My two year old has started hitting – not very hard, but does it when he can’t get his way, or is frustrated. We have been trying to talk to him calmly, saying ‘no’ firmly and explaining why he shouldn’t hit other kids or us. What else should we be doing to stop this behaviour? Is this behaviour that will lead to him becoming a bully?
Firstly, be assured this phase will pass, and he will not become a bully, children are continually learning about their emotions, and how to best manage them. At the moment when this behaviour arises, try to respond to the emotion behind it rather than the act itself. Your child is telling you he is upset and frustrated, feelings he has every right to feel when he doesn’t get his way.
We all experience these as adults too. What you should try to teach him is that hitting is not the right ‘choice’ when he feels this way. Instead, he could draw a picture of an angry face, let off steam outside, or take his frustration out on a pillow.
If you try to follow these steps, you will find over time your child’s understanding of his emotions, and those of others and he will begin to make better choices each time those feelings start to surface.
– Just as we teach our children the names for things, colours, letters, and numbers, we can also teach them about emotions. So, explain their emotions and what they are called all the time, as well as your own.
– Change the dialogue, we all have every right to feel the way we do, try instead by validating the child’s emotions by acknowledging them, rather than trying to minimise the this will help your child feel understood. Avoid saying “don’t be angry/sad” and replace that by saying “I can see you feel angry/sad, what can we do to help you feel happy again?”
– Teach your child to discover strategies to cope when ‘big’ emotions are becoming overwhelming. Hitting isn’t the right choice when they feel angry or frustrated, so find another way for them to let off steam.