Having children, I imagined them getting on, loving each other, playing together and being friends. Then reality hit.
I didn’t want to spend my time refereeing yet another sibling conflict and I would try anything to STOP the fighting.
- putting her in a bedroom and shutting the door till she calmed down
- reward charts
- bribery and threats
- cancelling play dates
In short, I tried it all.
I found myself getting more and more upset and angry. Why wouldn’t she just stop? What was wrong with me as a parent? I was feeling so defeated in my inability to control my daughter’s behaviour. I felt like no matter what I tried nothing was going to work.
The missing piece.
How to stop toddler hitting others.
Part of my training included a parenting mentor who gave me tremendous insights into child development and how to look behind my child’s behaviour.
I was taught a new way to communicate with my daughter that altered everything.
Things began to change.
Straight away, I could see a difference in my daughter’s behaviour.
The tantrums got shorter and shorter, and her aggressive behaviour melted away.
Before, I would go to bed feeling guilty and stressed, dreading the next day. Now I finally had a plan with tools and strategies that actually worked.
If you’ve got a child who hits or bites or kicks. This is for you.
At some point, most young children are going to display these frustrating kinds of behaviours. So, rest assured:
If their behaviour isn’t taking over family life, they will grow out of it.
Children aren’t born with and therefore lack the impulse control to do any better in a given moment. The good news is that with maturity will come change.
My three step approach may help you get to that point of change quicker and with less heartache and stress.
What to do to start to turn things around – A three-step approach.
I know how hard it can be when you’re dealing with the same behaviour day-in-day-out and your child still doesn’t stop lashing out.
We naturally get caught up in focusing our attention on fixing the behaviour.
Unfortunately, this just results in us being pitted us against our child. Our child then feels discouraged and we begin a cycle of pointing out their wrongdoings with the mistaken belief it will make them do better. In fact, the opposite is true.
It only really results in your child beginning to see themselves as not being capable.
Sound familiar? So, here’s what to do.
1. Acknowledge what is going on for your child
Start to see things from their point of view without trying to fix it. I know this might sound counter-intuitive. We just want the hitting to stop, right?
But the quick fixes we typically use more often than not backfiring and we find ourselves in a Groundhog Day type behaviour loop.
The reality is that children will keep on communicating in the manner they know until they feel heard.
A child who is lashing out and aggressive is communicating ineffectively that they have a problem.
Before things can change, children first need to feel understood.
Think about it, if they could figure out by themselves how to get what they want and need without acting out, wouldn’t they already be doing it?
I know if you’ve reached the point where you feel as if nothing is working, and chances are you’re already on this cycle of punishments and hopelessness. Your child may feel misunderstood and defensive and you feel like “throwing the towel in”.
Now is the time to pause. And try a different approach.
It is not the time to dish out more punishments and get more frustrated with your child. It is the time to look behind the behaviour and you’re your child closer.
So, what’s really going on behind the behaviour? Why my toddler is hitting
They don’t want to share you with a sibling.
If you think about it, in a child’s logic, it’s like they have to give up 50% of you to share with their sibling.
They’re struggling with big emotions and jealousy.
They’re feeling defensive and misunderstood and that we’re against them.
If we’ve been on the punishment cycle this leads to a big disconnection between us and our child.
They can’t articulate how they are feeling, so they lash out to show us.
Acknowledging is not the same as agreeing
If you haven’t already, then do sign up for my “How to get your kids to listen to course. There’s more great tips and day 3 has lots more examples on this topic.
Validating what is going on for your child is not ‘soft’ parenting. In fact, it is the first step in getting everyone to engage with their thinking brains. Validating calms the situation down and demonstrates that we are on the same team as our child.
Then and only then, can we begin to teach and coach our child in what we do want them to do.
So instead of saying: “How many times do I have to tell you, DO NOT HIT. That’s NOT kind. Go to your room.”
Try: “I bet you wish you could have Mummy all to yourself.”
Instead of “You just have to learn to share, you know better than that. Give that back to your brother or else.”
Try: “I’ve noticed you don’t like it when your brother plays with your toys. I bet you wish you could have them all to yourself!”
2. Setting limits
As a parent we still have to set limits, this isn’t permissive parenting. Our children feel safe and secure when we have limits and rules. It isn’t what we want that is wrong, it’s all about how we communicate it to our children.
How do I respond respectfully in a way that meets my child’s need and honours my own?
Limit-setting should imply a strong statement about you and how you feel, your beliefs and values as opposed to a negative image of your child.
I like thinking of limits as facts.
So, rather than “You’re so mean, you know better than that!’
Try: “Hitting hurts. It’s my job to keep everyone safe.”
3. The final step. Can Dos
So, we have started with acknowledging and we have set the set limits. Now the final step is what is called: ‘Can Dos’
A ‘Can Do’ is inviting your child to find their own solutions within your clearly set limits.
A child that doesn’t feel judged and shamed is ready to find solutions. This is where you start to see a lasting change in your child’s behaviour.
Your child doesn’t want to be hurting and upset. They want to find ways to make things work. This way you can find solutions that work for you all.
A ‘Can Do’ sounds like this: “Next time your brother is in your way, there must be something you can do?” or “Next time you get frustrated, let’s stomp like a dinosaur.”
Changing how you respond to your child does take practice, and to begin with, your child may not be used to thinking about working out solutions to their problems. But keep at it and you will definitely start to see positive results.
When your child is lashing out and hitting or kicking regularly it’s time to bring your child in closer and try to look behind the behaviour. Become a detective and validate your child’s experience while setting limits.
Step 1: Acknowledge your child’s feelings and wants
Step 2: Set limits
Step 3: Offer a “Can Do”