So it happened to you. Your child acted out physically towards you and either you're stunned or saying to yourself, "No, not, again!"
This is a very common problem, so don't worry, it's not your fault. Many, many non-violent parents deal with this common frustration. You can deal with it, too, you just need a little help and support.
That's why we're here.
Here are 3 things you can do, starting now, to stop the violence. These come from a preschool teacher with 42 years in so don't take this advice lightly. You need to take care of this now, before it escalates.
#1 Nip it in the bud.
As soon as it starts to happen, put your child down if you're holding them and say in a firm and controlled voice, "I don't let anyone hit me." Stand up tall and face them without anger, say it and walk away. You need to disengage with the struggle at this point. Just make sure you never, ever, give in to their demands after they use violence.
"I don't let anyone hit me", is a powerful statement. Let's hope they remember those words when they need them someday.
If violence towards you is already an ongoing problem, don't worry, it can be resolved but there are a couple of steps you must take in order to solve the problem if it's gotten this far.
#2 Teach Them
ALL FEELINGS ARE OK, ALL ACTIONS ARE NOT. You have to be the one to actually take the time to teach them to identify and deal with their feelings in an appropriate way. Dr. Becky Bailey, Daniel Tiger and Leah M. Kuypers all have plenty of good ideas on dealing with feelings. Talk about feelings in a relaxed way and not when the behavior is happening.
I understand that you need a course of action to prevent hurtful behavior in the moment of distress so I wrote this article about practicing being a S.T.A.R.
#2 Track it
For a few days, I want you to write down every incident of out of control behavior as soon as you can. Here's a formula that will help. As soon as you can, after the incident, get a notebook and write down A), B), and C).
Document what happened before the behavior, during the behavior, and after the behavior. Be as detailed as you can. Who was there? What was the environment like, what time of day was it. Was it just before a meal or was your child tired?. What was said? What actually happened?
None of these things excuse the behavior or put it on you as the parent. But they will help you figure out ways to avoid it before it even happens the next time. Prevention is definately the goal.
You may be able to move a mealtime up a bit or make bedtime a little earlier. If it happens when you say no, you may need to teach them at another time how to accept no for an answer. A good book about accepting no for an answer is I Just Don't Like The Sound Of No by Julia Cook.
Young children hit and kick adults for one of two reasons, attention or power. If attention is their goal, give it in other ways and make sure they lose attention, not get more attention, (even the angry kind) when hurtful behavior occurs.
If power is their goal, make sure your stay consistent and firm with your limits. Young children actually like it when you stick to your words. Find other ways to give them power. One idea may be extra responsibilities for which they earn extra privileges.
Plus, kids like to do things that really help and when you point that out, it gives you the opportunity to use the magic phrase, "That was helpful"!
You may also want to be sure that they have appropriate ways to use their physical power like heavy lifting or moving things.
Having enough sensory play such as sandbox, play dough or water play can also prevent some physical acting out.
Hopefully, what you've learned here today will help you feel more confident and knowledgeable as a parent.
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Nanci J. Bradley is a child and family educator, author, energy facilitator, family aerobics instructor and all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, lifelong learning, healthy eating, fun, and more than anything else, PLAY! She studied early childhood education at Triton College and received her BA in education from Northern Illinois University in 1986. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison, WI.