Wednesday, March 23, 2011

4 1/2 year old hitting loved ones

Knowledgeability Clarity of Response Politeness 
10                       10                          10

Question: My son is highly verbal and generally very well behaved, particularly at school and with outsiders. However, he feels free to hit my husband and I, my in-laws, and the nanny when he does not get his way. this is a more recent behavior that he has developed over the past 9-12 months.

We are very consistent with our discipline and use time-outs and deprivation of cherished objects but the behavior has not been eradicated.

Should we continue on this path and assume he will outgrow it or should we simply ignore him as you suggested for other behaviors.

Thank you.

Answer: Dear Jill:

Never ignore violence. When I suggest ignoring bad behavior I am very clear we do not ignore behavior which can hurt a child or someone else.

However, it is important at this age not to over react. I would simply grab his arm (watch him to determine when he is going to hit, you should be able to see the cues, e.g., the arm starts to come up, a fist is formed etc...) and say we do not hit people.

There is also a great little book about how hands are not for hitting, feet are not for kicking etc..which redirects children to see that hands are for catching balls, or playing or touching etc..

Finally, he is seeing violence somewhere. Possibly there are children at his school who are hitting. I would get to the bottom of it. Address it with the teacher and find out what is happening. Wherever he is around others someone is hitting. Make sure he is not being hit. He has learned his frustration is alleviated by hitting and that he can get his way when he hits. The question is where did he learn this as it will only reinforce this concept.

It does need to stop. If you use timeout then makes sure it is only 1 minute for every minute of is age. I would also try and catch him when he is not hitting and praise his behavior more than you punish, to increase the good behavior.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller