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Violent toddler

(10 Posts)
PaulKleen Mon 13-Jun-16 22:55:17

I'm at my wits end with DS (2.2) who is constantly hitting, pinching, kicking, biting and headbutting. I've read loads about it but he doesn't fit the pattern of lashing out when frustrated, he just does it constantly for no apparent reason. He'll come to me for a cuddle then claw my neck or we'll be reading together and he'll slam his head into mine, or he'll be giggling away at something perfectly happy then smack me in the face. It's literally every 5 minutes. He's not at childcare and is fine with other people, children and adults, very sociable and sweet but with me (and to a lesser extent DH), he hits out constantly. He has no exposure to violence, doesn't act out violence with toys and is currently an only although DC2 due shortly. I'm sick of being hurt constantly and worried about him attacking the new baby. I know people say they grow out of it but it's been over 6 months and reiterating 'it's not kind to hit, it hurts people' has no effect. He won't do timeout either. He knows he's doing it as he says 'bite mummy, mummy cry' or whatever at the same time. Any ideas?

anaa1 Mon 13-Jun-16 23:01:53

oo you poor thing that must be really wearing. What do you do when he does any of the hitting/scratching/headbutting? Like, at the time, immediately - how do you respond?

PaulKleen Tue 14-Jun-16 06:51:41

We said very time 'we don't hit, it's not kind to hit' and explain how to be kind. He is occasionally contrite and will say sorry and give me a cuddle for about a minute then it starts again. It is very wearing. He's not generally violent though and is adorable apart from this. It seems to be a compulsion, any physical contact means he takes the opportunity to lash out. I can't understand why.

PaulKleen Tue 14-Jun-16 20:09:20

Anyone? Reassure me I'm not raising a psychopath!

anaa1 Tue 14-Jun-16 21:48:10

I think perhaps you could make it even simpler than you are. By talking to him every time, you are rewarding his hitting etc with attention. He's very, very young and at 2 doesn't really have an understanding of other people's feelings.
What worked for us was completely withdrawing attention if our son hit or bit etc. So put him straight down, with a firm 'no' and turn your back and ignore. This didn't have to be for long at all, just seconds really, and I would try to distract straight away with a toy or just anything to get his attention back on something else. And of course make sure there's plenty of attention on the times when he isn't hitting and is being good.
And really, don't worry, I know it seems it now but this really is something he will grow out of!! You're not raising a psychopath :-)

mineofuselessinformation Tue 14-Jun-16 21:50:20

anaa's advice is spot on.
Make the point but don't make a meal out of it. He'll eventually link being put down and ignored for a while with what he's done.

PaulKleen Tue 14-Jun-16 22:25:06

Thanks for the ideas, I will try the ignoring and hopefully that will work.

Wolfiefan Tue 14-Jun-16 22:28:19

He's too young to be contrite and understand. He just knows hitting gets your undivided attention.

SpoonintheBin Tue 14-Jun-16 22:32:40

I agree say a firm NO and put him down cross your arms and turn your back on him. Don't scoop him up, give him attention, talk. Be consistent, every time. Please don't pick him up or give him a cuddle if he hits you. Only give him attention when he doesn't hit you.

chamenager Thu 16-Jun-16 10:57:52

Agree with PP but would also point out that maybe you could try to focus on the positives.

Even adults find it much harder to 'get' a negative message/instruction such as 'don't do x' in comparison to a positive one such as 'do y'. It takes an extra processing step in the brain. First step 'what is x', second step 'don't do it'. Little people often stop at the first step! So every time you say to him 'we don't hit' he may just process the 'we hit' part and not get around to the 'don't' part.

In order to give 'positive' messages,
a) praise good behaviour. Make sure he gets the attention he craves when he is being good. Be careful though: Don't praise him for absence of negative behaviour e.g. 'not hitting' but rather for positive behaviour e.g. sitting still, paying attention, being kind, playing nicely, listening, being imaginative, giving lovely cuddles, blowing funny raspberries, ...
b) say what you'd like to see him do, rather than what you don't want him to do. DD is the same age and in our house their is LOTS of mention of 'gentle hands'. And modelling. And narrating. For example if she is playing with her 'baby' I may narrate to her how she is using gentle hands to stroke the baby. If play between her and DS is starting to get rough I'll remind her to use gentle hands. If she hits DS I'll take her hand and stroke DS with her hand, saying that we use gentle hands. I say to them both to 'be kind' rather than 'don't fight'.
These 'positive' instructions apply more generally too, not just regarding hitting/biting etc. E.g. I say 'the road is for cars, the pavement is for people to walk. We walk on the pavement.' Rather than 'don't walk onto the road'. Or 'Walk beside me and hold my hand' rather than 'don't run off'.

'Positive' instructions honestly work much better than telling a child what NOT to do.

(If someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, you'll probably find it hard! But as a grown-up, you have strategies. You may try to think of something else, e.g. a red car, instead to avoid thinking of the pink elephant. If someone had just told you to imagine a red car, it would have been a lot easier! A toddler doesn't have such strategies yet. If you tell them not to do something, even if they manage to process the 'not' part of the message, it still leaves them at a loss of what else to do; their thoughts keep coming back to the thing they are not meant to do; and sooner or later their impulse control quits. Just tell them what to do, rather than what NOT to do, it's much easier for them and much more appropriate to their developmental stage.)

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