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3yo hitting and biting

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  • 3yo hitting and biting

    I just want to make sure I'm handling this in the most AP way possible. When my three year old feels disconnected or hears "no" to something he resorts to instantly hitting and screaming at me. For example, I say it's time to turn off the TV and he wants to continue watching it he becomes angry and starting hitting me saying, "No i wanna watch TV!!!" Okay, so here's how I react and I'd like some feedback...

    First I'll say something like, "I know you want to watch more TV but it's time to do something else in your fire trucks, paint, etc." I'll also tell him "Stop hitting me. Hitting hurts."

    Sometimes he'll stop and we'll engage in another activity or hug, but sometimes he continues to hit. I get down on his level and put my arms around him and hold his arms gently. I ask him to please calm his body, ask him if he needs a hug, tell him that I know he's angry. Often this will lead to gentle sobbing, we hug, and then I empathize with why he's angry. Then, I try to remind him what we're going to do instead, that it's okay to be angry, but it's not okay to hit.

    Does anyone have any other suggestions. I just want to make sure I'm not handling this in a way that disconnects us, but sometimes I feel like I'm spinning in circles because he hits almost daily in frustration.

    Thanks in advance for feedback,

  • #2
    Hi Rebecca,

    It sounds like you are really making an effort to respond in a loving and sensitive way. The only suggestion I have, based on the example you used in your post of watching TV, is to look at what you're asking your son to do and whether it's really that necessary. I would feel frustrated if someone told me it was time to stop watching TV, and a 3-year-old has less control over his emotions than I do.

    I've found that, for me, discipline goes back to really looking at why I'm doing the things I do, and questioning those reasons I was given as a child. A big part of it has been relinquishing any notion that my role is to control my child's behavior.

    I wish you the best. I love that we are able to grow along with our children - I'm never sure who's growing more, me or my daughter.


    • #3
      wow! it sounds like you're handling it very well! toddlers can often be easily frustrated, so try not to take it too personally, they're just trying to figure out their world and they struggle against the one they're closest to b/c they trust you.

      i know you were just giving t.v. as an example, but my only thought is maybe to offer more warning, like, 'after this commercial, it's time to paint' and then tell him, 'would you like to turn off the t.v. or can i do it?'.

      thanks for sharing your success story!


      • #4
        thanks, mamas! often, the tv going off is the trigger, and i do try to give warning. for example, when this show ends, it's time to go do xyz... regardless, it often sends him into a fury. i suppose this is why some folks have a "no TV" policy in their home. But, i even enjoy watching Curious George, so why shouldn't my 3yo? ;-) thanks for the input. i'm going to try to be better about giving many transition cues, prompts, reminders, etc. and hope for a better result. i suppose he's just learning how to handle a surge of upset within himself and all i can do is be there for him, offer support, and try not to take it personally. sometimes, though, i'm thinking to myself, "you ungreatful little earth urchin!!!" when he's hitting me. ;-)
        thank you!
        api leader applicant (almost a leader!!)


        • #5
          okay, one more question for you wise mamas...
          when your child hits you with an OBJECT, do you take it away? We steer away from punishment around here, but if my son throws something at me or hits me with it I put it away and tell him he needs a little break from it. This typically upsets him and I try to connect with him and remind him that xy or z are for BLANK; not hurting people. I give it back to him a few minutes or an hour later and we discuss why it had to be put away. Just wondering how you guys deal with this and does my approach fall into a power struggle creation scenario.

          thanks, i'm just trying to work out how to teach nonviolent behavior in a loving way.


          • #6
            I first I would try telling him not to hit, making sure I was out of range of the object. Then if that didn't work I would taking the object in my hand or hold his hand still and remind him again not to hit. If it still didn't work I'd put the object out of reach saying that everyone needs to be safe and that he could have it back when he was was able to stop hitting. Hopefully at that point we would be able to have a talk/hug/cry and get everything calmed down. As soon as he'd say he's ready to have it back I'd let him have it again. If he started hitting with it I'd go through the above scenario again. If things don't seem to be progressing at all and we're not gettting anywhere and I'm just getting hit, I'd give up, put the object away and tell him he/we need a break from the object and that he could play with it later.

            If he was really out of control I would jump to the step of taking the object away, letting him know he can play with it again when we've had a break and when he is ready to be gentle with it. Or, if there were other situational factors, like a sibling needing attention, or a mother having a low patience day , I'd modify my response and give him fewer chances before I put the object away.


            • #7
              I have experienced both sides.
              We do not have a no TV policy in our home now, but did with my older two children. This is what I experience. A lot of anger because I was a dictator telling my older children what they could or could not enjoy and creating a low self esteem within them because they really loved their programs and by me telling them it wasn't good, I had been in fact telling them they were not good. That for some reason they were defective because they loved it so much. There was whining, screaming hollering fighting, complaining, hitting.
              Frustration that I was controlling their joy and entertainment. This was super hard as they went to public school where adults controlling their entire day and every moment. It what I thought was normal.
              Another backfire on this is when they were old enough to watch TV, they went elsewhere to do it and then I realized I hadn't taught them to watch responsible programming or age appropriate by leading by example. There were other problems by this type of lifestyle, but too lengthy to list. (My girls are adults now)

              With my 3 year old son I don't say anything. This was a hard thing to adapt to. Making a situating where he knew he was perfect in his choice to watch his program and no one was going to interrupt or make him feel bad about it.
              Sometimes he watches sometimes an hour or two and we have had days where we have watched 3 different long movies throughout the day together.
              We go days without watching anything, weeks even. We have never had a fight about television or anything entertainment wise. We just go with the flow.

              I have had friends make the switch to not saying anything and at first they said, see he sat in front of the TV for days! I reminded them that of course the child did because he is used to mom and dad having to be the one to take everything away and tell him his limits and hasn't learned to know when he has had enough, but within a couple of weeks, the child was bored and wanted to get on with life.

              Of course the parents also had the responsibility of saying do you want to watch tv or go to the park, or do this project with me and there are those who don't have the time to do things with their children or don't want to do things with their kids and have them play alone and the children will use the television for social interaction.

              Definitely give him time alerts. Let him know that after x show it is dinner time or whatever you have coming up next. If you have a timer, use it so he can learn to see the time passing and be prepared. Let him know a couple of times before it over.

              Hitting is normal at this age. Although they can talk, they can't express everything and you will get this again and again until they move out. Different ages and different phases. The hitting will mellow, but I have seen teen girls throw hair brushes, mascara and other things across the room with the you don't get it mommy!

              Talk to him calmly and sooth him, show him what you want from him. Children mirror our actions and if you talk sweetly and calmly and quietly and stroke him gently and take his hand and remind him that his hands are for soft touches not hurting and keep talking quietly, he will start to mimic you and replace the hitting with communication.
              After you calm him, tell him you wanted TV didn't you. You really wanted TV. Say it until he s calmly says yes, you say yes back and then remind him that you understand he wanted TV, but now it is time to go to the park, or go have dinner. You can watch TV again later.

              Acknowledge his feelings of frustration and let him know you understand. If we don’t acknowledge it, they get more frustrated. I know I do when my husband doesn’t acknowledge me and that is not a pretty site.

              Peace & Blessings,



              • #8
                I don't think teaching him acceptable anger outlets have been mentioned. Please help him develop safe ways of expressing anger...hitting a pillow for example or going outside (w/you) to yell. When something was's the person that threw it, not the item that needs managing! (although I have removed the object before and thrown it down the basement stairs! I am not proud of that moment after all I did grab and throw! That's no way to handle anger!)


                • #9
                  I think you are doing it absolutely right unrebeccaray! My youngest son used to do that all the time. He would do things like grab my (new!) iphone and throw it at the tv. The iPhone survived but the tv did not do so well. I knew he was frustrated, and all I could do was to hold him close, I'm not ashamed to admit I had tears in my eyes. He was crying too. We must have looked a right pair: Broken TV, misused iphone, and the two of us crying for so long I had almost forgotten what we were originally crying about.

                  We still have trouble. A lot of trouble. He is always acting up and has been no where near as easy to raise as my other two. I pray every single day that we will get through this. I know this is a test, it must be. Life shouldn't be this hard, but I will come out of it a stronger person, and my chilren will adore me for it. Sorry for the huge emotional dump on my first post here but something in what unrebeccaray said just struck a chord with me, and I finally after a long time reading here, have decided it's time I gain the courage to register and finally release some good energy back into the world.

                  Thank you all so much for all your support. I wouldn't be the father I am today were it not for everyones help and emotional support over the last 6 months.

                  --Loving Father