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radiant1 06-17-2014 12:08 PM

3 year old hitting
I need help with my 3 year old daughter. She has been hitting my husband and I out of frustration and/or anger. In the past we have gently held her arms and said "we don't hit in this house, when you are ready to not hit I will let you go." And then we offer a hug instead of her hitting. But the behavior continues. I have read so many parenting books and they all suggest empathy and teaching children to identify their feelings. We have tried that too. Saying "i Know you are really angry right now because of XYZ, but hitting hurts and it is not allowed." The behavior still continues. I am at a loss. Sometimes it makes me so mad I want to just send her to her room and tell her not to come out until she decides not to hit. But I feel like that is acting out of anger. Please help. I am at a loss.

pumabearclan 06-19-2014 04:45 AM

Perhaps your daughter could use some other outlets for her anger and frustration. When used with a time out alone in her room she may be able to manage her anger better. You could give her a special doll or plush to talk to when she is angry, or a special box of crayons and paper for her to use draw her angry feelings and then to throw away the drawing along with her anger when she feels she is free of it. I don't think that sending her to her room with a loving direction that she needs some time alone to work out her anger is a bad strategy at all, it depends on how you do it - not as a punishment or in your own fit of anger, but to show her that you have confidence that she can work out a better solution than hitting if she has the space and privacy to do so.

You can also try to explain to her that everyone gets angry but adults manage it by talking and doing sport and hobbies, so hitting is a natural impulse that everyone struggles with sometimes.

I'm not a fan of restraining a child unless it's absolutely critical. I suspect it may escalate the frustration. So you seem to be phasing away from that anyway.

You and your husband may want to discuss why she hits him. Maybe their relationship could use some work? It's worth exploring.

Hang in there!

tadamsmar 06-19-2014 06:04 AM

She is getting a lot of attention and hugs for hitting. You are inadvertently conditioning your child to hit, reinforcing the hitting behavior. I don't know if you have read Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting, but it left the impression with some parents that praise was required to condition a child whereas in fact attention and hugs are also reinforcers and often more powerful than praise.

Give her attention, hugs, face-time, and discussion (discussion of how opposite is appreciated and admired by you, not discussion of hitting) for doing the opposite: being civil, nice, kind, or use the words that are best for you.

Time to calm down and regain her composure so she can be kind to others that pumabearclan recommends is not really a punishment. But, if you use it, call it something like "calming time" or something positive rather than "time to work out your anger". It's better to focus on what you want rather than what you don't want. But it might be more effective to just walk away from her when she hits.

fullofhope08 07-21-2014 08:56 AM

our four year old went through a phase of this when he was three as well. It was beyond frustrating. There were days I wondered if it would ever stop and if our approach was at all effective as he just kept doing it when he would get frustrated. I will say that he has almost stopped doing this. He still has some days where we see this. But it helped me tremendously to know this is quite common in some kids at this age and I wasn't alone.
What I have put together from the last year is that for our son, the hitting was always present when he had some big feelings to deal with and he didn't know how, so this is how it would come out. When I started trying to help him with these feelings rather than just try to stop the behaviour, we got a lot farther. In the moment, I would tell him it's not ok to hit, get the situation under control. Then I would make the observation that something must be bothering him for him to act this way. He couldn't tell me for the longest time what was upsetting him, so I'd start guessing. I could tell when I'd hit the nail on the head as his whole body would change from wound up to relaxed. We would talk about what was bothering him, which usually involved me naming it for him and explaining the situation a bit more so he didn't have to be as anxious or angry about it. And usually that settled things for him for the rest of the day. Now we take things a bit further by expecting him to verbalize what's going on for him. He is starting to be able to do this often, but not always. We help when he needs the help with this. Sometimes I think he just tells us something but there's more going on, so again we start guessing what it could be.
I'm not sure our approach is ideal as my son went through a period where he would almost excuse his behaviour by saying something was upsetting him. But we continue with this train of conversation by explaining its ok to feel a certain way but the hitting isn't an ok way to deal with it. He's coming around.
I find I tend to do sort of a time out when he acts up these days - I pull him out of the situation and we sit for a minimum of four minutes. if he keeps hitting, I increase the time by a minute for every hit. We spend the time sitting, I don't interact much with him but encourage him to spend the time sitting with his feelings (We have a book Ahn's Anger where the child sits with his anger so we find ourselves using some of this same lingo. He likes this book). I do stay with him in the chair so it doesn't turn into a game of him trying to get out of the chair, and I think having a parent with him helps him. We do chat about the situation a bit once he's calm and we have begun strongly encouraging him to find ways of making the situation right again, by apologizing or showing some sort of affection toward the person he upset or hurt.
So for us, it's been a process. I can say we have seen an improvement.
good luck!

pscoverher 07-24-2014 06:00 AM

We do chat about the situation a bit once he's calm and we have begun strongly encouraging him to find ways of making the situation right again, by apologizing or showing some sort of affection toward the person he upset or hurt.

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