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Help, my 5YO hits me!(4 Posts)
I'm hoping for some advise on here as I'm at my wits end with my daughter. She just turned five, and a few months ago, started getting really angry. When she's in one of her rages, she kicks and hits me, and I don't seem to be able to make her stop, whatever I do. A friend suggested I just ignore her as she's attention seeking,which Ive tried, but it doesn't seem to be working and I'm getting bruises! Our relationship has really suffered, and I don't understand where it's come from, as I'm a pretty strict parent and she used to be such a well behaved girl. Her little sister (just turned one) gets ignored whenever I'm dealing with this, and I feel crap about that too. Can anyone help?
Oh my goodness, you sound like you're describing me and my son! He was so similar at the age of four, and I'm pretty sure it was related to jealousy of his younger brother, amongst other things. I sought advice from a professional in the end, and it really paid off. There are basically two things you need to concentrate on:
1. Stop the violent behaviour when it occurs. The advice to ignore it is sort of right, but you have to get away from her fists first, THEN ignore her. Your daughter may be attention seeking (particularly if she lacks more positive forms of interaction), but her agression could have many other causes too. It is NEVER OK to allow your child to hit you. If you ignore it while it's happening, you're essentially passively condoning their behaviour and telling your child you're fine with being a punching bag. What you do is this: grab her hands. Look her in the eye. Tell her firmly, but without yelling "I WILL NOT let you hurt me." Then walk away. If she follows and keeps hitting, either put her in her room (if you can) and shut the door until she calms down, or grab the baby and shutyourself in a room until she calms down. Tell others in the house not to interact with her too. She may destroy stuff. She may try to kick the door in. It doesn't matter - it's still better that she directs her anger at inanimate objects than at you (I'd advise you to check your contents insurance and move as much precious, breakable stuff out of the way as you can once you've made your mind up to apply this tactic!). Chances are when she calms down and sees the damage she's done, it will scare her and make her think twice the next time. Ignore her until she simmers down (and you have too), then reconnect. This bit is REALLY important. Sit her on your lap and ask her a) to talk what she was feeling and why - she may struggle so help her out with emotion words if necessary b) tell her you get it, and it's OK to be angry, but it's NEVER OK to hurt you. Reiterate that you cannot let her do that. c) ask her to think of some ways she could let her anger out better next time (e.g. screaming, hitting a particular pillow, running up and down the stairs - whatever). If she does these things rather than hitting you next time, wait until she's calmed down, then give her tons of praise for reacting more appropriately. We all get angry. You can't switch it off for her, but you can help her to learn to channel it better.
2. Try to get to the root of what's causing the anger so it doesn't occur in the first place. You say it's come out of the blue. It probably hasn't. I'm sure you've considered the sibling rivalry aspect, but that's definitely one to delve into a bit more if you haven't already. Even if your daughter is lovely to her little sister, she may still harbour resentment which she's taking out on you, and she may not have the words or understanding to express it (or be ashamed or fearful you'll tell her off if she does). Again, don't punish the emotion here. When she's calm, ask her directly - "does it make you sad when I spend lots of time with your sister and not with you?" or similar and see how the conversation goes from there. Listen to what she says. She may shrug and say it's fine. She may not. She may say she hates her sister, or she hates you. She may imply she hates herself or that she's a bad person. Don't judge or tell her that she's wrong (unless she says SHE is bad), just listen and say something like "I'm sorry, Iknow it's hard. What would make you feel better?" and reassure her that you love her come what may. You may have to do this more than once. Also, when your youngest is screaming or playing up, roll your eyes and say "she's a pain sometimes isn't she? I'm glad you don't do this any more!" to your eldest. Make them feel special for being older and wiser - this really worked with my son.
It may not be sibling rivalry (it isn't always), so some other things to consider:
- Has anything changed at home or school that may have triggered her upset? Bullying, a death, marital issues? Again, try to help them with naming the emotions here - and seek professional help if the problem is really bad.
- Does she have anger issues at school and with people she doesn't know well too? If so, it may point to a more complex behavioural problem that may need diagnosing by a professional.
- You say you're quite strict. Does that involve lots of nagging and "no!" and "do as I say", and not much praise? This was me - I was paranoid that if I didn't iron out (punish) every wrinkle, my son would get the impression that his behaviour was OK, and would carry on doing it forever more. Unfortunately that assumption was misguided and it badly backfired. Some kids will respond to strictness, as they're naturally compliant. Others will push back in a major way - like my son. He got SO angry at his lack of control over anything. When I loosened up and stopped trying to make him toe every line, he got better. I still kept some core rules, which always resulted in forewarned consequences (NO hurting, NO deliberate damage, NO being unkind and NO totally ignoring me), but most other things I let slide with just a verbal warning and a brief explanation ("keep your lego off the floor or your brother will eat it. If I find it here again it goes away"). When he was good, I gave him praise and a hug too, as much as I could (I could neverbe faffed with the reward chart thing - but it may work for you.) Authoritative not authoritarian is the key.
- Do you spend 1:1 time with your daughter at least once per day? It's doesn't have to be much - just 10-15 minutes of play or talking time away from her sister. Lots of positive physical contact (cuddling, sitting on your lap - if they're OK with it) will help here too - kids really need it.
- Sounds weird but is your daughter a mouth breather? It can really disturb sleep, even if they don't appear to wake up (and has long term consequences for teeth - look it up!). Or is her sleep interrupted in any other way? Tiredness can REALLY impact behaviour - stick to a good bedtime routine if you don't already.
- Does she lash out when she's hungry? Avoid hunger like the plague!
- Is she worse after having lots of sugar or certain foods or drinks? Chocolate is a particular culprit for causing irritability.
- Do you or your other half ever hit her yourselves? It's understandable if she's pushing buttons but it's a really bad idea - it's just telling her that hitting is OK for you, but not for her, and that's a VERY confusing message to send, and can cause very bad anxiety later on. If you ever do hurt her, even just a shove or an arm yank (we've all done it), make sure you apologise. If it's something you do regularly and can't control - seek help yourself.
That's all I can remember off the top of my head, but it all helped - as did my son growing up and getting better at expressing himself verbally! Now, at 10, we just have the occasional "I hate you Mum!" sessions! But on the whole he's a great kid and rarely lashes out physically. Good luck - I don't judge, I understand, I really do x
I'd def 2nd the advice above. DD is a bit like this, but weve been working really hard at helping her point her anger at other stuff (and to understand it a bit more) and it's def helping. I got a toddler to and its hard when I have to ignore her, but stopping the hitting and kicking has to be first. When that's better you can focus more on her.
I thought the whole "help them with their feelings" thing was a bit naff - I just wanted DD to listen and behave, no questions! It does work after a bit tho - def better than ignoring it or trying to scare or punish DD into behaving anyway. I think they just want to feel that you understand and love them and to know too where boundaries are - and not hitting you has got to be one of them!