General Question

nebule's avatar

Does anyone have any great disciplinary tactics for stopping your child from hitting you?

Asked by nebule (16446points) December 6th, 2008

I have a 2 year old who hits me (kicks too) when he is frustrated and can’t get what he wants. He’s a lovely sweet boy with a lot of love to give but gets very angry at times and hits me. I wondered if anyone has had this problem and how they have overcome it other than just letting them “grow out of it” I’ve started taking his toys away when we’re at home but this can’t obviously be enforced when we’re out and about…. any suggestions…and I really don’t believe in smacking him ffiw. He’s done this since he was about 10 months old and seems to go through phases of it…but i want to REALLY sort it out. :(

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47 Answers

jca's avatar

have you tried Time Out?

nebule's avatar

Oh yes…I’ve tried it and still do it sometimes…...I sit him in the corner and he’s very good…he’ll sit there and after a minute or two depending how long I want him to sit there then he’ll come and give me a hug and a kiss (so say sorry…supposedly) and go back to what he’s doing… but it doesn’t stop him hitting – he can just go back to hitting me two minutes later…. So it just doesn’t seem to hit the button really…

augustlan's avatar

When he hits you try this: Get down on his level and restrain his arms, so you are face to face. Very firmly say “No hitting!”. Continue to hold him firmly until you feel he is under control. Redirect him to some other activity. At 2 they are too young to understand ‘punishment’. Time out at this age is mostly just removing him from the situation. Effective in the short term, but no lasting effect.

lunabean's avatar

@augustlan i second that, i would do the same.

Darwin's avatar

My daughter went through a phase like this at about the same age. What worked for her was a combination of taking away favorite toys and short time outs at home, and in a public place to immediately leave. One time she insisted on kicking me when she was in the seat of the shopping cart. I warned her one time that if she didn’t stop I would leave. When she kicked me again I turned and walked away from the cart just far enough that she couldn’t see me. Once she said “sorry, Mommy” I went back and asked her if she was going to kick me ever again. She said no. And she didn’t.

My son, OTOH, was a biter. The only thing that finally worked was to bite him hard enough to hurt but not break the skin. He would still sometimes start to bite at which point I would do the same and he gradually stopped.

Good luck!

nebule's avatar

Thanks guys…I agree…but the thing is…for example when I want him to have his nappy changed and he doesn’t want to and therefore starts hitting and kicking..i can’t exactly redirect him to something else – i NEED him to do something that involves him being still…and distracting him by giving him toys to play with whilst i’m doing it doesn’t work either – he’s so STUBBORN!!! it looks like i might just have to stick with it eh….:)

erincollins's avatar

I’m a nanny and i’ve had to deal with this situation before. The next time he goes to hit you grab his arm (hard enough to let him know you mean business) and say very firmly “this hurts mommy” or something to that effect. If that doesn’t work taking away privileges like a favorite toy, a special treat or time at a playground has always worked for me. No matter what you do 2 is a difficult age. Good luck and keep up the good work!

skfinkel's avatar

This is a question that comes up in my parent education classes rather frequently, so you are not alone. And your instinct not to “smack” him is a good one—anything that you do like that will teach him the opposite behavior from what you want.

What the mothers and I have talked about is first of all making it very clear that the hitting is not funny or cute or laugh in any way. It is serious. Be very clear that you disapprove. Put him down, or away from you immediately. I don’t like time out for young children, but if you sit with him quietly and tell him why you don’t like what he is doing, he will get the message.

The other thing is to always do this consistently. If you allow him to hit you sometimes, or don’t follow through, he won’t get the message.

Also, you say he does this when he is frustrated and can’t get what he wants. A lot of time children can be tired or hungry, and then they get more easily frustrated, so as a parent, you job is to try and make sure he is rested and fed. And also if you are very consistent with him, his frustration level will be lowered.

erincollins's avatar

@augustlan I agree with you! great answer!

skfinkel's avatar

And, I should add to the above, that I realize all this is very challenging, but the job of being a parent is very challenging. Congratulations to you for taking it on, for taking it seriously, and for understanding that there is help in the world.

Snoopy's avatar

I would also add that you would want to make clear it is the action (i.e. hitting) that you don’t like and it isn’t the child himself that you don’t like…..Emphasizing that it is the behavior that you are displeased w/ is a good idea.

Additionally, you also want to note good behavior. e.g. The next time he allows a changing w/out kicking, make a point to say what a good job he is doing, etc.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

punch him back and ask him how it felt.

Snoopy's avatar

@LKidKyle IMO, it is illogical to try to teach a kid not to hit by hitting him.

The point is to teach him to deal w/ his frustrations in ways other than hitting.

Judi's avatar

I didn’t realize this until my son was older, and lord knows I wish I would have worked on it at a much younger age. This is a time to teach your child about feelings. Encourage him to “use his words.” Help him to identify what he’s feeling and help him to find appropriate ways to express them. In most cases this is a phase that kids grow out of, but in some cases it’s a symptom of deeper problems. The sooner you can teach your child coping tools to deal with anger and frustration the easier your life will be as your child gets older. My son was a teenager and still throwing tantrums. At that age it can be very dangerous. better to help him as much as you can now, and hopefully your child will grow out of it.
By the way, My totally charming son would switch from charming to ball of anger on a dime. Once he got medication (in his 20’s) it got much better.

Mizuki's avatar

Try a wooden spoon and spank their ass with it. My kids could not even entertain the idea of hitting an adult.

@snoopy must come from that wierd age where parents try to be friends with the kids instead of being parents….spare the rod, spoil the child…

And the idea of letting perscription medication serve the parental disciplinary role is enlightening in that it tells me why there are so many poorly behaved childern in my kids school.

Parental skill no longer exist as latch key kids are now parents, scary thought.

aisyna's avatar

i agree with Mizuki and LKidKyle, this is a good opritunity to teach your son the Golden rule, do onto others as you want done to you, so if he hits you hit him back, its obvious that what he wants

skfinkel's avatar

I would have to ask Mizuki and LKidKyle and aisyna if any of you have children? And if you do, have you hit them back when they hit you? And if so, how are they doing? Are they happy kids, or are they fearful vengeful children?

Judi is right on target about helping the child express his feelings in words. Part of the frustration is just that—not being able to say what the problem is. And if he is angry or sad or whatever, letting him know that you can help him express those emotions will be very helpful to him as well.

hearkat's avatar

As in previous posts on parenting, I’ll recommend 1–2-3 Magic. I wish I had heard of it when my son was a toddler and started having wicked tantrums. Since I hadn’t heard of it, all I could do when he got physically out of control was to restrain him with a bear hug and him some songs (which I think were more soothing to me than to him). Eventually, he became too strong and quick to restrain, and those were some of the hardest years of my life. By the time I found out about 1–2-3 Magic, it was almost too late… but the basic principles behind it did help us out.

madcapper's avatar

an eye for an eye… hit him back, I bet he won’t like it because your bigger and stronger so he’ll think twice next time…

skfinkel's avatar

@madcapper: when you hit a child, you are teaching him that hitting is the way to fix things. He may be scared to hit you back next time, but he probably won’t be afraid to hit smaller kids.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

I actually agree with judi, And I really don’t have a lot of experience raising any kids. However, to never use the act of hitting to get a point across seems extreme to me… Sometimes you can’t convey things well enough to young kids and its the only way to do it. My sister tried explaining to my nephew not to go near the road. He did anyways until one day she spanked the snot out of him. And he was very careful about being near the road after that. Same can be applied to a kid who hits people. You can try and explain to him all you want, but unless you show him that its absolutely not going to be tolerated, he may never listen. But it is important that they know its what they did that got them into their punishment to begin with. But it depends on the kid, standing in the corner might do for one kid what only spanking will accomplish with another.
@skfinkel then you punish them for that as well… not rocket science

LKidKyle1985's avatar

by the way standing in the corner only worked for me cause i knew id get my ass beat if i didn’t lol

augustlan's avatar

My answer from a previous related question:

How (spank!) many (spank!) times (spank!) do I (spank!) have to (spank!) tell you (spank!) hitting (spank!) isn’t (spank!) allowed?!?

What the hell kind of logic is that?

jholler's avatar

At 2years old, a child can’t reason enough to learn “mommy hit me when I hit her, so hitting must be how to solve problems”...they learn that certain actions cause immediate unpleasantness (when I hit mommy, it makes my butt hurt). Yes, I have children, 12 and 9. I’ve had to spank each of them exactly once, and it was never necessary again. They are happy, smart, rambunctious and annoying like kids should be, but they know where the lines are, and they know what “that look” means. Hitting you?who’s in control of that situation?

fireside's avatar

No matter what you do, keep in mind how much easier this will all be in another couple of years.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

last time i checked 2 year olds don’t use a lot of logic anyways.

mangeons's avatar

Don’t use rewards too often, they may start doing bad things just for rewards, and say “I’ll stop if you promise to get me an ice cream” be firm, and if they start crying, don’t automatically give in, they will manipulate you too much. Stay firm, restrain his arms, and DON’T let him hit you.

gimmedat's avatar

Holy smokies. This is a phase my kids did not go through, thankfully. I will say it would be difficult not to smack him back, but is totally illogical, as others in the thread have pointed out. Letting him know he’s hurt you through words and a time of physically removing him from your space would be most effective in my mind.

Snoopy's avatar

@Mizuki Thanks for worrying…but I really don’t think my role is to be my kids’ friend. I am a parent. I also have yet to find a reason to spank my kids.

EDIT Here is a recent question in which spanking is discussed in the thread (both for and against) if you are interested:

wundayatta's avatar

Oh so many thoughts. First of all, I am dismayed that adults, as well as kids think that violence can help lead to good solutions. People who use violence don’t understand long term consequences. They are only thinking about an immediate result. They probably don’t even believe the behavior will have an impact way down the road. “I was spanked, and it didn’t hurt me.”

Well, I was spanked, maybe six times as a child. It was a pretty mild spanking, too. This year, that spanking has only cost me some three thousand dollars in psychiatric bills. Who knows how much my low self-esteem has cost me in terms of income over the decades. For twelve years, I worked for a man who never gave me a raise. Would any of the rest of you put up with that? I doubt it. People tell me I was the person who kept that place together, too.

It wasn’t just the spanking, of course. It was the lack of praise, the unexpressed love (which made me unsure as to whether my parents loved me at all—I’m not kidding—I actually was afraid to do some things because I thought if I failed, my parents didn’t love me enough to take me back home…. and unfortunately, I was right about that), the impossibly high expectations, and a substantial amount of cluelessness, too.

Spanking and other forms of physical, verbal, and psychological violence create an atmosphere of fear that might get good behavior out of kids now, but leads to a very skewed understanding of how to motivate people, and how to work with people. I costs much dollares over the course of a life. It destroys children’s confidence, and they replace it with shyness, or passive resistance, or machismo (a fake confidence built on the bedrock of fear of being weak).

Shouldn’t our children be strong becaue they are strong, instead of fearing to be weak? Shouldn’t our children be able to solve problems with negotiations and reason, instead predatory tactics? Oh wait. Am I talking about children? Or adults?

We did many of the things other people have suggested with our kids. We told them to use their words. We told them we didn’t like it when they hit us. I didn’t use the taking away of privileges or toys to punish. I told them I was hurt, and I wasn’t going to play with them, and I went away. It’s amazing how powerful an action like that can be.

Of course, with my daughter, these things were never problems. It was only my son who would hit. We used time-outs with him, and after a while, he actually seemed to appreciate them. As someone else said, this behavior often happened when he was tired or stressed, and the time-outs seemed to calm him down, and center him. Later on, he sometimes did things almost deliberately, to get a time-out.

When we get reports from school about him now, invariably they talk about how loving he is; how he is always giving the teacher’s hugs. He seems to play away from other kids a lot. I think he finds the yelling and vigourous action a little too disturbing. He plays equally with girls and boys. He is also very comfortable around adults. He might sound like a soft boy, but he’s into gymnastics and aikido. He’s not the kind of kid other kids will want to mess with.

This stuff isn’t magic, but it does require firmness, and consistency, and you have to do what you say you’ll do. Never threaten anything. Just let them know the consequences of their actions. This teaches them to think ahead, instead of focussing on immediate action. My children are curious about so many things. My daughter is more internal; she loves to read and socialize. My son is more external, and he notices the most amazing things in the world outdoors, things I can’t even see—birds of various sorts in the air, strange insects on the ground, cars, rocks—if it’s out there, he’ll ask about it, or point it out to us.

The song says, “give peace a chance.” It’s not an empty cliche. It works miracles—in childrearing, at work, and, maybe some day, in the world.

oh why can’t I say things more efficiently? Sigh…

aisyna's avatar

Im 17 so no i dont have kids but both me and my brother were spanked when we were kids ans we would have NEVER thought of hiting our parents or any adult for that matter. we respect them and know that they are the athourity and we dont question them, or the choice of punishment. we are very good kids, who dont hit other people or our parents.

Me and my brother are not scared of my parents, but if we ever did something wrong we would be scared of what they would do to us. so fear is not a bad thing. If you are doing something wrong or thinking bout doing something you SHOULD be scared of what your parents are going to do to you.

Judi's avatar

Thanks for taking the time to so eloquently say what a lot of us were feeling!! Fluve to you!! Your children are blessed to have you for a dad.

jholler's avatar

“Anyone who clings to the historically untrue – and thoroughly immoral – doctrine ‘that violence never settles anything’ I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedom.”
-Robert A. Heinlein

I am by no means advocating child abuse. Daloon, I’m sorry that your childhood was bad for you, but I believe that six mild spankings compared to everything else you endured were probably no more formative to your adult life than the choice to drink whole milk vs 2%. There is a huge difference between corrective corporal punishment and child abuse, one that many parents sadly cannot distinguish. On the other hand, boys more than girls are naturally violent creatures. We are better than animals in that we don’t solve everything by force, but to teach a boy that violence never solves anything is to deny him his nature. I think that slaves in the American south and Jews in Nazi Germany were probably thankful for the warrior nature of the men who fought and died for their freedom. Don’t teach abuse of power, but don’t try to say violence never solves anything. Someday, you may need that boy to fight for you. That is a long term consequence to consider as well.

Judi's avatar

OK holler, I’ll give you some fluve for that one, but, as a general rule, violence should be avoided and reserved as a last resort. I spanked my kids, but I am ashamed to say that more than once it was because I didn’t have the patience to actually talk them through it and I was looking for instant results. There may be times when it is necessary, but they should be very few and far between and only as a very last result and never in anger.

jholler's avatar

The best advice I ever got on this subject is to never spank while you’re angry. Send them to their room until you calm down, then decide if they still need to be spanked.

Mizuki's avatar

skfinkel—I have 2 girls: 4 and 8. Each has been spanked twice in their lives. Each spanking had a profound effect on their behavior, and they do not need further spanking, as they try very hard to please. I beleive that when a kid throws a tantrum, the parent must act, firmly and at that moment.

The idea that this teaches kids to hit other kids is ignorant. I am not talking about beating the kids, slapping the kids, I am talking about sitting the kid down, and telling them, I am going to spank you because you did __________. After they stop crying, I return to the room and ask, “do you understand why I spanked you?” and then let them explain and discuss with them whats why’s and wherefores. This is a calm, firm, discussion, without anger or temper.

Or you can, as some have suggested, give your parental duties to a Pharma company to drug your kid forever.

Daloon’s assertion “might get good behavior out of kids now, but leads to a very skewed understanding of how to motivate people, and how to work with people” I think is a cop out to responsibility of the parent. Children that are not spanked will tell you to “f*** yourself” at 12 years old.

Be an adult, even if it is unpleasant.

skfinkel's avatar

Mizuki, The kind of spanking you have done to your girls, if spanking has to happen, is the way to do it—not out of anger, but out of calm, and reason, and trying to make a lasting impression on their behavior.

However, spanking is not the only way to get the idea across. And, I would vigorously disagree with you about your statement that children who are not spanked with tell you to “f***” yourself at 12 years old. Much more likely is that those who have been spanked will be the ones with the anger, and who will lash out at you at 12. Your children are just 4 and 8. Very young. You have a long way to go with them, and it sounds like you do have other approaches than spanking, and I hope so, since these are golden years, and the hard years are coming up, and you will have to be able to reason with them, respect their intellects, help them emotionally. Spanking is very low on the list to help raising a child to become a joyous, emotionally secure, fully functioning adult.

I never would say that spanking is not an effective way of changing behavior, only that it might be more damaging than you could possibly imagine or want for your child.

wundayatta's avatar

@jholler, I’m not saying violence should never be used, at least in protection of country, family, or self. I am saying that it doesn’t solve the problem. It changes personalities inevitably. People defend it as being helpful, mostly because they are unaware of the consequences. These things are subtle, and some folks even consider them beneficial, but for me, it’s wrong. It creates the wrong kind of world.

In a way, it’s emblematic of the liberal-conservative split. Dale turned us on to an interesting article during the election campaign that I thought shed a lot of light on this split. I wish I knew where that link is now.

I am trying to respect other people views when they have a very different way of looking at the world from me. Usually, the only way to do this is to talk and find out about each other’s lives. This explains a lot in terms of people opinions now.

I was not encouraged as a child, and so I seek encouragement now, but deny it when I get it. Pretty weird, eh? My childhood was not bad, by any means. My point was not that I’m looking for sympathy or anything like that. It was a long time ago, and I’m responsible for my life now.

All I’m saying is that very minor and mild seeming events fifty years ago (some apparantly occured before I was able to remember things) can echo hugely fifty years later. This will not be true for all people, and indeed, it didn’t seem to be a problem for me until another stressor got added to the mix in the form of a mental illness.

I’ve met a few people online that I’ve gotten to know better than the average person. The folks I meet here seem to have all had some significant trauma while young. Rape, incest, abuse, etc. At first I was freaked out, but then I realized I probably could recognize these people in a subconscious way, because when we’ve been hurt like that, it leaves a lasting impact, that is expressed in every aspect of a person, even decades later.

There is always a danger in generalizing from one’s own experience. However, when I see all the people, either who have been in the war, or who have been hurt on home soil, who have PTSD and other mental illnesses, I’ll bet that there is a correlation between treatment as a young child, and behavior throughout the rest of one’s life.

I was emotionally abandoned, and this caused me to behave in some pretty desperate or self-defeating ways throughout my life. I never even could believe I was emotionally abandoned, until recently, when a lot of mental health experts have been urging me to accept that this explains my behavior. I doubted them for a while, but I’m coming to think they may be right.

sarahclif's avatar

You mentioned having problems when changing his diapers. We found giving our 2 year old the sense that he had some control over the situation helped. For example, do you want to lie down or stand up to change it? (unless #2 of course) Or, do you want mommy or daddy to change you? Or, do you want to change your diaper on the sofa or the floor (he’s huge so we always just have a towel under him, hasn’t fit on a diaper table since he was 1). This idea of helping them learn how to control their environment in a positive way comes into play other than at diaper time too.

nebule's avatar

@sarahclif…wow..can’t believe it…my son just did a number two in his nappy and i said “right darlin’ we need to change your nappy…. where shall we do it…on the floor or on the sofa?” and he went straight to the sofa, climbed up, led down for me and didn’t bother or struggle once…he just led there and let me change his nappy!!! Can’t believe it….WOW

I guess it just goes to show that there are answers out there that don’t involve smacking…although i really do appreciate all the views on pro-smacking. Before i had a child i was very much of the attitude that children should be seen and not heard and if they step out of line they should be punished accordingly…and smacked when necessary. I was smacked as a child and thought for a long time that it didn’t do any damage ..but i have also been having counselling for over a year now (for abusive relationships and a difficult childhood) and have realised that smacking, although not in any way wholly responsible for any trauma i have experienced cannot be completely relinquished of any fault. I do believe physical and verbal attack in any form is going to have a negative effect on the receiver.

So I am comforted by the result of taking sarahclif’s advice immensely and feel so optimistic about all sorts of areas where i have been struggling with him..i have given him choices about things in the past but sometimes you just can’t see what’s right under your nose can you!! Thanks Again!! x

90s_kid's avatar

I need the opposite. My brother always whips me with belts :S.
I am not a psychiatrist but um….be strict. NOT mean, strict.
After he has punched/kicked you, get him and hold him or something and look deep into his eyes and say “Don’t kick me!”
What to never do is act like you are sick even if you are. (I.e.:“ooooooh you’re giving me a headache N.! Stoopp [whimper whimper]”)
He will just increase punching/kicking.
Just show him who is boss.

Oh and don’t ever smack a child. Never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, I mean NEVER.

Good luck.

imhellokitty's avatar

I can remember when my daughter was that age – we’d be at the store or somewhere and she would see a child throwing a tantrum and she would just stare at them like they thier behavior really bothered her and she would make a comment about them being “bad”. I always had a compact mirror in my purse and if she started throwing some kind of tantrum, I would take out that mirror and let her see herself behaving that way. It stopped the tantrum cold everytime. Maybe you could try some version of that, let him see himself and he will have a different view.

nebule's avatar

@imhellokitty that’s incredibly original thank you… althought the hitting has subsided, it sometimes rears it’s ugly head…I will consider your idea for future tantrums… x

Val123's avatar

Um, I couldn’t help but notice that you said, regarding time out, “I’ve tried it and still do it sometimes” You need to do it everytime. Every. Single. Time. Over and over and over and over again. 47 times a day, if necessary.
Personally, kids are gonna try smacking their parents because they’re such physical little buggers. My kids only hit me once when they were little. One time. They were corrected instantly, no playin’ around, and they never did it again.

Val123's avatar

I’ve been thinking about this. There are a lot of different ways to “teach” a child things, and one of those ways is to do nothing effective to change their behavior. Apparently this child thinks it IS ok to hit Mom now, because nothing is changing it. Isn’t that a form of “teaching” the child that it’s OK to hit Mom? To me this is a super serious issue. Someday he’s gonna be 13, 14 years old, and he’ll be bigger than you,and doing a lot more than puny, 2-year-old hitting.
I would give him a hard stinging slap instantly on the back of his leg where it hurts. I don’t feel that that’s “teaching” him to hit mom. He already thinks it’s OK. I think that’s teaching him in no uncertain terms that it is not OK and he will not do that again.
In this case though, since it’s being ongoing, it might be more difficult. If you really are against a swat, then time out is really your only option, and you have to be ultra consistent.

Val123's avatar

One more story, then I’ll quit. I ran a daycare for four years, where, obviously, you can’t spank or other wise physically discipline a child. I had one kid in there, three year old, and I think he was autistic. He was very different. Among other things, he used to go around and scratch the crap out of the other kids with his long, long nails. Thing was, he didn’t do it in anger, or anything. In fact, there was a total lack of emotion of any kind when he did it. It was strange. I honestly think that he just liked the way it felt. Well, my only recourse was to set him in time out. Over. And over. And over. Three, four, five times a day. Hon, it took, literally months to stop him. The first “breakthrough” came when…he started scratching himself instead. For which he also received time out. (Mom’s response to the scratches across his face was,“Oh, I really need to cut his fingernails!” WTH???) Anyway, I was finally successful, and his mom was just beside herself. Out of the 6 or 7 sitters she’d had for him (they couldn’t hang,) I was the only one who was able to stop him. But, it took months. And 100% consistency.

MaryW's avatar

I agree with all those who said similar to @Val123 “I would give him a hard stinging slap instantly on the back of his leg where it hurts. I don’t feel that that’s “teaching” him to hit mom. He already thinks it’s OK. I think that’s teaching him in no uncertain terms that it is not OK and he will not do that again.
In this case though, since it’s being ongoing, it might be more difficult. If you really are against a swat, then time out is really your only option, and you have to be ultra consistent.”

Kicking, biting, and hiting are not permissible behavior and a quick slap on the back of the thigh usually stops the behavior with one time on your own 2 year old. Yes, I give options @sarahclif of where or how to seize back control too. I have also snorfolled ( kissed smoochily in the neck) my grandson if he gets smart allecky and the the threat can make him giggle and behave. With other people’s kids I use time outs with my instant school teacher voice.

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