Hitting is a common behavior among young children. Hitting can happen for many different reasons. Children hit when they feel emotions and don’t know how to handle them. As a result children hit to express their feelings. Children also hit when they don’t have the words to talk to their friends, teachers, or family. They grab the toy or hit their friend to communicate what they want.
It is important that we teach children that hitting is not the way to communicate needs, feelings, or desires. Parents and teachers can help children learn other ways to express themselves or get what they need. When a child is upset and hits to express himself or to get something he may want, use these steps to help teach the child more appropriate behaviors:
- Tell the child she is safe by saying “you’re safe, you can handle it.”
- Remind him to breathe. Take deep breaths with him to model how to breathe. Say, “breathe like me… See how I take deep breaths”.
- Give the child with the emotion word she didn’t say she felt. For example, if you know that your child is mad tell her, “you are mad because he took your toy and you didn’t have the words to say to ask for it back. So you hit him.”
- If the child can speak ask him to say, “I was mad”.
- When the child has calmed down, talk to her about how she could have handled the situation differently by using her words and saying “I was playing with that, give it back.”
TIPS TO PREVENT (OR DECREASE) HITTING BEHAVIOR:
- Limit exposure to violent TV, movies, and games. Children have a hard time understanding the difference between pretend or made-up things and real life. So when they see violence in media they think it is OK in real life, too.
- Teach your children assertive skills: Teach them to use their words to say “STOP, I don’t like that, stop hitting me.”
- Remember that children watch the adults in their life to learn how to behave in the world. If you handle your own mad, upset, frustrated times with good skills, your child will learn those skills, too!