PSST. . . Breezy Mama, along with Positive Parenting Solutions is hosting their 2nd FREE webinar Wednesday, July 14, 8PM Pacific Time. This session’s topic is: Getting Kids to Listen without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. The FREE webinar is only one hour — grab a glass of wine or some hot coco (and your husband, too, if you want!) and sit back anonymously in front of your computer or type in questions you have as we go along! To learn more about the FREE live webinar and to RSVP: Click here!
This past winter, when Breezy Mama held their free webinar hosted by Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, one of the most frequent questions asked by our readers was, “How can I get my child to stop hitting and/or biting?” Amy has helped us out by dedicating a post to the subject–read on to find out how you can get your child (no matter the age) to stop for good.
OUCH! That hurts! Parents are understandably concerned when their sweet little one begins hitting and biting other children or mom and dad. Of course, it hurts, but we also secretly worry that our once loving and compliant child may become aggressive and will eventually be the preschool bully. It’s rarely that serious, but hitting and biting should be nipped early before it becomes a pattern of behavior when it’s much more challenging to correct.
For kids UNDER the age of three, hitting and biting is more of a training issue than a “misbehavior.” To a frustrated toddler with limited vocabulary and few social skills, taking a bite out of mom or dad’s arm or hitting a playmate who refuses to give up Thomas the Train seems perfectly logical. Our job is to train the child for better behavior in the future without creating a payoff that may cause the hitting and biting to continue and possibly escalate.
Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to end hitting and biting:
DON’T spank or slap a child for hitting or biting. It reinforces that hitting is okay and models exactly the behavior you’re trying to stop.
DO supervise closely. You can probably tell when your toddler is getting frustrated or tired. When that’s the case, end the play date or swiftly remove him from the situation before it escalates to hitting or biting.
DO remain calm. It’s understandable to be upset when you see your toddler hurt another child, but you’ll get better results by remaining calm. When you get upset and raise your voice, your child gets a big dose of attention for a negative behavior. Even negative attention is very reinforcing and almost guarantees the behavior will continue. If your toddler hits or bites someone else, calmly remove him from the situation and use simple words – “No Hitting” or “Biting Hurts”.
Decide what YOU will do. Try as you might, you can’t “force” your child to NOT hit or bite. All you can do is decide what YOU will do when that happens. When your toddler hits or bites you, calmly put him down without eye contact and walk out of the room. This isn’t letting the child “get away” with the behavior; it’s creating a consequence that a young child can understand. The consequence is “when I hit or bite, mom goes away.” It also ensures that you’re not providing attention that reinforces the negative behavior. Take comfort that you’re not abandoning your child. As soon your toddler can speak calmly and kindly and use gentle touch with you, you are happy to interact with him again.
DO practice alternative strategies. Have pretend play dates with stuffed animals and practice what she can do when she gets frustrated. She can walk away, ask for help or use her words to say how she feels. Being able to use these conflict resolution strategies in the heat of the moment won’t happen over night, but practicing them early and often is the key.
DON’T force the child to apologize. A toddler’s “I’m sorry’s” are rarely heartfelt. When he is calm, talk about what he can do to “make it right” or “make the injured party feel better.” Coloring a picture or demonstrating an act of kindness teaches your child to take responsibility for his actions and shows empathy for the other person.
For kids OVER the age of 3, follow the same guidelines above, except be sure to reveal consequences in advance:
- State that the behavior is unacceptable and be specific. Say, “It’s not okay to hit/bite” versus, “Play nicely”.
- Reveal consequences in advance. When everyone is calm, reveal the consequence if the behavior happens again: “If you choose to hit or bite your friends, the play date will be over and we will go home immediately.” Or “If you choose to hit or bite, you will lose the privilege of playing at the playground and you’ll have to go inside.”
- Close the loop. Be sure she understands the rule and consequence by asking her to repeat it back to you – “Tell me in your own words what will happen if you hit/bite?”
- Express confidence. “I have confidence that you’ll remember and be able to enjoy your playground time!
- Follow through each and every time. Once you reveal the consequence and he repeats it back to you, there’s no need for second chances or reminders. If he chooses to hit or bite, immediately and calmly implement the consequence. “I see you decided to leave the play date.” It’s a statement of fact, not something that you are “doing to” your child.
Hitting and biting is stressful for parents and kids, but remaining calm, implementing consequences that don’t reinforce the behavior and taking time to train the child on alternative strategies will yield the best results long term.
For more information on fair and effective consequences, you are invited to a FREE live training webinar from Positive Parenting Solutions and Breezy Mama on July 14 from 8-9 PM Pacific.
Learn more and RSVP for Get Kids to Listen without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling.
Amy McCready is the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and mom to two boys ages 12 and 14. Positive Parenting Solutions helps parents of toddlers to teens correct misbehavior permanently without nagging, reminding or yelling.