Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Rough with playmates, hitting and pushing"

Ugh. This was on Esther's note from daycare yesterday. "Playing rough today, hitting and pushing playmates." Nothing quite makes me feel like I should get the Bad Mom Award like a note sent home from school.

Even worse, the hitting isn't limited to school. She hits me, Gram, and even her little cousin, whom she adores. It doesn't seem to happen when she's mad, or otherwise provoked.  Really just because she's in the proximity of your face.

The other day I made her leave the playground because she hit her cousin, and, when I had removed her from the vicinity of her cousin, me. The screaming of her cousin's name and "Graaaaam!!" (who was also there) lasted for quite a good chunk of the duration of the saddest stroller ride ever. When the wailing stopped, I knelt down in front of the stroller and reiterated, "we don't hit." "Hitting hurts."

Here at home, I am introducing the time-out concept. I'm not sure I have the right spot picked out because she just hops down and follows me into the other room like, "Dude, why did you put me in that chair?"

Any wisdom on toddlers who hit? Or toddler discipline in general?


  1. We're dealing with the same thing with Jack, except he does it when he's mad. They're at different developmental levels, so I'm not sure how much our responses are appropriate for Esther, but this is what we do...
    *if he hits while we're holding him, he gets put down immediately (and if we can, we walk away)
    *if he hits with something, it's taken away for a very long time
    *if he hits someone he's playing with, he gets taken out of the situation
    *in every circumstance, he gets a stern face and is told firmly that we don't hit.

    He gets at this point that he shouldn't hit, but the incentive really isn't there yet for him to stop... time outs are tricky, because he's not old enough yet to be put somewhere and have any idea that he shouldn't move. That will come later, I think... with Esther, it might just be a matter of continuing to put her back in the chair until she gets that she's not supposed to leave! Even writing that feels exhausting.

    My last thought is that this might be something that passes as she gets more used to the transition that y'all have been through. Hitting is both an act of frustration and an attempt assert some control, and it's pretty normal for kids to try to get some control when life has had an upheaval... probably things you already thought of!

    You are a fantastic mother. Esther being a toddler doesn't change that!

  2. You are not alone, or wrong, or less than! All parents have been there weather they want to admit it or not. What prompted the hitting? I have seen situations where small children more often than not are reacting not initiating. While you want to teach that hitting isn't right, you also do not want to inadvertently create a consummate victim. Or someone that accepts bullying. Hitting can also be a reaction to expectation, and as Cate said an act of frustration in an attempt to assert some control. Why did she need to control? Did she feel unsafe, hungry, tired, clumsy? Clumsy is really tough, really really tough. I was a product of switches and belts - extreme enough to cause you to gasp, but not so extreme back in "the day". Extreme enough I chose against objects if it came to it. All animals from time to time 'cuff' their young. I have never seen or hears of an animal that just hit to be hitting. There are elements that have to go with it - group understanding is most important. IMO for the human animal, it should be a once or twice in a life time option and egrigous error that needs immediate reaction! For now time out is something she will have to learn. Keep putting her in the time out place, without reaction (she will learn to manipulate your reaction). At the playground set her against the fence. Isolate her and enforce the isolation - tell her she is in time out for her behavior and no other comment. Try a visual aid at home - put five stars that she can earn or loose, humm ... maybe the pieces of a happy face. If she has earned them, make a reward of activity that she craves and you cant do very often; If she acts up at the park, she looses a piece as well - you dont want her to act up in public knowing the outcome will be back at home so she doesn't have to deal. You can reward with food- but even I don't recommend that! As she learns you can set the bar of behavior higher. Eventually the reward may be come a cash allowance - woah - slightly ahead of my self. Mine survived. Including the time she sassed me and my very large mom hand lifted her about 2 inches off the ground with a sweeping swat at her buns and told her to head to the car right now - we were in the middle of the green hills mall and we had a couple of little friends with us. I am pretty sure that is It was so long ago... she was around 5. Over the years my now 25 year old and I have had long talks about my parenting mistakes. We all make them, but being honest about them and always doing your best from your heart and with great thought and compassion is the most important thing you have in your Mom tool box.

  3. As someone who works with other people's children and youth, I say, "great comments."


  5. My only other addition might be - if she won't stay in "time out," can you put her in a confined area? I don't recommend her bed because then it confuses her about bedtime, but if you're no longer using a Pack n' Play or something, set it up again and put her in time out.

    My sister ignores her 3 year old when he does things like that. She simply says, "I don't want to play with you when you hit." And then she refuses to talk to him, answer his questions, etc. Except to repeat the mantra.

    Best of luck! Toddlers are hard. But you're doing fine, it seems.