My Kid *Will* Beat Up Your Kid

T1 is very aggressive. Here he is pushing his friend off of a pumpkin. Apparently he wanted all the pumpkins to himself?

This is a common thing for him. Last week we met up with another little boy and he was grabbing him by the front of the shirt and shoving him up against the wall. Sometimes I think he is aggressive because he is excited, so excited that he just doesn’t know how to contain himself. Other times I think he does it because he is angry, and he doesn’t know how to control his emotions. He has bit a boy we play with regularly several times now.

We’re worried about this, and we’re not sure how to tame it. At first we just apologized a lot, and I would run over and scold him, but I don’t think I was getting there fast enough so he was confused. And the biting has been getting better lately, now he just acts like he wants to kiss me (or the person/thing he is forming his teeth around).

I want to teach him that pushing other kids down is not appropriate, and I’m not sure how to do it. I tried slapping his hand twice, but I just don’t feel good about physical punishment (particularly for a kid that young). I am worried about indulging my temper and eventually using violence as an outlet for my own emotions (you know, like when your kids turns a page in the book you’re reading to him before you are ready). I also think that slapping his hand after he pushes down his friend just confuses him, he doesn’t connect the punishment with the crime. And how confusing will it be for me to tell him not to hit others when I hit him?

My latest idea was to discipline him by lavishing attention on the child he has just been aggressive with. Ignoring him.  Does this even work? It doesn’t seem like it would, but I don’t think like a toddler.

If you have resources to help me through this, I would love some help here!

92 thoughts on “My Kid *Will* Beat Up Your Kid

  1. I have a friend with this same problem with her son. We think that a major reason for the biting/pushing, etc. is because he is frustrated and can’t communicate his frustration that well, verbally. Maybe this is connected with your other post regarding his speech?

    Is he too young for timeout? I haven’t hit these stages yet, so I hope that you find some good advice – and I’d love to hear what you find out!

    Hailey Reply:

    I was thinking exactly the same thing! My niece had developmental delays and had difficulty communicating when she was younger. She used to get sooooo frustrated! The good news is that she ended up learning to speak as her little sister (no developmental delays) learned to speak, and she is just delightful, such a happy girl, with far fewer behavioral difficulties.

    Time outs are the Super Nanny weapon of choice 🙂 even young children can eventually make a connection between the fun they were having, the fun that they are suddenly no longer happening, and what might have gone wrong between the two. Good luck!

  2. First, I commend you on publically talking about this issue.

    Second, we do time out. Bean isn’t aggressive but she will yell “STOOOP” or try to gently shove people away from something. I say very sternly, “If you do it again, you are going to time out” and she stops.

    If she does it again…she goes to time out for a minute where she cries/pouts or tries to walk away. If she cries I don’t care and will leave her in the corner or some secluded place (I believe time out should be done anywhere the unwanted behavior is done, not just at home in a corner. We have done it in other places too which was embarrassing at first but you get over it quick. Consistency).

    If she tries to walk away I tell her, “No, you are not finished in time out” and I put her back where she was and start counting all over again. I have done this several times until she gets it that walking away only makes her stay longer.

    Sometimes she doesn’t want to go to time out but I do not carry her to time out. I make her walk, which to some may look a little mean like I’m dragging my kid but I don’t care. I think of long term when I parent. So 2 seconds of a kid kicking and screaming as you drag them to a corner or years of bad behavior because I can’t push past the embarrassment. No thanks.

    Whatever you do, everyone who watches T1 has to be on the same page. So my husband does the same, so does my mom and so does our child care provider. There is nothing worse than people giving different messages.

    Also, not that I’m telling you something you don’t know, but if you don’t fix this behavior you’re going to have some pretty angry parents on your hands. I know that I would not allow my child to play with someone so aggressive and if it happened at a playground I would, as respectfully as possible, tell you what was on my mind. You just don’t want T1 getting a reputation (especially when you guys get more established in Dallas and get a playground you go to all the time) of being a bully. That would be the worse, especially since you know he isn’t like that.

  3. I think one big thing to look at is what is maintaining his “aggressive” behavior. Are adults mostly not interacting with him until he does something? It could be for attention… sounds simple, but that’s often the case. The thing we’re talking about in my behavior class is determining what you want him to do instead, and rewarding that all the time. So if he’s playing nicely, tell him so, go over and interact with him briefly and regularly in ways that would reinforce that behavior… when he’s bad, there’s no reason to use physical punishment, you’re right that that’s not going to do it… but a time out could be effective, even if it’s only for a minute. He’s not too young for a timeout, but keep it short and immediate afterward. Try not to get mad, because your escalated voice could be a reinforcer for the behavior as well. Just pick him up and move him away and ignore him as much as possible for that one minute (otherwise, he might see the “timeout” as a “reward” if involves more attention from you). Good luck!

    Meg @ Moments Like This Reply:

    That is so true. Whenever Bean does ANYTHING that we like (simple things like saying “Tankyu” when we give her something, kissing her brother, kissing us, giving me a blanket so I can go “nighnigh”) we ALWAYS say “Great job!” “You did it!” “You’re so nice!” “Thank you!” and when I tell her to please stop or to come here I say, “You made a really great choice! Great job!” And she gets soooo excited!

  4. He’s a little young but this book did wonders for my niece.

    http://www.amazon.com/1-2-3-Magic-Effective-Discipline-Children/dp/1889140163

    I also agree with Meg’s comment above. Speak sternly but don’t yell. You may have to physically return him to time out over and over again but eventually he’ll get it. Consistency is key.

    Steph Reply:

    I was just about to post about that book! A good friend was having hitting/biting/tantrum issues with her little boy who was 2. Here are her comments on it from her blog:http://gahf.wordpress.com/

    “I do like the “1-2-3 Magic” system. {1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, Revised 4th Edition, Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D.}

    Annoying behaviors (whining, pouting, anger, tantrums) get a directive (“stop blah-blah-blahing) and a “that’s 1?. Wait a few seconds, behavior gets a “that’s 2?. Wait a few seconds, behavior gets a “that’s a 3, time out”.

    (Just so you know, the hitting is an automatic 3. He doesn’t get chances to try and hit me or not. Wanted to clarify that my new discipline trick does not in fact allow my son to beat me – or anyone else for that matter – to a bloody pulp before heading to time out.)

    No yelling, no parental anger, no discussing the child’s behavior. Just counting and time out.

    I love it! If Buggy wants to throw a tantrum, I don’t have to spend however long it takes to try and calm him down, appease him, or distract him (which completely defeats any attempt at correcting the behavior). I count, he doesn’t stop, he goes to his room for 2 minutes.

    Best of all, that 2 minute time out is usually the ticket. He stops, he gives up, he forgets. I calm down, I finish what I was trying to do, I breathe. And we go about the day.

    The positive behaviors get a lot more attention – which you’d think would be easy but is not. It’s like it’s natural to point out the flaws in other human beings rather than congratulate them on a job well done.”

    Meg @ Moments Like This Reply:

    1-2-3 Magic is great! We do a version of it (explained above) but it is highly effective.

    Cognitively speaking, children do not always understand why they behave the way they do or if they do can’t always explain it..So trying to have an adult conversation with a 19 month old (like my daughter) isn’t happening. At 19 months old you don’t need to understand why I don’t want you to do something, just don’t do it. 🙂

  5. Dear Jenna,

    I don’t have any children but enjoy reading your blog. One reason is that you adress problems that others keep quite about, like this problem you have with T1 or weight issues.

    I’m sorry that I can’t be of any help. Other that to encourage you to keep writing the way you do.

    Yvonne

    Hailey Reply:

    Here here! Jenna’s blog is awesome because she’s so honest and real, and then in the comments section a whole community of smart women come out of the woodwork to solve problems and encourage each other.

    Jess G Reply:

    I have to say the same thing! I appreciate your brutal honesty about things that I never would have the guts to talk about. I admire your ability to be soh onest about things that I think many people find scary. So thanks 🙂 And someday, I’m sure I’ll need all the parenting advice I can get, so I’ll look forward to coming back and reading some of the awesome comments on your posts!

  6. Validate him and give him a choice of an alternative. Validation might mean saying:

    “I know you’re angry, but we don’t hit people.”

    or

    “I know you’re angry, but people aren’t for hitting.”

    Then you must give him an alternative, because saying that obviously does not take away his anger. So that might mean saying something like:

    “You may hit this pillow, but you cannot hit people.”

    Another one might be:

    “You may stomp your feet, but you cannot hit people.”

    ============

    Children like being given choices when they’re becoming independent, and this type of redirection acknowledges that the child is angry and needs to express that anger but teaches them more appropriate ways to do so.

    It’s very important to teach a child that it isn’t wrong to be angry. The only thing that can be “wrong” is how they express it. Eventually they get to a place (when they’re older) where they ask, “Can I go to my room and turn up my music and stomp my feet because I’m angry?” or “Can I draw a mean picture?” etc. All of which are okay because verbally expressing anger cannot usually happen until much later.

    Of course you have to understand this is coming from a kind of child-centered perspective, and a lot of people might not agree with it. I can only tell you that I didn’t see how in the world this type of crap could be effective until I watched it be used over & over again with children suffering from quite severe anger issues. Consistency seemed to be key for them.

    Good luck, sounds like pretty normal (albeit frustrating) toddler issues unfortunately. 🙁 They like the attention it gets them.

    Hailey Reply:

    Oooo, I like you! Can you come and discipline my future children? 🙂

    Brandy Reply:

    I have you used this method with my neice, it works! My sister had been using the time out method but switched to something like this. I think I first read about it in a book called “Connection Parenting” he cannot express his feelings with words so he is using violence and he needs to be taught that hurting others is not an option, but his feelings are valid and he is allowed to express anger in another way to “work it out”
    Maybe make a set of feeling cards, until he can verabally say what hes feeling it may help him to point out that he is mad, sad, angry, happy etc. Carve out some time to sit and have learning time, he is a smart child he just needs some help. Use the things he loves to incorporate learning. Sorry this is such a random comment and all over the place, someone is getting her molars…

  7. I can’t wait to see what you come up with – I’m having a hard time with Brady, not with the same situation but punishment in general. B is only 17 months so time-outs and things are not possible yet. His big issue right now is climbing on top of furniture and jumping around, inevitably falling off and getting hurt. I can’t stop him no matter what I try. I’ve tried being very nice and asking him to please get down then praising him when he does; tried raising my voice, spanking his bottom; turning all the furniture around so its not able to be used etc. It’s so hard at this age!

  8. We love Love and Logic (there’s a book for young children) It teaches consequences for every action and how to be consistent in your discipline because kids need consistency.
    My son is only 3 months older than yours and he understands the concept of time out and has for a while. He hasn’t been aggressive before but he does like to throw toys and has hit his younger brother in the head by throwing things. I started by giving him a time out every.single.time. he threw a toy. (for just under 2 minutes since he’s almost two). Did that consistently for a couple days and now if he raises a toy to throw it you can see the wheels turning in his head and then puts the toy down. haha!

  9. I love the suggestions that these ladies have given. They’re all great, and they follow techniques I’ve learned about in school.

    As an English teacher, I’m a huge proponent of books. (And I’m not a parent, so take this with a grain of salt.)Perhaps there are a few picture books about being nice that you could get at the library or on your iPad. Pointing out sad facial expressions in the pictures could help him realize the effect of his actions….? This technique worked well for my friend’s son who had similar problems as T1, both in communication and interactions.

    You’ll do what’s right. It might take some trial and error, but you will do the right thing.

  10. I have been there and done that!

    My now 4 year old was a very aggressive youngster, biting, hitting, pushing, throwing you name it he did it. Every night I would go to bed feeling like the worst mother on earth and cry myself to sleep. I researched and researched some people say time out, some people say they do it for attention, I was told I needed to be firmer with him and then another person would tell me to be softer with him; you know how it goes.

    I can’t tell you what to do but I can tell you helped me. Remember every kid is different and what works for your friend’s kids may not work for your kid or for you. T1 is a toddler and experiences new things daily and it can be very overwhelming for him he is just trying to figure out how to deal with his emotions and experiences.

    I found that time out was not effective with my son when he was that age but now at 4 years old it is very effective. Something I try to do is praise whenever I see my kids perform good behavior. So every time T1 is kind or shares maybe you could make a big deal out of it. Kids really like attention and strong willed kids don’t care if that attention is positive or negative so focus on the positive.

    Do what works for YOU, you know your son better than anyone and remember they are kids and makes mistakes so if you feel like something is working for a while and then it seems to stop working just be consistent kids will always try to push limits because that is how they learn but I believe that consistency is the key.

    Good luck, he will grow out of it I might take a year or more like in my case.

  11. I too wonder if some of this behavior stems from being unable to communicate. Do other children his age “talk” to each other? I know at this age speech is relatively limited, but perhaps this is his way of getting his point across. Also, he’s probably learning from you that he can’t push you or any other adult around, but he’s yet to learn it with children his own size.

    I too am thankful that you’re bringing this up. I don’t think it’s just a blog phenomenon when we talk about “shiny happy and hip” lives– we see it everyday. People tend to shy away from revealing the truth, and prefer to put on a facade. I’m originally not an from the States, so my family really noticed the “smiley American” persona when we moved here. We found it so baffling that everyone would smile and say they were doing great when they clearly were not. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with looking at the positive things in life, but it does tend create a society of illusionists (this is not to say that I don’t love this country. I do!).

    Ok, sorry for that tangent. Let us know what you end up doing and if anything helps. I do wonder if the speech therapy will help him though. Best of luck 🙂

  12. I am also for the time out. My kid is only ten months but at times she does things (like throwing a tantrum or playing in areas she knows are off limits) that get her a time out. She has to come sit on my lap, and I tell her that was a sad choice and she has to sit with me for a bit. This is usually thirty seconds to a minute, and even though she is very young she understands. For example before we started this she was getting into the garbage can, trying to unplug lamps, hitting people/things etc. And now all I have to say is “that is not okay, do you need a time out?” and she stops, and goes back to playing. We also praise her for sharing, for giving hugs and kisses, etc. we want to make sure that her good moments are recognized just like we recognize her moments where discipline is needed.

  13. This is what we would do when kids at this age got into “fights” at the day care:

    1. Separate them.
    2. Pick up/comfort/check on the kid who has been hurt. This will help the aggressor realize that being mean does not get them attention.
    3. While you don’t want to physically hurt the child, children at this age really only understand physical communication. Make him sit down, even if its just for 10 seconds or something (he won’t understand a “time out”.) It will help him understand that if you hurt another kid, play doesn’t get to continue. “Physical” punishment, or really any punishment, needs to correlate to the act, so that he understands what is happening. So if hitting = sitting down, and sitting down = not playing, hitting = not playing.
    4. Make him make ammends. We would have them do “nice touches” where we would have the kid go give the other kid a “nice touch” (like stroke their arm gently). Usually we would take their hand and do it. It was a way to reinforce what proper interaction with another kid is like. It sounds really weird though I know.
    5. Make sure you are using verbal language to. At that age you have to be a little over dramatic to get the message across. It’s tempting to just pull your kid away while you are talking to the other parent, but you need to make sure to focus your attention on the incident and say “No. No, t1, we don’t hit/push/bite. No.”
    6. Consistency is key, even if its minor, even if its with you. He won’t be able to understand the difference between why it’s okay to hit a kid twice is size and not one his own size.

    There are a few books for kids on anger such as “Teeth are not for Biting” and “Hands are not for Hitting” They are for kids about his age to teach anger management skills.

  14. Also, whatever you do, if he is fighting with a kid over a toy, do *not* let him play with it! If he tries to take it repeatedly, the toy needs to just go on a shelf.

  15. There are some good ideas up above about time outs, things to say, etc. I just wanted to note that he’s probably not yet developmentally able to understand that he is hurting the other kid. He may not be able to follow a generalized rule like “no hurting others,” and may need you to point out each thing he can’t do: no pushing, no hitting, no biting, etc.

    Kalen Reply:

    I think you’re absolutely right that he can’t quite understand that he’s hurting someone yet. However, (this is totally just my opinion) saying things like, “No hitting. No biting. No pushing. No pulling.” etc. etc. etc. is extremely limiting and frustrating to a toddler that has no other way of expressing their anger sometimes. That is why I highly believe in offering an alternative. Because actually – hitting a pillow *is* okay – it doesn’t hurt anyone and it exerts physical energy. Biting an apple really hard *is* okay, etc. etc. etc.

    I think we often want to give them a long list or rules with no alternatives and that only increases long-term frustration because they don’t understand how else to communicate.

    By phrasing it, “We don’t hit people.” or “We don’t bite people.” you are almost making “people” an object, so they don’t *have* to understand that *why* we don’t hit people, just that we don’t but that it might be okay to hit something else that mom or dad says they can (or whatever other alternative you provide).

    Emily Reply:

    I really like your approach! My pet peeve is seeing an adult tell a toddler “You know better than to act like that” or “Don’t hurt the puppy” or those kinds of unspecific corrections that set the child up for failure. I LOVE the idea of offering alternative ways of expressing anger and frustration.

    Laura Reply:

    I totally agree. I work with 2-year-olds and it’s so important to tell them what they can and should do instead of listing rules of what’s not ok. Instead of ‘We don’t hit our friends,’ a better alternative is, ‘We use nice touches with our friends.’ Or instead of ‘No biting,’ you can say, ‘Our teeth are for food. Biting hurts.’ At the same time, giving rules/reprimands is still a type of attention which often times is what the child is after.

    If T1 isn’t hurting anyone but is engaging in an undesirable behavior, it’s good to totally ignore it and praise the other child for playing/sitting nicely/whatever. If he’s in ‘time out,’ totally ignore him except to keep him in time out. Don’t talk to him every time you have to put him back in his quiet place. If there are other people/children around, make sure you engage with them and make what you’re doing look fun so he realizes he’s missing out. And when he’s behaving appropriately, playing nicely, anything postiive, be sure to reinforce (praise) those behaviors as often as possible!

  16. Kids this age don’t really understand that other people/kids have emotions that are seperate from their own. So even if he is being “aggressive” he probably isn’t doing it with the intent of hurting others, it just makes HIM feel better.

    My DS is about the same age as yours and although he isn’t usually aggressive with other kids, he recently went through a phase of not being nice or gentle with our pets. Whenever he would be too rough I would stop him from doing whatever it was (like pulling ears) very quickly and say things like “no no, we need to be gentle! lets pet the dog. can you help me pet the dog?”

    Or something similar then pet the dog myself or take his hand and help him. When he would start to approach a dog/cat I’d start asking him in an upbeat voice if he was going to be gentle/nice/pet them (not expecting a response, just to remind him). If he was being nice and gentle I’d praise him and tell him “thank you for petting the dog, that’s so nice! you’re making him so happy!”

    I know he didn’t understand everything I was saying, but he could tell what he was doing was making me happy.

    If he was not nice, or even looked like he was not going to be nice, I’d remove him or the animal and talk about how he couldn’t play with them if he wasn’t being gentle.

    Eventually he got it.

    If we are at the library or a playgroup and DS takes a toy from another kid or does get too rough, I always intercept and tell him we need to be gentle with our friends and I do fawn over the other kid a little bit. Sometimes I think he just gets over stimulated and needs a little reminder about how to act. If it does escalate I do pretty much everything Jackie above me said.

  17. Ho boy. I don’t have children, though we’ve got baby fever pretty badly, but I am not looking forward to this part. Parenting is so hard! Thanks for being so forthcoming and honest – and please let us know what you try!

  18. We have the same problem with T but it is getting much better.

    1) It did help when he started being able to communicate better.

    2) It got MUCH better when my husband and I started cuddling and showing physical affection purposefully in front of T. He started doing it too.

    3) We use the word gentle A LOT. When we say it, we touch him gently, and hold his hand to touch us gently.

    4) It is sort of just a boy thing (and I’m the least gender stereotyping person). All the boys I know go through this.

    I see some advice on discipline / timeouts above, so just for another take, get “unconditional parenting” out of the library and give it a gander. Also, the Dr. Sears Discipline book has been MAGICAL! in our house in the last few days. Way fewer tantrums and happier mom, dad, and turner.

    My sister and I are both using unconditional parenting and it is really helping us feel like better (calmer) parents, PLUS our babes are happier too!

    We wrote a little about it here:

    http://www.twobedroomsandababy.com/2011/09/unconditional-parenting-and-why-it.html

    http://www.twobedroomsandababy.com/2011/08/unconditional-parenting-and-why-it.html

  19. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with slapping his hand if you’re doing it in a pavlovian way – so he connects the negative stimulus to the behavior. It doesn’t sound like you were using violence out of anger, which I think parents should avoid, but a small thing like slapping his hand is purely about training him, in a manner of speaking. If it’s not actually working, that’s another issue. Even if he’s not necessarily understanding your response or it’s not happening quickly enough, if you do it enough times, he’ll eventually connect it. In fact, having a repeated and consistent consequence for behavior might actually help him with language and cognition too. Just a thought. Good luck – I’m sure it’s just a phase.

    LPC Reply:

    I disagree. I do not find any time ever to be appropriate for parents to hit children.

    Brandy Reply:

    I disagree as well, imho all hitting a child is teaching them is that it is ok for an adult to hit. They dont understand the difference between them hitting someone and you hitting them..it is all hitting.

  20. Oh! AND, we started re-directing his hitting/biting to a BIG orange pillow.

    I say, “when you are mad mad mad (from happiest toddler on the block advice) HIT the pillow!” and I hit the pillow. Same with biting it.

    It turns into a game, but he can get some physical aggression out.

  21. Another note is to be very consistant with this ALL day long in every aspect of his life. If you start with the little things, like for instance, you don’t want him picking up your coffee cup, start the “boundries and consequences” right then and there, and don’t for any reason let him pick up your coffee cup without the action you decide when you are punishing (teaching boundries). If he learns what No means and that you mean business when you say it at home, you should have less trouble when you are out. Ignore at home worked for me too, I’d just not reward my “fun mom stuff” while they were bad at home. Grumpy kids got sent back to bed until “happy faces” woke back up. You can teach a child to work on being happier.
    There were times when the kids just need some more time to grow up and into their emotions. Times when my husband and I had our date night at Mcdonalds so the kids could go play because in most restaurants, its not play time for us. Bad behavior there is not tolerated, and ends up with a phone call and apology to the waitress from the bad behaved child. Make him apologize and aware of others feelings.
    When my kids got in trouble at home with me, I’d also (when they got more verbal) make THEM tell their dad what happened when he got home. I trusted that my husband would handle it in an appropriate manner and discuss what was wrong with the action and what happened for punishment (I did spank on occasion, actually, that only took a couple of times spanking and that worked for my kids) I always felt that if they could go to him and learn the trust of talking to their parent about things they’ve done wrong, when they were little no matter how small it was, when they became teenagers and adults the same would happen. It did. They know that coming home to mom and dad will fix things, and I don’t mean a money bail out, I’m talking making good choices to begin with.
    Oh, and I know this is long, but our house rules were given to every child that came into the house..no favorites…”in THIS house we are always kind to others” “in THIS house homework gets done as soon as you get home” etc.

    LPC Reply:

    Laying down rules with the, “In this house,” or “In this family” language is very, very helpful as kids get out of the toddler/pre-school years.

  22. my daughter is 22 months old and has gotten “time outs” at daycare since she was about 16 months old. her biggest issue is stealing food from other kids (not that they don’t feed her well, she just always wants what someone else has instead of what she’s been given…grass is always greener i guess), and she has thrown things or hit kids a couple times. they use a high chair and turn it away from everyone else for a couple minutes for her timeout. i was worried this would give her a negative association with high chairs, but she seems to get the difference in the situations. we also say no very firmly, and i think facial expressions are very important. with tantrums or other “acting out” that is not hurting anyone, we are big into ignoring her until she stops. and rewarding/noticing good behavior is very helpful!

  23. His behavior is probably a combination of his attempt to get attention as well as his inability to communicate using words. Usually children bite or push before they are able to verbally communicate what has them upset.

    Definitely use more positive reinforcement for good behavior (praise him when he plays nicely.) When he does bite/hit remove him from the situation and make him sit still for a minute and a half (one minute per year of his age). Don’t interact nicely with him while he’s in “time out” but illustrate through your tone, facial expressions, and words that you are upset (try not to get mad). I also think it’s important for you to explain why he’s sitting (even though the physicality of it is what he’ll understand more, he can understand a lot more language than he can use). Say “T1 you are sitting because you hit. Hands are not for hitting, I understand you are angry but hitting is not ok.” After his time out, have him go over to the child he hurt and do “nice touches” like a hug or a gentle arm touch.

    Another good thing to reinforce that hitting/ bitting is not acceptable is to read books about it at home. http://www.amazon.com/Teeth-Biting-Board-Book-Behavior/dp/1575421283 This is the series, we read at daycare and the repetitive language and big illustrations are good.

    I don’t believe it’s ever ok to hit a child. He is your biggest fan and wants to do everything you do. If you hit him you are demonstrating that it’s ok to hit. Why use the very thing you don’t want him to do as punishment? It just doesn’t make sense.

    Remember it’s not your fault and he’ll grow out of it with the right guidance! Good luck.

  24. Make a huge deal about it. Put him on the naughty step for a few minutes. Ask him what he did wrong, have him say he’s sorry, tell him you love him, BIG KISS, and send him on his merry way 😉

    LPC Reply:

    I don’t think a big kiss is appropriate here. I’d make the timeout smaller and no kiss. Otherwise it feels like every time I hit a kid, mom kisses me.

  25. The only few things I know are from watching Nanny like programs.
    Make sure to look at him in the eyes and have him look in your eyes when you explain the issue.
    Also a good rule of thumb for time out is 1 minute per year of age. (so 1mn for a 1 year old, 3 for a 3 y.o, etc.).

  26. Here’s what we did when my kids were little.

    1. Stay close at all times.
    2. Every time you see an instance of aggression, take the child’s hand, and use it to stroke or pat the other child gently.
    3. Say, quietly and repeatedly, “Soft, soft.”
    4. Repeat any time the child gets physically aggressive.
    5. If the child cannot stop him/herself, then pick the child up and move him/her far away.
    6. Any timeouts should be only one minute per age of child.

  27. I think it’s a typical boy thing, my two year-old went through a phase like this a few months ago. Honestly, it felt really embarrassing to me as a parent because I felt like I had done something wrong, but it’s not the case. Also, I think toddlers go through that don’t touch that it’s mine phase, or get away from me, etc. My son has mostly grown out of it except for the occassional push when another child gets too aggressive with him. We’ve also been utilizing time-outs. Good luck!

  28. I don’t have any clever suggestions unfortunately (although a lot of the advice on the thread sounds good). However, I just finished reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn, and I found his take on discipline (whether negative: time outs, spanking, etc; or positive: praise etc.) very interesting indeed.

    He cites a wealth of research suggesting that all attempts to “mold” children leave them feeling as if parental love is conditional, based on their behavior (and thus they are not loved if naughty), which leads to insecurity, depression, aggression and poor emotional relationships.

    Instead, he suggests that children’s behavior is always an attempt to meet their goals and needs. A parent’s job is thus to figure out what need is currently being unmet (that is causing the misbehavior), and then work with the child as an ally to help them figure out more effective, prosocial ways to meet it.

    For example, perhaps T1 wants to connect with the other children (a need to make friends), but doesn’t know how to do this. So he reverts to attacking them, since at least then they are relating (even if it’s in a negative way)! By working with him to find new ways to initiate play, the aggressive behavior would disappear naturally. Just putting him in a timeout (or praising him when he is not being naughty) doesn’t address his fundamental problem, so the behavior would continue.

    There’s a website here if you are interested: http://www.alfiekohn.org/up/index.html

  29. We use time out at my home. My twins are 2 and time out has worked for them since about T1’s age. I know there are some comments saying he might not understand time out, so I just wanted to give my opinion. They are right, he may not understand time out in it’s entirety, but he will understand that you removed him from the fun he was having.

    What we do is say “J/E, please don’t do ____ again. If you do, you will have to go to time out.” If they do it again, then they go to timeout for 2 minutes (we do minutes that correlate with age, we did 1 minute and 30 seconds at 18 months old). When they get up from time out they have to come and sit down with whoever (my husband or I) put them in timeout and we explain why they were in there. For instance, “Mommy put you in timeout because you hit your brother/sister. We don’t hit each other. You need to be sweet to him/her, ok?” We wait for an acknowledgement (we didn’t get this at first, but we always ask for it) and then ask the child that got in trouble to go and say sorry and hug the child they hit. My children aren’t aggressive often, but they have their moments, like all kids, and they really seem to respond to this method. When they were T1’s age it was not as easy because they didn’t understand it as well, but I believe that is where consistency comes in. If the punishment is exactly the same every time, they begin to grasp the concept. At this point, even when they hit on accident or bump into one another, they usually say “Sorry buddy!” or “Sorry Ellie!” to each other.

    Good luck Jenna! Discipline is hard, but I fully believe that if you are consistent it works. 🙂 Please let us know what you end up doing and how it works. I really love to hear things that work for others mothers. We are all in the same boat, in a way!

  30. I’m at work, so I can’t read all the other comments, but I wanted to say that I agree with you that physical punishment for being physically aggressive is not a good idea. My parents spanked us a lot when I was a kid, probably too much, and all it taught us was that when you’re angry, you lash out violently. I think he’s old enough for a time out (a very short one), because I’d guess he’s doing this because he wants the attention of whomever he’s hitting or biting, and isolating him, even just turning your back from him or ignoring him for literally two minutes would send the message that doing something violent will be met with losing attention. I’m not a parent, obviously, but I think a lot about how I would like to parent my kids if I am lucky enough to have them.

  31. I have not read the above comments, so I am sure this has been said, but the biting and other physical behavior likely stems from T1’s frustration at his inability to communicate. Both of my girls are in a Montessori and in the toddler room, they have both been bitten – as well as been the biter. It is usually over frustration. As my girls have gotten more verbal, they’ve used physical means of communication less. (Not to say it doesn’t still exist, it’s just MUCH less frequent.) We are big proponents of “gentle touches” and time-out. A simple time-out, one minute for each year of your child’s life (so T1 would get either 1 minute or 2 minutes) seems to work well. You may have to sit with him, but do so without speaking to him. When the time-out is over, you don’t discuss what went wrong, you just ask if he’d like to join his friends or the activity again. If the behavior is repeated, then you repeat the time-out. My nearly 2-year old has responded well to this and our now 4.5 year old responded well when she was younger. Good luck – yes, it’s frustrating for you as well, but stick with it and it WILL get better!!

  32. I don’t have kids but I’ve been around my sister’s kids a lot. I distinctly remember when my youngest niece was two, she full-on smacked my mom in the face. Honestly, it was kind of funny to the adults but my sister leaped into action. She grabbed my niece off of my mom’s lap, grabbed her hands and stared into her face, maybe a centimeter away (i.e. super close) and said in her sternest, most commanding tone, “Absolutely not. We do not EVER hit. I don’t EVER want to see you do that again.”

    My niece was instantly in giant tears and we all did our best to hide our faces so she knew no one was sympathizing with her for getting ‘yelled’ at, although there was no yelling. She sobbed on my sister’s lap and my sister held her but didn’t comfort her. Eventually she stopped crying and looked at my sister and my sister told her she needed to giver her nonnie a hug and a kiss and tell her she was sorry.

    I think part of why this worked so well is the intense eye contact and forcing the child to pay attention to the tone of voice. Also my sister used a tone of voice that she only uses when she is extremely upset/disappointed. It probably wasn’t a tone my niece had ever heard and it scared her. Mommy wasn’t just annoyed, this was serious. It was certainly a ‘physical’ punishment but not one that involved hand slapping or spanking. Both of which I think can have the reverse affect on a child. I’ve seen a three-year old who wanted to be spanked, since attention was all he was after. Plus I think there might be something difficult for kids to understand in teaching that ‘hitting is wrong’ by hitting them when they’re naughty.

    You’ll have to tell us if you find something that really works. I know of a few other kids who could use some hitting intervention! 🙂

  33. I’m reading a great book right now, “the no-cry discipline solution” by elizabeth pantley & also another one, “parenting with love and logic” by foster cline. check them out, they’re providing lots of answers and ideas for me re temper tantrums and lots of other questions I have re parenting a very active and sometimes non-cooperating little toddler boy 😉

  34. A few ideas:

    Stay CLOSE. You can’t parent a toddler by remote control. For me things were worse when I was distracted by conversation or taking pictures. By staying close you can intervene and prevent things from starting.

    Right around 18m we started a hard a fast “you hit, you sit” rule. If you are aggressive, you need to take some time away from your friend. With a little one, that might just be 60 seconds or so. I would hold them (at that age) and say firmly “you hit, you sit. you need to be kind to your friend.” then softer, something like “show me gentle hands.” If they could do that and seemed calm, they could play again. If they couldn’t, they stayed out until they could.

    My feeling is that this is more of a reset than a time out. There is no prescribed time, and they can be with me (not separated from anyone but their friend.) It’s a representation of the natural consequence of aggression. If you hurt people, they don’t want to be near you.

    Also the book “Hands are Not For Hitting” was a favorite of my second, who is more aggressive.

  35. I like to make my face into a very angry face. I look at D sternly and tell him, slowly and calmly, that what he is doing is not right. For example, if he was a hitter: I’d pull him aside, crouch down to his level, make my angry face and say, “No. You MAY NOT hit. That is not allowed.” I don’t tell him what he should or should not do, as if I’m giving him a choice. He MAY not hit. It isn’t allowed, no options.

    And, after making him apologize, hug him, kiss him, and tell him how much I love him. If it continues, he REALLY hates time-outs. 🙂

    But, what works for D, doesn’t work for his big brother. It’s different for every kid–even in the same family–but D is the closest I’ve got to T1’s age range. 🙂

    Another thing, but this is for when T1 gets older. I tell the kids that they are responsible for doing what is right. I don’t CARE if the other kid is being mean. Your are responsible for making the right choice.

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