(I wrote this about boys, because a lot of mothers have been coming to me with their “boy challenges” lately, but of course ALL small children live in their bodies and can be physical when frustrated and angry. This is not so much about hitting as part of a temper tantrum though, for that post please refer to “Smearing Peas” found at this link: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/13/smearing-peas
Also, this post is written about neuro-typical children.)
On to the post:
Is hitting acceptable? Absolutely not.
Is it fun to be the referee of hitting in your family? No, but it is necessary!
Is hitting a phase that may just go away in boys under 7? Perhaps, but from what I personally have seen with the more immature, physical kinds of boys is that hitting starts with frustration and lack of words around 2 or 2 and a half, and just continues through the ages with special exacerbations at age 4 and later at age 6. The increased physical aggression at age 6 is often difficult for parents to handle calmly, so I urge you to go back in this blog and read the four posts I wrote about the six-year old. This is an important time!
So, the question becomes, what to do with hitting?
1. The first place, as always, is to start with yourself. How is the tone in your home? What is going on with all members of the home? Who is in a stage of developmental disequilibrium right now? Are you and your partner happy or upset with each other? Are you getting any time for you to re-build your own energy reserves for happy parenting?
2. How much outside time is your little one getting? Are there other issues going on – food or environmental allergens, lack of sleep, giving up naps, how is the rhythm in your house? Have you been going too many places? Have you rotated toys within your home lately, spruced up the playroom, changed the sensory table out with something new?
This, of course, does not immediately solves the hitting problem, but it does give one a few things to think about and possibly try to change to see an effect.
When hitting happens:
I have seen families try all kinds of approaches from reasoning, saying “We don’t hit in our family,” time-outs, ignoring some of it……Which of course begs the question, What to do?
Every family is different of course,and every child is different as well, but here are a few thoughts. See what resonates with you!
First of all, Steiner said it is possible to awaken a child’s sense of what is right or wrong only towards the fifth year.
Barbara Patterson and Pamela Bradley write on page 118 of “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing Our Children from Birth to Seven,”If we try to explain too much to children, to reason with them about what we want them to do or not do, we prematurely awaken their capacities of reason and intellect and pull them o too early out of the dreamier world of childhood. Through imitation, they start trying to out-reason us and become extremely good at it.”
This may not mean much when they are 4, but it will mean much more to you once your child is 6!
My first thought is with a child under the age of 6, is to immediately turn it into a hit, you must be by me kind of rule. A time-in.
My second thought with the child under the age of 5 is to attempt to turn it into a more acceptable physical activity, and perhaps to approach it with pure distraction. When a small child hears, “We don’t hit in this family,” over and over it seems to become less and less effective. (You can agree or disagree here, LOL). With a very small 2 or 3 year old, I like the idea of giving them something they can hit or a physical activity. If they hit, you immediately pick them up and bring them to a spot where they can throw bean bags at a line on the floor. Not a guilt trip, not a bunch of words going to their heads that they really don’t get and doesn’t help them control their arms anyway, but physical motion.
Dads are also great at sometimes defusing this into not only physical activity, but humor as well. Sometimes we are so convinced that if we do not seriously pound into our little 2 and 3 year olds the “wrongness” of this behavior, then it will just snowball into something bigger and bigger as they grow. I think this is the wrong attitude to take in many ways. Again, hitting is not acceptable, but it takes time until children can express their emotions in acceptable ways. It is a process, and not something you can also quickly fix. That being said, I do not believe the right thing to do is to ignore the behavior, because it is not a behavior you want to see your child using in a social setting.
Some Waldorf teachers take the child’s hands and bathe them in a special healing water, dry the hands gently and paint suns or something like that on the back of the hands to remind the child of their gentle hands. Some Waldorf teachers will wrap the child’s hands in a silk and tell them that hands that are warm and strong will not hit.
Most of all, it is important to listen to the child and hear the child’s frustrations. You don’t need to reason, just listen. Give your child your attention if you think this will help your child. (See below for another mother’s different perspective).
If the child is four or five, I think gently just saying, “We can use our hands to (peel these carrots for dinner, grate potatoes, knead bread, whatever)” can be effective. Exhausting for the parent? Absolutely, sometimes! But, real work is the cure for violence in small children under the age of 7.
For children age 6 and over, I think you can be a bit more direct. This is the time for the notion, “We are gentle in this family.” It is also the time for you to be the authority.
As far as hitting between siblings, I think many times, way too often, we leave our children alone in the guise of benign neglect and letting them “work it out” when they truly do not have the skills to work it out. I actually am all for benign neglect, but a child under the age of 7 does not have the skills to work it out with someone much bigger or much smaller than they are. They need your help. You can help them use their words. (But again, I feel this is for a child older than the ages of the children where many parents are using these techniques! Remember, do not put the cart before the horse with your little 2, 3 and 4 year old!)
Some other suggestions I have heard other mothers use:
- Make sure the “victim” who was hit receives more attention than the negative attention the hitter is getting. Hitting can be a way to get attention!
- Make sure you are not hitting when you play with your child, or your children are not play hitting one another. It then becomes confusing for the child when hitting is okay, and when it is not okay.
- Give your child tasks that involve being gentle physically with someone else – giving foot rubs, back rubs, those kinds of tasks. Give them a chance to have gentle hands!
- Some sources I have read advises parents to walk away from a child who is hitting you; I would love to hear parents’ experiences with this. In my family, this would not have worked for us and would have led to more hitting, but I am sure there are families where this worked. Please do share if this worked for you.
- Nancy Samalin writes in her book “Loving Each One Best: A Caring and Practical Approach to Raising Siblings” to not intervene unless the fighting is physically or emotionally hurtful. She writes that many children fight because they are bored, because they want you in the middle. I am not sure I agree with this for children under the age of 7 who are fighting. I do not think children under the age of 7 often have the skills to deal with this. If you look back on the four and six year old posts, you will see that most developmental experts on childhood agree that the social skills of four and six year olds are poor; aggressive even. Not a time to let them “work it out”, in my opinion.
- With fighting siblings, never ask “Who started it?”
I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts!
Oh, Carrie! This sure isn’t only about boys! Girls can be as aggressive if not more sometimes… And sometimes, it is more subtle or less in your face, but it is still a problem. We have tried EVERYTHING with our little Mathilde and I mean EVERYTHING without much success… We are now looking into food allergies and I think we should have done that a long time ago… It might very well be the answer or at least part of it…
Every child is so different. I know that in our case, it is worst when she is hungry and bored. Now that we have animals, she doesn’t hit or pinch people anymore (or much less I should say), but she kicks the cats, pinches and bites the dog, kicks the chickens and ducks… I am afraid the rooster will hit back one day… She got scratched by the cats but she keeps doing it. And I know in an ideal world she would always be beside me, but in reality, well, she isn’t.
I find it very hard to use distraction like throwing bean bags or cutting carrots. Usually when my kids are hitting, they are upset and they oppose to what I suggest. Even when I carry them and start chopping and singing, they simply stand there and frown and say NO, I don’t want to cut carrots (or else) and run back to where they were.
To be honest, nothing has really worked as I was saying. We now sit her on a little bench in the kitchen when she hurts someone, but she usually doesn’t stay there and she ends up upstairs in her baby crib (the designated spot for little girls that do not stay on the bench). It doesn’t keep her from doing it again an hour later…
Absolutely you are right Catherine. I have two physical girls, but boys have been so on my mind because so many mothers have been talking to me about the physical aggressivenss in their boys, especially boys of the six year old age frame. Thanks for pointing out though, that ALL small children live in their bodies. Frustration and anger and yes, even learning how to deal with boredom or not feeling well physically can take a long time to learn.
I agree with if hitting is part of a temper tantrum kind of situation it is hard to move into something else until the child calms down a bit. Some children calm down better with the gentle presence of a holding adult; some children calm down better with being alone although I know Waldorf would say they need the presence of an adult to assist them.
I think if they are not too upset, your loving and warm continued focus to task sometimes can be comforting while they are figuring out how to come back into themselves if they are not so upset that they desperately need you for holding.
Some children work well with humor as a distraction tool and some of the physicality that dads can bring as a distraction tool.
It does feel distressing to feel nothing has worked to help your daughter, but also to know in your heart that learning how to deal emotionally with life does take a long time sometimes. It sounds like allergen testing or investigation into other physical areas may put your mind at ease. I think talking to other mothers and knowing there are other physical little girls out there also helps one not feel so alone and like their child is the only child that acts that this. I can think of several in our own Waldorf playgroup that are just more physical, more “touchy”, not scared or reserved and just view things in their own way.
I remember when my youngest was petting a cat and it scratched her face and drew blood and she had the blood running down her face and she just said, “Oh mama, that kitty cat just try to hug me!”
Long post to say, yup, every child is different and sometimes if there is no physical cause it truly is management of the triggering factors and investigation into the best way to handle the hitting for your child…
And to know it takes a long time and lots of practice for them to be able to stop their arms BEFORE they do something like that.
I am interested in hearing from other mothers out there dealing with this challenge.
I don’t have suggestions but sharing in the pain. This is a serious issue for us in our house with a 4.5 year old boy and his 1.5 year old brother. And frankly, also towards us the parents. It’s not daily, but almost – and it’s really really hard to stay cool. I do believe that he needs comfort/connection, etc – but wow, it’s so hard for me to see and accept this aggression.
Kate, I think you are right to keep your cool, but I also like the idea that while the feeling of anger is okay, the action is not. 4.5 is probably one of the most “out of bounds” age physically, verbally, etc other than age 6 and the teenaged years. Getting physical activity and work is of paramount importance for your little guy. I literally would have rocks for him to move in a child-sized wheelbarrow, things to lug, tug, pull and push a lot. The other issue of course is keeping the one and a half year old safe from the aggression (and also because he will be imitating his big brother!). Some of this most likely will calm down as he heads into age 5, a more balanced age, but I think the meantime, enough sleep, not a lot of sugar and processed food, limitation of media where he sees aggression and lots of outside time will keep your house as centered as possible while you ride out this stage. Please do check back in with us and let us know how it goes!
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I am really happy to have found this blog! My son, now almost 3 years old has been hitting since he was about a year old. He started out hitting us (mom and dad), then started hitting his playpal – a boy his age. Well they hung in there with us for about a year and they no longer talk to us – she felt her son was not safe around mine.
My son is absolutely sweet and loving, and thoughtful. He goes through different phases of hitting. Sometimes just daddy. We co-sleep and there have been mornings when my son wakes up and just says “I don’t like Daddy” and hits him. I have no idea what to do with that! My husband and I aren’t the picture perfect marriage but we try. We try to model good behavior but sometimes there is tension between us.
We always say “We don’t hit; hitting hurts” and my son will reply that he wants to hurt or wants to make them cry.
I do know he will hit other kids when he is tired if out somewhere. He hits boys more than girls. He actually went up to an older girl at the zoo recently and pinched her – out of the blue – she was a total stranger to us.
I do time-ins. I give attention to victim first. I tend to get emotional sometimes as I am so frustrated and don’t know what to do. But I always try to be gentle with him although I may raise my voice a bit in the moment. It is hard to remain calm when your son is hitting a stranger in a public place. Sometimes I just say we are leaving immediately (and do) and I think that is what my son wants.
I am going to try less outings – although I need them. And limit time with other kids to once or twice/week.
I am open to suggestions. Nothing we have done seems to help so far. I am not encouraged that this can go on through age 7!
Hi Kim — Welcome to this blog, I am so glad you are here!! Hitting is incredibly hard and frustrating and challenging (did I mention challenging?!!); I have many mothers who have been dealing with their child hitting for quite a long period of time and seem to have tried everything and anything. I don’t say that to sound discouraging, but I guess just to say I am not certain there is a quick fix and it seems as if you are already doing so much! I would cut out all social contact for quite awhile unless it is outside where the children can roam; a strong rhythm at home can be helpful, so can warmth and making sure your child is really warm enough (hands, feet, back of neck warm), not just using words when your son hits but carrying him off in your arms or having him sit by you just as you are doing! (see you are doing so much already! You are a good mother!) Also, I think investigating the amount of outside time a small child is getting is always worth investigation — four hours a day is not too little and no media. I really encourage mothers with small children to stay home as much as possible. I think if you comb through all the back posts on this blog you will find so much support!!
I am so happy you are here, keep writing in and letting us know how it is going. Also, I found the comment about the other mother you were friends with to be common– but one day they may have more children or their child may turn overnight into the one who hits…all you can do is to physically help your child, and prevent the over tired, over stimulated, and try to keep a good sense of humor. I also thought of food — whole nourishing foods…
Just a few thoughts, take what resonates with you! You are a good mother!
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My sister always send me links to your blog. I really like your approachs. I live in Brazil and my english is very rusty. I hope you can understand my message.
They have different ages and interests (a boy 3y9m and a girl 7y8m) , so it is very hard for them to play togheter; they do for a while, but soon they are competing and… somethimes, hiting one another. I do my best to deal with that. I do not have a consistent way to act, but I could realize that i do many of the things you advised. I do not think this is a big question in our home, but i would like to share with you a few things you did not mention.
I am always asking my 7y girl to be benevolent with the younger brother. It is very hard for her and sometimes i question myself if it isn’t too much for her… With the young boy, I usually tell him i didn’t like his behavior and take him to another place or to do another thing.
What do you think about forcing/estimulating them to say “Sorry”? Sometimes i do it and i see how they take it seriously. They resist to say it just for saying… they need a time to say it truly. I usually wait a few minutes beside them, until they fell good to do it.
And the last point is about reason… Somethimes they want us to point who is right/wrong. I usually don’t focus on this, i just separate them, telling few words for both. When i see my older girl being very agressive for the small one, i talk very hard to her. But, usually, i don’t care about who is right or wrong… I do not ask my childs “Who started it?”, but they do point each other saying: “He/She started it!!!” When they do it, I ask them: “And who continued?”…
So, that’s it! Hope to hear from you…
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I’m reading this post and feeling such a mixture of hope and hopelessness. I have three kids (a girl that’s 5 years 9 months, and two boys, 4 1/2 and 2 1/2) and God, there is so much hitting/fighting in our house. Lately it has reached a new level, and what ends up happening – no matter how much I try to listen to their stories about what’s going on or separate this one from that one – is that I can never really deal fully with any one of them. It’s like there’s just too many of them, and at SUCH different stages. I check into this blog as often as I can (which isn’t too often) so it would be fair to say that I’m not super familiar with the ins and outs of the seven-year age stuff and who’s in what disequalibrium or all of that, but as a mama I just know that they are worlds apart in so many ways and yet their play is always with or near the others. I love when that goes well, and sometimes it does, but I feel like so often I just can’t keep up – not with the normal running of a home (meals, money, cleaning, laundry) and certainly not with the patient guidance of each of their varied development PLUS what that interplay is like together. I don’t even have the emotional/physical energy to read about each of their ages (not to mention the backposts!), and when I want to I end up feeling overwhelmed. So frustrating. But I am a “less is more” person and I’d like to think that a fair amount of parenting is/can be intuitive, so I guess the question is where is that balance? And how do you handle three kids that are so young and so close in age? In the time it takes me to announce a project and sit them all down, one loses interest and goes and plays with someone else’s toy, that kid gets mad and starts crying/screaming at the toy stealer, and while I’m trying to calm the kid throwing the fit down, the last child remaining (usually the girl) is being pretty well neglected and losing interest in the project and in connecting with me. Blech.
Thanks for the post, it is comforting to know that this is the work of parents everywhere.
Your children are so very small and the lovely thing is they are all still in that first seven year cycle so needing the same sorts of things – rest, gross motor activity, rhythm, order, warming foods, protection from overstimulation. One plan of attack may be to really tire them out in the morning outside in a sandbox or with a sprinkler or stomping in a creek so when you come back inside or come home you could have lunch and quiet time. Does anyone nap? If your younger one naps that could be time to do something with the older two. Then in the afternoon after that you could tidy up, start dinner in a crock pot and then have dinnner, early bedtime.
I think by keeping them busy in a gross motor sense and less in a free play sense, you alleviate some of the frustruations that come up (not all but some)
Thinking about you,
hi carrie. i have been dealing with suddenly agressive, over the top emotions, classic six/seven year old transition signs in my 5.5 year old son. I am a single mom who is trying to deal with my anger effectively by trying to yell less; very hard!, i tried holding him when he had a tantrum and then he cried, screamed then we laid down on the bed and i massaged his back. That seemed to work alot with helping him calm down, i didnt get triggered as much by him hitting me, i was able to remain calm and supportive. Now how to do that over the many situations that occur in public, i am still trying to figure out. The more i read on this site and reading other waldorf/gestalt books, the more i understand what is going on with my son. I am still trying to figure out how to set boundries in going off the property to visit trusted friends on the block that we live on. There is no gate to keep him on the property in the front yard. i have repeated many times after i find him that he needs to simply tell me before he leaves is ” mom, i am going over to so and sos house” i set rules, i am physically out in the yard most of the time that we are home. But he just disappears, luckily at this point, he is usually at one of four places on our block. How do i give him the independence that he craves to visit with friends, and still maintain boundries. I told my son that i am going to be with him through this storm that he is experiencing. Any tools to help w
I think you are doing a great job helping your son handle himself. I think your situation about the front yard, you hit it on the head, that you have to be right there, because a five and a half year old will definitely disappear when they want to go and not have any forethought as to the consequences of that. For this time, until he is bigger and more responsible, you will have to be there. He will eventually be able to do this himself. You can also ask the parents of the other children to call and alert you if he shows up on their doorstep as well. 🙂
I had an EXTREMELY aggressive girl. She was such a struggle for me for 2 years…from 2y6mths to 4y6months…and she changed seemingly overnight. Of course a lot was to do with her age [she is just MAGIC now, I do love her so, but I found it hard to spend all day with her previously].
The thing that seemed to help our relationship the most was the POSITIVE attention I gave [and still give] her. I realised I was giving her way too much attention for the aggressive behaviour ..so I changed and I swear she changed immediately. [our rhythms have always been good, I’ve always used time-in, less words, redirection..].
So now when I see her do ANYTHING gently or see her simply playing a lovely game with her sister, I tell her so and she just beams with pride.
Thank you Carrie as your posts have helped me through some of the really hard points in our relationship.
You are a great example of hanging in there through a phase of disequilibrium and also focusing your attention on what you do want!
Congratulations, your little girls is very lucky!
Thank you so much for this lovely post, and to all the other caring parents who have shared their experiences as well. We all love our children so much, they can be so frustrating at times, but articles like this help so much – to know that your child is going through a normal phase, that there are things which really work to make a difference and help their learning and understanding of the world around them (and inside themselves) – it makes all the difference. Thank you again, and I will be trying some of the above ideas with my beautiful, brilliant, funny, thoughtful boy (6), who still sometimes lashes out and is so upset with himself afterwards.
This post has been very helpful for me and I know I need to re-read some older posts too. My son is 4 and a bit. I have always struggled with his intense emotions and am never sure how to handle it in the moment. He has always been too rough with his little brother, pushing, hitting for no apparent reason. Recently he is getting more physical even bitting his little brother really hard and often.
I have tried to have a strong rhythm (it got off during the summer a bit), we are outside for hours a day and we try to be gentle as a family. We have cut out sugar most processed foods. This has been going on so long my husband and I have begun to loose patience. We are concerned for our younger son and now we have a home daycare so I worry about those kids too. I realize that having the new kids will take an adjustment. My question is what to do in the moment? What should I say or do when he hits (more like pounds) or bites? Now my little guy (2years) is copying.
Strong boundaries and physical work is really important, as well as a very close eye when he is playing with younger children. You absolutely cannot leave a four year old alone as the oldest child with a group of smaller siblings if the child is in a physical and aggressive stage – you will need to be on hand to direct and re-direct play, and to help channel it into healthier outlets. If you are not there watching, then he needs to be where you are, in the kitchen fixing a meal with you or whatever. It may also be helpful for him to spend more time with children his own age or a little bit older – is he spending time mainly or only with children smaller than himself? Is he getting any one on one time with you or Daddy? What is causing him to hit or be so physical – is he frustrated, is his two year old sibling getting into something he is building or doing? Is it lack of knowing what else to do? I think the main thing is to say, “We may not hit” and scoop him up and take him away from the scene and let him sit by you. “The Rule is that everyone in our home is safe.” I would give him physical work to do all day long – stirring, digging, moving bricks from one side of the yard to the other to build, gathering acorns or teasels. I have a back post on biting here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/24/children-who-slap-faces-and-other-fun-behaviors/… and the four year old: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/04/fantastic-four-year-old/
Are things geared toward your four year old at all? Or Are things really for the smaller children if all the daycare children are smaller? A four year is often ready for quite a tightening of rhythm, depending upon their temperament…He may need some little arts and crafts projects, times to help with cooking, putting the napkins on the table, seasonal excursions such as berry or apple picking..He may be ready to really light a candle and do a circle and a story and some drawing or salt dough play..I would recommend a read or re-read of Christopherus Kindergarten with your three to six year old: http://www.christopherushomeschool.com/Kindergarten-With-Your-Three-To-Six-Year-Old-p/chr0005.htm
A Waldorf School setting might do something such as give him jobs to do in preparation of snack for the group, tie his hands gently in yellow scarves or draw a sun on the back of his hands to remind him his hands are big, strong, and warm and gentle just like the sun, tell stories about the biggest person or animal protecting the smallest, and generally try to re-direct the play before it falls apart. THere would also be older children to help him along as well.
I do think networking with other home daycare providers, such as Eileen over at Little Acorn, could be helpful as well…It is a lot for a four year old to share his space, I don’t know if you have a separate space and toys and such for your daycare area, but many four and five year olds still can have a hard time with everyone being in their space and in their toys and things..We like to pretend these sharing issues go away and hitting, sharing and such only last a few months and then disappear before age three or something, but in reality I know for some children going through these phases it lasts longer….sometimes years and years it takes to really be able to stop that impulse. He is a doer and needs lots of doing! Some children are more introverted and “calm”, but we need to doers in our world too. 🙂
Love him, praise him when he does things you like, hug him and kiss him, hold him on your lap. Four is still really small. Connect with him and love him. He is still a wonderful boy!
Wow Carrie thank you so much for your advice! You have given me a lot to think about. Our year has been very stressful and hectic so I can see why he is having trouble. I have started using Thinking Feeling Wiling and the kindergarten program that comes with it. We are just beginning but I can see how keeping him busy and useful will help him a lot. He loves to help. Many blessings to you!!
I have three children, a boy (6) and two girls (4.5 & 2) My boy has always been active and highly spirited with a explosive temper. Every year around his birthday(September 25th) he reaches a new level. Recently he has lashed out at my husband before this it was just me. He is very aggresive towards us and this usually happens when he is overtired or hungry. I know what the triggers are and I try my best to ensure he is fed and rested after school but any little thing triggers him off. I am trying to stay calm, I give him a warning and then he has to stay in his room for six mniutes. I give him the ipod to play with as my intention is to calm him down before we can resolve the problem. It has been suggested to me to ‘hit him where it hurts’ or to ‘find his currency’, which basically means taking his football but I am not sure what to do. I am frightened that he is going to really hurt me and then he has to live with that. We are going overseasin a couple of months, with the my husband’s famiy who have other children similar ages to mine, however, they all behave. I’m dreading what should be a wonderful experience.
Thanks for writing in and reading…Here are my thoughts: 1..go back to the basics : sleep, warming foods that are whole foods and no processed food, calm rhythm and routine – and (you may not like this answer) but no technology and no screens for a while. Trade screen time and electronic time for walks, skating, jump roping, bike riding. Six year old boys, especially those in school, really need hours and hours of physical activity and don’t need the stimulation of the screens, which for many adds to the aggressive end of things. I would go back to those basics for a month and really see if it makes a difference. You may also want to have him checked out by your family physician, homeopath, chiropractor, and see if there is anything that can be done to support him at the physical level.
2..Many six year olds do have a tough time of it in school and find school stressful. I highly advise you read the Gesell Institute book “Your Six Year Old” and also the book “Raising A Son” by Don and Jeanne Elium. You can find them used on Amazon at very reasonable prices and also probably in your local library.
3. If he is really upset and falling apart, is it low blood sugar? Is it the need to blow off physical steam after a long day at school? Does he need to be less stimulated when he gets home? Does he need to be alone when he gets home or with the family eating a snack? — think ahead, plan ahead, before he walks in the door. It can be a lot to really hold the space when children get home from school. Try to have dinner ready ahead of time in a crock pot so you are not cooking. Limit where you are off to after school that is structured if he really has had a lot of structure all day. It takes time to switch gears from that to the home environment.
4. Do not let him hurt you and do not get in a physical fight with him – go outside in the grass where it is safe. I don’t think giving him an ipod is helpful per se; some children find having a safe place to sit as a family and be together can be helpful until they calm down, others need to be outside and scream and let it out on the grass, others need to be under a table or in their rooms to cool off. many six year olds are aggresssive and physical, but he still cannot hurt you. It is never acceptable to hurt oneself or others. You must have a plan for in the moment of what to do – I personally like heading outside as I feel that diffuses many things.
5. Sometimes a family counselor can really help in these situations as well, especially in preparation for going overseas and functioning in a culture where the expectations for children may be very different than what they are in the US.
Try these back posts:
Hope that helps,
Thank you Carrie,
We are looking into a few things at the moment one of them being his jaw. He has required speech therapy in the past and we have started this again, along with some dental treatment. He doesn’t get a lot of screen time because he is as you stated and needs lots of physical activity. I have food on my person at school pick up time and have yoghurt, fruit and crackers prepared at home for hiim to grab as we enter the house. Having dinner ready earlier is a great idea and something I used to do when they chn were smaller. I usually play a game of footy with him inbetween dinner preparation but it would be easier if I could focus on him. I am looking into counselling for my husband and I so we can change our approach. I dont have the answers to some of the questions you have posed which partly makes me feel like a bad mother but that is my issue. In another way it gives me something to focus on over the next week to find out exactly what the triggers are. He is an angel at school apparently he is quiet and very helpful, the teacher thinks he is gorgeous and often tells us. We also had an issue two years a go, I was in hospital for three months with a high risk pregnancy, my little one was born early and spent two months in hospital after that. My son didn’t cope that well and neither did my middle daughter. It took about 9 months to get them back on track. It probably took me 18 months. Hence I do feel as though I have missed many crucial learning moments but I have many more to come. With this advice I do feel as though I can move forward. I also have stress drops from a local homeopath that I need to try for myself and my son. Thank you Carrie.
I think you are doing a great job. Having a really, really set routine to help him blow off that steam from being quiet at school all day may be really helpful. He may be working very hard to hold it together all day long. Perhaps having a snack at the park and letting him really get his energy out, coming home to a hot dinner in a crock pot , a warm bath and soothing bedtime routine will be helpful. Please don’t feel guilty! It takes a long time to recover from things that disrupt the family, such as a premature birth, because the guilt resurfaces when things are not going well. Moving forward is most important, and in order to do that, you must heal yourself and feel so centered and steady. You be his lighthouse, his steady rock when his behavior, like every six year old’s is out of bounds. Reign him back in with your steadiness.
Homeopaths can be very helpful if you find the right one, I agree with you and highly recommend. They can create constitutional remedies for behavior and much more!
Also, I urge you to go to the “Development” header and hit “Adult” under that tab — lots of posts will come up for this kind of inner work and development.
Please write back in a few weeks and let me know how things are going,
Hello Carrie, I am writing as a follow up from last week. My son’s behaviour has slightly improved. I have changed my approach slightly and keep reminding my husband to back me up. This is something that we find difficult. I want my son to come to me even if he is angry so I have taken on board being his lighthouse. We had issues at the shops today and at first I walked away waited for him to follow then instead of re explaining the situation I asked him what he wanted a few times until we were both clear. We returned an unwanted item back to the shop. I had a happy son at the end of a shopping trip!!!! He made his own choices, followed through and found contentment. He had an opportunity to buy two things but only wanted one. Others may have thought he was being a spoilt child not getting what he wanted, not the case. Something else I said I’m not sure about was I was down at his level and told him to keep his voice calm as lots of people may be disturbed or annoyed by his yelling. He proceeded to look around and then pause, I didn’t say it to embarrass him I am trying to make him aware of his affect on others. He used a calm voice with lots of deep breathing. On the way home I told him I could see the happiness in his heart through his calm and happy face. We both told a simplified version to his father upon entering the house and my son looked so proud. Thanks lets hope these little wins keep happening for him.
You are doing great!
Carrie, I’m also trying less screen time and less processed food. I thought he was getting a well balanced diet but have since found old food in his bag and he told me he doesn’t want fruit at school. I’m giving him cucumber snow peas and carrots instead. Very interesting what you find out when you probe a little deeper. He has a banana and strawberries after school. My apologies for boring you with these minor details. I think I’ll keep a log myself then I won’t feel the need to search for approval. My confidence as a mother has taken a tumble but hopefully will be on the up soon. However,now my middle child, a girl 4 1/2 is trying similar antics to get attention and im often doubting my ability as a parent. The fun never ends. Thank you very much. I may post again in a month or so.
Thank you soooooooooo much for all of the tips in here, I am right now sitting here crying because I can’t seem to get my 6 yr old son from hitting his sister(3). I have some ideas on how to help him now and so many more ideas than all the things I have read before – I am adding this blog to my faves!! There are other children in our home that are older that moved in this year and I think this and the new stresses of school are getting to him, my thought is that I need to model better behavior more often and give him more attention and acctivities!! He doesn’t hit any one else, just her and tonight he left a red hand print on her back and of course this breaks my heart, I refuse to raise a child who hits others! I think I also need to spend more time teaching his sister that it’s not okay to take things from him which seems to be setting him off the most. He also throws tantrums when he is tired or really frustrated so I now know those are linked together and he needs tools to help deal with these. I am also so relieved that I am not alone in this struggle with my son, no one else I have talked to has seemed to know how to help or what I am dealing with. Again thank you from the bottom of my heart, I hope like hell this helps me to help him!!!!!
Hang in there and go back and hit “Development” in the header and then hit the Six year old tab …there are many posts about the six year old year. You are not alone, it can be a difficult time for the six year old. Most six year olds need copious amounts of movement, and they may not receiving that in school where they must sit for large parts of the day. Boundaries are important; a six year old is likely not to be fantastic with a younger sibling, but of course we must work toward that. Think of stories where someone bigger and larger and older protects something younger and smaller; these are the ideals you are fostering.
Try the book “Your Six Year Old” by the Gesell Institute (Bates and Ames) and “Raising A Son” by Don and Jeanne Elium…both are helpful reads.
Well, I ran into this blog searching for opinions on 6 year old boys hitting parents, since my son did just that this past weekend. I like the positive approaches and focus on encouragement rather than punishment being esposed. I’m his father, by the way, and was quite stunned by the close fisted punch to my face while playing in a pool – though previously his words and behavior have surprisingly aggressive to me. I had warned him before I didnt like that talk or his grabbing his older sister. I’m generally easygoing, never spanked, read many books on child rearing, and just want the gentle relationship I have with my dad. After the hit, he said it was because I and his friend teased him, though not the case. I know he’s sensitive to that.
I am slow to anger, but once there I ride it a while – not uncontrollably – but until I feel a threat is extinguished. This may be a male thing, but I concluded he did not sufficiently respect me. If there is one thing I ask of my children, its respect. Not love, respect. I concluded some of my happy-go-lucky affection was interpreted by him as weakness.
We left the pool area. I dropped his friend off. I went to the back seat of the car where he was.I told him never to hit me or his mom in raised voice. I said that several times. I then spanked him. He reacted with fear but acknowledged he was very wrong. I want him to know fear – the same fear I felt when he punched me. For the same reason, I want him to feel emotional pain. I want this memory permanently ingrained in his mind to serve as a deterrent and warning. We went home and I put him in his room. I told him he was in jail now, because only criminals hit. I shut the door. I punished him the next day and told him the punishments will keep coming. I am withholding affection purposely. I want him to know his act was outrageous, I loathe it and whatever impulse caused it.
His mother says I’m overreacting. I think many would agree. I don’t. I cannot love an abusive child – my love is conditional – and I want him to know that.
I am sorry you are navigating through the very challenging waters of the aggressive six year old. That was a very upsetting incident, to be sure. I have to say whilst I do understand where you are coming from, and these are the sort of things that go through our heads as parents (he doesn’t respect me, he thinks I am weak, etc), I agree with your wife and believe you are grandly over-reacting for his age as well. I urge you to step back a moment because wanting to extract an emotional revenge on him and withhold affection from him is not acceptable. His behavior was not acceptable, but I really don’t think this is the kind of father you want to be either. Children often needs lessons repeated frequently, over and over, and I understand you think taking a harsh line will really deter this behavior from happening again. However, I am fearful if it does not you will have to keep ramping up your end of the “punishment” to make it worse and worse and jeopardize the good relationship you have built up with him. A “good” relationship or respect between people doesn’t always mean that there will not be difficulties and challenges on both sides or mistakes on both sides – teaching him how to emotionally isolate someone is a boundary in a way, but is it a healthy way to set a boundary? I agree restitution must be made for this act, but again, I do not agree with going to a place of withholding love and affection and punishment over and over. Coming from a true place of work and having to do things to make this better I think would send a stronger and healthier message. What could he do for you directly to help you and fix this? What would that look like? I find boys often respond to work and doing things to make restitution better than other methods. Just a thought.
When my son was 3 he had a little playmate who hit ALL THE TIME. It was extremely frustrating to watch my son get hit all the time and my friend (at the time) tell her son to say he was sorry just to turn around and do it again, and this would continue throughout the play date. I tried talking to my friend about the issue, and I’m sad to say we’re no longer friends. Then guess who started hitting? Yep, now my son was the hitter. It was hard work with a lot of reminders, embarrassing moments at play places, and time outs, but eventually he stopped.
Flash forward almost two years, now my son is 5 and he has a little playmate who is extremely aggressive, and hits my son every time he comes over. And again, the mother is one of my good friends, and she also only makes him say sorry just for him to turn around and do it again. Finally I sat with the mom and our boys after an incident and told them that I do not tolerate hitting in our house. So if “playmate” hits he needs to go home. We’ve been sticking to outing play dates with “playmate” since then. The playmate is the complete opposite on neutral grounds, even acts shy and timid. Anyway, I went against my better judgement and had them over again. As you may have guessed the “playmate” hit my son multiple times only this time my son fought back. And my friend did not take him home after the incident.
I can use any advice at this point. I don’t want my son to pick up this bad habit again or worse be this kids punching bag until he learns better. I would love to keep my friend but she seems to be in denial about the issue. At what age is it appropriate to teach your kid to defend themselves? Help!
I think you are doing the right thing in keeping playdates on neutral territory. That seems to work well for many mothers of small children for the reasons you mentioned. I know it is hard now, but I have a 13 year old and I can remember one of her now best friends biting her deeply on the shoulder when they were 3 and 4! So please do know this phase does eventually pass and your little son may have a life-long friend despite some of these things going on right now. Three, four and five year old playdates should usually have a beginning of being all together with the adults modeling taking turns and all the things you would like to see. Sometimes starting with a snack, reminding children of the “rules” of the playdate, etc. Three and four and five year olds are imitators, and are bundles of impulses and action without a lot of thought. It takes diligence to have play dates with small ones and I often find close to the six/seven year change is where things start to shift for better. Six can be a rough age for playdates as well, unfortunately. Sometimes you just have to persevere through this phase with solid rules and agreement that if hitting goes on, the play date is over or whatever the two of you deem to be the best way to handle it. I don’t know as promoting defense is the best thing. Children develop control of their wills at different times and in different places, as you have noted. I know it is hard, but I think talking to your friend and also re-iterating the rules to both children are helpful.
Or your child may have a hidden disability such as an ASD (conventional forms of behaviour management are not working). How I would love to have a neurotypical child for whom these strategies work.
The Late Dr. Andrew Gregory – Yes, this is certainly a valid point. This was written in regards to neurotypical children. Thank you for your input.
As a pediatric physical therapist, I really do understand where you are coming from. Have you found strategies that has worked well for your child that you would be willing to share with other parents here in the comments?
Great article and I enjoyed your ideas for this topic. I have student, kindergarten five year old boy, who has been hitting, kicking, and hurting others at recess, lunch, and on the bus. We’ve tried everything you can think of at school and met with his mom. His behavior is getting worse and now he’s doing it in class with the intervention teacher. He’s struggling in school already and doesn’t care about consequences at all. I get daily calls from other teachers kids about this student. I think that he should be placed in our lower transitional kindergarten program instead of kindergarten. I think that the work is beyond what he’s capable of doing and needs more time to play at school. I’m alone in this thinking but I believe his behavior demonstrates what he can’t tell us. I’d like any thoughts you might have. Thank you.
Thank you for writing in. This is such a hard situation. I feel like you do, that his behavior is telling something he cannot articulate. He does not sound ready for kindergarten, but it also could be he needs a different kind of educational model, which is difficult because that often means private school costs. I wonder how he was in preK and if his behavior was an issue at that point. He could also have something going on in the sensory realm and find the Kindergarten overwhelming from a sensory perspective. I did a two part series on emotional regulation and much of it was from a workshop I attended regarding emotional regulation in the school setting: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2016/08/24/regulation-of-emotions-in-children-part-two/
I also would be concerned with – how warm is this child? Does he need to be warmer in layers? How is his diet – balanced, unprocessed, full of protein and good fats? How much sleep and outside time is a getting? Is there a rhythmical home life and early bedtime? Is there anything going on that has been diagnosed – sensory processing, spectrum disorders, etc? How much screen time is he getting (in this case, I would recommend absolutely zero screen time)?
If all those things seem wonderful, then I would definitely think about how to meet this child’s needs through looking at readiness for the kindergarten setting; a possible PreK or transitional K setting instead. This is not a failure on anyone’s part, it is to set him up for success! What a shame to be labeled at this early age, to have “bad behavior” for a sweet little tiny 5 year old – and 5 is tiny despite this country’s insistence that small people are miniature adults. I am so grateful you are advocating for him and his needs! I want to buy you a cup of tea and tell you what a wonderful teacher you are for thinking about his needs. Far better to have him be successful in an environment that matches him developmentally. We don’t all develop at different rates and you can see on my back posts about the five year old that makes this is very, very clear. Look at the developmental work of the Gesell Institute regarding 5 year olds for more information. I am so sorry that you are the only one that seems to be able to see this clearly – is there a staff counselor, staff psychologist, staff doctor – that can also provide more information to the parents and staff about what might be needed in this case based upon your careful observations of the child in front of you?
As you probably can guess by perusing through this blog, I am a developmental care person through my therapy background, my experience with Waldorf Education and through my work with hundreds of children. Education is not, nor should it be, one size fits all. I am also a large proponent of a more European model of education, where academics are started around age 7, and of the forest school movement. So, my bias is clear and upfront and I share it with you to say that I think from my experience and background,I believe that you are on the correct track in your thinking.
Many blessings, please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to discuss in further detail or I can help you with resources and experts who could provide recommendations based upon your area of the country or world.
My mum constantly abused by my little brother. She now has depression and has bruised and injuries all over her. She’s been trying to get help it’s been so bad she’s called the police but they refuse to come out cause he’s 6yrs old. What can we do my GCSEs have been
Messed up and we all get hurt.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a good pat answer for you, Here in the States, the family would be working with family counselors, the school setting and school teachers and counselors, perhaps along side alternative therapies. Has your brother been diagnosed with anything? Has his behavior always been like this? How does he treat the other adults in his life? Does this come from a rage he can’t control? Has he seen a child psychologist? This is not normal behavior, so I know it is not a quick fix, but it sounds as if he will need a team of strong helpers. Your mother could look for a support group by calling your local family counselor or hospital. The book I was thinking was this one called The Explosive Child: https://www.amazon.com/Explosive-Child-Understanding-Frustrated-Chronically/dp/0062270451
That could be helpful as well.
I will be thinking of you all, please do post back and let me know how things are going. Good luck on your GCSE’s; I am sorry this has been affecting your testing!