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!

    Kat Reply:

    I was a biter when I was in pre-school and I also began to talk late.

  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.

    Rachel Reply:

    We also do time out. Our general rule is 1 minute per year of age starting around 18 months (we have a 2 1/2 year old and a 15 month old). Time outs for our 15 month old are basically removing her from the situation and telling her what she did wrong, “No biting. It hurts when you bite. Ouch!” And yes, I do feel stupid saying things like that. ;)

    We have them sit on our lap right now (because we usually have to restrain them to keep them in time out) and tell them why they can’t get down and play. We also try to make sure we explain why it is not ok to do whatever it was like “it’s not ok to hit because it hurts. If you want to play with blocks you have to share. Sharing means you both get to have fun together instead of being in timeout by yourself.”

    We also do it regardless of where we are at. My son now gets 1 warning such as, “We do not hit. If you do it again you will get a time out.” To which he usually replys, “NO time out!” I know a lot of people think that time out for kids this young is ineffective. They may not understand fully why they are in time out but it does help remove them from the situation and helps reinforce consequences to actions.

  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!

    Rachel Reply:

    Absolutely! Positive reinforcement is the other side of punishment. You should have a least 2 positive reinforcements for every punishment.

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

    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:

    “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. :)

    MrsW Reply:

    I just wanted to chime in to support 1-2-3 Magic. My father-in-law is a psychologist and family counselor and it is the number one parenting tool he recommends for discipline issues.

    I also wanted to second something I saw above that perhaps having more words will help him be less aggressive, although he will (likely) always be more aggressive than you remember being as a child because he’s a boy. That is a HUGE generalization, of course, but I think it’s one that holds true in a lot of situations.

    Aly @ Breathe Gently Reply:

    We use 1-2-3 Magic principals to relate to teaching our kids at school Jenna, and it works really well. Definitely worth checking out!

  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.


    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.”


    “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…

    Rachel Reply:

    I loved this. I didn’t realize I was also validating my son’s anger at the same time discouraging how he expressed it. I guess giving him other outlets for expressing it would be the next step for my family.

  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:

  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 is all hitting.

    Rachel Reply:

    That is my thought as well, although I admit I have slapped him sons hand a few times. Someone pointed out to me that all it does it teach them that it’s ok to hit as long as you’re the one with the power. So they learn it’s ok to hit if no one else is around to stop you.

    stephanie Reply:

    Mmm, I disagree with this. I was spanked as a child and definitely knew the difference between my parents spanking me and me hitting someone. Not that I think spanking “should” be used; I don’t have any children myself so I don’t feel strongly about it. But this rationale doesn’t ring true for me.

    CD Reply:

    If you don’t want your kid to stick a fork in the outlet or touch the flame of a candle, there are two ways to go about it – let the child do it and be injured or smack the child’s hand so they get the negative stimulus without the injury. Just a thought.

    I only condone what I was suggested when a child is pre-verbal. When a child is capable of higher levels of cognition, it’s much more effective to talk to the child and explain the situation. I might be the worst mother in the world but I dealt with my daughter when she was pre-verbal much in the way that I dealt with my dog. Granted, I wasn’t smacking her on the nose with a newspaper (and actually, I didn’t do that to my dog either!) but I considered smacking my child’s hand akin to jerking on the dog’s leash as a correction.

    I don’t think smacking or slapping a child’s hand is “hitting.” Also, I don’t spank my child. But before she was capable of understanding, I definitely used the slap the fingers method. I have friends who prefer to let their children stick their hands in the candle and learn that way but I’m with the negative stimulus and the big “NO.”

    Tiffany Reply:

    I always feel really weird slapping my childs hand and then saying “we don’t hit” haha. not that I am against the occasional hand slap. But I do think my kids respond to me flicking their hands instead of slapping/hitting them. but I think CD makes a good point about the fork or keys in the outlet. Also If you are someone that takes the slapping of the hand to the next level and can’t stop or control yourself then I definitely don’t recommend you use any physical punishment so it doesn’t get out of hand. but I do flick my kids hands when they are hitting or doing dangereous things.

    CD Reply:

    Ha!! I totally know what you mean about the cognitive disonance between smacking a kid’s fingers to communicated “don’t hit”. I feel like I’m somehow viewed as a child abuser because of what I’ve said but it’s really more about drawing attention to the negative act than it is to enacting punishment by inflicting pain – in fact, I’ve never smacked my child in a way that has even made her cry or anything. I just feel like when they’re not really able to talk and not really understanding commands, it’s startling them that is doing the trick.

    Anon Reader Reply:

    I feel that if the goal is to draw attention to the wrongness of your child hitting, then speaking sharply, or removing them from the situation is much more effective than hitting them.

    Hitting them doesn’t teach them that hitting is wrong. It doesn’t teach the “gentle touch.” All it does is, as the above poster said, teach them that the person in control, the adult, can get away with hitting. Not the kid. So the message the child gets is, if I get caught hitting, I’ll get hit. I just don’t think it’s effective or psychologically sound.

    As for the poster who made the analogy between letting your child touch something hot to learn it’s hot, or smacking his hand to tell him that’s it painful, I totally disagree. What worked for my child was to be very stern about the child going near something hot, like the oven when it’s on, and keeping the child away from dangerous things until he or she is old enough to listen to and understand why it’s dangerous, and then obey. Why hurt a child when you could protect them instead?

  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 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. 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.

    Tiffany Reply:

    kids need to know their parents still love them after a punishment. I believe telling them you love them and giving them a kiss after a timeout is a necessity. Now if that is the ONLY time the child gets a kiss…well you’ve got a whole other problem. But I believe even the super Nanny tells you to make sure to tell them you love them after you have discussed the issue with them. so Kristin makes a GREAT point!

    Kristin Reply:

    Hi Tiffany,

    Yes, my thoughts exactly :)

  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:

  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 ;)

    Brandy Reply:

    Love these books! We used the no cry sleep solution by Pantley and are big fans.

  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.

  36. I don’t know what you should do, but you should do it soon because it will be a BIG problem if he gets to preschool and still behaves like that. My mom is a preschool kid and those types of kids are the worst. They just ruin the whole classroom environment.
    I do agree that a timeout is a good idea. I watch super nanny a lot and that’s what she does. She also gets down at the child’s level and looks them in the eye and says “no” and here’s what you did wrong and why you are in timeout.

    andrea Reply:

    oops typo…my mom is a preschool *teacher*

  37. There were too many comments for me to read right now, so I’m not sure if someone already said it, but try to praise the positive things he does. For example, instead of saying, “No! Don’t hit!” Say, “Be gentle” and then when he gently touches the other kid (you can model this behavior), say “Good, that’s gentle!” That way he gets attention for positive behaviors and it will motivate him to repeat them instead of the negative ones. Try to catch him being good and praise the good behaviors. It will be hard to get in the habit, but it will pay off.

    No, I don’t have kids (yet), but I am a teacher and these techniques have worked in the classroom. Many things that work for teachers also work for parents.

  38. We went through a phase with our son where he was very aggressive with other kids, to the point where I avoided social situations because of it. My sister recommended this book to me
    I loved it! Your little guy might be a little young for the full program, but the book is full of information based on actual studies, not just parenting opinions and theories. It tells you what works and what doesn’t according to research. For example, it focuses a lot on positive reinforcement, (and not just that it is good, but tells you specifically how to use it most effectively) and tells why research suggests time outs aren’t actually very effective, among many other things. I didn’t go through with the whole official program they outline, but I felt like the ideas behind it have really, really helped my parenting approach. Plus, it is for kids of all ages, even through the teenage years, and can apply to any behavior you’d like to change. I’m planning on getting use out of it for a LONG time! I would definitely suggest reading it, from cover to cover (even if you don’t feel like a particular chapter applies).

    Another thing that has helped me (and I don’t know if this applies to you or not) is to just step back and try to be patient and consider things from my children’s point of view. Not in a way that lets them get away with unwanted behavior, but in a way that helps me feel more calm and patient in dealing with it. (I HATE the mom guilt that comes after overreacting or over-punishing my little child) Recently my mom reminded me that while we get to be with our children forever, this is the only time throughout all of eternity that we will get to know them as little children. I remind myself of that, and it helps me to be more patient and more appreciative of the time I have with my little ones, including the hard times.

    Good luck!Keep trying! Eventually this phase will pass.

  39. I think it’s awesome that you’re sharing this and asking for help. I agree with some of the other comments that you really need to tackle it now.

    I don’t have any brilliant advice but agree that slapping his hand is not the best way to go about it and removing him from the situation (either a formalised time out or moving T1 and talking to him about not hitting etc) is a good idea.

    Maybe you could talk to the developmental therapist (or whatever the correct term is) that you mentioned in your earlier post – it seems reasonable that it could be connected to the fact he’s not verbally expressing himself?

    I hope things go well for you all and you update us on how things are going.

  40. if you don’t think your new idea will work, why would you do it??? and what are you going to do, hug and hold and kiss somebody else’s kid??? a stranger in the park? i’d be weirded out if somebody that wasn’t a really close friend or family did that.

    what about a good old fashion time out??? I hear the 1 minute per year works well, and you just have to put them in time out over and over till they stay there, then talk to them about what they did wrong and make them apologize to you and the offended. nanny 911 style.

  41. I loved the book, “if I have to tell you one more time…” it was excellent. And that author believes that while 1-2-3 magic works great at first for a lot of people, in the end it really just teaches the kid to keep doing whatever they shouldn’t be doing until mom or dad gets to 2 1/2. Which kind of makes sense if you think about it. My parents had a three warning system and I totally remember that when my dad started counting I knew I had roughly five more minutes to do what I was doing. Anyway, that book focuses more on teaching and encouragement. I really liked it. I think whatever method you go with, consistency is absolutely the most important thing.

    Ps I think it’s awesome that you’re willing to share things like this even though people sometimes give you a hard time.

  42. Hey, Jenna.

    No advice here, just words of encouragement! My sister said that whenever she has to help her kids with a new habit or behavior (sleeping through the night, getting on a schedule, using timeout, etc.), she says it takes a few days of very serious effort, and attention to it, and then kids sort of settle in to it.

    Sounds like people wiser than I, have left some great ideas and suggestions. The last thing I will say, is just that there is the scripture about ‘reproving betimes with sharpness, and showing an increase in love after’ (didn’t look it up, but I’m sure you know where to find it).

    Best of luck!

  43. I teach preschool and here is what I would suggest:
    Respond as soon as you can.
    Stay calm. Children can sense when you are upset with them.
    Go to the victim first, comforting them. Say things like “You had the truck. Tell T1 to give to give it back.”
    Then go to T1. “Oh, you wanted a turn. Ask So&So if you can have a turn.”
    As most kids T1 age don’t have the right verbal tools yet to do this though, so teach him to approach them with an upturned hand instead of the grabbing motions. And tapping instead of hitting is great as well. “You wanted So&So’s attention. Tap his arm.” “You wanted Mommy’s attention. Tap my arm instead of hitting.”

    As for biting, good luck! I wish I could help you there.

    Just my two sense.

  44. Wow, lots of great advice here. To add me 2 cents:
    1)Don’t rough house with them when they’re really little. It is a lot of fun, but it does send the wrong message. Like you mentioned before, it’s really hard for kids to make a distinction between rough housing with dad and mom and then doing it with another child. When I’m holding my 14 month old and he slaps my face in excitement, even though it doesn’t hurt I will put on a really stern face and in a firm voice say, “No hit!” Then I’ll take his hand and make him softly touch my check while I say in a nice voice, “soft.” Once they’re about 2.5 we’re able to wrestle and rough house because they understand a little better.

    2) Consistency is key and I think that is more easily achieved when you have some sort of a mantra that you always use. Something like, “Hands are not for hitting.” works well. My favorite is to simple say, “Hitting/pushing/biting is not OK.” I like this because I can use it with other people’s children without feeling like I’m directly reprimanding their kid. I use it a lot on the play ground if a child is being aggressive to my child and their parent isn’t quick to step in. You’ll find what works for you. Personally I think the idea of trying to validate their feelings and offer alternatives is a little silly at this age. I believe this is the age to lay down the law and set boundaries. Hitting is NOT OK. Biting is NOT OK. Pushing is NOT OK. That’s the important message they need to take away from the encounter. Time outs are great, I agree with all the previous commenters on that one. I start doing them with my kids at a year.

    Overall I would say not to pass it over as a “boys will be boys” type of thing. His behavior definitely is NOT abnormal but it is something you want to nip in the butt. Sooner rather than later. Good luck! :)

  45. No kids of my own but I remember my aunt always telling my cousin when she was little to “Use your words.” I always thought that was a great technique for kids as they become two and three and ARE able to communicate their frustration but still are prone to tantrums. Of course this would only be to head off the tantrum; once it starts, I defer to all the mom pros above me :)

    Jayme Riley Reply:

    Great advice, but remember you need to teach them the words to use as well!

    melissa Reply:

    This is what I did to both of my DDs. When they were upset or crying, or not communicating, I would tell them Use Your Words… and then I would help them find the words when they were very young. It really helped the communication build for them.

  46. Really great suggestions from everyone! I agree with almost everything that was said.

    It’s likely that as his communication improves, his behavior will also improve as that is what generally happens even in children with typical or above average language development. However, you can still teach pro-social behavior alternatives now like Kalen said. If a negative behavior is simply punished, it’s not enough because it doesn’t address the reason why the behavior occurred in the first place. A lot of times the child will stop doing the negative behavior because of the punishment, only to resort to an alternative, but equally undesirable behavior because you haven’t provided an acceptable alternative for him. It may take some trial and error before you find an alternative and appropriate behavior to teach him so don’t be discouraged if one thing doesn’t work. This is called Positive Behavior Support if you’re interested in reading about it.

    I typically like to start an interaction between two children (when one is sometimes aggressive) with gentle touches- “hands are for gentle touches” and lightly stroke his arm to model the behavior for him, then “show me how you use gentle hands” and have the children do the same to each other (physically assisting them if necessary). This shows the kids what is expected and acceptable for them to do with their hands. Praise him like crazy any time he uses a gentle touch and be specific with your praise. Instead of saying “good job!” tell him “I like your nice touch!” or simply “nice touch!” with a big smile and sweet voice. You may also want to periodically practice nice touches throughout the interaction just to remind him of the expectations.

    Also, we had a professor/supervisor in grad school drill it into us to use only positive language instead of negative language. This means instead of saying “No hitting” or whatever the behavior may be, instead you say “Gentle hands please.” You tell them the behavior you DO want instead of telling them what you DON’T want. I think this kind of goes along with Kalen’s idea also- to give acceptable alternatives and to make expectations clear. I’m not 100% sold on not ever using negative language, but I never saw any drawbacks to using positive only language so I say try it out and see what you think.

    If you do need to provide a consequence for him being too aggressive, always remember that the consequence must be immediate and consistent. A lot of people suggested time outs, and you may find those work for you, but don’t be discouraged if they don’t. Some research suggests that time outs are not that effective until the child is around 3 yrs old. Although, even if he doesn’t understand the association between the bad behavior and the time-out right away, it might be a good cooling off period for him if he just truly is too excited or angry. Just be careful that a time out isn’t acting as a reward (for example, if the child is trying to avoid doing something and you remove them from the situation, he got what he wanted) I think everyone up above gave great suggestions as to how to attempt a time out with him but I would add that when time is up, go over again what is expected/acceptable behavior (“remember, nice touch” and model and practice).

    I think your instincts are good and hopefully with some of these pointers everyone provided, you will see a difference! Good luck!

    kristen Reply:

    I try to make my statements positive, but saying “please” makes it optional. “Use gentle hands” > “gentle hands please”

    Caitlin Reply:

    That’s a good point that I hadn’t really thought about. I’ll have to pay attention to see if I notice a difference in cooperation/compliance when I use “please.” My own little research study. :) Thanks Kristen.

  47. I went to class and came back to comment and there are so many!

    I don’t want to give you the full spiel of what I was going to suggest since a fair portion of it has been suggested above and I think you can probably take it all in adapt to what you know about your kid and the situation.

    I do have two thoughts though that haven’t been mentioned yet. First, is that you are undoubtedly right about a good portion of these incidents being about his excitement to play with his friend. Some kids (and this tendency is stronger when they’re not verbal yet) are more physical than others in expressing their feelings. The two year old I watched would occasionally bite when she was being super affectionate – burying her face against me, pressing her self as close as she could, moving around and trying to touch and be touched as much she could. Then she would bite. She would get so full of this desire to be connected and not know how to handle it so she’d bite. She never did it when she was angry, fortunately, and it stopped completely when she matured a little. So know that will happen for T1 too. I would suggest trying to discern in a given situation the reason he’s hitting or pushing. Your initial response will be the same if it’s a hard hit or push (removing him from the situation, time out, etc.) but when re-entering the situation it should be less about making amends than about helping him interact positively when it’s come out of his excitement and immaturity about social interaction. Also, if you can catch excited behavior building (maybe he gets grabby with their clothes or body before he gets really rough) you can re-direct it. Soft touches, structured game for them to play, and a moment where he has to take two steps back and calm some are a couple examples.

    The second thing is about dealing with other moms or caretakers. I would just tell them right off the bat that he’s been playing rough and you’re working on it and have a plan of action, especially if you play with them often (or want to). You can even explain what your plan is for when things start getting out of hand because then the other adult can mirror you or step in if she catches the problem before you. The annoying parent or caretaker on the playground is the one who doesn’t appear to be aware of or care about the problem. Nobody will fault you for having a kid with a behavior issue, because they all have them. Probably the kind of parent or caretaker you guys want to spend time with will sympathize and try to be helpful.

  48. I think the greatest thing I’ve learned from watching a TON of kids and being around my little cousins is that you have to help the child see the connection and that you have to remember, time is important.

    If the child does something, you have to act quickly (while being careful you aren’t just reacting). If he bites, hit, pushes etc., pick him up and remove him from the situation. Explain to him in terms he can understand that this behavior is not okay. When the boy I nannied bit a girl, I pulled him aside and explained that biting hurt. I pointed to his mouth and my arm and then pointed out that the little girl was now crying. I would tell him that when we bite, push, shove etc., we don’t get to play with others and had to sit by ourselves for a minute. At his age, a minute was all it really took. He wasn’t old enough at that point to sit and thing for 10 minutes “about what he had done” or connect it all. I found the short period worked just as well as the long period, if not better.

    I know with my mom, as we grew up, she would always try and find a way to connect the punishment with the behavior she was trying to correct (in a way that was safe of course). This helps the child connect the idea that bad behavior has immediate consequences.

    The key is to just be patient and realize that you are really training him and trying to instill this behavior… it will take time. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t see results tomorrow! Also… every child is different! Some things that work for one mom won’t work for you because both you and T1 are different.

  49. Yay! Something I feel I have the education/experience in to feel okay advising you! Working with children with autism, this is the most basic method of behavioral intervention we use with our clients. The methods work for typical children also!

    Most importantly, you need to identify the motivation of the behavior. Usually it is either tangible (T1 wanted to sit on the pumpkin), attention (T1 pushed friend, then looked to you for your reaction), or escape (you told T1 to sit on the pumpkin, he didn’t want to, so he pushed friend). It may take a few observations of the behavior to figure it out, but it should eventually become clear. Once you identify T1′s motivation, his punishment should be the DENIAL of the motivation. If he wanted the pumpkin, he does not get it; if he wanted attention, give attention to the other child, no reaction to T1; if he wanted escape, give him an appropriate time limit (ie. 10 sec), count aloud, then allow him to stand up.

    It may be true what others have suggested about T1′s inability to communicate his needs, but that doesn’t really excuse his inappropriate behavior, right? I have worked with nonverbal clients MUCH older than T1 (think 7 or 8 years old) and it’s not okay for them to hit either.

    It seems like most people suggested a time-out, which I think would be appropriate in all situations EXCEPT for when the child is seeking the adult’s attention OR escape from a given task. Giving him any attention at all (even if an adult would perceive it as “negative,” ie. using a stern voice) would be REINFORCING in this situation, not punishing. Also, removing him for a time-out is reinforcing if what he wanted to do was escape from what you asked him to do.

    Meg’s comments about consistency are spot-on – ALL caregivers must be consistent with whatever intervention you and TH decide is appropriate. I really like what Jayme Riley suggested above, if T1 was seeking the tangible, that is a great strategy to follow. Caitlin’s suggestion of Positive Behavior Support is fantastic – a good thing to read up on.

    Hopefully this strategy makes sense and works for T1! Let me know if you have any questions!!

    Caitlin Reply:

    Dang, you said everything I tried to say but so much better than I ever could have in a limited number of words. I agree 100% with every single thing you said!

    Also, just wanted to add that the method Kira describes is called ABC analysis. Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence… What preceded the behavior, what the behavior was, and what the consequence was. Like Kira says, this helps to identify the function of the behavior, which tells you what the consequence SHOULD be. This is one part of Positive Behavior Support.

    Jenna Reply:

    This ranks as one of my favorite comments on the thread. So helpful! It’s going to take me some time to get the hang of it, but I think this will work well for us, because I like the way it addresses the root of the problem.

    Kira Reply:

    I also wanted to add that this should be paired with teaching T1 appropriate strategies to get what he wants. First of all, as others have said – praising him/giving him lots of attention when he is playing nicely is essential. Since he is not yet talking, you can work on things like having him tap you or his friend when he wants attention, hold his hand out if he wants a toy or any item, or signing “finished” if he wants to be all done. Even if you need to prompt him to use the sign, it is important to give him what he is signing for and lots of praise for using his signs. This is how he will learn them! His speech interventionist may be able to give you some pointers on this as well.

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