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20 month old started hitting

(5 Posts)
Cooper1070 Mon 13-Jul-15 11:07:51

Our son is staring to display some worrying behaviour which can most likely be attributed to the 'terrible twos' but it is how to deal with it that is the issue. Both myself and my wife know he is testing the boundaries so we have experienced all the usual things; food throwing, toy throwing, throwing himself around like a wrestler but lately he has started hitting us both. It is worse with me - he just walks up to me and smacks me in the face for no reason whatsoever, but yesterday he physically attacked his pregnant mother when told he could have an ice pop after his dinner but not before.

He tried to open the freezer and when he couldn't he went into a rage so my wife calmly said to him to come and play whilst waiting for his dinner to cook. As he picked him up, she grabbed her hair with both hands and started yanking as hard as he could and then smacked her in the face. For this, he was put on the naughty step (as directed by almost every professional). The thing is with the naughty step is that I don't think it works. Within two seconds of him being on the step he is saying "Mummy, I'm sorry! Cuddle! I'm sorry!" He was smart enough from the start that he would quickly be forgiven for saying that. We have read that 30 seconds to 60 seconds is the max time to keep him on the step so we adhered to these time frames. After he is allowed off, one of us will get down to his level and calmly say "You are not allowed to hit as it is naughty and hurts mummy/daddy" but it has absolutely no impact on his behaviour whatsoever. He will continue to hit regardless.

After the episode yesterday, one of many over the weekend, I was the one to get down to his level. I sat on the step and put him on my lap and said "You must not hit mummy as it hurts her. Go and say sorry and give her a cuddle" to which he started screaming to get down and was straight back in the kitchen tugging at the freezer door yelling "Ice Pop".

To try and diffuse the situation, I took him into the living room to try and divert his attention with a game but the minute I put him on the floor, he went straight over to my wife and tried to hit her in the stomach three times (she is 16 weeks pregnant and he has been told that he is to be very careful with mummy's tummy 100 times so far). You may think me being over dramatic when I say he was trying to hit her in the stomach but he was clearly trying to do so as he knows the stomach is the one place he has been told to be careful of. So back on the step he went for another minute.

His violent streak has been prevalent for a while (moreso with me) and the grandparents say "Well you did play rough and tumble with him when he was really young so you only have yourself to blame" which is disagree with (but that doesn't mean I am right of course). I just don't see how the odd bit of throwing your child up in the air and catching him when he was very young should translate into him hitting me in the face with an open/closed fist, clawing and pinching, hitting or kicking the in laws dogs, pulling my wife's hair when he doesn't get his own way.

I get that we are now heading into the terrible two's and tantrums will come to the forefront of his behaviour at times but it is how we deal with the outbursts. I don't think putting him on the naughty steps works and I don't think that smacking him is the answer when the one thing you want him to do is not to hit. With another baby due in December, I am concerned that he will hit the baby and that cannot happen.

The funny thing in all this is that when he is with me on his own or my wife on his own he does not display any such behaviour. Neither does he do it when he is with either grandmother when on his own. When I come home from work (around 7.00pm or so) he will change from a lovely boy into some sort of maniac - screaming at the top of his voice and throwing toys which invariably ends with me being hit in the face and him going on the naughty step. And then I get told "He has been lovely all day. He hasn't done any of this..."

Yesterday, one grandmother witnessed this behaviour for the first time and she was like "Wow! That really isn't good at all..."

So the upshot is that he only seems to act this way when he is in the company of more than one adult. I know the general thought process will be "He is only like it when he is not the centre of attention" but that isn't true because even when the pair of us play with him at the same time, the angry/resentful behaviour is revealed and 99% of the time it is in my direction. He won't want to play with me or be bathed by me or be put to bed by me and yet once he is in the bath and we're playing, he is absolutely fine and we have a whale of a time.

Long e-mail I know, I apologise for that but I wanted to try and give the best picture I can. Any advice on how to deal with his outbursts? Yesterday was by far the worst but if it is a sign of things to come, I wonder what methods people use when in this situation?

Thanks for your time.

princessvikki Mon 13-Jul-15 12:10:09

i think its definatly normal,(im a nursery nurse and have seen it alot) my 19 month of daughter is kind of the same. she only ever hits me never my husband or other relatives. sometimes she remembers shes not allwed to hit me and will hit her own legs in temper. it tends to be when i tell her no or tell her off, i get down to her level to talk to her and get a whack.
i also dont agree with smacking and use the naughty spot however ive always been taught 1 min on the spot per year of age, so a min and 1/2 for your son. when it comes to hitting i give no warnings or distratrction its straight on the spot. i also try to teach her to be kind during play. using soft toys i tell her to cuddle and have kind hands. i think most children grow out of it in time, you just have to be consitant so he knows it is unacceptable. i understand you worries about pregnancy too, im 35 weeks myself and am worried the poor baby will be in for a thump when shes born.
He could be doing when hes not 1 on 1 because he is compeating for attention, and it works, even negative attention to a child is better than none. i would say stick with the spot but keep it to as little communication and interaction as possible.
good behaviour gets attention bad behaviour get him excluded.

Cooper1070 Mon 13-Jul-15 12:14:53

Thanks for the reply. We shall continue with the naughty step for sure. He hates being on there so it is an apt punishment I guess but I read so many conflicting things it is hard to know what to do for the best and then I start thinking "Am I doing something wrong?"

My wife spends the bulk of the time with him so I know she is always going to be his favourite (she messaged me earlier to say he is being so well behaved and so loving) but I can't accept the hitting thing so want to get it nipped in the bud asap.

Thanks again.

HJBeans Mon 13-Jul-15 13:30:35

We had a few months of hitting at about that age which we also really struggled with. We tried 'go sit in the hall for a think' but, like your son, that then just a became part of the natural response to frustration - hit mum, sit in hall, say sorry, hit mum again, etc. We had better luck with "time in" - holding him facing out from us and restricting motion of his arms while saying you can have your arms back when you don't use them to hit. Benefit of this is that we could use it out and about. Unlike the naughty step, he seemed to genuinely dislike it - which I know isn't the point, but it did seem to be getting through to him. It also kept the situation from escalating in that we didn't let go until he'd calmed down and gotten control of his emotions. I don't know if it was this response or if he just grew out of it, but reading your post made me realise it's been a long time since he's hit us. He has been making tremendous progress speaking at the same time, so it may be that he's just much less frustrated now. Anyway, not sure if that helps at all but we were really going round the bend with this problem at 20 months and it's currently not a problem at all. Good luck!

Cooper1070 Mon 13-Jul-15 15:40:52

Thanks for your reply HJBeans.

Well, from him being 'really loving and kind' this morning, normal service has resumed this afternoon and he is being awful to her again. I delved a little deeper and my wife's mum and sister are over at ours which is when the bad behavior starts. And it isn't like he won't be getting constant attention, if anything he gets too much attention.

Something has to change so perhaps your idea of 'not letting him have his arms back until he doesn't use them to hit' is one worth pursuing.

I will keep you informed and thanks again.

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