My Child Is Hitting Everyone

Most of us feel mortified when our child is hitting another child. We may know intellectually that he’s lashing out because he’s overwhelmed or scared, but we still feel like it’s an emergency. His aggression triggers our “fight or flight” response – and suddenly our own child looks like the enemy. We feel an urgent need to take action – a punishing action. But punishing a child who hits doesn’t stop the hitting. It just increases the child’s fear, making future hitting more likely. To stop the hitting once and for all, we have to address the feelings that are driving the hitting.

Here are some techniques how to handle the situation and control the hitting of the child.

  • PREVENT hitting if possible.

We should stay very close, so our child feels more connected to us. That way, whatever happens, he feels like he can handle it because he has backup – so he’s less likely to lash out. We will also be better able to monitor his mood. If we notice him getting tense, move in close physically, between him and the other child. Our presence may calm him, or it may escalate his upset, in which case we can breathe deeply, and move him slightly away from the other kids. We’re helping our child with the feelings that were driving his hitting, and no one else even had to get hurt!

  • If your child is hitting anyone, breathe.

Remind yourself: your child is hitting, it is because she’s scared. I can handle this. She needs my compassion now. Get between her and the other child to prevent more violence. Model self-regulation by consciously lowering your voice, breathing deeply, and blowing out your tension.

  • Avoid blame

We can help our child develop empathy by pointing out the effect of her hitting on the other child. But making your child feel like a bad person will just backfire: “Mom says what I did was bad…but I couldn’t help myself…I must be bad….what if she stops loving me because I am so bad?” This fear is what causes that blank stare we so often see after a child is aggressive. Lecturing about what she’s done wrong scares her and puts her on the defensive. So she stares us down, hardening her heart. See it from your child’s perspective. Your child is a little person who is easily overwhelmed in this big world. He gets over-stimulated and disconnected from you and feels all alone and terrified. Or, he has some fear locked up from a past experience, and in this new situation, he just can’t manage all his anxiety so his past fears start bubbling up. He can’t bear those feelings. So he lashes out. If you can remember all this, you’ll feel more sympathy for him. You need that sympathy because your child won’t soften his heart unless you soften yours.

  • Remove your child.

Take 10 more deep breaths. Tell your child “Hitting hurts…It was too hard for you with the other kids… we need some time by ourselves to calm down.” Don’t be mean about it, be kind and understanding. You aren’t punishing, you’re taking preventive action. Until you help your child with his feelings, he’ll almost certainly keep hitting. So remove him from the situation to give him a chance to cry, or to laugh – both of which help him work through fear. Once you help him feel safe enough to tolerate and feel those tears and fears, they’ll evaporate, and the hitting will stop.

  • Resist the urge to lecture him when your child is hitting someone

Shouldn’t you tell your child that hitting is not OK? Of course! But doesn’t he already know that? He just couldn’t stop himself. What’s important right now is helping him process his feelings, so that he can act the way he knows he should. And he won’t surface those feelings unless he feels safe. Telling him what he did wrong doesn’t help him feel safe. Later, you’ll teach. First, address feelings: “You must have been so upset to hit Samantha….I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help….I am right here…You are safe…

  • Once both you and your child are calm, teach.

This doesn’t mean lecture. Think of this as inviting your child to reflect on better ways to handle those feelings, that he might even remember the next time he gets mad at the playground. Do it with a light touch and a sense of humor. You might even need to wait a few hours to have this conversation until you can do it calmly.

Then help him explore alternatives: “Next time, when you get mad, what else could you do instead of hurting the other person?” Let him answer. If he needs help thinking of alternatives, offer some: “Could you call me? Could you walk away? Could you stomp your foot?”

Then have him practice these responses, so he has ‘muscle memory’ of them. “OK, let’s practice. This stuffed animal tries to grab your truck. See? You are so mad and want to hit him. But you remember there are other things you can do! So you call me, OK? I am right over here talking to another mom.”

  • Notice your own feelings

You have some big feelings about this, too, especially if your child is hitting with any regularity. Behind your anger, there’s probably fear. Fear that something is wrong with your child, or you’re a bad parent, or he’ll be an axe-murderer. None of these things are true. But you need to let that fear come up and feel it, so it’s exposed to the light of day. Then it will shrivel up and blow away and you’ll be better able to help your child.

This does not mean that your child is mad or abnormal or anything along those lines. It simply implies that there may be some underlying emotions that your child is not being able to process but which needs immediate attention. Counseling sessions with a psychologist will help your child to identify and adequately process those emotions without having to resort to hitting.

If you need further help or advice, give us a call. TriBeCa Care is happy to be by your side. Request a callback or  Call us at + 913366064208.

Email us at enquiry@newwpsite.tribecacare.com

(This blog has been written by a Counselling Psychologist, Ms. Nidhi Singh).

We, at TriBeCa Care, care about you, and your family. Our Elder Care is categorically structured to provide the elderly with the support that they deserve. If you have any further queries then feel free to reach us. Call us at + 913366064208 or request a callback. Email us at enquiry@tribecacare.com