It can be extremely upsetting when you're trying to get your child to bed or to supper, or dressed to go out, only to have him start flinging fists at you. Being hit by anyone like this, even when it’s your child, will turn on the “fight or flight” instinct, which can be extremely difficult to hold in check.
But parents need to learn to do this in order to be able to deal with the aggression appropriately, and teach children a non-aggressive way of communicating their feelings or needs.
No-Hitting Strategy: Identify Triggers
1) Identify personality or situational triggers
When talking to teachers about my 6-year-old son I learned to ask, “What was he reacting to?” What triggered the hitting or aggressive action? This isn’t to excuse what he did. But it is essential in order to be able to talk to him about appropriate ways to react when he’s faced with that situation again.
Plenty of situations can be potential triggers. Does he and this other child have a history? Did someone take a toy or jump in front of him in line? Did someone hit him first without being observed, and your child got caught for the retaliation?
2) Identify or rule out physiological triggers
Be on the alert for possible physiological triggers. Did your child miss her nap? Was she up a couple times during the night? Was he hungry? Was it close to naptime? Was he overstimulated?
No-Hitting Strategy: Set Clear Limits and Address Triggers
3) Setting “no hitting” limits
Obviously, parents want to set firm limits about hitting. That’s why identifying the personality, as well as situational and physiological triggers is so important. It allows you, any caregivers and teachers the chance to intervene when your child is in that situation again and teach her appropriate ways of reacting, and communicating her needs or feelings.
This includes saying things like, “I know you’re angry because mommy can’t buy you that toy, but hitting me is not okay,” or “I know you’re angry because Jane got to play with the ball, but even if you’re angry, you do not hit her.”