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What do you do when your child hits you?

15 replies

Hels20 · 04/01/2014 16:24

So, DH and I are both new to parenthood. Our 2.5 year old has been with us for about 7 weeks now. But over the past 2 weeks, has started hitting us. This doesn't include when he has a tantrum and his arms and legs flail as we comfort him. The other day, we were playing with play doh and he wanted me to open a new tub. I said "yes, darling. I'm just trying to fix this ice cream maker for you at the moment." And he started crying (no tears, just frustration) and then hit me. He caught my eye and it really really hurt. I swallowed my anger, didn't raise my voice and was just silent as I dealt with the pain. I told him that he had hurt Mummy and he must not hurt Mummy and he should say sorry. He was quite shocked and started crying - proper tears. And I told him it was ok but that he mustn't hit people.

He now hits one of me or DH at least everyday - when he is not getting his own way. We were told by CAHMS not to have a naughty step or anything - but I was never told how to discipline him. We just use calm words and tell him he must not hit. But why is it escalating now? Has anyone else experienced this and got any good tips?

Unfortunately, his speech is quite badly delayed although he has good comprehension.

Thanks in advance.

OP posts:
TwerkingNineToFive · 04/01/2014 16:31

I get down to my dds level put her arms by her side and make sure she's looking at me and say in a stern calm voice, 'no you do not hit people'. Then in general conversation I say things like 'we don't hit each other because we are family' etc etc.
I think pushing the boundaries is very common for all kids, especially those who are adopted.

WaitingForPeterWimsey · 04/01/2014 16:40

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Hels20 · 04/01/2014 16:47

But how long does it go on for? He didn't hit his FC (or so she said). I actually have bruising round my eye from where he hit me with the play doh pot.

OP posts:
WaitingForPeterWimsey · 04/01/2014 17:00

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TrinnyandSatsuma · 04/01/2014 18:13

I feel for you, it must be hard. We say to our boy, "we don't hit people or things in this house" and repeat this quite often. Use the same phrase but also about kicking etc. He hasn't hit us, but we feel it's important he love owe we don't hit as he has witnessed domestic violence in the past.

Discipline wise, we use a first warning, then second warning, then reflection time where we sit together in silence, but we always have our arm round him etc. We talk about consequences, never punishment. It's bloody hard though, dealing with behaviour like that calmly. Given what our children have already been through, it is really hard to apply a form of discipline that feels appropriate.

Feel free to PM if you want to know more, although I am no way an expert!

Our boy has been home two months, and he has shown lots of bad behaviour that was never seen in foster care. Our social worker says it's a sign he is settling in, showing his real self and allowing some of his frustration, anger etc to come out. I think he's testing us to see if he will be rejected. Maybe your little one is doing the same.

Keep smiling x

TrinnyandSatsuma · 04/01/2014 18:14

"Important he knows we don't hit" iPad fail

Dollydishus · 04/01/2014 18:38

Not an adoptive parent, but hitting, biting etc are quite common in young children. We say 'Kind hands!' To remind and praise when it goes well, too.

Magslee · 04/01/2014 19:37

Hi Hels
My DS was 2 at placement and started hitting me a couple of months in -he went through a stage of doing it quite a few times a day - sometimes I could see it coming and sometimes not. It is so hard to remain calm when someone is belting you round the face so it sounds like you're doing brilliantly. Have you got a good social worker? I called mine about hitting and she was really helpful.

I found the 'aha parenting' website useful for helping me focus on what my DS was feeling and also for dealing with my own feeings about it. My SW advised me to tighten up on boundaries and be really firm and clear - I think this was good advice for my DS - I think he was feeling really insecure and needed to know that I was in charge. I was absolutely consistent with never letting it go - it was so tempting sometimes to pretend I hadn't seen an attempt to throw or hit but I think picking it up every time helped.

I used 'time in' where I would hold DS firmly on my lap until he had calmed down saying things like 'you need to be with mummy now' and 'I am holding you so that I can help you calm down'. Using time-in can be difficult if you child is big and strong and it felt horrible holding his arms etc to stop him hitting me but I would say 'I'm holding your arms to stop you hitting me, I'll let go when you are feeling better'. Once he was calm enough to hear I would talk to him about what had happened and voice feelings for him (e.g. You wanted me to open a new tub and you got angry because you had to wait. It is ok to be angry but never ok to hit someone') If you do a websearch for 'positive discipline' or 'using time-in' you can find some useful techniques and words to use. I didn't have a particular place for time-in - I just did it wherever we were - I felt like a proper idiot sitting down on the ground in the park with a flailing toddler in my arms but I think it got the messages across that the rules are the same everywhere and meant he was properly calmed down before he went back into the fray at the playground. I told my friends in advance what I was doing so they understood. I know time-in holding is not advised for some kids for example if they have been restrained as part of abuse etc so it's not for everyone.

I have no idea if the way I dealt with had anything to do with it stopping or it was just a passing phase but the good news is that it did stop! There were probably 3-4 weeks of it happening a lot and then a few more of it happening less often before it stopped. There was a brief re-appearance when he started nursery (although that was hitting other children and not me) but it passed as soon as he settled.

I do think it is often part of normal development - perhaps especially for kids with speech delay as your and my DS both have. But for an adopted child it may well also be about insecurity following a move and trying to work out what is going on.

The early weeks/months are so hard and I hope you are getting lots of support - it does get easier (hopefully!) - Ds and I are just about to have our one year anniversary and I cannot believe how different it all feels now from how it felt a couple of months ago.

Hope it is a very quick passing phase!

TwistAndShout · 04/01/2014 21:13

Lots of good advice there magslee, and it's lovely to hear from someone a year in, that it gets easier! We're three months in with our DD and she has made huge progress but can't wait to get a year behind us, I know time will make all the difference. However, I don't want to wish it all to go too quickly either!

Hels20 · 06/01/2014 08:03

Thank you everyone for your suggestions - will definitely try "time in" as don't want to lose an eye/become any more bruised (I had no idea little children could be so strong). Gosh, it's difficult though.

OP posts:
AngelsWithSilverWings · 06/01/2014 10:55

Hi - we had similar behaviour when our DS ( adopted) was a toddler and even now at 8 years old if he is really angry he will lash out.

For the age you are dealing with I would say that you have to tell him very firmly and without shouting or anger that we do not hit each other in this family and then place him in a time out ( time in ) spot within sight of you. Once he has done his time you ask him to say sorry and then have a cuddle and move on.

But in the example you gave I have learned through advice from health visitors and social workers that the way you respond to requests makes a big difference to how he will react.

I would have said "ok darling, first. I will fix this and then I will open the play dough" We have to use the " first and then" technique all the time to prevent my DS having one of his melt downs. It doesn't always work but it helps you stay in control.

Swanhildapirouetting · 06/01/2014 15:02

My 2 year old used to lash out when he was tired and frustrated (for example when going upstairs for afternoon nap after lunch perhaps, or when he wanted something he couldn't have) It was a developmental stage he DID grow out of, although he continued to be quite an emotional child. It wasn't calculated, but it was a way of seeking attention on some occasions and on others just plain frustration at not being able to do something he wasn't dexterous to manage or to stay still etc. The following helped defuse. Loving response always, no cold reactions to hitting (shaming etc) Lots of banging and crashing toys available. Lots of gross motor play, jumping, climbing, rolling around. Lots of sleep, firm bedtime and nap routines enforced. No pressure over things a child of that age couldn't manage, like manners or difficult tasks or staying quiet or good when they weren't old enough or mature enough to manage. Age appropriate expectations.
I may be wrong about this but I think when you react to a small child hitting you, with tears or distress they become more powerful and use it in the wrong way to get a reaction or to seek attention. Also it is so frightening for them to see your tears that it throws your strength and security into question? I think when you have built a bond, then your reaction is more valid, but until then it can make things worse. Ds was very attached to me and quickly didn't want me to cry, but dd who had less confidence in her attachment with me, used to get even more angry when I cried. I know now that she wanted me to be "strong". All my children were birth children btw, but they all had periods of lashing out. One has ASD, and was the least violent!

Swanhildapirouetting · 06/01/2014 15:12

I think Angel is right that talking through everything really helps manage a lot of situations children might find stressful. Basically by communicating in words, you avoid they likelihood that they will communicate in blows! They learn that they can express themselves in words not violent actions, reactions.

I think putting children in sharp time outs the minute they hit or lash out can completely backfire as you are reacting to them, in the same way they react to whatever made them lash out. The pattern gets more and more ingrained, and can escalate, when they start hitting you when you put them in timeout....and try and keep them there. It becomes a complete battle of wills. Best to try and give very little indication that it matters to you that they hit you, show little shock or horror etc, whilst also pushing the message that there are much more interesting ways of engaging your attention and cooperation.

WaitingForPeterWimsey · 06/01/2014 17:56

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holycowwhatnow · 07/01/2014 00:28

Our dd can hit or pull hair when she's frustrated. She doesn't do it very often and it's usually when she's very tired or hungry. I just hold her wrists and say 'gentle hands, we're always gentle with our hands. You don't want to hurt Mammy, you need to have gentle hands' and then I use her hands to rub me gently. Sometimes it works and she starts stroking me gently, sometimes it doesn't if she's too far gone into a temper and then I just sit on the couch with her on my lap and cuddle her tightly. I keep repeating 'Gentle hands, we're always gentle with our hands' and eventually she calms down. I think a lot of it is just frustration and really common with children this age.

Congratulations on your new ds!

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