's not how we feel, but what we do that makes a difference, and it *will* get easier.  It is *hard* to getting the order right (use words or ask for help first).  Every adult still struggles with this in some areas, but we usually get over the smacking part of it.  Every now and again when they feel particularly hard on themselves for not acting right (and they do feel bad in a small but significant way, and it's especially true of my oldest daughter) I remind them that some adults never learn this, and they are doing better than they are.


For short periods when dd1 was older, we used a reward chart, something I swore I would never use.  It worked brilliantly with dd1.  It was systematic.  She recognized it as a "trick".  She stemmed her anger and her over all behavior was better.  She had physical proof of her success in the foil star stickers and whatever reward we offered at the end.  Unfortunately for us, the same reward system was a dismal failure for my youngest (and everything has to be fair which means precisely equal in this house despite my efforts).  Her behavior tanked.  While the rewards were sweet, the chart was a physical reminder of her failure and she lashed out.  Oh, well.  The trials worked out enough for dd1 (the original instigator and the worst once upon a time, just like your oldest) saw enough success to know what was possible, and while she has a rough time and still needs a lot of guidance (she still bites sometimes, ACK!) she has improved so much.


I would empathize with your daughter even more if you possibly can (and I see you are doing an awful lot, so maybe this isn't possible).  While your dd2 is still young, and not in tune with every word you say, you can afford to be on your older daughter's side a bit more than if your youngest was, say, 3 or 4yo.  "She hit you first?  That must have hurt!  And it made you so angry!  I wish she wouldn't hit you or hurt you.  It makes me sad when one of my girls gets hurt.  Where did she hit you?  Why did she hit you, do you think she was angry?"  It's not just empathizing with her, it is a lesson in empathy *for* her.  


My oldest seemed to lag significantly behind the empathy curve, and sill seems to a little bit.  But later I read that maybe some kids empathize too much, and this can shut them down, so now I don't know.  I only wish that if I could do this over again, I would pay less attention to the hitting and more attention to empathizing with how difficult it was emotionally for my oldest.  I tried really hard, and I think I was basically on the right track.  I was not punitive, but I could have betrayed myself with my own emotions.  It made me so angry!  That in and of itself was a punishment, and of course, it was all her sister's fault which led to even more hitting and biting.  


Anyway, hope there is something helpful in my post, even if only feeling like what you are experiencing is something that others have faced before.

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"She is a mermaid, but approach her with caution. Her mind swims at a depth most would drown in."
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