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Hitting; would you expect empathy in a 23 month old?

(9 Posts)
pivoprosim Sun 28-Oct-12 18:21:20

My DS has started to whack me in the face. He thinks it's hilarious. I keep telling him not to, in a firm voice and that it's naughty. Which is great because now he repeats naughty every time he does it

I've been reading on here about how to deal with it - and when he just did it, I said 'OW' really loudly (because it bloody well hurt) and walked away pretending I was really upset.

He laughed and carried on walking around turning on all the lights.

It's not the first time he's laughed or been indifferent when i've said 'OW'.

Am I being ridiculous to expect empathy?

He can definitely notice, and is aware of, change in people's tones and atmosphere, so he's not without understanding

MrsCantSayAnything Sun 28-Oct-12 20:59:45

I think most children would show empathy by this age but it might not be constant. Saying that, he is still under 2...it's a little early to worry in my opinion. You could try reading books with him which underline kindness.....characters doing nice things.

I also reccomend that when he hits, you turn your back on him and don't talk to him for a minute or two. Then tell him that he hurt you...and that it's not nice. If he carries on not showing any empathy past 30 months or so then I would seek further advice from your HV....saying that, he is going to be due a two year check soon...you can ask then.

Is his language developing ok?

LingDiLong Sun 28-Oct-12 21:14:11

No, he won't understand empathy yet, he's way too young. He's really just enjoying your reaction; the cause and effect is fascinating and very entertaining!

I would distract and pre-empt as much as possible. When you see him about to do it move away quickly and distract or take his hand and stroke it on your face gently and say something like 'awww mummy' so he can experience a different type of cause and effect.

If you ever don't quite get there to pre-empt him then don't react at all. Just stand up and walk away with a completely blank expression.

MrsCantSayAnything Sun 28-Oct-12 21:15:41

That's a bit sweeping Ling children of 18 months can understand and empathise...it's not usual but certainly not unheard of. It is usual for a child to BEGIN to understand and to empathise at around 18 months and then this grows...so by the age of 2, they can feel sorrow for others....but as I said....it's not always the case.

LingDiLong Sun 28-Oct-12 21:22:59

Clearly I am not saying that every single 2 year old the entire world over since time began has not experienced empathy. I expect the OP understands that I mean 'generally' nearly 2 year olds don't empathise in the situation she describes. In fact, I would expect that this kind of 'game'; whacking a parent in the face then watching their reaction probably plays it's part in their developing empathy.

pivoprosim Sun 28-Oct-12 21:39:27

I have to say I agree with Ling....I think he does think it's a 'game'. And he doesn't really do it to anyone else but us...he will gently prod another child, but he'll also kiss, stroke andhug them.

It's quite confusing, I think - we say don't whack, but then we fool around with him, 'rough and tumble' stuff - we say don't throw (food, toys) but then we encourge him to throw balls..

But yes, his language is developing fine. This isn't a post about broader concerns. Just what to expect in a situation like this.

LaCiccolina Sun 28-Oct-12 21:46:20

It's all confusing, I tell dd at 22mths not to spit and then merrily teach her to spit water in the sink when cleaning her teeth. She's slowly learning there's a time and a place where it's acceptable though....

I wouldn't 'expect' empathy. I don't think the brains that developed often times just yet, although yes I'm sure some have exhibited it inconsistently around now. I don't expect sharing etc to be always understood yet either. I think 2-3 is more about 'me' than 'them' that's all. I think they are just learning, and it's slow. Or fast if u think that way round I spose!

Flipping hurts tho at times doesn't it?!

5madthings Sun 28-Oct-12 21:48:03

hmm i would say it depends on the child, my dd is 22mths and if for example she stood on my toe and i said 'owww' she would say sorry and offer to give me a kiss, so she obviously has some empathy. i am not sure that all of mine would have at that age, certainly my ds2 didnt, nor did ds4, ds1 did, he was very articulate at a young age tho and i cant remember with ds3 blush

anyway they all have empathy now, tho ds1 is 13 and at the know it all stage and empathy is something he could do with more of! ds2 who out of mine was the most 'hitty' toddler/child has the MOST empathy out of my 5, he is 10 now and very kind and caring and really feels for poeple, so his lack of empathy at 2yrs old didnt mean anything in the long term.

at this age most things are done for a reaction and as a game and as you say boudaries are blurred when you do play rough and tumble and they will be learning that some behaviours are ok in some situations but not in others.

def try to pre-empt and distract, with mine rather than say no hitting i used to take hold of their hand and show them how to stroke gently and say 'use your gentle hands' rather wanky but it did seem to work. these things are often a phase, you need to be consistent and he will get there eventually, its very typical almost 2 behaviour tho, so i wouldnt stress too much, distract, remove, show him how to be gentle and be firm but consistent smile

pivoprosim Sun 28-Oct-12 21:56:46

Thanks all

Yes, we do the whole 'gentle hands' thing - it's not so successful at the moment, since the amount he's hitting has increased quite a lot. I know it's a phase - it's just not a very nice one.

As for empathy - he does understand 'ow' and he will say sorry and sometimes voluntarily stroke my face; but I think it's too much fun for him to stop!

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