Probably one of the most frustrating and exasperating things to deal with as a parent is being hit by your child for simply saying, “No,” or for not giving them something they want. Sometimes just saying, “It’s time to put that away,” is enough to start a battle.
What makes it even more challenging to deal with is that being hit, even by your own child, ignites the fight or flight response in us. When that happens, it can be extremely difficult for us to remain calm and deal with the situation in a way that discourages the behavior while reinforcing our authority as the parent.
Since this has recently become an issue with my 6-year-old, I decided it would make a good article topic to research, learn from and share.
Why Do Children Hit?
Parents and caregivers need to be aware of what’s happening inside a child’s mind that triggers the hitting. For example, toddlers (18-24 months) are still learning how to communicate, and may become frustrated trying to communicate their needs to their parents, caregivers, and playmates.
When they can’t find the right words or otherwise can’t get you to understand what they want or what they’re feeling, children can resort to negative behaviors.
Children between the ages of three and six may engage in such behavior if they’ve never been taught appropriate and non-aggressive ways of communicating when dealing with a frustrating situation.
In a day care or school setting, with so many children to manage, teachers only see and react to the hitting behavior at the end of the incident, and are unable to intervene before the situation escalates to teach children a different way of responding.
Aggressive behaviors may be a result of:
• A child defending herself
• A child feeling stressed about his situation
• A lack of, or change in, routine
• Extreme frustration or anger related to the situation, or sometimes completely unrelated
• Inadequate speech development
• Overstimulation which often includes impulsivity and the inability to realize what they’re doing
• Lack of adult supervision