My sweet toddler is hitting
By Lauren Floyd, Honeycomb Moms
The time has come. I knew it would happen sooner or later, but I never imagined it would be this soon.
My sweet baby, Donovan, is starting to hit people, mainly me.
Now, I don't think he's doing it to hurt others. He slaps then smiles, seemingly unaware of the effects of his actions.
I think to him, he's just playing, but to me, hitting is unacceptable.
So when Donovan starting hitting, I immediately began reading up on some age-appropriate strategies. I found one in a Parents magazine article that I wanted to test.
Consequences for toddlers hitting people
Ari Brown, MD, author of Toddler 411, shared a three-step process rooted in the idea of introducing consequences to actions.
I followed it. I established a rule: "we don't hit mommy."
I threatened a consequence: "When you hit mommy, mommy's not going to play with you."
Then, I followed up with action when Donovan ignored the threat. I turned away from him for 60 seconds.
Then, I told him again, "we don't hit mommy," and I gave him a hug.
I tried this again and again, and Donovan just found other things to do to entertain himself in that minute.
He's very independent, so withholding my attention just isn't a consequence he cares much about.
I tried putting him in his crib as a consequence, but that only bothers him a solid 20 seconds before he finds other ways to entertain himself in his crib.
It's a blessing and a curse.
The discipline approach that finally worked:
I was seriously running out of ideas when Donovan hit me yet again, this time, with his daddy sitting next to us.
"No, we don't hit mommy," my husband said calmly.
Donovan scrunched his face up and cried his eyes out in a way that he hadn't before. He seemed hurt not just frustrated or impatient.
I intentionally didn't scoop him up immediately. I wanted to show him a united front. So I repeated my husband and said, "we don't hit mommy." Then, I gave my son a hug and told him we love him but that he couldn't hit me.
I felt bad to see his feelings hurt but also relieved to finally have an alternative to spankings.
Dad voice is real, and it works.
Varying my discipline strategies
I also refuse to rely on that alone. Donovan needs to listen to both his parents, and I can't get down with using my husband as the sole threatening force.
That's problematic in more ways than one.
So after talking to my mom in education administration, I changed my approach.
Instead of focusing on the hitting, I focus on teaching Donovan the concept of being gentle.
He hits me, and I get down to eye-level with him, softly grab his hand and say: "That's not gentle. We have to be gentle with others."
Then, I graze his face, and he mimics that action.
I call it progress, but the hitting hasn't stopped.
Apparently, that's normal.
"Expect to repeat yourself 20 times or more -- especially if you've been inconsistent in the past," Dr. Brown told Parents magazine.
I'll repeat myself as many times as I need to, and I'll try my best to be patient.
I'm sure I'm in for a long haul, but I won't be giving up anytime soon.
I'm Donovan's mother, and it's my job to teach him right from wrong. I don't take that lightly.