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My son has a hitting problem how do I stop that?

My son hits his sister all the time and I don't know how to stop it so I tell her to hit back but it just gets into a hitting match. My daughter never hit so I am not sure how to do this. If anyone has any ideas please let me know. Also everytime she hits him back she tells him no hitting.

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Asked by Red2186 at 12:05 PM on Jun. 28, 2011 in Toddlers (1-2)

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Answers (13)
  • ~~*Giggles*~... sounds like my youngest son... personally we try and stay on top of him and catch him in the act... he's 4 and it is usually his 5 year old brother pushing him! We give him other outlets, get onto the kid poking at him, and the best we can with what we're facing

    Hitting is usually something with ours at least a last resort when he is fed up with his brother picking on him... so we teach him to tell us, and punish each child with what they've actually done

    Answer by MommaClark3 at 12:07 PM on Jun. 28, 2011

  • My son is 18 months and my daughter is 4, she tells me everytime he hits her. I have tired everything and he always goes back to hitting, he has hit her a couple good times and gave her a bruse on her back with toys and what not.

    Comment by Red2186 (original poster) at 12:12 PM on Jun. 28, 2011

  • Thanks for sharing their ages. I think that if your strategy is to instruct her to hit him back & to tell him "no hitting" when she hits him, at best it is going to be confusing to him. I don't recommend this strategy at all; you've already seen that it escalates to back-and-forth hitting. (I realize that you likely tried this after nothing seemed to work, so I'm not blaming or criticizing you for it, just saying I don't recommend it!) I think the only way it would "work" to deter his hitting is if she hurt or intimidated him enough so that he was fearful of repeating the behavior, & I don't think that would be a good dynamic for either child.
    I think discipline (guidance) is most effective when you can connect with the child rather than simply coming into conflict with him over his problematic behavior (as in trying to STOP it.) When your primary efforts are against him/his behavior, you trigger a counter-resistance

    Answer by girlwithC at 12:11 AM on Jun. 29, 2011

  • (cont)
    in him that tends to reinforce the behavior. This is because the effort to stop his behavior & to leverage him into stopping (by punishing with time outs or whatever consequences you've tried) ignores the reasons FOR the behavior, so it not only doesn't validate him, it invalidates him. And when a person is invalidated, they will defensively resist the implication that they are wrong & will protest or defend their validity.
    I understand that (and why!) hitting is problematic behavior, but it is a strategy to meet a need, and you can always validate underlying needs. If you approach it in this way & offer guidance to him, you can more effectively address the problem of his hitting over time.
    Do you know why he hits? It could be for several reasons (not just one) & in several contexts, so it's good to have a handle on it. You don't HAVE to know "what is going on" inside him every time as long as you are oriented

    Answer by girlwithC at 12:19 AM on Jun. 29, 2011

  • (cont)
    toward his validity, or that you have an overall attitude that it's happening for a reason that makes sense, given his point of view, his skills & his ability to cope.
    So at the very least, you can know (and acknowledge verbally) that it's happening FOR A REASON, even when you are at a loss for whatever that reason is. But it is helpful to recognize some of the patterns & understand what is going on....he hits when someone is interfering with his agenda (taking a toy, or having boundaries with him. Since your daughter is older, it's less likely that she's grabbing from him, and maybe more likely that she is letting him know she doesn't like it when he grabs from her, which is of course interfering with his agenda to have fun & do what looks so interesting.) This is basically an expression of frustration, and it covers a lot of hitting behaviors.
    Seeing how he feels powerless, angry, disappointed, frustrated can

    Answer by girlwithC at 3:00 AM on Jun. 29, 2011

  • help you connect in a challenging moment, when he is behaving aggressively. This lets you validate him, or show that you understand & you see that it makes sense. If, on the other hand, you negate him with responses like "We don't hit!" or "You may not hit," or "Stop that!" or "Don't hit," the fact that this invalidates him (by denying or ignoring the reasons/needs behind the behavior) triggers him to resist your correction. It's not that he "wants" to defy or ignore you; it's that he needs to assert or defend his validity, because he knows he's not wrong or bad! If you can engage him through connecting to his validity, & then guiding him to other responses when he is stressed, you can avoid escalating your punishments in the power struggle.

    One thing that is helpful is for you to focus on what you DO want him to do. What would be a more appropriate response when he faces these situations & needs to assert

    Answer by girlwithC at 3:07 AM on Jun. 29, 2011

  • (cont)
    or express himself? What response could you model for him to replace the hitting? Once you come up with this (keeping in mind the limitations of his age & his verbal ability), you can provide this information after connecting with him, validating him, and showing that you understand what is going on/why he is hitting.

    So your intervention might look like this:
    "Oh, you are so upset! You just wanted to have fun, & what sister's doing looked so fun to you! You just wanted some for yourself, and you tried to take it. But she said no/mama stopped you, when all you wanted was to have fun. You wanted a good thing and we said no, so you hit! But hitting hurts sister. When you feel like hitting, it just means you need help. So ask for help instead."

    ("Ask for help" was the response I came up with my for twins when they were about 15 months and doing a lot of biting when in conflict with each other.)
    At that age, they weren't

    Answer by girlwithC at 3:15 AM on Jun. 29, 2011

  • (cont)
    very verbal so I gave them signs (and always said the word, too) for "stop!" and for "help." Saying "stop" or "no" or "I want" is a way of "asking for help" in the moment because it is expressing what the hitting expresses, except through words. So I try to honor any of that expression, even if it is "raw." The fact that it's a "demand" or maybe can't be accommodated with a yes answer doesn't mean that it's wrong or a problem. The child is still doing the right thing (using his words instead of grabbing or hitting) and I can respond respectfully. If the answer has to be no (such as he comes to his sis & says "give me that" or "I want" and it's something he can't share or use right then), then you can say no & hold the limit while still acknowledging that his desire/wish is valid. He's not wrong for wanting it, or for being upset with a "no." (Hitting out of upset is a problem, but once again, when he feels like hitting

    Answer by girlwithC at 3:22 AM on Jun. 29, 2011

  • he just needs help, so ask for help instead!)
    With my boys, I first emphasized that "ask for help" meant calling on me. I modeled saying "Mama, help!" and I'd sign "help" while calling "Mama!" I intervened this way EVERY TIME, and I always validated that they just wanted good things & they bit (or hit, or pushed, or pinched) for a reason that made sense. They were good boys & I knew it & said it. It just mean they needed help. (This is the truth of the situation, by the way. lol)
    Later on, I started modeling the sign "Stop!" as something they could say to each other in the moment (instead of biting), since one would usually bite in order to retaliate for the other one grabbing a toy, or else to make the grabber let go. So "asking for help" in that moment (instead of biting & hoping he'd let go) would be saying "STOP!" instead. This is what I'd be facilitating when I came to intervene, anyway.
    For the one who grabbed, it was

    Answer by girlwithC at 3:28 AM on Jun. 29, 2011

  • also true that "when you feel like grabbing, you just need help" and HE could "ask for help" by saying how he felt (I want that, That looks fun, Can I have a turn? etc.) instead of trying to take it, which is a violation (that triggers hitting, biting, pushing behaviors.)
    But regardless which level of the interaction you're examining, you ALWAYS can validate the impulse that led to this particular strategy. All behaviors are attempts to communicate or to get needs met, and we can always respond to them with insight that takes this fact into account.

    So in that first "script" I provided ("...You wanted a good thing and we said no, so you hit! But hitting hurts sister.") I would emphasize that you not rush to the "but" part where you explain that hitting hurts. Especially since you've done a lot of punishing from the negative angle, it will help a lot if you take the time to validate & connect. I can remember when my

    Answer by girlwithC at 3:34 AM on Jun. 29, 2011

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