Anti-Hitting Strategies for Young Children
Why so much aggression?
It is sometimes hard for us to understand as adults, after all, most of us have long forgotten the troubles we faced as a toddler. So imagine for a moment that something has really upset, angered, frightened or confused you and that you have absolutely no way of coherently expressing those feelings of unease. As a result of this intense frustration toddlers often lash out physically, and as parents, we desperately want to avoid our children venting their feelings in this way.
Hitting, pushing, biting, pinching and hair pulling are all variants of this frustration aggression, and whether your child takes it out on you, their siblings, or other children, it is unpleasant for those on the receiving end.
Is all hitting bad?
If your child has only hit out at something a few times then this could simply be part of their natural physical experimentation. Much like stamping feet and banging on a drum, all toddlers are developing and testing their physical actions and learning boundaries. So some occasional hitting is purely accidental and can just be monitored.
What should we do when it’s frequent or deliberate?
First and foremost we must not over-react or raise our voices. Perpetuating your toddlers fear and upset will only result in more pent-up aggression and frustration.
Instead, when your child hits, or even better when you think they are about to hit, you should gently and firmly hold your child’s arm or fist to prevent any physical contact. Try to crouch or kneel to be on the same level as your child, again towering above them and speaking down to them can perpetuate their fear. Then keeping eye contact you can calmly tell your child that hitting is a no-no. There is no need for long-winded explanations, simply find a simple phrase, “No, we do not hit” or “Hitting is not nice” and stand by it.
Sometimes preventing hitting behaviours can cause your little one to bubble over, and crying or having a tantrum is not uncommon when you first prevent them from lashing out. But believe it or not, this is a good thing. This is the very same pent-up emotion that was causing your child to lash out in the first place. Stay with them and support them through this, reminding yourself that this is a perfectly normal stage in the development of young children can be a great comfort. Your patience and comforting presence will not go unnoticed by your child, even if it may seem that way at the time!
Tell your childcare centre
Now you have worked on preventing hitting, don’t forget to tell your childcare centre about your progress. It’s unlikely that it will be a one-time cure, and your child may revert back to hitting behaviours a few times before they learn to deal with their feelings. Life takes practice, and any good childcare centre will be more than happy to get your updates and monitor your little one’s behaviour. Professional educators will be trained to continue the strategies in your absence. Love and understanding go such a long way, because growing-up can be really hard work!